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D-Day was almost a German holiday:

During World War II, the importance of an armed citizenry for defense against foreign tyranny was once again confirmed, as Dan Gifford and I suggested in a 1994 column for the D-Day anniversary. In another column, "Why D-Day Mattered," I examine the various hypotheticals about D-Day, such as the consequences of a defeat of the invasion, or of an invasion in 1943.

Steve:
The principle of universal gun ownership is sure working out well in Iraq, too.
6.6.2006 3:10pm
Craig Oren (mail):
sorry, but I stopped reading when the column referred to "The War Between the States." It was a war betweeen a federal government and those who wished to defy its authority. It would be more accurate to use the classic northern term, "The War of the Rebellion."
6.6.2006 3:17pm
frankcross (mail):
Really? The "war between the states"? Why not call the Japanese theater of WWII the "war of western aggression"?
6.6.2006 3:29pm
Dar (mail):
Enjoyed your "What If?" article about D-Day ("Why D-Day Mattered"), but I can't agree with your premise that Normandy would have been so easily liberated in '43 due to weaker beach defenses.

The Atlantic Wall defenses the Allies encountered had their greatest effect only on one of the five invasion beaches, Omaha, and even there they only held up the invasion for a few hours. The real obstacle in Normandy that prevented an Allied breakout for several weeks was the bocage, and that was just as impregnable in 1943 as it was in 1944.

I find the time, material, and human misery the Reich invested in the Atlantic Wall to be one of the greatest military follies ever. It may have held up the Americans on Omaha Beach for the better part of one morning and caused over 3,000 casualties, but once it was breached the entire Atlantic Wall was rendered useless.

We should be thankful that Hitler, Rommel, and the rest of the Reich leadership didn't take all that material and put it into building bunkers and pillboxes in depth all over France. Putting a few camoflaged concrete bunkers with AT guns and MGs near strategic crossroads, bridges, and the like all over Normandy and the rest of northern France could have caused a lot more casualties and delays than the Wall did.

In any case, I found your article to be a great, thought-provoking piece--thanks!
6.6.2006 3:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
But didn't journalists in the 1930s have positive things to say about Hitler? Which means we can't believe what they write now about how bad he was, because those silly journalists always get things wrong!
6.6.2006 3:54pm
byrd (mail):
Dar: technically, you are probably right, but I don't think the Nazi's could have made the mental adjustments necessary for such a defensive posture. It means abandoning the idea of Fortress Europe before the fortress was even breached, it would have projected a falling back action well into the future, it would have presumed repeated losses. I don't think such defeatism would have helped anybody's career.
6.6.2006 4:01pm
Peter Wimsey:
I only read the first article and stopped because it is historically illiterate (if not downright dishonest) and displays an understanding of WWII that would shame an sixth-grader.

The US did not "come close to being invaded". An invasion of the US was never contemplated by the Japanese or the Germans - indeed, the Germans no longer had blue water surface navy by the time the US entered the war. By 1942, the Germans had lost at Stalingrad and Alamein - there is no way that they could have mounted any sort of cross atlantic invasion. By 1942, the Japanese had lost Midway and had a very difficult time supplying troops on Guadalcanal - how were they supposed to transport an invasion army all the way to the US?

It's not even true that britain came close to being invaded. It is true that there were plans in a file for the invasion of britain ("Operation Sea Lion"), but no resources were ever put into creating any amphibious capacity. With good reason - not only were the Germans unable to win the battle of Britain, they also were unable to deal with the British Navy...and all of this happened before the USSR even entered the war.

It is true that the US public feared invasion, but this is unrelated to the actual danger of invasion. I should also point out that the fully armed (by '45) german populace was notably unable to stop the Allied invasion.
6.6.2006 4:13pm
Jack S. (mail) (www):
"the federal government begins training civilians for guerilla warfare" [and also puts 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage in internment camps].

Strangely, both based on overreaction to any threats to American interests at home. (See Peter Wimsey comment).
6.6.2006 4:41pm
Joe7 (mail):
When examining the history of WWII, it is easy to forget that the invasions of North Africa and Italy were fraught with problems. In both cases, serious mistakes were made by the allies and in both cases, very important lessons were learned and applied to the D-Day invasion.

I don't think it's at all clear that a D-Day invasion in 1943 would have been successful since the lessons of Italy would not have been learned and the material and supply lines were not yet fully in place.

Wars are won based on logistics. More simply, if you can't supply your troops and move troops in to replace your losses, you lose. This is a big reason why Germany lost the Russian offensive.

Having said all that, I'm skeptical that the Italian campaign needed to be done at all. Though I could be proved wrong, it's been my gut feeling that Churchill had an unhealthy obsession with the Mediterranean. (I also think it can be clearly shown that the resources spent on the bombing campaigns could have been more effectively spent on other things, like ground air support aircraft and an allied heavy tank.)
6.6.2006 4:44pm
Jam (mail):
The War for Southern Independence.

The States did not explicitly give away their authority to leave (secede) the voluntary compact. It was the Northern rebels that waged war to destroy the Republic and, unfortunately, succeeded.

I guess, in the view of the loyalists, the Glorious Revolution [of 1776] was a war betweeen the monarchical government and those who wished to defy its authority.

Except Colonies had no legal authority to rebel against the Crown. From that conflict, sovereign States emerged and joined in a compact without relinquishing their authority to leave that compact.

Patriots to our people and rebels to tyrants.
6.6.2006 5:02pm
Random Outcome:
Joe7:

it's been my gut feeling that Churchill had an unhealthy obsession with the Mediterranean.

Too much partying in Ibiza, perhaps.
There may be considerable entertainment value in hypothesizing counterfactual outcomes of war, but there is no way to know what would or wouldn't have worked. That era's unknown unknowns may still be unknown.
6.6.2006 5:06pm
Jam (mail):
Churchill was a big fan/admirer of Mussolini and the idiot Mussolini went to the other side. That ruined Churchill's vacationing in Italy, for a while.
6.6.2006 5:13pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Wiki gives a ref for Churchill's supposedly having called Mussolini "the greatest lawgiver among men," but googling that expression keeps pointing to the same source that Wiki gives, and mangling it as "greatest lawgiver on earth" or "among living men." I am rather suspicious until I see the entire quotation.

At any rate, it's pretty evident that Churchill admired Mussolini chiefly, perhaps only, for his anti-Communism, which unfortunately covered a multitude of sins in Churchill's mind.
6.6.2006 5:55pm
Hattio (mail):
Peter Wimsey
The US didn't come close to being invaded? What about Attu and Kiska. I realize Alaska was a territory at the time, so you can claim the US wasn't actually invaded. But Hawaii was also a territory. Would you argue the US was never attacked by Japan?
6.6.2006 5:58pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
It is ridiculous to presume anyone seriously considered invading the U.S. or even Hawaii. As for England, why it wasn't invaded is far from a mystery, although it seemed imminent in 1940. Germany was simply incapable of carrying out amphibious operations.

As for an invasion of Europe in 1943--it would have been sheer madness. The Americans certainly weren't ready. Although the North African and Sicilian campaigns were probably militarily unnecessary, they did provide valuable lessons to the U.S. Army and taught the British and the U.S. militarys how to work together (at least to some extent). Besides, We were just beginning to get the first of our useful tanks in 1943--and the Sherman was just barely adequate against the German tanks it would encounter in Europe.

Finally, we and the British were simply unwilling to accept the kind of casulties that would have been necessary to take Berlin. We could have been in Berlin by December of 1944, but we always gave the Germans in Western Europe a chance to escape and never were willing to push them to the point where it was life or death for them. We fought cautiously and carefully to minimize our casulties and were rarely reckless and almost never took chances and stuck our necks out that would expose our forces to great risk and huge casulties could also lead to huge advances and encirclements.

The Russians did. They may have lost as many as 300,000 men in the final push for Berlin. That is as many men as we lost in the entire war. They were willing to suffer any hardship and make any sacrifice to completely crush the Germans. We simply weren't. Either were the British or the Canadians. They had paid that price in World War I and were unwilling to pay it again.
6.6.2006 6:11pm
Irensaga (mail):
After reading what a fiasco the American landings in North Africa were (like unloading half the vehicles and men into 10 feet of water), I have a hard time believing the US could have staged a credible landing in Normandy or Pas de Calaise, or anywhere else across the Channel. The only reason the US troops weren't annihilated on the shores was because the Vichy French defending North Africa were rather ambivalent about whether they really wanted to fight the Americans in the first place.

The army Eisenhower led across the English Channel was a completely different animal than the disorganized armed mob that landed in North Africa. Years of bloody lessons in Africa and Italy made a big difference in fighting effectiveness.

And yes, Germany's offensive capability was basically finished by the time the US entered the war, even if Hitler didn't know it.

If I had to pick one nation that defeated Nazi Germany, it wouldn't be the USA or Britain. It would be Russia, hands-down. I respect the sacrifices of our soldiers and don't want to minimize their contributions, but I don't think the average American GI suffered half as much as the German and Russian soldiers on the hellish Eastern Front did.

Russia single-handedly fought Germany to a standstill while the US was only thinking about getting involved and the British were still coping with German air raids. It's entirely possible that Russia could have managed a stalemate with Germany (probably somewhere in modern Poland) without any direct military intervention from the US or Britain.

Rommel's defeat at El Alamein only supports this conclusion.

US intervention most certainly made a big difference for the western European nations (France, Netherlands, Belgium, Scandanavia ...) and made a huge difference for the German people themselves. It also set the stage for nearly 50 years of Cold War between Russia and the US (instead of a more unstable 3-way Cold War between the US, Germany, and Russia).

But I don't see that it made much difference to much of eastern Europe. Nor do I think that the US can claim credit for "stopping Hitler." Crushing Hitler? Yes. Ousting Hitler? Yes. Stopping him? No. Russia pretty much did that on its own.
6.6.2006 6:14pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The US didn't come close to being invaded? What about Attu and Kiska. I realize Alaska was a territory at the time, so you can claim the US wasn't actually invaded. But Hawaii was also a territory. Would you argue the US was never attacked by Japan?

Oh come on, a few small incursions on remote Aleutian Islands. Hawaii was never in danger of being invaded. It was bombed on the first day of the war and that was it. The Japanese never returned. We never even bothered to intern the Americans of Japanese descent who lived in Hawaii, unlike those on the mainland.
6.6.2006 6:16pm
Hattio (mail):
Freder,
You were caught out being wrong, not only was an invasion of the United States contemplated, it actually happened. Yes, the Aleutians were remote at the time (and still are). But they were American territory, Americans were evacuated, and a road was built all the way across Canada and to Alaska to keep it from happening again. It wasn't exactly a throwaway campaign.
6.6.2006 6:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Stopping him? No. Russia pretty much did that on its own.
"On its own"? Maybe, if you ignore Lend-Lease. Those may have been Russian soldiers, but whose equipment do you think they were using, in significant part?

The States did not explicitly give away their authority to leave (secede) the voluntary compact.
Yes, they did. Not only is that clear from the structure and text of the Constitution, but they had joined the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
6.6.2006 6:41pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I'm skeptical that the Italian campaign needed to be done at all.

Or hell, if you're going to fight it, land well *up* the peninsula, not all the way down.

Must concur with Wimsey and Frederson on "Invasion USA." Attu and Kiska were pinpricks, deliberately staged to lure us away from Midway. Had we lost our carriers at Midway, Hawaii might've been occupied. But the mainland? Forget it.
6.6.2006 6:43pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I'm skeptical that the Italian campaign needed to be done at all.

Or hell, if you're going to fight it, land well *up* the peninsula, not all the way *down*, fer chrissake.

Must concur with Wimsey and Frederson on "Invasion USA." Attu and Kiska were pinpricks, deliberately staged to lure us away from Midway. Had we lost our carriers at Midway, Hawaii might've been occupied. But the mainland? Forget it.
6.6.2006 6:47pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
Ah, nothing better than arguing over irrelevant details of history.

I find it laughable that the Soviet Union could have defeated or even held Germany at bay without British or American help. The Soviet army, as demonstrated in 1941, was grossly incompetent, and didn't start to show any real offensive ability until early 1943. By that time Germany was forced to dedicate ever-greater amounts of resources to hold off the western Allies, resources that could have been diverted to the Russian front to sustain counter-offensives.

Similarly, while it is generally not acknowledged by Soviet apologists the Russian army benefited greatly from the thousands of planes, tanks, and especially trucks that it received from the United States. Indeed, the Soviets weren't able to sustain long offensive armored drives until they had obtained a critical mass of trucks, most of them made by GM and Chrysler and Ford. The destruction of Army Group Centre in 1944 was as much an accomplishment of American manufacturing as it was a triumph of the Red Army.

In the end, none of the three Allies could or would have defeated Nazi Germany by itself. The biggest argument in support of this fact is that it took them together three-and-a-half years to do the job. Take away any one of them and it might have never happened.
6.6.2006 6:50pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
and a road was built all the way across Canada and to Alaska to keep it from happening again. It wasn't exactly a throwaway campaign.

Actually that's exactly what it was. A throwaway campaign and a diversion to make hysterical people like you divert resources north to liberate useless pieces of land while the real war took place further south. The road had already been started and was criticized by many as unnecessary before the horrible invasion of American territory. Of course after the invasion, nobody could stop the road from being built. It is still the only way to get to Alaska by road. I think the last time anyone successfully took that route into the U.S. was shortly before the last Ice Age ended. Yep, those Japs would be marching across the Aluetian Islands and down into Seattle any day--the ones that weren't eaten by bears, that is.

Fortunately, Nimitz didn't take the bait and let the Japanese cool their heels on Kiska for nearly a year before they finally packed their bags and left of their own volition.
6.6.2006 6:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Similarly, while it is generally not acknowledged by Soviet apologists the Russian army benefited greatly from the thousands of planes, tanks, and especially trucks that it received from the United States. Indeed, the Soviets weren't able to sustain long offensive armored drives until they had obtained a critical mass of trucks, most of them made by GM and Chrysler and Ford.

Don't forget Studebaker. I think even Stalin grudgingly admitted that the lend-lease vehicles (especially the "deuce and a half" trucks) were invaluable in defeating the Germans in the east.
6.6.2006 7:11pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The Soviet army, as demonstrated in 1941, was grossly incompetent, and didn't start to show any real offensive ability until early 1943.

Pooh. Operation Uranus, the encirclement of the Sixth Army? Was that "defensive"?

The "incompetence" of the Soviet army in 1941 is difficult to measure, hamstrung as the army was by Stalin's absurd orders.

As for Lend-Lease, indisputably helpful, but I wouldn't go so far as to say the Russians wouldn't have won without it. It probably shortened the war. At any rate, that scarcely refutes the main point: that Russia made the largest contribution to defeating Hitler. Try to imagine America and Britain fighting Germany without the Eastern Front's drawing off most of the troops.
6.6.2006 7:17pm
Fahrenheit 127:
Germany didn't attack the United States -- Japan did.

Why was FDR so obsessed with Germany, and it's WMD program that never produced any nuclear weapons?
6.6.2006 7:19pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Germany didn't attack the United States -- Japan did.

Germany did however declare war on the U.S., a prominent chapter in Where Hitler Went Wrong.
6.6.2006 7:29pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
It is ridiculous to presume anyone seriously considered invading the U.S. or even Hawaii.

As to Hawaii: c'mon. A little better luck at Pearl Harbor, or at Midway, and they would have nailed the handful of carriers that we then had. No battleships and no carriers -- how defensible would Hawaii have been? NOT going for it would have been ridiculous.

Scoop it up, and you get the submarines off your supply lines, have a base for your navy, and the US has to cross thousands of miles of ocean to try to retake it, in fight against land-based air, four fleet carriers, several smaller ones, an impressive battleship fleet, and your subs operating from a nearby base. If the US does retake it, then they have to retake Midway, a thousand or so miles off, and only then can they start to fight thru what was Japan's 1942 perimeter.
6.6.2006 7:34pm
Jam (mail):
The Articles of Confederation are en force today? Hurrah.

Who was the 1st president oif these United States of America?
6.6.2006 7:35pm
te (mail):
Hattio

Get over yourself. The bombardment of those territories is clearly not an "invasion of the US".

You can make a lawyerly argument to the contrary, but "lawlerly" is not a compliment in that context.
6.6.2006 7:35pm
Jam (mail):
As to invading these uS. Look at waht it took for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Imagine what it would have taken to travel another 2000+ miles (to Clalifornia) and to do what? The Japs would have encountered "a rifle behind every blade of grass."

Also, imagine had the Japanese bombed the oil fields and other military infrastructure. But Japan invading these uS, totally absurd.
6.6.2006 7:39pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Hurrah, hurrah, we bring the Jubilee
Hurrah, hurrah, the flag that makes you free
So we sang the chorus, from Atlanta to the sea
As we were marching thru Georgia....

(Actually, my great-grandfather fought in the 49th Illinois; a great uncle was a staff officer in the Army of No. Virginia, and another collateral is listed in a draft report as "Absent--gone bushwhacking." They fought on all three sides, one for the North, one for the South, and one for himself. Cue music from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
6.6.2006 7:47pm
Colin (mail):
Imagine what it would have taken to travel another 2000+ miles (to Clalifornia) and to do what?

To double check the maps, and wonder how the hell they wound up in "Clalifornia." Should've taken that left at Abalbaquerque.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
6.6.2006 7:48pm
Seamus (mail):
sorry, but I stopped reading when the column referred to "The War Between the States." It was a war betweeen a federal government and those who wished to defy its authority.

Yeah, and I supposed that when the People's Liberation Army launches its invasion of Taiwan, that could be described as "a war between the Central People's Government and those who wish to defy its authority," but to leave it at that would be to ignore the fact that the government on Taiwan is de facto an independent state, trying to remain one.

They were willing to suffer any hardship and make any sacrifice to completely crush the Germans. We simply weren't. Either were the British or the Canadians. They had paid that price in World War I and were unwilling to pay it again.

Don't forget that the Russians paid a similar price in World War I.
6.6.2006 8:05pm
Enoch:
And what if D-Day had failed, and the Allies had been driven off the Normandy beaches? In the long run, the biggest losers would have been the German people. The Allies would have continued fighting, of course. They could have reinforced Italy, where the Germans had brought an Allied advance to a halt.

Not accurate. The advance in Italy was slow, but the Germans never "halted" it. In fact, just before D-Day, the Allies had broken the Gustav Line and taken Rome.

There could have been an invasion of the Balkans, or of southern France, or even of Norway. But it would have taken many months, or even a year, for any of these operations to be mounted with enough force to make a major impact on the war in Europe.

Operation Anvil would still have been on schedule, and southern France could have been invaded in August 1944, not "a year later", and reinforced from Britain.

Hitler was persuaded by Generals von Rundstedt and Geyr that the Panzers should be saved for a counterstroke further inland, out of range of Allied naval artillery.

Geyr von Schweppenburg (Geyr is just his first name).

Dieppe. The result was total defeat, with a 60 percent casualty rate — the worst of any major battle of the entire war, for the Allies.

Even assuming that "Allies" here means Brits and Americans, not Soviets, this is obviously not true. 100% of the 31,000 US troops who defended the Philippines in 1941-42 became casualties (killed, wounded, captured), as did 100% of the 85,000 Commonwealth troops who defended Malaya.

Thus, a D-Day in June 1943 very likely would have succeeded, and the invading army would have broken out into France more rapidly than the 1944 invaders did.

In addition to the question of training, I don't believe as large a pool of reinforcements were built up in England in 1943 as there were in 1944. Thus, while a landing in 1943 might have succeeded more easily than in 1944, it is doubtful the Allies would have been able to exploit a breakout and drive into Germany. This is especially true when one considers that the German ability to respond to an Allied landing in 1943 would have been much more significant than in 1944.
6.6.2006 11:05pm
frankcross (mail):
I think you are missing the point. It was a strict Aleutian gun control statute that facilitated the Japanese invasion.
6.7.2006 12:12am
Gray (mail):
I fail to see how WW2 confirmed the importance of an armed citizenry for defence agaimst a foriegn power. What citizenry successfuly resisted the Nazis or the Japanese? The Pole's were particularly gallant but lost badly and suffered enormous casualties as a consequence. Partisans played a role in the defeat of the Nazis but they were supplied and cooredinated by remote or external powers and their role is usually overstated in history as well.

Has an armed citizenry ever repelled a foriegn power?
6.7.2006 10:13am
Jam (mail):
Colin: LOL I am sorry, I did not even notice that spelling horror.
6.7.2006 12:17pm
Jam (mail):

"Has an armed citizenry ever repelled a foriegn power?"


I think that Switzerland has not been successfully occupied by an invader.

Dave Hardy: Talking about a sound like a screech (sp??) on the blackboard, that song is.
6.7.2006 12:20pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
Pooh. Operation Uranus, the encirclement of the Sixth Army? Was that "defensive"?

No, and as I suggested in my post, it was completed in early 1943.

But then the Germans counterattacked in March, and had Hitler not stopped the offensive they probably could have pushed the Soviets back to Stalingrad. It was only after the Kursk debacle that one could truly say the Red Army had the upper hand on the Eastern Front.

Try to imagine America and Britain fighting Germany without the Eastern Front's drawing off most of the troops.

Once again, I made that very point. Without the Soviet meat-grinder chewing up millions of German troops, invading Normandy would have been suicidal. The US would have been forced to nuke Germany into oblivion in order to win.
6.7.2006 12:56pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
An armed citizenry repelling a foreign power? How about the Revolutionary War? Next Question.
6.7.2006 2:25pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Jam: I think that Switzerland has not been successfully occupied by an invader.

This reminds me of an apocryphal anecdote, in which Goering is teasing the Swiss ambassador about the puny size of the Swiss army, say 10,000. "What if I order 10,000 German soldiers to invade Switzerland?"

The ambassador replies with dignity, "Every Swiss soldier will do his duty to defend his homeland."

"And what if I send 20,000 troops?" Goering persists.

"Then every Swiss soldier will have to shoot twice, mein Herr."

Capt. Holly: No, and as I suggested in my post, it was completed in early 1943.

There seems to be some confusion. Uranus was complete well before year's end, and there was no "March counterattack" to save the Sixth Army, which surrendered in February. Or are you talking about Manstein's retaking Kharkov in March '43? Count me skeptical whether the Germans had the necessary force to push on to Stalingrad in any meaningful way at that point; merely stabilizing the front was a great achievement for them.

But I suspect we agree more than we disagree; it's not a question of the primacy of the Soviet contribution to defeating Hitler, just of how great that primacy was.
6.7.2006 2:29pm
Jeek:
then the Germans counterattacked in March, and had Hitler not stopped the offensive they probably could have pushed the Soviets back to Stalingrad.

No chance. The Germans achieved the maximum optimum outcome - they stabilized the front. What stopped the advance was not Hitler but General Mud (the spring thaw) as well as the need to rebuild German forces.

An armed citizenry repelling a foreign power? How about the Revolutionary War? Next Question.

Heavily supported by the French!
6.7.2006 2:30pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
I kinda counted the "completion" of Operation Uranus as the surrender of the 6th Army (since that was the orginal goal), and I was speaking in general terms that early 1943 marked the turning point in Soviet miliary fortunes. But you're right, we're mostly in agreement and just quibbling over details.
6.7.2006 3:01pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
No chance. The Germans achieved the maximum optimum outcome - they stabilized the front. What stopped the advance was not Hitler but General Mud (the spring thaw) as well as the need to rebuild German forces.

Which, incidentally, supports a point I made earlier: Had the Germans not been forced to commit some 500,000 troops to garrison France and Norway and fight the Allies in North Africa, they might have been able to use them to save Von Paulus.
6.7.2006 3:06pm
jallgor (mail):
I completely agree with the post by Peter Wimsey. I was particularly taken aback by the line, "Hitler, for reasons still unknown, decides to bomb Britain mercilessly, but not to invade." Reasons unkown? Are they kidding? The Battle of Britain was about acheiving air superiority to protect a landing force. Air superiority was never acheived thus no landing. And as some other poster mentioned, they never even bothered building the landing craft necessary for such an invasion.
6.7.2006 6:55pm
markm (mail):
IIRC, it took until 1944 to build up the fleet of landing craft the planners felt they needed (and probably really did) for the Normandy landing. The problem was the terrain; in Normandy, large tidal swings, frequent bad weather, narrow beaches, and steep bluffs made it quite difficult land boats and then even more difficult to get up and off the beach, while the German army could move across easy terrain on good roads to counterattack. (This was not entirely accurate, judging by the trouble Allied armored forces had once the got up there. Normandy primary roads might have been good, but the farm roads were narrow lanes hemmed in by walls, and if you needed to leave or cross a road they might as well have been bordered by antitank obstacles. Somehow all the aerial photos didn't reveal this difficulty. However, I assume that the Germans had been there long enough that their movement plans would have taken these lanes into account.)

So in Normandy, it was necessary to get the entire army with all it's supporting elements on land quite quickly, because there was every expectation that they would be facing a massive attack from fresh forces before they could progress more than a few miles. The Mediterranean provided nicer beaches with a mountainous interior that slowed counterattacks, so there was more time to unload the ships and fewer specialized craft were needed. Besides, you could count on still having decent weather when resupply was needed. It was also thought vital in Normandy to seize port facilities in working condition, because those ports were thought necessary to continuing to supply the army through what was going to be a very long and hard campaign. In actuality, the Germans managed to sabotage all the nearby ports so they couldn't be used for many months before they gave them up, so the Allied armies long lived off of what the landing craft could continue to drop supplies off on the beaches. While short on supplies, they were usually better off than the Germans, who were very nearly out of fuel and getting short of food. I haven't worked out the numbers, but if they'd gone ahead with the landings earlier with fewer landing craft, we might have wound up with a half-starved force desperately holding positions in Normandy, against German forces that were in much better shape then (while they still held part of the Ukraine) than a year later.
6.7.2006 8:08pm
Jam (mail):
On the German's eastern front.

My undestanding is that Russia built railroad tracks of a different width than Europe's; had to spend an incredible amount of resources rebuilding tracks to be able to supply their lines in Russia; even had to guard their own supplies from their own troops.

Correct?
6.8.2006 9:59am
Jam (mail):
One of these days my brain and typing will intersect. My mind is clear but my fingers waver. A repost.

On the German's eastern front.

My undestanding is that Russia built railroad tracks of a different width than Europe's so the Germans: had to spend an incredible amount of resources rebuilding tracks to be able to supply their lines in Russia; even had to guard their own supplies from their own troops.

Correct?
6.8.2006 12:29pm
dew:
"It is ridiculous to presume anyone seriously considered invading the U.S. or even Hawaii."

Since folks are arguing about historical WWII trivia, it should be pointed out that this statement is simply false hyperbole. Yamamoto fought with the Japanese general staff about whether Australia should be invaded to break up the US-Australian alliance. The Japanese general staff wanted to invade Australia, but Yamamoto thought that would be a sinkhole (maybe he argued an Australian behind every wallaby?), and that the US &Australia could both be neutralized by knocking the US back to the west coast by taking out the US carriers, invading Midway then finally Hawaii. The Doolittle raid brought the Japanese general staff around to agree with Yamamoto.

Had the Midway invasion succeeded, that wasn't some theoretical spot from which Japan might eventually consider attacking Hawaii - Hawaii was Yamamoto's ultimate plan, and Midway was the staging point.
6.9.2006 9:33am
Anderson (mail) (www):
My undestanding is that Russia built railroad tracks of a different width than Europe's so the Germans: had to spend an incredible amount of resources rebuilding tracks to be able to supply their lines in Russia; even had to guard their own supplies from their own troops.

Correct on the 1st two--Hitler, like Napoleon, invaded Russia with a horse-supplied army. As to the 3d, not sure, tho this applies to some extent to any army.

Hawaii was Yamamoto's ultimate plan, and Midway was the staging point.

Correct, though I think Y. also hoped that land-based bombers on Midway would make Pearl untenable.

That said, if Nagumo had DONE HIS JOB on 7/7/41, Pearl would've been a useless ruin, and the Pacific Fleet would've had to pull back to California. But no, he left the oil tanks and drydocks intact. Can't believe there weren't a few pilots who just wanted to see the boom the oil tanks made. Too disciplined?
6.9.2006 1:34pm
dew:
"Correct, though I think Y. also hoped that land-based bombers on Midway would make Pearl untenable. "

My memory is pretty hazy on all this (I studied this stuff 20-25 years ago), but you are certainly correct. Bombing might have made an invasion unnecessary (serving the generals' desires) or softened things up for an invasion (assisting Yamamoto's plans).

"Can't believe there weren't a few pilots who just wanted to see the boom the oil tanks made. Too disciplined?"

I always saw that expressed as something of a mystery. I certainly would have been very tempted to make a big boom in an oil depot.
6.9.2006 5:09pm