Sunday, June 6, 2010

Remembering D-Day

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the organizational genius behind the most impressive amphibious assault in the history of the world, will forever be known as a liberator many orders of magnitude above anything your humble blogger will ever achieve. He also sported the coolest wartime title, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. We forget that fascism was the most difficult ideological challenge the west has ever faced, greater than communism and certainly far greater than the minuscule challenge posed by the Islamofascists. Nazism/fascism was coupled to a fierce nationalism that gave it early energy. Its seeming early successes made it appear to be the wave of the future.

But ultimately, the core belief of fascism, that only a single ruthless leader supported by a supine ruling elite could order society for its own good, caused its own undoing. When faced with an invading army that gave its captains and lieutenants freedom of action within a shared common plan and vision, fascism fell. From the History Place, here is a little quote about a reason for the allies success (the whole article is worth a read):

For German field commanders on the scene, the first minutes of the invasion brought great alarm and great confusion. Frantic phone calls went out to their generals and they in turn phoned the High Command, whose ranking members were presently staying with Hitler at his mountaintop villa at Berchtesgaden, not at their regular headquarters.

The immediate question was whether or not the Normandy landings, and earlier attacks by parachutists, were all part of an elaborate Allied ruse to draw their attention away from Calais. No one could say for sure. The result was indecision by Hitler and the High Command. And this bought precious time for the Allied landing troops now inching themselves forward in the sand.

In marked contrast to the rigid and inflexible command structure Hitler had imposed on his armies, Allied field commanders were authorized by General Eisenhower to make on-the-spot decisions about how to proceed. For the Americans at both Utah and Omaha beaches, this frontline improvisation saved the day. At Utah, troops under the command of General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. quickly realized they had landed on the wrong spot, a sparsely defended stretch of beach with a single road leading inland. Roosevelt decided to press forward anyway, gambling that he could get his troops off the beach and dash inland via the small road before the Germans could reposition themselves for a counter-attack. And it worked.

We would do well, almost 60 years later to remember those lessons and the sacrifice of that generation that turned back the greatest threat to this country since the civil war. And Mr. President, your tough year and a half in office? It doesn't come close.

American assault troops in a landing craft huddle behind the protective front of the craft as it nears the beachhead. Smoke in the background is Naval gunfire supporting the landing. Below: At Omaha Beach, Americans aid men who reached the shore in a life raft after their landing craft was sunk.

A German machine-gunner in heavy action following the landings.

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