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tv   Open Phones With Craig Symonds  CSPAN  June 8, 2014 12:33am-1:31am EDT

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that did not mean there was not given taken difficulties back and forth, but he hammered out a lot of that stuff before it could ever get bad. ?k question mark -- ok anybody else? question -- just a quick question about admiral ramsay. could you give it a quick assessment of his role in operation neptune? holmes, sir bertrand ramsay. one of the great british names. but ramsay was of the old school. he had to do brothers, both of whom were army generals and becomes royal family where he knows what he is doing. he served for half a century in uniform. probablynk ramsay was as good a joint combined to
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as we had a man there any right to suspect. he had to deal with americans who were quite assertive and was she. -- pushy. think if there is a particular tale that illustrates this. like eisenhower, you are as much a political leader is a military leader. you have to keep his quiet between the various elements. there were difficulties between the royal navy, the united channel, andnd the terms of who have responsibility where. the commander in chief commanded the harbor and every ship in it. if there is an american ship, a british commander commands that ship until it leaves the harbor and once it is in the channel now it is under the command of an american rear admiral.
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then when it gets involved in a joint task force unit, then it might fall again -- so those kinds of problems he had to deal with on a regular basis. and he did so as successfully as i think anyone could expect. admiral. i think we're done? >> thank you very much. >> my pleasure. you for coming out on this dark and stormy night. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] seven now joining us live from new york city is dr. symonds. thanks for joining us. thank you for joining us. we just saw yesterday the anniversary of the normandy and the anniversary of the d-day. why do you think that this still resonates with the american public? glad that itm
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does. i think it is important to remember important moments in american and even world history, particularly this one, or the world changed so dramatically as a result of the sacrifice of those who invaded northern france in 1944. i think the 70 it is particularly moving. it is a lifetime. if you consider that a man has 70 years -- seven years now have passed. generations born obviously do not remember, they have no connection with it beyond those white old black and images on late-night television or a chapter in a history book. not even the most recent chapter. enough time has elapsed now that it would be easy, unfortunately easy, to let those memories slip. i am glad we're not doing that. this is a moment we should remember. >> what is the most important thing for us to remember on this day about what happened on
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d-day? >> one of them surely is that world war ii was such a traumatic moment in human history. forhink that world war ii, many, since it was the largest war of the 20th century, was almost a template of modern wars. that would be a mistake. this is a war that was not about some dispute over border territories or a policy differential or a family dynasty that wanted to supplant another. this is a war unlike any other war. the enemy here was truly dangerous, truly evil if i can use that word. would have ushered in a new dark age for all of humanity. therefore, the winning of this war was essential. it was not just an interesting episode in human conflict. it was an absolutely essential moment in human history. here is where that moment tipped. wrest occupied europe was
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essential. it was very difficult. it had been postponed for more than a year. thehopes of so many, futures of so many, depended on what happened that day. >> we just saw video of the landing. talk about the significance. especially the take you put on it. this is called operation neptune. talk about it from a naval point of view. of us, perhaps because of the famous photographs taken that day -- most recently, steven spielberg, "saving private ryan." we look at that story as if it begins the moment the bow ramp drops on those landing boats. that is the culmination of a very long story. much of that story involves the navy.
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the name "operation neptune" refers to all of the naval aspects of the broader campaign of operation overlord. i suspect more people would recognize the title for this operation. before.s years not just months before. probably could be traced all the way back, as i mentioned in my earlier talk, to the british evacuation from dunkirk. the that moment on, anglo-american allies try to determine how to do this. it is a problem not just of deciding to do it, but making an agreement where to do it, how to do it, and when to do it. and gathering the wherewithal to make that possible. much of that requires transport. transport of men, materials, supplies. first come across an ocean, then across a channel. all of that was nearly overwhelming. discussion on
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d-day this afternoon with craig symonds. him, thent to talk to phone lines will be on your screen as we go through the morning. mr. symonds, our cameras are focused on the world war ii memorial. a couple of lines from that. this was from the order of the day. let me read them. you're about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. the eyes of the world are upon you. i have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. put some context to those lines and the men were hearing it that day. >> i will. i want to say how wonderfully monument that is. in the middle of the national mall with lincoln at one end and washington at the other.
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it is a very moving experience. mc the honor of being the yesterday at the domestic observation for the 70th anniversary and it was a splendid event. that particular passage, among the others that are carved into the granite -- that comes from the order that eisenhower pre-recorded and asked to be broadcast on the ships as they crossed the channel. you have to put yourself in the place of the soldiers and sailors who are in these storm tossed -- the invasion had been postponed by 24 hours, actually 24.5. because of the storm that came through on the fifth of june, the original target date. now, here they are, at sea. four foot waves, 20 knot winds. intermittent rain. comes thise one mc american accented voice telling that what confronts them,
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their countries are behind them. they will have the best of support at invoking the sport of almighty god. it must have been a tremendously moving moment. on board, one of the command ships -- the command ship for the landing on utah beach. address wasower's played over the loudspeaker on board the ship, a number of men down below began singing spontaneously, " the battle hymn of the republic." they recalled this later in a personal memoir. as he sang those words, as he d ied to make men holy, let us die to make men free. he got a lump in his throat. eisenhower with the d-day commanders and staff. this is from the national archives, providing context. our first call this afternoon is from mike in pennsylvania.
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go ahead, please. >> good morning. thank you for taking my call. a question, my brother is a world war ii veteran. he was shot in the battle of the bulge. the things that peaks my interest on world war ii. the question that i had about the battle of --about the d-day invasion. there are pictures of dirigibles. they are above the ships as they came in. i always wondered what those things were. what was their purpose. they are all over the place. i wondered if you could answer them for me. thank you. >> sure thing. those are called barrage balloons. they are tethered to the ships themselves. the idea is to create enter trafing for potential s
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by german aircraft. the allies gained overwhelming command of the air, which may d-day possible. an of the reasons invasion would have been very difficult -- we had not gained complete command of the air. by 1944, we had. nevertheless, there were still some german aircrafts. mostly, they attacked at night. the idea is that they create a barrier of interference for any plane attempting to stafe the beach. there were cables and balloons that would interfere with attempts to do that. ymonds, a follow-up on the guadalcanal amphibious landings. did the navy bring any of that to operation neptune? >> yes, lessons not only from
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guadalcanal, but also subsequently endings in the pacific. were actually taking place nearly simultaneously, two weeks apart from the d-day landing. on opposite sides of the world, two major offenses taking place at the same time. the high command paid attention to the problems encountered, not only in the solomons, but particularly in parallel. some of the landing crafts got stuck on the onshore reefs. the bombardment that we thought would be sufficient to suppress japanese resistance turned out not to be. so, all of these lessons were brought into the planning for the d-day operation. or was a difference, of course, between upper stating -- opera ting in the pacific and on the continent. if you are operating on an island -- fleet isolates from
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the outside, you can bombard them for 20, 30, 40 days at a time and be certain that the japanese are not going to be will to get any reinforcement. if you do the same thing to the normandy beaches by the second or third day, surely the germans will have figured out that this is going to be a targeted invasion. we will now bring in reinforcements. the trade-off was between an extended compartment, both from the air and the naval gunships onshore, or a very brief and intense one that would allow us to sustain the secrecy of the location and the timing of the landing. in the end, the desire for secrecy one out. very short bombardment. in a very -- a sure. -- and a very quick dash ashore. >> how many were killed practicing for d-day? of all oft notorious
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the were her soul landings prior to d-day took place on the 18th of april, 1944, about six weeks before the landing. most of the practice landings took lace on the south coast, just west of the dark river. it had geographic characteristics similar to omaha beach. a shingle beach with a marshy lay behind it. then rising high ground behind it, with hedgerows. that was superficially similar to the country behind omaha. and to a certain extent behind utah beach. the rehearsal took place there and elsewhere. on the 18th of april, a major al, was to be a full-scale result. several convoys put out to sea spent as much time in the channel as they would have spent for the crossing to make it as
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realistic as possible. in the dark of the night, running blackouts, then prepared to assail the beach. more or less, by coincidence, they squatted with german e b oats, or fast boats. they had been put out from sheer boredom at dusk. bay.encountered one on the and they fired several torpedoes, sunk two us navy lsts. the ships most essential to make the invasion successful. and crippled a third l.s.t. initially, the soldiers and sailors thought that this was a very realistic rehearsal. look at the tracer fire. until, of course, the torpedoes went off in the ships began to sink. sailors and soldiers went into the water. frigid water, 40 degrees or below.
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even in april, in the channel. unprepared, really. i think this to mention how unprepared they were for syncing in mid-channel. some 700 americans lost their lives in that operation. and that is more, as it turned out, than were killed in the actual invasion of utah beach. omaha beach, of course, another issue. this was the utah beach invasion force. they lost more men in that training accident. in fact, an encounter with german patrol boats than were lost in the actual invasion on d-day. >> world war ii veterans -- russel from connecticut, hello. go ahead, please. a commanding officer of a gunboat on the south pacific. i was recalled. as a navigator for transport squadrons.
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out theyou might point difference between naval guns and howitzers. not hit agun does vertical target, it could win 10 miles inland. thank you. >> first of all, thank you for your service. i appreciate the question. there is a significant difference between guns afloat and guns and sure. -- at shore. sizes one. the germans had 411 and guns. guns in the invasion. most of the guns used in the invasion were german 88's. nevertheless, patch a significant punch and did a lot of damage, particularly among the smaller landing craft, higgins boats and the lct's, as they headed ashore to the ships. the naval guns on the allied fleet -- we had three u.s. navy
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battleships, the nevada, and the arkansas and texas. their biggest guns were 14 inch guns. substantial weapons that, when fired in a salvo, created a visual, aural, and impact that is almost unforgettable. the troops on board later claimed that it felt like their close were being ripped off their bodies. from 55 feet away were still on board the ship and their nose began to bleed. the shells flew directly over their heads, heading into the beach. so the impact was tremendous. the shells from 15 and guns on the monitors -- there was one monitor off the american beaches and another up the british beaches. and two large battleships off the british beaches.
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they had a range of nearly 20 miles. the difficulty here, of course, is the shortness of the timeframe. to conduct that bombardment of the beaches. also, this was intended to be a carefully -- as carefully as the beaches were plotted before hand, the german guns were implanted in very harsh sites. the country bunkers were 13 inches thick with reinforced iron in the middle of it. unless you hit it directly on target, you're unlikely to do serious damage, even with aid or a 14 inch shell. the preliminary bombardment was not as effective as we hoped it would be. the goal was really to create a sense of shock and awe among the defenders, so they would keep their heads down and be almost concussed. at the moment that the american
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troops came ashore. the naval gunfire was the most awesome in its firepower, but not quite as effective as we hoped it would be. >> up next will be jeff rhode island. >> good afternoon. i am proud to say that my father was a member of the first infantry division from north africa to sicily to the normandy invasion. he was awarded a bronze star. was, of course i have been interested in american history and military history all of these years. i read a few books about the first infantry division. how many men as to were actually killed -- not casualties, but how many men were killed from the first and country division?
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any idea mr. symonds, how many soldiers that the first infantry division actually landed that day? i also want to say that i have enjoyed the presentations over the years. they are just outstanding. you do an outstanding job. it is a pleasure to listen to you and watch it on tv. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. i appreciate the compliment very much. i am embarrassed to say, i do not have the numbers at my fingertips in terms of the total number of who served in the first division or the total number killed in action that day. the numbers that are generally used by most scholars in terms of casualties on d-day are around 10,000. that is roughly half of those who were from the airdrops, the paratroops and the glider troops, who came in behind the lines. they suffer disproportionately.
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3000 of those were on omaha beach. that was the scene of the most perfect confrontation. the casualty continued as the troops moved inland. i think it is important for everyone to appreciate and recognize that when we talk about d-day, that was the moment that the beaches were seized. but that would have little significant meaning unless that toehold could be expanded inland. this is an operation that took place not just on the sixth of june, 1944, but on the seventh and eighth in the night in the tent, on into july. as troops and supplies and ammunition went ashore, most of it over the beach. adding together all of those casualties yields a very big number. those numbers are buried today in the american cemetery above omaha beach, which is a very moving place to visit. 9387 killed. not just on d-day, but in the
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campaign for normandy. in the campaign for the toehold -- the foothold of that beach. as far as the numbers, i really cannot tell you. there is a new book out about the role of the first division. normany.and i recommend it. the name of the author slips my mind. a sense of what it was like for a soldier sitting in the boat waiting for the invasion to start. >> first of all, let's create the context for this. these are guys who were put ashore -- their landing craft or lst or lct or lci, the landing craft infantry's, crowded into these ships as early as june 1. most of them on board by june 3. remember, the original invasion would be on the fifth. they needed to be on board by the evening of the third.
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out into the channel by the fourth. then on the fifth, when they were postponed, u for utah beach, which had the longest track to the gathering site in the channel, had to turn around and go back again. these troops had been on board for 36 to 48 hours before they got the postponement notice. you cannot let them ashore. you must stay on board and ride out that storm in one or another british channel seaport. then we are going again, back out across the sea to the piccadilly circus. that is with the troops called it. or area zebra, the mid-channel meeting point. then for the final -- in pitch darkness across the channel, into the beaches. they had been on board all of that time. some for as many as four or five days, getting wet sea spray in their face. no hot food.
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there was often hot food on the bigger ships. the transport ships. even some of the lst's. but the lct's, the smaller ships -- rations for you. then, off to beaches, 10 miles out, word comes over that the troops gather on the deck for debarkation. they had to clamber down the nets into the small boats. --se small 36 long vessels the best way to imagine this is if it is a railroad rocks car -- boxcar with the top ripped off. the walls are high enough that you cannot see out. you are crowded in there, front to back, side to side, jostling around. carrying at 60 pound pack. you cannot see anything coming cannot move. and now, the motion of the ship he comes much more dramatic. you are bouncing around. and you get into these boats and
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begin to circle around. and around and around. for two hours. for three hours, for four hours. until finally the time comes when a smaller patrol craft would take a group of these to begin the 2.5 hour movement to the beach. all of that meant that these troops were tired, hungry, exhausted, cold before they got anywhere near the beach. beach,ey arrive at omaha in an environment where 81 gun nests are firing across the beach. that rapture ops and how you move from this horrible experience on this vessel to find an even more horrible experience waiting for you a sure. is our guest to discuss d-day. he is the author of "neptune."
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joining us this afternoon to discuss it, and massachusetts, thank you for waiting. >> hi, my dad -- he landed at utah beach. he was not even a citizen of this country. he was a member of the 90th infantry. 359 regiment. and he fought all the way through france and into germany. army.f patton's third the thing that has disturbed me is that i know the invasion was almost won or lost on omaha beach. i never hear enough about what actually happened. and the men in the units -- on utah beach. >> yeah, that is great. thank you, ed. omaha beach gets most of the
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headlines. and deservedly so. utah beach was an interesting story in and of itself. the problem was, all of the allied beaches had -- there was an eastward current that was strongest off of utah beach. it was a current that ran from the ocean, along the beachfront, pushing them almost a channel. and as the landing craft -- once they were oriented three miles off the beach, having now you bark from the transit and gone in a line to the jumpoff position, two or three miles off the beach, and they make that last -- into the sure. that current pushed them to the left. had the landmarks that were supposed to guide them in terms of finding the beach, that horrific naval bombardment followed almost instantly by the aerial bombardment, meant the
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beach was completely intrepid and smoke and debris and you could barely see anything, much less make out landmarks. , driving the did higgins boats, they would just aim themselves at the beach and open the throttle. with the current pushing them to the left, they ended up being about a half-mile or even further west of where they were me, eastto -- exdccuse of where they believe they were supposed to land. now they get a sure and look around. none of the landmarks they had studied -- none of those were in sight. they did not know where they were. they had to figure it out and there is no time to make those kinds of adjustments. one thought is we are in the worst place. we must turn to the right and
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march up the beach to find the right place. immediately, the local commanders figured out that that was not the way to go. we are sure now. the thing is to move inland from where we are. this turned out to have two advantages. one is that the place they actually came ashore was less vulnerable than the place where they should have, sure. wererobably the casualties kept down by virtual of that three not current. maybe providence put it there. in addition to that, the access inland -- behind the beach, particularly at utah, there was a marshy lay. we would call it a swamp, i suppose. about 200 or 300 yards inland. that had to be crossed. where they came ashore, that was much smaller and they could skirt around it. it was more possible to move inland and link up more
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efficiently and effectively with the 81st airborne that had landed in and about inland. what happened at utah was partly accident. i also attribute that to the ability and the willingness of the commanders. the battalion commanders, the captains, the majors, who looked around and said there's only one thing to do now. we have to adjust printing and that we have been dealt and move on and let's go. for them, all of the detailed planning in the world would not have made --would have made a hash of this landing if they had not made the common sensible decision. >> but here is robert -- >> here is robert, a veteran from connecticut. my regiment made the first
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contact at the battle of the russians tohe substantially in the world. i question is, why didn't we use dive bombers moving laterally along the beaches? i've would have thought that would have get atreasonable way to the germans. >> thank you for your service. bombers, in hindsight, would have been wonderful. dive bombers would have been effective. there was not a trained divebombing unit in the atlantic theater, or not enough to make an impact on the beaches. all of the preliminary bombing did take place in the level bombing. done by be 24 liberator bombers that took off -- b-24 liberator bombers that took off
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early in the morning. this was on the fifth. awe on thend beaches. they all had different trajectories. divebombing squadrons would have gotten desperately in one another's way. there were 2000 and planes operating over a 50 mile stretch of coast. we are lucky they did not have more midair collisions than they did, and that does not even include those by monks -- bombers that were towing long strings of gliders to sail down in the darkness behind enemy lines. all of the skies were crowded over the -- over normandy. adding dive bombers could have made it more of a mess than it was. but dive bombers could have been effective. thesee they didn't want
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squadrons operating in a way that they would confront one another with midair collisions, each had a different vector to approach the beach at him and that, for omaha, was terrific perpendicular to the beach, 90 degrees to the beach line. which means they were flying directly over the higgins boats as they were making their way into the beach. and the pilots knew, don't drop early. if you drop early, will have horrifying friendly casualties. orryone waited and next five, or in some cases as much as 20 seconds before dropping a bomb load. and of course, when you are flying two or 300 miles an hour, that makes a significant difference on where the bombs landed at all. they landed well inland of the beach, and therefore did not have -- similar to the naval gunfire preliminary bombardment -- did not have the impact they had hoped for. that is part of why omaha beach
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was such a turn house in the end. -- internal house in the end. dive bombers might have made that attack more effective, but there were not many in this theater. they were mostly in the pacific. addition, the airspace was so crowded over the beachfront that adding that to the mix would, perhaps have been inviting more trouble than we could deal with. >> on twitter, mike randall asks about harry truman's role in d-day, saying that he thinks it's unbelievable he was in the dark. >> that harry truman not know the timing of the invasion? >> correct. >> yeah, it is interesting. who knew and who did not know? franklin roosevelt went on the air the night before. now, this was the fifth. this was supposed to be the original d-day. he knew. very few others knew.
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apparently, the vice president did not know. it is not clear if the secretary new, although roosevelt routinely kept the secretary of state out of the loop. the secretary of the navy and the secretary of war did know. it was a very small group. roosevelt went on the radio because he was announcing the fall of rome had taken place the day before in the italian campaign. he's celebrating and while he is giving that speech, he knows that even while he's speaking, troops are going ashore at normandy and says nothing about it until the next night when he comes on the air and says, when i spoke to you yesterday about the follow rome, i knew our boys were heading ashore, but could not tell you about it until now. that was kept very close. it is surprising that the vice president didn't know, but it was a deliberate effort to keep that very close hold to as few people as possible. >> from facebook, adrian asked
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this question -- why don't we see contributions of people of color made ring d-day? -- contributions people of color made during d-day? >> good question. different groups. troops it was 11% of the gathered in britain to prepare for the invasion would be "men of color" as the term was in those days. but traditionally in the united states, both culturally and socially, that even though eisenhower insisted on that and issued several directives that soldiers in the u.s. army are all equal and he was as clear as he could've been an remarkably progressive, quite frankly, for 1943 and 1944, demanding that
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they all be treated with equal , but thend opportunity tradition and culture of the united states followed those troops over there. there were fights. black soldiers were mostly assigned to the transport pool or the commissary brand. they prepared meals and wash the dishes and drove the truck. the closest african-americans came to command at sea -- this amuses me a little -- the dk cw's, they were used to ferry ammunition. these were vehicles that have both tires to drive like a truck, but also a propeller and stern to run like a boat. they were designated as truck that floated rather than boats that went ashore. and because they were truck, therefore they were driven by african-americans. and therefore, african-americans commanded, if you will, these vehicles.
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supplyde round-trip trips with ammunition. but they did not supply the infantry troops that went ashore. they were used in support and transportation and logistics and supply. -- andd take some time obviously, it would take the order of then president harry truman to desegregate the army well after the war was over in 1948. i will say, there was an interesting cultural experiment, if i can call it that, involving the american troops in britain. the british, of course, had no experience with apartheid or segregation and their own culture. they had no history of domestic slavery. there were only about a thousand black residents in the entire country of britain in 1943. over, itamericans came was novel and interesting to the british, americans in general, both black americans especially.
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what the british found was that while many of the white americans were kind of cocky -- you know, they would walk into a pub and throw down a 5 -- five pound note and order rounds for the group and "we are over here to save your bacon" and that kind of thing. and black americans were very polite, and even courtly, to use the british term. they were very much liked by the british during the so-called occupation by the americans. stories whenorite i was a british -- visiting british naval academy professor in 1944, the local residents told me this story. a local farmer was asked by a reporter what he thought of all of these americans coming over to britain. he said, they are right fine blokes, but i don't inc. much of the white buggers they -- i
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don't think much of the white buggers they brought with them. clicks you can see more of this -- >> you can see more of this on american history tv. to --imons is joining us craig simons is running us to answer your questions. next up. hello. >> i wanted to say i'm theoughly enjoying programming on d-day. you have answered some of my question already. i was going to ask about the use of smoke cover during a landing. you mentioned there was a lot of smoke from the guns firing.
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how much did that help obscure and protect them? >> there was, in addition to the smoke generated incidentally by the naval gunfire, and of course, aerial bombing -- and there was a lot of it -- there were those who were specifically assigned to lay smokescreens off the beach between the transport ships in particular and the beach. the idea was that they did not want to expose the landing craft to gunfire support from the shore until they were so close that they could make that final dash. mind keepers, by mostly by destroyers between the beach and the landing craft. navalwas also used in the attack against share board on the 24th and 25th of june a couple of weeks after the landing when the navy made a naval assault while the army was attacking from inland, the heavy german coastal batteries there
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included the largest caliber guns they had in the entire area , which was 11 inch guns. they were getting the range of the american ships very quickly. they were able to deliver a smokescreen there as well. as the overall part of the operational plan, and also as a change on the fly in the midst of action to make sure the targets were feared as much as possible by smoke. >> on twitter, david samuel asked this question, saying, isn't it true that the allied action on d-day was only secondary to the breaking the german military? the victory was russia's. >> that was definitely true. we can never forget that the burden of this war from the
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middle of 1944 onward was carried by the red army. hitler stupidly -- and there is .o other word for it hitler is often considered to be some kind of military genius. i find that appalling. he was not. among his many mistakes, surely the greatest was invading the soviet union in june of 1941 while the british were still holding out in their island. that opened up a bloodletting such as the world has never seen. the allies in north africa in and in italy, we were fighting 10 german visions -- divisions in italy. that same week, they were fighting 260 divisions along the eastern front. discrepancy, the russians are very much aware of that. they were constantly appealing to the western allies for a
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second front as soon as possible , 42, 43, whenever you can do it. and two weeks after d-day on the the fourth -- the third anniversary of the german invasion of the soviet union, the russians launch their own offensive along the eastern front, operation immigration. and to keep things in perspective, one million americans, british, canadian, some french, broke out in operation cobra, broke out of and wentand brittany to paris in july, 1944. but 2.5 million russians participated in operation immigration two weeks before that along a 1000 mile front on the east. let's are member that hitler is not going to find himself in a vice with 2.5 million russians approaching from one direction and a million, soon to become
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1.5 million allies approaching from the other direction. from now on, much more serious fighting. the battle of the bulge, as was mentioned from one of the cop that scholars earlier. callersone of the earlier. did therehe russians most of the fighting. >> good afternoon. go ahead. >> i am a united states merchant marine veteran. about 95% of the men and multiplethat supported invasions were transported on merchant ships. on a perore personnel capita basis except for the marine corps, and more aid than 800 -- more than 800 merchant
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ships were damaged or sunk during the various trips to the war zone. would you comment on that, please? >> i would be very happy to. thank you for your service. you are absolutely right. the merchant marines, you think, well, they just sail ships, but are not really going in the harm's way. the moment they sailed from america's coast, they were in harms way. you talk about the battle of the atlantic as if it was an event, but it was a process. it began almost immediate american entry into the war early 1942 when the germans set a substance -- a simmering off the east coast and with those merchant ships operating in convoy with another of escorts -- number of escorts and -zagging thezig
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opposition. and the troops and military that came across that we were then deposited in one or another english court -- court -- english port. and the merchant marine soldiers got back on the ships and got another load and did it again. theireasy to overlook service and the sacrifices that they made to make this possible. transporting 2 million americans over the atlantic with all of the tanks and truck and fuel and ammunition. and because it is an american army, hershey bars and cigarettes and coca-cola. all of that was on the merchant marine ships. i thank you for your service. >> here is a paste the question. what if hitler had allowed his commanders free reign to defend the north atlantic wall?
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what could be done if the runs were launched a lot -- that the troops along the beaches? >> emily, i ignore these questions, but hypotheticals, but this is resistible. there was an ongoing dispute theeen the commanders in field, the professionals in the army, and hitler in his high command in berlin. he believed he knew better than his field commanders what was going on and what was likely to happen. he had predicted that the western allies would back down after on shifts in 1938, after czechoslovakia in 1939, that: would fall in a few weeks and he would be able to conquer -- that poland would fall in a few weeks and that he would be able to conquer france. all of which he did, so he thought he could predict the rest. but given that attitude and second-guessing his commanders in the field, the dispute on
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whether to defend europa at the waters edge, or to hold a mobile reserve force, defenses in particular, and weight until the allies had committed themselves with the invasion on shore and then counter the attack and drive into the sea, hitler could never come down on one side or the other of that. he insisted on the atlantic war and then held materials from his local commanders. even after it began, he was convinced it was a sideshow. forithheld permission general von trachtenberg to launch. he practically wept over the phone asking for permission to release his tanks and did not get it, which was critical, for about six to eight hours, and it necessary to counter the attack
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on the canadian and juno beaches. when he did counter the attack, it was a furious struggle. the british held them back. of anid delay the seizure area that was supposed to fall that day, but instead lasted for about a month. these kinds of disputes were because hitler believed he was the military genius in the field and he would override his subordinates who were actually in the field. you can imagine the phone calls from the commander of the bluff looking out over the beaches where the thousands of ships are gathered together and saying, i'm telling you, i'm looking at it, and this is the invasion. and then being told from berlin, no, it's not. >> that would be quite difficult. a lot about the commanders, dwight eisenhower, montgomery, bradley. but to that you point out in your book, alan kirk and bertram ramsay. who are they and why are they important?
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>> let me start by -- with bertram ramsay. of the alliedge operation. the reason he was such a good pic is because of his political sensitivity. we think of a general in command as being a warrior, and of course, he must be that. the political sensitivity also made him not a bad president. it allowed him to command not just british and american forces on the same side, but it generally allied command. the significance of that is demonstrated by the fact that all three of his support and -- subordinate commanders, ground, air, and naval troops, were british. british and american troops on both sides. leigh mallory, e mallory -- leigh mallory commanded forces on both sides. and bertram ramsay was the naval commander about which meant that he commanded not just the naval ships on d-day and in the months
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after, but allied forces, including american forces. which means that two american rear admirals defending the forces on utah and omaha beaches reported to the british admiral as their commanding officer. the creation of this chain of command was one of the great compliments -- accomplishments of the anglo-american partnership. it ran counter to almost everyone's experience and expectation and even many desires. in the imagine a colonel field saying, no admiral is going to tell me what to do. and yet eisenhower was able to create over a matter of months, largely, by the way, as a result productionements or -- direction provided by george c marshall, who was a big leader in the unified command. the ability to create this
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unified command structure was one of the things that made it possible. >> here is john from san diego. go ahead. some father was one of 2000 african-american men who landed at omaha and utah beaches on june 6, 1944. thats one of the people drove the truck that supplied ammo and food, and yet you never see any african-americans .epicted in any movie i think it is a distortion of history that some 2000 african-american men were never given honor for what they contribute it to probably the greatest saving that ever occurred. >> i think you are absolutely right. and it is worse than you suggest. it's not just the 2000 african-american that were ashore on omaha and utah
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beaches. it is that 10% of the entire american army consisted of african-american men who did all the work and made possible -- logistic support work and made all of it possible for the invasion in the first place. but it is not historians and modern-day commentators who overlook that. it is that the archives, the film archives in particular. the camera men the photographers of that day took pictures of the things they thought their audiences back in the united states would want to see. they took pictures of battleships firing shells. they took the chairs of craft going ashore. they did not take pictures of the loading of the ships, the driving of the truck, the creation of the supply dumps, the movement of the ammunition to the front line. those things come as essential as they were to the operation entirely, they did not take pictures of those. we are left with the pictures that we have and it's important that we cherish them and protect them and preserve them, but you are right. we have to remember that is not the entire picture. that is the picture we have. >> this is nancy, st. clair
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shores michigan. go ahead. call.nk you for taking my my father was in the seventh armored division and he was a tank commander. this is a philosophical question. my dadld hitler -- and always used to say that the german officers were fine officers. why did he not listen to the advice of people and not try to spread his troops out so much onto the russian front? and also, all of the resources that were used in the concentration camps, did he not know that would dilute any landing on normandy or anywhere else? thank you. >> my thoughts on that are that we could reasonably ask all of these questions of a rational man. i don't think that's what we have in adolf hitler. he is a damaged individual.
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and to comment on desperate times economically and socially and colts really in europe, -- and culturally in europe, and in germany in particular when hitler was able to push himself to the front of that organization and become the furor, the leader, a title he adopted himself. but he was not a rational man. hardly needs saying that his racial attitudes, his cultural views, his assumptions about the future and about himself, the 1000 year reich, those are the delusions of a person who is not rational. to ask why he made this obvious mistake is perhaps only useful if you they rational man. the better question may be, why did the professional soldiers of the german army come on many of them who were brilliant tacticians and excellent strategist on and certainly good commanders, why did they allow themselves to be trapped in a system where they had two of -- they had to o
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