On the early hours of June 6, 1944, the first Allied units began to move in towards Normandy, France, taking part in one of the defining moments of the Second World War. In the three years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, United States has become embroiled in a massive confrontation, deploying soldiers first to Africa and then to Italy to relieve the pressure off of Europe and the Soviet Union and to open additional fronts against the German military. Operation Overlord is notable for a number of reasons. While it was by far the largest seaborne invasion that the world had ever seen, it was not the operation that spelled the end of the German occupation of France and mainland Europe. The invasion was a component, one that very nearly failed, in larger wartime strategy and planning that as a whole, helped to end World War II.
In addition to the complications involved in a major, multinational strategy, Operation Overlord was an incredibly ambitious, dangerous and complicated military offensive that integrated seven separate military forces and numerous branches of said militaries, which in and of itself, lent itself to numerous difficulties and challenges. Different militaries (The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada, Free France, Poland, Norway and Australian armies all took part) operate to different standards, procedures and tactics, and moving all forces onto a single series of battlefields, with specific timetables and goals required an incredible amount of planning and coordination. This was helped by the landings on separate beaches by different nationalities, with Sword taken by the United Kingdom and Free French soldiers, Juno by Canadian and UK forces, Gold Beach by UK, while Omaha and Utah beaches were taken by the United States.
Other difficulties came with inter-unit coordination. Prior to the United States landings on Utah and Omaha, the 8th and 9th Air Forces flew over the beach sites on bombing runs, working to take out German emplacements and weapons, while providing cover on the ground for soldiers. The second wave of soldiers would be the airborne soldiers, flying in overnight to begin their attacks on German units. They were then followed by a navel bombardment, which sought to further disrupt German batteries on the beachfronts themselves. Finally, ground soldiers were deployed to the beaches to begin their attack against the German forces on the beaches and into Normandy.
As to be expected with any major operation, there was much that went wrong. While the allies achieved air superiority over the skies of the invasion zones, bombers were hampered by inclement weather, and out of sight of their targets, opted to drop their bombs slightly later, to avoid hitting any of the ships and soldiers waiting off the shore. As a result, most bombs landed inland, away from their targets. Airborne soldiers, hampered by the same weather, and pilots avoiding anti-aircraft fire, were hopelessly scattered across the invasion zone, where they operated in smaller units, often miles from their original targets. Naval bombardments missed, or did little damage to hardened targets and batteries, while the weather once again hampered invasion plans as landing ships moved off course, disrupting major units and the tactics that had been planned out for them. The invasion could have very well become one of the worse disasters in U.S. Military History.
However, it wasn’t. When the soldiers landed on the beach fronts, they were faced with preset German emplacements and enemy fire. Soldiers were thrown together with soldiers from other units, sometimes from landing zones that were very far away, and quickly learned that the missions that they had trained for weren’t necessarily accomplishable. However, with guidance from their officers and from each other, they worked together, pulled upon their training and realized what their immediate goals were, and worked towards placing those goals towards the overall goal of the day: to get off the beach and to form a beach head for the waves of soldiers, materials and weapons coming in behind them. Soldiers from every unit worked to get off the beaches, up the cliffs and pushed the German lines back. By the end of the day, US forces had secured the beaches and had begun to move inland, where they then engaged in a bloody struggle against German resistance in France.
While Normandy was a vital component of the Allied push against the Axis forces, it was not the only one. However, it demonstrated the training and sheer force that was available to the United States and her allies at the time, and showed that technology and a mass of soldiers were not the only things that were in place to win the war: it was the soldier’s training and ability to improvise, recognize their goal and seek the means in which to achieve it.