How significant was D-day in the grand scope of WW2??

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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VikingTiger
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How significant was D-day in the grand scope of WW2??

Post by VikingTiger » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:25 am

I would like to hear opinions from others here regarding how great of a performance this invasion really was.

Thinking about that the German forces present at the beaches in Normandie for the most consisted of reasonably substandard troops for the most, huge amount of inexperienced officers and almost no air cover the Russian performance in the entire war dwarfs this operation.

Would there have been any way the allies would have successfully landed if they had not been able to deceive the German intelligence AND the germans had one experienced corps from the Eastern front there in June?

This is something lots of ww2-veterans from the Western side often frown upon. D-DAY is glorified to the point of ridiculousness, while most people don't even grasp the vast significance of neither Kursk nor Stalingrad. Imagine if the beaches of Omaha had been staffed with assault pioneers, instead of green conscripts from the 25/26 years..

Lots of "ifs" here, but my point is that with a few noble exceptions the German OOB was so pathetic that any comparison the the Russian performances at Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk or Leningrad is simply laughable, IMHO.

I have no problems understanding the Sovjet diplomats seriously questioning the western allies' sincerity about the entire efforts they put in, especially the way both Wehrmacht and the Red Army were bled to death comparably.
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Post by Liam » Sun Jun 10, 2007 2:30 pm

D-Day is, quite rightly, seen as one of the major turning points in WWII. Simply put, it signalled the beginning of the end for Germany in the west, and more to the point, ensured the liberation of the European countries under German rule.

I would agree that on D-Day itself, the forces that faced the Allied armies were not of the highest standard, but of course within a short time the Germans had some of their best Panzer divisions involved in the battle.
That the Allies were able to defeat these units is most certainly worthy of praise, even if they did make rather heavy going of it at times.

As for comparisons with the Eastern Front? Well, yes we in the West do tend to overlook the war there to some extent, but to suggest that the Allied soldiers who fought against Germany (some since 1939 when Russia was Germany's ally, don't forget!) were not 'pulling their weight' is, of course, ludicrous.
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Post by Benoit Douville » Sun Jun 10, 2007 6:28 pm

For me D-Day and the invasion of Normandy on June 6 1944 is the most overrated Battle of World War II. A lot of Soviets from different ethnic backround were defending the beached of Normandy! I know that a lot of Georgians were there. Considering also the fact that the Luftwaffe was almost completely absent for that Battle and the complete superiority of the Allies, their performance was average. The U.S. Army were almost defeated at Omaha beach.

The Allies captured Rome just the day before and on the Eastern Front the Soviets with Operation Bagration were advancing with great cost but still they were advancing and closing on Germany so why so importance on that campaign, I think the fact that the Germans did send some great Panzer Division from the Eastern Front for the campaign of Normandy and that's why it was so tough for the Allies to defeat them.

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:00 am

How important? In a lot of western history, it's very much "the" battle of WW2 (which it wasn't). The German Armed Forces were chiefly, though not solely, defeated in Russia.

However, it's worth also looking at the German viewpoint. Germany's strategy in 1944 was simple: hold the Eastern Front, defeat the invasion in the West. Once the invasion was defeated, forces would be sent east to bolster the Eastern Front (although I sincerely doubt it would have been enough to halt the Russian steamroller).

Read Nazi newspapers of 1944, letters, diaries, SD reports and it is clear that the eyes of most Germans not in Russia were firmly fixed on the shores of France.
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D-Day

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:47 pm

Hello Gents:
The Russian contribution to the war was enormous, no question, but to say the Normandy landings were overrated is a matter of opinion. The Russians were blessed, or cursed depending on how one wants to look at it, with a several thousand kilometer front along which to deploy her considerable forces. The Western Allies on the other hand had no such arena in which to employ theirs until Normandy. N.Africa and Italy were important stepping-stones along the way, but did not offer opportunities for the "big fight" necessary to finish the Germans. The air war against Germany was however a second front as has been pointed out many times on this site. It was not so much the damage done by the bombing itself, but the amount of resources, men, and aircraft which it diverted from other fronts which mattered; every 88mm pointed at the sky was one less picking off Russian tanks on the Ostfront.
The Normandy landings were important because the Western Allies could finally deploy their forces on the continent of Europe and bring the Germans to battle. Its importance is best judged by how many of Germany's best remaining divisions it drew to the landing sites and into battle. Furthermore its importance should also be judged by the number of Europeans the landings saved from the joys of Soviet governance post war.
Would the landings have succeeded if better German troops had been present? Good question, but irrelevant. There were better quality German troops present along the Channel coast, but they were in the wrong place. A good commander attacks the weakest point of an enemy, not bull ahead into his strong-points, and that is exactly what the Allies did. It is the Germans fault there were not better quality German troops in Normandy, not the Allies. Best wishes.
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Re: D-Day

Post by VikingTiger » Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:07 pm

Hi Howard,

First of all, I agree with you that this is a matter of opinion and this was also the main reason I aired this topic to begin with. My entire crux of message here is the very mainstream view among many that D-DAY was such a turning point in WW2, <not talking about the scholared war historians here of course>.

With regards to the long frontline the Red army had, that is more of a DISADVANTAGE than an advantage to the army on strategic defense, so I would actually credit this in disfavor of the russians.

This is best exemplified in 1942, where STAVKA piled tremendous amounts of forces around the Moscow front while the german high-command orchestrated an offensive in the south.

Of course, the same argument goes for the allies once the germans HAD committed their vast bulk of main forces in the east. Just like you said, they cherry-picked their invasion site, which could have been anywhere from Bay of Biscaya to Kirkenes and this was further complicated by their fleet and air supremacy in the west, at least in 1944.

North Africa and Italy with all the resources they entailed would have become vastly insignificant if the allies stayed defensive there and concentrated their offensive resources for a continental Europe invasion in -42, or -43. I disregard minor skirmishes, like Dieppe <in this context> as any serious concentration of offensive resources.

With regards to the air war over Germany, I think the amount of resources used by the allies here was way more than German ones. Even if the allies could afford to disproportionally allocate MORE resources here in order to sap German strength, the main question still remains: What if all the resources of the bomber campaigns had been redirected into a concentric land/amphibious invasion of the mainland in -42 or -43? Taking into consideration that no comprehensive Atlantic wall of any magnitude was initiated until after Kursk, one might wonder if this would not have been possible.

Yes, more 88's on the Eastern front would have increased the defensive capability there, but one cannot assume that the allies instead of launching massive bombing campaigns would have sit still and done nothing until -44 <although the russians certainly was of that impression>.

Finally to the speculation here that a delayed invasion in the west would have droven more nations behind the iron curtain, I have only three things to say:


1) Earlier land invasion in -42 or -43 would most likely have kept MORE of Europe into allied hands than happened, since the HKL on the Russian side was much more to the East than 6/6/44.

2) The Western allies would have been in a stronger political position with regards to post-war negotions, <i.e. Yalta, Casablanca and Tehran>.

3) The war would most likely have ended earlier saving countless lives
on both sides. This again, would also have limited the Russian motivation for vengeance and retribution, which was, like it or not a SIGNIFICANT reason for both German and Russian leaders unwillingness to initiate any negotiations in 43/44/45.


Clausewitz' principles of war as an extension of politics and not the other way around, might even have been turned upside-down had the German political leadership, <and high-command> had to face 1918 all over again in 1943 with similar frontlines.

The Russian leadership were no more fools than the Western allies. They clearly saw how they were bled and bled while the allies talked and talked with little or no walk. It is not <in my humble opinion> hard to understand why Stalin felt a greater share of the "spoils of war" was his right, taking this into consideration.

Allied political indecisiveness and unwillingness to bleed for victory cost them dominance in Eastern Europe. One can just imagine Churchills demands should the roles have been reversed. With naval supremacy from 1942, air superiority after the feeble German Air blitz in 1940 and no vital areas under direct threat, I think it is fair to imagine where Stalin was coming from, like it or not.

Was the French coastline in 1942 a bigger challenge than holding off the Germans at Volga? Or was it simply a comfort cushion the Western allies had the luxury to grant themselves while letting the russians bleed a little more? Yes the allies also had convoys and they DID have to fight the japanese, but numbers don't lie. 20% of the Russian population died as a direct consequence of the German invasion. Nothing is more valuable than blood..

Also, ending the war a year or two earlier would have saved much more lives overall, but maybe mostly Russian ones. I am not saying this was a deliberate intention from the side of Roosevelt and Churchill, but I have no problem with seeing others thinking so...
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Good Points

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Jun 11, 2007 10:10 pm

Hello Viking:
I think you raise valid points: an earlier invasion would have been just the ticket to keep more of Europe free and save lives in the long run. I know there is an author out there who makes the same case; the title of his book was Invasion 1943, or something to that effect. But, I am not sure the Western Allies were prepared for it yet. Torch, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio all taught the Allies much needed lessons about amphibious landings; and the African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns helped the Western Allies learn to cooperate better and blooded the American Army. A kasserine type of incident in the Tunisian desert is one thing, having it on the beaches of Normandy would have been a disaster indeed.
The Americans wanted an invasion in 1943, but ran into British opposition. I think Churchill often had nightmares about dead soldiers floating in the sea from his ill-fated Gallipolli and Dardanelles operations during WWI, and harbored the same fears about a Channel Coast invasion. In retrospect, I think the Brits did the Americans a favor by cajoling us into a campaign in the Med, which postponed the Channel Invasion for a year; a year needed to gain more experience fighting a very skilled enemy. Best wishes.
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Post by 5RANGLIAN » Tue Jun 12, 2007 2:22 am

Don't forget that one reason the Allies were fighting second-rate troops in Normandy was that they had fooled the Germans into thinking that they were going to invade at the Pas de Calais.

I do think that an invasion in '43 would have been better all round. Time it to match the German summer offensive in the East, and it would probably have been achievable. Even if all five beaches would have ended up looking like Omaha, the Allies would still have got a significant force ashore before the Germans could have got their reserves into action.
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Post by Reb » Tue Jun 12, 2007 6:54 am

If the Allies had invaded Europe in '42 or '43 the Germans would have swept them into the sea. A moot point really - since an invasion in those time frames was in no way practicable.

Just what troops were they to use? The Brits were still rebuilding from Dunkirk and everything was going to the Middle East - not to mention the attacks by Japan which had diverted additional resources.

The Americans too were engaged in a desperate struggle in the Pacific. The US was just getting up to speed in the industrial arena and were frantically expanding the army from 250,000 to towards the eventual 12 million or so. As soon as a div was ready for action it was cadre-ed out to make several more divisions (with some few exceptions).

the few decent (but totally inexperienced) divisions we had got tied up in North Africa. Our understanding of logistics was to be based upon the mistakes we made in the Med. theatre.

the ships and landing craft necessary to secure a beach head had not yet been built! (Stalin like Hitler was totally ignorant of what it would take to complete the amphibious force required to do this).

The western allies were in no way ready to fight in France.

the Germans however still had plenty of fighting power, had not yet been bled white in the east, and were just past their peak. they would have handed us our asses had we invaded in '42 for sure, and while it might have taken a couple weeks longer, they would have done the same in '43.

Worst of all - the Luftwaffe had not yet been mastered. That would have made for an interesting battle - but a battle we would have lost.

As to the significance of the Normandy Invasion? It cannot be understated. Without it - there was every possibility that Germany would have held the Russians to a draw and flooded the skys with jet fighters. then what?

I weary of folks underestimating the Western allied effort. The war in the East was extemely important to the defeat of Germany. But the coup de grace was administered in the west. It is significant that Hitler considered the "worst day of his life" to have occured in August '44 after the Allies starting tap dancing all over Seventh Army. This from a man who had endured Stalingrad and the Collapse of Army Group Center.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Jun 12, 2007 10:34 am

Adding to Reb's comments - look at the lessons learned from Dieppe, against what it DID take to get the Allies ashore in 1944, for a protracted campaign NOT a bridgehead at the mercy of a strong counterattack.....

PLUTO

Mulberry

DD tanks

Operation Gambit to prepare the way on the British and Canadian beaches

YEARS of fostering and developing the French Resistance in Western France

Month after Month of reconnaissance, both by air and courtesy of the resistance on the ground

TOTAL air superiority; The RAF fully expected to have it locally over Dieppe, look what happened...that could ONLY be won by attrition on all fronts.

In parallel with the above - enough ground attack aircraft and medium bombers to interdict the hinterland behind the front and stop the Germans bringing up reinforcements - or as eventually happened getting them away again... :wink:

Enough landing craft of ALL types shapes and capacities

The biggest combined fleet of warships to protect the invasion fleet and for shore bombardment ever gather away from other responsibilities

EVERY soldier trained in their specific tasks on the day, and exercised til foolproof

Enough aircraft and gliders gathered for the airborne element again away from other tasks

But most importantly of all a diversion plan BOTH for the Pas de Calais AND in Norfolk for NORWAY, supposedly under Patton! LMAO Both of these had to be SEEN to take just as long to mature as the REAL invasion force - too much appearing in fields and "camps" too quickly and the Germans would have smelled a rat.

The actual transfer of troops from one side of the Channel to the other was only a very small element of a HUGE overall picture on land, sea and air in support of it.
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Post by Benoit Douville » Tue Jun 12, 2007 5:35 pm

Reb,

With all due respect, the coup de grace was administered on the Eastern Front. The good thing about the Allied invasion in Normandy in the summer of 1944 is the fact that Western Europe after the War was not under communism under Sovier rule.

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Agree, and disagree..

Post by VikingTiger » Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:24 pm

The Coup De Grace could very well have been Kursk, because that was the final time the Germans had a strategic initiative to any extent.

However, I am not sure if delayed allied invasions would have put entire Europe under the iron curtain. I know this was one of my arguments initially, but at the same time, don't forget the division of areas of influence that Churchill and Stalin "agreed" upon at Jalta. This agreement was mostly honored. Just look at how the Russians ignored Greece, backed out of Austria and left Northeastern Norway on their own accord as the war was ended despite the nice port capabilites they could have had. It is also interesting to note here that had they backed the communist guerrilla in Greece to success, they would have had a free area of influence right into the Meditterannean.

One can say many things about how nuts Stalin was, but he DID <to most extent> keep his wartime horse-trading deals.
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Post by Reb » Wed Jun 13, 2007 5:44 am

Benoit

If we look at the coup de grace as the final event in a linear sequence you are quite right - the Battle of Berlin would be that event. (your point about keeping communism out of W. Europe is a good one too)

I'm thinking like this: Ivan had fought the Germans to a standstill, bringing them to their knees. Then the Western allies came ashore with all that material and firepower. By Sept '44 Hitler was diverting most of his panzer production, including all heavy panzers, to the west. (silly eh? didn't need Tiger II to fight Sherman but they'd be missed in the East)

Ivan was pummeling Fritz and suddenly here is another whole force kicking him in the kidneys - threatening his borders.

The army in the east was on the ropes. With the collapse of the Germans in Normandy, coupled with the destruction of Army Group Center in the East, Germany could no longer pretend to have a chance.

The only hope was a breakup of the coalition - hence the Ardennes. It was a futile hope. And the Ardennes was an offensive against the Western Allies at a time when Stalin was knocking on Hitler's front door - so even though Hitler made the call it was another example of the Western Allies tackling the best they had. The armies in the west had no hope after that. (I maintain that Normandy through the Ardennes can almost be seen as one monstrous campaign)

the Western Armies frittered away their men for a while but finally broke out and started a vast mobile attack that over-ran Western Germany.

There were no reserves left to send to the East when Ivan grouped his masses and took Vienna and Berlin.

The Western Armies were very strong - particularly in firepower and mobility. Stronger actually, INMO, than Ivan - due to better fire control, better use of air support and complete mechanization. So a man for man comparison does not give us the true picture. The W. Allies were swinging a real sledge hammer at a time when Fritz was already beaten half to death.

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Reb

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:01 am

The more I think about this, the more I believe an invasion of Normandy would have succeeded in the summer of 1943.

Atlantic Wall wasn't up to scratch. U-boats had been pulled out of the Battle of the Atlantic. Troops in the West were definitely not up to scratch. Compared with many Allied shortcomings, I think these German shortcomings would have meant the landings would have succeeded, although the Luftwaffe would have taken a higher toll of the invader and the war in general for the Allies would have probably cost far more dead...

Of course, it's all hypothesis, but I wonder if anyone has played it out on a wargame like they did with Sealion a few years ago.
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Post by Reb » Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:05 am

Halder

What men would the Allies have used? What landing craft?

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