by Brian Williams
Operation Overlord, the Allied codename for the invasion of
Normandy, involved more than 150,000 men and 5,000 ships. It
consisted of American, British, Canadian, Polish, and Free French
Armies under command of General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander
of the Allied Expeditionary Force (the choice of Eisenhower was
officially made by President Roosevelt in December 1943, and
agreed upon by the British).
The Deputy Supreme Commander of the invasion was British Air Chief
Marshal Arthur W. Tedder, who had been the commander of the Allied
Air Forces in the Mediterranean. While British Admiral
Bertram H. Ramsay, was appointed naval commander. He had
conducted the evacuation at Dunkirk and also planned the Torch
landing in North Africa. British Air Chief Marshal Trafford
L. Leigh-Mallory was appointed as commander of the air forces.
Montgomery was chosen as the ground forces' commander, despite his
well-known personality problems. Eisenhower's first choice
was in fact General Harold Alexander, but Churchill needed
Alexander to remain in Italy. Montgomery arrived in Britain
in January 1944 and began to evaluate the feasibility of the
operation. He proposed the expansion of the invasion area to
include landings west of the Vire River - allowing for the
encirclement of Cherbourg (this would later become Utah Beach).
The Deception - Operation Fortitude
Elaborate efforts were taken in order to deceive the Germans
into thinking that a massive Allied force was concentrated in Kent
- just opposite Pas de Calais. Command of the fake army
(known as the US 1st Army Group) was given to General George S.
Patton in order to lend validity to the Army Group. Radio
traffic was faked, plywood and canvas installations were
constructed, inflatable tanks and vehicles were used extensively
in order to deceive the Germans. In all, the plan called
Operation Fortitude, was considered a great success in keeping the
German High Command guessing about where the real invasion would
come from. It would be instrumental in causing the Germans
to withhold units once D-Day began. On a side note, Patton
would later take command of the US Third Army in Normandy after
the landings and during the breakout phase of the campaign.
The Landings - Preparations
Eisenhower decided that the Airborne units would go in first
the night before the invasion under a full moon. The
amphibious landings needed to land early in the morning after 40
minutes of heavy daylight bombardment. Due to the numerous
beach obstacles, the landings also needed to take place at low
tide but at the beginning of the rise of the tide. This
allowed for most of the obstacles to be visible and thus be
avoided, but caused the landing craft to debark their troops much
further from shore. Unfortunately, all these conditions were
only met between the 5th and 7th of June. Preparations began
on the 2nd of June, but a powerful storm arrived on the 4th of
June, causing a 24-hour postponement. Later on the 4th, a
break in the weather was forecasted for the 6th - at which time
Eisenhower gave the go ahead for the invasion.
In addition, the amphibious units needed to land at dawn in order
to give the maximum protection during night and then allow for 16
hours of daylight once the invasion began. Also, the
surprise of morning operations cannot be underestimated as many
units were not yet ready for the invasion that early.
The Allied landings consisted of 5 major areas of beach operations
in addition to 3 airborne drop zones (parachute and glider).
The U.S. forces were concentrated on the western landings, while
the British and Canadians were concentrated in the central and
eastern landings. The U.S. Airborne divisions (82nd and
101st) were to secure inland objectives approximately 5 miles
inland opposite the Utah landings, while the 6th British Airborne
division would form the most eastern extent of the invasion by
securing the bridges over the Orne river.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (born: Oct. 14, 1890, died: Mar.
After graduating from West Point, Eisenhower served during WWI in
several training camps where he became well-known as a excellent
organizer and trainer. After WWI, he served on several minor
positions until 1933 and eventually was made administrative
assistant to Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur. When
MacArthur was sent to the Philippines in 1935, Eisenhower followed
him. Once the European war began in September of 1939,
Eisenhower returned to a post in the U.S. eventually becoming
chief of staff of the Third Army in 1941.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was appointed to
serve under Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall and then later
in June 1942 was sent to England as U.S. commander in Europe.
His main role was of a planner and public relations figure; traits
that were essential in the Allied coalition. He commanded
the invasion of North Africa in November 1942 and the subsequent
campaign of Sicily and the Italian mainland.
In late 1943, Eisenhower was given command for the invasion of
France which he dedicated all available time to. Within 10
weeks, the Germans were driven from most of France and eventually
forced Germany's unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945.
After WWII, Eisenhower served as army chief of staff for a year
and served as president of Columbia University. In December
1950, Truman appointed Eisenhower commander of NATO. In
1952, Eisenhower ran successfully for the Presidency (running mate
Nixon) and again in 1956. He was the oldest man to hold the
presidency and suffered a major heart attack in 1955.
Because he was prevented from running for a third term (due to the
22nd Amendment), Eisenhower acquiesced to his running mate,
Richard Nixon, who in 1960, was defeated by Kennedy.
Eisenhower then retired to farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Operation Overlord - written by Brian Williams
Copyright © 2000 Brian Williams