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Saturday, 7 June 2014

History in Focus: D-Day

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day Landings that happened on June 6th 1944 and holds the distinction of being one of the final great acts against Nazi Germany.

What was it?- D-Day was the mass amphibious landings of up to 156,000 Allied troops from Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and resistance groups like the Free French in Normandy on the northern coast of France as apart of Operation Overlord to liberate France from Nazi occupation. The Allies were led by future President Dwight D. Eisenhower while the Germans were put under the control of Erwin Rommel who was charged by Hitler to build the 'Atlantic Wall' in France, fortifications to prevent an Allied invasion.

What happened?- Prior to the invasion Britain, America and the USSR started Operation Bodyguard which would intentionally mislead the Nazi high command about where and when the invasion would take place which proved to be successful and possibly saved many more lives. The invasion was meticulously planned, even taking into account tides optimum for landing amphibious vehicles and at 06:30 the invasion took place. The Normandy coast was split into five separate landing areas: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. Casualties were massive at 12,000, 4414 of those being killed. However the Allies saw victory and managed to push their way into France.

Why was it so important?- This can be seen as the final nail in the coffin for the Nazis. The Allies were lucky that the Atlantic Wall had yet to be completed so the Normandy Landings ended any chance of the Nazis protecting their occupied territory. It also started the liberation of France. The landing parties soon met up with resistance groups and quickly started to expel the Axis from France bringing the much needed Western Front to the war. It made Hitler now have to fight a war on two fronts which spread the German military too thinly so allowed successive gains for the battle hardened Soviet forces and sowed seeds of rebellion among the German military which allowed for the 20th July Plot against the high command. It also gave a lasting legacy. We can safely say that all the brave men who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy were fighting to end oppression and tyranny, fighting to end a homicidal regime and bring back liberty. With the expulsion of the Nazis from Paris in August of the same year we can safely say that it was not in vain.

A side fact- The invasion could have happened in 1943 but Prime Minister Winston Churchill opposed it saying that the Mediterranean Strategy would work better as it would expose the 'soft underbelly of the Axis' however by Tehran he had changed his mind. When the landings took place he even wanted to accompany the troops he was that excited that France was being freed and the only reason that he didn't was that the King personally told him not to!

End note- The veterans and those who died in D-Day fought for something that we sometimes take for granted. On June 6th they fought for an idea that we are all grateful for in our hearts. For all of us I thank the veterans and those who are not with us for what they fought for. I'm sorry if I'm not neutral but my great grandfather was one of the many to fight in Normandy.

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