June 6, 1944 is truly a day of infamy that will live forever in the hearts of millions of civilizations and servicemen. This day was the first day of Operation Overlord; the official name General Eisenhower gave it. Never before had a greater invasion been planned or executed (Ambrose 71). Over 200,000 allied troops were involved in the operation along with over 150,000 German troops (Ambrose 33). The buildup of so many troops took well over a year, coming from primarily three nations: Canada, Great Britain, and The United States (Ambrose 42). The strength of all these nations would be needed for the assault on Hitler's "Fortress Europe.
During the first six months of 1944, the United States and Great Britain gathered land, naval, and air forces in England to prepare for Operation Overlord, the assault on Hitler's "Fortress Europe." During this time, the Soviet Union tied down large amounts of German troops on the Eastern Front, while the Western Allies gathered their resources and trained their forces. They also spent a great amount of time searching the French Coast for a suitable landing point. Throughout 1942 and 1943, the BBC sent out broadcasts telling anyone who had postcards of the French coast to send them in. By the end of 1943 they had over 10 million pictures (Ambrose 74). The allied air force also flew many reconnaissance missions over France in the months before D-Day (Ambrose 72).
The US Navy and Air Force played a critical role in the time leading up to the operation. The Navy cleared mines out of the channel as well as run covert operations along the French coast (Ambrose 47). The Air Force bombed inland targets such as railroads, gun emplacements and supply depots. Throughout 1943 and 1944, the Air Force had also driven the German Air Force, "The Luftwaffe", out of France and deep into Germany, protecting the heartland from the 8th Air Forces relentless stagic air attacks (Ambrose 105,106).
As we all know, these resources would be useless without a great plan and great commander. The man put up to this task was The U.S army chief of staff George C. Marshall, who had transformed the U.S. Army from a rag-tag army of 1700,000 men to a army that three years later numbered over 7.2 million men (Ambrose 40). Marshall had two main options at his disposal, General Bernard Montgomery, or Monty as his troops called him, or the leader of the Allied forces in the invasion of North Africa, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He deliberated many weeks over the task, but finally decided on General Eisenhower (Ambrose 39).
Early in 1944, General Eisenhower began working on his plan for the Invasion of Nazi occupied Europe - Operation Overlord. As you can imagine, an operation of this size took many months of planning, so much so it became the greatest planed attack in the history of warfare. General Eisenhower reviewed all of his options and selected the Normandy beach in northern France.
In Phoebe-Lou Adams' review of the book D-Day she says "This is the account of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. The author argues that the invasion represents a triumph of the old United States Army, whose officers had transformed millions of civilians into a cohesive highly trained and motivated mass army that backed by a united nation, won with relative ease." Almost all of this credit can be given to two different people: General Eisenhower and Chief of staff Marshall. I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Adams' statement. Without General Eisenhower careful planning, the invasion would have surely failed.
The man who opposed General Eisenhower was hand picked by Hitler to defend his "Fortress Europe". The brave soul he picked for the task was Major General Erwin Rommel. He was also know as the "Desert Fox" from his command in the North African campaign in late 1943 (Ambrose 59). General Eisenhower and General Rommel met for the first time at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa, where Rommel scored a great victory against General Eisenhower (Ambrose 60). General Rommel faced the task of defending the entire coastline from Southern Norway to Southern France with a very limited air force, navy and army. Rommel knew that if he were to stop the Allied invasion, he would need to stop the invasion on the beach before he was overwhelmed by flood of Allied troops. He spent most of his time and resources building and reinforcing the costal defenses (Ambrose 118).
The invasion was originally planned for late May 1944, but bad weather pushed the date to June. General Eisenhower had to select a date with the best conditions for invasion: low tide and a full moon, which only occurred early and late June. General Eisenhower knew that the earlier, the better, so he set the date for June 5th and was later pushed back to the final date of June 6th (Ambrose 105,106,107). The invasion planned for paratroopers to be dropped behind the beaches on the night of June 6th with the sea born invasion following the next day. The invasion plan had the Canadian troops landing at Juno beach, the British troops landing at Gold and Sword beaches, and the American troops landing at Utah and Omaha beaches (Ambrose 79,80,81,82).
The invasion ran smoothly at all of the beaches except at the American beach Omaha. At Omaha, Rommel had his best troops and beach defenses and also had the best terrain for a beach defenses (Ambrose 334,335). At Omaha Beach, the Americans suffered the most causalities on any beach during the invasion. Over 3,000 were dead or injured. The troops were held up for over a day and a half at Omaha. Anything that could go wrong at Omaha went wrong, but the perseverance and determination of the troops paid off, and by the second day of the invasion they had pushed almost a mile inland (Ambrose 345).
By the end of the second day of the invasion, the Allied lines were as deep as ten miles into Normandy and as little as two miles inland, but all the mattered was that the Allies had established a firm foothold in northern Normandy. Without being able to push the Allied forces back into the ocean as Rommel had wished, he knew it was the beginning of the end for the Nazis. In a few months the allies would conquer the rest of France and be on the doorstep of the German heartland.
The reason that the D-Day invasion effects history today is that without the invasion many different scenarios could have come into play. If the Allies failed, Germany would have thrown all of its resources into defeating Russia, and could have forced the USSR to sign a piece treaty. If the U.S. had decided to not invade Europe at all, Germany could have won the war. Instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, we would be saying "Kiel Hitler"! The decision not to invade or failure of the invasion would have given us a very, very different place today. Without all the sacrifice of the brave men during the invasion and the war, we could live in a very different place today, one in which I would not want to live.
Works Cited Page 1. Riva Brown, "Poverty worst for Miss. Kids," The Clarion-Ledger 12 June 2003 2. "Mississippi at a glance," Econmic Policy Institute ed. J. Mishel 2000
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