D-Day – June 6, 1944: Hitler’s Armed Forces In Disarray

Adolf Hitler 1889-1945

Adolf Hitler may have been one of the most powerful men, in the history of the world, but his military acumen was less than stellar. That was never more evident than on D-Day. Hitler knew the Allies were putting together an invasion force, but didn’t know when it would be, or exactly where in France that the invasion would take place.

It is amazing that the D-Day forces were able to penetrate the German defense, of heavy cement fortifications, millions of landmines and barbed wire.

Hitler and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel were expecting the invasion to take place at Calais, France, since it was the closest to England. Rommel directed 15 infantry divisions to Calais, while dispatching fewer troops to Normandy, where the D-Day invasion began.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel 1891-1944

After a storm brought bad weather to Calais, Rommel went home to Southern Germany thinking nothing would be happening soon on the invasion front. Members of his staff also left to attend a military conference.

Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower originally planned for June 5, 1944 as the invasion date. However, the weather was so bad that day, that he changed it to the next day June 6. After checking with the meteorologist the invasion was launched from England.

Allied paratroopers landed behind enemy lines, before the naval invasion landed at Normandy.

The naval invasion of 4,000 vessels carrying troops surprised the Germans. German field commanders called their generals, who then called the high command, who were at Hitler’s villa in Berchtesgaden.

The Normandy landings took place at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword locations, which were along a 50 mile stretch of coastline.

Fortunately for the allies Field Marshal Rommel had to drive 400 miles, to get to the site of the landings. He couldn’t fly because U.S. air supremacy prevented him, from pursuing that option.

Hitler who was asleep at the time of the invasion was roused up, to find out the Allies had invaded at Normandy. Hitler still didn’t act soon, as he wanted to make sure the Normandy invasion was not a ruse and were reluctant to give up their positions at Calais. It would be several hours after the invasion, before Hitler gave the order to clean up Normandy that night. Hitler was not a happy camper, when he was informed that cleaning up the beach, at Normandy was impossible by his commanders in the field.

When the reinforcements did arrive U.S. naval guns and fighter planes and bombers ripped them apart, which gave Allied ground troops time to move further inland.

Darkness would see 150,000 Allied troops already ashore. A week later half a million Allied troops were now on French soil.

Field Marshals Gurd von Runstedt and Rommel consulted on June 17, 1944 with Hitler, to decide which course of action to take next. Rommel wanted to pull back, out of range from the Allied warships so his troops could face the Allies inland, but Hitler refused.

Runstedt and Rommel met again with Hitler on June 29, 1944. The meeting did not go well, when Runstedt was asked about best to handle the Allied success, by Hitler’s chief aide Wilhelm Keitel. Runstedt replied “Make peace you fools, What else can you do?” That answer resulted in the loss, of his position as Commander of Army West.

By the end of June Allied troops had liberated Cherbourg, while taking 25,000 German troops.

The Allied troops would capture another 50,000 German troops.

Hitler remained steadfast in his fight to the end policy, even though some of his generals thought the end was in sight, after the successful invasion at Normandy.

Rommel would be implicated in the July 20, 1944 bombing that killed four, in a futile attempt to assassinate Hitler. He was implicated by others and was given his choice of committing suicide by cyanide, or facing a trial and certain execution. The cyanide was taken by him on October 14, 1944, which was only four months and eight days after the D-Day invasion.

Runstedt was in poor health and died in February of 1953.


Heroes of D-Day Recount Experiences


Soldiers about to leave landing craft on D-Day on June 6, 1944.

The photo above makes me wonder what these soldiers were thinking, before leaving the landing craft on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some of them would be dead minutes later, as they came under intense German gunfire from beyond the beach. They could see their fellow soldiers being shot, before they even left the landing craft.

I saw a PBS program about veterans returning to Normandy, France and telling their stories of what they experienced that day. One soldier was helping wounded soldiers, but then was hit himself several times. He had just told another soldier that he was too weak to help with the wounded soldiers and at that moment the other soldier was hit by a bullet that went in one side of his head and exited on the other side.

He assumed the soldier had died, but he encountered him at an Army reunion later and saw the man and his wife there. He told him that he thought he was dead and the other soldier thought the other soldier was dead. So both soldiers, had thought the other soldier was dead, when in fact both had survived their wounds from D-Day.

A 18 year old soldier on D-Day would be 86 years old today. The 70th anniversary of D-Day will be held on June 6, 2014. Any soldier that was 30 or older that day, probably would have died by that date.

Even though President Roosevelt had declared war on Germany on December 8 of 1941, it would be two-and-a- half years before American forces entered the European theater.

The French civilians on the program today, are still thankful for the Americans freeing them from German rule. They spoke of passing the torch to each generation of  the French people, to let them know that the American soldiers, were the reason that they regained their freedom.

Hitler’s harebrained military plans, enabled the Americans to gain inroads to other French cities, since he had 157 divisions on the Russian front, while having only 59 in France.

13,000 American paratroopers were dropped from the sky, as part of the D-Day invasion,  but the paratroopers were very fragmented and only 2,500 of them had joined up with their units, 24 hours after being dropped. One of the veterans on the PBS special said they wrapped up dead American paratroopers in their parachutes and buried them.

The allied forces were outnumbered 380,000 to 175,000 but still they still won the Battle of Normandy. Allied casualties at Normandy totaled close to 10,000 with 2,500 making the ultimate sacrifice for the allied forces.

Words can’t express our gratitude for the soldiers, who stepped out of their landing craft, facing death immediately and those that survived the onslaught at the beach, as they began their trek through France, as they liberated the French people, from the clutches of Adolf  Hitler.