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The Longest Day is just another day at war

by on June 6, 2014

D-Day, this longest day, has always been portrayed as I see it as a slaughterhouse, with innumerable, unprecedented casualties.  So many of us have stories of D-Day told by survivors and by wanna-be-there’s.  The fact is, if you look at more information and less propaganda, D-Day was just another day at war.

There are many anniversaries today, and days so close to today that we would consider them today.  June 6, 1944, of course will live in fame as the day of the largest amphibious assault in history.  15o years ago today (and a few days before), on June 3, 1864, America lost as many men as were lost by the Allied forces taking a beach in Normandy.  On June 3, 1864, Grant and Lee, stumbling and pushing their way through the Wilderness of Virginia met at Cold Harbor, which was a faster slaughter than against German-held beaches.  On , June 3, 1864, at Cold Harbor the Union and Confederate forces combined lost about 8,500 men – and 7,000 of those were Union.  And how many did the Allies lose in Normandy?  Perhaps 10,000 a little more; a few thousand of which are American.

Why did the Allies lose so few men on D-Day?  By war standards, 10,000, or even the possible re-estimated 12,000 men is a battle, but not a slaughterhouse.  The following references and facts come from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  Germany had been expecting an invasion for months, and there had been hundreds of report of the possibility of one coming since April.  However,  the time (and date) of the invasion was unknown, and Allied planes prevented the Germans from general reconnaissance which might tell them where the Allies were coming.

Were the Allies coming near Pas-de-Calais, where the Channel was narrowest?  Rundstedt and Rommel thought so.  Forces were increased in this area.  Hitler, however, thought the invasion would be in Normandy.  (Why did he think so?  It’s unknown.  Hitler had a great intuition, even after he’d lost his hypnotic powers).  Hitler, then – Supreme Commander that he was – told his generals to watch Normandy.  General Friedrich Dollman, commander of the Seventh Army, in Normandy, ordered a relaxation of the standing alert on June 6, and gathered his generals to look at maps, in Rennes, about 125 miles away.  Most of the German forces were still north, between Le Havre and Dunkirk, and were encouraged by Ally maneuvers to do this.

I don’t need to remind you that the Allies landed on June 6.  At 1 a.m General Dollmann, commander at Normandy, realized what was happening.  American and British airborne division landed in the midst of the German army.  At 1:30 the general alarm was sounded.  Forty-five minutes later the chief of staff of the Seventh Army got on the phone to Rommel’s headquarters say it looked like a “large-scale operation.”  General Spiedal, at Rommel’s headquarters didn’t believe it; General Rundstedt was in similar disbelief.  Even when after dawn the news reached Rundstedt that a huge force was disembarking did the Commander of Chief in the West believe it.

Spiedel telephoned Rommel at 6 a.m.; in the meantime Spiedel, Rundsedt, and others had telephoned headquarters, which was at Berchtesgaden (it moved around occasionally).  Everyone was waiting on orders.  Hitler had issued an idiotic order than no general could act with permission, not even to deploy Panzer divisions.  And Hitler?  When he heard of invasion her chose to wait for more information, and could not be  reached until 3 p.m.

The invasion had been going on for  twelve hours, and the Germans had not been given an order to fight, or to deploy units.

 

Twelve thousand men in a single day is a large loss for any army.  Many things saved the Allies and ensured an Allied victory; one was the determination of drafted men to march into fire of the enemy, another was Hitler.

 

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From → On the Dole, World

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