The invasion of Normandy was the largest military offensive during World War II. It involved an attack by the Western Allies (including Britain, France and Poland) on the German positions at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
In the weeks following the attack, forces from Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece and even Czechoslovakia participated in ground campaigns against the German Army. Normandy Invasion became the decisive turning point in the war, turning the tables against Germany and giving Allies the upper hand in the war.
Days before the Normandy Invasion took place, Dwight Eisenhower wanted to Bomb the French railway lines. This was needed to prevent the Germans from defending Normandy during the planned invasion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others opposed Eisenhower’s idea. Eisenhower was in favor of diverting the Allied strategic bombers hammering German industrial plants towards critical French infrastructure.
Others who didn’t agree with the plan saw it as a waste of important resources. Churchill was mostly concerned about the collateral damage to France which happened to be an ally. Eisenhower, desperate to make his plan work, threatened to quit. The move worked and the bombing went ahead, according to his plan. The Allies came out victorious that day.
The Normandy countryside is covered by vast hedgerows – some as high as five meters. These created a tactical problem for the Allies, as their tanks would not be able to cross and instead roll over, exposing its underbelly to German anti-tank weapons. The Allied Forces creatively solved the problem by fitting prongs to the front of the tanks, enabling them to push through the hedges and create gaps for the Army following behind. These were called ‘Sherman Rhinoceros’.
Originally an objective of the British short troops, Caen was heavily fortified by German forces, who immediately called for reinforcements. It took a month for the Allied powers to finally gain control of Caen. The struggle ended mid-July with the launch of Operation Goodwood.
The most famous tank of the Second World War was the Panzerkampfwagen VI (also known as ‘Tiger’). Hitler was obsessed with the killer machine, which was showcased during the Normandy Invasion. While the Allies did not have tanks as sophisticated as the Tiger, they certainly had a larger number of them. This, and the fact that Germans lacked the resources to carry out repairs on their existing Tigers, was another point in the Allies’ favor.
Hitler had always known that a combined, large-scale Allied invasion of France could turn the tide against Germany. The Allied powers, to catch him off guard, came up with a brilliant rouse. They launched an elaborate disinformation campaign nicknamed ‘Operation Bodyguard’. More than a dozen German spies had been caught and flipped by the Allies. These were instrumental in the plan.
Since the Germans believed General George Patton to be an excellent officer, he was put in charge of a phantom army. This army was given a very real look and feel with inflatable tanks, fake aircrafts and more. The Allies made it seem as if Patton’s forces would strike at the channel’s narrowest point at Pas de Calais in France.
The Germans installed three massive gun batteries at this expected assault location, leaving the rest of the French coastline less protected. The ruse of the Allies worked and the German were tricked into thinking that Patton’s forces were the main attacking force.
Prompted by the German setbacks during the Normandy Invasion, a group of German officers planned to assassinate Hitler and end the war. This plan was named ‘Operation Valkyri’. One German officer, Claus von Stauffenberg, left a bomb in the meeting room of Hitler’s eastern headquarters on July 20, 1944. There were no casualties as a result of the explosion but the event left the Nazis shaken. More than 7000 suspected collaborators were arrested in the aftermath.
Americans forces, in a bid to push through German lines and get out of Normandy, launched a massive aerial bombardment. Lieutenant General Omar Bradley was in charge of the planning. 500 heavy bombers dropped 4,000 tonnes of bombs, including 1,000 tons of napalm on a section of the German line west of Saint Lo. Nearly 1000 soldiers were killed, creating the gap the Allied forces needed to get out.
With the power of the Luftwaffe destroyed during the Normandy invasion, the Allied forces made full use of air power to support operations on the ground. They carpet bombed specific sectors to significantly impact the morale of the German Army. They buried armor, destroyed transport and destroyed precious rations. While it worked, the tactic also came with its own negative effect – nearly 100 American soldiers were killed as a result.
In early August, the German Army became trapped between Allied forces and vulnerable to attack during Operation Luttich. Monty ordered the Canadian, British and American forces to completely encompass the Nazi Army. By the time Hitler finally ordered for a withdrawal, it was too late. About 60,000 German soldiers remained inside the pocket. Out of them, 50,000 soldiers were taken prisoner. The route to Paris was finally laid open for the Allies. Four days later, on 25 August, the French capital was liberated.
This was the major reason why the Germans were defeated during the Normandy invasion. His consistent interference in decisions of military strategy resulted in disaster for his own army. He refused to allow his divisions in Normandy to carry out a tactical retreat.
Ignoring the warnings of his commanders, he committed that nearly the entire Army be involved in the fight at Normandy and forced them to carry a full-blown frontal attack. The Germans, having lost a bulk of their armour, were forced to put a stop the fighting after just seven days.
Historians are still calculating how many died during the Normandy Invasion. However, what is undisputed is the fact that this invasion paved the way for Allied victory, German defeat and an end to World War II.