D-Day to over-all Allied plans for offensive operations
D-Day June 6, 1944Two years of planning and preparation led up to the Allied Landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944 (pg. 3). British and American staffs had to work out every foreseeable detail for an undertaking that would involve the major military resources of the two Allied powers; immense stocks of shipping, aircraft, and supplies were assembled in the British Isles in an effort that taxed the war industries of both countries; before D-Day the Allied forces had carried out several months of bombing operations which were an integral part of the invasion itself.The first decisions were strategic, since the opening of a front in Western Europe had to be considered in reference to over-all Allied plans for offensive operations against Germany, as well as the developments of the war in Russia and the war against Japan.
In May 1943 the Anglo-American conference in Washington concluded. Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt together with their highest military advisers decided to launch and offensive in 1944 against Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. (pg. 4 )Allied planners finally selected a 50 mile area of coastline in western Normandy, form the Vire Estuary to the Orne, as the assault area for securing a beachhead, which would be code named Utah (U.S.), Omaha (U.
S.), Gold (British), Juno (Aus.), Sword (British) (pg. 5). This area was relatively close to undamaged ports in southern and southwestern England, and was in range of fighter planes as well. The French ports of Cherbourg and le Havre were within striking distance as well as the railways and river bridges thought to assist in isolating the assault area from the main enemy centers of supply and reinforcement to the east.
At the Quebec Conference in August 1943 Allied leaders approved the choice of this battleground for invasion.The staff of ground forces, airforces, and navies had now entered the second stage of planning for the largest amphibious operation in military history. The tactical difficulties to be faced were only one part of a problem that required complete coordination and teamwork, not just between the military forces of two nations but also between all arms of those forces. Planning necessarily included preparation of operations over an extended period of time, and had to cover far more that the initial task of securing beachheads. In some respects the critical factor was the Allies’ ability to reinforce and supply the assault landing area, code-named Operation Neptune.
The Allied navies and services of supply had to solve logistical problems on which would depend the fate of the whole undertaking.In this phase of planning, as main policies were worked out in ever more complex detail by staffs subordinate commands, the work was coordinated under the Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Command, Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan.
The fusion of Allied planning staffs under a single command involved a principle that was carried into the command organization for the operation itself. On 13 February 1944 General Dwight D. Eisenhower, took formal command at the Supreme Headquarters, of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.Planning now approached the final stage. The approximate target date (Y Day) had been set as 31 May; a postponement was made in order to secure a larger supply of assault craft and to give more time for the preliminary air operations to produce their desired effect. Intelligence of enemy defenses and final loading plans were among the most complex features of the whole operation.Planning for an invasion had begun in April 1942, mounting supplies, preparing facilities, and assembling stores.
By June of 1944 the number of United States troops in Britain had risen to 1,596,965 half of them arriving after the end of 1943. The stock pile for invasion-over and above basic loads and equipment-was 2,500,000 tons. In the process of mounting the assaults, 1,200 troop concentration camps and 100 marshaling camps had to be set up and operated, and 144,000 tons of supplies were preloaded, waiting for D-Day. The Germans were also preparing for an invasion, and to thwart any allied attempt, commenced building the “Atlantic Wall” ( page ). A belt of strong points and gigantic fortifications from Kirkenes (Norway) to Pyrenees. Ariel reconnaissance, and reports form the French Resistance helped Allied Headquarters to amass detailed information on the enemy’s progress in strengthening his fortifications.
The enemy’s tactical plan for meeting an assault was suggested by the disposition of his coastal defenses, which were concentrated at the beaches and were not that, developed in any depth. The Germans intended to concentrate a maximum effort on the coast, seeking either to smash the attack at the water’s edge or, at worst, to hold the assaulting forces near the beach until mobile reserves could arrive to finish them off. The beach defenses were designed to stop the attacking forces by obstacles and mines, both on the tidal flat and the beach shelf, while it was annihilated with concentrated fires for every type of defensive weapon.A complex system of pillboxes, gun casements, open positions for light guns, and firing trenches, surrounded by minefields and wire.
The elements were connected with each other and with underground quarters and magazines by deep trenches or by tunnels. The invasion was originally scheduled for June 5th, but postponed due to a storm. The assault landings were to be preceded by intensive air and naval bombardment designed to neutralize all known gun positions and to demoralize enemy troops in the beach defenses. Between midnight and dawn of D-Day, 1,333 aircraft dropped 5,316 tons of bombs on coastal battery form the mouth of the Seine to Cherbourg.The primary assault force was to cross the tidal flat through the obstacles and make an immediate attack on German defenses. A penetration by relatively weak assault groups has lacked the force to carry far enough inland. Delay in reducing the strong points at the draws had slowed landings of reinforcements, artillery, and supplies.
Strong and stubborn enemy resistance held the assault to a position large enough to be called a foothold well inside the area planned as beachhead maintenance areas. The whole landing area continued under enemy artillery fire from inland. Infantry assault troops had been landed, despite all difficulties. Little more than 100 tons of artillery, vehicles, and supplies, got ashore instead of the 2,400 tons planned for D-Day.
Whether by swamping at sea or by action at the beach, material losses were considerable. In view of the German strength near the beaches, a surprising feature of the D-Day battle was the enemy’s failure to stage any effective counterattack. Reason being the German 352d Division units were to scattered. On the whole, the Allied operation had achieved a good measure of success in each main area.
Starting from the smallest footholds on D-Day, the allied forces had in one week driven inland 15 to 20 miles on a broad front. The German 352d Division was pushed south at increasing speed and given no time to organize a defense. Further advance was halted by decision of the higher command in view of overall tactical considerations.
Its mission of capturing an adequate beachhead had been achieved but not without its casualties. The Allied forces had commited 150,000 troops, (11divisions), 1,500 tanks (2divisions), 5,300 ships and landing craft, 12,000 airplanes, and 20,000 airborne troops. By the end of D-Day 2,500 allied soldiers were killed (10,000 were planned). Of the 11,770 paratroopers 5,436 were either killed or wounded. German losses were high as well 80,000 troops, and one tank division.
Weeks of hard fighting were ahead, but the foundation for the final success of the Allied campaign in France had been firmly set. Scene of one of the hardest assault landings in military history.