In probably what was to be one of the major turning points in the 20th Century the massive amphibious invasion upon the beaches of Normandy France in 1944, would be the beginning of the end, as Winston Churchill once said. Since 1939 Europe had languished under the tyranny of the Nazis while Great Britain had endured costly civilian bombing from Hitler’s wonder weapons. Only the massive industrial capability of the United States would turn the tide of the war once the US had begun overcoming the surprise attacks of the Japanese in the Pacific and the U-Boat carnage unleashed upon North Atlantic shipping since the beginning of the war.
An unparalleled generation
Today liberal search engine companies like Google ignore the anniversary of D-Day. Students of the modern day public school districts are apt to forget it about all together, and revisionist historians are likely to demonize the terrible sacrifices of the greatest generation of Americans who fought their way out of the Great Depression only to liberate the world for the second time in the 20th Century. It was their finest hour.
If not for
If the world ever wondered at the marvel of capitalism and free markets it should have given full credit to America who completely converted its magnificent manufacturing industry from making automobiles and appliances to producing tanks, aircraft, and artillery. America’s wartime output was the only thing that stood in the way of Germany and Japan from continuing a war effort until the Nazis had perfected their heavy water experiments and built the reactors needed to begin producing plutonium. With that feat accomplished they already had the V-2 rocket to deliver the A- Bomb with.
Thanks to the Lend Lease Act pushed by President Roosevelt in order to send weapons to US allies such as Great Britain and Russia, there was enough flow of aircraft, tanks, and munitions to stave off the German war effort until America could amass a big enough army, navy, and air force to begin invasions that would retake Pacific Islands captured by the Japanese and begin the expeditionary force that would liberate France and Europe from Hitler’s Third Reich. Without a successful private sector to mass produce the supplies needed for such a gargantuan undertaking the war might have been lost. By the 1945 America supplied 46% of the entire manufactured good in the world.
In 1940 the mass evacuation of Dunkirk involved a rescue effort and involving some 800 ships both military and privately owned while French and British forces fought to hold off the German forces until Allied soldiers could be saved. Some 338 thousand British, French, and Belgium troops would eventually arrive safely in the British Isles while an estimated 75 thousand or more were left stranded or captured as retiring action units of the English and French who held off German armored divisions as well as divisions of infantry, succumbed to the inevitable. Winston Churchill warned that a successful rescue did not win a war!
First Stepping Stone Back
On the morning of June 6th 1944 General Ike Eisenhower approved of the D-Day landing after several delays due to bad weather. Once the massive operation went into action still the beaches of Normandy had been washed out by storms and the water off the coast would prove deeper than wading soldiers and specially fitted tanks were prepared for. Some soldiers drowned before ever getting a chance to fight on the beaches while amphibious Sherman tanks stalled in deep water. Yet, in one day 150 thousand troops of the Allies had managed to land and gain a foothold against heavily fortified German coastal installations.
Contrast in tactics
One might ask just how an evacuation of more than twice the men who landed at Normandy in 1944 were in retreat in 1940 from Dunkirk in the dramatic turn of events just 4 years later? As Churchill had attempted to make clear it was all in what one foe chose to do in the face of aggression withdrawing with more than twice as many foot soldiers when lesser numbers recaptured the same coast all over again. The defensive strategy of Dunkirk proved a waste of resources when it took less men and material than that to invade rather than capitulate. Sadly the mindset of an army in war can lose the war once the initiative is lost.
Much needed delay
There were other fateful factors that aided the allies on that grand turning point in history. Field Marshall Rommel left the front to celebrate the birthday of his wife. Hitler had taken a sleeping pill and was in a deep sleep while his staff hesitated to awake him once German intelligence had determined that a number of bizarre events such as poorly coordinated paratroop drops, an amphibious operation on the beaches of Normandy, and a confusing number of communication jamming measures had forced the Germans to hesitate. Some generals in Hitler’s staff had even felt that the Normandy operation was simply a diversion from the anticipated landing of General Patton’s army at Calais. As a result a Panzer counter attack was kept in reserve until more intelligence had been gathered.
While President Franklin Roosevelt led the American radio audience on a nationwide prayer lasting 15 minutes, Supreme Allied Commander Ike Eisenhower was writing reasons for his own resignation should Operation Overlord fail as American troops struggled ashore under heavy machine gun, rifle fire, and artillery barrages and the future of western civilization hung in the balance. The largest amphibious assault in human history threw the US Navy, US Army Air Corps, and the infantry of America, Canada, the UK, and France wading from the LCVP Higgins Boats into the deadly range of the German shore defenses!
Heaviest price to pay
Within hours the bloodiest piece of enemy real estate of the 5 individual landing operations, Omaha Beach, by the American forces lost more than one thousand men in a short time before finally securing their objective. Estimates of possible casualty numbers could have been much greater, but the loss of life was still staggering. A combined effort of US air superiority, the naval armada that contained the endless stream of supplies needed to support the expeditionary forces, and the dogged determination of the GI’s who endured withering small arms fire, machine gun nests, and German heavy artillery managed to penetrate a deadly line of well-planned concrete bunkers and “pill boxes” that had to be knocked out in order for the invasion to succeed.
In a day’s time supplies that immediately landed on blood stained beaches where floating bodies of Allied soldiers washed ashore some 900 artillery pieces, jeeps, tanks, and troop trucks were delivered on the sands of Normandy to keep the forward thrust in motion as stunned German soldiers were taken prisoner and nearby villages excitedly welcomed the Americans and others as the beginning of the end of World War II lay a year ahead of the victors. Man’s greatest efforts seem unfortunately tied to war, but in 1944 it was inescapable.