When I first join the military, I did so as a reservist. I joined one of the most famous Canadian regiments – Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Renowned for the famous Dieppe Raid, my old regiment suffered more than 544 casualties (KIA, WIA or POW) on the pebble beach in front of Dieppe. This tragedy became one of the bloodiest battle the Canadians fought during World War II. More than 5,000 Canadian soldiers fought on that beach and less than half of them lived through the day.

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Historic second world war image of les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Tactical Headquarters of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Munderloh, Germany, April 29, 1945.

The Dieppe Raid, although classified as a disaster, did paved the way to D-Day and many valuable lessons were learned to make the later a success.

You can read on the Canadian Veterans Affairs website about the Dieppe Raid, but here’s the main attack paragraph, drawn from the website.

The main attack was made across the pebble beach in front of Dieppe. It was timed to take place a half-hour later than the assault on its flanks. The German troops, concealed in clifftop positions and in buildings overlooking the promenade, were well prepared for the Canadians. As the men of the Essex Scottish Regiment assaulted the open eastern section, the enemy swept the beach with machine-gun fire. All attempts to breach the seawall were beaten back with terrible casualties. When one small platoon managed to infiltrate the town, a message was sent back to Headquarters offshore which misleadingly led General Roberts to believe that the Essex Scottish had established themselves in the town. To support them, the reserve battalion Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal was sent in. Like their comrades who had landed earlier, they found themselves pinned down on the beach and exposed to intense enemy fire.

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The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry landed at the west end of the promenade opposite a large isolated casino. They were able to clear this strongly-held building and the nearby pillboxes and enter the town. Some men of the battalion crossed the bullet-swept boulevard and moved into the town, where they engaged in vicious street fighting.

The Calgary Regiment also encountered unexpected obstacles. Although they were supposed to land immediately after an intense air and naval bombardment, they were put ashore ten to fifteen minutes late. This left the infantry without support during the first critical minutes of the attack. Then, as the tanks came ashore, they met an inferno of fire and were brought to a halt. They were stopped not just by enemy guns, but also by the pebble beach and a seawall. The tanks which managed to overcome the seawall found their way blocked by concrete obstacles that sealed off the narrow streets. Still, the immobilized tanks continued to fight, supporting the infantry and contributing greatly to the withdrawal of many of the soldiers. The tank crews themselves became prisoners of war (POWs) or died in battle.

The last troops to land were part of the Royal Marine “A” Commando, which shared the terrible fate of the Canadians. They suffered heavy losses without being able to accomplish their mission.

The raid also produced a tremendous air battle. While the Allied air forces were able to provide protection for the ships off Dieppe from the Luftwaffe (the German air force), the cost was high. The Royal Air Force lost 106 aircraft, the highest single-day total of the war. The Royal Canadian Air Force lost 13 aircraft.

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The beach after the raid on Dieppe. (Department of National Defence 8160)

According to the Rangerfamily.org website, the first Americans to see active combat in the European conflict of WWII were forty-four enlisted men and six officers from the 1st Ranger Battalion. Dispersed among the Canadians and the British Commandos, these men were the first American ground soldiers to see action against the Germans in the famed Dieppe Raid. Three Rangers were killed, several captured, and all won the commendation and esteem of the Commandos in this raid. The first American soldier killed in Europe in WW II was part of the Dieppe Raid, and a Ranger, Lieutenant E.V. Loustalot. During this raid, he took command after the British Captain leading the assault was killed. Loustalot scaled a steep cliff with his men, was wounded three times, but was eventually cut down by enemy crossfire in his attempts to reach the machine-gun nest at the top of the cliff.