by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we begin a series of postings that will lead up to this the Western world’s celebration of D-Day, the day on which the Allied forces finally made their assault on Fortress Europe which was under Nazi control. We will look at an overview of the preparations for that eventful day.

On that day in 1944, the Allies (Britain, the Free French, and the United States) had been stockpiling supplies, assembling and training troops, and making other preparations (Mulberry harbors) for the landing and supply-line to support the troops after their landing. Furthermore, a number of deceptions were put into place, such as Patton’s fathom 3rd Army, were being carried out to direct the attention of the Nazi leadership away from the Normandy coast.

On the Nazi side, preparations were also being made. Under Field Marshall Rommel, an Atlantic wall had been created to protect the European continent from just this type of invasion. The cliffs overlooking the Normandy Beaches were well fortified. The troops were trained, the alert was on, and the Germans introduced their own types of deceptions.

The build-up was there on both sides. The stage was set for the big event. So, on we go…  GLB

[ This is Part 1 of 6 ]

    

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
— Victor Hugo

“Being a Brady comes with it’s pleasures and its baggage. I’m not one given to a lack of privacy and invasion.”
— Christopher Knight

“And, of course, it must be asked: is it proper to transact with the Turks for the most reassured of Greek possessions when Greece is under Turkish invasion and subjugation?”
— Melina Mercouri

“But the Spain which emerged around 1960, beginning with its economic miracle, created by the invasion of tourists, can no longer result in impassioned dedication on the part of its intellectuals, and even less on the part of foreign intellectuals.”
— Juan Goytisolo

“But if our hopes are betrayed, if we are forced to resist the invasion of our soil, and to defend our threatened homes, this duty, however hard it may be, will find us armed and resolved upon the greatest sacrifices.”
— King Albert II

“But compared to writing a novel, where you can be God, I did the Bay of Pigs invasion in six pages once, and there were 50,000 guys with boots that I didn’t have to pay, and all those extras; we didn’t have to pay them.”
— John Sayles

“And this is the Anarchistic definition of the State: the embodiment of the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.”
— Benjamin Tucker

“Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose – and you allow him to make war at pleasure.”
— Abraham Lincoln

   

Operation Overlord: Overview of the Preparation

NormandySupply_edit Operation Overlord was the code name for the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy Landings (commonly known as D-Day). A 12,000-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving almost 7,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June; more than 3 million troops were in France by the end of August.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Free French forces and Poland also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also minor contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces. Once the beachheads were secured, a three-week military buildup occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead, began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to expand the foothold on France, and concluded with the closing of the Falaise pocket on 24 August, the liberation of Paris on 25 August, and the German retreat across the Seine which was completed on 30 August 1944.

Preparations for D-Day

In the East, the vastness of space will… permit a loss of territory… without suffering a mortal blow to Germany’s chance for survival. Not so in the West! If the enemy here succeeds… consequences of staggering proportions will follow within a short time.
— Adolf Hitler, ‘Directive 51’

In June 1940, German Führer Adolf Hitler had triumphed in what he called "the most famous victory in history", the fall of France. The British, although besieged, had been spared from annihilation when they evacuated 300,000 troops from Dunkirk. United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in one of his famous speeches, would vow to invade France and liberate it from Nazi Germany.

In a joint statement with Soviet Union Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin and United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Churchill had announced a "full understanding" with regard to the urgent tasks of creating a Second Front in Europe in 1942. Churchill unofficially informed the Soviets in a memorandum handed to Molotov that the resources necessary for an invasion were lacking in 1942. However, the announcement had some effect as it caused Hitler to order preparations for an Allied descent on Europe.

The British, under Churchill, wished to avoid the costly frontal assaults of World War I. Churchill and the British staff favoured a course of allowing the insurgency work of the Special Operations Executive to come to widespread fruition, while making a main Allied thrust from the Mediterranean Sea to Vienna and into Germany from the south, concentrating on the weaker Axis ally, Italy. Such an approach was also believed to offer the advantage of creating a barrier to limit the Soviet advance into Europe. However, the U.S. government believed from the onset that the optimum approach was the shortest route to Germany emanating from the strongest Allied power base (i.e. Great Britain). They were adamant in their view and made it clear that it was the only option they would support in the long term. Two preliminary proposals were drawn up: Operation Sledgehammer, for an invasion in 1942, and Operation Roundup, for a larger attack in 1943, which was adopted and became Operation Overlord, although it was delayed until 1944.

This operation will be the primary United States and British ground and air effort against the Axis of Europe. Following the establishment of strong Allied forces in France, operations designed to strike at the heart of Germany and to destroy her military forces will be undertaken. We have approved the outline plan for Operation Overlord.
Report by Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff, Quebec Conferece, August 1943

The planning process was started in earnest after the Casablanca and Tehran Conferences with the appointment of British Lieutenant-General Frederick E. Morgan as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate), a title shortened to COSSAC, with the American Major General Ray Barker as his deputy. The COSSAC staff’s initial plans were constrained by the numbers of landing craft available, which were reduced by commitments in the Mediterranean and Pacific. In part because of lessons learned by Allied troops in the raid on Dieppe of 19 August 1942, the Allies decided not to assault a French seaport directly in their first landings. The short operating range of British fighters, including the Spitfire and Typhoon, from UK airfields greatly limited the number of potential landing sites, in order to maximise the possibility of air support. Geography reduced the choices further to two sites: the Pas de Calais and the Normandy coast.

Normandy presented serious logistical problems, not the least of which was that the only viable port in the area, Cherbourg, was heavily defended. Many among the higher echelons of command argued that the Pas de Calais would make a more suitable landing area on these grounds alone. Although the Pas de Calais was the shortest distance to the European mainland from the UK, it was the most heavily fortified and defended landing site. It was also considered that it offered few opportunities for expansion as the area was bounded by numerous rivers and canals, whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and towards the border with Germany. Normandy was a less-defended coast and an unexpected but strategic jumping-off point, with the potential to confuse and scatter the German defending forces. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site.

The COSSAC staff planned to launch the invasion on 1 May 1944. The initial draft of the COSSAC plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943, but no supreme commander was appointed for several months. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in November 1943. General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, to which all of the invasion ground forces belonged, and was also given charge of developing the invasion plan. Both first saw the COSSAC plan on 31 December 1943 at Marrakech in Morocco, in a conference with Winston Churchill. They insisted immediately that the scale of the initial invasion be expanded, to prevent the invaders being restricted to a narrow beachhead, with insufficient room to land follow-up formations and vulnerable to German counter-attacks. The need to acquire or produce extra landing craft for this expanded operation meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June.

The COSSAC plan proposed a landing from the sea by three divisions, with two brigades landed by air. Following Eisenhower’s and Montgomery’s revision of the plan, this was expanded to landings by five divisions and airborne descents by three divisions. In total, 47 divisions would be committed to the Battle of Normandy: 19 British, five Canadian and one Polish division under overall British command, and 21 American divisions with one Free French division, totaling over a million troops.

Detail planning

In preparation, the BBC appealed for holiday pictures and snaps of France for an exhibition. Those of the Normandy beaches were singled out to create detailed geological maps of the area. What was already known of the make-up was that the targeted beaches were underpinned in places by ancient woodland, which had created peat bogs not far below the beaches surface. Tests on similar beaches in Norfolk in 1943 proved them unsuitable for taking the weight of heavy tanks and transport, so detailed maps of the area were required. In December 1943, Operation Postage Able used an X-craft to collect suitable data for all of the beaches.

On 7 April and 15 May Montgomery presented his strategy for the invasion at St Paul’s School. He envisaged a ninety day battle, ending when all the forces reached the Seine, pivoting on an Allied-held Caen,[35] with British and Canadian armies forming a shoulder and the U.S. armies wheeling to the right.

The objective for the first 40 days was to create a lodgment that would include the cities of Caen and Cherbourg (especially Cherbourg, for its deep-water port). Subsequently, there would be a breakout from the lodgment to liberate Brittany and its Atlantic ports, and to advance to a line roughly 125 miles (190 km) to the southwest of Paris, from Le Havre through Le Mans to Tours, so that after ninety days the Allies would control a zone bounded by the rivers Loire in the south and Seine in the northeast.

Technology

The Allies developed new technologies for Overlord. The "mulberry", a mobile, prefabricated concrete harbor, allowed the Allies to supply their beachhead without capturing one of the heavily defended Channel ports, as did the Pipe-Line Under The Ocean (PLUTO). Major-General Percy Hobart, an unconventional military engineer, assembled a force of modified Sherman and Churchill tanks known as Hobart’s Funnies, which were used at Normandy to great effect.

Deception

Invasion_Training_in_England_04 Training with live ammunition in the UK.

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a deception operation, Operation Bodyguard, designed to persuade the Germans that areas other than northern France would be threatened as well (such as the Balkans and the south of France). Then, in the weeks leading up to the invasion, in order to persuade the Germans that the main invasion would really take place at the Pas de Calais, and to lead them to expect an invasion of Norway, the Allies prepared a massive deception plan, called Operation Fortitude. Operation Fortitude North would lead the Axis to expect an attack on Norway; the much more vital Operation Fortitude South was designed to lead the Germans to expect the main invasion at the Pas de Calais, and to hold back forces to guard against this threat rather than rushing them to Normandy.[37]

An entirely fictitious First U.S. Army Group ("FUSAG"), supposedly located in southeastern Britain under the command of General Lesley J. McNair and Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., was created in German minds by the use of double agents and fake radio traffic. The Germans had an extensive network of agents operating in the UK. Unfortunately for them, every single one had been "turned" by the Allies as part of the Double Cross System, and appropriate agents were dutifully sending back messages "confirming" the existence and location of FUSAG and the Pas de Calais as the likely main attack point. Dummy tanks (some inflatable), trucks, and landing craft, as well as troop camp facades (constructed from scaffolding and canvas) were placed in ports on the eastern and southeastern coasts of Britain, and the Luftwaffe was allowed to photograph them. During this period, most of the Allied naval bombardment was focused on Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. The Allied Forces even went as far as to broadcast static over Axis accessible radioways and convinced Germany to expend efforts to try to decode white noise, further leading Germany away from the upcoming Normandy invasion.

In aid of Operation Fortitude North, Operation Skye was mounted from Scotland using radio traffic, designed to convince German traffic analysts that an invasion would also be mounted into Norway. Against this phantom threat, German units that otherwise could have been moved into France were instead kept in Norway.

Operation Cover (June 2–5) used Eighth Air Force Missions 384,388, 389, & 392 to bomb transportation and airfield targets in Northern France and "coastal defenses, mainly located in the Pas de Calais coastal area, to deceive the enemy as to the sector to be invaded".

The last part of the deception occurred on the night before the invasion: a small group of SAS operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne assault had occurred; this tied up reinforcing troops and kept the true situation unclear. On that same night, two RAF squadrons (No. 617 Squadron and No. 218 Squadron) created an illusion of a massive naval convoy sailing for the Cap d’Antifer (15 miles north of Le Havre). This was achieved by the precision dropping of strips of metal foil. The foil caused a radar return mistakenly interpreted by German radar operators as a fleet of small craft towing barrage balloons.

Rehearsals and Security

Allied forces rehearsed their roles for D-Day months before the invasion. On 28 April 1944, in south Devon on the British coast, 749 USA soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger.

The effectiveness of the deception operations was increased by a news blackout from Britain. Travel to and from the Irish Free State was banned, and movements within several miles of the coasts restricted. The German embassies and consulates in neutral countries were flooded with all sorts of misleading information, in the well-founded hope that any genuine information on the landings would be ignored with all the confusing chaff.

In the weeks before the invasion it was noticed that the crossword puzzles printed in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper contained a surprisingly large number of words which were codewords relating to the invasion. MI-5 (the Security Service) first thought this was a coincidence, but when the word Mulberry was one of the crossword answers, MI-5 then interviewed the compiler — a schoolmaster Leonard Dawe — and were convinced of his innocence. According to National Geographic, in 1984 a former student of the compiler claimed that he had picked up the words while eavesdropping on soldiers’ conversations around the army camps and suggested their use in the puzzles. This assertion has not been independently verified, and Marc Romano, author of the book Crossworld: One Man’s Journey into America’s Crossword Obsession, gives several reasons why the story is implausible.

There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail. Another such leak was Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s radio message after D-Day. He, unlike all the other leaders, stated that this invasion was the real invasion. This had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions Fortitude North and Fortitude South. For example, Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion. The Germans did not believe de Gaulle and waited too long to move in extra units against the Allies.

     

References

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Operation Overlord… 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Overlord

Web Sites and Blogs:

Brainy Quote: Invasion Quotes
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/invasion.html