Sunday, June 07, 2015

Remembering the 71st anniversary of D-Day: June 6, 1944

Contributor article by Dan Wilson

By late 1943 most of the world had been at war for six years, while the United States had been involved for just over three years. Though allied forces in both theaters had the upper hand and were slowly pushing back the enemy. President Roosevelt knew the fastest way to end the war was to invade France from the West.

Roosevelt after meeting with Prime Minister Winston Churchill discussed the possibility of an invasion force crossing the English Channel onto French Soil. It was decided though logistically difficult, such an operation was possible. So they gave General Dwight D. Eisenhower who was in charge of allied forces in Europe to begin planning for the invasion of France that would be known as Operation Overlord.

General Eisenhower knew there were many obstacles to overcome in order to pull this off. First was the English Channel, known for its brutally rough conditions and frequent storms. Second Hitler was well aware that the quickest way to Berlin was by invading France from the West. Hitler began to build what he believed to be an impenetrable fortification known as the Atlantic Wall that spanned from Belgium to Southern France. Though Hitler’s propaganda experts claimed that it can all the way down the Spanish Coast as well.

Command over the Atlantic was given to Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt. After taking command Rundstedt felt the defenses were totally inadequate. So he requested Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to assist him in further fortifications. Rommel knowing the strength of the Allied Air-Forces elected to build a number of anti-aircraft emplacements along with a number of anti-tank pillboxes to slow allied advances. Along the coast Rommel had anti-tank obstacles along with a number of mines.

On the Allied side General Eisenhower knew success was based on deception. Eisenhower also knew how respected General George S. Patton was. Patton who had recently been relieved of command due to slapping two G.I.’s suffering from PTSD (known then as Shell Shock). As the two soldiers sat in the hospital with no observable injuries, Patton who believed any capable soldier should be fighting, had no tolerance nor understanding of PTSD, Slapped the two soldiers calling them cowards.

The German’s not understanding how the United States worked did not believe slapping two soldiers would result in the Patton being relieved of Duty and command of the third army. This is why Eisenhower placed in him command of Operation Fortitude a deception that consisted of a number of rubber blow up tanks, trucks, and soldiers that were designed to deceive German surveillance aircraft.

As D-Day grew closer Patton was sent on a number of speaking engagements to soldiers who were going to participate in the actual invasion. Though Patton himself would actually sit out the Invasion, which Eisenhower knew would be the best Punishment he could place on General Patton. On May 5th 1944 though Patton did not know when D-Day would take place, delivered what is considered the best motivational speeches of WWII (Actual Speech will Accompany this text).

Though the Third Army was held in Reserve, during the invasion, Patton’s speech would rally Allied forces to accomplish the impossible. Meanwhile Patton who was in Command of Operation Fortitude (Later known as Patton’s paper Army) would be North across from Calais.
To sell the Germans that Calais was going to be the point of the Allied invasion. Operation Fortitude was divided into two elements North and South, with the Southern element being used to throw the German’s off as the actual invasion Force was preparing for the actual invasion.

Though Rommel believed the Invasion would be Normandy, Hitler believing since Patton was the United States greatest general, he would be leading the invasion force, insisted the invasion would be at Calais. Rommel on the other hand knew Calais was too obvious due to it being the shortest crossing over the English Channel. Therefore Normandy was the logical location, even though Normandy was one of the most difficult places for an invasion force. Therefore Rommel requested an additional Panzer division be sent to Normandy, Hitler refused his request. Since the weather had been all but impossible for any attempt of an invasion, Rommel Left for Germany on May 5th in an attempt of convincing Hitler that Normandy would be the point of the invasion.

Eisenhower frustrated with the weather was told on June 4th that there would be a brief let up in the weather on June 6th. It was then that Eisenhower gave the order for a June 6th invasion. At 0130 on June 6th the invasion began with the insertion of the 101st Airborne under the command of General Maxwell Taylor who is the first General to ever Parachute into combat. The 101st would provide support to the invasion portion of Operation overlord. While The British 6th Airborne would secure the bridges, with the 82nd airborne securing the Southern flanks from possible German re-enforcements.

As the three airborne divisions were preparing for their responsibilities, the allied forces had 3,000 ships heading for the Normandy Shores. The British forces landed North on Juno, Sword and Gold Beaches while US forces were responsible for Utah, and Omaha Beaches.
The German’s fought valiantly thus slowing the progress of the invasion to a crawl. The Majority of our troops by the end of the first day having barely managed to cross the Beaches. With the Ocean turned Red from the blood of the fallen, through sheer will the allied forces in spite of suffering heavy losses had accomplished the impossible. Due to the successful invasion. by Late July over 1,250,000 Allied troops would be in France.

71 years later the number of Soldiers who participated in D-Day dwindling in numbers as the years are taking its toll. Only a few of these brave men are still with us. This is why it is imperative to thank the remaining few for accomplishing and participating in the largest invasion force in the history of the world. What they accomplished on that day would be the true beginning of the end for Germany who would surrender on May 5th 1945. To those who are still with us, a grateful nation will be forever in your debt.

Today June 6th 2015 a memorial service was held at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. 9,387 Soldiers lay in eternal peace, 1,557 of whom are known only to God. To these young men who will never see their native land again. A grateful nation will never forget the ultimate price you paid to ensure that our nation can live in freedom. May God Watch over all of you and May God Bless America for the price that you paid.

This article was written so that all of us will know about Operation Overlord and the sacrifices made by so many to ensure our Freedom. Thank you for taking time to read this and I hope that I was able to share with you the events leading up to and the actual invasion of France. God bless all of you, especially to the few remaining soldiers who participated in this battle for we can never thank you enough. GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Dan Wilson is host of the nationally syndicated Saturday Symposium with Dan Wilson. 

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