Friday, June 6, 2014

D-DAY June 6th, 1944 70th Anniversary

“The Battle of Normandy begins. D-Day, code named Operation Overlord, commences with the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in France. The allied soldiers quickly break through the Atlantic Wall and push inland in the largest amphibious military operation in history.” Source Wikipedia

Yes, that sounds much easier than it was.  But today is to take a moment and remember the events from 70 years ago that changed the course of events… Prior to the battle beginning General Dwight D. Eisenhower shared this message with the invasion force…

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a 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.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

The invasion of the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was not a guaranteed success. The Allied forces, consisting of Americans, Canadians, British, and even New Zealanders, plus an assortment of contingents from the countries that had been overrun by Nazi and Axis forces, Czechs, Belgians, French, Greeks, Dutch, Norwegians, Poles and more faced significant risks in the invasion.  While the notion to assume an event was bound to succeed because, well frankly, it actually did succeed, is easy to do, but that is an error.  The many variables regarding the event cannot be replayed, without risk of assumption.  The weather was bad, but the outlook was for worse weather on either side of the days of invasion. The German generals in charge of the defense of Normandy were not at or near the front, or were they in their headquarters, due to weather and lack of belief over the date of June 6th being the date of invasion. Everyone in Nazi Germany knew that the Allies would be attacking the continent. It was just a matter of when. 

And where? The invasion as it happened was south of where the Nazis assumed the invasion would happen. The Pas-de-Calais was the closest site to the UK, and it was a port ready for ships.  It would have made a great deal of sense for it to be there that the first battle of the retaking of continental occurred.  Which is, of course, why the beaches of Normandy were chosen.  Hitler overslept, sleeping for 4 hours or more beyond the invasions beginning points when quick responses were necessary but impossible to receive from the Nazi leader.  Should he have awakened at 8 a.m. with a stiff neck or woke early looking for a morning snack and was known to be awake by his staff, the entire battle and campaign could have been different.

If the war were to play out again, any number of variables could have meant that the Normandy Invasion was a catastrophe.   And should that have happened, it is painful to consider Europe without the 1944 landings.  Would the Soviets have been able to continue their drive west if the Allies had stalled on the beaches?  Would the Second Front in France happen at all, or would the Nazis then be able to push any further attempts back? It is fair to consider a world much changed if the following message had to be broadcast as written by General Eisenhower…  

 "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 upon 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."

The battles of the Normandy invasion were brutal, bloody, epic and decisive.  Without the combination of preparation, intelligence, skill, daring and luck, the day could have become a blackened date upon the future calendar of western civilization. Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the event of the D-Day invasion. I offer these movies, books, games and comics for the reader to further consider the event.

The Longest Day
Saving Private Ryan
The Big Red One
D-Day 6th of June  (a very very bad film)
Band of Brothers

The Big Red One and Band of Brothers are both certainly good enough films, but do not focus primarily upon D-Day but rather how D-Day played a part in the life of the units involved.  Also, these five movies are from a mostly American perspective, despite allowing various views from the point of view of both associated allies and enemy units.


Video games:

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
Medal of Honor: Frontline
Call of Duty2
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

Board Game:

D-DAY Avalon Hill strategic board game

The games that feature D-Day except for the board game are generally speaking not directly about D-Day except as part of the overall story.  The board game on the other hand allows for a recreation of the event using war game gaming mechanics. 


The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
Life: D-Day 70 years Later
D-Day by Antony Beevor
D-Day by Stephen Ambrose

Non fiction and fiction has covered D-Day rather well.  It would not be hard to find a good lot of books and be buried under facts and figures.  The four books included here are perfect for a human view of the battle, as well as pictorial evidence of the event.


The Tide Turns
D-Day: Fight or Die

In comic form the UK and Europe have covered Normandy, and most of the wars of humanity in far greater detail and breadth of coverage than the US.   Enclosed are three worthy candidates for a sequential consideration of the event.


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