Pushing steel to Normandy

An Allied LST (landing ship, tank) approaches the Normandy coast in June 1944.

Remember all the cars, trucks and people you bumped into this morning? That’s how much steel, grunts and ammo hit the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The Allies never stopped, and Germany witnessed the start of the end of the war.

Napoleon or Alexander would tell you it takes a ridiculous amount of planning to launch an invasion. The Allies had to build a mountain of bullets, food rations, first-aid kits, spare parts, gasoline, blankets, uniforms and socks. Britain also needed to dedicate vast amounts of land to camp the assault troops. . . places to rest, train and loiter before they could cross the Channel. A fleet of seagoing transports had to be pulled into friendly ports and anchorages to move those men, and even then when the weather was acceptable.

Tidbit:  ever see a cop try to direct traffic in an intersection? Try doing that in a country with 156,000 idle soldiers. England dealt with some civil disturbances due to all those restless men. Canadian infantry, for example, had their share of courts-martial. One man said, “Give the Canadians a bottle and a bicycle, tell them that Berlin is off limits, and they’ll be there in a week.”

Once your army is loaded for bear, you’ve got to get them to Normandy. . . safely and intact. The invasion fleet would make the ships at Salamis and Trafalgar look like a yacht club. A guard force of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and minesweepers was wrapped around all manners of troop transports. The force was screened against German U-boats and aircraft. Imagine 24-hour posts manned by radar operators, lookouts with scopes and binoculars, and radio operators. Imagine all the coffee and tea to sustain them. Imagine the sleep that never came to them until after 1945. Allied counter-intelligence was also working feverishly to deceive the powers in Berlin, convince them that a full attack would occur around the closer port of Calais.

Normandy wasn’t an empty lot. There were bunkers and heavy guns with barbed wire, trenches and mines. The Allies had to expunge the German Army from every nook and cranny. Paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines while six divisions opened a front on miles of beach. Northern France wouldn’t fall into Allied hands until August 1944. By that time, the German Army was facing armies on multiple fronts and Adolf Hitler felt the panic of invasion.

There were other amphibious assaults in military history, but none with this sort of strength. A massive army yearning for organization and direction, thrown like a wave into the German war machine. If you can spare it, take the time to read up about Normandy today. This was the kind of moment that turned the world.

Other posts about Normandy:  “The Phantom Nuns of D-Day”


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