To safeguard the memory of some of the remarkable engineering achievements of D-Day and preserve it for future generations, Dassault Systèmes’ Passion for Innovation Institute embarked on an ambitious reconstruction project, the results of which can be seen at www.3ds.com/dday/. Much of the hardware deployed on D-Day was part of a huge effort among the Allies to develop the weapons, airplanes, landing crafts and other innovations that could turn the tide of the war. Each invention had the promise of tipping the balance toward victory. A beach assault required the engineering of wholly new ways to land an invading army, along with the necessary gear and supplies that the operation entailed.
Some of the innovations engineered for that day included:
- The Landing Craft, Vehicle & Personnel (LCVP) was designed by American businessman Andrew Jackson Higgins and carried a platoon-sized CK complement of men and weapons to the beaches of Normandy.
- The Waco CG-4A gliders were relatively small, lightweight and maneuverable planes. Most importantly, they were silent and could land troops in enemy territory during the early hours of the June 6 invasion. The glider could carry up to 13 men or a vehicle.
- The Mulberry Harbor was one of the most extraordinary technological feats of WWII. Developed in part by Major Allan Beckett of the Royal Engineers, it was an artificial harbor built in England, transported across the English Channel and assembled off the coast at Arromanches to unload the vast quantities of supplies and men that were needed for battle. The Mulberry Harbor was the first temporary deep water facility of its kind ever devised.
Today, nearly 70 years after D-Day, only pieces of the harbor remain. To re-create the harbor, the Dassault Systèmes team compiled what remained of the original plans from the Royal Engineers Museum in London, the construction and maintenance manuals, the aerial photographs taken at the time and additional information provided by Tim Beckett, the son of Mulberry Harbor designer Allan Beckett, himself a marine engineer.
All of this valuable data was brought together and scrutinized over a period of almost eight months by the lab teams. Using the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform developed by Dassault Systèmes for the design, engineering and improvement of industrial products, the teams were able to re-create the Mulberry Harbor and enable the son of its inventor to virtually stand on it in an immersive 3D experience. The 3D model is an accurate, scientific reconstruction of the Harbor that will allow many to see and experience a site that was destroyed after WWII.
The Dassault Systèmes teams also identified, located and gathered all available data in order to create detailed 3D models of both the Waco glider and LCVP landing craft, right down to the last nut and bolt, taking careful account of the specific materials used and how they would have behaved in actual conditions.
“Virtually reconstructing the Mulberry Harbor, the LCVP landing craft and the Waco glider brings to life one of the most exciting episodes of 20th-century history for the broadest possible audience, safeguarding this valuable part of our engineering heritage – a heritage that is gradually being lost,” said Mehdi Tayoubi, Passion for Innovation Institute Director & Experiential Strategy VP for Dassault Systèmes. “This project builds a bridge between the engineers of yesterday and today by preserving the memory of these remarkable technological innovations. The result is a fitting tribute to the engineers of then and now.”
Dassault Systèmes’ re-creation of the Mulberry Harbor will be featured in an upcoming two-hour documentary “D-Day’s Sunken Secrets,” produced by the PBS science series, NOVA. The film follows an elite team as they carry out the most extensive survey ever done of the seabed bordering the legendary D-Day beachheads of Normandy, revealing the ingenious technology that helped the Allies overcome the German defenses and ultimately liberate Europe from the Nazis.
Dassault Systèmes’ Passion for Innovation Institute puts the company’s technology and knowledge at the service of research, education, culture and artistic creation, helping innovators ask and answer questions about the past and future. The Institute is dedicated to preserving our world’s industrial heritage and in the past has helped solve the mystery of how pyramids were built, re-create the Giza Plateau in Egypt, bring 3D technology to the world of dance and create a historical reconstruction of Paris throughout the ages.
“NOVA: D-Day’s Sunken Secrets” premieres Wednesday, May 28, 9 PM EDT on PBS.