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In every nation of the world, an event takes place that could change the course of history in that country. This event could change the history for better or for worse. For the United States, D-Day is one such transpiration. After this one specific invasion on June 6, 1944, everyone involved knew that it would change the course of history for the United States and the rest of the world. The invasion, known also by the code name Operation Overlord, did not, however, only consist of one day's events. These complicated one day's events did make up D-Day but the months of planning for the invasion and the changes in World War II and the rest of history also make up the structure of D-Day.
To understand D-Day, a person must first understand the years of events that preceded the invasion. The story of D-Day began when World War II began in Europe. The cause of the war started with the alliance of Germany, under the control of the Nazi party, and Italy, which was under the control of the fascist regime. 1 The leader of Germany at this time was Adolf Hitler, while Benito Mussolini led Italy. Before the beginning of the war, Germany and Italy, also self-proclaimed as the Axis powers, invaded a section of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. France, England, and the United States were not happy with this but were willing to hold off on going to war to stop the Axis Powers.
At this time, the leaders of the main countries outside of the Axis Powers were Franklin Roosevelt, Edouard Daladier, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill, for the United States, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, respectively. 2 These four countries, however, would not silently watch the Axis Powers invade all of Europe. France and England made an agreement with Poland that stated that if Germany or Italy should invade Poland, both France and England would enter the war in defense of Poland. Although Hitler and Mussolini both knew of the agreement, they felt that their forces could defeat each of these countries without difficulty. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and two days later France and England declared war to defend Poland. Less than a month after the invasion began, Germany controlled Poland and began to plan for their next invasion. This next invasion began in May of 1940 when Germany attacked France, while on June 10, Italy joined Germany and attacked France.
By June 22, France had surrendered and Germany was left in charge of most of France. 3 At this point, Germany and Italy's only opponent was England, who received many losses in defending France. After occupying the French mainland, German leaders began looking for their next strategic move towards world domination. Exactly one year after the French surrender, Hitler sent Germany to attack the Soviet Union. This became known as the biggest mistake of the war made by Hitler's German forces. 4 Less than six months later, an event occurred that would change the face of the war. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Air Force and Navy led by Isoroku Yamamoto bombed the most important port in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor. Nineteen ships and one hundred eighty-eight ships were destroyed and twenty-four hundred men were killed.
This action by the Japanese infuriated American leaders to the point of requesting war. The next day, the United States congress officially declared war on Japan and joined the Allies. On December 11 Italy and Germany declared war on the United States in defense of Japan. Joseph Stalin immediately wanted the Allies to start a second front to ease the pressure being put on the Russians by the Nazi attack. The Allies, however, did not feel ready to open up a second front and instead cleared the Nazis out of North Africa and the island of Sicily. After these relatively easy victories, the allies felt that they were finally ready to open up a second front in France.
This decision was reached and agreed upon at the Teheran Conference that took place in November 1943. The conference was held in Teheran, Iran, and Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin all attended the meeting. The group at the conference decided that a second front would be opened in spring of 1944 with the invasion of France. 5 To Roosevelt and the other allied leaders, invading France seemed like one of the most difficult and sensitive military invasions in the history of the world. In order to insure the success of the invasion, many actions needed to take place to weaken the German force. One example of an Allied tactic was the use of bombers to destroy German factories producing military necessities.
By doing this, the Allies weakened Germany's supply of tanks, munitions, and other military equipment. The Allied leaders also knew that to insure a successful invasion, a great general must be put in charge of the attack. To decide on the correct man, Roosevelt went to his Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. Marshall suggested a man who had a reputation of being able to put together and organize an effective military mission. This man was in charge of the American fighting force in Africa and Sicily. The man chosen for the job was General Dwight Douglas Eisenhower.
After Roosevelt decided to place Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander, Eisenhower knew that he must immediately begin planning for the invasion of France. Eisenhower immediately began gathering troops, artillery, and transportation for the invasion. Hitler and the Germans had already built a concrete and barbed wire barrier along the shore of France. Hitler believed that this Atlantic Wall would defend the entire coast. 6 Although this thought sounds ridiculous now, it seemed reasonable in 1944 because the use of airborne troops who dropped to the battlefield in parachutes and gliders had not been extensively used. 7 Eisenhower decided to send paratroopers over the Atlantic Wall and penetrate the German border to begin the invasion. To accomplish this, Eisenhower had to initiate training sessions for these paratroopers so they could learn what to do when the time came to attack.
Training began in the United Kingdom, North Africa, and at home in the United States for all troops that were to be included in the invasion. The plan for attack stated that early in the morning of the invasion, paratroopers would be sent in and would attack the Germans from the inside. Next, still in the middle of the night, British planes would strike and weaken the Atlantic Wall, the German infantry forces, and the camps set up by the Germans. After that, an amphibious team sent in from boats would land on the beach and attack the Germans in a regular battle situation. The site of the invasion was also decided on at this time.
The two beaches that the Americans would land were code named Utah and Omaha. After knowing all that all that must take place, Eisenhower now needed the supplies and men to accomplish the job. Men from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada all entered the ranks of the Allied forces preparing for the invasion. By the time of the invasion, almost three million men and two and a half million tons of equipment were ready for what would be the largest invasion of its kind in history. 8 The troops would be carried to the beaches on boats called LCVP's which stands for Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel. 9 These boats could carry thirty-two men, but they did not have seats. The troops simply had to crouch into the boats in rows and wait to be let out. The day on w...
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