Operation Overlord

It was the largest amphibious landing in history. Seventy years ago the English Channel was choked with ships as Operation Neptune got under way.

This was the seaborne component of Operation Overlord, the Allied Invasion of Europe.

The breath taking scale of Operation Overlord was proof positive for anyone with any grounding in reason that operation Sea Lion was a non-starter.

The Allies under Eisenhower had more, much more, of everything than his brilliant enemy Erwin Rommel waiting behind his Atlantic Wall.

They controlled the English Channel and had total air superiority. In 1940 the Kriegsmarine had twenty destroyers and no landing craft.

The planning for D-Day was as brilliant as it was meticulous. Montgomery and his staff had accounted for everything, except of course Mother Nature and they knew it.

Finding the weather window for the invasion fleet was crucial. The Met boys are never at the front when the medals are being handed out, but the data collected on these weeks amounted to the most important weather reports in history.

Of course I had no idea when I enjoyed summers holidays around Blacksod bay that the fate of Europe once depended on the information gathered there. I

f the allied commanders had not been supplied with those weather reports from the West of Ireland then the plan was to have D-Day later in the month.

Meteorological data was collected HOURLY in the run up to the day and ferried with all haste to Dublin where it was handed over to the British at their embassy.

This was very strange behaviour for a ‘neutral power’.

This does not fit with the narrative that the Irish Free State was uninvolved as Europe was liberated.

The 26 County polity was a key ally of the Allies and they knew it.

It was classic De Valera Machiavellianism.

One of the dates picked was for later in the month and they gone on that date then they would have run into a once in a generation storm which battered the channel.

It could have been Hitler’s Kamikaze. However it would not have saved his Reich from the Red Horde hurtling towards the Bunker in Berlin where he would end his life.

Originally it was June 5th and then it was put back 24 hours. They were all ready to go and then the troops were held back because Ted Sweeney in the Blacksod Lighthouse on June 3rd saw the weather moving in and Eisenhower heeded the advice. D-day would have to wait because of news from the Wesht.

Paratroopers dozed on the apron in their harnesses, waiting for the shout to board their aircraft. Finally they got the call.

D-day proved above all else the wisdom of Sun Tzu’s dictum. Truly all war IS based on deception. The feint that the Allies threw towards Pais de Calais must be the greatest disinformation operation in military history. Operation Fortitude created phantom armies which were positioned to threaten both Norway and Pas de Calais.

The latter was the shortest route across the channel and this is where Hitler believed that the Allies would land. The fictional 1 st US Army group had radio traffic, inflatable tanks to be photographed from the air even marriage notices in local newspapers between servicemen and local women who did not exist. The double agent ‘Garbo’ (Joan Pujol Garcia) fed important disinformation to the Abwehr and they were taken in by it.

The demented leader of Nazi Germany, even months after the landing at Normandy, thought that D-Day was merely a diversion and that the real invasion would come across the shortest point. Asleep when the troops started to land Hitler would not give the order to deploy his Panzer unites held in reserve.

Just as in 1940 with Dunkirk the Nazi leader held back his tanks as his enemies were on the beaches.

It was one of a long line of fatal strategic errors that the Führer made during the war.

Little wonder that the Allies decided not to execute Operation Foxley, an SOE mission to assassinate at the Berghof.

Quite simply Hitler made error after error that benefited the enemy rather than his beleaguered troops.

Had D-Day failed then it would have been Stalin’s T-34s which would have poured through the Fulda gap going west rather than the US XII Corps heading east.

Then the topography of Post-war Europe would have been completely different and then some.

The planning that went into this day 70 years ago was a triumph of the human imagination and ability to cooperate and coordinate on a gargantuan scale.

What happened the day after was a monument to the stupidity of our species following on from moments of genuine genius.

The Normandy landscape was ambush heaven for a well-equipped and determined enemy.

In the “Bocage” these narrow roads with their high hedgerows, often five metres high, took Allied lives for weeks.

Apparently no one-in the frenzied planning on how to get the men and materiel ashore at Normandy on D-Day thought about what happened the day after.

The determination of the German troops to hold the line made nonsense of the Allied timetable to get out of the bridgehead.

The Allied troops had not trained to operate in the Bocage and the Wehrmacht took full advantage.

The wallowing nostalgia for D-day among the British elite and other ranks in that highly stratified society is entirely understandable if placed within context of Britain’s decline on the global stage.

The media overkill on Overlord in the UK can only be understood about a quiet grieving for a lost importance in the world.

It was the last time that the island of Britain and my father’s county really mattered in the geo-political scheme of things.

As Vladimir Putin put it recently Britain is now a small island that no one listens to.

This hurt in the corridors of Westminster because it is undoubtedly correct and utterly undeniable.

This D-day nostalgia allows the British to bask in a historical narrative where they are the good guys.

This makes them feel good about themselves after centuries of colonialism and genocide from Ireland to Africa.

World War two was rare enough event in itself for Britain as they were on the right side of history as, for a change; they weren’t butchering their way to more imperial plunder.

So who won the war? Victory in Europe was delivered by a biggest army in the world avenging Mother Russia.

The Red Army smashed Hitler’s military machine.

The Russians lost more men just taking Berlin than the US forces lost from D-Day until the German surrender in 1945. During World War two the British Army inflicted 5 % of the losses suffered by the Wehrmacht and most of that was in the Western Desert in 1942.

Stalin commanded the biggest army in the world in 1944 and Eisenhower had the biggest economy on the planet behind him.

As the Allied soldiers set foot on Normandy Hitler’s troops fought with determination and skill for a regime that was at that very moment disposing of living human beings like they were livestock infected with Foot and Mouth disease.

That the war had started in 1939 because Poland had been invaded over the Danzig crisis was somehow forgotten as the Allies closed in on Berlin.

No one seemed to notice that the Polish people were still living under the rule of a murderous dictator after VE Day.

However, had the Allied landings at Normandy not succeeded then more of Europe would have experienced Stalin’s rule.

By this time 70 years ago the Airborne and Glider troops had  already been in  theatre for  over twelve hours and many of them had secured their objectives.

Supreme Allied Command at Hollywood has successfully written the British out of the D-day narrative of popular imagination, but it is nonsense.

The majority of troops landed on the beaches of Normandy were from Britain and Canada.

However, in the newspaper trade if it bleeds it leads and Omaha Beach was definitely the splash.

As a small boy the wartime heroes that Hollywood served up to me where ridiculously old to play the roles of frontline troops.

Obviously I had no idea how ridiculous the sight of a middle aged John Wayne pretending to take Iwo Jima actually was.

D-Day was won by lads in their late teens and early twenties. Young men tend to think they’re indestructible.

Of course they’re not and the acres of little white crosses at Normandy hammer home that point with the deadly rapidity of an MG42 sweeping Omaha beach.  

In the 70 years since Operation Overlord we as a species haven’t yet found a better way to solve our differences.

We really should.

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