Normandy landings, Normandy Invasion, D-Day Invasion, Operation Overlord, or Operation Neptune. Whichever you call it, it still refers to the largest seaborne invasion in history when the Allied forces began the liberation of France on June 6, 1944. In preparation for the large Allied invasion operation, the engineers and designers had to work hard to come up with a variety of machines and vehicles that would bring the operation to succeed. So they created different vehicles with different specialties, weaponry, and other details. The result was unique and specifically modified vehicles made to help the Allies achieve their main objective: To liberate France.

Many of the tanks used that day could be categorized as Hobart Funnies: named after the British General Percy Hobart. He came up with the idea of producing many tanks based on the chassis of the British Churchill and the American Sherman.

Here are some of the results.

Of course, you’d expect to see a DD tank on a D-Day Invasion, although the DD here actually stands for Duplex Drive or, if you’re feeling silly, Donald Duck. The Sherman Duplex Drive tank was made to be waterproof and had a secondary propulsion system to bring it onto the beaches of Normandy. It worked with the help of the “flotation screen” or inflatables that skirted around the tank to enable it to float, while the two propellers powered by the tank’s engineer allowed it to be driven in the water. While in the water, it could travel at about 4 knots and could do so in waves up to around 1 ft.

A “DD” floating tank bogged down. (USMC Archives from Quantico, USACC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Sherman DDs had mixed success when they were used on the Normandy landings. On most beaches, they worked without hassles, and many made it to the shore without a fuss. However, almost all of these tanks did not make it ashore on the Omaha beach. The greatest factor was the many increased casualty rate at the Omaha beach, where the DD tanks were supposed to give fire support.

Another factor was the weather conditions at the time of landing. On that day, the waves at Omaha could reach 6 feet, hitting the sides of the floating tanks as the crew struggled to make it to the land. This was a major struggle since the vehicle was only designed to manage waves up to around 1 foot.

Bobbins tank

Another problem that the engineers foresaw when they were thinking of the vehicles that would bring the operation to success was the sands at Normandy. Although they varied from beach to beach, the sand was generally too soft to support a huge number of vehicles that would be brought ashore that day. The Churchill Bobbins tanks were created to solve this.

Churchill AVRE laying carpet from bobbin, 79th Armoured Division equipment trials, April 26, 1944. (Mapham J (Sgt), War Office official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Also called the “carpet layer,” as the name suggests, it was made to give the heavy allied armor and vehicles a passable road to the “exit areas” of the beaches. These exit areas were created by the troops tasked to make eight exit points on the beaches where the armor and other vehicles could exit. Once those areas were secured, the engineers would prepare them for an allied breakout, which was particularly important for the British troops at Sword beach as they were assigned to take Caen city, which was 9.3 miles away from their landing zone.