President Obama was at Omaha Beach. AP: “The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable,” Obama said.
Is that so? D-Day was a risky enterprise to be sure, with the imponderables of weather, German intelligence, logistical screw-ups, and other matters. But it was an intricately planned assault that featured total air superiority by the Allies, among other strategic and tactical advantages. The Allies had learned the lessons of Dieppe. We’ll quote a bit from volumes 5 and 6 of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War:
The concentration of the assaulting forces — 176,000 men, 20,000 vehicles, and many thousand tons of stores, all to be shipped in the next two days — was in itself an enormous task. (v.5, p.596)
great armadas of convoys and their escorts sailed, unknown to the enemy…to the Normandy coast….the Royal Air Force attacked enemy coast defence guns in their concrete emplacements, dropping 5200 tons of bombs…In the 24 hours of June 6 the Allies flew over 14,600 sorties. So great was our superiority in the air that all the enemy could put up during daylight over the invasion beaches was a mere hundred sorties. (v.6, p.3)
I am well satisfied with the situation up to noon today, 7th. Only at one American beach has there been any serious difficulty, and that has now been cleared up. Twenty thousand airborne troops are safely landed behind the flanks of the enemy’s lines…We got across with small losses. We had expected to lose about 10,000 men. By tonight we hope to have the best part of a quarter of a million men ashore. (v.6, p.7)
The planning for Overlord dates back to at least the Casablanca conference of January 1943 (v.5, pp.70-71). “Sheer improbability of this victory”? — that’s quite a statement about an as long planned and well executed invasion as D-Day. As for the bravery of the Americans of D-Day, we’ll let Ronald Reagan and S.L.A. Marshall tell those stories.
Final thoughts: (a) if the media had been like this in 1944, maybe Obama would have been correct; (b) Gordon Brown’s mistaking Obama Beach for Omaha Beach inspires the thought that perhaps the President was thinking of himself when referring to the “sheer improbability of this victory.”