Years of planning for a critical day of combat
Throughout the course of history there have been few occasions when the fates of nations and the course of human destiny have hinged on the outcome of a single day.
But June 6th 1944 was such an occasion.
The events which took pl ace on the beaches of Normandy on that day helped to set the stage fo r the conclusion of the most horrific struggle in the history of mankind.
Fifty years later, Overlord still represents the largest single military operation in history, and continues to conjure vivid images.
On this day, thousands of ships and planes, and vast armi es of men, converged on a broad strip of beach to decide the future of Europe and shape the world in whi ch we now live.
Ever since the last British soldier waded into the sea at Dunkirk in 1940, it had been clear to both sides that if the war lasted long enough,
particul arly once the United States had become involved, Britain and her allies would someday attempt to return.
It was equally clear that with the bulk of Germany’s forces bogged down on the Eastern Front,
the future of Hitler’s Third Reich would no doubt depend on the success or failure of an Anglo-American invasion. Consequently, in March 1942,
Hitler appointed Field Marshal Karl von Rundstedt to the post of Commander In Chief West and ordered thatan “Atlantic Wall” be created along the exposed coast of France and the Low Countries, with a mobile reserve held inland,
ready to swiftly and decisively counter any attempted assault.
By January 1943 the Allies had indeed committed themselves to a cross-channel invasion, and in March,
Britain’s Lt. General Sir Frederick Morgan was named Chief of Staff to the as yet unnamed Supreme All ied Commander(COSSAC).
Morgan was tasked with planning the All ied assault to be carried out as early as possible in 1944. The prospect was daunting.
Somehow, along an occupied coast, where the enemy was in fact expecting to be attacked, enough men
and equipment had to be put ashore to engage the most powerful army on earth, an army that had already conquered Europe and had had nearl y fo ur years to dig in.
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