Was D-Day Worth the risk? Essay
Was D-Day Worth the risk?
What historical benefit did D-day have in history? If the allies did not succeed in D-day would Europe still be occupied by Hitler? The failure of D-day could have caused the Allies to lose in World War II. The idea of D-day was in process since March 9, 1942 when President Roosevelt said I am becoming interested in the established of a new front this summer on the European continent (Collier 8). With the idea of penetrating a very fortified German front the Allies had their hands full. The invasion would need a detailed plan on how to defeat the Axis. Without D-day the Allied forces would not be able to have the ultimate goal of victory in Europe.
In early 1944 the US army started to study Omaha beach since at the time it was the only undefended beach. The planers thought until the attack that it would only be defended by a single, under strength, poor-quality regiment (Zaloga 21). To have success in the evasion the Allies needed a tactical surprise. Allied double agents played a very important role in convincing the Germans that Normandy was only diversionary attack to setup a big attack elsewhere (2007). This role became very apparent on the day of the attack as the Germans were convinced the real attack had yet to happen. The Allies only way to land the necessary force to overtake Omaha beach was an amphibious landing. The Allies were concerned that if Germans suspected an invasion it would force the Germans to stop an amphibious landing. The Allies also were planning to invade other beaches in Normandy that included Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno, and Gold (Penrose 155).
Hitler knew that the only way to invade Europe would have to be from the coast. The Germans also would need a plan to protect an invasion at Normandy or other tactical invasion points. Rommel a Nazi general was put in charge by Hitler to defend and fortify the most likely places for the Allies to invade (Zaloga 30). The Germans expected the main invasion to be at Pas de Calais. The Nazis thought Pas de Calais would be the most likely place for an invasion. The other possible location that worried the Nazis was the extensive coasts of Normandy. Hitler ordered work to begin to fortify the coasts. The Germans began to build concreted emplacements along the most likely to be invaded coast lines (30).
These concrete emplacements would protect the Germans from air attack as well as let them fire their machineguns and artillery at the beaches in the event of a landing from the sea (31). Since the Germans thought that the attack would come from the coast their goal was to hinder that attack and the initial work was to construct obstruction against landing crafts. They created steel obstruction called Cointet that were designed to block out landing crafts (31). The Germans built 3,700 of these obstacles at just Omaha Beach alone (32).
The final factor in determining the date of the invasion was based on the weather (2007). To complete necessary objectives a full moon was required for light so their bombers could bomb early in the morning and for the spring tide to allow easier landing on the beach (2007). Needing a full moon the invasion could only happen a few times a month (2007). D-day was originally scheduled to begin on June 5th though bad weather made Eisenhower postponed the invasion. If the weather did not improve the Allies would have to return to base and try again next month. Eisenhower had a meeting with his lead meteorologist that informed him that weather should be calm enough for a June 6th invasion 2007). The Germans thought that since there was bad weather it would postpone an invasion for a few days. General Dollman lowered the alert status of all of his troops that were protecting the coasts (Zaloga 42).
Omaha Beach would be the hardest of all the beaches to invade since there was less cover and steeper cliffs. Early in the morning of June 6th the allies sent minesweepers to begin clearing paths through minefields at Omaha Beach (42). At 4:15 A.M the troops were loaded into their landing crafts planning on landing at Omaha Beach in a few hours (43). The sea the landing crafts had to sail through to land at was rough with 3 to 4 foot waves and high winds. This made half of the assault troops seasick before they landed at Omaha Beach. Before the assault troops were to land the Allies scheduled an air bombing to weaken the German defenses and create creator holes for cover. The bombing was unsuccessful most of the bombs landed in empty fields. This crucial part of the invasion could doom the ability to take Omaha Beach. The first assault wave was nearly fifteen hundred men (50). As the landing crafts landed at the beaches the troops were attacked heavily by machine-guns and artillery fire. They were trained to take cover in bomb craters, but such cover was not available due to the failed air attack.
Without the craters the first wave of men had little cover to defend them from enemy fire. Conditions were so bad at Omaha Beach many of the military command were thinking about sending the reinforcing waves to Utah Beach. Though the officials knew how important a victory at Omaha Beach was and sent the second wave of men. The second attack wave had many problems just like the first wave. The second wave had to improvise and help wave one with their goals; this improvising set back their plans. To add to the entire problem, the positioning of the landing crafts with light fog made it tough to land in the correct place (51).
The landings had high casualties from the German machine gun emplacements on top of the bluffs (51). The Germans merely had to place enough fire on the beach to stem the flow, but the sheer numbers would eventually overcome the machine gun nests. The men of Omaha beach started to slowly make progress. Instead of using the non-existent craters they used terrain to avoid fire from the machine guns (56). The invasion force continued to attack the German emplacements and gain ground. At last the forces were able to climb the bluff and take control of the beach. The invasion of Omaha Beach had 2,500 deaths just within the first day of the invasion and only on one of the many beaches being assaulted (Collier 157).
Invasions at the other beaches also had high casualties. Utah Beach was the easiest beach to land on for the Allies since there were fewer obstacles to navigate through (Penrose 155). The air attack the night before was much more successful at attacking the Germans resistance than at Omaha Beach. Though there was a strong tidal current that moved the landing crafts further south than expected they were able to take cover in craters that protected them from German machine gun fire (156).
The invasion force had a difficult time moving through the sandy dunes slowing them down and allowing the Germans to counter-attack much easier (159). Only 197 men died on Utah Beach much less than Omaha Beach (159). At Juno, Sword, and Gold beaches they ran into similar problems as Omaha and Gold. At the end they were able eliminate the German defenses and take the beaches. Even though not everything went as planned, the quick decision making by the high command allowed for Allies to invade Normandy and get one step closer to completing their goal.
D-Day had two main objectives the first was to invade the beach and take control. With the first part objective completed the Allies could move to the second part. The second objective of D-Day was taking over coastal cities and other important areas. The areas were necessary to make a push, but also as a place to establish a foothold in the country side to allow for re-supply and command, but also to send a message to the inhabitants that a superior force could be organized and be counted on for liberation. While all the beaches were held by Allied forces there were still important costal cities that needed to be taken by the Allies. One of the cities was Carentan that was well held by German forces (Penrose 197). This city was in between the two American flanks (197). A tough fight for the city between the two forces resulted, but the Allies were able to take control. This allowed the two flanks to combine and move further inland and eventually succeed to victory in Europe.
By the time the Allies invaded Normandy the Germans were occupying France for 1,453 consecutive days (Penrose 259). D-Day was the first step to liberating France but the first victory of many to eliminate the Axis control in Europe. The significance of D-Day was a boost for the military men but more importantly the morale of the countries and its citizens and inhabitants that had been under control of the Axis power. The ability to invade Normandy and come a step closer to be able attack the Germans showed that victory in Europe would be possible. D-Day showed the ability for the Allies to cooperate with each other. This would prove vital in the Allied attacks in the future.
The ability to have countries set apart their differences and mount a well organized attacked showed how powerful the Allies were to Hitler. The invasion of Normady including American, British, Canadian, Free Polish, Free French, Dutch, and Belgian soldiers created the biggest invasion in history (260). D-Day had many things that did not go right as seen on Omaha Beach. Though the battle of Normandy lasted only 80 days before the Allies liberated France it was a great military achievement that made victory in Europe possible. At the end of battle for Normandy it is estimated that Allied forces killed an estimated 200,000 Germans and captured around another 200,000 making it a very decisive victory (265).
The invasion of Normandy was a difficult decision but a very necessary risk. Since D-Day succeeded, it served as the first step to victory over Nazi Germany. If it failed, it would have been a devastating defeat which would have prolonged the war. It might not have been possible to attempt to invade again leaving most of Europe in German control and losing the political gains with the citizens of the countries that were occupied. Without D-day the allied forces would not be able to have the ultimate goal of victory in Europe. The Allied forces came out of Europe with a win in the end. This was due to the first attack, D-Day, the battle of Normandy, by the Allied forces.
“Battle of Normandy.” Wikipedia. 7 June 2007. 11 Oct.-Nov. 2007 .
Collier, Richard. D-Day. London: Seven Dials, 1992.
Penrose, Jane. The D-Day Compaion. Great Britian: Osprey, 2004.
Zaloga, Steve. D-Day 1944: Omaha Beach. Westport: Oxford, 2003.