D-Day - Leadership and Strategy
1. The Allied invasion in World War Two
The biggest sea invasion in history against Nazi Germany (code named Overlord).
American (pictured below), British and Canadian troops landed on the Normandy beaches in northern France on
6th June 1944.
2. Saving Private
Ryan (Steven Spielberg’s film)
Its opening sequence on Omaha beach (one of the American invasion beaches – see below)
shows how frightening D-Day was.
What was the invasion force?
Which beaches were attacked?
The landing beaches were from west to east (see map above):
(American) - the bloodiest beach.
(British, helped by French commandos).
American chief of the Allied forces - pictured right talking to troops just before D-Day.
Known as Ike.
British chief of the Allied invasion army (pictured right) .
Known as Monty.
Head of the American army (pictured right) .
British head of the Allied navy (pictured right) .
British head of the Allied air force(pictured right).
Erwin Rommel and
Gerd von Runstedt
German army chiefs in Normandy.
Key events before D-Day
22 June 1941
Germans invade Russia.
7 December 1941
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbour
America declares war on Japan and Germany.
2½ million American soldiers move into Britain
Famously described by the British as:
“Overpaid, oversexed and over here”.
2 February 1943
The Russians defeat the Germans at Stalingrad, a major turning point of
The Battle of Stalingrad began in August 1942 and thousands were killed:
- 300,000 (from Germany and its allies)
- 500,000 (at least) Russians
The Battle of the Atlantic ends.
So German submarines (U-boats):
- stop torpedoing Allied shipping.
- allow the uninterrupted transportation of men and supplies from America.
Operation Crossbow begins.
This bombed and seriously disrupted the development and launching of Germany’s deadly
V-1 and V-2 unmanned missiles which would have
seriously threatened D-Day.
What was it like to be a D-Day Allied soldier?
Particularly amongst the majority of troops who were conscripted civilians and facing their first battle, there
was a fear of:
- death (almost every Allied soldier expected to die).
Many were comforted by religion and music stars like the:
- American band leader, Glenn Miller (pictured right above).
- British singer, Vera Lynn (pictured right).
Vera Lynn's songs We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of
Dover were great morale boosters.
Bad weather delayed D-Day by a day, causing:
3. Weighed down
Most soldiers were hampered by:
Courage came from a desire not to let their colleagues down.
5. Common purpose
Everyone hated Hitler (pictured right) and the
After many months of arduous training, the troops wanted to get on with the job.
Faced with death, many soldiers wrote farewell letters to their families and loved ones.
Some D-Day heroes
Dick Winters (American) 1918-2011 (pictured
A paratrooper who successfully led his men in the capture of four German artillery guns that were firing on the
invasion at Utah beach.
He was a leader of:
a) character and humility
(to earn his men’s respect).
(based on learning from experience).
(leading from the front with bold persistence).
He was the subject of the book and TV mini-series, Band of Brothers.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (American)
1887-1944 (pictured right)
Son of the former president, Theodore
At Utah beach he wisely went straight inland rather than returning to the originally planned landing point (the
tide had drifted the Americans a mile south).
“We’ll start the war from right here!”, he famously said.
Despite arthritis from his World War One injuries, he:
- always led from the front.
- was the only general to take an active part in the Normandy landings.
He died of a heart attack only a month later.
He was played by Henry Fonda (pictured right) in the 1962 D-Day film,
The Longest Day.
Den Brotheridge (British)
1915-44 (pictured right)
The first Allied soldier killed on D-Day
One of the paratroopers (led by John Howard) dropped near the Sword beach before the invasion
They captured the strategically important Pegasus Bridge that crossed the River Orne, north of the vital town of
Denis Edwards, one of Brotheridge's men, said he had the greatest respect for him, because:
“He had never asked us to do anything that he would not do himself”.
Tragically Brotheridge's wife was expecting a baby.
Lord Lovat (British) 1911-95
The calm and courageous British commando chief who asked his personal piper, Bill Millin. to
play a morale boosting Scottish tune on landing at Sword beach (pictured below - Lovat is in the water on the
Lovat and his men then went to help John Howard’s paratroopers.
Lovat was seriously wounded on 12th June and sent home.
He died heartbroken, shortly after his tax bills forced him to sell his family’s castle in Inverness, Scotland,
to Ann Gloag, the co-founder of the bus company, Stagecoach.
Stanley Hollis (British) 1912-72 (pictured right)
D-Day’s only VC after landing on Gold beach.
- captured two German pillboxes (concrete gun placements) and a field gun.
Why was D-Day successful?
1. Weather forecasting
British RAF officer, James Stagg (pictured right), forecasted correctly that the weather
of 6th June would be all right, despite unsettled weather that had caused a day’s postponement of D-Day.
The Germans were convinced that the invasion wouldn’t occur during the bad weather and so were
Their army chief, Erwin Rommel (pictured right) was in Berlin on 6th June visiting his
wife and Hitler.
2. Almighty America and Red Russia
America’s industrial might was crucial.
By the end of 1943 it was producing 8,000 planes a month.
The Russian eastern offensive also diverted at least two thirds of the German army away
from the defence of the French coast.
3. Numerical superiority
The Allies outnumbered the Germans on land and sea and in the air (with 10,000 planes
against only 300).
Allied bombers ensured that no U-Boats (German submarines) got into the Channel.
This numerical superiority was just as well because of the problems the Allies faced on D-Day and the following
a) strong resistance
(particularly from the SS divisions)
- had the world’s best army (only the Japanese were arguably better).
- during the war consistently inflicted 50% more casualties per soldier than the
British and the Americans.
b) bad weather
A bad storm on 19-22 June:
- destroyed the floating harbour (called a Mulberry) at Omaha beach.
- badly damaged the other one at Gold beach (but fortunately still usable).
c) tall and thick hedgerows
(bocage in French)
- provided cover for Germans.
d) superior German weaponry
Particularly good were the:
- Panzerfaust (a hand-held anti-tank weapon).
The Allied commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower,
was a great:
- conciliator (uniting the Allied forces).
Crucially he also forced American and British air force chiefs to give him control and the
full support of Allied bombers.
But Hitler’s constant interference and ‘divide and rule’ policy led to conflicts in the
For example, the Germans had two leaders in Normandy:
- Erwin Rommel (who wanted to attack on the beaches).
- Gerd von Runstedt (who preferred to keep more troops further
inland), pictured right .
The American, Andrew Higgins, designed the American landing vessel, the
LCVP (called Higgins boats, pictured right).
The British built:
- the floating harbours (the Mulberries).
- Hobart’s Funnies (named after their inventor, Percy Hobart, pictured
These Funnies were specially designed tanks for different jobs like:
The invasion was a complete surprise.
The Germans were convinced that the invasion would occur in the Pas-de-Calais because of Operation
Fortitude, the Allies' deception strategy.
a) the army that wasn't
The American General George Patton’s (pictured right) fictitious army (with dummy planes
and military equipment) in the south east of England.
b) false information
This came from German double agents in Britain (like the Spaniard, Joan Pujol
Garcia, known as Garbo, pictured right).
c) Monty's double
An actor was used to impersonate the British general, Bernard Montgomery in Gibraltar to give the impression of an
invasion in southern Europe.
7. Sabotage and intelligence
The French Resistance destroyed roads, railways and telephone/telegraph lines helped
a) Allied bombers
b) British secret agents
(in the Special Operations Executive ,SOE)
These included Violet Szabo (1921-45), pictured right, who was parachuted into France the
day after D-Day, captured, tortured and executed.
Her bravery was portrayed in the 1958 film, Carve Your Name With Pride.
Crucial information about the Normandy beaches was provided by:
- the French Resistance - Eisenhower said its work was worth 15
- French commando raids.
- Bletchley Park's deciphering of the German Lorenz (or Tunny) code - see below
- was led by Bill Tutte, pictured right above
- was assisted by Colossus, the world's first electronic computer (developed by
Tommy Flowers, pictured right).
- told the Allies that the Germans were expecting an invasion at Calais.
The Allied troops:
- fought with great bravery.
- practised on beaches in south England and west Scotland.
9. The Atlantic Wall
This defence against possible invasion was built by the Germans from 1942 onwards along the Dutch and French
But its great length made it impossible to defend well everywhere.
The famous Dam Busters raid (with bouncing bombs designed by Barnes
Wallis, pictured right) destroyed two vital German dams.
Workers were diverted away from the Atlantic Wall to repair them.
The disastrous airborne Dieppe Raid in 1942 showed the importance of:
- attacking beaches, not ports.
Results of D-Day
Around 10,000 Allied casualties (killed or wounded)
4,000 to 9,000 German (exact number unknown).
2. Second front
The D-Day invasion attacked the Germans in the west to support the Russian eastern
Russian deaths (military and civilian) in World War Two (27 million) were far higher than
- led to the liberation of Western Europe.
- saved it from Russian control.
The countries in Eastern Europe that Russia invaded became part of its empire.
- made Hitler’s defeat possible.
- saved one million Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.
Key events after D-Day
7 June 1944
Americans capture Cherbourg.
10 July 1944
British capture northern Caen after a long, bloody battle.
25 July 1944
Americans break through German defences in Operation Cobra.
26 - 30 July 1944
British fail to break German defences in Operation Epsom.
25 August 1944
10 September 1944
Americans enter Germany.
30 April 1945
Hitler commits suicide, a day after the Russians capture Berlin.
8 May 1945
VE (Victory in Europe) Day after Germany surrenders.
D-Day will live with me till the day I die...It was the longest, most horrible day that I or anyone else went
- Felix Branham, American soldier.
I think I had experienced first-hand what being ‘scared shitless’ really meant.
- Harry Parley, British army.
The only people on this beach are the dead and those that are going to die – now let’s get the hell out of
- George Taylor, American commander on Omaha beach (pictured right).
Every man was a hero.
- Cecil Breeden, American soldier at Omaha beach.
There were bodies - dead bodies, living bodies. All the blood in the water made it look as though men were
drowning in their own blood.
- William Spearman, British army.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than
total victory! Good luck!
- Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the Allied troops just before D-Day.
The first twenty four hours of the invasion will be decisive...for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be
the longest day.
- Erwin Rommel.
On an average, in a platoon of twenty-five, five will do their best to fight...and fifteen will follow. The rest
will be useless. This applies to the whole infantry corps.
- British army officer.
The end of the war took away the purpose that for years had united young men of a dozen different countries in
friendship and mutual loyalty.
- Frank Ziegler, RAF pilot.
Max Hastings, Overlord (1984) and his single volume history of World War Two, All Hell Let Loose (2011).
Anthony Beevor's D-Day (2009) is also excellent.
Films on D-Day