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I'm quite interested in WW2, and was thinking about the beaches of Normandy and what wondering about the following
Could Hitler have won WW2 after losing the beaches of Normandy and what were the key points in Hitler's actual defeat at Normandy, if so, how what would he have to had done differently and if not, how come?
Hitler probably couldn't have won WW2 after the end of 1942, if ever. The writing was on the wall in one sense during Barbarossa, when the Germans thought they had the Soviets on the ropes. The Soviets started with 5.5 million men in theater, lost 6 million in the first 9 months, and despite those staggering losses, at the end of those 9 months, the force ratios had improved in the Soviets favour.
By the end of 1942 the German army had just lost too many men particularly in operation Uranus which trapped and destroyed the 6th army around Stalingrad. At the same time they'd been losing men at an unsustainable rate in the Rzhev salient. Even though operation Mars (to destroy the salient) was a failure for the Soviets, the Germans lost too many men and withdrew from the salient anyway, recognising they simply didn't have the manpower to defend the whole front any more.
By 1943, the Germans were attacking at Kursk on the Northern side with units so short of men that by pre-war German doctrine they would be considered unfit for combat operations - and that was at the spearhead of that effort where they concentrated their forces.
Basically, if Britain and America did nothing, Germany would still lose to the Soviets.
And even without Normandy, the allied forces had driven the axis out of north Africa and invaded Italy and taken it out of the war, so Germany was already fighting on a second southern front anyway as well as having lost its strongest European ally (for what that was worth). The Normandy landings may have sped up the end of the war, and taken some pressure of the Soviets, but ultimately it was very far from being decisive.
Another poster has made a good case that Hitler had lost the war before Normandy. And even the threat of an invasion was enough to tie down over a million German troops in France, decisively weakening the German defense of Soviet territory. But Normandy was arguably the "last straw," or Hitler's last (slim) chance.
The best case scenario for Hitler would have been the failure of the Normandy landing (which was actually hostage to the weather), or driving the landing force into the sea. Under those circumstances, Hitler might have been able to "strip" the garrisons of France to bolster the Russian front, because the threat mentioned in the previous paragraph would have been diminished. Worse, a failure might have negatively impacted America's willingness to re-elect FDR to an unprecedented fourth term and continue the war. (This scenario actually happened in 1945 with Churchill in England, even with Allied successes.)
Once the Allies landed and stayed in Normandy, it was "game over." The landings were followed by more landings in southern France in August, 1944, that connected with the Normandy invasion force, but could have been used to outflank Italy, instead. Basically, Hitler couldn't contend with Anglo-American forces in Normandy, southern France, and Italy, simultaneously, as well as deal with the Russians. Eisenhower's "cross ruffing" strategy had succeeded.
No. He had lost the war in the East by the time of the Normandy invasions. Note where the Russian armies were in June 1944. Modern histories of WWII are beginning to be less 'west centric' and to see that there was continuous, severe fighting in the East and that Hitler concentrated his attention there, having secured his western 'rear'. In a sense he could never defeat the USSR, because Stalin had more men and could turn war production on with a vastly larger workforce than Hitler could ever summon, even with enslaved workers from subjugated areas of Europe.
Could Germany have won WW2?
Post by NewXieland » 03 Oct 2002, 16:28
I guess if you're a German military fan than history becomes quite depressing after late 1942. Anyway i was pondering on why Germany lost the war and why everything went down hill.
First of all does anyone here think that Germany might of had the potential to win the war. If there existed total mobilisation from the onset. if Operation Sea Lion wasn't some half baked invasion plan. if Britain was invaded and captured. if Hitler didn't declare war on the United States and if finally Hitler didn't diverse his forces and instead headed straight for Moscow and took it. do you ppl think that Germany would of won WW2?
Post by Davey Boy » 03 Oct 2002, 16:55
Post by Starinov » 03 Oct 2002, 17:57
You included too many ifs in your post.
By the way, Hitler did not have the capacity to win a war.
Post by de-gouden-ridder » 03 Oct 2002, 18:11
Post by Sam H. » 03 Oct 2002, 18:38
Did Germany have the capacity to win the war?
Absolutely, rewrite a few things early on, and Germany can win the war in Europe before the Americans even get involved.
Crush the BEF at Dunkirk. Start planning for an invasion of Britian as a natural follow-through to the invasion of France. Develope an offensive air strategy that goes beyond using the Luftwaffe in only a tactical method.
Knock Britian out of the war before you invade Russia and the war in the east goes much smoother. Total mobilazation before Stalingrad with be a plus.
The list goes on . saying Germany has no chance is inacurrate. Germany had many chances, however, she also had many chances to lose the war more quickly. It cuts both ways.
Post by Tim Smith » 03 Oct 2002, 20:05
SamH is correct provided you rule out the Americans using the atom bomb against Germany.
Suggest you read the other topics in this forum for a idea of the different strategies Germany could have employed against Britain and Russia.
Post by Siegfried Wilhelm » 03 Oct 2002, 20:10
Post by voorst » 03 Oct 2002, 23:09
i suppose Germany had everything needed to win the war, maybe with more luckgood decisions in 19411942:
-Afrika was not a necessary theatre of war for germans. and it was a great loss of time and power that could be used in Russia --- or, without russians, the right way to close Mediterranean Sea ---
-Luck for alliances: Turkey and Spain could change the situation if entered in war before '42.
- many decisions about productionprojects
and preparation before 1939:
-preparing for mass production
-check magnetic torpedoes for u-boote
-eliminate projects not necessary (from Maus to flying discs..)
-eliminate projects for surface navy construction in favour of u-boot since 1938
-point to KernWaffe from 1937
IMHO: speed and better use of resources could make Germany victorious.
If Germany had successfully invaded Britain.
Post by NewXieland » 04 Oct 2002, 02:03
and captured it. then how would things go from there? I certainly believe that Germany could of won the war. Remember Britain virtually operated as a launching pad for Operation Overlord and provided the strategic base for the Allies to operate from. If that was taken and with Russia sagging under German pressure would the US of got involved in the war at all.
One also needs to take into account that Japan was posing as a major threat for US interests in Asia and thus had Germany been successful on the European front, than i certainly doubt US would of gotten involved in the Europea conflict.
Post by johnny_bi » 04 Oct 2002, 09:10
For voorst : don't forget that Africa became a base for the upcoming invasion of Italy.
It is hard to believe that Germany could have won the war . too many fronts , too many enemies , few resources . but as someone states above they , perhaps, had a little chance .
Post by Wolffen » 04 Oct 2002, 12:31
If Hitler was more patient and did not attack Russia he could have taken the hall world whit np and then deal with Russians at later date.
Same as USA used UK soldiers in front lines and Uk used Australians in first linens to be slotted. That what Hitler could of done with Russians send them first and he would not loose so many soldiers and would have plenty left to attack Russia after he got all the Europe and repelled US attack
Post by Anthony EJW » 04 Oct 2002, 18:48
Post by scott3000 » 04 Oct 2002, 19:25
Post by Wolffen » 05 Oct 2002, 12:03
Uk used Australinans in Galipoli
On D-day Canadians and british got the hardest beaches.
Canadians had to climb clifs
Post by Sam H. » 05 Oct 2002, 18:24
ah . D-Day, the US had Omaha and Utah beach. One of those beaches proved to be the hardest nut of all the beaches to crack. How can you say the British and Canadians had the hardest times. US Cas. for the entire Normandy campaign were significantly higher the British/Canadian cas.
Infantry based attacks are higher cas. attachs than armored based attacks.
D-Day June 6, 1944: How did Hitler react?
Considering the pivotal nature of June 6, 1944, one might expect that Hitler responded to the arrival of Allied troops on the banks of Normandy with alarm – quite the contrary.
June 6 will forever be the anniversary of one of the most fateful days in modern history: the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy. By day’s end American, British, and Canadian troops had breached Germany’s Atlantic Wall defenses and established a foothold in Western Europe. With Soviet armies rolling in from the east Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime was caught in a gigantic vise. Its defeat was now only a matter of time.
Considering the pivotal nature of June 6, 1944, how did Hitler react to the attack? Did he rant, did he rail? Did he move with focused calm to try and repel the invaders?
He did none of those things, at first. For D-Day’s opening act, Hitler slept.
In the early days of June Germany’s Fuhrer was at The Berghof, his residence in the Bavarian Alps. Everyone there knew an invasion was likely in the near future, but the atmosphere was not nervous, according to contemporary accounts. To the contrary it was relaxed, and in the evening, almost festive. A group of guests and military aides would gather at the complex’s Tea House and Hitler would hold forth on favorite topics, such as the great men of history, or Europe’s future.
On the evening of June 5, Hitler and his entourage watched the latest newsreels, and then talked about films and theater. They stayed up until 2 a.m., trading reminiscences. It was almost like the “good old times,” remembered key Hitler associate Joseph Goebbels.
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When Goebbels left for his own quarters, a thunderstorm broke, writes British historian Ian Kershaw. German military intelligence was already picking up indications of an oncoming Allied force, and perhaps landing troops, in the Normandy region. But Hitler wasn’t told. The Fuhrer retired around 3 a.m.
German headquarters confirmed that some sort of widespread attack was in progress shortly thereafter. At sunrise, around 6 a.m., the defenders knew: Allied ships and planes were massed off the French beaches in astounding strength, and men were beginning to come ashore. It was a sight many would never forget.
But the German reaction was slow and befuddled. Was this the real thing, the main invasion? Or was it a feint, with the real force to land elsewhere, probably Calais?
“German confusion was extensive,” wrote US historian Stephen Ambrose in his book “D-Day: June 6, 1944, The Climactic Battle of World War II.”
Hitler snored on. He had previously insisted that any initial attack would be a decoy intended to divert forces to the wrong place. Given his tendency towards histrionics, no one wanted to tell Hitler what was going on until they themselves were certain.
“His adjutants now hesitated to waken him with mistaken information,” wrote Mr. Kershaw in his “Hitler: A Biography.”
Hitler was still asleep at 10 a.m. when Nazi associate and arms minister Albert Speer arrived at the Berghof. He was awakened around noon and told the news. Hitler was not angry, or vindictive – far from it. He seemed relieved. Goebbels thought the German leader looked as if a great burden had fallen from his shoulders. He had earlier said Normandy was a possible landing site, for one thing. He felt the poor weather in the area would favor the defense. He considered Allied troops far inferior to German units. For months, Allied forces had been massing in England, where the now-weakened Luftwaffe could not strike them. Now they were in reach, in range of German guns.
“The news couldn’t be better,” Hitler said when informed of the invasion, according to historian Mr. Ambrose.
But Hitler’s morning lie-in was a tremendous error. Or rather his sleep, plus the inflexibility of the German command system, significantly weakened the German response to the oncoming Allied forces.
Earlier on the morning of June 6 the top German commander in the west, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, had requested the immediate release of two reserve panzer divisions held in the area of Paris for use against the Normandy beachhead about 120 miles away. He had to ask for them because they weren’t under his command. They were controlled by Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the overall military headquarters in Germany. OKW was at first reluctant to authorize their release. What if the “invasion” was a trap?
At a lunchtime military conference Hitler finally agreed with von Rundstedt’s request. But at that point it was too late. If they had moved out in early morning, under cover of darkness, they might have reached the front. Now they had to wait out the daylight hours, lest they be destroyed by Allied aircraft, which ruled the French skies.
“The delay was crucial,” judged Kershaw in his Hitler biography.
Allied units were already beginning to move inland and link up with each other in an attempt to create a seamless beachhead. A German counter-attack failed to drive wedges between the Allied landing beaches. More panzers might have made the response effective.
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Later on June 6, Hitler attended a reception near Salzburg for the new Austrian foreign minister. When he entered the room he was radiant. “It’s begun at last,” he said.
By day’s end 156,000 Allied troops had already landed in France. Six days later all beachhead sectors were connected and the Allies controlled an area about 15 miles deep at its thickest point. Two weeks later 650,000 American and British troops were in France, the point of a spear aimed at Berlin.
Germany could have won key World War II battle if they made these tactical changes, study says
A startling new study suggests that Germany could have won a key battle in World War II and perhaps changed the outcome of the war if they had made a few small strategic changes.
Researchers at the U.K.'s University of York created a computer model using a technique known as "weighted bootstrapping" and determined that the Battle of Britain could have been won by the Germans if they attacked the Brits immediately after Winston Churchill delivered his famous "Finest Hour" speech on June 18, as opposed to July 10, more than three weeks later.
One other grave mistake was not continuing the attack on British airfields after the initial blow on Aug. 13, 1940.
A Dornier 17Z of the Luftwaffe flying low over the English countryside. (RAF Museum)
"The simulations suggested that if they had started the campaign earlier and focused on bombing airfields, the [Royal Air Force] might have been defeated, paving the way for a German land invasion," the researchers said in a press release.
It's impossible to estimate what the real chances of victory were, but the researchers did note that any changes to the decisions from the German military would have significantly reduced the chances of a British victory.
"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," the study's co-author, Jamie Wood, said in the statement. "The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets."
"We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days," Wood added.
"For example, had the likelihood of a British victory in the actual battle been 50 [percent], these two tactical changes would have reduced it to less than 10 [percent]," the researchers added in the statement. "If the real probability of British victory was 98 [percent], the same changes would have reduced this to just 34 [percent]."
"Weighted bootstrapping . is a bit like taking a ball for the events of each day of the Battle of Britain and placing them in a lotto machine," according to the statement. "Balls are then drawn, read and replaced to create thousands of alternative sets of days' fighting, but in a different order, and perhaps with some days appearing more than once or not at all."
One of the study's co-authors, Niall Mackay, said weighted bootstrapping could help historians investigate alternate realities and even give new information for historical controversies and debates.
"It demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were," Mackay said. "Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."
What If the Omaha Beach Landing Had Failed?
Some Reversals of fortune in World War II would have had huge consequences and yet make for uninteresting counterfactuals. The shifts in outcome are simply too obvious.
In the case of Operation Overlord, the June 1944 D-Day landings, an Allied failure would have made a second invasion of northwestern Europe unlikely. A rebuff would doubtless have convinced the Allies that, even with meticulous preparation, they lacked the strength to breach Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. A flop would have compromised Normandy as a landing site. Other potential targets, around Le Havre or at Pas de Calais, were even more stoutly defended. The best the Allies could have done would have been to follow through with landings scheduled to take place in southern France—historically launched in August 1944. But without a successful Normandy invasion to keep the Germans from reinforcing the southern sector, it is doubtful the Allies would have gotten very far.
But what if only one of the five D-Day landings had failed? The obvious candidate is the assault on Omaha Beach, which historically did come close to disaster:
It is the morning of June 6, 1944. From the bridge of the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, General Omar N. Bradley peers through binoculars at the French beachhead code-named Omaha. The sky is overcast, the waters choppy, and the view ashore partially obscured by smoke and explosions. But the sketchy information Bradley has received, and everything he sees, indicates that the assault on Omaha is failing. Elements of two divisions—the veteran 1st Infantry and the untested 29th Infantry—are desperately trying to fight their way from the shoreline to the bluffs from which Germans manning mortars and machine guns are devastating everything on the beach. The American forces are all but paralyzed.
Bradley feels helpless. He will describe these hours as “a time of grave personal anxiety and frustration.” Eventually he decides the landing force has suffered an irreversible catastrophe, and orders the men ashore to withdraw. This proves impossible. Communications breakdowns keep many landing craft from even heading to shore. Of those that do, many are sunk en route or destroyed on the beach while they wait for pinned-down infantrymen to crawl toward them. For all practical purposes, the landing force is wiped out.
This devastating defeat leaves a 37-mile gap between the Canadian and British beaches to the east and the other American beach, Utah, to the west. Bradley knows that the 4th Infantry Division landings at Utah have gone unexpectedly smoothly, with only light casualties. But he also knows that with the Omaha force liquidated, Germans at that beach could shift toward Utah and launch a deadly attack on its left flank. Bradley could transfer elements of the Omaha force not yet ashore to reinforce Utah. In practice, this is impossible. To reposition, the 4th’s follow-on waves must reach shore, which will take hours. With no contingency for the 1st and 29th to land at Utah, the flotilla of transports and warships assigned to Omaha likely would unleash chaos if suddenly inserted into the fleet assigned to Utah.
The above scenario is historically correct in most respects. The Omaha landing did come within a hair’s breadth of failing. As Adrian R. Lewis points out in Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory, the rigid plan for the landing simply fell apart amid the withering German fire, the dispersal of small units, and the deaths of many officers and NCOs. Soldiers ashore had to improvise a new approach. Only their valor in inching toward and destroying obstacles barring access to the beach exits prevented catastrophe. Bradley did consider evacuating Omaha Beach, but most military historians agree that he could not have done so, and that given the intricate nature of the D-Day landings, the transfer of the 1st and 29th to Utah likely would have meant chaos, not salvation, for the 4th Division troops already ashore.
Proponents of counterfactual theory speak of “nodes of contingency”—points in time at which events that went one way could have gone another. The D-Day invasion involved so many nodes of contingency that it would be absurd to say with certainty what would have occurred had the Omaha assault failed. It is reasonably certain that forces on the three Canadian and British beaches—Gold, Juno, and Sword—would have retained their foothold on the French coast. D-Day, then, would not have met with complete disaster.
But it is plausible that all available German forces near Utah, including the 352nd Infantry Division that historically defended Omaha Beach, would have descended on Utah Beach to contain or even destroy the invading forces. Airdrops of two American paratroop divisions behind Utah Beach to secure bridges and causeways the 4th Division needed to break out of the beach were historically scattered widely. They would have been unlikely to survive a well-organized German counterattack aimed at Utah. If the Allied presence on Utah remained intact, those forces’ isolation from the other beaches would have made an advance inland difficult if not impossible. Even the Allies’ overwhelming command of the air would probably not have sufficed to retrieve the situation.
Historically the Allies required six weeks to break out of their beachhead, due largely to the French hedgerow countryside that provided the German troops with a succession of nearly perfect defensive positions.
Loss of Omaha would have made an Allied breakout even more difficult. Loss of both Omaha and Utah might well have transmogrified the D-Day landings into something resembling the January 1944 landings at Anzio, Italy, where the beachhead became a trap that held the equivalent of three British and American divisions until May—able to break out thanks only to the approach of Allied forces creeping up the Italian mainland. Normandy offered no such option. Of Anzio, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “I had hoped we were hurling a wildcat onto the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale.” Overlord might have become a stranded whale, with implications far more serious than at Anzio.
In war, structural forces often count for a great deal. The American arsenal of democracy, for example, guaranteed that Japan could not win the Pacific War. But sometimes the actions of a few men are crucial. That was so at Omaha Beach, where a few hundred soldiers may have saved the entire Normandy invasion from calamity.
12 Russia And Germany Would Duke It Out Full Force
This fight would pretty well be inevitable. After all, Germany opened up against the Soviet Union months before the bombing of Pearl Harbour which pulled the U.S. into the war. The Nazi plan was to conquer the Soviet Union and repopulate it with German citizens. Those Union members who survived the conquest would be used as slaves to continue building the Third Reich. I happen to think that if the Americans did end up losing in the war, the Russians would still end up screwing Hitler out of power. It's not likely that they would mount a full assault on Nazi Germany, but they could very easily continue retreating into the cold which would waste troops and supplies enough that the Resistance could begin mounting greater attacks in Nazi-held Europe.
Red Arrow soldier laid to rest 75 years after death in WWII
Posted On April 29, 2020 15:55:33
A Wisconsin National Guard soldier was buried in his final resting place Sept. 29, 2019, in Monona more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company C, 128th Infantry Regiment, when he was killed Dec. 2, 1942, during the Battle of Buna.
Bainbridge’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family asked that he be buried at Monona’s Roselawn Memorial Park, where his sister is buried.
“It was like time stood still for one second as 77 years of waiting, hoping and wondering came to a glorious halt,” said Bainbridge’s niece, Nancy Cunningham, who was 2 years old at the time of his death.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was laid to rest Sept. 29, 2019 in Monona after his remains were identified more than 75 years after his death during the Battle of Buna in World War II.
(Courtesy of Nancy Cunningham)
Born in 1919 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bainbridge grew up in Sheboygan before graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He worked as a store clerk when he enlisted as a cook in the Wisconsin National Guard with Sheboygan’s Service Battery, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit left Sheboygan Oct. 17, 1940, for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.
Bainbridge trained with the 120th in Louisiana and was discharged in November 1941 due to family hardship. But the Army rescinded his discharge after the U.S. declared war on Japan and he rejoined the 32nd Infantry Division in time for its deployment to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to technician 5th grade and assigned to Company C, 128th Infantry. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.
Natives unload new white crosses from trailer to be used in the cemetery for American Forces at New Guinea, May 11, 1943.
His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a Buna cemetery. Bainbridge’s remains were designated “Unknown X-135” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery.
Bainbridge’s remains were exhumed Feb. 22, 2017, and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out Cunningham and other relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.
Bainbridge’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented the U.S. flag to Cunningham on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.
The Dec 29, 1942 issue of the Sheboygan Press reported the death of Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge at the Battle of Buna in New Guinea.
“Every time I present a flag, I am full of emotion, but this one seemed different not only because of the soldier’s incredible service and sacrifice but because the family had been waiting so long for positive identification,” Mathews said. “What made it even more special was that he was a Wisconsin National Guard and 32nd Division soldier.”
Bainbridge’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917, for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1943, and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most of any American division during the war.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
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The battle for Normandy: what happened after D-Day?
By the time D-Day had drawn to a close on the night of 6 June 1944, the Allies had secured a hard-won foothold in northern France. But the fight was far from over. Here, Gavin Mortimer explains how the battle to liberate France raged on as Allied forces were tested to their limits by fierce German resistance while they attempted to push through the Normandy countryside
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Published: July 3, 2019 at 12:25 pm
Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel had little sleep on the night of 6 June. He had spent the day in his staff car, urging his driver to keep his foot on the accelerator as they drove the 500 miles between his home in Herrlingen, south-west Germany, and his HQ in La Roche-Guyon.
But before dawn had broken on 7 June, Rommel was already in conference with General Geyr von Schweppenburg, commander of Panzer Group West. The Allied landings the previous day had caught the German military unawares the führer’s unshakeable certainty that the invasion would be in the Calais region had been shattered. Rommel blamed Hitler and his equally inept chief of operations, Colonel-General Alfred Jodl, for their failure to release the two reserve Panzer divisions that, if they had been sent straight to the beachhead, might well have pushed the invaders back into the chill waters of the English Channel.
Not that Rommel was in a position to berate his superiors he was embarrassed at having left France on 5 June to celebrate his wife’s birthday. Such a miscalculation would be difficult to live down among his growing number of detractors within Hitler’s inner circle.
But 7 June was not the time for recriminations. Only action would suffice and Rommel had already identified from the map of the invasion zone what he believed was the Allies’ most vulnerable point. He had considered attacking the Omaha beachhead, which the American V Corps had secured at such a terrible price, but instead settled on launching his counterattack around Caen. The British had failed in their objective of capturing the city on D-Day, but only just, and should they seize Caen, only 125 miles of flat, unobstructed countryside would lie between them and Paris.
General Bernard Montgomery, in command of Allied ground forces, had arrived off the Normandy coast in the early hours of 7 June, having sailed from Portsmouth the previous evening on board the destroyer HMS Faulknor.
He ordered 3rd British Division and 3rd Canadian Division to press their attack against Caen, but, as he wrote in his memoirs: “It quickly became apparent that the enemy was concerned for the security of this nodal point, and was quick to bring forward reserve formations to hold us off from the town and prevent the expansion of our bridgehead south of the Caen-Bayeux road.”
The first reserve formation to arrive was ‘Battlegroup Meyer’, an element of the 12th SS Panzer Division. Commanded by the notorious Colonel Kurt Meyer, many of its soldiers were recent recruits from the Hitler Youth, fanatics who committed several atrocities against their enemy as they pushed back the Anglo-Canadian advance with the help of the 21st Panzer Division.
The bloody fighting of 7 June was a grim foretaste of what lay ahead for the Allies as they continued inland from the beachhead. They were now entering ‘bocage country’, characterised by sunken lanes and high hedgerows: good defensive terrain for tanks and for men armed with Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons. Montgomery’s plan was to encircle Caen with the 51st Highland Division and the 7th Armoured Division, the latter the ‘Desert Rats’ of the North Africa campaign.
But when they advanced on 10 June they ran into the tanks of the Panzer Lehr Division. “Obviously the attacking troops were at a disadvantage because they had to move forward,” said Leslie Dinning of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment. “Poke their nose round corners where sitting a few yards up the road was a bloody big Tiger, Panther or a self-propelled gun, literally waiting for us and BANG! You had no chance. It only needed one shot from an enemy tank.”
A fearsome adversary
No German commander was as lethal as Michael Wittman of the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion. In the Soviet Union he had destroyed 117 enemy tanks, and on 13 June his company ambushed the Desert Rats outside Villers-Bocage, destroying 25 tanks and 28 other vehicles.
Panzers weren’t the only problem General Montgomery faced in the middle of June. On the 19th of the month a ferocious storm swept through the Channel, wrecking the two artificial ‘Mulberry’ harbours that had been towed from England. Prior to the storm, 22,000 tons of supplies and equipment were being unloaded each day at the British and US harbours of Arromanches and Colleville-sur-Mer during the four days that the storm raged only 12,000 tons were brought ashore at both sites. The British repaired the damage and were able to continue using Arromanches, but the Americans were forced to concede defeat and reverted to beaching craft to bring ashore their supplies.
In contrast to the war of attrition being waged around Caen, US troops had made good progress in the fortnight since D-Day. The V Corps beachhead at Omaha and that established by the VII Corps at Utah had been joined so that the American invaders now presented a united front to their enemy.
The immediate objective had been the town of Carentan, which blocked the Americans’ path south and east, and was defended by the seasoned troops of the 6th Parachute Regiment. The 101st Airborne captured Carentan on 12 June but the Germans, reinforced by the 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Division, counter-attacked the next day. Easy Company of the 506th Regiment was in danger of being overrun by Panzers when suddenly 60 of their own tanks appeared. “What a wonderful sight it was to see those tanks pouring it to the Germans with those heavy 50-calibre machine guns and just ploughing straight from our lines into the German hedgerows with all those fresh infantry soldiers marching along beside,” recalled Lieutenant Dick Winters.
Dark days for Rommel
The capture of Carentan was another serious blow for Rommel. For several days his mood had been darkening as fresh reports reached him of the slow progress north of reinforcements. The 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Division had managed to make the journey from south of the Loire, but other divisions were being held up and weakened by repeated enemy attacks. “Our operations in Normandy will be rendered exceptionally difficult and even partially impossible by the extraordinarily strong, and in some respects, overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Force,” he wrote in a report on 12 June. “The enemy has complete control over the battle area and up to 60 miles behind the front.”
It wasn’t only Allied aircraft that were hindering the progress of German reinforcements towards the battlefront guerrilla fighters of the French Resistance, often working with small units from the Special Air Service, were ambushing convoys and destroying railway lines to disrupt the supply of men and munitions to the front.
So serious was the situation in Normandy that Hitler arrived on 17 June, making his first visit to France since October 1940. The assessment he received from field marshals Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt was pessimistic. As if to underline their gloomy prognosis, on the same day the 9th Division of VII Corps advanced six miles across the Cherbourg Peninsula and on 18 June captured Barneville on the coast facing the Atlantic. It was clear that Cherbourg, a crucial port, was doomed, and despite Hitler’s command to “fight until the last cartridge”, the town surrendered on 26 June.
On the same day, Montgomery, under increasing pressure, mounted Operation Epsom, the objective of which was to envelop Caen. The 15th Scottish Division led the attack and suffered 2,500 casualties in five days of ferocious fighting. An entry in the war diary of the 2nd Battalion The Glasgow Highlanders on 26 June gave an idea of the resistance encountered by all the Scottish regiments. “C Company on the right became pinned by machine-gun fire from the many lines of trees on their front,” ran the entry. “[We] could not produce artillery fire owing to D Company’s progress. The tanks were being held up to an extent by the minefield. C Company was told to get on with its own weapons and it got forward to the next hedgerow where it suffered much heavier casualties.”
Operation Epsom failed in its aim of capturing Caen, but the Scots’ sacrifice hadn’t been in vain: their enemy, the II SS Panzer Corps, had also suffered heavy losses in armour and men. It was no longer in a position to be deployed as Hitler had intended – offensively against the invaders at the junction of the American and British armies at Saint-Lô. Hitler removed Gerd von Rundstedt as commander-in-chief and replaced him with Günther von Kluge. “From then on,” wrote Montgomery, “Hitler’s personal and, as it proved, fatal interference in the strategy and even the tactics of the battle for France was unchecked.”
There were other reasons for this interference. On 17 July, Rommel’s staff car was strafed by an Allied aircraft, and while the field marshal survived, the severity of his wounds removed him from the chain of command. Three days later, on 20 July, Hitler was also injured, although not by an enemy but one of his own officers, Claus von Stauffenberg. The briefcase bomb failed to kill the führer and as a result he became ever more convinced that it was his “great destiny” to lead Germany to victory. Why listen to generals, whom he no longer trusted (Kluge and Rommel later killed themselves after being implicated in the assassination attempt), when only he had the ability to save the Fatherland?
Rommel’s nemesis from the war in North Africa, Bernard Montgomery, was himself under strain. Progress had been slower than his political masters in London and Washington envisaged, and there were murmurs of discontent within Allied command at the way Montgomery was conducting the campaign. On 12 July he wrote a letter of reassurance to General Eisenhower, with a promise of an impending offensive. To Field Marshal Alan Brooke, chief of the imperial general staff, Montgomery also sent correspondence regarding his intention to deploy three armoured divisions: “We are fighting in ideal defensive country… so I have decided that the time has come to have a real ‘showdown’ on the eastern flank and to loose them into the open country about the Caen-Falaise road.”
This showdown, the aim of which was to expand the bridgehead established by the Airborne brigade on 6 June, was code-named Operation Goodwood. It began in the early hours of 18 July with a fearsome aerial bombardment by 2,000 Allied bombers. Those on the receiving end endured hell. “It was a bomb carpet… the most terrifying hours of our lives,” remembered Werner Kortenhaus of the 22nd Panzer Regiment. “Among the thunder of the explosions we could hear the wounded scream and the insane howling of men driven mad.”
But the bombs didn’t destroy all of the German tanks or artillery, nor did they account for Colonel Hans von Luck of the 21st Panzer Division. Von Luck returned from a brief leave in Paris just as the bombardment stopped and the British armour began its advance down a narrow corridor, and ordered a battery of five 88mm anti-tank guns to open fire on a squadron of British Sherman tanks. The officer in charge refused. Von Luck drew his revolver. “Either you’re a dead man,” he told the recalcitrant officer, “or you can earn yourself a medal.”
The crews inside the British Shermans were amazed at what they saw as they advanced. “Trees were uprooted, fields pitted and littered with dead cattle…nothing could be left alive on this lunar landscape,” recalled one eye-witness. “Yet suddenly there came evidence that the enemy was there and very aggressive, too.” Major Chris Nicholl’s tank was the first to be hit by Von Luck’s 88mm guns, and within a few minutes 11 more Shermans had been destroyed.
In total during Operation Goodwood the British lost an estimated 300 tanks. And for what? They had advanced just seven miles from their original position and had failed to capture Caen and the high ground on the Bourguébus Ridge. Criticism of Montgomery grew, and some British newspapers added their voices to the groundswell of discontent. What none of the Allies knew, however, was that Operation Goodwood had cost the Germans 109 tanks, nearly half its complement of anti-tank guns, and many hundreds of soldiers.
The spectre of defeat
On 22 July, Kluge wrote to Hitler to warn him that “the moment is fast approaching when this overtaxed front line is bound to break, and when the enemy once reaches the open country a properly co-ordinated command will be almost impossible”.
Three days after Kluge’s letter the Allies launched another major offensive, this time on the western side of the bridgehead. Like Goodwood, Operation Cobra was preceded by a massive aerial bombardment and the bombs that rained down on the German positions in the Saint-Lô area were followed by an advance of three infantry divisions of General Omar Bradley’s First Army.
The going was tough on the first day as German armour held up the American advance. “Good God!” yelled one tank commander as he opened fire on a Panzer. “I fired three rounds and they all bounced off.” They were his last words as the German tank returned fire, the shell slicing the commander in two. “Just his legs and hips were there,” recalled one of the crew. “One arm, with the wrist watch on it, lay near the house.”
The Americans advanced just two miles on the first day of Cobra. The Germans had fought with courage and tenacity, but they were spent, unable to continue resisting the 120,000 troops ranged against them on a five-mile front. When the line finally broke – as Kluge had warned in his letter – the surge south was unstoppable.
By 28 July the hole punched by the Americans was 15 miles deep and to turn the breakthrough into the breakout, Bradley looked to Lieutenant-General George S Patton. On 1 August, Patton received a written order from Bradley to lead the Third Army out of Normandy and into Brittany.
There could now be only one victor in the battle for France. German troops counterattacked on the night of 6 August, but their Operation Lüttich was repelled by the Americans (who had been forewarned of the attack by Bletchley Park code-breakers).
On 8 August the Canadians launched Operation Totalise, the first act in the closing of the Falaise pocket (where trapped German troops were encircled by Allied forces). It required two more weeks of bitter and intense fighting before Canadian and Polish forces linked up with American troops advancing from the west.
The German Army Group B was shattered. Two hundred thousand were in Allied captivity and a further 50,000 had been killed in the 10 weeks since D-Day. Two of the 11 Panzer divisions – Lehr and the 9th – had lost all their tanks. There was nothing for the survivors to do but trudge wearily east towards Germany, chased all the while by Patton, until his Third Army ran out of fuel outside Metz on the last day of August.
By then Paris had been liberated.
The honour had been seized by General Leclerc’s armoured division, attached to Patton’s Army, on 25 August. Two days later, General Dwight D Eisenhower visited the French capital and told reporters that he had come to “pay the tribute of the Allied forces to the indomitable spirit of Paris”. It was a diplomatic gesture by the Allies’ supreme commander, for the tribute was in fact owed by Parisians to the bravery, boldness and sheer bloody-mindedness of the American, British, Canadian and Polish soldiers who had fought to liberate France.
Gavin Mortimer is a bestselling writer, historian and television consultant. His books include The Long Range Desert Group in World War II (Osprey, 2017).
This article was first published ‘D-Day and the Battle for Normandy’, a unique special edition from the makers of BBC History Magazine
The German wall
Planning for Operation Overlord began in London more than a year before the invasion took place. Allied staff officers led by Lt. Gen. Frederick Morgan debated where to pierce the Atlantic Wall, German coastal fortifications extending from Norway to the southwest coast of France. The shortest route to Germany lay across the Strait of Dover (Pas-de-Calais), but landing around Calais meant attacking the strongest sector of the Atlantic Wall.
Morgan and staff decided instead to land on the coast of Normandy, which lay farther from Germany but was less heavily fortified. Their original plan, drawn up in strict secrecy, called for three divisions to come ashore on a narrow front on D-Day. But when Eisenhower and Montgomery arrived in London in early 1944 to serve respectively as supreme commander and field commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force destined for Normandy, they altered the invasion plan based on amphibious operations in Italy. (See also: Excerpt: Rare World War II maps reveal Japan's Pearl Harbor strategy.)
Five divisions would land on D-Day on a broader front, supported by three airborne divisions and followed by an immense influx of men and material. The huge commitment of landing craft and other resources to Normandy meant that a second invasion of France along the Mediterranean coast, which was meant to coincide with Overlord to prevent Germans in the south from being shifted to Normandy, would instead take place a few months after Overlord unfolded.
The Allies' meticulous plans to invade Normandy in 1944 were overseen by Dwight D. Eisenhower, appointed supreme commander in Europe the year before. In addition to a formidable military record, the future 34th president of the United States inspired his troops with his warmth and rousing addresses. Second in command was Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, who defeated German forces, under the command of Erwin Rommel, in North Africa, a major turning point of the war. Hitler later entrusted Rommel with defense of France’s channel coast, where, as D-Day dawned, he and Montgomery once again faced one another as the war’s dramatic endgame began.
The Man in the High Castle Universe: What went wrong?
(A stark contrast in the two above maps that mark the conclusion of the historical and fictional WW2)
For an American living in the 21st Century, Allied victory in the Second World War is even more fundamental to their worldview than the American Revolution of 1776. It is, after all, the founding story of the modern United States and the current world order as we know it.
The concept of the Allies losing to the satanic enemy of Nazi Germany and its Axis collaborators hits home in primordial fashion. Axis victory is a concept so deeply disturbing, the dystopia such a defeat would entail is nearly unthinkable. Yet in the High Castle universe, that is exactly what happened. So, what exactly went wrong in the High Castle timeline?
How the Axis won WW2: The Man in the High Castle Universe Historical Contradiction
In the High Castle universe, many well known events of the Second World War have outcomes clearly contrary to the viewer’s universe. In both the series and the classic novel, details are scarce as to exactly how the Axis managed victory over the Allies.
Putting aside the little information divulged by the show so far – including Nazi Germany’s clear development and use of the first strategic nuclear weapon – what happened to the Allied nations that allowed this disaster to occur? While there are several distinct possibilities, one must start with the life and career of one Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.
10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure
Paul K. DiCostanzo is the Managing Editor for TGNR. He is a noted public speaker, an emerging historian of the Second World War, a vocal advocate for Crohn’s Disease/Ulcerative Colitis, and highly regarded interviewer. Paul K. DiCostanzo is Co-Host for the A.D. History Podcast. The A.D. History Podcast explores world history of the last 2000 years in an unprecedented fashion with each episode covering a 10 year period beginning in 1AD, until reaching the present day. Ultimately finding the forgotten, as well as overlooked threads of history, and weaving a tapestry of true world history. Paul is author of the reader submitted Q&A column: WW2 Brain Bucket. The Brain Bucket answers readers submitted questions on all things regarding the Second World War. Paul has served as Managing Editor for TGNR since March 2015. Prior to TGNR, Paul has a background in American National Security and American Foreign Policy.
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