Sense of Events: The awful stakes of D-Day by Donald Sensing
The specter of defeat on June 6, 1944 was overwhelmingly dreadful. The Allies had no other plans. There was no Plan B in case the landings were repulsed.
There are many “pivot” days in human history when the course of human events swung in a new direction because of discrete actions. It is hard to find another moment in all history when so much rested on an outcome of one day as rested on the success of the Allies’ landings on Normandy. In military history, no other day in American history compares. The only single day that comes to mind for me right now is the day of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC when an Athenian army repelled a Persian landing force. The entire future of Western civilization and the idea of democracy itself lay in the balance. And yet even that may not stand alone as D-Day does because the Persians persisted and the later battles of Plataea and Salamis were probably even more important. So there was no “one day” of paramount importance in the Persian War, even though it was almost certainly the most important war of ancient times.
The Soviets, pushing toward Nazi Germany from the east in 1944, had clamored for years for America and Britain to open a second front against Germany from the west. A second front would compel Germany to draw soldiers and materiel away from the Russian front. Allied claims that operations in North Africa, southern Europe and indeed, the UK-US bombing campaign constituted a second front were scorned by Stalin.
Placating Stalin was one reason the Allies had to invade Germany through France. All the military and political leaders remembered early 1918, when the newly-in-power Soviet government under Lenin had made a separate peace with Imperial Germany. Even though all the Allies had agreed early in WW II that no separate peace agreements would be made, the nag was always there.
Moreover, neither Roosevelt nor Churchill had any desire at all to see all Germany overrun from the east and fall under the hammer and sickle. The only way to prevent that was to place American and British soldiers on the ground inside Germany. Invasion through northern Europe was the only way to do that (Churchill’s claim that an invasion from the south, through Europe’s “soft underbelly,” proved fantastical in rolling up the Italian peninsula. Whatever Europe’s underbelly was, it wasn’t soft.) — READ THE REST AT Sense of Events: The awful stakes of D-Day