June 06, 1944
D-Day was the name given to any date that an attack was to be initiated. Since June 06, 1944, it has meant the beginning of the recovery of Europe from the Nazi scourge. Those who are not familiar with military jargon only know of this one day as D-Day.
From the beginning, the planning for D-Day accepted that it would be a difficult task and a large portion of the men who assaulted would likely die. The task was originally assigned to three assault divisions with two division as reserve and reinforcement. Fairly quickly, this was bumped up to five assault division, two reserve division and three paratrooper divisions dropped behind the lines. The biggest issue with enlarging the assault was haul capacity. You can only move so many men and so much equipment in a ship. The ships can only travel so quickly and expecting none of them to be combat casualties is a fools errand.
We, along with the British, designed and tested a “floating” tank. These were known as DD tanks “Donald Duck” tanks by the crews. On Omaha Beach, 29 of these modified tanks were launched into six foot seas at up to two miles from shore. Of the 29 so launched, 27 sank prior to reaching shore. No less than five of the crews took the time to radio back to the higher ups the specific difficulties and suggested solutions for their brethren who were scheduled to do a similar assault in a few hours. This tells us something.
The first day’s assault at Omaha beach consisted of roughly 12,000 men. Of these, roughly 2400 died. Many of those casualties occurred prior to even making contact with dry land. Despite many units fighting strength being halved, despite most of the units landing far from their objective, despite most of the officer and NCO corp becoming casualties; they pressed on. This tells us something.
Due to an error in timing / inclement weather, the pre-invasion bombardment of the fortifications did not happen. The planes arrived as the last of the first nine companies where exiting their landing craft. In order to no inflict friendly fire casualties, the pilots dropped their bombs behind the shore zone. The entire German defense was designed to repel invaders at the shore. No significant damage was done to the defensive effort by this close support air assault. The soldiers pressed on. This tells us something.
Due to bad luck, poor navigation, smoke obscuring the landing zones, high casualties, immense loss of leadership only one company was fighting as the force it originated as. They were seriously depleted at roughly 120 men (from roughly 200). They pressed on. This tells us something.
Groups of combat engineers were assigned to sixteen objectives / obstacles on Omaha Beach. Of these sixteen assignments, five groups landed within operational distance of their objective. Three other groups landed with ZERO supporting infantry or mechanized units. Despite these hardships and roughly a 40% KIA loss, they pressed on and cleared six of their objectives. This tells us something.
I have no hard documentation for what I am about to write, but several sources have indicated that one significant reason for beach assignments in Operation Overlord was by nationality. If there was a huge problem with assaulting a certain beach, send in the Americans. The theory was, add a few extra units and let the Americans figure it out. In each case, the adapted and pressed on. This tells us something.
This something that D-Day keeps telling us, is that there is such a thing as American Exceptionalism.
American Exceptionalism has been drilled into the American psyche since before the birth of our nation. We never had enough to do the job according to the manual. So we re-wrote the manual. We were sick of Kings telling us how to do things from the top down. So we re-wrote the manual. US Constitution – Bill of Rights. We accepted the idiom that an idea that works is not a stupid idea. This basic belief catapulted the USA from a backwater colonial rebel to the only Superpower in just over 200 years.
An idea so powerful as providing philosophical, educational, economic and spiritual freedom to the citizens of a nation; is what lead to American Execptionalism. Look very carefully at those four broad areas of freedom. Think for a minute. Then thinks of all the ways those four areas are under ATTACK. Now, ponder for a second if that is an accident.
The men (and women) who rode the first wave of the attack at D-Day knew what to do when an organization threatened them.
Do we, anymore?