Air War College, Air University issued. in March 1986, a report titled “OVERLORD, The Unnecessary Invasion” that concluded D-Day was unnecessary. Written by William F. Moore, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, the research report was submitted to the faculty in fulfillment of the research requirement led by Research Advisor Dr. Joseph L. Strange, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. VT has thought it best this report be made public so that a proper historical record can be made.
WW2 EDUCATION: For the record, Russia lost about 27,000,000 million during WW2. USA was late to war in 1941; lost about 419,000. It was Soviet Union that captured Berlin and surrounded Adolf Hitler; not USA/England/France. Russians know this truth but it’s just NOT properly taught in USA Schools. The D-Day invasion was critical to freeing Western Europe but it did NOT in of itself end the war. FYI, Hitler’s biggest enemy was Communism. He hated communism. He was a capitalist. It was the Soviet Union that took him down.
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AIR WAR COLLEGE RESEARCH REPORT ABSTRACT
TITLE: OVERLORD: The Unnecessary Invasion
AUTHOR: William F. Moore, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
[This document] Assesses whether the OVERLORD Invasion of Normandy was necessary for military victory in Europe during World War II. [It is concluded] that it was not necessary, based on Russian success against the German Army on the Eastern Front, the ability of the strategic bombing campaign to destroy German war support industries, and the extended political uncertainty concerning the requirement for OVERLORD which preceded the final decision. [The report] Concludes with a discussion of possible allied motives for assuming the risk associated with OVERLORD when it was not necessary for victory.
Lieutenant Colonel William F. Moore (B.S. United States Air Force Academy, M.B.A. Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania) has been interested in American military history and leadership throughout his Air Force career. He has had several assignments in Research and Development, most recently on the MX and Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) programs. He is a graduate of the Air War College, class of 1986.
Table of Contents
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH iv
I INTRODUCTION 1
II WAR ON THE RUSSIAN FRONT 4
III THE STRATEGIC BOMBING CAMPAIGN 11
IV PLANS AND POLITICS 20
V OTHER STRATEGIC CONSIDERATIONS 30
VI CONCLUSION 35
LIST OF REFERENCES 38
OVERLORD. Normandy. D-Day. June 6, 1944. The Longest Day. The event has been referred to as “The Mighty Endeavor,” “The Great Crusade,” “Much the greatest thing we have ever attempted,” and other equally extravagant titles. Whatever the nomenclature, it commonly evokes the image of decisive victory — a do-or-die operation upon which hung the outcome of World War II In Europe. The common perception that D-Day, OVERLORD, was necessary, even vital, for victory against Hitler has influenced policy decisions regarding the nature, size, composition, and missions of American armed forces from the end of World II to the present.
The purpose of this paper is to point out that this perception of OVERLORD is in all likelihood based upon an illusion – a myth. Americans typically believe that Nazi Germany was defeated during World War II by American fighting forces, and that It was primarily the skill and dedication of the American fighting man, the civilian-soldier, which proved decisive in this conflict. Typical Americans also believe that combined US and British forces were primarily responsible for destroying the German Army in 1944 and 1945 after the successful amphibious landing on the coast of Normandy. The exploits of Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Montgomery as they swept across France and into Germany following the breakout from Normandy have become the stuff of legend, as well as the subject of numerous books and movies.
Unfortunately, history shows these views concerning American and British supremacy and the importance of Normandy and the Western Front In Europe to be inaccurate. Operation OVERLORD and the massive cross-channel Invasion of Europe were not necessary to the military defeat of Germany. Furthermore, had the invasion merely been delayed for a few months, the political objectives which resulted from OVERLORD could have been attained with only a fraction of the British/American casualties.
These conclusions may seem startling or even ridiculous to those accustomed to popularly held views of allied victory in Europe. However, they are based on readily documented historical information. The historical record shows that by the end of 1943 the German Army had been beaten decisively on the eastern front and that it could not resist the increasing power and tempo of the Soviet advance to Berlin. It also shows that by early 1944 the American and British strategic bombing campaign was systematically devastating the German industrial base and that defeat or total incapacitation of the German war machine was inevitable — sooner, not later. Most remarkable of all, however, history shows that American and British planners believed that the massive Normandy invasion was not necessary to achieve military victory, and that it could easily result in a catastrophic defeat for the allied forces. Such a result would, as a minimum, have lengthened rather than shortened the war and could well have caused incalculable damage to the allied cause.
The process which led to the development of this flawed allied strategy for the European theater was intensely political, emotional, and chauvinistic. An examination of this process provides a disturbing insight into the difficulties and complexities of coalition warfare. It also provides the basis for serious inquiry into the motives of US military and political leaders during this period when merely winning the war was not a sufficient objective.
WAR ON THE RUSSIAN FRONT
On the importance of the Eastern front in World War II, most serious historians are in agreement. Trumbull Higgins puts it this way, “It remains an uncontestable fact that in the Second World War the Eastern Front constituted the main and decisive theater against the Germans, the theater in which…the backbone of the German Army was broken.” (4:ix) Not only is this statement true now, It was already true by the end of 1943 when America and Britain made their final commitment to the OVERLORD landing in Normandy. In 1941 and 1942 the Germans had suffered disastrous defeats at Moscow and at Stalingrad, and with the defeat at Kursk in the summer of 1943, the German Army “lost the initiative and was forced to turn to the strategic defense along the entire Soviet-German front.” (19:95) After Kursk the Germans were never again able to launch a coordinated offensive in the East. (18:239) This was demonstrated conclusively, not so much by the success which the British and Americans enjoyed at Normandy and during the subsequent campaign across France, but by the devastation which the Russians were again able to inflict on the remnants of the German Army during their 1944 summer offensive. During the first month of this offensive alone, the Soviets reported killing 381,000 German soldiers and capturing another 158,000.(18:270) Such devastation after the losses of the preceding three years clearly indicates that the German army no longer had the capacity to achieve victory.
The decisive nature of the Eastern Front can be deduced by reviewing the size of Hitler’s commitment. On June 21, 1941, the eve of BARBAROSSA, the German Order of Battle included over 3,300,000 men comprising 154 German divisions, 18 Finnish divisions, and 14 Rumanian divisions. (4:121,122) Opposing the Germans, but not alerted for the surprise attack, were approximately 4,500,000 men in European Russia comprising 235 divisions. (4:122) Hitler left another 60 German divisions to guard the western and southern borders of Nazi occupied Europe. (4:123) With this vast commitment of resources to his eastern front, Hitler knew that if he did not win there, he would lose the war. Victory in the other theaters could not compensate for a loss in the east.
Within a month the eastern front stretched more than 1200 miles. Subsequent battles along this vast front were truly massive in scale. The opposing forces at the major eastern front battles through the end of t943 are summarized below: (19:37,39,69,71,80,82,113,114)
Battle Divisions Divisions
Moscow: Oct-Nov 41 77.5 95
Stalingrad: Nov 42-Feb 43 50 78
Kursk: Jul 43 50 110
Battle for the Dnieper: Aug-Sep 43 98 231
These numbers are most meaningful when viewed relative to the German forces which the other allies faced during their campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and France. At the peak of their strength during the Tunisian Campaign, German forces In North Africa never exceeded eight divisions. (20: Map 87) In Italy German strength usually varied between 20 and 25 divisions. (21) On June 6, 1944, there were 58 German divisions in France to oppose the landings at Normandy and the subsequent drive to the East. These opposing forces on the other fronts are summarized below:
Battle Divisions Divisions
North Africa: May 43 (20: Map 87) 8 18
Italy: May 43 (21)(20: Map 103) 23 26
France (available for OVERLORD, Jun 44) 58 39
These figures indicate that the opposing forces for the major eastern front battles greatly exceeded the total forces engaged on the other fronts. This disparity was recognized by allied leaders. In 1942 President Roosevelt said, “I find it difficult this Spring and Summer to get away from the simple fact that the Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis materiel than all the other 25 United Nations put together.” (16: 61)
German army records show that between June 1941 and December 1943 approximately 94% of their losses occurred on the Eastern front. (4:282) In only the two and a half months between November 19, 1942 and February 2, 1943, the time period during which the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad, German losses totaled over 500,000 men. (4:261) In the summer of 1943 the Germans lost over 3,000 tanks, 1,000 pieces of artillery, 5,000 motor vehicles, and 1400 airplanes at the Battle of Kursk alone. (18: 237) This level of destruction and loss of life has not been seen before or since.
It is a common weakness among Western historians to regard Russian losses in World War II as an indicator primarily of the ineptitude of Russian leadership, rather than as an indicator of the skill of the German Army and of the tenacity of the Russian resistance. When focusing on the Eastern front, many tend to forget the amazing success of the Germans against western armies in 1939 and 1940. After all, at the outbreak of World War II, the French, not the Germans or the Russians, had the largest standing army in the world. As an indicator of the ferocity of conflict on the Eastern Front, Russian losses during World War II simply have no parallel in modern history. Although German losses by end of February 1942 totaled 258,000 dead or missing, Russian army losses had totaled approximately 4,000,000 prisoners of war alone. (4:196) By the spring of 1943, German losses of approximately 1,000,000 men were matched by Russian losses of eight to nine times that number. (4:273) The Russians were victorious, but they paid a higher price than any of their allies for victory.
Of the total German losses, it suffices to say that the 3,300,000 man army that invaded Russia in June 1941 and their replacements over the next four years were simply consumed. Most were killed. Of those who surrendered or were taken prisoner of war, only a small fraction were ever repatriated. Practically all of the German prisoners on the eastern front were either killed outright or deprived of the food and shelter needed to survive. German skill at soldiering has never been surpassed, but they could not replace their losses, and the Russians could.
Perhaps of equal importance to the war’s final outcome, Russian industry was significantly outproducing the Germans. As early as August of 1942 Soviet tank production was reported by Stalin at approximately 2000 per month as compared to only 350 per month for the Germans. (4:230) The Germans were able to increase tank production to a maximum of approximately 1000 per month in 1943, but they were never able to match the Russians. (18: 232) In contrast to German industry, Soviet production continued to increase throughout the war. Russia’s average annual output for 1942 through 1945 is summarized below: (18: 232)
Tanks and self-propelled artillery 30,000
Machine guns and automatic weapons 450,000
Lend Lease also provided a critical boost to the Russian war effort, especially during the early months following Hitler’s invasion. In 1942 alone over 4500 tanks were provided through Lend Lease. It cannot be argued that Lend Lease was not important, but in total it comprised only a small fraction, estimated at 10-11%, of total Soviet production. (16: 286) It was primarily the efforts of the Russian people, their army, and their industry which defeated Hitler on the eastern front.
Of perhaps even greater significance than previous German losses and Russian industrial strength was the overwhelming size of the Russian Army. By 1943 the Russians had mobilized an army of such numerical strength that the Germans could not hope to match it. At that time the Soviet Army had reached its full strength of 500 divisions. (18: 230) From 1943 on, German strength on the eastern front never exceeded 140 divisions. (18: 280) Although the Germans were accustomed to fighting at a numerical disadvantage, they could not hope for victory against odds this great.
By the end of 1943 all that was apparently required to insure defeat of the German Army was continuation of the war of attrition on the eastern front. The time frame for opening a truly decisive second front had already passed.
However, it was not until this time that British and American forces became capable of making a major contribution to the ground war. This opportunity was not to be lost, even if the decisive battles had already been fought.