I was recently taking a business group around the beaches of the Normandy Invasion and I was explaining the different code names for each of the beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. There is no particular reason for the code names. Codes were generally chosen at random – after all, if there was any pattern to them their codes could be broken. The beaches were then sub-divided into smaller sectors with their own code names: Jig and King at Gold and Charlie, Dog, Easy and Fox at Omaha for example. All the beaches followed the same principles. Each of the designated units had their own place and time to land on these sectors and again there was no rhyme or reason behind the code names. However each one of these sectors were divided into coloured sectors: green, white or red. I had never been able to find out what these colours meant and why the same colours were used on every beach.
On this particular trip there was a sailor and she offered an explanation for me: the beaches are named from the left green, white or red when facing north. Looking out to sea is the typical image we see of the beaches on maps; the viewpoint that the Germans would have had of the approaching armada of 6000 vessels. However, if you were one of the allies approaching the Normandy coast you would look at the beaches the other way round. You would be seeing the green sector to the right, white in the centre and red to the left. In nautical terms left is port and right is starboard. At night port is signified with a red light and starboard with a green light. A white light is used to indicate centre of a ship.
As it was the navy that would be ferrying and landing the troops it makes perfect sense that these colours would be used so that they knew where to land. So now when I look at a map of the invasion beaches I have a far better understanding.
It goes to show that you may be an expert in a particular field, but there are always people out there that can add to your knowledge.
For more information about trips to the Normandy Beaches please look at my home page.