Did D-Day actually have a realistic chance of failure?

Mar 2019
923
Kansas
#11
Did D-Day actually have a realistic chance of failure? If so, what would have been necessary in order to bring this about?
It would not have taken much really. If the Germans had been able to jam the allies up on the beaches for a sustained period, the sort of chaos experienced at Omaha would have been repeated across the landing sites.

Until the allies could expand their initial landing zones they would not be able to bring their considerable resource advantage to the for. The longer the Allies were trapped in those pockets the stronger the German presence would become.
 
Jul 2016
9,086
USA
#13
It did not help that they were running anti invasion exercises the very night the landings occurred either :(
Planners were not aware the 352nd Infantry Division was even sending one of its regiments to support the defense of Omaha Beach, or were nearby at all.

Besides that, most of the pre-assault bombardment from Omaha Beach was supposed to be done with medium and heavy bombers, who dropped long, far away from the coast, because of weather issues and really asinine control decisions. The assault forces were confused and received poor instructions about the naval fire support plan, which they thought was accidentally cut short, but the reality was the Navy was only supposed to provide limited direct fire and then shift to hitting coastal and inland artillery positions and suspected assembly areas, with only some destroyers tasked with providing direct fire support for the landing troops. However, even those were stymied as the situation fell apart on the first waves, which saw upwards of 75% of assault troops killed or wounded, so calls for fire were slow in coming and it took some enterprising skippers with courage and initiative to sail closer to shore to hit visible bunkers with direct fire.

In hindsight, I think two destroyers should have run aground on the ends of the beaches, to provide enfilading fires against the well designed beachside bunkers the Germans had constructed on the bluffs of Omaha Beach, which were largely protected from frontal fires directed from the sea. It would have been worth it, and the ships would not have suffered much damage, nor had an extensive repair to make them seaworthy afterwards.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,383
Sydney
#14
The German main force was with Model in Galicia waiting for the Soviet summer offensive
as per the Tehran agreement
the Soviet would launch their offensive one month after the landing
since the landing was delayed by a week it was only three week later that the soviets launched Bagration
but not where German intelligence had predicted
Normandy was supposed to be countered by the western theater forces plus some additional SS divisions
 
Jul 2016
9,086
USA
#15
The German main force was with Model in Galicia waiting for the Soviet summer offensive
as per the Tehran agreement
the Soviet would launch their offensive one month after the landing
since the landing was delayed by a week it was only three week later that the soviets launched Bagration
but not where German intelligence had predicted
Normandy was supposed to be countered by the western theater forces plus some additional SS divisions
The Germans never anticipated an Allied invasion of France being successful. The overall plan was to build the reserve (which they did) in France of panzer divisions, Panzer Group West, and use that, along with local forces, to defeat the landing quickly, then to shift those divisions to the East after the Western Allies were broken to be used as a reserve against the Red Army.

Army Group North Ukraine was the strongest formation in the East, by far, but was still weaker in panzers than OB West was for the summer of '44. That more panzer divisions, specifically II SS Panzer Corps, ended up being sent from the Eastern Front, but that was an impromptu decision made the British launched a major assault on Caen (OP Perch). Had Caen fallen, it would have opened the left flank of German forces in Normandy, and given 21st Army Group a straight shot to Paris, or to outflank those Germans still facing the US Army in the St Lo and Cherbourg area.

Overall, the biggest problem the Germans faced was an utter disregard for the British and American warfighting capabilities. For some reason they ignored all the lessons of North Africa (minus their victories), Sicily, and Italy, and decided the Western Allies, especially the US Army, would be pushovers, easily beaten. This wasn't just Hitler, this was a substantial part of of the German officers corps, staff trained professionals. It was only those, like Rommel, who'd fought them recently, who thought otherwise and advised caution.
 

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,586
Eastern PA
#16
Anyway, this is simply speculation. Germany wasn't in condition to make the D-Day fail.
That sums up the situation precisely.

Even when you stack up all the "ifs" up that favor the Germans, there still was no possibility of the Germans stopping all 5 landings.
 
Mar 2015
1,350
Yorkshire
#17
The Germans never anticipated an Allied invasion of France being successful. The overall plan was to build the reserve (which they did) in France of panzer divisions, Panzer Group West, and use that, along with local forces, to defeat the landing quickly, then to shift those divisions to the East after the Western Allies were broken to be used as a reserve against the Red Army.

Overall, the biggest problem the Germans faced was an utter disregard for the British and American warfighting capabilities. For some reason they ignored all the lessons of North Africa (minus their victories), Sicily, and Italy, and decided the Western Allies, especially the US Army, would be pushovers, easily beaten. This wasn't just Hitler, this was a substantial part of of the German officers corps, staff trained professionals. It was only those, like Rommel, who'd fought them recently, who thought otherwise and advised caution.
I don't think Rommel was particularly impressed with British or US ground forces. He had experience the immense mobile firepower of the Allied Airforce - his nightmare fear! The Soviets never came close to achieving this sort of total air superiority and consequently Guderian and Rundsedt and the other German generals underestimated the ability of German Panzer forces held inland (Gudrian wanted them held near Paris!) to quickly reinforce and smash such Allied forces who managed to overcome the Atlantic Wall tripwire.

Think of Anzio - easy to get a lodgement but its the break-out and maintaining that break-out which is difficult. Of course in Sicily, the Germans did not dispute the landings but conducted a successful phased withdrawal. To be successful in Italy meant being able to turn the German flank with successive landings. This was never possible for the Allies with the limited landing craft available. Its not unnatural for the Germans to underestimate the Allied ability to take and develop the Normandy landings.

So - a key aspect of the Normandy success was Immense difficulty that Panzer forces experienced reaching the Normandy beachhead, moving only by night and under constant attrition from allied fighter bombers - this was unexpected by all German generals but Rommel.
 
Jul 2016
9,086
USA
#18
I don't think Rommel was particularly impressed with British or US ground forces. He had experience the immense mobile firepower of the Allied Airforce - his nightmare fear! The Soviets never came close to achieving this sort of total air superiority and consequently Guderian and Rundsedt and the other German generals underestimated the ability of German Panzer forces held inland (Gudrian wanted them held near Paris!) to quickly reinforce and smash such Allied forces who managed to overcome the Atlantic Wall tripwire.

Think of Anzio - easy to get a lodgement but its the break-out and maintaining that break-out which is difficult. Of course in Sicily, the Germans did not dispute the landings but conducted a successful phased withdrawal. To be successful in Italy meant being able to turn the German flank with successive landings. This was never possible for the Allies with the limited landing craft available. Its not unnatural for the Germans to underestimate the Allied ability to take and develop the Normandy landings.

So - a key aspect of the Normandy success was Immense difficulty that Panzer forces experienced reaching the Normandy beachhead, moving only by night and under constant attrition from allied fighter bombers - this was unexpected by all German generals but Rommel.
Rommel was very impressed by Allied air support. Way back in El Alamein he had found that his mobility ground to a halt when the British had air superiority. It meant not only units moving behind the lines, those many miles long convoys of a single division, nor the endless back and forth supply convoys of soft skinned trucks, were highly vulnerable to air attack. At a minimum, attacking delays operations and limits the amount of supplies the units on the front can receive. Additionally, Rommel was beaten soundly by the Allies in North Africa, and that was when the Allies barely had air superiority. They'd have had air supremacy, air dominance probably, had they done France in '43.

Anzio was a joke of an operation, nobody involved wanted to carry it out. There were simply not enough divisions that could have been involved, and the stated objectives, the Alban Hills, were an absolute pipe dream. Clark didn't want to carry it out. Lucas didn't want to carry it out. Go look up who created the idea, who pushed it. Its the same jackass that got us involved in the invasion of Italy in the first place. I'll give you a hint. He smoked cigars. Was a booze hound. Fat and balding. Saw himself as a military man and capable military thinker despite little ability otherwise, nearly every brilliant military idea he came up with in his entire political career turned into a disaster. Anzio was also a failure because the Germans knew it was coming, which is why they had panzer divisions nearby. It was an obvious landing site and after Lire River offensive failed, the only way to flank the Germans was another landing. Terrain was also in the German favor, as the terrain (similar to Sicily landing) gained elevation further inland, so Germans could see the beaches with ease, call in artillery. Normandy coast looked nothing like that, other than Omaha Beach, it was as flat as a billiard table.

And we did have enough landing craft. We had enough to land all those corps, including armor divisions, and all their supplies, to three different landing beaches across North Africa in 1942, then to three beaches in 1942 in Sicily, then land the British and then the US Army in three different spots in Italy. We just didn't have enough of a specific type of assault landing craft (off the top of my head, it was Landing Craft Tank. Which wouldn't have been needed in France in 1943, because the stout defenses encountered in '44 largely didn't exist in '44. We could have used other lesser capable types, because there would have been less forces needing to land in '43 (a slow gradual build up in France, instead of trying to insert two army groups inside 2 months), and little opposition.

Had the invasion of France occurred in 1943, there would not have been any panzer divisions heading towards the beaches. Rundstedt was not worried about the beaches, he didn't care if the Allies gained a foothold. While the Allied main effort landing site was confirmed (Germans suspected there would likely be numerous landing positions), Rundstedt would mass the German forces inland and then attack as a collection of armies. Not just panzer, infantry divisions too. He envisioned an operational campaign similar to Poland in 1939, France 1940, Ukraine 1941. Standard German bewegungskrieg. But Rundstedt had NEVER fought an enemy that had air superiority, in fact he'd never fought an enemy that the Germans didn't have air superiority. So he'd have been in a might big surprise after the invasion occurred and he'd try to attack, and then get bumrushed by the 9th AAF.

My guess is he'd get terrible results, and after a month or so, if he was still alive (he'd likely have been killed after his convoy was attacked, or his HQ, by ground attack aircraft), Rommel would have replaced him.

There can definitely be an argument that doing Roundup in '42, as the US Army wanted, would have been improbable. But in '43, it was absolutely doable. We just got diverted in the MTO, because Churchill.
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2011
13,551
Perambulating in St James' Park
#19
Planners were not aware the 352nd Infantry Division was even sending one of its regiments to support the defense of Omaha Beach, or were nearby at all.

Besides that, most of the pre-assault bombardment from Omaha Beach was supposed to be done with medium and heavy bombers, who dropped long, far away from the coast, because of weather issues and really asinine control decisions. The assault forces were confused and received poor instructions about the naval fire support plan, which they thought was accidentally cut short, but the reality was the Navy was only supposed to provide limited direct fire and then shift to hitting coastal and inland artillery positions and suspected assembly areas, with only some destroyers tasked with providing direct fire support for the landing troops. However, even those were stymied as the situation fell apart on the first waves, which saw upwards of 75% of assault troops killed or wounded, so calls for fire were slow in coming and it took some enterprising skippers with courage and initiative to sail closer to shore to hit visible bunkers with direct fire.

In hindsight, I think two destroyers should have run aground on the ends of the beaches, to provide enfilading fires against the well designed beachside bunkers the Germans had constructed on the bluffs of Omaha Beach, which were largely protected from frontal fires directed from the sea. It would have been worth it, and the ships would not have suffered much damage, nor had an extensive repair to make them seaworthy afterwards.
My grandfather was on the destroyer off Omaha beach (HMS Vesper). I never met him but I interviewed the veterans a few years ago. Apparently they got word that Omaha was going wrong so word was sent out for a naval landing party to go ashore and support the Rangers, that would have been interesting... Fortunately for me the Rangers held on and my grandfather didn't have to face the suicidal beach landing. IIRC the armour didn't get ashore either as many tanks were released too early and sank.
 
Jul 2016
9,086
USA
#20
My grandfather was on the destroyer off Omaha beach (HMS Vesper). I never met him but I interviewed the veterans a few years ago. Apparently they got word that Omaha was going wrong so word was sent out for a naval landing party to go ashore and support the Rangers, that would have been interesting... Fortunately for me the Rangers held on and my grandfather didn't have to face the suicidal beach landing. IIRC the armour didn't get ashore either as many tanks were released too early and sank.
Only a few companies of Rangers hit Omaha Beach, most of the assault troops were of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions, I believe one regiment apiece.
 
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