Life is full of hard decisions, but what if we had to decide whether to launch the greatest invasion ever, with the lives of millions at stake, and it was all dependent upon a weather report?
We take the success of D-Day as a given now, but it had a high chance of failure. The effects of such a failure were staring Eisenhower in the face as he was dealing with the decision whether to delay the invasion scheduled for 5 July.
He decided to on 4 July.
D-Day, Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy in World War II was originally scheduled for 5 June 1944. A lot of factors went into picking the date. Tides, moon, weather, time of year in order to conduct a military campaign (too late in the year and winter arrives too soon), and many more.
The decision to postpone for 24 hours was hard, but not as difficult as the decision to go on the 6th of June. Because if that window had been missed, it’s unlikely an invasion could have been launched in June at all. If that had happened, a fierce storm two weeks later might have damaged the invasion fleet. Could the amazing secret involving so many people have been kept another month until the next window in July? A month of campaigning would have been lost, and the progress of the actual invasion turned out to be much slower than planners had anticipated. Would the war have lasted another year? How would the Russians, suffering immense losses on the Eastern Front have responded to the delay?
Another month or more for the Germans? The V-1 was now ready. Could Hitler have aimed those at the massed forces in England instead of civilian areas? The ME-262 jet fighter was rolling off the production line. Far superior to anything the Allies had.
Projecting forward. What if everything had been delayed several months? Would we have ended up dropping the bomb on Berlin? Most likely. Would we have then invaded Japan? Or dropped more bombs? Except we only had two.
These are the what-if’s I play with in history as I consider what the Shadow might do to destroy our timeline in D-Day. So much depends on so little. So much depended on one man, Dwight D. Eisenhower, West Point class of 1915, a man who’d never directly been in combat. A man who’d been promoted over many more senior and apparently more qualified men. In retrospect he made the right decision.
But on the early morning of 6 June 1944, with airborne troops already on the ground, the invasion fleet off the shore of Normandy and landing craft heading in, he wrote this note, to be issued as a press release if . . . “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine.”
Originally published at www.writeitforward.com on June 5, 2016.