An unimaginable amount of explosions, tanks, and planes covered the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 as soldiers dropped dead left and right. Every man and woman who stormed the beaches on D-Day knew that they could lose their life. Stated in the website Popular Mechanics, Four thousand ships carried the magnificently equipped troops across the English Channel under protection of a powerful naval force including 12 battleships and thousands of aircraft (How). D-Day was one of the many battles of World War II. World War II was a global war that took place from 1930 to 1945. Although D-Day was not the largest battle of World War II, it was crucial to the overall victory of the Allied powers because it gave them an entrance to Europe. Due to the Allied powers’ success, the large amount of force used, and the amount of planning and thought put into the attack, D-Day is known as the greatest military invasion in history. Many people only know D-Day (Operation Overlord) for the battle itself as well as the astonishing number of deaths (over 425,000), but many other things took place beforehand that allowed the Allied powers to emerge victorious. Elaborate disinformation techniques, carefully planned strategies, and German faults allowed the Allied powers to succeed on D-Day.
First, spies that Germany had sent to Britain had been persuaded to work for the Allied powers. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945, stated that truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies, which is why the Allied disinformation team acquired the codename Operation Bodyguard (qtd. in Hall 39). In order to assure this, Britain found German spies, captured them, and persuaded them into working for them (Klein). Once Britain had these spies under their control, they were able to find out crucial information from the spies, and then send them back to Germany to feed the enemy false information (Barry 30). Flipping German spies allowed the Allied powers to gain a large upper hand over the Germans.
Another way the Allied powers confused the Germans was that they created a fake army. This fake army, the First U.S. Army Group, was deployed in southeast England (Klein). The Allies placed Lieutenant General George S. Patton, who was thought of as the best commander on the American side by the Germans, under control of the fake army (Bardertscher 2). Patton was placed in charge of this force because the Allies wanted to give the illusion that the force was real, because the Germans would not think that they would place their best general in control of a non-existent force. In order to further convince the Germans that the fake army was real, the Allies created decoy planes, landing crafts, and tanks, which were moved around in the night time (Klein). The Allied powers even had aircraft drop fake paratroopers (Klein). The fake army took the Germans’ attention off of the real attack of the Allied powers.
Also, the Allies’ sent out false radio signals in order to confuse the Germans. Radio signals were largely used by both the Allied and enemy sides of the war, therefore it was easy to misinform the enemy with false information using this. The Allies would have fake conversations on radio while the Germans listened to confuse them even more than they already were (Klein). Also, the Allies had aircraft drop aluminum strips at Pas de Calais to send out false radar signals that simulated the radar signals of a large fleet (Klein). These aluminum strips were dropped near Pas de Calais because that was the Germans expected an attack. Pas de Calais was the expected place for an attack because it was the shortest route across the Straits of Dover (Hall 27). The reason why they did not attack at the Pas de Calais was because the Germans’ defenses were at its strongest there.
Another reason the Allies were successful on D-Day was because of their strategies and planning. A big part of their planning was making sure that their attack would be unexpected. Since the Germans already thought that the Allies would attack Pas de Calais, their attack on the beaches would be unexpected. Also, beaches are not generally expected to be the location of an attack because of how easy they are to defend, which meant that the Germans had an easier job. Since the Allies were attacking beaches, which are especially complicated during war, the element of surprise was crucial (Ambrose 39). Many sea invasions such as D-Day in the past had not been successful because they were not as well thought out as D-Day had been. If the Germans had even a 48 hour notice of the Allied powers’ attack and its location they would lose, so they had to be very careful (Klein). The Germans only needed 48 hours because they could call in enough troops, and set up enough defenses to withstand an Allied attack on a short notice.
In addition to the Allies’ strategies, attacking the beaches of Normandy required the execution of an amphibious assault. An amphibious assault is where the enemy is approached from both land and water. When the Allies attacked the Germans, not only did they utilize land and water forces, they utilized aircraft as well. Tony Hall, the author of D-Day, Operation Overlord: From Its Planning to the Liberation of Paris, declared that Hitler and the majority of his seniors officers still persisted in the tradition of being exclusively a land power (51). This gave the Allies an advantage because they would control the air, which meant that they could drop bombs on the enemy. The Allies chose to attack the beaches of Normandy because they were close to large bases and resource centers in England, and Germany’s defenses were accessible by aircraft (How). Many different varieties of transportations were used to reach the beaches of Normandy. Two varieties of transportation included the landing ship, tank (LST) and the landing craft, tank (LCT) (Ambrose 43). The LST and the LCT were both very large ships that carried vehicles (Ambrose 43). In order to make the beaches safe to land on, the Allies had to send out minesweepers and disarm the different types of barricades and walls set up, because the Germans had set up defenses along all of the beaches (Hall 61). Hitler was known for his mass amounts of defenses along the beaches of Europe, but the Allies knew how to approach these defenses because they had been training with a replica for months (How). This replica was nearly an exact copy of Germany’s coastal defense layout, and it played a major role in preparing the soldiers for an invasion such as D-Day.
Equally important to the other factors of the Allies’ success were the faults that the Germans made. The most critical German fault of them all was Hitler’s arrogance. Hitler was the dictator of Germany during World War II, and he always had to be in charge, even if he was clearly wrong. Stated by Ken Ford and Steven J. Zaloga, authors of the book Overlord: the D-Day Landings, At the strategic level, Hitler had gradually usurped more and more command authority due to his growing distrust of the professional army officers (29). In compliance to Hitler’s distrust, he also made nearly every decision for Germany, and would not allow his officers to make any decisions for themselves (Ford and Zaloga 29). Hitler would even reject the pleas of von Rundstedt and Rommel, who were his top generals. Unlike the Germans, the Allied powers allowed their generals take control. Germany’s lack of authority led to many other issues for them.
Another fault of the Germans was that their troop division was unequal. The Germans not being able to stop the fighting in the east is what caused their unequal troop division (Hall 45). In the east, Germany was fighting against the Soviet Union, who were part of the Allied powers of World War II. Along with the Soviet Union, England, the United States of America, and France were the other countries who were part of the Allied powers. To counter the Soviet Union in the east, the Germans deployed 157 divisions, which left them with only 56 to fight on the western front (Barry 30). If the Germans had not deployed so many divisions to fight against the Soviet Union, they would have been able to easily overpower the Allied powers on the beaches of Normandy. In attempt to make up for the lack of men in the west, Hitler used foreign workers in factories to replace his soldiers (Hall 55). Replacing their soldiers with workers meant that some of the German soldiers were also untrained.
Last of all, Hitler had sent his reinforcements to the German divisions in the west too late. Germany’s bad timing was due to the fact that Hitler could not settle on the best way to deploy their tanks (Barry 30). Ford and Zaloga stated, The German strategy for Normandy remained a jumble of Rommel’s scheme for an immediate defense of the beach and Rundstedt and Geyr’s plans for a decisive battle after the landings (31). On behalf of this, the German tanks arrived too late in the west. If it were not for Hitler being indecisive on how to deploy the tanks, the allies would have most likely lost (Barry 30). Britain’s chief of staff, General Alan Brooke, speaking of Hitler, stated, I would like to shake him by the hand (qtd. in Barry 30). This quote shows just how poorly Hitler commanded the defense of the western front.
All in all, many different factors led to the success of the Allies on D-Day. It is not widely known that the Allies led a disinformation team to confuse the Germans, but it played a giant role in the Allied victory of D-Day. The Allies took many measures to insure that the Germans were not aware of anything they did. The attack took months of planning and training before it was actually put into action, and the strategies were very well thought out. D-Day is still relevant and studied today not only because of the large amount of casualties, but because it is the largest amphibious assault ever successfully carried out. Oddly, some thanks could be payed to Germany itself for its own defeat. During World War II Hitler was very indecisive and not willing to cooperate with his own generals and officers, who may have been able to defeat the Allies if given the power to. Hitler’s arrogance was one of the major reasons why Germany lost on D-Day. According to Ford and Zaloga, A post-war U.S. Army study concluded that the lack of unified command in France was a more serious weakness than shortages of troops and equipment (30). D-Day is one of many examples of how strong our country and its allies are, but it is also an example of how devastating war can be. Hopefully, in this case, history does not repeat itself.
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