Of all the U.S. Army units to serve in Czechoslovakia during 1945, none was as combat experienced as the 1st Infantry Division. From the assault landing at Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 to V-E Day in north-west Czechoslovakia on 8 May 1945, the “Big Red One” spent an astonishing 443 days in combat across two continents.
On June 6, 1944 the Anglo-American led alliance invaded Nazi occupied France. Known today as D-Day it would be the greatest invasion in history. And though the Red Army was by June of 1944 well into the process of bleeding the Wehrmacht white, inflicting approximately 80% of Germany's Second World War military casualties, this should not take away from the considerable achievement that is since remembered today and forever since as D-Day.
It was actually on June 5, 1944 that D-Day could really be said to have begun.
On this Memorial Day, and with the pending 70 year anniversary of the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy, France, I want to highlight the often overlooked sacrifice of those U.S. servicemen killed while preparing for the most famous invasion in modern military history.
In the months leading up to the June 6th Allied invasion of Nazi occupied France the assault divisions went through an intensive training regimen. Needless to say there were many fatal mistakes.
Today is the anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in history; codenamed Operation Overlord by the Allies, but universally known since as "D-Day". Exactly 69 years ago approximately 160,000 Allied soldiers landed on the coast of Nazi occupied Normandy, France thus beginning the Second World War's final act. Though thousands of Allied soldiers, mostly U.S. and British, would be killed or wounded on June 6th the day's greatest carnage was centered on one location - the invasion beach code-named Omaha.
During WWII's Normandy Campaign the inability of Allied tanks to compete against their German foes, primarily in terms of armored protection and armamanent, was and remains today a fairly well known story. Nevertheless, what is often forgotten is that by the summer of 1944 the British had found a simple, relatively cost effective solution to the problems posed by hard hitting German AFV's (Armored Fighting Vehicles).
What the British had discovered was that if they took a 17-pounder L/55 anti-tank gun and employed tungsten armor-piercing rounds powered by a higher than normal amount of
“I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Fuhrer and Reichschancellor, loyalty and bravery. I vow to you, and those you have named to command me, obedience unto death, so help me God.”
This oath, taken by each member of the Waffen SS, summarized their unflinching obedience to Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. Although rightly condemned as a criminal organization following the Military Tribunal at Nuremburg, the Waffen SS, more specifically its Panzer Divisions, also ranked as among the most effective of any German military formations.
One of the favorite topics of alternative history (and one of the scenarios endlessly replayed in war games such as Axis & Allies and 3rd Reich) is what if Germany had attempted Operation Sea Lion. Assuming a Luftwaffe victory over the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain was Sea Lion feasible in other respects? Could Hitler have knocked the United Kingdom out of the war in the summer of 1940 or would the attempt have led to his first major defeat?
As we celebrate yet another anniversary of the tremendous Allied victory of June 6, 1944, or D-Day, let us take a closer look at the role played by German command decisions as one element in enabling the Allied establishment of a lodgment in France. From the beginning, Germany's approach to defending against an Allied liberation of Western Europe was overshadowed by the war waged in Eastern Europe. In particular an early focus of the Wehrmacht's defensive efforts revolved around preventing special operations conducted primarily by the British.
Codenamed Cobra, the Allied breakout from the Normandy Beachhead finally began late in July 1944 after a brief but intense planning stage. In directing Cobra U.S. General Omar Bradley left nothing to chance; as Cobra's objective was nothing less than breaking out of the bridgehead in Normandy in which the Allied army's had been bottled up for the better part of two full months. Bradley's plan was two-tiered; he first sought to breakthrough the German defensive positions near the Norman town of St.
Initially Germany approached the problems inherent in defending occupied France as largely one of preventing special operations conducted by the British. Such a German approach was understandable given Britain's best units remained tied down in North Africa during 1941-43. Nonetheless, Hitler's declaration of war on the United States, coupled with Barbarossa's defeat and the Soviet Union's resilience meant it was only a matter of time before the Anglo-American armies struck Nazi occupied Western Europe.