The War Illustrated No 184 Vol 8 July 7th 1944

THEBATTLE FRONTS by M aj.-G Siren. Charles G wynn, K ,C,B .S.O,,D .It is high time to stop using the term Second F ron t.It has long ceased to be accurate, though it conveniently defined our strategic aim s.Now that those aim shave taken concrete shape we should, I think ,talk o f the Western Front until such time as the general term is superseded by the names o fits sub-divisions. The landings in Sicily and at Salerno gave so m e'indication o f the immense preparations that have to be made for a large-scale amphi­bious ope ration— sufficient at least to silence those who had clam oured for the immediate opening o f a second front as if it were only nccessary to give the order. Yet few can have realized the complexity o f the task until D-Day was passed and General Montgomery ’s armies were safely established on the coast o f Normandy. Fewer still, I think ,realized the risks o f failure o r the consequences o f failure which might disastrously have affected the whole strategic situation and have prolonged the war indefinitely, even if it had not affected its ultimate issue. The mere fact that Rommel— ho,w if no great strategist, is at least an excellent tactician —was confident that the beach defences were impregnable should make us realize the greatness o four achieve­ment and the risks o f failure involved. D if ore the war it was generally and justi-fiably held that it had become more than ever impracticable to land a large modern army with all its essential equipment 011 the coasts o f a fully armed and prepared enemy. All the tactical advantages that modern weapons had conferred on the defence over the attack could be exploited even more effectively than in a purely land battle. While, strategically, the mobility conferred by mechanization and improve­ments inroad and railway communication to a large extent reduced the advantage held by a seaborne force o f being able to mask its intention till the last moment. Even if a surprise landing could be effected (which was improbable in view o f the poten­tialities o fair reconnaissance and the strictly limited stretches o f coast which at all favoured attack )the defenders’ reserves could be moved to the danger point more rapidly than the attacking force could disembark in strength. Uncertainty o f weather condition sand the necessity to capture a port which wDuld ensure the u inn terru p ted landing o f heavy material added considerably to the manifold difficulties o f the invader. ^NET MY’S L abour and Ingenuity Finally Brought to Nought What has brought this seemingly impossible enterprise into the category o f practical operation sand successful achievement in spite o f the immense lab o u rand ingenuity the enemy had expended in making security doubly sure ?Primarily, it was the refusal o f one man,or perhaps a small group o f men, to admit impossibilities, and their courage and foresight in embarking on preparations overextending a period o f years an don an unprecedented scale with one object in view —a triumph o f Faith .Obviously, the first essential was to establish such naval and air supremacy as would ensure a high degree o f protection to the arm ad a in its passage across the sea and during the actual landing. Yet preparations were inset motion long before it could be guaranteed that the requisite degree o f supremacy would ever be attained .Actually it was recognized that -the danger o fund er­ water and air attack ,especially a t night, although it might be minimized, could never be completely eliminated and the risks were courageously accepted. Some idea has been given by the Press o f the immense organiza­tion that had to be built up o f the numbers o f ships that had to be constructed and assem­bled, o f the great variety o f landing craft that had to be designed and built, and o f the a m o unto f specialized training that had to be given to all concerned in the operation .Yet I doubt if any single brain can grasp the full complexities o f the preparations. They were the achievements o f a great team work­ing together to a single end, but with highly specialized functions and the results were amazing. (See article p.in 110.) Y yH A T impresses me most is that this im­mense undertaking was launched in the full knowledge that the possibility o f bringing it into fruition might never arise, and that, even if the opportunity materialized, vagaries GENERAL EISENH O W CALLER’S TO THE INVASION TROOPS COLDIERS. sailors and airmen of the Allied Expedi- J tiona-y Force !You are about to embark upon thi? great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people every­where march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on ocher fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for yourselves in a free world. V OUR task will not bean easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He wiil fight savagely. But this is the year 19-4-4 !Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open bartle. man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduccd their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given anus overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. THE tide has turned. The freemen of the world ara marching together to victory. I have full confi­dence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. W e will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck !And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. Order of the Day issued to each individual of the Allied Expeditionary Force, June 6,1944. o f the weather o r other unforeseeable circum­stances might lead to disastrous failure in the course o f a few hours. That so great a measure o f success has been achieved is due mainly to the courage and clficicncy o f the human elem ent—sailors, soldiers and airmen —and the perfection o f the equipment which they operated .Perhaps especial credit should be given to the efficiency o f the Navy, including the Merchant Service, which was fundamental to the success o f the operation .When one considers the number o f amateurs recruited into these Services, and called onto carry out unfamiliar tasks often requiring a great display o f initiative, it may well be questioned whether any abut nation with natural maritime instincts could have adapted itself to an undertaking so far outside the orange f normal experience o f war. The success o f the initial landing, apart from these considerations, turn ed, 1 think ,on three bold decisions, all o f which con­ trib u anted element o f surprise. First and most courageous was the decision to start the operation in what the enemy deemed were prohibitive weather conditions. General Eisenhower presumably must have been ultimately responsible for the decision, though he could hardly have made it without the concurrence o f his Naval advisers whose professional responsibility must have been even greater. PAGE 99 l cannot believe that the decision would have been made if it had not previously been decided, breaking away from all precedent, to start landing at low tide. F orin a rough sea the enemy elaborate’s underwater defences would surely have proved an impassable obstacle. Now that it has been tried out, the landing at low tide may seem to have been an easy solution o f the problem o f dealing with the underwater obstacles on which the enemy so greatly relied—yet it was not a solution that would seem to have occurred to Rommel o tor the designers o f the defence system ,strangely enough. /COURAGEOUS Decisions Helped ^to Win Battle of the Beaches O f course, it involved the exposure o f the assaulting troops to fire for a longer time, in the past it would also have meant man­ hand ling heavy weapons overlong distances. The possibility o f landing tank sand other mechanical vehicles from the leading landing craft and the effective covering fire which could be directed by Naval guns and aircraft 011 the enemy ’s weapons sited to bear oil the beaches, greatly reduced these former disadvantage s:and obviously the import­ance o f being able to clear passage through the obstacles while they were exposed at low tide outweighed them .Rom mel, confident in the impregnability o f underwater obstacles covered by fire, had apparently commit!c.I an unduly high proportion o f his available troops to his forward defences and trusled to his arm o u red reserves being sufficient to counter-attack at any points where his front might possibly be penetrated .Also, there was the decision to land a large force o f airborne troop sin advance o f the sea landing. It was a courageous decision, for if the seaborne force had failed to get ash oreo r had been seriously delayed, the airborne force must have been sacrificed to a man. In the event, the airborne force not only acco u n ted for some o f the enemy ’s weapons which bore 011 the beaches but, what was probably more important, engaged enemy reserves which might have been used in early counter-attack son the beach-head. P STAB ISL H MEN ofT Bridge-head Primarily for Offense These decisions all con trib u toted the winning o f a protective beach-head. Thence­forward, disembarkation could proceed with little interference by the enemy. There remained to be accomplished, however, the establishment o f a bridge-head covering a sufficient area to adm ito f the deployment o f forces adequate to undertake major offensive operations. The establishment o f a beach­head is essentially a defensive step— abut bridge-head, though partially intended to provide a defensive position in depth in which an enemy counter inoffensive force can be met, has primarily an offensive object. A t the time o f writing, the battle o f the bridge-head is instill progress. Much has been accomplished owing to the consistently offensive action o four troops, which from the first has compelled Rommel to use his reserves piecemeal in fierce costly counter­ attack s,and to the delays imposed on the movements o f his strategic reserves caused by air attack son his road and railway com­munications. The battle o f the bridge-head can t,on however, be considered to have been conclusively won until all enemy attempts to forestall our major offensive operations have been defeated, and until we are in pos­session o f the porto f C herb o u rg as a guarantee that an u inn terru p ted volume o f supplies and heavy equipment can be maintained. For instance, without an adequate port at which rolling stock and other railway material can be landed, our armies would have to operate without railway communications. Readers arc referred to map in t>age 106
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