Originally, I had intended to post only a few brief comments about a pair of my relatives who, although they did not go in against the German-held beaches with the first waves of the "Overlord" invasion troops, nonetheless both came ashore at Normandy in the days following the initial landings. However, in surfing the internet this morning (I no longer watch television), it struck me that there seemed to be almost no mention of the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. For that reason, I have decided to repost last year's essay on what I considered then (and still do) to be the real long-term historical significance of the Allied victory on the Normandy beaches on 6 June, 1944.
Thoughts on the 68th Anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy
|U.S. WWII Cemetery, Normandy, France|
|Beny Sur Mer Canadian WWII Cemetery, Calvados, France.|
|St Manvieu British WWII Cemetery, |
Cheux, Calvados, France.
LOOKING BACK AT D-DAY
|German pillbox, Normandy, France WWII.|
|SAC General Dwight D. Eisenhower,|
|Protestant service for American troops, |
D-Day, Normandy landing.
Subsequent events, of course, showed that this confidence was not misplaced. The expansion of Allied air and ground offensive operations in the west, along with the constant hammer blows from the Red Army in the east, furnished constant and irrefutable proof that the brutal edifice of the German Führer’s “thousand year” Nazi empire was already teetering and ready to come crashing down. Nonetheless, in the spring of 1944, the defeat of the Third Reich and the end of the war still seemed a long way off; this was why, in the eyes of the Allied strategic planners, opening a new front against German forces in France was viewed as being essential. And, in June of 1944, the Allies were finally able to launch a massive, combined air-ground-naval assault against the forces that manned the formidable defenses of Hitler’s Festung Europa.
|D-Day embarcation American troops, English street.|
|Omaha Beach American troops |
disembark landing craft in the surf
D-Day June 6 1944 Normandy
|Gold Beach, King Red Sector, D-Day|
|American soldiers, Utah Beach, D-Day.|
|Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower|
meets with the Paratroopers before the D-Day air drop.
|B-26 Maurader D-Day Over Normandy, France.|
|Aerial view, American troops, Normandy Beachhead.|
|German turret, Omaha Beach, June 1944.|
|British Royal Marines land in Normandy, June 6, 1944.|
|Rommel inspecting the defenses, Normandy, 1944.|
|Parisians line the Champs Élysées as the |
French 2nd Armored Division tanks and half-tracks
pass before the Arc de Triomphe on 26 August, 1944.
|Crowd of Dutch civilians celebrating the liberation|
of Utrecht by the Canadian Army, May 7, 1945.
|Soviet troops in Berlin, WWII, 1945.|
|Leaders of the victorious Allies meet |
in Potsdam after the end of World War II.
First atomic bomb test, near
Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945.
Photo courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Seen with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the victory at Normandy was not — like previous amphibious operations such as Torch, Husky, or Avalanche — simply one more Allied success on the long, bloody road to Berlin, but a crucial, even essential, turning point in the war in the west. By the spring of 1944, it had become clear to almost everyone on both sides of the conflict — except, perhaps, Adolph Hitler — that, barring something bordering on a military miracle, Germany’s defeat was inevitable. The new German “wonder weapons”, terrible and destructive as they were, had come too late, and Allied bombing missions — while they may have been largely unsuccessful in destroying Germany’s war production — were, nonetheless, quite effective in devastating Germany’s cities, and the civilians who lived in them. Thus, the only real question that remained to be resolved, and the one that was decisively answered on 6 June 1944, was the actual timing of that defeat. Because the D-Day invasion was an Allied success, albeit an imperfect one, World War II would end in 1945 rather than in 1946, and Western Europe would be liberated by the citizen-soldiers of the western democracies and not by the Red Army. Hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians would, because the conflict ended when it did, survive to begin the laborious process of rebuilding in a post-war world; moreover, the western Allies, as a result of their bloody but victorious campaigns in 1944-45, would demonstrate to Stalin and his advisors in the Kremlin that Russia’s western allies both controlled and were willing to use a powerful military force that was clearly a formidable match for the Red Army. The uneasy partnership between the Soviet Union and the west would not long survive the end of World War II, but the “Cold War” that soon followed it would, because of the events set in motion on D-Day, never escalate into an apocalyptic nuclear clash between east and west. And, in the end, that fact, more than any other, demonstrates the historical significance of the Allied success at Normandy sixty-eight years ago.
Blog Posts about Related WargamesSPI, ATLANTIC WALL (1978)
TAHGC, BREAKOUT: NORMANDY (1993)
SPI, BREAKOUT & PURSUIT (1972)
SPI, COBRA (1977)
TAHGC, FORTRESS EUROPA (1980)
SPI, NORMANDY, 2nd Ed. (1971)
RGA, OMAHA BEACH 1974)
CGC, OVERLORD, 2nd Ed. (1977)
TAHGC, PANZER LEADER (1974)