Saturday, April 7, 2012

D-Day

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When on D-Day-June 6, 144-Allied armies landed in Normandy on the northwestern


coast of France, possibly the one most critical event of World War II unfolded; for upon the


outcome of the invasion hung the fate of Europe. If the invasion failed, the United States might


turn its full attention to the enemy in the Pacific-Japan-leaving Britain alone, with most of its


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resources spent in mounting the invasion. That would enable Nazi Germany to muster all its


strength against the Soviet Union. By the time American forces returned to Europe-if indeed,


they ever returned-Germany might be master of the entire continent.


Although fewer Allied ground troops went ashore on D-Day than on the first


invasion of Sicily, the invasion of Normandy was in total historys greatest amphibious operation,


involving on the first day 5,000 ships, the largest armada ever assembled; 11,000 aircraft


(following months of preliminary bombardment); and approximately 154,000 British,


Canadian and Americansoldiers, including ,000 arriving by parachute and glider. The


invasion also involved a long-range deception plan on a scale the world had never before


seen and the clandestine operations of tens of thousands of Allied resistance fighters in Nazi-


occupied countries of western Europe.








American General Dwight D. Eisenhower was named supreme commander for the


allies in Europe. British General, Sir Frederick Morgan, established a combined American-


British headquarters known as COSSAC, for Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander.


COSSAC developed a number of plans for the Allies, most notable was that of Operation


Overlord, a full scale invasion of France across the English Channel.





Eisenhower felt that COSSACs plan was a sound operation. After reviewing the


disastrous hit-and-run raid in 14 in Dieppe, planners decided that the strength of German


defenses required not a number of separate assaults by relatively small units but an immense


concentration of power in a single main landing. The invasion site would have to be close to at


least one major port and airbase to allow for efficient supply lines. Possible sites included among


others, the Pas de Calais across the Strait of Dover, and the beaches of Cotentin. It was decided


by the Allies that the beaches of Cotentin would be the landing site for Operation Overlord.








In my opinion, the primary reason that the invasion worked was deception. Deception to


mislead the Germans as to the time and place of the invasion. To accomplish this, the British


already had a plan known as Jael, which involved whispering campaigns in diplomatic posts


around the world and various distractions to keep German eyes focused anywhere but on the


coast of northwestern France. An important point to the deception was Ultra, code name for


intelligence obtained from intercepts of German radio traffic. This was made possible by the


British early in the war having broken the code of the standard German radio enciphering


machine, the Enigma. Through Ultra the Allied high command knew what the Germans expected


the Allies to do and thus could plant information either to reinforce an existing false view or to


feed information through German agents, most of it false but enough of it true-and thus


sometimes involving sacrifice of Allied troops, agents or resistance forces in occupied countries-


to maintain the credibility of the German agents.








Six days before the targeted date of June 5, troops boarded ships, transports, aircraft all


along the southern and southwestern coasts of England. All was ready for one of historys most


dramatic and momentous events. One important question was left unanswered though what did


the Germans know?





Under Operation Fortitude, a fictitious American force-the 1st Army Group-assembled


just across the Channel from the Pas de Calais. Dummy troops, false radio traffic, dummy


landing craft in the bay of the Thames river, huge but unoccupied camps, dummy tanks-all


contributed to the deception. Although the Allied commanders could not know it until their


troops were ashore, their deception had been remarkably successful. As time for the invasion


neared, the Germans focus of the deception had shifted from the regions of the Balkans and


Norway to the Pas de Calais. The concentration of Allied troops was so great, that an invasion of


France seemed inevitable. Bombing attacks, sabotage by the French Resistance and false


messages from compromised German agents all focused on the Pas de Calais with only minimal


attention to Normandy. Also, German intelligence thought that the Allies had 0 divisions ready


for the invasion (really only ), so that even after the invasion of Normandy, the belief could


still exist that Normandy was just a preliminary measure and the main invasion of the Pas de


Calais was still to come. None of the German high command in France doubted that the invasion


would strike the Pas de Calais. The Fü hrer himself, Adolf Hitler, had an intuition that the


invasion would come to Normandy but was unable to incite his commanders to make more than


minimal reinforcement there.








Due to weather complications, the first step in the invasion began a day late, on June 6


around 115 am. An air attack on Normandy. The Germans saw the airborne assault as nothing


more than a raid or at most a diversionary attack. As the airborne landings continued, Field


Marshal von Rundstedt nevertheless decided that even if the assault was a diversionary attack, it


had to be defeated. Around 400 am, he ordered two panzer divisions to prepare for counter


attack, but when he reported what he had done to the high command in Germany, word came


back to halt the divisions pending approval from Hitler. That would be a long time coming, for


Hitlers staff was reluctant to disturb the Führers sleep.








For the following 1 hours, Allied forces landed on five beaches defeating with minimal


casualties, the German defenses. It was 4 pm on D-Day before Hitler at last approved the


deployment of the two panzer divisions. Allied deception had been remarkably effective and


because Hitler had been sleeping and was then slow to carry out any action, German power


which could have spelled defeat for the invasion had been withheld. The rest of the armoured


reserve in France-five divisions-and the 1 divisions of the massive Fifteenth Army in the Pas de


Calais, stood idle feeling that the main invasion was still to come.





The next day, after word reached Hitler that German troops had found copies of U.S.


operation orders indicating that the landing in Normandy constituted the main invasion, he


ordered the panzer reserve into action, but Allied intelligence was ready for such an emergency.


Through Ultra the Allied command learned of Hitlers orders, and through a compromised


German agent known as Brutus, it sent a word that the American corps orders were a plant. The


main invasion, Brutus reported, was still to come in the Pas de Calais. Hitler canceled his orders.





Had Allied commanders known of the near-bankruptcy of troops on the German side,


they would have had more cause for encouragement. The Seventh Army (German defense of


Normandy) had thrown into the battle every major unit available. The commander of the Seventh


Army was reluctant to commit any forces from the West (Brittany) to the invasion, fearful of a


second Allied landing. Meanwhile, most German officials-their eyes blurred by Allied deception-


continued to believe that a bigger landing was still to come in the Pas de Calais.





In my opinion, the primary reason that the invasion worked was deception. D-Day was a


tremendous achievement for British, Canadian and American fighting men, but it also owed an


immeasurable debt to Ultra and to the deception that Ultra made possible.








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