Operation Bolero

Preliminary missions for the Operation Overlord

Allied convoy in the Atlantic in 1942. Photo: US National Archives

A maritime convoy crosses the Atlantic between the United States and Great Britain.
Photo: US National Archives

The origins of Operation Bolero

The Allies are obliged to fight Germany on its territory and to liberate the occupied territories. The American war power, which is gradually moving, represents a formidable potential in men and materials for victory. But these means are useless if they remain in the American territory, they must be transported in one way or another to Europe at war.

Initiated by US General Henry H. Arnold, who invented possible solutions to transport these forces across the Atlantic Ocean, Operation Bolero provides the solution: soldiers (but also their infrastructure) are moved to the east coast From the United States at first, then embarked in transport ships heading for Great Britain and finally settled in camps where they continued their training.

Operation Bolero requires the help of several Anglo-American military and civilian logisticians who work together to coordinate their efforts. One of the thorns is the presence in the Atlantic of German submarines, the famous U-Boats, which have flowed a large number of allied ships since the beginning of the war.

The convoys are thus escorted by heavily armed warships equipped with high-performance sonars.

Start of Operation Bolero

The first convoy left the United States in the direction of England in April 1942. These elements were initially planned to be engaged in the Round Up operation which eventually gave rise to Operation Overlord several months later. According to the plans of the War Department, the US Department of War, one million soldiers must have been transported from April 1942 to April 1943.

Lack of maritime resources, the threat of the U-Boats and the evolution of the war (with the Torch amphibious operation in North Africa) delayed these predictions: on July 31, 1943, 238,000 American soldiers crossed the Atlantic. But by the end of the summer of 1943, the Allies gradually concentrated their efforts on Operation Overlord in Normandy and from July 1943 to February 1944, 700,000 soldiers joined England. In May 1944, the Americans were 1,527,000 to train in Britain in expectation of D-Day.


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