World War II: Dissecting D-Day and Its Lasting Impact
There are few topics in history with diverse interpretations and profoundly insightful viewpoints, like World War II. It is perceived as the war that turned the world around, shaped today’s politics, and ultimately defined the course of development of humanity in different ways. Moreover, this topic needs to generate more diversity of opinions, like the D-Day topic. With each country presenting its ideas and historians continuing to shape modern opinions, it is imperative to analyze the World War II topic again. In this pursuit, this study aims at analyzing the D-Day event and the political effects that D-Day and World War have had on different countries; this is preceded by an extensive interrogation of various historical perspectives on D-Day.
It is imperative to appreciate that certain events during the war remain etched in the minds of various participants, but none of them compares to the popular D-Day campaign when the Allied forces invaded Normandy. The D-Day event represents the only battle that vastly changed the direction of World War II in a day. Philip Lundeberg terms the day as significant but with immense ramifications; he points out the US torture of soldiers that followed the invasion as an example. On the other hand, Peter Lieb, a military historian, indicates an order for the Canadian and US troops not to take any prisoners, which may explain the death of 64 German soldiers who were supposed to be collected at Omaha Beach. Consequently, the tag of the ‘good war’ given to the invasion is questionable, as is the nobility of D-Day.
A historian Liddell Hart calls the invasion ‘a parable of strategic thinking’ owing to the meticulous planning it involved. According to Liddell, allied forces sought to exploit a strategic advantage of spreading German forces, thus reducing their concentration; they also used misinformation such as the rumor of 350,000 allied soldiers in Scotland waiting to attack from the North, media propaganda, and the fictitious Skye of the British 4th Army. Consequently, Liddell views the invasion as a well-organized orchestra.
Within the preparatory recollections of historians are the widespread disagreements on the reasons for the German failure. Stephen Ambrose opines that the failure was a spatial issue preceding the attack, occasioned by the large territory that Hitler had to defend. On the other hand, Max Hastings states that the failure was due to Hitler’s interference at all levels and military incompetence. For instance, Hastings notes that Field Marshal Rommel was in charge of preventing the invasion of Germany. He hoped to succeed as he had defeated the British earlier in Africa. However, a disagreement between Rommel and Marshal Rundstedt made Hitler retain control personally.
It is well documented in historical accounts that the activities of D-Day started on 6th June 1944, with allied forces from the US, UK, Canada, and a few from France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, and Greece. Historians inform that the attack began in the early morning hours when paratroopers from American airborne divisions began landing; they add that bad weather had led Hitler to downplay the possibility of an attack that soon and the lack of pattern in the manner of paratroopers’ landing had led his soldiers into confusion.
Moreover, the operation reportedly employs decoys to confuse Germans and hide the real landing areas of interest. Consequently, landing troops had gained control over strategic areas in the 80-kilometer stretch by 6.30 AM. These areas were Utah, Omaha, Sword, and Juno. The plan was in progress. It involved over 160,000 troops, 5000 ships, air support, naval fire support, and a transport system for materials and soldiers. The plan involved overlapping operations, such as Operation Neptune, representing the assault phase.
Max Hastings offers accounts of the actual operation staged at four main beaches, namely Sword, Utah, Juno, Omaha, and Gold, which are read with different feelings depending on the side that one was on that day. He records that the attacks on Sword Beach began around 03:00 with the aerial bombardment of Hitler’s artillery sites and coastal defenses. Supported by a later naval bombardment, three groups of Allied forces reached the beach, where they only had light casualties. L.F. Ellis, a British Historian, asserts that, despite this achievement, the land troop’s commander Gen. Montgomery had ambitious plans of taking Caen. However, this was not achieved despite over 8-kilometer advances since, by the end of D-Day, Caen was still under Hitler, and this was only to change on 20th July with Operation Atlantic.
Nevertheless, soldiers were undeterred by the far-off likelihood of securing Caen. They moved inland, with the 1st Special Service Brigade going first and then French troops. The two troops had different targets: the French were to secure the Casino and a Block House, while the British troops focused on two batteries overlooking the beach. The Block House was a challenge, unlike the Casino. However, upon succeeding, both teams moved inland to join the others.
Concurrent to the action at Sword Beach was another battle at Juno Beach; C. P. Stacey, a Canadian army historian, states that this clash suffered the second highest casualties as Canadian troops came under heavy fire, huge fortifications, seawall, and pillboxes. Max Hastings explains that this arose from a 10-minute delay in landing. The casualties were at 50%, but they succeeded in using armor. Within hours, they had started advancing inland. The Canadian unit had even reached the final objective line, only to retreat due to the lack of infantry support. However, they only secured the Douvres radar station from Germans, a later arrival of British commandoes. Shortcomings notwithstanding, Canadian troops reported the highest penetration in France and landed over 30,000 troops by the end of D-Day. It is, however, notable that, in their advance, they had come under heavy resistance from the 12th SS Hitlerjugend, German 21st, and Panzer divisions. Lastly, it is notable that historian Terry Copp brings to light evidence of disagreements over progress at Juno by stating that some reports indicated huge success and others slowed progress. However, Colonel Stacey (an official Canadian army historian) opines that those hits were accurate and highly useful despite not hitting some batteries.
At Gold Beach, the casualties were significant at over 400 due to the village fortification at the beach, bad weather, and delayed Sherman DD tanks. Over 25,000 British soldiers fought against the odds to advance into Bayeux’s outskirts by the close of D-Day. Their objective was high and could only be matched by the Canadians at Juno Beach. Another British unit, no.47, landed later and had to proceed inland, then turn west towards Port en Bessin, where they would attack the high chalk cliff-sheltered territory.
However, it is Joseph Balkoski’s minute-by-minute account in “Bloody Omaha” that records the fierce battle of D-Day being centered on Omaha Beach; he states that the US forces faced the most fortified beach guarded by German forces with Russian volunteers and teenagers that had just been formed. In his accounts, he narrates the surprise to the forces since the allied intelligence was unaware that the 100 km beach stretch had been in two and was being defended by a double complement of defenders. In addition, he notes that the beach was highly fortified, defended with machine guns, mortals, and artillery. Therefore, the aerial bombardment and pre-landing had little effect.
Adrian R. Lewis in “A Flawed Victory,” Adrian R. Lewis bluntly states that the casualties suffered were caused by inadequate naval support during planning, limited to 1 battleship, 2 cruisers, and 6 destroyers. There was also a huge eastward drift due to navigation difficulties. This led to the missing of the target sectors, followed by the heavy casualties to the initial assaults such that out of the 16 tanks landing on the shores of the beach, only two survived. Many historians recount it as a battle for survival in a leaderless company. At Omaha Beach, they opine that the challenge extended to the subsequent landing since few beach obstacles had been cleared in the initial hours. Accounts expressed a thought of abandoning the beachhead by some leaders until some small infantry units supporting the naval artillery managed to infiltrate coastal defenses. Further landing exploited the progress; however, the casualties for the Americans were high at 5000, with 1200 deaths for Germany. Nevertheless, a footing was secured, which helped expand the beachhead on day three.
Lastly, Colonel Stacey notes that the events of D-Day could only have achieved much if the East and the West worked on the plan: on the West, in most parts, was the clash at Utah Beach. The 4th Infantry Division was charged with the action at Utah, but they, fortunately, landed southeast of their intended point of Tare Green and Red sector. Their landing at Victor sector, which faced little resistance, had minimal casualties of the day, and they could press through the beach exits. Thus, by afternoon, the troops had marched far into the inland.
Tied to the D-Day events and World War II is a history of the immense effects it had on various political systems of the participating countries. A historian Gabriel Kolko in “The Politics of War”, among others, noted that these effects live with the countries to date owing to their decisions. On the other hand, John Keegan chooses to steer clear of the politics of the war, while others candidly offer their views. Concerning the United Kingdom, it is imperative to note that before World War II, it had remained the leading European power, despite having taken lump as a victor and a winner in World War I. Internally, during the war, the UK had to overcome the interwar world economic depression and live up to the expectations of its position in Europe, thus the vast internal effects of the war.
Moreover, historians document that its involvement in the war and invasion of Normandy, in particular, was laid out in its political maneuvers: from its declaration of war on Germany in 1939 to contributing troops to Norway, France, the Middle East, India, Africa, Greece as well as invading Italy together with the Pacific / Asian Theatre.
However, its leading role in the D-Day events emphasizes the huge interconnectedness of its internal politics with the war; its partnership with the US and Russian armies was pivotal in liberating France from the Germans and defeating the Axis Powers. Historians note that after World War II ended, the Labour political party in the UK gained massive popularity owing to Winston Churchill’s (a key leader in it) vocal expressiveness about war and its reasons. Due to the view that the party’s leadership steered the country into victory and assured its European position, it went ahead to win the general election. It is imperative to note that the effects of the war and D-Day also found themselves in the political manifestos of the UK parties. The Labour Party included the World War II Jewish Holocaust issue in their manifesto as a promise to create a Jewish state in Palestine.
Notably, the World War II issues continued to affect politics even later through political struggles, an attack on British personnel, and harsh political choices such as imprisoning Jewish immigrants in Cyprus. All this resulted from Britain’s political failure in resolving the Jewish country issue; the UK’s failure to draft an all-acceptable agreement between the Arabs and the Jews led to the invitation of the UN to help resolve their conflicts in 1947. This did not work out properly for everyone, and soon enough, in 1948, a war began between the Arabs and the Israelis; the political ramifications of the war continue to haunt British policy and politics to date, especially foreign policy.
Regarding World War II and Russia’s politics, it is notable that events following the war and dominating political circles emerged from Russia’s lack of a secure border; it lacks mountains, rivers, seas, great deserts, or any geographical feature that would separate it from its potential enemies. The fear of being invaded pushed the political agenda owing to the devastation it had received during the conflict; with enemies’ towns becoming consolidated inside the Russian political and economic landscape, there was a need to push the border away from the nation’s heartland. Consequently, the political pressure was to push their border away from Moscow, Kyiv and Minsk as far away as possible.
As such, the USSR wanted to set up satellite states owing to the Red Army’s conquest of the major territories at great expense, and therefore, the Soviet governance was unwilling to withdraw from the war. This allowed the Western-style governments to push up to her boundaries. However, the most outstanding effect of war resulted from the Yalta Agreement between Churchill, FDR and Stalin; it had laid out the dimensions of influence to which each of the Allied nations would have, and the satellite states all fell under the USSR sphere. Thus, Russia shaped its post-war structures along with its different view of democracy from what the West had. Moreover, it emphasized the argument that, as the Communist party represented the people and belonged to them, it was the most inherent form of government, according to their views.
In addition, there were ideologies such as Marx’s ideology that the Communist Revolution could not be evaded, especially in highly developed, industrialized, and advanced nations like Germany. Therefore, owing to the war, the USSR saw it as its mission to export the revolution to other countries such as Germany. Moreover, the post-war effects created a situation where its Western friends imposed a victor’s model of government on Western Europe; consequently, the Soviets followed the same route, although at a different level of superiority.
A historian, Fritz Fischer, agrees that the war’s most resounding and visible effects were felt in Germany. Germans tried to control France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union by destroying their factories and forcing labor in the coal mines. This led to the war that ended with their defeat, plus public prosecution, among other events that upset the country’s systems, which he agreed was deserved. However, the German historians Conze and Scheider opine that the Nazi way was necessary, while Rothfells, a key political historian in the post-war, offers the view that the Nazi acts had their roots in the French Revolution. Hence it was not a German concept. World War II had a devastating impact on the Germans. But it remains clear that World War II devastated the USSR; notably, the Nazis, affiliated with the Germans, had destroyed most of its industrial and domestic infrastructure before leaving.
Moreover, the USSR was left weak on many frontiers after the war; for instance, when it was liberated from Nazi rule, it faced massive wars as the Nazis tried to hang on to the territories. Consequently, in most Satellite nations, the Communist Parties were not enjoying much support, so the Soviets had to impose regimes that never had the support. This indeed informed the Soviets of what to expect from the population, the rebellion, and the people’s disobedience. Moreover, even before the war, it could not rebuild its economy as fast as Germany and Japan, which became the two strongest world economies since they could effectively start building from scratch due to the help from their allies.
However, the general and political effects of the war can only be comprehensively analyzed with the inclusion of France, which was the center of the D-Day events. A historian Stanley Hoffman notes that, before the wars, France had no prior experiences of such a huge human loss. Moreover, the country had to recover properly from the effects imposed by the Nazi occupation. However, the most notable effects came from the pressure on the country to relinquish its colonial control over Algeria and Vietnam. It was a particularly traumatic, oppressing, and drawn-out process for the French, where they had to fight prolonged bitter wars in their attempt to try and maintain their colonial powers and control. They ultimately lost in all attempts to integrate the Republic of Vietnam under French rule, followed by the Viet Minh Great rebellion against French rule, which started the First Indochina War. It is imperative to note that such aspects haunt France’s politics.
The general political effects of World War II, as marked by the D-Day events, can be traced through 1949, when 12 nations came up with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and in 1954, when they created the South East Asia Treaty for the defense of the Far East; this was created by Thailand, Australia, France, Britain, the Philippines, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the United States. The politics of alliances and pacts changed through the creation of the United Nations, which, unlike the League of Nations, had full support across all participants. Moreover, it created a great determination to try and avoid the mistakes made before the war making the world community desire to enter a new era of international cooperation and cohesion.
It is clear that World War II diminished the influence of Western Europe. Previously, Western Europe had shaped much of how the world was run and controlled. After World War II, even though these nations were exhausted economically and militarily, they had to begin to get shaped up. This result was a bipolar equilibrium, which meant two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union.
In conclusion, the historical accounts as interrogated above indicate that World War II sets itself apart as a historical military confrontation with outcomes and lessons that permeate modern systems to the core. It is unique for having brought a shift in world power and shaped many nations’ foreign policy and politics. This paper appreciates the history written in a single day when exploring the events of D-Day. There are diverse historical perspectives on this historical event. Moreover, it notes that the accounts are central to understanding the twists of war and have been touted by historians as the epicenter of the century event. It concludes that D-Day not only marked an event but also indicated a human sacrifice for humanity’s future. It denotes resilience on the part of the forces, especially due to the bad weather. Therefore, this study concludes that D-Day is the climax of the war of generations. It is not just an event narrated to appease a nation for its heroic act. It represents man’s involvement in writing history with effects that permeate every aspect of his modern life, as seen in the politics of France, Germany, the USSR, and the UK.
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