The American War Model during the Normandy landings (2/3)
Battle of Normandy files
Second part: the American war model during the Normandy landing
The successes of the American war model on June 6, 1944 in Normandy.
1. Materials of the American war model: a key to success.
The multiplicity of means.
During operation Torch, the Americans faced a cruel shortage in specialized equipment for amphibious operations. It should be noted that at the beginning of the Second World War, the Allies did not possess any barge for the carriage of tanks or personnel with their equipment for a large-scale landing. British and American engineers then developed a series of different types of equipment, including tank landings, light vehicles, materials and equipment, sections and infantry companies, some armed.
The technical innovations and prowess of Allied engineers are not limited to maritime transport. New types of tanks as well as new vehicles were born with a view in particular to the landing in Normandy. These units must facilitate the crossing of obstacles on beaches and in the immediate vicinity of the shore: bulldozers to clear axes, “flail” tanks to open a passage in a minefield, tanks to fill the ditches, bridge or prevent The silting of the wheels or caterpillars of vehicles, flamethrowers or mortar tanks to support the action of the infantry… an impressive number of units known generally as “funnies”. The Allies owe a great number of these creations to the English engineer Percy Hobart.
The Allies are at the origin of many other innovative creations, such as the paratroopers who were widely used by the Americans during the initial phase of the assault in France in order to mislead the Germans into their real intentions.
The amount of resources deployed.
If the quality of the means is important for the Americans, they prefer even more quantity, unlike the Germans who have ruined to continually seek the ultimate weapon that would be able to put an end to the conflict. Knowing their net numerical superiority at sea and in the air, the Americans did not limit the number of men and equipment deployed. On the evening of June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied soldiers landed. A total of 195,701 personnel (sailors and combatants) took part in the amphibious operation (codenamed Neptune). 11,590 aircraft (fighter, bomber, transport and reconnaissance aircraft, gliders) flew over Normandy during the day of Tuesday, June 6th. 6,939 ships crossed the English Channel. These impressive figures illustrate both the strategy of concentration of forces as discussed above and the will to win the victory for the Americans.
Deep technological innovations
To the quantity and the quality is added the novelty. Indeed, technological innovation being one of the keys to success in industrial warfare, the Allies place a special emphasis on new material creations designed to adapt better to the terrain and to facilitate the progression through the territory. As part of the preparation for what they call an invasion, the allied generals are taking stock of the problems posed by Overlord’s plans. One of the major problems is the absence of deep-water ports in the landing beaches: only Le Havre and Cherbourg, remote from the future bridgehead, have port facilities capable of receiving, at all times, Huge transport boats. In order to supply the Allied troops massively with food, equipment and fuels, a solution was found: to make two artificial ports from to the ground, to tow them through the Channel and install them immediately after securing the bridgehead. They will be installed in front of the localities of Arromanches (for Commonwealth forces) and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.
Another problem is the fire support. Although assault troops enjoy massive support from the air and maritime forces, their efficiency and, above all, their precision remains uncertain. There are many obstacles to the Atlantic wall, and the Allies seek to develop armored vehicles capable of supporting the infantry as closely as possible (especially as the psychological impact of such units on the enemy is strong). A British general, Percy Hobart, has devised a number of armored vehicles capable of performing various missions: clearing a track in a minefield, crossing ditches, silencing entrenched positions, building bridges … Amphibious tanks are even imagined: these tanks are able to sail at sea in calm weather thanks to an inflatable canvas and a propulsion propeller. These different vehicles are nicknamed the “funnies” by the soldiers.
To supply these units with fuel, a solution must be found to that of artificial ports. The Allies then imagined to unroll a submarine pipeline at the bottom of the English Channel connecting England with Normandy. This is the program called PLUTO (initials of Pipe-Line Under The Ocean).
2. Titanic preparatory work.
The choice of Normandy and the effect of surprise.
One of the lessons of the raid on Dieppe in August 1942 is the importance of the surprise effect. The Germans are pre-positioned in key locations: they protect major ports, major coastal cities and are on alert in the northern regions of France whose beaches are in close proximity to England. The Allies are aware that a landing in the Pas-de-Calais would be a strategic error, they are interested in the other possibilities offered to them; The coast of Brittany is too distant and dotted with rocks dangerous for ships, the Dutch coast is flooded by numerous swamps which prevent a consequent reinforcement of a bridgehead, especially since the sea off Holland is regularly agitated. Normandy seems ideal for the Allies, especially since the Germans do not expect them.
This reflection contributes to the elaboration of a surprise effect to maximize the chances of success of operation Overlord.
The race for intelligence and the poisoning of German forces (Operation Fortitude).
As part of the preparations for the attack in Normandy, the Allies place an emphasis on the search for information: they want to know as much as possible about their opponents before committing them. To do this, all the means are good: they use the networks of resistance in Normandy and Brittany which communicate in London the information about the German troops present on the spot, their positions, their numbers, their morale. The Allies also massively use the air force for intelligence: many aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art photographic materials that film German positions along the Normandy coast. These photographs are then studied in England and are used for the elaboration of the operations, the objectives are marked and memorized by the commanders of the various units. Some fortifications are sometimes reconstructed to scale 1/1 in England with the means of the board and the Allied soldiers use them as base for their training.
On the other hand, the Allies organize a vast operation of intoxication of the adverse intelligence services. Indeed, they are developing a series of measures called “Fortitude” aimed essentially at making the Germans believe that the landing will indeed take place in the Pas-de-Calais. To do this, they create a dummy army made of rubber guns, tanks and inflatable trucks which they place all along the south-east of England facing north of France, taking great care to leave the planes German spies fly over this English region.
At the time of the disembarkation, they also plan to dump in the sky, still off the Pas-de-Calais, small metal strips that are supposed to deceive the German operators in charge of surveillance. Indeed, these lamellas a few centimeters long appear like true squadrons on the opposing radars.
These poisoning measures were particularly effective in that the Germans, several weeks after June 6th 1944, believed in a larger allied landing in the Pas-de-Calais, leaving nearly 150,000 men stationed in this region.
An intensive training since 1942.
England was to serve as a starting point for operation Overlord. Thus, the English host dozens of military camps on their territory where several thousand men are housed serving on the allied side: this operation is nicknamed “Round-up”. These soldiers are not only housed but also prepared for the battle that awaits them: exercises of disembarkation, of crossings, of temperament, of day and night and in all the times. These preparations attach equal importance to physical training and mental preparation, so that the Allied military have a fierce will to fight and defeat their opponents.
First, as part of the preparations for the invasion, the Allied armies must equip themselves, train and train in order to carry out diverse and precise missions. US and Canadian troops are taking advantage of military facilities on their ground, but it is necessary to think of the routing of the material and the men in England, a launching base for the attack in Normandy.
From the end of 1942, the first transport ships left the North American continent and reached Great Britain. An intense anti-submarine warfare begins in the Atlantic between allied surface ships and German U-Boot submarines.
But since 1943, the battle seems to have been won by the Anglo-Americans who are sinking more and more buildings belonging to the Axis forces, while the German naval officers are destroying fewer and fewer allied convoys.
Once disembarked in England, allied soldiers are stationed in various parts of the country, while the equipment (tanks, transport vehicles, guns …) is stored in carefully kept secret bases.
As part of the D-Day preparations, the economic leasing program is in full swing, and the Americans deliver hundreds of vehicles, warships, and individual weapons to the British in exchange for The use of lands previously occupied by Commonwealth troops. The British military park is expanding, while the weapons industries in the United States are operating at full capacity.
On April 28, 1944, German speedboats attacked a convoy of transport ships during a full-scale Allied landing training exercise in the Slapton Sands area (operation Tiger) in England before retreating and disappearing in the fog. 749 American soldiers were killed and 600 were missing in this sad affair, long kept secret by the Allies who did not want to alarm their public opinion nor to prejudice the preparation of Overlord.
3. The outcomes of many lessons.
Concentration of forces.
The Allies know that it is by concentrating their forces that they are most likely to win victory, according to the strategic principle enunciated by French Marshal Foch. They are conscious that the more distant their forces are, the more likely they are to be numerous, which represent many faults in which the opponent can plunge. In addition, concentrating forces reduces the intervals to be covered by logistics.
They initially decide the distribution of landing beaches in the following order: a beach for the Americans (Omaha), two for the British (Gold and Sword) and one for the Canadians (Juno). With the strategic need to get the hands as quickly as possible on a deep-water port, namely Cherbourg, General Montgomery advises the creation of a new landing area directly in the Cotentin. The Allies choose the coast near the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, northwest of the mouth of the Vire: it is Utah, second American sector.
The planned front is a distance of less than 150 kilometers, the assault forces are supported by the largest fleet of warfare ever united and an impressive number of planes.
It was in 1941 that the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, broke its teeth against the courage of the British pilots as well as the various volunteers who joined the Royal Air Force. Its forces have been considerably reduced as a result of the bombing over England, and only 150 hunting machines cover a territory stretching from Holland to Brittany.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies displayed an undeniable air superiority. 11,590 aircraft are planned to carry out all the necessary operations, that is to say: massive or punctual bombings, aerial hunting, transport of parachutists, support to troops on the ground, transport by gliders. In total, during the 24 hours of D-Day, 10,750 take-off are recorded on all Allied air bases.
In order to consolidate this superiority and make its action even more effective by extending its range of action, military engineers are responsible for installing aerodromes directly after disembarkation. The wounded can thus be evacuated, the distressed apparatus no longer have to cross the English Channel to land and hunting can intervene farther and faster.