The successful Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944 stand as one of the defining events of mid twentieth-century history. D-Day ranks alongside the Marshall Plan, or the Manhattan project as one of the signal demonstrations of the potency of the Western democracies. The landings were as Churchill remarked to Eisenhower in awe-struck tones, “much the greatest thing we have ever attempted.” For those who honor the sacrifice and courage of the “greatest generation”, the beaches are a site of pilgrimage, the holy ground from which the “Great Crusade” for a new Europe was launched. The
What a great, great piece! And how cool is it that todays best D Day Day article is from Chartbook? As the saying goes, "The God of war doesn't love cleverness, he loves overwhelming firepower"
Tooze properly corrects Hastings, who went a bit over the top in Overlord; and van Crevald, who showed characteristic Israeli contempt of everything American (because they know they are dependent on the US and it irks them).
Tooze very properly alludes to the moral deprecation of Western Allied artillery and air superiority vis-a-vis infantry and tank strength, but does not fully draw the conclusion: why are infantry and tank combat so valorized, while artillery and air are considered "not fair?" (It is interesting that the vital Stuka support for the Wehrmacht's river crossings in 1940 aren't subject to Western authors' moral distaste in the same way as the "cab ranks" of Typhoons and P-47s at Falaise).
One error is this: "In May 1944 the American army disposed of only 89 combat divisions in all theaters, of which only 60 were available for deployment in Europe. Of these 16 were armored. This compared to c. 100 divisions in the Japanese army, c. 240 in the Wehrmacht and over 300 in the Red Army. Conscious of their modest manpower reserves and the need to limit casualties, the Allied armies sought to compensate with material and machinery."
Tooze omits to say that American divisions were generally fully manned and equipped. Wehrmacht divisions by 1944 were generally "hollow," resulting from Hitler's fixation with the number of divisions, and the fact that "burned out" divisions were left in the field even as new divisions, such as the Volksgrenedier divisions, were created. As for the Red Army, its standard divisional TO&E was considerably smaller than in the West, and, even more, they tended to be hollowed out from extended combat.
So neither the Wehrmacht nor the Red Army were as numerous as their total number of divisions would suggest.
When is Adam going on "We have ways of making you talk"?
Normandy was all about the artillery. I just came from there. Looking at the bocage and realizing that the Germans had a ready made fortified line every several hundred meters behind the next hedgerow and beyond the next field helps explain the horror of what happened to the infantry there.
D-Day was a classic case of misinformation on a giant scale. A fake army in Scotland, a false initiative in the Pas de Calais, and the deliberate bombing of a wide area of France. All these contributed to D-Day and its successes.
What the United States brought to WWII was war not as a profession, or an art but as a business. America methodically using lessons learned creating an industrial nation destroyed its competitors. Why waste manpower when you can bomb and artillery barrage. Monte Casino was a success not a failure.
Later on in real life, US troop would use 105 howitzers at point blank range to kill snipers in buildings in Panama.
Bottom line, war is not literature. War is winning and defeating your opponents.
Of course we did generously build Western Europe and Germany and Japan back up better than ever.
Professor Tooze might wish to add Stephen Borque’s “Beyond the Beach: the Allied War against France” to his list of war books. This informative book offers a sobering look at the destruction air power wrought on France in 1944. It makes me wonder how bombing influenced postwar French attitudes toward the US.
Thanks for an outstanding thread. "Not on" will never mean the same for me again now I know the association
The forces facing the Normandy landings were significantly made up of troops resting after being on the brutal Eastern Front, where the vast majority of the German army and their best soldiers were. The landings were successful because of the Soviet Army engaging and crushing the vast majority of the German military. The Western Allies could have done better by listening to their Soviet counterparts about the best weapons and tactics to use, gained from years of painful experience.
The current experience in the Donbass seems to support the continued kingdom of artillery over the battlefield, and the Russian army is especially known for the strength of its artillery - the reason for the very high ratio of Ukrainian to Russian/LPR/DPR casualties and for the significant falls in Ukrainian morale. Weeks and weeks of being shelled without stop can easily crush a units will to fight.
Its good that military history now stresses more the sheer awfulness of war, and the physical reality of the Normandy landings and painfully achieved breakout.
For most American ground forces, soldiering was on the job training. The American experience in World War I was too short to make a fundamental difference in warmaking effectiveness. After the war, military budgets were slashed to the bone, with the officer ranks filled with careerists and time servers. Most American military deaths could be attributed to the Spanish Flu that was raging worldwide. Military technology lagged badly. It took a worldwide, two-front war to change the mindset of American military and political leaders. The American navy was somewhat better prepared to go to war, but it was an excruciatingly steep learning curve for all involved. Some doctrines of war fighting were fundamentally wrong-headed, especially the idea that strategic bombing campaigns could be sustained without long range fighter escorts.
“On a man for man basis, the German ground soldier consistently inflicted casualties at about a 50% higher rate than they incurred from the opposing British and American troops UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.”
If only the current German armed forces had that capability. Europe would be a safer place.
Fascinating about the different historical interpretations of this war. I would like to suggest you have a look at Jonathan Fennell’s book. Fighting the Peoples War. He uses the censors reports of letters home from
Troops as a primary source and looks at the various motivations for the different commonwealth armies which were all different,
Thanks for this!