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June 6, 1944 D-Day

This is the 70th anniversary of one of history’s biggest military gambles – the invasion of Normandy. There were so many things that had to fall into place for it to work, that it really is amazing that it did.

President Franklin D Roosevelt told a news conference the invasion did not mean the war was over. He said: “You don’t just walk to Berlin, and the sooner this country realizes that the better.”

The war continued for almost a year, but FDR did not, dying a month before the German surrender.

7 comments

1 Kryten42 { 06.06.14 at 8:21 am }

I learned a lot about D-Day from my Grandfather. Two of his son’s were involved, one a bomber pilot that was part of the 1,000 bomber armada that bombed the crap out of German coastal defenses, especially the fortified gun batteries. Another of my uncles was killed during training. Apparently, D-Day training casualties were high.

Interestingly, Hitler rightly believed the Invasion would be Normandy, and convinced Rommel it would be so. They disagreed on the date however. And most other German Generals didn’t think Normandy was likely. Rommel was frustrated because he couldn’t get enough fuel to supply the air support or Panzer divisions he wanted and needed. If he had… Things may have gone quite differently. Though, the Allies did an excellent job of decoying a lot of German troops, ships & aircraft away from the LZ’s.

It’s a real shame FDR didn’t live to see the end, but I am sure he knew it was about to happen. 🙂

2 Kryten42 { 06.06.14 at 8:55 am }

Dunno if I need to post this, but to clarify something that has annoyed me for years about a supposed cover up by US & British Gov over the deaths of several hundred US military personnel in a training exercise. Curiously, I learned from a German uncle I have (one of my Aunties married him) who was a German Navy (Kriegsmarine) Lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See) for a Torpedo Boat Squadron. (He was actually an excellent cabinet maker & builder, who was recruited by force, as many were in WW2). They lived here in Aus, & I got on very well with him. He also taught me how to shoot and taught me German etc. He had a Navy 9mm Luger. It had a longer barrel and wooden holster that could be used as a stock. Deadly accurate. 😉 I learned from him the German side of the story, and what I learned from the US/British side matched. there is a good explanation here:

‘Slapton Sands: The Cover-up That Never Was’

The USA, Brit’s etc. are guilty of more than enough cover ups! We don’t need to make them up!

3 Bryan { 06.06.14 at 10:42 pm }

There was a major disinformation campaign carried out to convince the German High Command that the attack would take directly across the Channel and nearly everything that was involved in the actual invasion was classified until after it occurred. There is also the much reduce media coverage of Europe atfer the end of the war in Europe as people were shifted to cover the continuing war in Asia. Just because no one reported it, doesn’t mean that anyone was hiding it.

The invasion was a very near thing that could have come apart at any time during the first week. The Allies go t the breaks they needed, mostly from German mistakes and misreadings of what was actually occurring.

4 Badtux { 06.07.14 at 1:12 am }

Loss of air superiority was the biggest factor in the German defeat. If they’d been able to swiftly move forces stationed elsewhere to the Normandy area they could have very easily pushed the Allied forces back into the sea. But a furious bombing campaign and continual fighter cover kept the German forces able to move only at night, and only slowly due to the need to repair bridges and rails.

It was indeed a gamble, but it was not one that changed the course of the war. The Soviets had already pushed to the borders of Romania, which was where the German war machine got the vast majority of its oil. Their conquest of Romania in late 1944 sealed Germany’s fate by cutting off the war machine’s oil supply, leaving only the inadequate supplies obtained via coal liquification, and likely would have taken place even if the Normandy invasion had failed because Germany was running out of soldiers and an invasion of the south of France was also being threatened (and eventually happened as Operation Dragoon), meaning he couldn’t have stripped France of troops to send them to the Eastern front even if Overlord had failed. At best Overlord cut the length of the war in Europe by a few months. Not that this is a small thing… for one thing, the Soviet troops would have advanced far further into Europe during those few months and might even have ended up controlling everything east of France and north of Italy. Which would have changed the course of history significantly…

5 Bryan { 06.07.14 at 4:51 pm }

The Romanian oil fields are personal for me as that was the primary target of the B-24s in Italy that my Dad flew in as a bombardier.

Between the allied air forces and the French Resistance Movement in France was severely limited. The Battle of the Bulge showed they had the ability to mount a counteroffensive when the infrastructure was reasonably intact and the weather shielded them ground movements.

Stalin was certain that the US and Britain wanted to wear out the Soviet army, and were delaying the invasion. He probably wasn’t totally wrong in that belief, but he didn’t have to conduct amphibious landings.

6 Badtux { 06.07.14 at 9:24 pm }

At the time, the Soviets had pushed to the borders of Romania then shifted most of their troops northwards to push the Germans back to the Polish border in the north. The Germans were basically fighting a three-front war at that point — the Soviets pushing in from the east, the Soviets pushing north from the Ukraine, and of course the Soviets still facing west at the Romanian border. The German high command pointed out to Hitler that the only rational course of action was to pull back to the Polish border to create a more compact and defensible front. Hitler did a “Nein! Nein! Nein!” on that one, and the Soviets successfully pinched off and exterminated entire German armies because of that.

Stalin was a murderous paranoid ass, but it’s unclear that any other kind of person could have done what he did, which was to turn a backwards 3rd world nation into a nation that produced more tanks and guns than the United States during WW2 and was second only to the US in the number of aircraft produced (the US produced a staggering 300,000+ aircraft during the war — something to remember in an era where we have problems procuring a few hundred fighter jets in a timely manner).

That said, his paranoia led him to an utterly wrong belief that the invasion was being delayed to wear out the Soviet armies. The reality was that Roosevelt and Ike had every incentive to end the war in Europe as rapidly as they could. The staggering US war production was achieved only at the cost of discontinuing basically all civilian goods production, and some of the civilian goods whose production was discontinued was critical goods such as steam locomotives and steel rails. By the end of the war the maximum top speed of U.S. passenger trains had declined from around 65mph to around 45mph because the rails had been literally worn out by the massive amounts of soldiers and war materials that had been shipped over them, and the whole logistical infrastructure of the US would have collapsed if the war had continued for a year longer. In addition, food production and shipment was a continual problem during the war, while general caloric intake was better than during the Great Depression rationing had been implemented by the end of 1942 and the longer the war went, the more arduous the rationing became. It was unclear that the majority of the American public would have supported the unconditional surrender policy towards Hitler’s murderous regime if the war had continued on for longer than it did, and a negotiated surrender that merely returned the pre-war status quo and left the German regime intact would have merely pushed out the problem for another decade. Time, in other words, is never on a democracy’s side when trying to win a war, and Roosevelt and Ike were clearly trying to win, not just return to the status quo.

Something to remember when thinking about Vietnam, Iraq-nam, and Afghanis-nam. The longer those wars dragged on, the less public support they had. That’s how it works in democracies. FDR knew that. More recent leaders gambled that avoiding the austerity created by Roosevelt’s total-war policies would extend public support for war. All that proves is that LBJ, Nixon, Bush II, and Obama aren’t fit to lick FDR’s boots in the pantheon of great American presidents. Because they were right, but they were also wrong — by avoiding real war and instead attempting this sort of “pansy-war”, all they insured was that not only did the American public tire of war but that they lost their wars, too. Which shows that if you’re going to go to war, do it only if you’re going to really go to war — with all the costs that this implies. Otherwise, don’t go to war. Advice which I suspect future leaders of the US are not going to take. Sigh.

7 hipparchia { 06.07.14 at 9:59 pm }

the US produced a staggering 300,000+ aircraft during the war —

of course we did. that was back when women were building them. 😉