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Google Earth Plug-in: Pegasus bridge (Overlay)

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An aerial reconnassaince picture of the Pegasus bridge (northwest corner) made during the Battle of Normandy.

Pegasus was the name given to a bridge over the Caen canal, near the town of Ouistreham. The bridge was a major objective of the British 6th Airborne Division, which was landed by glider near it during the Normandy Invasion on the 5th/6th June 1944. It was given the permanent name of Pegasus Bridge in honour of the operation.

The main objective of capturing Pegasus Bridge was to secure the eastern flank of the invasion, preventing a counter attack from rolling up the entire invasion force.

The initial assault was carried out by 181 soldiers -- most of whom came from D Company, 2nd Ox & Bucks -- in 6 Horsa gliders, led by Major John Howard. They landed within fifty metres (164 feet) of Pegasus at 16 minutes past midnight on June 6th. The bridge was lightly guarded and was captured in just ten minutes, becoming the first objective seized on D-Day. One of the men killed during the operation was Lt. Dan Brotheridge, the first Allied soldier to be killed on D-Day.
The replacement Pegasus Bridge in operation
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The replacement Pegasus Bridge in operation

A few hundred yards to the east, spanning the river Orne, stands another bridge known as Horsa Bridge. This was the second objective of the Ox and Bucks, and was assaulted by glider in a similar fashion the same night.

Further elements of the 6th Airborne landed by glider and parachute throughout the day to reinforce the defenders, and the bridge was successfully held until relieved by British ground units. The first relief was from 6 Commando, led by Lord Lovat, who arrived to the sound of the Scottish bagpipes, played by 21-year-old 'Mad Piper' Private Bill Millin. Later in the day units of the British 3rd Division arrived, and the bridges were secured. The operation is frequently referred to as Operation Coup de Main, although since coup-de-main is a term frequently used for a swift pre-emptive strike it is not clear if this is a description or an official codename.

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