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June 6, 1944 June 5, 2007

Posted by daveintexas in History, honor.
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Operation Overlord – the second battle on the western front to liberate Europe.

omaha-landing.jpg

Omaha Beach landing, June 6, 1944

It was and remains the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare.  The Allied invasion of Normandy began today, 63 years ago.  Over the next three months almost 3 million men would cross the English Channel and fight the Nazis for a foothold that, if successful, would break Germany’s hold on Europe.

 

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Allied invasion force and German positions

Success was by no means assured.  Even Hitler recognized that they could afford defeats and setbacks on the Eastern Front, but if the Allies gained a foothold in the west, and held it, Germany was defeated.

rommel.jpg

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspecting defensive positions on the Atlantic Wall in 1944

The breadth and scope of this attack so vast, it seems almost incomprehensible.  Planning, coordination and execution on a scale never attempted.  When failures occurred, and they did, the battle plan had to allow for them and still achieve success, and victory.

omaha-16th-regiment-easy-red.jpg

A soldier from the 16th Infantry Regiment crawls ashore at Easy Red sector on Omaha Beach

The Allies employed deception and trickery to draw the Germans into traps and inadequate response.  An entire Army group, the FUSAG (First US Army Group) was invented with fake radio traffic, double agents who dutifully reported the activities of FUSAG, inflatable tanks, vehicles, false camps and landing craft for German reconnaissance planes to photograph, and a commander who the Germans respected and feared, Lt. General George Patton.

 

 

The Allies convinced the Germans they would attack at Pas de Calais, the shortest distance across the Channel, rather than Normandy.  The Germans believed it.

 

Five beaches, Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.  5 sectors divided between US, English and Canadian forces, not because of nationality, but to use units that trained together in combat together.  A million and a half Allied soldiers against almost four hundred thousand Germans.  In fifty days of fighting, forty five thousand Allies killed, and thirty thousand Germans.

 

casualties.gif

Estimated battle casualties

 

Listen to a veteran of the attack, Donald Nelson, Company E, 5th Ranger Battalion, who landed at Omaha Beach.

 

I was the fourth man off that beach, I mean off the boat on the beach, and the third man, was uh, was the radio man, well he got hit right at the edge of the water, we stepped over him”.

 

I am always touched by the photographs of General Eisenhower meeting with airborne troops before the attack.  These men would lead the assault, flying and parachuting behind enemy lines to secure positions, mark targets, to take and hold critical positions.  If the attacks on the beach failed, these men would die or they would be captured.  But they would not come home.

 

I wonder what it was like, what it is like, to send men into a fight, knowing some will die, others will be wounded.  To think you might lose them all.  What is it like to do that, not knowing whether the effort will succeed or fail?

 

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Eisenhower speaking with troops of the 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, on the evening of June 5th, 1944

 

This is the text of Eisenhower’s “second speech”, the one not given.  The one that explains the attack had failed, and that the blame was his alone.  It was found in the pocket of his uniform by an aide.

 

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on 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.

My decision. 

 

Try to imagine not thinking about that message while you are talking to this soldier on the eve of battle.

 

image.jpg

 

 

Here is a very good resource for learning more about this titanic struggle.

 

Update: Slublog (thanks for the link) tipped me to this, from the Eisenhower library.  It’s the handwritten note of the second speech. 

 

Mistakenly dated July 5 instead of June 5.

 

Update 2: Bryan at HotAir remembers too.

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Comments»

1. cranky - June 5, 2007

Dave, this is an excellent post. Thank you. And thank you to all the World War II vets out there — we owe you a debt that we can never repay.

2. Anna-Lys - June 5, 2007

Dave
A memorial day indeed – The D-day!
Many lives where saved on the cost of soldiers life.
Great posting Dave!
We the Europeans are thankful!

3. Wickedpinto - June 5, 2007

I used this phrase to describe todays hippy based retarded anti-miltitary ignoramous’s.

“if the 60’s generation were in operation overlord, it would have been operation OVER! and ‘old europe’ would be nazi europe”

4. Beyond our ken | Cold Fury - June 6, 2007

[...] Update! Via Slublog: damned excellent D-Day post from Dave in Texas. [...]

5. S. Weasel - June 6, 2007

Right off one of my favorite beaches on the South coast of England, there’s a giant cement platform. It was part of the D-Day flotilla, but it broke its tether and never made it to the party. It’s a huge thing, only visible at low tide.

I’ve just Googled it, and I guess it’s one of these:

In Europe, Ferro Cement Barges (FCBs) played a crucial role in World War II operations, particularly in the D-Day Normandy Landings as part of the Mulberry harbour defences. These were used for fuel and munitions transportation and as floating pontoons. Some were fitted with engines and used as mobile canteens and troop carriers. Some of these vessels survive as abandoned wrecks in the Thames Estuary; two remain in civil use as moorings at Westminster. The most notable wartime FCB, previously beached at Canvey Island, was destroyed by vandals 22 May 2003.

Which doesn’t have anything to do with anything except as a reminder of the size and scale of that war. The whole coast is still studded with pillboxes (though the sea has moved away from them in some places, and eaten them in others) and bits of spitfires are still turned up by the plough.

I’ve tried my whole life to wrap my head around it, but I think you had to be there.

6. daveintexas - June 6, 2007

They wanted to make an indirect attack against the port of Cherbourg, they needed it badly to keep the attack from stalling after the landings, but it was too heavily defended.

So they made ports. “Mulberry Harbors”, temporary ports of concrete and steel floated across and anchored on the beaches. They made two of them, one was destroyed in a storm a few weeks after the landings. The other was used for 8 months, even though it was designed to be used only 3.

600,000 tons of concrete, 10 miles of floating roadway. You can read about them here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulberry_Harbour

They also built 4 pipelines for fuel, laid across the bottom of the English Channel, each 70 miles long, from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg. By January of 1945, they were pumping 4000 tons of fuel across the channel per day.

There was no other way to deliver enough fuel to keep the Allied forces engaged, well after the Normandy invasion.

7. kevlarchick - June 6, 2007

Eisenhower was a Texan, yes?

8. Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler » Blog Archive » Remembering D-Day - June 6, 2007

[...] direct you to this most excellent post by LC & IB Dave in Texas, who says it all so very very [...]

9. Dave in Texas - June 6, 2007

Eisenhower was born in Denison Texas (north of Dallas, I’ve seen the home, still there), but his family relocated to Abilene Kansas just a year or so later, where he grew up. I think it’s fair to say he considered himself a Kansan.

After West Point he served at various camps, including coming back to San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston.

10. abwtf - June 6, 2007

Trackback and comparison to our current struggle in Iraq

It’s amazing what they did and should put our current struggle in perspective.

11. David Gillies - June 6, 2007

#6 dave: when I was a kid in the 70’s, there was a section of one of the fuel pipelines (Pipeline Under The Ocean – PLUTO) simply lying discarded in a botanical garden on the south coast of the Isle of Wight (where I was born). And of course there’s pillboxes and coastal defences galore dotted all over the Island. People I know who were around at the time say the scale of the Armada was simply beyond description—the sea was filled with ships from horizon to horizon.

12. Nick Walters - June 6, 2007

Dave, here’s a good speech Patton gave on the eve of D-Day. Well, edited for the film PATTON……

“Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. Now, I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

——————————————————————————–

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards. We’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken-out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!

Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, “What did you do in the great World War II?” — you won’t have to say, “Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.”

Alright now you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel.

Oh, I will be proud

to lead you wonderful guys

into battle anytime,

anywhere.

That’s all.”

Those casualties, that was for the whole Normandy Campaign, right? I mean June through September….. or was it that bad on one day?

13. nicedeb - June 6, 2007

Dave:
“I wonder what it was like, what it is like, to send men into a fight, knowing some will die, others will be wounded. To think you might lose them all. What is it like to do that, not knowing whether the effort will succeed or fail?”

Eisenhower:
“Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!”

I’ll tell you what, the man had some brass balls, that’s for sure, and thank God for it.

14. daveintexas - June 6, 2007

David G. – the detritus of war is remarkable too. How much must there have been, to be so much left?

Nick – everybody loves that speech. Oh, if you’ll look at the footnotes in the table, those are varying dates from June to Sept. Different armies and sources, so different dates, but essentially “the summer”.

Nice Deb – good speech, different General., see Nick’s post.

My favorite Patton quote: I can attack with 3 Divisions in 48 hours (to relieve Bastogne).

15. james - June 6, 2007

David and dave:

At least part of that pipeline laid under the channel was manufactured in Yonkers New York at the Phelps Dodge electric cable manufacturing plant. They were asked to manufacture their thickest underwater cable … but with just the outer covering, no cable inside.

16. Nice Deb - June 6, 2007

I should have known that was Patton.

17. TXMarko - June 6, 2007

Awesome Post, Dave!

Patton was simply brilliant. I especially appreciate his prayer for good weather enroute to relieve Bastogne.

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.” – GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.

18. “The tide has turned!” « Sophistic Miltonian Serbonian Blog © - June 6, 2008

[...] to Newsbusters, Ace of Spades, Dave in Texas, and the News Buckit [...]

19. Reverse_Vamp » Remember D-Day: Operation Overlord - June 6, 2008

Remember D-Day: Operation Overlord…

Today is the 64th anniversary of D-Day, when American troops stormed Normandy’s Omaha Beach in the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare (29,000 American soldiers dead, 106,000 wounded and missing). The world owes a colossal debt of gr….

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21. Remember D-Day: Operation Overlord « Full Metal Patriot - June 6, 2012

[...] Dave in Texas has an excellent post commemorating those brave soldiers who helped liberate Europe – and the world – from tyranny on this day in 1944. [...]

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June 6, 1944 | Dave in Texas


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