“We will have peace, even if we must fight for it”- General Dwight D. Eisenhower. June 1, 1944
“”Sure, we want to go home. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!” General George S. Patton (just before the Normandy Invasion) June 5th 1944
In the summertime in 1944, Hitler’s Wehrmacht (armed forces) nevertheless were very much in control of all of the lands the Germans had fought and won during their Blitzkrieg campaign of 1941- 1943. The majority of the entire regionl of Europe was still in the stranglehold of Hitler’s clutches, and the allies were in a desperate place to somehow loosen his grip on Europe by any means necessary. A year before that summer of 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was commissioned by Franklin Roosevelt to think of a grand military plan to invade the European stronghold that the German military were holding loyal to. The first proposal for the invasion was named”Operation Roundup”, then changed to”Operation Sledgehammer” a couple of months later. The invasion was put on hold until May of 1944 through the insistence of Joseph Stalin and FDR from the protestations of Winston Churchill who desired to go forward with Eisenhower’s strategy in August of 1943. The turning point that finally changed Churchill’s head was the agreement that Stalin would assist the allies by mounting an offensive against Hitler in eastern Europe in exactly the exact same time that the US Army and Marines invaded Normandy, which would help deliver a mortal two prong attack against Germany’s military.
On June 1st of 1944, the new campaign title for the invasion of Normandy was changed for the final time. Operation Overlord. Was the new title for what would eventually become the largest sea borne invasion that the world had ever seen, with over 3 million allied troops taking action against the Germans and more than 6900 sea vessels bringing the allied troops into the sandy beach at Normandy. In the late hours of June 5th, massive air attacks and bombardments started waking up all of the sleeping French citizens and German troops stationed near Omaha Beach. A French woman who lived in a chateau overlooking the beach gives us a very descriptive first-hand account of what occurred that night. “We’re deafened by the planes, making a never-ending round, very low; of course what I believed were German airplanes are quite simply English ones, protecting the landing. Coming from the sea, a compact artificial cloud; its menacing and begins to become alarming; the first hiss over our heads.
A full two-thirds of the first bombardments were dropped outside of the actual invasion area to convince the German army that the sea landings could be created in the neighborhood of the Seine, as opposed to at Omaha Beach. Because of decoded messages that the allies were able to obtain from a cadre of American spies, the US Army knew where the Germans would try any counterattack measures against the invasion. During that very same night of June 5th, 822 aircraft carrying hundreds of parachuted military personnel started dropping off the soldiers for their designated landing zones near Normandy. The American 82nd and 101st airborne divisions did the best possible job imaginable and secured their objectives of carrying out German machine gun turrets and blowing 75 military tanks and vehicles behind enemy lines.
The full-scale invasion started in earnest at 6:30 AM on June 6th, when the more than 11,000 boats and ships came near shore and the greater than 80000 troops began swarming from their landing vehicles to start the fiery assault on the German forces awaiting reign down machine gun fire on the American soldiers. The Germans were lurking in their hiding places in the embankments in the rocky hills of Normandy overlooking the beach front. Since the troops waded ashore at Omaha beach, the Germans let loose with Hell’s fury, cutting almost two-thirds of the courageous soldiers who were first to arrive. The 352nd branch of the German army struck the US 1st division with full wrath, taking the lives of over 2,000 American GI’s. The American campaign was in trouble in this horrible phase of the invasion, and the US army intelligence required to come up with a counter plan shortly, or the entire mission would be in shambles.
If Hitler had begun to unleash his armored division of Panzer tanks against the allies for a complete counter assault on that dreadful morning of June 6th, Operation Overload would really have been a complete failure. However, because Hitler was reluctant to take a bet and dispatch the hundreds of tanks and other military armored vehicles to take out the allied forces, he waited too late to make the most of their allies misfortunes on Omaha beach. By the time that it took HItler to finally begin sending his Panzer division into Normandy, the American military had created a new strategy of attack using the British forces to invade the region of the strongest German stronghold in Périers-sur-le-Dan near the main battle lines behind the Normandy beach front.
The French woman that had witnessed the initial air strikes against the Germans, also observed the British tanks rolling in from the southeast to attack the German Panzer division at Périers-sur-le-Dan. She clarifies the English invasion and the British soldiers in particular with terrific clarity. “The English tanks are silhouetted from time to time on the road above Periers. Grand impassioned exchanges on the street with the folks from the farm; we are stupefied by the suddenness of events. I tell him that he must still have comrades at the guns, because we can still hear the battery firing. You feel that these two men are lost, disorientated, sad. Later, nearly night, I see them , their faces intentionally blackened with charcoal, crossing the park. What is going to be their fate? How many of them are still in the region, hiding and watching?”
The British antitank gunners took out the biggest German tank divisions, which resulted in paralyzing any counter attack that the Germans could instigate against the allies. By the night of June 6th, leading to the early morning hours of June 7th, the allies were enjoying a military victory that demonstrated they were ready to beat the Germans back to their homeland and return Europe for the allies.
During the constant battles which were taking place between June 8th and June 13th. The allies had destroyed nearly 1500 German aircraft and armored tanks and taken over 7500 German lives. But on June 13th,at a little village area called Villers-Bocage, the British armored division lost more than 40 British tanks and endured 200 casualties against a well-equipped German tank division. A large scale infantry offensive west of Caen, known as Operation Epsom, was also defeated on June 25-29, which cast a huge shadow of uncertainty on the final success of Operation Overlord. The only hope the allies had at the time was the fact that the largest German military leaders had begun to fall victim to a sudden collection of deaths between suicides and bombing attempts on many members of their high command.
The complete disarray of German’s military leadership resulted in huge mistakes in Germany’s counterattacks against American troops at Saint-Lô, where 1500 American soldiers laid waste to Hitler’s tank and anti-aircraft branches. The American forces were able to surround and attack all of the German soldiers and armored vehicles, thus laying ground for the supreme allied strategy that would ultimately force the Germans to head back to their homeland.
From the last remaining days of July, most of the German’s tank divisions were forced to head westward from the British tank strategy known as Operation Goodwood. The allied forces used the lack of German tanks to start up a massive wound in the German’s entire military offensive. Operation Cobra as it was called, would open up a devastating air strike on the front of the German army on the afternoon hours of July 25th. The US Army took advantage of the gaping hole in the German front line, and Eisenhower got his Army troops together and sped like a demon toward the French area of Avranches, where they blasted hell out of all the remaining German troops.General George Patton’s newly formed third Army joined in the advance. A massive American spearhead now threatened to push into Brittany and, by a left turn, to encircle the Germans in Normandy from the rear.
That effort cause the final retreat of the Germans, and the American troops would cross the Seine River and finally liberate Paris during the month of August. The classic”Battle of the Bulge” are the last great battle of WWII, causing the Germans to surrender to the Allies in 1945.
The Normandy invasion was the main plan of attack against the German war machine that signaled that the last end to Hitler’s domination of Europe. Without the bravery and courage of all the military branches of the allied forces, Hitler’s devastation of the world could have continued for many more years, and taken countless lives in the process. We should all be thankful and remember June 6th 1944 as the day that justice would finally be served.
“I’ve returned several times to honor the valiant men who perished. . .every man who set foot on Omaha Beach was a fanatic.” Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Commander of the US First Army at the Normandy Invasion