AskDefine | Define beachhead

Dictionary Definition



1 a bridgehead on the enemy's shoreline seized by an amphibious operation; "the Germans were desperately trying to contain the Anzio beachhead"
2 an initial accomplishment that opens the way for further developments; "the town became a beachhead in the campaign to ban smoking outdoors"; "they are presently attempting to gain a foothold in the Russian market" [syn: foothold]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An area of hostile territory (especially on a beach) that, when captured, serves for the continuous landing (or movement into position) of further troops and materiel
  2. In the context of "by extension": an initial success that ensures the possibility of further advances in a project; a foothold

See also

Extensive Definition

Beachhead is a military term used to describe the line created when a unit (by sea) reaches a beach, and begins to defend that area of beach, while other reinforcements (it is hoped) help out, until a unit large enough to begin advancing has arrived. Sometimes used interchangeably (both correctly and incorrectly) with Bridgehead and Lodgement. Beachheads were very important in operations such as Operation Neptune, the Korean War (especially at Inchon), and the Vietnam War, among many other examples.
Although many references state that Operation Neptune refers to the naval operations in support of Operation Overlord, the most reliable references make it clear that Overlord refers to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement in Normandy, and that Neptune refers to the landing phase which created the beachhead; i.e. Neptune was the first part of Overlord. According to the D-day museum:
''"The armed forces use codenames to refer to the planning and execution of specific military operations. Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of north-west Europe. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. (...) Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944."''
Once an amphibious assault starts, victory tends to go to the side which can reinforce the beachhead most quickly. There are exceptions to this rule where the amphibious forces have not expanded from their beachheads quickly enough to create a lodgement area before the defenders can reinforce their positions. Two famous examples in which the attackers failed to expand their beachheads before the defending side could bring up reinforcements occurred during the landing at Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, and the amphibious landing at Anzio during World War II.
beachhead in German: Brückenkopf
beachhead in Japanese: 橋頭堡
beachhead in Norwegian: Brohode

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acropolis, advance guard, airhead, avant-garde, bastion, battle line, blockhouse, bridgehead, bunker, castle, citadel, donjon, farthest outpost, fasthold, fastness, first line, forefront, fort, fortress, front, front line, front rank, front-runner, garrison, garrison house, hold, keep, line, martello, martello tower, mote, motte, outguard, outpost, peel, peel tower, pillbox, pioneer, point, post, precursor, railhead, rath, safehold, scout, spearhead, strong point, stronghold, tower, tower of strength, van, vanguard, ward
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