Looking Back / By Mark Albertson: Army Aviation magazine cannot forget that June 6 marks another anniversary of Operation: OVERLORD, June 6, 1944.
Elements of the 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One), as they disembark from an LCVP onto to Fox Green section of Omaha Beach, defended by the German 352nd Division. During the opening phases of the assault, two-thirds of Company E had become casualties.
On a front upwards of sixty miles wide, 156,000 Allied troops dropped by parachute, crash-landed by glider or assaulted five beaches on the Normandy coastline for the invasion of northwest Europe.
Sixteen days later, the Soviet Army—in keeping with Stalin’s word to Churchill and FDR at the November 1943 Tehran Conference—launched Operation: BAGRATION. On a front some 450 miles across, 2,500,000 Soviet troops in four massive armies, destroyed German Army Group Center in Belorussia. In eight weeks, the Soviets were on the Vistula River outside Warsaw, only 350 miles from Berlin. By September, Eisenhower’s troops were on the cusp of the German western frontier. Hitler’s Reich was shrinking fast.
Map of the overall Operation: OVERLORD operations, June 6, 1944.
Despite the fact that the land war, in what is generally considered World War II, was won by the Soviets and not the Western Allies, a vastly overlooked and decidedly strategic result underscored the Normandy effort. True, the American, British, Canadian and Free French troops, who served Hitler his eviction notice from France and the Low Countries, helped to liberate Western Europe. But of greater strategic significance, is that they made sure that Western Europe remained in the Allied camp and was not swallowed up by the Red Army. In other words, Allied troops at Normandy won the first big battle of the Cold War.
After the shooting stopped, Ambassador Averell Harriman, congratulated Joseph Stalin for is his great victory over Hitler’s armies. Stalin stared back, replying, “Czar Alexander got to Paris.” Meaning Berlin and Prague were not good enough. So when recalling the sacrifice made by the troops who went into Normandy, consider, too, what the postwar world would have looked like if Georgi Zhukov’s T-34s had made it to the English Channel.
- Named for Russian General Peter Bagration, who died fighting the Napoleonic invasion in 1812.
- There is no World War II or World War I for that matter. There is only the Great War, 1914-1922; 1931-1945. The Treaty of Versailles, the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on modern man, did not stop the fighting. A fractured Germany was fighting with the Poles on the eastern German frontier. The Russian Civil War, 1918-1922; the Russo-Polish War, 1919-1921; 1919, Arabs in Syria rose up against the French colonial occupiers. 1920, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds overcame their differences in a failed attempt to evict British colonial occupiers in newly-minted Iraq.
Anatolia, the Turkish homeland was not supposed to exist, divided up as it was among the British, French, Greeks and Italians, in a 20th century resurrection of the Crusades. To which the British and French would oversee an Armenia and Kurdestan. Kemal Ataturk organized remnants of the defunct Ottoman Army and launched the 1919-1922 Turkish War for Independence to end the Christianization of Anatolia, forming modern Turkey, as solidified by the Treaty of Lausanne, July 24, 1923. Ataturk also ended the short-lived Armenia and Kurdestan. In addition, in 1924, Ataturk put an amen to the Caliphate.
In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, helping to kick off the second chapter of the Great War. Followed, in turn, by Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), 1934; Hitler’s reoccupation of the Rhineland, in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, 1936; the 1936 Spanish Civil War, the tune up to 1939; Japan’s invasion of China, 1937, an eight-year struggle that will claim some 15,000,000 million Chinese; Hitler’s invasion of Poland, 1939, with Stalin’s connivance.
A war which began with the White, Christian colonial powers of Europe in 1914, will eventually result in their demise in 1945, in history’s greatest industrialized conflict. For in the end, only two nations had the economies of scale to wage such a struggle, the United States and to a lesser extent, the Soviet Union. Hence, the Cold War.
- Badsey, Stephen, Normandy 1944: Allied Landings and Breakouts, Osprey Publishing, Ltd., UK, 1990.
- Bendiner, Elmer, A Time for Angels: The Tragicomic History of the League of Nations, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1975.
- Blizard, Derek, The Normandy Landings, D-Day, Bounty Books, London, 2004. Originally published in 1993.
- Churchill, Winston, Vol. 6, The Second World War: Triumph and Tragedy, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Mass., 1953.
- MacMillan, Margaret, Paris 1919, Random House, Inc., New York, 2001.
- Mansfield, Peter, A History of the Middle East, Viking Penguin Books, New York, NY., 1991.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Turkey, the Treaty of Lausanne, July 24, 1923.