Respectful Insolence

June 6, 1944

Today is another anniversary besides my wedding anniversary and a silly day that happens, if you twist numbers enough, to coincide with the Number of the Beast (6/6/06).

It’s also the 62nd anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, the beginning of the end for the tyrrany of the Third Reich. It was a day when against terrible odds and despite many setbacks, the Allies finally opened a Western front against the Nazis at a great cost in blood. For all the jokes and frivolity about going to hell today, the men hitting the Normandy beaches 62 years ago experienced real hell.

John Cole has a fine memorial post here.

Others include:

6 June 1944: Remembering D-Day
Why D-Day mattered
D-Day remembered
The Rangers of Point du Hoc
General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day message
General George S. Patton’s D-Day speech

Comments

  1. #1 steveB
    June 6, 2006

    Good articles, but it could be argued that the main accomplishment of the Normandy invasion was keeping the Red Army out of Western Europe, as the USSR had essentially defeated Germany by June 1944.

  2. #2 Hank Barnes
    June 6, 2006

    Well, What can I say, Orac?

    You have a genuine important article on a genuine important event with some great links.

    I hope this is not the “broken clock” syndrome, but, Well Done:)

    Semper Fi,

    Barnes

  3. #3 KeithB
    June 6, 2006

    Wasn’t Sicily or Italy considered a “western front?”

  4. #4 steve
    June 6, 2006

    “Wasn’t Sicily or Italy considered a “western front?””

    Due to the easily defended, heavily mountainous terrain, the Allies were never able to make Italy into a workable second front. The Germans were able to bottleneck the Allies with a relatively small number of troops and make us pay dearly for every inch of land. In contrast, the plains of France offered wide open areas for large armored advances.

  5. #5 CanuckRob
    June 7, 2006

    Italy was largely what Churchill wanted to do and that was largely to slow down the American desire to invade France. Even after the Torch landings in North Africa had clearly shown that the allies were not yet strong enough to invade against any kind of determined opposition and even though the American lack of combat experience made them realtively easy meat for the German and Italian forces in Tunisia there was a strong desire to invade at once and come to grips with the Wehrmacht. In addtion Stalin was agitating for stronger action by the Western allies, he saw North Africa as a sideshow, but Churchill was able to somewhat appease him by the Sicily and Italy campaigns which did prevent a significant transfer of divisions and air power to the Eastern Front.

    Normandy was a brilliant invasion but even with the overwhelming intellignece and materiel advantage it easily could have gone horribly wrong. The lessons of Dieppe, of Torch, Sicily and the various landings in Italy were bloody but necessary to prevent the big show from complete disaster. One of those lessons is how well veteran troops do against green troops, no matter how well trained and well equipped they were. Tunisa, Sicily and Italy gave those green troops a chance to become veterans.

    And John, happy anniversary:)

  6. #6 CanuckRob
    June 7, 2006

    Sorry, I meant to say happy anniversary Orac (I had just come over from Stranger Fruit and forgot what blog I was reading!

  7. #7 Roman Werpachowski
    June 7, 2006

    Russians had it tough, too. My wife’s grandfather saw as a young boy how the Russians forced a crossing across the Vistula river. They didn’t have any boats, so they took anything: bathtubs, bowls, planks, tires… The losses were enormous.

  8. #8 Valhar2000
    June 7, 2006

    Churchill used to say that Italy was “the soft under-belly of Europe”, and that therefore it was the best place to attack since it was where the German Army was weakest (and he probably had little regard for the fighting ability fo the Italian Army). This turned out to be incorrect, since, as Steve said, the hills in southern italy were full of places were german soldiers could hide and lauch attacks on the invaders.

    There are historians who say that a better efort could have been made in Italy (I don’t remember their name,s unfortuantely) particularly the Allies realized that they could outflank the German army by transporting their troops by sea round pockets of resistance. However, as time passed resources were pulled form Italy to prepare for Normandy, so ambitious tactics were not possible in Italy.

  9. #9 KeithB
    June 7, 2006

    Of course, they took one of the best commanders in Sicily and sidelined him during D-Day – though it was mostly his own damn fault. (I just finished Patton – A genius for War)

  10. #10 Invigilator
    June 7, 2006

    With many historians, I would maintain the Germans were stopped at Stalingrad (winter 1942-1943) and turned back at Kursk (July-August 1943). The Western Front was about an order of magnitude smaller than the Eastern in many respects, especially in terms of casualties.

  11. #11 Orac
    June 7, 2006

    You’ll get no argument from me that the Eastern Front was the primary front in the European Theater of WWII. For instance, the Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle in the history of the world. Similarly, no other front matched the Eastern Front for size, sheer numbers of troops, and scale. Of course, part of the reason for the huge numbers of casualties was that the Red Army wasn’t too concerned about minimizing casualties when it launched its mass attacks to overwhelm German positions, taking massive casualties in the process. On the German side, after the tide turned, Hitler’s refusal to allow strategic retreats to more defensible lines led to similar huge losses of German troops–at Stalingrad, for instance.

  12. #12 Roman Werpachowski
    June 7, 2006

    You’ll get no argument from me that the Eastern Front was the primary front in the European Theater of WWII. For instance, the Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle in the history of the world. Similarly, no other front matched the Eastern Front for size, sheer numbers of troops, and scale.

    Yes. However:
    1. the USSR got a lot of economical help from the West Allies
    2. the air war was won in the west.

    Of course, part of the reason for the huge numbers of casualties was that the Red Army wasn’t too concerned about minimizing casualties when it launched its mass attacks to overwhelm German positions, taking massive casualties in the process.

    Soviet commanders weren’t all that stupid. They chose such tactics because, in their position (low quality of equipment, poorly trained troops, entrenched German positions) it was often the best. For example, Marshall Zukov was accused of taking unnecessary casualties because he ordered his troops to attack across a mined field. Well, demining the field under the enemy fire would bring even more casualties.

  13. #13 steveB
    June 7, 2006

    “Yes. However:
    1. the USSR got a lot of economical help from the West Allies
    2. the air war was won in the west.”

    - The USSR was outproducing Germany by 1941 in Tanks and Airplanes. The Lend Lease program helped but did not determine the outcome

    - The air war was not near as important as ground units. Given near parity in air strength, which the Russians were able to acheive by 1943, their ground forces could dominate. The US and Britain never did have the armor neccessary to go head to head with the best German units until very late in the war

    “They chose such tactics because, in their position (low quality of equipment, poorly trained troops, entrenched German positions)”

    In reality the Soviets had the most effective land army of the war. Their tanks were the best of any army. Importantly, they were willing to take the casualties necessary for victory. In the absence of the Eastern front, I do not think the US and Britain would have had the willingness to take the millions of casualities neccessary to defeat the full German Army.

  14. #14 Julia
    June 7, 2006

    Thank you for posting about this. I was rather bothered by all of the news reports on “doom! gloom!” based on the date, without one mention of this anniversary.

    We have already witnessed real evil and as you said, real hell, in our history without some silly superstitious date making it occur.

    A thank you to all of the troops who have serve America in its times of need…I appreciate it.

  15. #15 Roman Werpachowski
    June 7, 2006

    In reality the Soviets had the most effective land army of the war. Their tanks were the best of any army.

    In 1941, yes. In 1945, not so.

    Importantly, they were willing to take the casualties necessary for victory. In the absence of the Eastern front, I do not think the US and Britain would have had the willingness to take the millions of casualities neccessary to defeat the full German Army.

    Oh, I’m sure they would. The US was willing, in case the A-bomb turned out not to be a success, to take the huge casualties of the land invasion of mainland Japan. I don’t see the reason they would not be as determined in Europe.

    In late 1945, if there was no Red Army banging at the Berlin Gate, there would be other Fat Boys falling from the German sky.

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