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FDP Forum / Moe's Tavern (_8^(I) / Basic Normandy invasion questions

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Surfinboy
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Framingham, MA

Practice!
May 14th, 2012 09:56 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Just watched the Omaha Beach scene from Saving Private Ryan. Wow. From everything I've read, it was very realistic.

Regarding the invasion, I understand the allies ultimately gained a foothold with sheer numbers, but did the commanders (from Eisenhower on down) know it was going to be such a suicide mission for about 9,000 people? Was there bad intelligence, or did they just look at it as a necessary loss for the greater good?

Also, much smaller question, those huge metal cross-like things on the beach - I assume those were put there by the enemy to keep allied ships away from the shore?

Blacksunshine
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Houston

Ugly from the front
May 14th, 2012 10:04 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm sure others will chime in, but without looking it up, I seem to remember something about how they weren't expecting to have to cross so much beach upon leaving the landing crafts. Something about the tide? And yeah, the Germans placed those to rip up the landing crafts and making it even harder to get in close.



jtmaloha
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USA

better late, than not...
May 15th, 2012 01:51 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I think the commanders were expecting, or hoping for, far greater effect from the pre-invasion bombardment on the german artillery and machine guns that had the beach zeroed in. I recently saw a tv program that said the rangers who finally scaled the cliffs and shut down the concrete bunkers atop the cliffs housing the machine guns were supposed to have landed some distance away. According to this account, had they landed where they were supposed to, the carnage would have been much greater, and the landing itself may have failed.

Harrowing to think what is was like for those young men to storm across a beach being raked with artillery and machine gun fire with nowhere to go but straight into it.

daveg
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Northern VA

May 15th, 2012 02:17 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Losses where heavier in some places than expected and lighter in others. The airborne was expect to have up to 70-80% casualties, but had fewer...although still heavy. Sword and Utah beaches had much lighter casualties than expected, Omaha Beach ( which is where the movie took place) had far heavier losses and thought was given to pulling out at one point during the invasion.
Normandy was not where the Germans expected the landings and those beaches were not as heavily defended as a result. Pas de Calais was the expected landing area. It was closest to England and more heavily defended by better units. Hitler also had Panzer units held back thinking Normandy was a diversion, so it could have been a lot worse. Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, was supposed to happen at the same time the Allies realized they didn't have the material needed for both and it happened later.
The Americas wanted to invade as early as '42 and '43, but thankfully generals like Eisenhower listened to the British warnings and waited. They learned a very bloody lessson during the Dieppe Raid and realized air supremacy and disruption of German supply lines in France needed to be established first. The Torch landings in North Africa help the US come to the conclusion it was going to be very difficult to invade mainland Europe. It's another reason why Sicily and Italy were invaded, along with political reasons. German forces were diverted elsewhere and we got better with each landing. The sobering part is the Western Allies only face 30-35% of German forces on the Western Front, the rest were fighting the Soviets. The Germans were really tough fighters and very well led and managed to do a lot with numerically inferior numbers.

(This message was last edited by daveg at 04:37 AM, May 15th, 2012)

Fred132
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Manos de Piedra

No Longer Cares
May 15th, 2012 05:38 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Good summary, daveg.

garp
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Connecticut USA

Stompin' on the avenue by Radio City
May 15th, 2012 07:24 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

“Something about the tide?”

Rommel was convinced that the invasion would come at high tide, so he ordered most of the “Belgian Gates,” hedgehogs, and mines to be placed below the high-water line. The Allies decided to begin the invasion at low tide, leaving many of the the obstacles exposed and making demolition work a little easier.

Surfinboy
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Framingham, MA

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May 15th, 2012 07:31 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Wow daveg, what a history lesson. Can anyone recommend a good to-the-point book that explains WWII as if I were a middle school student?

Understanding military history has always been a little elusive to me. The Civil War, for example - all the battles, simultaneous events, etc. - make it so hard to keep track of. Although I read a great book about the Vietnam War called "America's Longest War" that was a fascinating read.

zeprin
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Too Old To R&R

Too Young to...
May 15th, 2012 07:33 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

As an aside, the pre-landing bombardments NEVER lived up to expectations. The experiences in the Pacific made that clear well before Normandy. But some how the info got lost in the shuffle.
As the amphibious assault is the most complex and dangerous military manouvre in the book I have to believe they were expecting a very large casualty count. But probably not as large as what finally came in. A full on Frontal Assault (amphibious or on dry land) is a win or loose proposition. It's All In. You can't change your mind once the movement is underway.
There has been discussion over the years over whether things might have gone smoother if the NCA (Natl. Command Authority [Roosevelt]) had ordered a 6 month postponement of Saipan in the Pacific and temporarily transferred 2 or 3 Marine Divisions (with naval support) to the ETA just for the landings. Establish a beachhead funnel the Army maneuver units through then load up and return to the Pacific. It is what the Marines are for after all. Anyway ... they did what they did.
And did it well. Nothing more needs be said.

z

6L6
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Lago, CA

Kick the tires, Light the fires!
May 15th, 2012 08:36 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I don't have any details to add about the actual invasion.

However, on our recent trip to England my wife and I toured Wilton House, current home of the 18th Earl of Pembroke. It was here that Churchill and Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion.

We were told that during the war the beautiful historic paintings on the walls were covered in case a "mole" took a picture and thereby allowed Hitler to know where they were.

Interestingly, they needn't have worried. They found out after the war that this is the place Hitler wanted for his new residence after he won the war and it was strictly off-limits for bombing. In fact, pilots were told that an accidental bombing of Wilton House would result in execution!

Amazing stuff and the place is well worth a visit if you're in England.

6

Where D-Day was Planned... Wilton House

dartman
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michigan, usa

May 15th, 2012 08:40 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I think Ike was prepaired for the worse.

D-Day Letter

trumpet77
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Columbia, SC

Even Pinetree left this space blank
May 15th, 2012 10:12 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I would think that they also realized that the entire D-Day invasion could have bee a failure.

daveg
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Northern VA

May 15th, 2012 10:59 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Can anyone recommend a good to-the-point book that explains WWII as if I were a middle school student?"

It's not a book, but I highly...highly recommend the British TV series "World at War". Even though it's almost 40 years old, it's probably the best WW2 docu. ever made. It's in-depth, but never to the point where it loses the viewer in too many details. And since it was made 30 years after the war, had interviews with many of the key players like Albert Speer, Karl Dönitz, and many others. The Military Channel runs it on all-day marathons about once a month, the DVD set isn't too expensive...it's worth it.

The World at War

(This message was last edited by daveg at 11:06 AM, May 15th, 2012)

sjerome
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Upstate NY, USA

Musical accident waiting to happen
May 15th, 2012 11:49 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

TWaW +100. In a class by itself, IMHO.

DiploStrat
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Arlington, VA

Take me to the (Potomac) River!
May 15th, 2012 03:23 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Depending on how you count, the Allies attacked with about 175,000 troops against about 10,000 German and allied forces.

The general number of Allied casualties for 6 June is given as about 10,000 with Britain taking 2,700 fatalities, the US 1,400, Canada 500, and Germany 4,000. This is for D-Day only; the Normandy campaign is generally counted as lasting to September and most of the casualties were suffered AFTER D-Day. (The Normandy campaign is generally claimed to have cost the US 29,000 fatalities and 106,000 missing and wounded. The Germans are held to have suffered 30,000 fatalities and 210,000 missing and wounded. Counting French civilians, the total killed, missing, and wounded for the Normandy campaign is about .5 million people. For context, compare with the Battle of Kursk.)

The bottom line is that most historians that I have read hold that the Allied commanders were stunned that their casualties at D-Day were so light. Of those, most were suffered at Omaha and Juno beaches. (At Juno, the first wave suffered 50% losses.) (I am not a great fan of "what if" games, but it would be interesting to consider what might have happened had the Allies simply ignored Omaha and cleaned it up from behind. Having stood on the beach, I can assure you that neither "Private Ryan" nor "Longest Day" can prepare you for how high the bluffs are.)

So, despite the drama of "Ryan," "Day," and "Band of Brothers," the actual D-Day invasion went incredibly well at amazingly low cost. Especially when compared with other similar assaults and battles.

One of the more interesting sub discussions of the war is the argument about where the paratroops were to land - too close to the beach to fight heavy infantry and armor or too far back to get into the fight in time. If too close to the beach, then the casualties of landing would be high, if back, then the casualties of landing would be lower, but they might not be able to come forward in time or might be destroyed by heavy infantry. Eisenhower made the final call. And he go it exactly right.

Normandy is well worth a visit if you ever have the opportunity. Ironically, my son, who first visited as a child of about three or four, just organized the Staff Ride to Normandy for his Infantry unit.

DiploStrat

(This message was last edited by DiploStrat at 03:30 PM, May 15th, 2012)

jtmaloha
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USA

better late, than not...
May 15th, 2012 03:41 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Great posts here. Thanks daveg and DiploStrat.

"Can anyone recommend a good to-the-point book that explains WWII as if I were a middle school student?"

The Teaching Company has a good course on WWII in audio or video, and many other subjects. Probably, a little dry for middle school, but great material from great teachers.

jon965
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Canerduh.

"Not a lineman for the county anymore."
May 15th, 2012 03:53 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

We took Juno Beach. Someone planned this multinational invasion. Terrible losses by all indeed.

Juno Beach.

6L6
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Lago, CA

Kick the tires, Light the fires!
May 15th, 2012 03:55 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

As Hitler had Wilton house set aside for himself after the War, Goering had set aside Burghley House in Samford, Lincolnshire for himself after the War.

As with Hitler's warning to pilots not to bomb Wilton House, Goering also put Burghley House off limits under penalty of death.

One night a German bomber pilot was lost in heavy weather and decided to lighten his load by jettisoning his bombs. One fell near enough to Burghley House to blow out some windows.

Word of the damage made it into the Press and eventually got to Goering. Furious, he had the pilot brought to him and promptly executed.

Tough bunch to work for...

6

Burghley House, Samford, Lincolnshire

Belgarath
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Back of Beyond, FL

May 15th, 2012 04:30 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The Hubris of having taken dibs on properties they wanted speaks volumes, but I guess it goes with believing you're the master race.

rok-a-bill-e
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Nashville,USA

I'm tired of pretending I'm not special!
May 15th, 2012 04:38 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

OH that's just the tip of a hubris iceberg!

fsmith
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Mi.

May 15th, 2012 05:07 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The Rick Atkinson "LIberation Trilogy" is 3 books, 1400 pages, covering the ETO, from the North African landings, to the end. It's outstanding.

Tip of the hat to daveg & DiploStrat.


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FDP Forum / Moe's Tavern (_8^(I) / Basic Normandy invasion questions




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