Lessons from D-Day

The Importance of Combined and Joint Operations


Col. Gregory Fontenot, U.S. Army, Retired


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Soldiers from Company A, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division

The eightieth anniversary of the Allies’ World War II invasion of France will be memorialized and celebrated in the United States and in Normandy. However, this article looks beyond D-Day to examine joint and combined operations in the context of a deliberate attack characterized both by time to prepare and good intelligence. All the means of intelligence gathering we have today existed then. We think of satellite imagery and cyber as new, but their predecessors were photo imagery from manned aircraft and signals intelligence. Technology has changed, but the basic intelligence means remain the same. The context also includes the estimates made by both Allies and the Germans. Future conflicts will be combined and joint and will assuredly include elements of irregular warfare. All these characteristics pervaded planning and operations for the invasion of France in 1944.

The material basis of war since 1945 in communications, intelligence gathering, air support, and fires has changed to the extent that an opposed landing on the scale and complexity of Normandy can no longer be conducted against a capable enemy. On the other hand, long-term strategic and operational planning and preparation—to include organization, intelligence gathering, force structure, and command and control—in the context of combined and joint warfare will continue to be required more or less as they were in June 1944. The scale of operations may be smaller, but the scope and complexity are arguably greater.

Coalition Strategic Planning

The broad coalition known as the United Nations began with discussions between the United Kingdom and the United States. In Origins of the Grand Alliance: Anglo-American Military Collaboration from the Panay Incident to Pearl Harbor, William T. Johnsen shows this collaboration began haltingly. Not until January 1941, after the introduction of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “lend lease” legislation, did staff talks begin that eventually cemented “the Grand Alliance.” From the British point of view, this was as much as two years later than they would have preferred.1

At the end of World War II, Gen. George C. Marshall asserted that coordination with the British was “the most complete unification of military effort ever achieved by two allied nations.”2 Perhaps, but that “unification” did not come easily. These first discussions on military collaboration produced a commitment between the two sides to a Germany first strategy but also revealed differences based on national interests and the hard strategic facts. These discussions also revealed the essential cultural DNA of the Allied forces.

An early bone of contention stemmed from the American view that Russia could be kept in the war and final victory won only by invading western Europe. The British, with strong recollections not only of Dunkirk and the Dieppe Raid but their losses in World War I, sought to avoid the risks necessary to get ashore where the German defenses were strongest. The British were also not inclined to accept advice of the Americans who had come late to the party. Moreover, Stephen E. Ambrose argues in The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower that Gen. Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, “carried throughout the war the handicap of a prejudice against the Americans.”3 Of Gen. George C. Marshall, Brooke wrote, “I should not put him down as great man.” Brooke was by no means the only British soldier who believed the Americans were not up to the task. Prejudice proved a common malady among both British and Americans.4

Coalition Command

When and whether to invade western Europe proved to be the chief difference between the two major allies. In any case, the number of ground troops necessary to invade France or anywhere in western Europe simply could not be found in 1942. Airpower was the only means to take the fighting to the Germans in the early days. Accordingly, Marshall assigned the priority of resources and manpower to the U.S. Army Air Force. American ground forces entered the war via North Africa in November 1942, while air operations against Germany began in early 1943.5

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, destined for supreme command, arrived in the United Kingdom on 24 June 1942 to take up responsibility as commander European Theater of Operations United States Army (ETOUSA). Eisenhower believed that among his several jobs, he had to assure “the British that we are here not as muddling amateurs but as earnest, competent soldiers who know what we are about.”6 Eisenhower spent a good part of the next three plus years managing and leading combined operations complicated by divergent national interests. He did that first as the supreme allied commander in the Mediterranean and then supreme command for Overlord and operations in Europe. He did not do so without the full cooperation of his British and American colleagues.

Despite their national concerns and biases, the British and Americans were committed to combined operations as a necessity. To that end, they formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff. On 23 April 1942, that august body established a combined staff to plan the cross-channel attack. The Combined Chiefs assigned British Lt. Gen. Frederick E. Morgan as chief of staff to the yet to be named supreme allied commander.7 Morgan’s staff became known by the acronym COSSAC (for chief of staff to supreme allied commander). Morgan, like Eisenhower, understood the need for cohesion in his combined staff. Morgan did, however, become frustrated when the chiefs did not select a supreme commander. He knew that planning the invasion required would not come easy. In his words, “The term ‘planning staff’ has come to have a most sinister meaning—it implies the production of paper. What we must contrive to do is to produce not only paper but action.”8 COSSAC laid out the outline plan and then the details once Eisenhower was appointed as supreme commander.

German Estimates and Command

In the summer of 1943, the Allies and the Germans reached critical strategic choices. In July, Germany’s Operation Citadel to reduce the Kursk salient failed. That failure and the surrender of Italy in September led Adolf Hitler to revise his strategic appreciation. Gen. Walter Warlimont, deputy chief of staff for operations of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Wehrmacht, or OKW) described the German high command’s condition in late summer 1943 as a “state of schizophrenia” based on running two theaters of war, one in the east and the other in the south around the Mediterranean.9 In theory, the Germans enjoyed unity of command, but in practice, Hitler’s interventions and the competition for resources led separate commands to work at cross purposes.

Germany also confronted problems with its remaining allies. Reports of the possible defection of Rumania and Hungary led to the OKW preparing for these possibilities. The situation in Bulgaria, a political ally only, proved worrisome as well. The various dilemmas confronting Germany led to the publication of Führer Befehl (Führer Order) 51; Warlimont noted that in doing so, OKW rose “to the level of real strategy once more.”10 The directive summarized the strategic situation, noting, “The danger in the east remains but a greater danger appears in the west: an Anglo-Saxon landing!” The directive continued by observing that Germany had strategic depth in the east but not in the west.11

In Hitler’s voice, the order continued, “I have therefore decided to strengthen the defenses in the West, particularly at places from which we shall launch our long-range war against England. For those are the very points at which the enemy must and will attack; there—unless all indications are misleading—will be fought the decisive invasion battle.”12 Hitler honored his “own” guidance “more on paper than in reality.”13 He did however assign an energetic and determined officer to do what could be done. In November 1943, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel arrived in the low countries, where he inspected the defenses. In December, he took command of Army Group B, responsible for the defense of northwestern France, including Normandy.14

Rommel worked hard to bulk up the Atlantic Wall, which looked better in propaganda film than in reality. Rommel began his preparation for what Hitler described as the decisive battle by a personal reconnaissance of the defenses. He believed the battle had to be won on the beaches, and consequently, the armor reserves needed to be brought forward. However, Hitler retained the armor reserves in his personal control. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, who commanded (technically at least) the western theater, believed the battle could be won only by bewegungskrieg, or a war of movement. He wanted to keep the armor reserves inland and use them to mount a decisive counterattack. Rommel drove his troops hard laying millions of mines, developing the defenses on a heroic scale, and preparing his troops to fight with the limited means available.15

Allied Assessment and Command

On 10 December 1943, just prior to the Casablanca Conference, Roosevelt told Eisenhower almost casually, “Well Ike, you are going to command Overlord.”16 In keeping with the Allied view and his own commitment to coalition operations, Eisenhower’s deputy and three component commanders were British. Gen. (later Field Marshal) Bernard L. Montgomery went ashore in command of 21st Army Group with the British Second Army and the U.S. First Army reporting to him. In contemporary terms, Montgomery was the ground component commander (see figure 1). Eisenhower intended to take personal command of land operations once he could bring his Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) ashore. That decision grated on the British for much of the rest of the war.17


Morgan’s COSSAC had not been idle, but some of the key players for Overlord did not begin to arrive until the fall of 1943. Eisenhower and Montgomery did not arrive until January. Consequently, the plan evolved. Montgomery arrived on 2 January 1944 and Eisenhower on the 14th. Both joined headquarters that were still organizing. Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, who had arrived in September 1943, stood up First U.S. Army in October. Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton arrived that same month to organize 9th Air Force as a tactical air force to support ground operations in France. The arrival of Eisenhower and Montgomery represented commitment of the Allies to a cross-channel invasion in the spring or early summer. Their arrival enhanced the ongoing buildup of forces and the revision of the original COSSAC plan to reflect the availability of forces and the professional judgement of the supreme commander and his ground component commander.18

COSSAC settled on an attack on the Calvados Coast of Normandy, which the combined chiefs approved. What remained was planning the details. A lack of troops and assault craft of all kinds constrained planning until the final commitment and arrival of the last of the key players. Two days after he arrived, Montgomery and Lt. Gen. Walter Beedle Smith, SHAEF chief of staff, received a briefing on the plan. Montgomery objected to it as underresourced and attacking on a front that was too narrow. Smith was unhappy also with the planning and staffing of the air component. Smith wanted heavy bombers to support the landing, but they remained committed to Pointblank, the strategic bombing campaign. In fact, Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz held the view that Overlord was unnecessary because strategic bombing alone could bring Germany down. Eventually, the airmen supported both bombarding the landing areas and the Transportation Plan that aimed to damage the French rail system and thus prevent the Germans from reaching the landing zone easily. The broad outline of what the allies executed in June emerged soon after. The evolution of the plan included a well-conceived deception plan designed to convince the Germans the assault would occur on the Pas-de-Calais.19

Other irritants arose quite apart from the differences in national interests. The British concept of the operation as reflected by Montgomery proved far more conservative than that of the Americans. Nigel Hamilton, Montgomery’s chosen biographer, observed that the “Great War” battle of the Somme, during which Montgomery suffered life-threatening wounds, was the “seminal experience of his entire life” and shaped his view of warfare and how to conduct it.20 The Somme cast a long shadow across the United Kingdom’s people, its soldiers, and its leaders. The British were, to use a euphemism, risk averse. At war since 1939, they simply could not afford high casualties.

Royal Marine commandos

The difference in command culture was perhaps the hardest thing for the American and British to reconcile. Command culture of the United Kingdom featured top-down guidance, including high-level officials reaching far down the chain of command. In North Africa, Gen. K. A. N. Anderson, commanding the British First Army, parsed out regiments and even battalions of U.S. troops, sending them hither and yon subordinated to British formations. Not until after Kasserine Pass did Eisenhower put a stop to that habit.21

Winston Churchill articulated the essential difference clearly when he observed, “In practice it is found not sufficient for a government to give a General Directive and wait to see what happens.” He continued, “A definite measure of guidance and control is required from the Staffs and high Government authorities.”22 At one point, Brooke complained to Marshall that Eisenhower seemed prone to taking advice from Bradley and Patton. Marshall riposted saying, “Well, Brooke, they [combined chiefs of staff] are not nearly as worried as the American chiefs of staff are worried about the immediate pressures and influence of Mr. Churchill on General Eisenhower.”23

British and American views of planning horizons differed as well. The American system to this very day begins with the desired end state. From there one plans backward. In Cross-Channel Attack, Gordon A. Harrison illustrates the competing viewpoints. When the Americans offered long-range plans the British asked, “How can we tell what we should do six months or a year hence until we know how we come out of next month’s action?” The Americans on the other hand asked, “How do we know whether next month’s action is wise unless we know where we want to be a year from now?”24

Map of the D-Day landings, 6 June 1944

Finding the right officers for the SHAEF staff required patience and even raised-voice discussions. Of the process, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder observed “getting the right people and being ruthless … and you must be ruthless.”25 If a man could not be a team member he had to go. Beetle Smith did the hiring and firing, and he was ruthless. At one point, he and Brooke crossed swords due to Smith’s raiding the Mediterranean theater for officers that Eisenhower wanted. As commander of the U.S. European Theater of Operations, Eisenhower had also to find “one army group commander, three army commanders, over a dozen corps commander and, eventually, nearly half a hundred division commanders.”26 Because he was human, Eisenhower wanted officers he knew. This of course led to squabbling with Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers, who had taken over in the Mediterranean theater. The dispute with Devers got nasty, with Eisenhower complaining to Marshall. In fact, Eisenhower knew it was wrong to cherry pick Devers’ command but did so anyway, claiming that Overlord was more important than the fighting in Italy.

Logistics: Concentrating and Sustaining the Force

Logistics is far more than sustaining the force in the field. Finding the troops, forces, materiel, air support, and naval support are the logistics of concentrating the means to invade and then sustaining the fight ashore. The U.S. buildup of troops for the cross-channel invasion, known as Operation Bolero, began in 1942. Inevitably, troops were siphoned off first to invade North Africa, then to invade Sicily, and later the Italian mainland. Afterward, competition for resources continued with the Mediterranean theater and of course, the Pacific.

The build-up began when the 29th Infantry Division arrived in October 1942. Despite everything, the buildup reached 749,298 soldiers in 1944 on New Year’s Day. Eleven divisions had arrived and were preparing for the invasion, including the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions, and the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 28th, and 29th Infantry Divisions. The build-up continued, reaching twenty divisions with some 1,525,965 troops by 1 June 1944. The troops in the UK included 620,504 ground troops, 426,819 airmen, and 459,511 services of supply soldiers.27

The United Kingdom could barely feed itself, so it could not feed the Americans. Food and nearly everything required to sustain the troops had to come from the United States protected by British and American naval forces. Not only did merchant shipping provide the means to support the troops training in the United Kingdom, but they also had to build up materiel to sustain the fight ashore. By June 1944, convoys had brought 5,297,306 long tons of everything from tanks to locomotives, ammunition, and fuel.28

The cross-channel attack required an enormous number of landing craft and heavy naval gunfire support. Assembling landing craft and adequate means of naval gunfire led to squabbling between the Americans and British as well as interservice debates on priority, particularly between SHAEF and the U.S. Navy, and even within the Navy. There simply were not enough of various landing craft, including Landing Ship, Tanks (LST). Of the problem, Churchill had this to say: “The destinies of two great empires … seemed to be tied up in some god-damned things called LSTs.”29


The problem stemmed from a shortage in both the European and Mediterranean theaters, and the initial priority to the Pacific (see the table). At 11 knots maximum speed, moving LSTs from the Pacific to the European theater did not happen. Enough were produced for Overlord but not, as Eisenhower had hoped, to conduct a double envelopment by invading southern France from two points simultaneously. In January 1944, he delayed the invasion from May to June to get another month’s production of landing craft. In the end, with compromise on lift requirements for vehicles and other equipment, delaying the second landing and improving maintenance 3,601 amphibious craft were found.30

In February 1944, Adm. Ernest J. King sent his chief planner, Rear Adm. Charles M. Cooke, to the United Kingdom to settle both the complaints about amphibious craft and naval gunfire. At that conference, Rear Adm. John L. Hall, commander of Force O (responsible for executing the landing at Omaha Beach), “banged [his] fist on the table and said, ‘It’s a crime to send me on the biggest amphibious attack in history with such inadequate support.’”31 Samuel Eliot Morison wrote of the incident only that SHAEF had a “legitimate complaint” on “Admiral King’s tardiness in allocating battleships, cruisers and destroyers for gunfire support.”32 Cooke admonished Hall for his demonstration but found the ships.

D-Day, 6 June 1944

While the Allies haggled over the means and method to invade, the German army struggled to meet the needs of both the looming invasion and the immediate problems in the east. Rommel’s tireless efforts to strengthen the German defenses fell short of what he wanted to achieve. Moreover, as noted previously, he lost the argument over control of the armor reserves. Finally, concentrating forces had not developed as Hitler promised.

Allied invasion plans and German positions in Normandy

By 1944, they were experiencing serious difficulty in manning and equipping units. Over the course of 1944, end strength for a German infantry division declined as the regiments were reduced from three to two battalions. End strength dropped from seventeen thousand to twelve thousand. Equipping these units proved equally difficult. Although German infantry divisions were organized with just over two thousand vehicles, 1,400 were horse-drawn. Many units and nearly all the fixed coastal defenses featured a menagerie of gear from any number of countries, which ensured nightmares at night and on the job for German logisticians.33

Soldiers assigned to the infantry divisions were augmented by prisoners of war who volunteered to join “Ost” battalions as an alternative to the prisoner of war camps. They were not well motivated to defend the Reich. Overaged men provided much of the manpower for the German coastal defense divisions. These divisions lacked mobility; thus, they were static. One of them, the 716th Infantry Division, defended the Calvados coast where the Allies landed. Unfortunately for the soldiers who landed at Omaha Beach, a battalion from the credibly equipped and trained 352nd Infantry Division backed the 716th. With two battalions totaling about two thousand soldiers manning defenses, including fourteen well-armed strongpoints, what the Allies called Omaha Beach was well defended.34

The 1944 panzer divisions had also declined in strength. On 6 June 1944, the German army in the west fielded nine panzer divisions and one panzer grenadier division. Of these, the Schutzstaffel (SS) provided three panzer and one panzer grenadier divisions. No two of these ten divisions were organized in the same way. Together they had just over 1,700 tanks and more than two hundred self-propelled guns. The tanks included Mark IIIs, IVs, and Vs. Better known as Panther tanks, the Germans had 360 of the excellent Mark Vs. There were a handful of Mark VI Tiger tanks as well. Tank strength varied from a low of 86 in the 116th Panzer Division to 188 in Panzer Lehr. The 21st Panzer Division with 112 tanks was within twenty miles of the beaches. The 12th SS with another 164 tanks was less than fifty miles away. Finally, Panzer Lehr with 188 tanks and as many as eight tiger tanks was just under one hundred miles away.35


Arguably the best defended Omaha beach proved the most difficult for the Allies. The boundaries of the beach extended about ten miles from just east of Port-en-Bessin to just west of Pointe du Hoc. Controlled by the 1st Infantry Division, the 16th Infantry Regiment and the 29th Infantry Division’s 116th Infantry Regiment made the main assault along five miles of elliptically shaped beach running from Port-en-Bessin to Vierville-sur-Mer. The beach bent southward, enabling devasting enveloping fires. Cliffs bounded the beach both east and west. Once ashore, the Americans had to scramble up escarpment-like heights to control ravines the Overlord planners called exits. The German defenders’ widerstandsnesten (strongpoints, or WN) each had sketch maps with ranges and sectors and were well supported by artillery (see figure 2). Overaged or not, the one thousand soldiers of the 716th Infantry Division supported by another one thousand from the better-equipped 352nd exacted an immense toll.36

Omaha’s defenses came closest to Rommel’s conception of how to defend the coast than any of the beaches assaulted on D-Day. The German defense included underwater wire and mine obstacles. To be able to see and avoid the underwater obstacles, the troops landed at low tide, necessitating that they cross several hundred yards of open terrain just to reach the seawall. The first assault wave consisted of eight rifle companies from the two regiments. Around 0300 hrs., the troops clambered into their landing crafts about thirteen miles offshore with the seas running three to five feet. The ensuing trip to the beach took nearly three hours, during which small crafts rolled, pitched, and yawed until all and sundry were cold, sodden, and desperately seasick.37

The Army Air Force bombed the beaches as part of the preparation fires to destroy coast defenses and to generate craters that could provide cover for ground troops. The official Air Force history opined that “too much was expected by the other services.”38 Although some air attacks took place in April, the main effort came on D-Day. The airmen made a prodigious effort; 1,083 of 1,361 heavy bombers struck that morning dropping 2,944 tons of bombs. However, because of low overcast conditions and bumping the aim points to assure safety, nearly all the bombs were dropped well past their intended targets. With understandable if misplaced bitterness, Lt. Col. Herbert Hicks, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, observed, “The Air Corps might just as well have stayed home in bed for the all the good they did.”39

Medium bombers and fighters flew as well. They too achieved less than hoped. The Allied air forces did achieve air supremacy. Not quite six miles offshore, the USS Arkansas and USS Texas, equipped with 12- and 14-inch guns, pummeled the beaches. The battleships were supported by cruisers and destroyers and even rocket-firing landing craft and a few howitzers, thumping away while inbound. Next came the duplex drive tanks that were to swim ashore buoyed by canvas “bloomers.” Five made it ashore. Finally came the eight companies in the first wave (there were twenty-six waves in all). Some 1,600 bedraggled infantrymen, many of whom landed well away from their intended targets, began landing at 0630 hrs.40

Many soldiers never reached the shore; still others died soon after. In The Bedford Boys, Alex Kershaw recounts the story of Capt. Taylor N. Fellers, and A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry. Fellers and perhaps all but one man in his boat section were killed shortly after landing. Within minutes, the Germans decimated the male population of Bedford, Virginia.41 The struggle ashore succeeded because of bottom-up and top-down leadership—easy to say after the fact but difficult in execution. Young officers and NCOs made it off the beach out of sheer bloody-minded effort. Lt. John Spalding and his section sergeant Phillip Streczyk exemplified the courage and initiative required to get off the beach. By 1030 hrs. that morning, they and their boat section had reduced WN 64 and reached the top of the heights overlooking the beach. Both won the Distinguished Service Cross as did three of their soldiers.42

Young officers commanding destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 18 played key roles as well. The destroyers came close in shore and reduced bunkers with direct fire. Writing soon after D-Day, Col. Stanhope B. Mason, chief of staff of 1st Infantry Division, asserted without naval gunfire, “we positively could not have crossed the beaches.”43 Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, commanding V Corps, said it succinctly: “Thank God for the United States Navy.”44

Senior officers earned their pay that day as well. Brig. Gen. Norman D. “Dutch” Cota and Brig. Gen. Willard Wyman proved the wisdom of their promotions in action. Cota is frequently highlighted in accounts of D-Day, but Wyman has not received due credit. Wyman, the assistant division commander in 1st Infantry Division, brought his command post “danger forward” ashore shortly after 0800 hrs. Don Whitehead, a combat experienced journalist who came ashore with Wyman, looked around and concluded, “This time we have failed. God, we have failed!”45 But Wyman stood erect and calmly sent lost units to where they were needed to push the lodgment inland.

Col. George A. Taylor exemplified a key role of senior officers that day. Taylor who had commanded in the 26th Infantry in North Africa and led the 16th ashore in Sicily, stood erect like Wyman and walked calmly along the beach exhorting and encouraging soldiers and junior leaders. At one point Taylor and his command group moved up near crest of a slope of shingle (softball-size gravel) and drew fire. His regimental surgeon, Maj. Charles E. Tegtmeyer, yelled at him, “For Christ’s sake Colonel get down you’re drawing fire,” to which Taylor responded with a grin, “There are only two kinds of men on this beach, those who are dead and those who are about to die.”46

In the eighty years since Taylor offered his justifiably famous observation, a great deal has changed. What has not changed is the importance of combined and joint operations. In 1944, combined operations required politically savvy officers who were conscious of the political nature of any operation let alone combined operations. Joint operations, despite doctrine intended to reduce friction and promote cross-domain success, will still depend personal relationships like those cultivated among the World War II Allies. Leadership and initiative from the bottom up and top down will not go out of style whatever we learn from the fighting in the Ukraine and the Gaza Strip; the same is true today.


  1. William T. Johnsen, Origins of the Grand Alliance: Anglo-American Military Collaboration from the Panay Incident to Pearl Harbor (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016), 131; Chester Wilmot’s The Struggle for Europe (Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky and Konecky, 1952), was one of the first histories of World War II published after the war. Wilmot’s book makes it clear settling the competing interests of the two major allies proved fractious. The two volumes of the U.S. Army official history of that effort are Maurice Matloff and Edwin W. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare: 1941–1942 (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1963); and Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943–1944 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History [CMH], 2003).
  2. Gen. George C. Marshall, quoted in Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, 99.
  3. Stephen E. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 45–46.
  4. Ibid. Most accounts of the war report that in the early years, at least, many if not most of the British high command held their American colleagues in low regard. It did not go unnoticed; Ralph Ingersoll, a New York newspaper man who served with Omar N. Bradley at II Corps, First Army, and 12th Army Group, fired an early shot in what became a cross-Atlantic war of words over American versus British leadership during the war. See Ralph Ingersoll, Top Secret (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946). Ingersoll’s book is vitriolic, to say the least. See chapter 1, “The Johnnies Come Lately,” and almost anywhere else in the book.
  5. The Army Air Forces official histories are the best sources for the American air effort. Three volumes of interest are from editors Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Gate: The Army Air Forces in World War II: Volume I, Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942 (1948; repr., Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983); The Army Air Forces in World War II: Volume II, Europe: Torch to Pointblank, August 1942 to December 1943 (1949; repr., Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983); and The Army Air Forces in World War II: Volume III, Europe: Argument to VE Day, January 1944 to May 1945 (1951; repr., Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983). The Office of Air Force history republished the entire seven volumes in 1983.
  6. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander, 60.
  7. The date of Lt. Gen. Frederick E. Morgan’s appointment is from Mary H. Williams, Chronology 1941–1945 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army CMH, 1958), 106.
  8. Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1951), 51.
  9. Walter Warlimont, Inside Hitler’s Headquarters (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964), 373. Warlimont served as deputy chief of staff–operations of the German High Command from 1938 until the end of the war in May 1945. Warlimont’s memoir, like any memoir, needs to be read critically, but his accounts of the inner working of the High Command are essential to understand the German strategic estimates.
  10. Ibid., 399–400; see “Führer Directive 51,” Führer Headquarters, 3 November 1943, https://ww2db.com/doc.php?q=331; see also Matthew Cooper, “The Crisis of 1943,” chap. 27 in The German Army, 1933–1945 (New York: Stein and Day, 1978). Lucie-Marie Rommel, her son Manfred, and Gen. Fritz Bayerlein materially aided Liddell-Hart. Warlimont, Inside Hitler’s Headquarters, 406.
  11. “Führer Directive 51.”
  12. See B. H. Liddell-Hart, ed., The Rommel Papers (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982), 447.
  13. Warlimont, Inside Hitler’s Headquarters, 402.
  14. Robert M. Citino, The Wehrmacht’s Last Stand: The German Campaigns of 1944–1945 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017), 116; see also Hans Speidel, We Defended Normandy (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1951). Speidel, who served as Rommel’s chief of staff, provides an insider’s look at Army Group B and Field Marshal Rommel.
  15. Citino is the best source on the debate within the German high command on whether to defend forward or attempt Bewegungskrieg. See chap. 3, “On the Beach: Normandy and Beyond,” in Citino, The Wehrmacht’s Last Stand. The argument boiled down over the competing views of Rommel and his immediate superior, Von Rundstedt.
  16. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander, 309; Harry C. Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), 454. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had heard the news inadvertently from Marshall on 7 December. Williams, Chronology 1941–1945, 152.
  17. Regarding the debate over broad versus narrow front and tension between Eisenhower and Montgomery, see G. E. Patrick Murray, Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996); figure 1 from Forrest Pogue, The Supreme Command (Washington, DC: U.S. Army CMH, 1989), 67, https://history.army.mil/html/books/007/7-1/CMH_Pub_7-1.pdf.
  18. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 158; Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier’s Story (New York: Henry Holt, 1951), 169–70. Bradley’s chapters 11 and 12 discuss the development and evolution of Overlord. See also Bernard Law Montgomery, “The Battle of Normandy,” chap. 14 in The Memoirs of Field-Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (New York: World Publishing, 1958), 14; for Eisenhower’s perspective on planning, see Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Planning Overlord,” chap. 13 in Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday, 1948).
  19. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 164–65; see also D. K. R. Crosswell, Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 551–57. Beetle and Montgomery together pushed hard for the resources required. Regarding Operation Fortitude, see Roger Fleetwood Hesketh, Fortitude the D-Day Deception Campaign (London: St. Ermin’s, 1999); see Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, 2:26; Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower, 447–44. The entry for November 1943 is seven pages long, including his observation on Gen. Carl Spaatz. Spaatz wanted the ground troops to grind their way up Italy to seize airfields that would shorten the range to bomb targets in Austria and Germany. In his memoir, Eisenhower noted the reluctance of the strategic air forces to be saddled with tactical targets. He believed he brought around Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Travis “Bomber” Harris. See Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, 221, 271, 308. For the damage done to France, see Stephen A. Bourque, Beyond the Beach: The Allied Air War against France (Annapolis: MD: Naval Institute Press, 2018).
  20. Quoted in Adrian Lewis, Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 131; see also Nigel Hamilton, Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (New York: Random House, 1981), 5. This is the second of a brilliant three-volume biography of Montgomery.
  21. Gregory Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great: The 1st Infantry Division in World War II (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2013), 78–90. Eisenhower admitted to attempting too much with too little. Nevertheless, Gen. K. A. N. Anderson used American units without regard to the integrity of their formations. See also Alan Moorehead, The March to Tunis: The North African War (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 496.
  22. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 109.
  23. Forrest C. Pogue, Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue (Lexington, VA: G. C. Marshall Research Foundation, 1996), 541.
  24. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 95.
  25. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander, 339.
  26. Ibid., 340.
  27. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 158; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984), 51; Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, I: May 1942–September 1944 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army CMH, 1995), 100, 232.
  28. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support, 237.
  29. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 64.
  30. Ibid., 167–68.
  31. Lewis, Omaha Beach, 228.
  32. Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, 55. The USS Arkansas and USS Texas supported Omaha Beach as did three UK battleships and one French cruiser. Twelve British and U.S. destroyers completed the bombardment group. See Morison, appendix 1.
  33. U.S. War Department, TM-E 30-451, Handbook on German Military Forces (March 1946; repr., Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1990), 89, 297.
  34. Mark J. Reardon, ed., Defending Fortress Europe: The War Diary of the German 7th Army in Normandy, 6 June to 26 July 1944 (Bedford, PA: Aberjona Press, 2012), 33–34; Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great, 248–50; see also John McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day the Big Red One at Omaha Beach (New York: NAL Caliber, 2014), 52–53.
  35. Reardon, Defending Fortress Europe, 31. There is no truly authoritative source for tank strength for 6 June. Reardon is, in the author’s opinion as the best. Numbers vary by author. For example, Robert M. Citino, The Wehrmacht’s Last Stand: The German Campaigns of 1944-1945 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017), shows eight Mark VI Tiger tanks assigned to Panzer Lehr. His source, like Reardon’s, is German, but both cited sources are secondary sources. There were Tiger tanks in Normandy; the question is when did they arrive? Regarding the location of Panzers, see Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, map XIV.
  36. McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die, 55–62; see also Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, 189–90, 319–20.
  37. Fontenot, No Sacrifice too Great, 251; see also McManus, “H-Hour,” chap. 3 in The Dead and Those About to Die.
  38. Craven and Gate, Army Air Forces in World War II, 162, 19.
  39. McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die, 16.
  40. Fontenot, No Sacrifice too Great, 252–53; Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, 134–36. The amphibious craft depended on guide boats and the skill of their young coxswains to land where intended. Morison described the result as “little better than the blind leading the blind” (131).
  41. Alex Kershaw, The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003), 139. Chapters 10–12 describe A Company’s agony.
  42. Ibid.; Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great, 260; see also John Spalding, “Interview with Master Sergeant Forrest C. Pogue and Staff Sergeant J. M. Potete, Belgium, February 9, 1945”; box 18952; Records of the Army Staff, Record Group 319; National Archives at College Park.
  43. Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great, 264.
  44. Ibid.
  45. See Robert A. Miller, Division Commander: Major General Norman D. Cota (Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Company, 1989), chaps. 8 and 9. Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota served previously in the 1st Infantry Division, first in the 16th Infantry Regiment, then as G-3, and finally as chief of staff. He made the Torch landing. Regarding his role on D-Day, see Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great, 261–62, 266.
  46. Fontenot, No Sacrifice Too Great, 261. Maj. Charles E. Tegtmeyer’s unpublished memoir from which this quotation comes is at the McCormick Research Center, Wheaton, Illinois.


Col. Gregory Fontenot, U.S. Army, retired, is a consultant on threat emulation for Army experimentation and a working historian. He was lead author of On Point: The US Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom (CGSC Press, 2004) and is the author of The 1st Infantry Division and the US Army Transformed: Road to Victory in Desert Storm, 1970–1991 (University of Missouri Press, 2017), winner of the 2017 Army Historical Foundation award for unit history, and Loss and Redemption at St. Vith: The 7th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge (University of Missouri Press, 2019). His most recent book is No Sacrifice Too Great: The 1st Infantry Division in World War II (University of Missouri Press, 2023).



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May-June 2024