D-Day From the German Perspective | Animated History

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Lessons from history.


  1. On August 30, 2021 at 9:46 am, George 1 said:

    Interesting. Mostly battle fatigued German soldiers at Normandy saving those at Utah Beach, at least for the most part.

    This highlights the fact that the Germans were destined to lose the war as soon as they invaded Russia. They were never going to be able to maintain a two front war.

  2. On August 30, 2021 at 11:02 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ George 1

    Re: “This highlights the fact that the Germans were destined to lose the war as soon as they invaded Russia. They were never going to be able to maintain a two front war.”

    That’s quite right. Germany, an incipient super-power, fought the western Allies to a stand-still, but once her forces were divided after Barbarossa, she was over-extended, not just by the fighting on the “Ostfront” as it was called, but by other theaters of war which relentlessly drained her men, material and resources. The Battle of the Atlantic; the Air War over Europe and Germany proper; North Africa and when that was lost, Sicily and Italy. Plus the need to maintain coverage and defense of occupied Europe, “Fortress Europa.”

    After Dunkirk, Britain – weakened precipitously and alone – had turned to unconventional warfare and air raids as a means of the taking the fight to Germany. Prime Minister Churchill loved anything having to do with daring-do and the unconventional arts of warfare, and he ordered his general staff to devise means of “Setting Europe Ablaze.” The prime minister was famous for dashing off dozens of directives per day – succinct orders to be acted upon with utmost dispatch (some of which were inspired, some of which were not) – and this one had merit.

    The idea of the commandos was to strike when/where the enemy didn’t foresee being hit, and force him to divert men, material and supplies to defending those areas, even the ones hundreds or even thousands of miles from the nearest front-line fighting. The Special Operations Executive did much the same thing, only using indigenous personnel from occupied Europe for most of her operational personnel. Resistance movements all over occupied Europe forced Hitler and his generals to divert badly-needed men, material and equipment to holding territory the Germans already thought they owned.

    Later, when America entered the war, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and elite commando-inspired units like the U.S. Army Rangers and 1st Joint Special Service Force (U.S.-Canadian) added even more capability.

    Historians to this day debate the wisdom of following Churchill’s preferred route back into Europe through the “soft underbelly” of Southern Europe – but time seems to have vindicated the wisdom of blooding heretofore inexperienced and combat-untested forces of the U.S. Army in North Africa and then in the Sicilian-Italian campaigns. Despite the zeal of certain general officers and politicians for the opening of a second front in Northern Europe in 1943, the U.S. and her allies simply were not yet ready.

    In light of the fact that it was going to take time to prepare the thrust back into the heart of Europe, it made a certain degree of sense to siphon off German assets to the defense of Africa, Sicily, Italy, and other Axis-held places. If for no other reason, than to placate Josef Stalin – whose insistence upon the second front was growing more strident by the day.

    Hitler did a great service to his adversaries by insisting that German occupation and/or defending forces were, under no circumstances, to yield any ground whatsoever to the enemy. Apparently, his Frederick the Great was rusty, for that military leader had wisely noted that “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”

    Adding to this was the success of Allied deception plans in the years and months leading up to the planned invasion in June, 1944. Operation Fortitude, divided into northern and southern parts (“Fortitude North” and “Fortitude South”) ultimately became one of the most-successful ruses de guerre ever carried out during wartime, and it worked so well that it was still casting doubt into the minds of Hitler and the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht a month after the Normandy landings had commenced.

    The irony is hard not to miss: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, one of the most-masterful practitioners of fast-moving armored and mobile operations alive, was given command of the largely static defensive preparations for the defense of the “Atlantic Wall,” the French coastal defenses all along her northern coastline. Rommel must have known in his heart-of-hearts the futility of fixed fortifications in the face of the Anglo-American allies, but like the good soldier he was, he said nothing and carried out his duties as best he could.

    Critically, however, Rommel had requested control of German armored forces and other reserves held inland, but Hitler overruled him, reserving the prerogative for himself of where and when to deploy these forces.

    The chaos of the initial night drops of Allied paratroops, British and American glider troops and paratroopers, actually served to heighten the confusion attendant to the invasion. The drops ended up being so scattered that paratroopers began appearing everywhere and nowhere to disoriented German forces.

    French resistance circuits, working in tandem with SOE and OSS teams, had blown many railway lines, bridges and tunnels leading from the German rear towards Normandy, cut many telephone and telegraph lines, and relentless close-air support had hit them harder yet. Telephone exchanges and railway switching terminals and yards had also been hit hard. All designed to delay the arrival of reinforcements and allow more precious minutes, hours and days for Allied forces landing on the beaches to achieve critical mass so as not to be pushed back into the sea.

    Yet another deception of Fortitude had worked: Giant concrete structures floating in British estuaries and harbors had been seen by German reconnaissance and espionage assets, but had been misidentified – thanks to misinformation fed to the Germans by the XX (Twenty) Committee and “Operation Double-Cross” – as floating antiaircraft towers, and not as the parts of a floating system of breakwaters and concrete piers.

    Before being largely destroyed in a severe summer storm on the English Channel – these provided yeoman service allowing supplies and men to come ashore in greater numbers and volume on D-Day + 1 and thereafter.

    The German defenses finally stiffened, and the fighting in the hedgerow country was fierce for a time before the Americans broke out seven weeks after D-Day while the British-CW forces held the center of the lines, in the operation known today as “Operation Cobra.”

    Allied command of the air was an enormous asset to the Anglo-American ground forces. Whatever their actual kinetic effects – the losses actually inflicted by allied strategic and tactical air assets are still debated today by historians – in terms of morale, knowing that an aircraft overhead was on your side was a big plus and a tremendous boost to morale and the fighting spirit of the Allied soldier. Whereas, a German “landser” (slang for infantryman or foot soldier), if he heard or saw aircraft overhead, had to immediately take cover in case they were the hated and feared “Jabos” – ground-attack aircraft such as the American P-47 Thunderbolt or the British RAF Typhoon and Tempest fighters.

    And in the Falaise Pocket, allied air forces -strategic bombers as well as tactical air forces – did tremendous and horrific damage to the German forces trapped inside. A 54-ton Tiger tank was a tough customer for another tank or some infantry, but not even it could stand up to a near-miss or hit by a 500-lb. aerial bomb. Let alone the 1,000 pounders.

    Erwin Rommel, even as he helped prepare German forces for the inevitable, was fated to be claimed in the aftermath of the ultimately unsuccessful July 20, 1944 von Stauffenberg bomb plot to assassinate Hitler. Implicated by the SS-Gestapo, he was given the choice between standing trial publicly, or committing suicide. He chose suicide. Later, after the war, it came out that Rommel had not been part of the inner circle, and had favored removing Hitler from power but not assassination per se, because he feared assassination would spark a civil war in Germany.

    But in the wave of heightened paranoia and thousands of arrests that swept Germany after the failed attempt, Rommel’s actual peripheral involvement probably would not have saved him in any case.

    Once the common German soldier figured out that the war was indeed lost, if he could arrange it without incurring suspicion and if he could survive combat to surrender in the first place, it came to be seem as a much better fate to fall into the hands of western allies, rather than the Russians. The Waffen-SS, on the other hand, and Hitler Jugend (“Hitler Youth”) tended to fight to the death, and in any case, were often shot out of hand once SS atrocities at Oradour-sur-Glane (10 June 1944) became widely-known amongst allied troops.

    The die was cast once the Allies made it ashore for good.

  3. On August 31, 2021 at 1:26 pm, scott s. said:

    I think an underappreciated aspect was Operation Dragoon and the opening of the southern France front led by battle-hardened US Divisions from Italy under Lucian Truscott commanding VI Corps as part of Patch’s 7th USA. This was subsequently combined with the 1st French Army (mostly colonials), newly arrived US Divisions, and some of Patton’s 3rd USA to form 6th Army Group under Devers.

    The advantage was after the capture of Marseilles, 6th AG had its own logistics and could operate without burdening Bradley’s logistics.

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This article is filed under the category(s) War & Warfare and was published August 29th, 2021 by Herschel Smith.

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