Word of the Month: D-Day

This month is the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. On 6 June 1944, British, Canadian, and American troops landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of France. In military jargon, the day was designated D-Day and the sixth of June has gone by this name ever since. To commemorate this event our word of the month is:

D-Day, n., military jargon for the day an attack or operation is scheduled to begin, specifically and historically 6 June 1944, the day the Allied invasion of Normandy began in WWII. The D stands simply and redundantly for day. H-Hour is a similar formulation. The term D-Day dates to the First World War, first used in 1918.

The following words are all associated with the D-Day landings.

airborne, adj., referring to parachute-borne infantry, 1937.

Allied Expeditionary Force, n., also AEF, the Allied forces that invaded France in June 1944 under the command of General Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s headquarters was referred to as SHAEF or Supreme Headquarters AEF.

Allies, n., the coalition of nations led by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union that fought the Axis in World War II (1939). The term was originally applied to the nations, led by Britain and France, that fought the Central Powers in the First World War (1914). A proper use of the general noun ally, which is from the Latin, via Old French, alligare meaning to bind or fasten.

axis, n., a political-military association between nations, specifically used as a proper name for the alliance between Germany, Italy, and Japan in WWII, the Rome-Berlin Axis or Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The political use of the term dates to 1936. Still in productive use today (e.g., Axis of Evil), the term is generally used to connote an enemy coalition.

BAR, abbrev., Browning Automatic Rifle, an automatic weapon, almost a light machinegun, used by the US Army in WWII.

bazooka, n., a US anti-tank rocket launcher, 1943, named for a trombone-like instrument used by radio comedian Bob Burns, 1935, originally probably from bazoo, a US slang term for a kazoo or for the mouth.

beachhead, n., a fortified position consisting of military forces that have been landed in an amphibious operation, 1940. Formed after bridgehead.

Belgian gate, n., Allied name for a type of anti-landing obstacle deployed by the Germans, a 10-foot by 8-foot steel frame mounted on rollers with the flat side facing seaward. Frequently teller mines were attached to the top of the gate.

bocage, n., terrain in Normandy characterized by fields bounded by earthen banks topped with hedges, from the French. The earthen banks formed formidable defensive obstacles in the campaign for Normandy.

C-47, n., designation for the military version of the DC-3 transport aircraft. C-47s were the primary aircraft used to drop paratroops on D-Day.

commando, n., an elite soldier, a unit of elite soldiers, the name was in official use in the British army from 1940. Used in the 1899 Boer war to refer to Boer militia units. Ultimately, the word is from the Portuguese, meaning a party of men conducting a military raid or expedition and the Vulgar Latin commandare, meaning to command.

Cotentin, prop.n., name of the Norman peninsula that juts northward into the English Channel.

DD-tank, n., an amphibious tank used in the Normandy invasion, the DD is an abbreviation for duplex-drive.

destroyer, n., a small, fast warship, 1893. Originally torpedo-boat destroyer after its original mission. Many types of warships provided shore bombardment for the D-Day invasion force, but destroyers operating close to shore provided the most effective fires in support of the invading infantry.

drop zone, n., area where a paratroop landing is planned.

DUKW, n., also duck, a 2 1/2–ton, wheeled, amphibious vehicle used by the Allies. The name is from the factory designation for the vehicle, D = year of manufacture (1942), U = amphibious, K = all-wheel drive, and W = dual rear axles.

E-boat, n., Allied name for a German torpedo boat. The meaning of E, if any, is not known for sure. Most likely it is either arbitrary or stands for enemy.

eighty-eight, n., also 88, Allied nickname for the German 88-mm anti-aircraft gun that was primarily used, very effectively, as an anti-tank gun.

ETO, abbrev., European Theater of Operations.

Flying Fortress, n., official nickname of the US B-17 heavy bomber.

Fortitude, prop.n., codename for the deception operations used to hide the preparations and intentions of the invasion.

funny, n., British nickname for specially modified armored vehicles used in the Normandy invasion. Funnies included flamethrower tanks, mine-clearing vehicles, tanks with bulldozers, etc.

Gold, prop.n., codename for the invasion beach used by the British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.

gooseberry, n., nickname for freighter deliberately sunk to create a breakwater to shelter small craft off the Nomandy beachheads. Cf. mulberry.

Havoc, n., official nickname of the US A-20 light bomber.

hedgehog, n., Allied name for a type of anti-landing obstacle consisting of three or four steel rails welded or riveted together at the center.

hedgerow, n., another term for the bocage in Normandy. The terrain in Normandy differs from the usual use of the term in that normal hedgerows are not placed atop earthen banks.

Higgins Boat, n., a type of American landing craft capable of carrying 36 troops or a vehicle, an LCVP, named after its designer, Andrew Jackson Higgins. Over 20,000 were built during the course of the war.

Juno, prop.n., codename for the invasion beach used by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade.

Lancaster, n., the primary British heavy bomber used on D-Day.

LCA, abbrev., landing craft, assault; a type of British landing craft, similar to the American LCVP or Higgins Boat, only faster but not capable of transporting vehicles.

LCI, abbrev., landing craft, infantry; a 160-foot landing craft capable of holding 200 troops.

LCM, abbrev., landing craft, medium; a landing craft capable of holding several vehicles.

LCT, abbrev., landing craft, tank; a 110-foot landing craft capable of carrying up to eight tanks.

LCVP, abbrev., landing craft, vehicle and personnel; a Higgins Boat. 

Liberator, n., official nickname of the US B-24 heavy bomber.

LST, abbrev., landing ship, tank; a 327-foot, flat-bottomed ship designed to be grounded on shore and disembarking several dozen tanks or other vehicles.

Marauder, n., official nickname of the US B-26 medium bomber.

Mulberry, prop.n., codename for two prefabricated harbors towed to the Normandy beaches from England. The name was chosen because it was next on the rotation of ship names approved by the British Admiralty.

Neptune, prop.n., codename for the naval operations associated with the Normandy invasion.

Normandy, prop.n., a region in northeastern France, named after the Norsemen who settled there. The name is attested to in English from the mid-11th C.

Omaha, prop.n., codename for the invasion beach used by the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. Omaha was the bloodiest of the invasion beaches and the only one where the Germans came near to repelling the Allied invasion.

Overlord, prop.n., Allied codename for the invasion of and operations in northeastern France.

panzer, n., a German tank or tank unit, in English use from 1940, from the German military term which originally meant a coat of mail.

paratrooper, paratroop, n., parachute infantry, 1940.

pathfinder, n., a paratrooper who drops in advance of an airborne attack to mark the drop zone for the paratroopers in the main attack.

ranger, n., an elite US Army soldier, the American name for a commando, 1941. On D-Day, elements of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions landed at Omaha Beach and scaled the cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc with a mission to spike German artillery.

Seabee, n., a sailor assigned to US Navy civil engineer unit, the name is from the initials of construction battalion. Seabees did much of the obstacle and mine clearing on the invasion beaches.

Sherman, n., name of the primary type of battle tank used by the US Army in WWII, after the Civil War general.

Sword, prop.n., codename for the smallest of the Normandy invasion beaches, used by the 3rd British Division.

Teller mine, n., a disc-shaped, German anti-tank mine. From the German, Tellermine, the word Teller meaning plate. In English use since 1943.

Utah, prop.n., codename for the invasion beach used by the US 4th Infantry Division.

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