Thursday June 6, 2019
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- On June 6, 1944 the Allies launched a massive attack - about 156,000 troops - on the French coast at Normandy. The code name for the operation was "Operation Overlord."
- The scale of the Operation is suggested by the number of vessels - 6,939 - needed to carry the troops and materiel necessary to attack the beaches.
- At the time, success was no sure thing.
- In fact, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, General Dwight Eisenhower, drafted a short statement on June 5 to be released in case of failure:
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops," Eisenhower wrote.
"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."
- Eisenhower never had to use that statement.
- The logistics of D-Day remain head-exploding in their complexity.
- In order to provide the guns and ammunition, the trucks and tanks, the planes and the bombs, and even the uniforms and the underwear for 156,000 troops, the planning for Overlord had to begin years in advance.
- Iron and coal had to be mined. Factories had to be retooled or built from scratch. Workers - largely women - had to be trained and outfitted to build whatever was needed.
- All the planning in the world would have meant nothing if everything that had been built, grown, invented, and sewn it hadn't been transported to England, accounted for, doled out, prepared for battle, put on boats, and shipped the final 100 miles across the English Channel from the English coast to Normandy.
- These last miles were no sail in the park. As the website ibiblio.org put it:
"The Channel was a formidable military barrier. Early in the previous century it had thwarted Napoleon. In 1940 it stopped the conquering Germans."
- According to the Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia website in 2005:
"The broad outline of the attack was relatively simple: find suitable beaches, gather landing force, isolate the battlefield by attacking bridges, tunnels, and rail networks so that German defenders could not be easily reinforced, and land the troops.
"Once a beachhead was established, the plan was to pour in the supplies needed to sustain an offensive and then break out into the French countryside."
- If you have ever juggled all the paraphernalia necessary to get a small child into a car to go to the grocery store, you have some appreciation for the logistics of D-Day.
- The paratroopers took off in the overnight hours of June 6 to be in position to lead that "isolating the battlefield" activity. At about 6:36 AM the first landing craft dropped their ramps and the battle was on.
- According to History.com 4,414 allies were killed on D-Day including 2,501 Americans. In total there were about 10,000 dead and wounded.
- D-Day was just day one of the Western Front. According to the D-Day Museum:
"By June 11 - five days later - over 326,000 troops, 56,000 vehicles, and 104,000 tons of supplies" had followed the D-Day invaders onto the beaches.
D-Day is a standard designation for any day that any operation is scheduled to begin. Days leading up to a D-Day are designated D -3 (or whatever number of days is correct). Days following a D-Day are called D +5 (as above).
That allows planners to deal with an operation that begins a bit earlier or later than planned without having to rewrite all of the subordinate activities. D-Day +5 will still be five days after the beginning of the operation, no matter what date the operation began.
June 6, 1944 is the most famous D-Day in American military history, but it is far from the only D-Day in American military history.
- In his message to the troops Eisenhower wrote:
"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.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good Luck 1 And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
- And so, the members of the forces allied against Hitler and his Nazi regime, the men and women who who would come to be known as The Greatest Generation, hit the beaches.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Ike's hand-written note accepting responsibility had D-Day failed, a link to History.com's look at D-Day, a map showing the route the allies took from England to Normandy, and a PDF file of Ike's message sending the troops into battle.
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