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D-Day and The Second World War

Introduction

The end of World War II arguably marked the start of one of the most peaceful eras in human history because there has been no other war that compares in scope and magnitude. This conflict set two groups of world superpowers against each other – the axis and the allies (Delaney 2012). On one hand, the axis was led by Germany and was supported by Italy and Japan. On the other hand, were allied forces, which consisted of Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. On June 6, 1944 (also called the “D-day”), the allied forces invaded France to attack Germans in a war that eventually led to the capture of Berlin and the eventual death of Adolf Hitler, who chose to kill himself instead of conceding defeat (History.com Editing Team 2019). The success of D-day also marked the end of the German invasion in Western Europe and its consequent liberation from Nazi influence that had been propagated by Hitler’s aggression on the larger European continent.

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D-day changed the social and political structure of global politics from the mid-1940s to date and contributed towards the creation of the United Nations as a respected global body whose core mandate is to promote global peace and prosperity in different aspects of social, political, and economic development. In America, D-day is celebrated as a symbol of military sophistication and global cooperation to promote freedom and prosperity for all people (Delaney 2012). On this basis, this paper explores the tactics used by allied forces to win the war. This investigation is founded on the understanding that allied forces won the battle through their intense planning and execution of military strategies. This paper investigates the intricacies that led to the D-day success and how the planners and executors of the war collaborated to end the conflict. In line with this statement, key sections of this report demonstrate that the use of deceptive practices, morale-boosting strategies, and effective planning/execution of military strategies formed the basis of America’s success in ending the Second World War. Aligned with this statement, this paper demonstrates that the success of D-day is historically significant to America and the allied forces due to the organization, planning, and execution of complex military strategies by the collaborators.

Deception

The allied forces were able to defeat the Germans by using deceptive practices to fool Hitler’s troops into formulating ineffective defense strategies that were later exploited to secure victory. Indeed, the allied forces used trickery as a technique to destabilize the Germans because, although Hitler and his forces knew they were going to be attacked by America and its allies, they could not correctly predict where the attack would take place (History.com Editing Team 2019). Exploiting this weakness, the allied forces used several techniques to create confusion among the “axis,” alliance, including sending wrong radio signals to enemy radar and using fake equipment to provide false geopolitical information about their military attack plans (Lamothe, 2014). These strategies destabilized the Germans.

The use of deceptive practices to defeat the “axis” alliance was sanctioned soon after Eisenhower was appointed a leading commander of the D-day operation. The main benefit that the allied forces enjoyed by using trickery to scuttle its enemies is the creation of a “smokescreen” target intended to mislead the Germans on where the actual attack would happen. For example, the Americans misled the enemies into thinking that the attack would happen in Pas-de-Calais, while they planned to attack Normandy, which was miles away from the presumed location (Three-D History 2020). By using the same deceptive tactics, the allied forces also misled the Germans into thinking that other locations, such as Norway, were potential targets, which was not the case.

The deceptive practices adopted by the allied forces created confusion within the ranks of the German army – a situation that was precipitated by the absence of trusted generals who were away from regular duty because they had to attend to other assignments. The difficulty in accurately predicting the attack site also made it difficult for Hitler to mobilize Germany’s resources effectively to form a counter-attack on the allied troops as they advanced inland. He thought the enemies planned to create a decoy attack and execute another one in a different location. Despite being partly correct, the Germans did not know which locations would be the decoy and real targets. The inability to evaluate reliable information turned out to be one of Germany’s biggest undoing in the war because allied forces were able to advance on their defenses by exploiting this weakness and providing a strong air and logistics support that could not be matched with a “confused” army (Delaney 2012). For example, American and Canadian forces used their aerial support to destroy key bridges that the Germans would have used to launch a counter-attack (History.com Editing Team 2019). Consequently, they were forced to take long detours as they prepared to confront the enemy – a process that compromised their effectiveness in responding to the attack.

The deceptive tactics used by the allied forces to defeat the Germans also extended to creating fake militaries as a distraction to scuttle the enemies. In one incident, the allied forces recalled General George Patton from Italy to oversee the operations of a fictitious military wing that was fronted as one that would spearhead the assault (Lamothe 2014). This phony military wing was created through meticulous planning by the soldiers and sufficient resources were deployed to carry out the deception. This trickery included using fake military tanks and equipment that were photographed to trick the Germans into believing they were going to strike from Pas de Calais, which is to the Northern part of France and a geographically closer location to allied countries. Figure 1 below shows the geographical positioning of Pas de Calais and Normandy where the actual attack occurred.

Real and Anticipated Locations of D-day Attack 
Figure 1. Real and Anticipated Locations of D-day Attack 

Broadly, the allied forces created several fake scenarios of attack to confuse the Germans and undermine their capability to defend themselves. In several instances, officers misadvised Hitler to formulate military strategies based on lies formulated by the allied forces.

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The allied forces also engaged in further deceptive practices against the German military generals when they sent fake spy agents to generate false intelligence, which the enemies relied on to formulate their defense strategies. For example, they used Gen. Bernard Montgomery, a military intelligence officer, to travel to Gibraltar and inquire about the preparedness of the area for an attack by seeking data relating to defense and arsenal located in the region (Lamothe 2014). The collaborators knew that the Germans would hear about the incident and assume that they would attack from the Gibraltar side of the occupied territories but this turned out to be a wrong prediction on their part. Similarly, the Germans were fooled into believing that the Americans would have to involve Montgomery to carry out the attack but, again, this was not the plan (Lamothe 2014). The allied forces used timing variations to make the deception more believable because all the trickery described above happened one week before D-day (Lamothe 2014). This timing means that the allied forces wanted the German generals to rely on false intelligence to formulate ineffective military strategies too close to the attack date so that they would be unable to respond accordingly when the attack ultimately happened.

Lastly, unlike today where images and videos of war are shared through social media and other online platforms if a conflict of World War II-scale happened, the American public had no idea about the devastation of the D-day war. Therefore, there was no public opposition to the conflict, even though more than 90,000 Americans either died or were injured (Roos, 2019). The American public was never aware of this information until the war ended (Three-D History 2020). Part of the problem was the difficulty in relaying real-time information across continents, unlike today when information can be shared in seconds. Soldiers often wrote letters to officials and their loved ones to explain the war and its devastation but their words could not holistically capture the extent of the devastation (Chrisinger 2019). If such information were to be shared in real-time, as is the case today, most of the American public would have lost confidence in the war after seeing the high number of Americans that died as a result of an international conflict that had no direct roots to local socio-economic development. Therefore, the public was kept unaware of the aftermath of the battle and only generals and state agencies had information about the extent of human casualties that was witnessed.

Although the American public did not have information about the full extent of the human death toll attributed to D-day, the allied forces had accepted that the number of deaths would be staggering, especially during the initial phases of the conflict. However, they were willing to pay this price to establish an infantry in Western Europe and change the tide of the Nazi invasion on the continent. For example, it is reported that military generals informed Eisenhower that they would lose up to 75% of their paratroopers during the initial phase of the conflict, and knowing these odds, the general still approved the war (National Archives Education Team 2020b). This action demonstrates that the allied forces knew about the devastation that would come from the war but their desire to fulfill their mission prevented them from giving up.

Overall, important information was kept away from the public and up to date, it is not accurately known how many allied soldiers died during the conflict. The unawareness of the American public regarding such type of information fueled the war and eventually led to the defeat of the axis forces. To gain a better understanding of the importance of gaining public trust in sustaining a war, it is pertinent to examine events that happened when American forces landed in Somalia, East Africa, in the early 1990s on humanitarian grounds. They lost the legitimacy of the war after images of dead Americans being dragged on the streets were screened in the United States.

Morale

Part of the onslaught of the allied forces on Germany and the “axis” alliance was successful because of the high levels of motivation the soldiers received from the president. Particularly, the supreme commander of the allied forces, Dwight Eisenhower, made a deliberate attempt to improve the morale of his soldiers by sending positive communications about the progress made in the war (National Archives 2019). For example, he sent a cable to another general, George Marshal, regarding the successes made in the D-day landing and informed them of the high spirits of the soldiers during the war – almost to signify that they are on-course and working towards defeating the enemy (National Archives Education Team 2020e). In the communication, Eisenhower said that though he did not have all communications regarding the actual landing through beach obstacles, initial progress reports were satisfactory (National Archives Education Team 2020e). The cable communication went to address the casualties recorded from the assault and the advancements made in enemy territory. For instance, part of the communication read, “Preliminary bombings by air went on as scheduled. The Navy report sweeping some mines but so far, known channels are clear and the operation is progressing according to plan.” (National Archives Education Team 2020e). The letter further went on to detail the progress made with worsening weather conditions that led to the delay of the onslaught that was supposed to happen on June 5, 1944.

The cable communication by Eisenhower provided a detailed understanding of the effects of the weather changes and gave the generals sureties that in the next phase of the attack, conditions for assault would improve. In this statement, Eisenhower was providing a status report to the generals to motivate them by giving them positive information that would encourage them to stay on course (Chrisinger 2019). Furthermore, Eisenhower’s order of the day, which was issued on June 6, 1944, also affirms the role of effective leadership and group morale in implementing strategic military plans that eventually led to the defeat of the Germans. In the issue, Eisenhower said:

“You are about to embark upon the greatest crusade, towards which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.” (National Archives Education Team 2020a)

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In the above statement, Eisenhower motivates his troops in a clear statement that reinforces the purpose of the mission. Additionally, he lifts the spirits of the soldiers as they go to battle and reassures them that the spirit of peace-loving people is with them (National Archives Education Team 2020d). The mention of “liberty” and “hope” motivated them to remain faithful to their mission, which was to eliminate Nazi tyranny. This goal was embedded in the soldiers’ minds as they embarked on the battle and it equally played a significant role in making the allied forces victorious.

The timing of the above-mentioned Eisenhower letter also reinforces the fact that he was trying to have a maximum positive effect on the soldiers’ morale before they went to battle. This is because it was issued to them as they were stepping into their different modes of transport across the crossover channel to Normandy. Lastly, Eisenhower reassured his soldiers and the American public, through a letter, that he would be held personally responsible for the mission if it failed (National Archives Education Team 2020b). This type of conviction lifted the soldiers’ spirits before the invasion, as they understood that their commander-in-chief was as involved in the mission as they were.

Meticulous Planning and Execution

One of the main reasons for the success of D-day was the meticulous planning and execution of military strategies by the allied forces during the conflict. To demonstrate this point, it is pertinent to focus on the events that happened on D-day landings, which included a collection of attack strategies from the land, sea, and air. This attack was seen as a sophisticated bout of violence meted against the Germans because it provided them little room to launch a counter-attack (History.com Editing Team 2019). This outcome was guaranteed through effective planning by allied forces, which culminated in an amphibious assault on June 6, 1944, in the wee hours of the morning. Thousands of paragliders and paratroopers were sent to enemy territories through a coordinated aerial assault that would strategically position the fighters on key strategic points on the beaches (Delaney 2012). They were situated on the ground, behind the enemy lines, to provide aerial support to ground forces, especially in forging a defensive master plan that saw them destroy bridges and exit roads, which were to be used by the enemy.

In the coordinated plans by British, Canadian, and American troops, the allied forces experienced surmountable opposition when taking over Normandy. The British and Canadian forces were at the forefront in securing these territories as the Americans were in protecting Utah (History.com Editing Team 2019). Although there were casualties from the allied forces, by the end of the assault, on June 6, 1944, the Germans realized that more than 150,000 troops from the allied forces had already set foot on the beaches and could not be effectively repulsed without them suffering serious casualties (Delaney 2012). This outcome was the result of meticulous planning by the allied forces, which made it difficult for the enemy to organize and forge a serious defense.

The success of the detailed planning processes that led to the defeat of the Germans on D-day also hinged on the sophistication of the allied forces. Particularly, the amphibious attack launched at sea that allowed soldiers to breathe underwater as they approached France made them undetectable to enemy forces (National Archives Education Team 2020c). The attack was to start at sea and end in-land – a blueprint that was successfully implemented. The allied forces also did enough practice and were well equipped for the attack. Some pieces of the literature suggest that as new soldiers were unloaded onto the beaches to fight the Germans, they had to crawl over the bodies of their dead colleagues and sustain the battle (Roos, 2019; History.com Editing Team 2019). By being focused on their mission, they sustained the pressure on their adversaries by bringing in more troops who swarmed the Germans and pushed the battle at least 300 yards in-land (History.com Editing Team 2019). It is further reported that on D-day, the allied forces had secured the Normandy beach and pushed the battle one more mile in-land (Roos, 2019). This outcome highlights the meticulous planning and tactical approaches adopted by the allied forces, which created the initial impetus for overcoming the German defense. In other words, they had a plan for addressing the retaliation from the Germans, which was pegged on resupplying the attack troops with more soldiers, thereby making it difficult for the axis forces to keep up. They went to these lengths to make sure they secure victory due to the assumption that the Germans were going to be a formidable opponent.

Overall, the findings of this study show that D-day was one of the deadliest wars to have occurred in human history and is decisively one of the most consequential events to have impacted social and political order in the global society. Today, wars are different, in the sense that they are more scattered and less decisive, based on the complexity of issues that modern societies face today. However, the similarity between the wars fought today and those like D-day is that, in both of them, there is the belief that the outcome of the war should improve overall human wellbeing. It is a fight for a way of life and the dominance of commonly shared values and beliefs and about social order.

Conclusion

D-day is often celebrated in the United States because of its significance to the country’s contribution towards the end of the Second World War. For example, most of the past anniversaries have strived to reflect the successes of the time by exposing the secrets of the United States and Europe’s military collaboration and in some quarters, praise the post-recovery efforts of France. Although most of the initial celebrations of D-day were premised on celebrating the achievements of the allied forces during the Second World War, more recent commemorations have marked a new beginning in the development of American foreign and domestic policies.

Broadly, over the years, the significance of D-day has been confined to understanding the state of relationships within the transatlantic region and a conduit for reviewing the social, political, and economic progress made in Europe within the last century. As the number of veterans who took part in D-day continues to decline, recent attempts at understanding the significance of D-day to American culture have been made more to be about the present as opposed to past times. To this end, this paper demonstrates that the success of D-day is historically significant to America and the allied forces due to the organization, planning, and execution of military strategies by collaborators.

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Bibliography

Delaney, Kate. 2012. “The Many Meanings of D-Day”. European Journal of American Studies 7 (2): 1-11.

National Archives. 2019. “D-Day.” Archives. 2020. Web.

National Archives Education Team. 2020a. “General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day.” Docs Teach. 2020.

National Archives Education Team. 2020b. “In Case of Failure Message.” Docs Teach.

National Archives Education Team. 2020c. “Sketch of a D-Day Platoon Leader’s Dress.” Docs Teach. 

National Archives Education Team. 2020d. “Draft of Eisenhower’s Order of the Day.” Docs Teach. 

National Archives Education Team. 2020e. “Cable from General Dwight D. Eisenhower to General George C. Marshall Regarding D-day Landings.” Docs Teach. 

Chrisinger, David. 2019. “The Man Who Told America the Truth about D-Day.” The New York Times, Web.

History.com Editing Team. 2019. “D-Day.” History. Web.

Lamothe, Dan. 2014. “Remembering the Military Secrecy and Lies That Made D-Day Successful.” The New York Times, Web.

Roos, Dave. 2019. “How Many Were Killed on D-Day?” History. Web.

Three-D History. 2020. “Operation Overlord.” 3D History. Web.

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