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In the process, the scientists have also helped explain why one part of the landing, the Allied assault on Omaha Beach, was unexpectedly difficult. The error, says Donald Olson, a physics professor at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, with an interest in historical astronomy, involved an airborne assault that was an important predecessor to the beach landings.
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The nighttime assault dropped thousands of soldiers behind enemy lines in order to secure bridges and impede German efforts to reinforce their beach defences. The beach landings, everyone knew, were conducted near sunrise, shortly after low tide, and on that part of the Normandy coast such conditions could only occur during either a new moon or a full moon. Rolling the clock back to 5 June , the night before the invasion, they found that the traditional story was simply wrong. Shortly after the war, Smith wrote a series of magazine articles in which he explained the reasoning behind key Allied actions during the war, including D-Day.
But when it came to the needs of the airborne invasion, he got it backward. Recommended A terrible constancy: the physics of wars Physics. The low tide, Olson says, was necessary so that engineering teams could demolish a daunting array of obstacles that the German defenders had placed along the beach to deter amphibious landings.
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