by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today, June 5th, was originally the day scheduled for the invasion of “Fortress Europe.” However, the weather and roughness of the channel waters forced it to be postponed. Both the Allies and the Nazi forces new that there was a narrow window in which an invasion could take place because of the tides, moonlight, and other factors. So the waiting game continued.

The Allied Forces has been assembled in the south of England where they trained hard for the beach assault. The supplies were stockpiled, the men were ready (and sometimes even in their landing craft), and the moon was right. Central planning under Gen. Eisenhower and his staff had covered the logistics and strategies to be followed. All was ready, except for the weather!

But the Allies had the advantage. British weather ships were patrolling in the North Atlantic in the vicinity of Iceland. The German floating weather stations (disguised as fishing boats) had been cleared from the same area previously. Thus, the Allies had advanced warning of the storms forming while the Germans did not. How ironic that knowledge of weather made the difference in scheduling the invasion.

One might want to give the TV weather men and women a whole lot more respect in light of the above. In any case, the “GO!” order was withheld on this day and awaited Gen. Eisenhower’s decision for the following days. More on that tomorrow.  GLB

[ This is Part 5 of 6 ]

    

“I was born in the Second World War during the Nazi invasion of my country.”
— Antonio Tabucchi

“When you have a foreign invasion – in this case by the Indonesian army – writers, intellectuals, newspapers and magazines are the first targets of repression.”
— Antonio Tabucchi

“Therefore coercion of the non-invasive, when justifiable at all, is to be justified on the ground that it secures, not a minimum of ‘ invasion, but a minimum of pain.”
— Benjamin Tucker

“The Romans held Britain from the invasion of Julius Caesar till their voluntary withdrawal from the island, A.D. 420,- that is, about five hundred years.”
— Thomas Bulfinch

“Then in 1969, I spent the spring term at Cornell University in New York. The invasion of August 1968 had already happened, but the hardline regime took several months to crack down on dissidents.”
— Vaclav Klaus

“The success of the Allies in the west was in a measure offset by Teutonic victories in the east. When the invasion of Belgium began, Russia made immediate efforts to counteract by invasion of East Prussia.”
— Kelly Miller

“We… our war began September the 3rd 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany, and thereafter the great state of danger in England at that time, with the bombings, necessitated the evacuation of children.”
— Peter Shaffer

“This fact lays on us – so long as the maintenance of good relations with Russia seems to us worth an effort – the duty of satisfying Russia that she has no need to fear any invasion of her sphere of interests on Germany’s part.”
— Bernhard von Bulow

     

Operation Overlord (D-Day): Mounting the Invasion

1944_NormandyLST 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.

The Normandy Campaign in Context

Canadiannaziflag1944 Canadian soldiers with a Nazi German
flag which they captured during the
Battle of Normandy

The landings were planned to take place in May 1944, but poor weather conditions and insufficient buildup delayed the landings until June. By then, the Allies had taken Rome in the Italian Campaign, and in the Pacific War, the Americans were launching their first strikes on Japan. On the Eastern Front, the Red Army were planning their own offensive, Operation Bagration, to drive the Germans away from Soviet territory. Combined with the Allied lodgement established at Normandy, the second front in Western Europe that had been demanded by Stalin since the Tehran Conference had been established, the Axis powers were driven back from all fronts.

The Normandy campaign has drawn criticism in grand strategy in that it diverted resources and units from other theatres (such as the Italian and Pacific fronts) for the invasion. The Italian front had ceased to be an effective front after the Normandy campaign, and the Pacific front experienced manpower shortages for the Leyte and Okinawa campaigns. The quick successes of Operation Dragoon compared with Normandy also lent criticism to the execution of the Normandy campaign. However, the Normandy front was hindered by Hitler’s attempts to hold the West at any cost. As the Allies were closing in on Paris and sealing the Falaise Gap, an invasion in southern France was also launched. Hitler was eager to hold on to the Belgian and northern French coasts as bases for the "V" weapons, which had started launching against the UK. The linkup with the southern French forces occurred on 12 September as part of the drive to the Siegfried Line.

The Normandy landings not only signaled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, it heralded in the start of the race for Europe, which some historians consider to be the start of the Cold War.

Codenames

The Allies assigned codenames to the various operations involved in the invasion. Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the northern portion of the Continent. The first phase, the establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Neptune. According to the D-day museum:

"The armed forces use codenames to refer to the planning and execution of specific military operations. Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. (…) Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy.Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944."

Officers with knowledge of D-Day were not to be sent where there was the slightest danger of being captured. These officers were given the codename of "Bigot", derived from the words "To Gib" (To Gibraltar) that was stamped on the papers of officers who took part in the North African invasion in 1942. On the night of April 27, during Exercise Tiger, a pre-invasion exercise off the coast of Slapton Sands beach, several American LSTs were attacked by German E boats and among the 638 Americans killed in the attack and a further 308 killed by friendly fire, ten "Bigots" were listed as missing. As the invasion would be cancelled if any were captured or unaccounted for their fate was given the highest priority and eventually all ten bodies were recovered.

Scheduling the Invasion of Continental Europe

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942 with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard T. Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of Operations Division under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who spotted talent and promoted accordingly.

In 1942, Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) and was based in London. In November, he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA) through the new operational Headquarters A(E)FHQ. The word "expeditionary" was dropped soon after his appointment for security reasons. In February 1943, his authority was extended as commander of AFHQ across the Mediterranean basin to include the British 8th Army, commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery. The 8th Army had advanced across the Western Desert from the east and was ready for the start of the Tunisia Campaign. Eisenhower gained his fourth star and gave up command of ETOUSA to be commander of NATOUSA. After the capitulation of Axis forces in North Africa, Eisenhower oversaw the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of the Italian mainland.

Eisenhower_d-day Eisenhower speaks with U.S. paratroopers of the
502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne
Division on the evening of June 5, 1944.

In December 1943, Roosevelt decided that Eisenhower—not Marshall—would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944, he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), serving in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. In these positions he was charged with planning and carrying out the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944 under the code name Operation Overlord, the liberation of western Europe and the invasion of Germany. A month after the Normandy D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the invasion of southern France took place, and control of the forces which took part in the southern invasion passed from the AFHQ to the SHAEF. From then until the end of the War in Europe on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower through SHAEF had supreme command of all operational Allied forces, and through his command of ETOUSA, administrative command of all U.S. forces, on the Western Front north of the Alps.

As recognition of his senior position in the Allied command, on December 20, 1944, he was promoted to General of the Army, equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal in most European armies. In this and the previous high commands he held, Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders. He dealt skillfully with difficult subordinates such as Patton, and allies such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General Charles de Gaulle. He had fundamental disagreements with Churchill and Montgomery over questions of strategy, but these rarely upset his relationships with them. He negotiated with Soviet Marshal Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Stalin, much to the chagrin of the British High Command who disliked being bypassed.

It was never certain that Operation Overlord would succeed. The seriousness surrounding the entire decision, including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion, might be summarized by a second shorter speech that Eisenhower wrote in advance, in case he needed it. Long after the successful landings on D-Day and the BBC broadcast of Eisenhower’s brief speech concerning them, the never-used second speech was found in a shirt pocket by an aide. It read:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Planning of the Invasion

Allied forces rehearsed their roles for D-Day months before the invasion. On 28 April 1944, in south Devon on the English coast, 638 U.S. soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger.

Soldiers-english-coast U.S. soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion
march through Weymouth, Dorset,
a southern English coastal town,
en route to board landing ships
for the invasion of France.

In the months leading up to the invasion, the allied forces conducted a deception operation, Operation Fortitude aimed at misleading the Germans regarding the date and place of the invasion.

There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. One such leak was the crossword that came out in The Herald and Review six days before the beach landings were to take place. Some of the answers consisted of Overlord, Neptune, Gold and other key terms to the invasions; the US government later declared that this was just a coincidence. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail. Double Cross agents, such as Juan Pujol (code named Garbo), played an important role in convincing the German High Command that Normandy was at best a diversionary attack. U.S. Major General Henry Miller, chief supply officer of the US 9th Air Force, during a party at Claridge’s Hotel in London complained to guests of the supply problems he was having but that after the invasion, which he told them would be before 15 June supply would be easier. After being told, Eisenhower reduced Miller to Colonel and sent him back to the U.S. where he subsequently retired. 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, Gen. Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion.

Weather Forecast

A full moon was required both for light for the aircraft pilots and for the spring tide, effectively limiting the window of opportunity for mounting the invasion to only a few days in each month. Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds prevented aircraft finding their targets. The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions and believed an invasion would not be possible for several days. Some troops stood down, and many senior officers were absent. Rommel, for example, took leave to attend his wife’s birthday. At a vital meeting on 5 June, Eisenhower’s chief meteorologist James Stagg predicted a slight improvement in the weather for 6 June.

This was based on weather reports transmitted from the Captain class frigate HMS Grindall, which, since April, had been on station in mid-Atlantic transmitting weather reports every three hours, day and night. The officer responsible for sending the weather reports was Lieutenant H.R. Curry R.N.V.R. On 4 June, his weather reports indicated a ridge of high pressure behind a deep depression. He forecast that the ridge would move in an easterly direction to reach the south-west approaches late on 5 June and show an improvement in the weather, which up to that point had shown very strong winds, heavy rain and very rough seas, resulting from the passage of a deep depression. On this basis, General Eisenhower, after much consideration, decided to commence the invasion, despite opposition from some of his staff. The only other option was to go two weeks later but had he chosen this, the ships would have run into the ‘worst channel storm in 40 years’ as Churchill later described it, that lasted four days between the 19th and 22 June.

The Invasion

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
— Eisenhower, Letter to U.S. Army

Operation_Tonga British Pathfinders synchronizing
their watches in front of an
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle.

To eliminate the enemy’s ability to organize and launch counterattacks during the amphibious assault phase, airborne operations were utilized to seize key objectives, such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralize German coastal defense batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead. The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to similar objectives on the eastern flank. 530 Free French paratroopers from the British Special Air Service Brigade, were assigned to objectives in Brittany from 5 June to August.

[ Tomorrow: The Invasion ]

     

References

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

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

Wikipedia: Invasion of Normandy…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Normandy

Wikipedia: Dwight D. Eisenhower…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower

Web Sites and Blogs:

Brainy Quote: Invasion Quotes
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/invasion_3.html