D-Day's Anniversary

CNNCNNToday marks the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy by U.S., British, Canadian, and other allies in World War II.

The full Normandy campaign lasted through August and by the time it was over, it was clear that the Germans were pretty much done for.

By the end of the Normandy campaign the Germans were hemorrhaging men and machines, with two armies all but destroyed. True, a handful of Germans did escape the attempted encirclement around Falaise, but it was still a massive Allied victory. In the rapid advance that followed, the Allies moved more quickly than Germans had in the opposite direction four years before, during the invasion of France.

Read more here.

Last fall, British artists produced a genuinely fascinating and moving project on the beaches of Normandy by sand-sculpting 9,000 bodies to commemorate the fallen:

A wider shot:

More info here.

My father participated in the Normandy campaign and last summer my sons and I visited the area, which really drives home the immensity of the undertaking and the sheer ballsiness of it all. Would that there was no need for an American cemetery there. But one of the most striking things about it is the incredibly diverse set of names, religions, and states on the grave markers there. You take any five or 10 crosses and there will be three religions; Irish, German, Italian, Jewish, and Lebanese names; and not just different states but different parts of the country altogether. 

In 1999, Thomas W. Hazlett commemorated D-Day in Reason with a column about how the ad hoc nature of the invasion once it was under way demonstrated the value of a Hayekian approach to local knowledge and decentralized decision-making. The Allied plans went wrong in a thousand different ways but the American troops had the flexibility and the authority to improvise.

Perhaps the classic demonstration was the landing on Utah Beach at 6:30 a.m.—the first wave. Due to unexpectedly strong tides, landing craft deposited units over 1,000 meters from their pre-arranged positions. Heavy machine gun fire pinned down those who managed to survive long enough to reach the beach. Crouching for cover, U.S. infantrymen assembled and spread out their maps. They had no radio contact, and most of their commanders could not be located. What the hell to do? Should they get down the beach to where they were supposed to be, or attack the German artillery directly in front of them?

The ranking officer quickly made a decision: "Let's start the war from here." With that, brave Americans charged Nazi fortifications straight ahead, knocked out guns, scaled the bluff, and circled around to capture the ground they had originally been assigned to take.

While no lowly soldier in the Wehrmacht had the authority to revamp official orders, the Allied invasion consisted of little besides ad hoc heroism. Decentralized information stormed the beaches on June 6, 1944, and irreparably breached the Atlantic Wall by dusk. Pretty good theory for one day's work. Pretty good work for one day's theory.

Read the whole thing.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Drake||

    Hitler was awesome at losing German armies with idiotic orders. The ability of American front-line officers and enlisted to think and improvise has always been a big advantage.

  • ||

    And the British. Churchill said that the Brits would win because they had "corkscrew thinkers" who could improvise and come up with the counter-intuitive, the bizarre, and the downright unhinged plan

  • jmomls||

    The Brits only "won" due to the fact that Hitler deliberately allowed the BEF escape from Dunkirk, the Americans sent more guns to replace the ones they left at Dunkirk, then sent half the US Military to the UK, and the Russians damn near bled themselves white on the Eastern Front.

    Corkscrew thinkers, my foot.

  • tarran||

    The second best thing that Hitler did was the military strategies he employed that did much to assure an Allied victory.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Just diverting armies to Stalingrad instead of taking Moscow (and, by the way, winter quarters for the troops) may have lost the whole war. I don't think the Germans could have achieved a complete victory, but they could have slogged to a negotiated peace.

    Unlike WWI, where a different result might've avoided a lot of crap, don't see much good coming from the Nazis left in control of most or all of Europe.

  • Drake||

    Ordering them to stay in Stalingrad and get encircled may be the dumbest order in history. That and the pointless loss of the Afrika Korps was fatal.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think that's instructive for some today--simply having enough "will" and trying to change reality by having the right attitude doesn't actually change reality. It just changes you.

  • Another David||

    "You take any five or 10 crosses and there will be three religions;"

    I'm pretty sure it'd just be the one, unless they're burying non-Christians under crosses now...

  • Brandon||

    Those Anabaptists take their schisms seriously.

  • Geoff Nathan||

    +1
    I noticed that but didn't get around to commenting.

    My father (who has a Magen David, not a cross, on his tombstone) wasn't there, but as a flight surgeon he was patching up wounded fliers back at Wolverhampton airbase. He survived until 2010.

    My mother spent the war in London, through the Blitz, and never recovered from the sound of planes flying over.

  • ImanAzol||

    There are a few Jewish stars on grave markers, but the default was Christian, and few non-Christians would admit to it at the time. The markers are 95% crosses.

  • John||

    The Germans developed a term called "disciplined initiative". They wanted their officers to understand the doctrine and the overall concept of the plan but not be afraid to deviate from that plan when circumstances required. The US Army adopted the same idea.

    The difference between the US and the German Armies is that the US Army applied and still does apply the concept down to the lowest ranks while the Germans only allowed their officers to do that. Americans were free men and thus could be trusted to be given initiative no matter what their rank. Time and again that has made our Army better than others.

    The other thing about D-Day and World War II is how it was so much a triumph of the every day industrial over the high tech. The Germans are and were wonderful engineers who build wonderful machines and new technology. The US did some of that but what they did more was build things like the bulldozer, the duce and a half truck, the DC 3 and the jeep. All simple devices that did unglamorous but important jobs. The Germans were still using horses while America was running on wheels. If they had built fewer V1 Rockets and Me 262 Jets and more trucks and bull dozers, they would have done better.

  • tarran||

    I disagree.

    The V1 and V2 rockets were an utter waste of resources.... But, the ME-262 could have changed the war. Thankfully for the Allies, Hitler recognized that that wonderful fighter jet would be better used to terrorize ground troops by flying at them really fast.

  • John||

    I don't think it would have changed the war. It could have at best stopped the bombing of German cities but that is not what won the allies the war. All the strategic bombing campaign did was burn down a bunch of beautiful cities and kill a bunch of people. It never shut down German industrial production. At best it tied down German troops doing air defense but not much more.

    The irony about air power was that it really was the difference in the West but not in the way the Air Force or most people think it was. It was the difference because allied tactical air superiority prevented the Germans from maneuvering and properly using their reserves. The reason why the Germans didn't crush the Allied invasion forces once it got off the beach but before it was firmly established was because they couldn't move. US tactical air power prevented them from moving their reserves up and inflicted a tremendous amount of damage on it when it did. Take that away and let the Germans mass their reserves and the invasion would have been in a lot of trouble.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They could have put the ME262 into production in late 1942. Hitler didn't, because he believed such an advanced plane wasn't necessary. They could have had an air group of them by 1944, which would have ended any bombing campaign (over Germany, at least).

    Almost every decision he made after the war started was wrong - thankfully.

  • tarran||

    All of Hitler's decisions were wrong.

    THe initial German successes were due to the plans of the professional staff. Once Hitler was playing field marshal, everything went to shit.

    Invading Russia before England had been defeated... Declaring war on the U.S. etc.

  • John||

    Their initial success was due to the superiority of their doctrine and training. The Germans really understood combined arms and how to use the new technology at the tactical and operational level better than the allies.

    The plan to invade France wasn't that great of a plan. It could have easily ended in disaster. It sounds good to charge out of Sedan and the Ardennes and run to the coast cutting the British off from the French, right up until the allies counter attack and cut that force off at the coast. They could have done that very easily, except they were so off balance and so unable to master the use of combined arms, they couldn't do it.

  • Sevo||

    tarran|6.6.14 @ 10:32AM|#
    "All of Hitler's decisions were wrong."

    Here's a guy picking a fight with the richest country in the world, and what does he do?
    Why, he purposely spends lives and treasure killing some of the most productive of his population!
    The man had zero understanding that war is an economic contest and you do NOT waste any more than you absolutely have to.
    Unless you're the US and a couple of bil here and there, well...

  • John||

    He was continually running out of other people's money Sevo. That is why he kept invading places. He started out and took power and looted the Jews and various other political opponents and used the money to get the German economy going and give away a bunch of stuff while keeping taxes on the average German very low. When that money ran out he moved on and looted the Jews in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Then he moved on and looted all of Poland and later France and so forth.

    If he had ever stopped invading places, he would have ran out of other people's money and the bill for what he was doing in Germany would have come due. It was all draped in racial superiority madness and living space and all of that nonsense. But really it was just socialism done for the benefit of the German people and the Nazi Party in particular.

  • Drake||

    German armies marching into Eastern Europe were cheered as liberators. Instead of using them as allies against the Soviets, the Germans set about proving they were just as bad. Stupidity on a colossal level.

  • John||

    Yeah Drake. They were only a few years removed from the Ukrainian famine. The Ukrainians would have happily helped them destroy Stalin. But remember, Hitler didn't invade Ukraine to destroy Stalin. He did it to loot the place to keep the socialist Ponzi scheme going back home.

  • Sevo||

    "He did it to loot the place to keep the socialist Ponzi scheme going back home."

    And the farmers who grew that harvest? The ones he didn't kill, he turned into deadly enemies.
    What a THINKER!

  • tarran||

    Why, he purposely spends lives and treasure killing some of the most productive of his population!

    As in most murder-suicides, everyone would have been better off had Hitler started with the suicide.

  • John||

    Why, he purposely spends lives and treasure killing some of the most productive of his population!

    In fairness, I think Obama is more incompetent than anything else. I really don't think he is doing these things on purpose.

  • Sevo||

    BakedPenguin|6.6.14 @ 10:28AM|#
    "They could have put the ME262 into production in late 1942"

    Pretty sure it was Tooze in Wages of Destruction: They could build the planes, but the engines were not reliable not even available since it was leading-edge tech.
    By the time they'd solved the problem of keeping red-hot vanes on the turbine wheels, the Allies had made sure they couldn't get the materials to make them.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I know this is debated among the services ad nauseum, but the Air Superiority role is the most important function the AF provides. Nothing moves on the ground without it. You cannot execute if the enemy is constantly raining bombs on you.

    People give the F-15/35 comunity shit for not being used/needed in the last several conflicts, but it says a great deal when the enemy would rather bury their fighters in the sand rather than face you.

    There hasn't been a bomb dropped on a US soldier from an enemy plane since 1952.

  • Virginian||

    My criticism of the F-35 program is based entirely on the stupidity of attempting to make one airframe work for every single mission that exists. It usually doesn't work very well.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    My bad, I wanted to type F-22 and typed F-35 instead. My kingdom for an edit button. Just lost all credibility.

    The F-35 isn't an Air Superiority (Air Dominance in today's parlance) fighter. It's a ground attack fighter.

    I agree, in part, with your assessment of the F-35. It costs more upfront, but the premise was to save lifetime costs by using the same maintenance tail for all the services (and that's where the real dollars are spent). And developing one fighter is generally less expensive than buying three.

    Yes, it is having its problems, but ALL military acquisitions do. It's baked into the system, for reasons I won't go into here, unless you're interested.

    My best friends brother works in flight test at Eglin. Says it's one hell of a machine and not doing nearly as bad as the press would lead you to believe.

  • ClosetClausewitz||

    It is nice, speaking as a former FAC, to be able to bring a bomb on a target instead of having to go visit it with a rifle. However, last I checked, insurgents have not had their operational maneuver unduly impeded by the host of tactical aircraft we have brought to bear. Airpower is nice, but it is merely a single component of military power. Also, an interesting book recently argues that while we need air power, the Air Force has been so myopic about managing it, that it would be better to dissolve it and return the missions to the Army and Navy.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Agree. It's not a be all, end all. BUT, you cannot win a conflict without air superiority. It isn't optional.

    As far as giving it back to the Army, I'll go you one further. There should be a single service (not competing for missions) broken down into sub-components of air, ground and naval.

    Out of curiosity, how is the AF myopic in your opinion (or the books)?

  • ImanAzol||

    It would be better to incorporate the Army into the USAF as the Ground Corps, much like the Navy has the Marine Corps.

    Letting grunt officers play with anything more complicated than a stick has disastrous results, because they are innately unable to grasp the concept of ongoing maintenance. Even Army aviation has suffered when a grunt officer thought he could park the helicopters, use the maintainers as foot troops, and just "switch the helicopters back on" when needed.

  • Sevo||

    One of the "myths" isn't a myth.
    The Allies were bogged down for a time in that the bocage came as a surprise and it too a while to develop the tactics required to counter the terrain.

  • Sevo||

    that's
    ..."it took a while"...
    (mumble, edit tab, mumble, mumble)

  • tarran||

    Additionally, the expectations that the bombing would shatter the German defenses proved very optimistic.

    Carpet bombing looks impressive, but is rarely as effective as people think it will be.

  • John||

    The difference on the beaches at least was high altitude bombing versus low altitude bombing. At Utah Beach, the allies used B26s at low altitude and pretty much wrecked the German defenses. That is why Utah wasn't a blood bath. At Omaha, they gave the job to high altitude B 17s who completely missed their targets making Omaha beach a blood bath.

    The existence and lack of planning for the hedge rows is one of the greatest failures of the allied effort. The hedges had been there for centuries and were well known. Yet, somehow that fact got lost in the staff and planning process.

  • Restoras||

    Omaha was a bloodbath because of the terrain. Rifles, machine guns and mortars behind sandbags on a bluff. Nothing short of other machine guns and mortars could clear out that defense.

    I never understood why the army didn't employ dive bombers like the Luftwaffe - if they can hit a moving carrier they could certainly hit large fixed fortifications.

  • Sevo||

    "I never understood why the army didn't employ dive bombers like the Luftwaffe - if they can hit a moving carrier they could certainly hit large fixed fortifications."

    At Midway, some 20 bombers put 4 bombs on the Hiryu; a deck ~1,000' long and 150' wide. The rest fell elsewhere.
    Most of the troops on the beach at Omaha weren't 1,000' from the German gun emplacements.
    No thanks!

  • Sevo||

    "Carpet bombing looks impressive, but is rarely as effective as people think it will be."

    I think is was Tillman in "Whirlwind" who explained it best:
    The B-29s leaving the islands flew in formations a mile wide, and the bomber stream was dozens of miles long.
    Imagine what it would take to 'reorganize' over the target to truly 'carpet bomb' an area. And imagine what the wind is doing to a falling, even perfectly aimed, bomb.
    Those bombs fell for miles around the target. and the same was true in Europe.

  • John||

    The British bombed Frankfurt in March of 1945. Downtown Frankfurt was one of the most complete and beautiful medieval cities in the world. They leveled the entire center of Frankfurt in a night raid targeting the train station. To this day the train station is still there. They didn't do more than break a couple of windows at the cost of killing thousands and senselessly destroying a city in a war that was already decided.

  • Brandon||

    But carpet bombing looked impressive on the newsreels.

  • Pro Libertate||

    From now on you're going to lead us in a prayer for a tighter bomb pattern before every mission. Is that clear? I think a tighter bomb pattern is something really worth praying for.

  • Restoras||

    I think I'll watch 12 O'clock High tonight.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Not to disparage the significance of Normandy or the courage and sacrifice of those who fought there but in the Pacific war there were numerous D-Day amphibious invasions all along the island chains on the advance toward the Japanese home islands.

    The Pacific war and those who fought there never seemed to get as much attention or recognition as the war in Europe and those who fought there.

    It was just as easy to get killed on the beach at Iwo Jima as it was on the beaches of Normandy.

  • Sevo||

    At the time, the war in the Pacific got a lot of notice; Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo, Okinawa. I remember a comment on the Marines being very skilled at fighting the Japanese and running a wonderful PR department.
    Why they are now somewhat obscure, I don't know.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The majority of the troops on the ground in the Pacific were Army - not the Marines.

  • John||

    Yes they were Gilbert. The main effort in the Pacific was retaking the Philippines, not the stuff in the Central Pacific. But since the Marines are the greatest media whores in the free world, most people don't know that.

    True story. The Army high command was still so angry over the amount of public credit that the Marines took during World War I that the Marines that were on the navy ships at Normandy were prohibited from setting foot on the beach under any conditions. They didn't want a single Marine on shore for fear that the story of the invasion would be come "the Marines save Normandy".

  • Sevo||

    John|6.6.14 @ 10:43AM|#
    ..."But since the Marines are the greatest media whores in the free world, most people don't know that."...

    Some would award that to MacArthur and his communiques!
    'Just mopping up left now!'

  • John||

    Those are just vicious rumors started by angry Australians.

    Yeah McArthur was a media whore. That is why they couldn't send him to Europe. He would have ended up starting a war with the British.

  • Sevo||

    "He would have ended up starting a war with the British."
    Mac and Monty, best of friends!

  • John||

    Monty gets a bad rap. Monty was awful to the other generals and wrote a book after that war that was so offensive, Eisenhower wanted to have a meeting with all of the other parties and spend a week writing a response. But, Monty was actually really loved by both British and American soldiers alike. That gets lost. He was a weird guy but he had a lot of charisma and would spent a lot of time before the invasion visiting American troops in an effort to build allied good will. And the troops loved him.

  • Drake||

    Was he loved by American soldiers when he arrogantly ignored all signs of Chinese invasion in 1950? Worst fucking American defeat of the 20th Century because he surrounded himself with sycophants and liked to bask in his own awesomeness.

    The guy was overrated.

  • Drake||

    I was referring to MacArthur not Monty.

  • John||

    Drake,

    McArthur was both overrated and underrated. His campaign in the Philippines and the SW Pacific was brilliant and saved thousands of American lives in its execution and stands in direct opposition to the idiocy that went on with the Marines in the Central Pacific. His landing at Inchon was equally brilliant.

    That said, his refusal to admit the Chinese were going to invade and his idiotic strategy of fighting the Japanese on the beaches during the initial invasion of the Philippines rather than digging and leaving them to starve in the jungle were horrific.

    I can't think of another general in history who has so much that is so good and so much that is so bad about his record.

  • Sevo||

    Remember it was Kimmel and Short who got relieved for lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor.
    Mac, with hours of notice, left his planes on the ground and was rewarded with command.
    And while the Philippines campaign was impressive, his ops in New Guinea wasted many lives, especially the Ozzies.
    I'm of the opinion that there were many generals who could have replaced him and we'd have been better off.

  • Drake||

    Are you referring to the missions assigned to the Marines or their strategy and tactics on the ground?

    I don't know how they could have done things much differently once ashore on the hell-holes like Peleliu, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. When Army units were swapped in they certainly didn't do any better and sometimes worse. There simply wasn't any space to maneuver.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Are you referring to the missions assigned to the Marines or their strategy and tactics on the ground?"

    Admiral Nimitz was in charge of the strategy in the Central Pacific. The Marines just carried out the missions assigned to them.

    There was a big fight between the Navy/Marines and the Army over the battle of Saipan. Marine Corps general Holland (Howling Mad) Smith was put in overall charge of the operation which included Army 27th Infantry division troops as well as Marine units.

    Howling Mad thought the Army units were putting his Marine units in danger by not keeping up the advance in their sector and exposing the flanks of the Marine units. He fired the Army general in charge (who was also named Smith) and that started a big politcal interservice fight.

  • Sevo||

    "Howling Mad thought the Army units were putting his Marine units in danger by not keeping up the advance in their sector"...

    OK, but that was the 27th Division which even the Army admitted was a disaster.

  • The Last American Hero||

    What about that French dude that stretched his supply line from Paris to Russia 200 years ago?

  • Sevo||

    There is a graphic of his advance and retreat which to this day is treated as one of the all time graphic representations of a military campaign.
    Hey, wait! We got search engines!
    There it is:
    http://www.google.com/imgres?i.....477&w=1000

  • R C Dean||

    But since the Marines are the greatest media whores in the free world,

    Pretty sure the SEALs have that award locked up these days.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    At the time, the war in the Pacific got a lot of notice; Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo, Okinawa. I remember a comment on the Marines being very skilled at fighting the Japanese and running a wonderful PR department.

    The Army was there too.

  • Sevo||

    That's the reason for my comment on the PR department.

  • Drake||

    Iwo and Tarawa were pure Marine operations and the Philippines all Army, but otherwise they shared the load in most of those battles.

    The Marines had the amphibious mission to secure the beach, then they both had to fight inland.

    I loved Leon Uris' "Battle Cry". Pretty funny when the Army landed in Guadalcanal and Marines stole every piece of gear not nailed down. We honored the old breed by acquiring some Army vehicles left unattended in Jubail port in 1990 and (after a new paint job) putting them to good work in the Liberation of Kuwait.

  • Brandon||

    But the important thing was getting back at the Germans for bombing Pearl Harbor.

  • Sevo||

    Last summer, in a conversation with a woman, say 40, regarding the Bomb, she asked whether we'd dropped them on Germany.
    The gov't education system was screwed earlier than I thought.

  • Another David||

    The island invasions got attention at the time, but people always want to ascribe a single cause to big historical events. So the defeat of the Nazis was thanks to Normandy, and the defeat of Japan was thanks to the A-bomb.

  • John||

    While we are on World War II, this is a hell of a story and pretty much confirmed to be true.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/.....oot-Hitler

  • ||

    Now there's a better test of morality than the stupidass trolley test. "Will you shoot this wounded soldier on the off-chance that he'll murder millions?" has a lot more heft to it than "Will you murder this fat man because something something save lives?"

  • From the Tundra||

    Wow. Out of curiosity, was allowing a wounded and retreating enemy to leave the battlefield common practice then? Is it now?

    Thanks for linking. Very cool story.

  • John||

    He should have made him surrender. It is unlawful to shoot people who are no longer a threat. But, you are not obligated to let them walk back to their lines either.

    That said, there have been plenty of examples of armies declaring temporary truces to allow each side to go out between the lines and retrieve their wounded. So what he did was not that out of line.

    It is am amazing story on a lot of levels. Obviously it is amazing for the what if factor. It is also amazing to me because it shows how even in the worst circumstances humanity somehow irrationally and almost miraculously lives on. There are few places in history more murderous than the trenches of World War I. Yet, somehow this guy managed to retain enough humanity not to shoot a wounded soldier.

  • Virginian||

    Out of curiosity, was allowing a wounded and retreating enemy to leave the battlefield common practice then? Is it now?

    It's one of those tricky things. In theory, you are supposed to accept surrender at any time. In reality, there are times when you will not be able to surrender. The Normandy landings had a great example, Ambrose has it in his book. Some German had a great bunker in a great spot. Mowed down a few Allied soldiers and held up the advance for hours. He shot the gun till he ran out of spare barrels and ammo. Then tried to surrender. Didn't work out for him.

    I think most would let a wounded man crawl off, particularly if you had plenty of time to see that he was in fact hors de combat. In the cold logic, a wounded man is a better result then a dead one in many ways. The wounded have to be carried to safety and cared for. Many land mines, for example, are designed to wound not kill.

  • Sevo||

    "In the cold logic, a wounded man is a better result then a dead one in many ways."

    Fluckey made the same case about torpedoing ships toward the end of the war.
    The were out of use, PLUS tying up repair facilities, men and material.

  • Phlogistan||

    My Great Uncle Lee was a truck driver in WWII. Landed in Normandy June 7th. The only thing he ever related to me about his service was this. "We lost more chasing Patton then too the damn Germans"

  • R C Dean||

    By the end of the Normandy campaign the Germans were hemorrhaging men and machines, with two armies all but destroyed.

    I read a very interesting analysis of the Eastern Front v. the Normandy invasion, and it concluded that at least as much strategic damage was done to the German armed forces in France than in the "turning point" battles in Russia.

  • John||

    The Falaise Gap was a disaster for the Germans on the level of Stalingrad. It was nothing short of a miracle that the German Army was able to reform and stop the allied advance in the fall of 1944.

    Really though, Bradly and Montgomery fucked up. They were too conservative and didn't go for a complete encirclement and allowed the Germans to escape, albeit at great loss in man power and machines and at the cost of almost complete organization breakdown, through the gap. Had they both been faster, more aggressive and maneuvered further east, they could have linked up before the Germans could escape and the entire Western German army would have been captured. There would have been no people for the German army to reorganize and stop the allied advance. The war could have been over by Christmas and the Soviets probably never would have been able to advance into and later enslave Eastern Europe. It is one of the better what ifs of the campaign.

  • Sevo||

    ..."The war could have been over by Christmas"...

    Not without Antwerp; out of gas.
    *IF* Monty had taken the Schelde, maybe, but even then, maybe.

  • Virginian||

    Well the theory behind the counterfactual is that you scrape the front bare of log support, and give it all to Patton who then makes a dramatic breakthrough and ends the war in a stroke.

    Ike essentially had the choice between handing the ball to his best player in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, or playing for overtime. He chose the conservative play, which probably was not the best decision in the long run.

  • Sevo||

    "Well the theory behind the counterfactual is that you scrape the front bare of log support, and give it all to Patton who then makes a dramatic breakthrough and ends the war in a stroke."

    That was sort of Monty's pitch, too, and it might work in football where the guy carrying the ball doesn't need a tail of log back to the center of gravity.
    IF Patton had gotten to Berlin, then what? He'd have had a front 2 divisions wide and two 200-mile flanks.
    And a house-fight in Berlin.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    There was some debate last night about hero-worship of the military in this country.

    The Immaculate Trouser posted:

    I think it was an overreaction to the incredibly shitty treatment the nation at large gave Vietnam vets

    I agree with this. And it has certainly gone overboard. Not to take anything away from those who've paid dearly for their service in the last few conflicts, but on the whole, the heroism of the military, isn't a fraction of what it was in Vietnam and earlier, particularly WWII.

    4500 dead in Iraq and Afghanistan in 12 years? As the chart points out we lost 2500 on D-day alone. We used to send out 100 bombers of which 20 would come back (800 men)...

    You want to hero-worship someone...worship the guys who served in Vietnam and earlier. Those guys had GREAT...BIG...BRASS...BALLS!

  • ClosetClausewitz||

    Hate to burst the Hayek bubble, but the adaptable, flexible force at Normandy wore field grey, had a funny salute and spoke German. The fact that a single corps (I SS) committed piecemeal, was able to contain the landings initially on its own, despite bieng bombed constantly for over a week speaks volume as to who was more flexible.

    The idea that American front-line officers and enlisted were extremely adaptable and flexible is myth. American officers have traditionally been doctrine-bound slow learners, while the Germans, absent Hitlers stupidity, where the most adaptable, and flexible force, even down to the level of the individual soldier. It is little wonder that the US military has been trying to graft the German system of Auftragstaktik into American military culture with only marginal success ever since.I recommend reading Jorg Muth's book Command Culture to get a sense of how both sides leaders were trained and interacted with their troops... it is surprising if you have never studied it in detail. The American and British had a very strong class-divide between officer and enlisted, and discouraged individual initiative, while the Germans encouraged initiative and fostered a culture of camraderi.

  • Sevo||

    Well, you're welcome to your opinions, but...

  • John||

    That is somewhat true. The Germans certainly invented the concept of disciplined initiative. But the Americans adopted it as well. As far as Americans being slow learners and doctrine bound, at the tactical level there are a million examples that show that to be a lie.

    The Americans were behind the curve at the beginning of the war but that was because the British and Germans had been fighting for two years and the Americans hadn't. The Americans adapted and learned very quickly.

    The fact that a single corps (I SS) committed piecemeal, was able to contain the landings initially on its own, despite bieng bombed constantly for over a week speaks volume as to who was more flexible.

    No, it speaks volumes about the advantages the terrain gave the defense and the tenacity of the German soldier. it doesn't say anything about flexibility. Yes the landings were "contained" in that the allies didn't keep to schedule and didn't break out as quickly as they planned. But they were not contained in any meaningful way. Once the Atlantic Wall was breached, which was day 1, the Germans had no hope of pushing the allies back into the sea and were destined to eventually lose any stalemate as the allies brought more and more man power ashore.

  • John||

    If the Germans has been half as flexible as you claim they were, they would have pulled back once they knew the Atlantic Wall was breached and set up a new defensive line closer to Paris. Instead, they kept feeding people they couldn't afford to lose piecemeal into a fight that was hopeless. Had the Allies had their act together better, the Germans would have lost their entire Army in Normandy.

  • jmomls||

    *If the Germans has been half as flexible as you claim they were*

    The Germans were only as flexible as their Furher. And he decreed that the Werhmacht should stop the Anglo-Americans on the beaches rather than a defense-in-depth.

  • Sevo||

    "I recommend reading Jorg Muth's book Command Culture"

    That's on my list now, but the reviews are mixed with some pertinent comments:
    "In order to agree with Muth's thesis you have to accept his base assumption that the Germans performed better on the battlefield than their counterparts and that this was due to the system that created German officers."
    http://www.amazon.com/Command-.....med+forces

    So you're presuming his assumption is correct and using that as the argument.
    Hmm, I think there's a problem here...

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement