Throughout this week we’ve been uploading D-Day facts to Twitter and looking at the heroes who fought and died in the Amphibious Invasion of Continental Europe; Operation Overlord. While a great success in the end, Allied Command did plan for the prospect of failure.
Looking back at the battle now it can be difficult to see how close the Allies came to defeat. Fortunate circumstance in many cases cost the German defenders dear when the outcome was on the tip of a knife edge.
With that foreboding possibility looming, General Eisenhower Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces drafted a letter which he would have read to the Allied powers, following the failed invasion.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg Le Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the Air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
Fortune was with the Allies however as the German Command was slow to react to the Invasion, failed to move crucial units to counter-attack and ultimately collapsed under the pressure of the Fuhrer’s orders and a two front war. Equally however, the Allies created their own luck and rode it to victory. Two American Airborne Divisions were scattered all over the Normandy countryside in the early morning of D-Day missing their objectives by several kilometres. This proved to be both an advantage and disadvantage, the US Airborne were a massive thorn in the side of the Germans trying to reinforce the Normandy sector but also many of the units were able to recover and take their objectives.
Allied Intelligence was able to mis-direct the Germans into thinking the primary invasion site would be Calais and that Normandy would be a diversion. Despite the protests of Officers as the Battle of Normandy intensified many German divisions near Calais were not moved towards the battlefield until it was too late.
American Forces on Omaha Beach were very nearly annihilated thanks to in-effective pre-landing bombardments by the US Navy and Royal Navy and US Army Air Force among a catalogue of other issues. Imagine if the German Command had reacted faster and deployed a Panzer Division to the Omaha Beach sector? That would have left the flanks of the Utah and Gold Beaches open to attack… Eisenhower could very well have been reading his letter.
Thankfully it wasn’t to be and despite the set-backs and problems the D-Day invasion was an unparalleled success and remains the largest successful Amphibious Invasion in history.
This note was passed by Eisenhower to his adjutant officer just over a month after D-Day and it has been held by the Dwight D. Eisenhower library for the last 30 years.
This story has been picked up by the Daily Mail newspaper and they have published our image of Eisenhower's letter. See their take here with quotes from Forces War Records staff.
Forces War Records has records for over 1300 British personnel who died on the beaches of Normandy fighting against the tyranny and oppression of Nazi Germany. With over 1 Million World War Two records in total perhaps you cna find one of your own ancestors who fought one of the 20th Centuries' defining moments?
Don't forget that if you have a story to tell of an Ancestor's or your own service during the World Wars we'd love to hear about it! Submissions can be sent in to email@example.com and any that we would like to use in our media, blogs or advertising for example will receive a Full Years membership to Forces War Records as thanks.