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Saturday, June 6. 2009
From S.L.A. Marshall's First Wave at Omaha Beach, in the November,1960 Atlantic:
June 6, 1944
Sixty four years ago, the Allies invaded France, coming ashore on the beaches of Normandy. The stories of courage and death and mayhem are appalling, but bear witness to the courage of young men doing their duty for their country. May we never forget t...
Tracked: Jun 06, 13:48
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Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. God bless all who fought, and died that day. Amen.
Good Ol' 'Merican Generals: fighting wars by sending in excessive amounts of men so that after the slaughter of said troops there are still enough to achieve the goals. The damn generals have a long history of such incompetence: from the Civil War to present.
Wasn't it Sec of Defense Renquist who finally pushed for lighter more mobile troops and equipment against the desire of the fat bottomed Generals? He wasn't forced out because of any failures in Iraq. False reporting on Iraq provided the excuse to oust him because of his reforms.
njartist49 - exactly how would you have put the troops of the Western allies ashore in Europe? I'm curious where there was a more lightly defended area suitable for amphibious landing. Or maybe you would have had them fight through the Alps, or perhaps just join the picnic in the light skirmishing tea party of the Ostfront. Pardon me if I don't see the incompetence or the wanton waste of life here, particularly in light of the relatively smooth unfolding of events on other beaches - understand that a lot of the issues were caused by faulty intelligence, and by German maskirovka that had the allies attacking places they thought were more heavily fortified and finding nothing, and attacking places that until quite recently had been unfortified. Now Sicily was a disaster, but that was more due to Mark Clark's failure to move aggressively off the beeches, and the Hurtgenwald was also butchery due to one of the fairly rare examples of the U.S. generals buying into an attrition strategy. But for the most part U.S. generals in WWII were fairly solicitous of the lives of their troops. The U.S. lost around 430,000 troops total, the Soviets lost around 11 million. In the Pacific, where the actual fighting at the 'tip of the spear' was far, far more brutal than the fighting in the West, there were around 41,000 combat deaths. MacArthur, Nimitz and their generals were remarkably sparing of the lives of their men, bypassing most Japanese strongholds in favor of choking off their logistical supply chain.
You can go further back to WWI where the U.S. did fight in the trenches, but there again the focus was on fire and maneuver, a method which incurs sharp casualties at the schwerpunkt but which avoids the type of attrition that decimated the British, French and German forces during that war. Since WWII, the whole point of reliance on technology and training is to permit, to the extent possible, the minimization of casualties, and the way the main force battle in Iraq was fought, for instance, demonstrates how casualties are minimized. Heavy armor, high firepower, standoff engagement ability, and an emphasis on envelopment battles. We have enormous artillery and air capacity as a result, and our targeting systems are unmatched. This has been the approach used since WWII, and particularly since the end of the draft and I think it works. The U.S. is frighteningly good tactically, despite the occasional parochial bigotry of our allies. I'll notice our enemies don't spend a lot of time ridiculing our military... wonder why that is.
The bottom line is I think your generalization is pretty silly when you get down to the particulars. There are almost always heavy casualties at the tip of the spear, no matter how aptly that spear is placed. Troops to generals are like nails to a carpenter. Some of them get used up in the work process. A good carpenter uses fewer. Most U.S. generals, particularly since WWII and the evolution of a large, standing professional officer and noncom corps, have been able to achieve tactical goals very efficiently.
Have you read "Goodbye Darkness" by William Manchester? It's about the fighting in the Pacific. It tears you up to read it, but it is a 'beautiful' tribute to our men.
Thanks to Buddy for turning me on to it.
Another wonderful book (WWI) is "A Soldier of the Great War' by Mark Helprin. Setting is Italy. Stunning book. "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara - Battle of Gettysburg - best book written about that.
Yes, I've read those. If you found Manchester's book moving and an interesting history, I'd recommend Eugene Sledge, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. When you understand how sharp the fighting was it's remarkable how MacArthur and Nimitz managed to keep casualties so low through the island-hopping strategy.
Thanks. I'll get it. When I first read about sending troops in in the first wave, etc., I immediately thought of the last ten pages or so of "Killer Angels". By then, Shaara had made the characters known to us such that the dread of what the reader knows is coming is almost unbearable. I read the little boy doing the cadence on his drum for the final battle and wept, hardly able to turn the pages, to the end.
What stark contrast those images are to those you describe of modern warfare. I wish there were a way to make those books required reading... for who? Everyone in America.
Uh that would be Rumsfeld not Renquist...but interesting point. Rumsfeld probably got ousted for a couple of reasons:
1. He had lost all political influence...he was no longer effective...no one was listening
2. He either tolerated or was supportive of the big base hunker down attrition strategy instead of a proactive counter insergency strategy that Petreaus implemented.
Rumsfeld is a great man who did a fine job in the initial stages of our response to 9/11 attack in mobilizing for counter measures and communicating the reason for those measures. He was also good at dusting up the inertia of the peace time Pentegon and started generating some real momentum for change in the military.
The Civil War and WWI and to some degree WW2 were examples of new killing technology meeting old formation massing strategy. It took awhile for military doctrine to catch up with the realities of the new technologies as it always does.
Thanks. Out of some 18 sites I've visited today, you're the only one who even mentioned D-Day.
I've been reading too much politics. I initially read it as "Obama Beach".
that is right, here at t he farm we stay on top of things that matter. Remebering D-Day is important and it is a shame that young people are not being told and retold the things that matter. I hope Obama does not represent the future in all things or we are facing a darker future. The liberals are keeping their heads in a closet because I just can't get my head around the fact that he has never been to Europe. I just do not understand how the super delegates would have picked him over Hillary. I can't stand Hillary but even I can see she is a better candidate. Hope McCain goes over to Reid Buckley's school on public speaking before his next speech.
Look at the Google front page art. It ain't saying thank you to the allied soldiers of D-Day.
They're the private sector corporate that cooperates with the Chinese government in cracking down on free speech and freedom of religion, yet their corporate motto, supposedly, is "don't be evil." Just between thee and I, I'm not worried about what Google flies from their front porch. I don't expect much of them.
Thank you for the link to the article and for your remembrance.
Bit of a drive-by comment as I never comment here these days but..
"Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. God bless all who fought, and died that day. Amen."
Well said Jappy.
If it's one thing British media does do well, most especially the BBC, is that it covers in length all day on both TV and in the papers a commemoration equally dedicated to ALL those who fought and died that day, in stunningly full coverage.
All too frequently American media and blogs along with their European counterparts fail to make mention of anyone else but the American role in this. As has Charles Bremner in The Times says:
"There was also the familiar impression in the ceremonies and media cover that the D-Day landings were an American affair in which Britain played a small supporting role ...The France 2 main evening news last night referred to "the US landing in Normandy" and spent an inordinate amount of time covering Tom Hanks and his role in D-Day.
The impression of a purely Franco-American event was nicely summed up by Didier Porte, a humourist on France-Inter, the main public radio network.
"The British just can't stop interfering with their disinformation. This is especially the case when they spread the rumour that they somehow took part in the Normandy landings in 1944. That's nonsense!""
And that still discounts Canadians, POlish...
A recent doco showed that the tanks to be put ashore at Omaha beach were dropped too far from shore and promply sank, and the troops landed without any tank protection. Then the rockets on the ships were fired too far from the shore and fell into the water, so that the troops landed without any holes in the beach to afford them protection. The bombardment from the ships intended to silence the enemy batteries were ineffective and simply woke up the gunners so they were ready in place when the troops came ashore. This gross incompetence of the Navy that delivered a completely unprotected body of men to certain slaughter seems criminal conduct, and was anyone court-martialled for it. Ozzie.brian.
The number of possible landing points was highly limited. The major criteria - virtually unknown nowadays to all but military historians - was the maximum range of the most prevalent Allied aircraft, the Spitfire. This allowed only a limited arc of landing zones, and most of them were effectively impossible. It really led to there being only two possible assaults: across the channel to the Pas Du Calais - where the cream of the German Army awaited - at Normandy.
Eisenhower had little choice. In fact, his options were so limited, that Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith is stated to have had a conversation with another top-level officer that if Normandy - a poor second choice, but the only feasible one - failed, the center of gravity of the Allied attempts to land onto Europe would have to shift to the Mediterranean.
Sorry. That should read, "or Normandy," not "at Normandy."