Saturday, June 8, 2019

Could We Do D-Day Today?

We just commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1946, the invasion of the Nazi occupation of continental Europe. It is one of the turning points of WWII: Battle of Britain, Battle of the Atlantic, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Midway. All these Allied victories were essential for the defeat of the Axis powers. We celebrated the remaining D-Day veterans who returned to Normandy yesterday. The democracies, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, united to liberate Western Europe. They had to invade the Continent to defeat Hitler. The conquest of the Normandy beaches led to the breakout of American, British, Canadian, French, Norwegian and Polish forces, the liberation of Western Europe, and the defeat of the German forces in the West. The days of the Third Reich were numbered, showing the folly of Adolph Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States and initiation of a two front war by invading Russia. D Day was a massive effort: 11,000 ships, thousands of planes, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers against an entrenched enemy behind The Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall proved to be as ineffective as the Maginot Line and the Siegfried Wall. The question are: Could we do it again? Would we have 2 ½ years to marshal the forces? The first problem would be the media, which concentrates on the negative. There will be no John Wayne glorification of the War and D-Day. Vietnam was the first war on nightly TV, showing dead bodies and the horror of war to the civilian population. The public was disillusioned. The media is quick to find fault. War has more than its share of fault and incompetence with tragic consequences. The media would concentrate on the delay in breaking out (the French hedgerows) They will report the large civilian casualties. They will highlight the mistakes, not understanding battles do not proceed as planned in the fog of war. The first day objectives were not obtained on D-Day. General Eisenhower famously said “Plans are useless, but planning is essential,” or words to that effect. Today’s media would proclaim us as losing after Pearl Harbor. They would confirm it by the loss of Wake Island, Singapore, Malaysia, and the success of the German U-boats against Allied shipping in the Atlantic. They would harangue the Pentagon for the Guadalcanal Campaign that lingered for six months with no end and the interminable New Guinea Campaign. One quarter of the Second Marine Division were casualties on Guadalcanal. They would decry the loss of the fabled aircraft carriers, Lexington, Concord, Hornet and Wasp, and several naval bottles of Guadalcanal. They would have magnify the large losses in the Pacific: Tarawa, Saipan (2,949 deaths and 10,646 wounded), Peleliu (2,336 deaths and 8,450 injured), Iwo Jima (6,821 deaths and 19217 injured), and Okinawa (16,250). They would never understand the Pacific Campaign and the stepping stones, the islands and atolls, on the way to Tokyo. They would have proclaimed all is lost with the slaughter of the invading first waves on Omaha Beach, the two months to capture Caen, and then being stuck in the hedgehogs around Normandy. Photos and videos would depict the pathos of bodies drowning before they could reach the shores. They will note that of the fabled 200 rangers climbing Pointe de Hoc, 135 died or were wounded. Confirmed deaths (the numbers are not precise) on D-Day were 4,114 deaths, of which 2,499 were Americans and 1915 from other countries, It’s possible they will miss the fact that 875,000 Allied soldiers disembarked on the Normandy beaches by the end of June. America’s opponents today know the American public believe the American people have little patience for long wars with casualties. They want short, quick wins with low casualties. Another problem is that the United States was the Arsenal of Democracy in World War I and World War II protected by two oceans. Its large industrial base was not damaged during the war. The government financed the construction of steel mills, aluminum plants, and shipyards. Auto factories could be transformed into airplane, truck, and tank factories. The aerospace industry manufactured about 3,000 airplanes in 1939. It produced over 300,000 planes by the end of the war by over a dozen manufacturers, including the auto companies. The United States could outproduce Germany and Japan in ships, planes, tanks, guns, and artillery, as well as manpower. The armada of ally ships in Tokyo Harbor for the Japanese Surrender illustrate the manufacturing power of the United States and to a lesser extent the U.K. The American Arsenal of Democracy supplied much, but by no means all, the munition of England and Russia, with convoys to England and Murmansk. The United States now has three major plane manufacturers, two companies with shipyards for Navy ships, and one tank factory. America’s industrial base has been decimated in recent years, with scores of factories not only shuttered, but demolished. Most significantly, World War II was total war. Neither lawyers nor the White House micromanaged the war. The rule of engagement was WIN. Civilian casualties were a necessary corollary to winning the war. Firebombing Dresden and Tokyo would not be allowed under today’s rules. Neither would dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

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