tv [untitled] June 18, 2017 9:53am-10:45am EDT
weekend, we are featuring history of hyde park, new york, together with our cable partners. learn more about hyde park and other stops in our cities tour at c-span.org. you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. on lectures in history, university of kansas professor adrian lewis teaches a class the 1944ha beach and d-day landings in normandy, france, during world war ii. describes the allied military strategies as well as the command structure on each side. he talks about the challenges faced by american troops when trying to land on omaha breach a -- and beach. and argues the outcome was not inevitable. this class is about 50 minutes. dr. lewis: syllabus, page 10. yourion number 7 and 8 on syllabus. page 10.
describing characterize the normandy invasion. why do the allies is exceed? german defensive plan and allied offensive plan. explain the victory and defeat. why was the normandy invasion significant? question number 8. why was the battle for omaha beach a flawed victory? you have the questions. those are the questions we want to deal with the. beach"? read " omaha here we go. let me try it one more time. common have read -- how many have read it? about half. thesis. someone helping out. what is the thesis there? you are going to help me out. basicially i
basically is saying that the operation failed and the soldiers-- won the battle or succeeded with the operation and they organize themselves on the beach in the middle of the fire to get the operation underway. of theis: the argument book is that the overall plan for omaha beach failed. the plans the general put together for the fire plan, the fire support plan, all of the airpower, all of those things failed. as a consequence, soldiers were forced to improvise on the beaches there. that is the thesis of the book. that the battle of omaha beach was won by soldiers. it was not won by battleships, it was onwon by soldiers. why? what is the argan to explain why what isation took -- the argument to explain why the operation took such a wrong turn it omaha beach? help me out. >> basically, it was the failure
of the combined doctoring, both the british and the american forces as -- had their own doctrine for amphibious assault which failed. it was the first and we ever had to take our combined doctrines or combined operations. think about when you the normandy invasion, you have combined operations, the british and the americans working together -- you also have joint operations. us. army air force and u.s. army also has and u.s. navy to work together. if i gave the british the same problem we had at normandy they would, with one solution. if i gave the americans the same problem, they would come up with a different solution. i gave the french the same problem -- everybody's looked at war is a little different. we had two different amphibious warfare doctrines. the u.s. navy and marine corps developed doctrines for the
central pacific based on the principles of massive firepower. jima, acalled iowo three or four days of bombardment and then the landing took place. that is not what they did it normandy. if we were the british, the conducttended to operations based on the principle of surprise. they went in with stealth, under the cover of darkness. they were going in against the continent, so they had to have a different amphibious warfare doctrine. we had two different approaches. we have been u.s. navy and marine corps doctrine and the british amphibious warfare doctrine. what they tried to do at normandy was to merge that into an operational doctrine. what happened is ultimately neither one of these doctrines, bot doctrinesh that they had, the british doctrine were better than what they came up with. that is the thesis and that is the argument we want to make today.
however, let's see if we can -- start this discussion. class?ere we last the strategic bombing campaign and where else? stalingrad. this is the full extension of germany. so, you see over here, and there is that vulga. we covered stalingrad the last class. notice, what are these areas in white? sweden and switzerland. they are -- >> neutral. no, they are not really neutral. they are supporting germany and a number of different areas. that is the full extension. since that, we did the landings and north africa. take a look now, this is june 6, 1944. take a look at north africa. that is all clear and then we went from north africa into sicily, operation husky and then they went from sicily to italy.
all that has been cleared now. the germans on this site are the russians on the offensive. then we had stalingrad -- you can see the russian advance over here. this is the german empire. this is the way it extended at this point in june. let's take a look at geography. notice the difference here. azi germany and you want to take a look at the difference between english channel to germany and over here on the eastern front. where you have more space? on the eastern front. as a consequence of that, hitler shares the priority. the priority had been on the eastern front. the new priority is going to be on the western front. startsnsequence, hitler shifting divisions from the eastern to the western front.
the normandy invasion takes place, there will be 60 german divisions on the western front. that should tell you something. if the germans know where the normandy invasion is going to take place, who wins? >> germany. dr.germany, that's right. a landing,nduct there will be five divisions, three airborne divisions. we would lose in that case. surprise is important. the germans have a problem. this is the german chain of command. heather is at the top. hitler is at the top. and we have the equivalent of general marshall. overall responsible for the american war effort. then we have general rundstedt. he is the theater commander. in that theater he has two army groups, army group b and g. the one we are most interested , under a guy
named rommel. he is the one we will be fighting in normandy. geyr is strategic reserve. there are going to lead five or six armored divisions in the rear for strategic reserve to respond to different situations. that is the thinking here. here is the chain of command. you have got the normandy area where the invasion will actually take place. what is the shortest distance between two points? right there, the difference calais, what and is the difference? you have heard of people swimming the english channel. that is usually what they do. shortest distance between two points, where do you think the invasion should take place? the argument would be for the calais area. that would be the argument. it gives you more time over the battlefield. that would be to argument.
however, we will take a look here. the germans have a problem. they have constructed this thing we will call the atlantic wall. the atlantic wall will extend all across france and up into norway. they have been building this thing for years now, this thing we call the atlantic wall. it has been under construction. they poured concrete, they put news, obstacles, created types of obstacles to put on the beach, tank ditches. all of those things will be along the coast that they call the atlantic wall. still they have a problem. let's think about the german conduct of the defense. they have been on the offense for a great deal of the war. let me give you two examples. take 1917-1918. germans are excellent in defensive warfare doctrine.
they put defense in depth. you have seen the trench systems from world war i. you have that image in mind. then let's take 1940 with the fall of france. fast-moving armored formations. there are two concepts, two arguments for the conduct of the defense. there is a debate going on in germany in 1943, early part of 1944, about how to conduct the defense. rommel has one set of ideas and general rundstedt has another. general rundstedt makes the argument that what we need to do is use the approach they used in 1940 -- maintain fast-moving heavy armored divisions, those that can reinforce the beach. what he says they need to do is put a thin, defensive perimeter along the coast. very thin. know is really need to where the main attack is coming from.
once they figure out where the main attack is going to come from, the main attack will then start. they will let the situation develop, make sure it is the main attack instead of a feint. maneuver theirto armored formations, those heavy divisions, they want to maneuver those units into place so they can defeat that force. that is one concept for conduct of the defense. general rommel has another vision for the conduct of the defense. he did not think that was a good approach to this thing. when he argued for was more a world war i approach. he wanted to build a strong defense along the coast. "the longestook day." then they made a movie about it. those were rommel's words. that is a quote from rommel. he believed the battle had to be won on d-day.
that was where the battle had to be won. and he believed it had to be won on the beaches. as a consequence of that, what he wants to do is put a strong defensive perimeter along the beaches. he wants to make this as strong as possible along this area. what is in rommel's thinking? rommel has been in north africa, he has fought the british, he is has fought the americans somewhat, and he is of the opinion that air power will preclude mobile forces from reaching the beaches. he believes that if they use the other approach -- remember, prerequisite for an amphibious operation is? air superiority? naval superiority around there, right? air superiority is something we win by 1944. you are able to interdict those forces. rommel believes that allied air
power is so significant they will not be able to get to the beaches. if you keep the strategic reserve far to the rear, they will never make it forward. that is part of his thinking. rommel will also later be implicated in the plot to assassinate hitler. how many of you have seen that movie? a movie on this scheme that was eventually hatched for this. rommel at this point is not of the opinion -- you've heard me say this before, for the russians, stalingrad was the most important campaign of the war. for the americans and british, normandy the most important campaign. if we had lost, the world would look very different. let's think about what rommel was thinking at this point in time. he is no longer of the opinion that germany will have a complete and total victory in world war ii. that is gone. the russians have been on the offense, the germans have lost millions of soldiers. he no longer believes there is
going to be a complete and total victory in this thing. however, if he can win at normandy, if he can stop the americans and british in the landing, then what he can do -- it will be six months to a year before they can recharge to start this thing again. if we win on the beaches on d-day, what i can do is take my 60 divisions, move them across europe, stabilize my front against the russians, and try to come to negotiate a settlement to end world war ii, were -- where germany maintains at least part of the area they have conquered. he is not thinking in terms of total victory now, but he is thinking in terms of, i have to defeat the british and americans at normandy. if we can do that, we can stabilize the eastern front with those 60 divisions we can move over there, and there is still a good outcome in this case for germany.
that is his thinking at this point in time. that is why normandy is very important to rommel, also. the germans think they have be successful here, at least along the atlantic wall. what does this mean for the americans? we're going to talk about the cossacks in the planning of the invasion. 1943, the planning goes into the invasion -- we will talk about that -- but normandy was selected because it was poorly defended in 1943. the invasion will not take place for another year. they select it in 1943. when it was selected, it was very poorly defended. not only was a poorly defended, they had the 716th infantry division. 716th had a 50 mile front. at most at what is going to be called omaha beach, they had a couple of battalions.
that is when they selected it. a year later, when rommel is put in charge of defenses, a lot of the forces we talked about have been moved forward. did not give rommel everything he asked for, but he did give him some of the things. as a consequence that, instead of fighting the 716, you see the 352nd here? take a look at this bottom map. it will be moved forward. we did not know that. we will find it out 24 hours, the first infantry division will land at omaha beach. we will learn 24 hours at a time, it will not be the 716, it will be the 352 that has been moved forward. a good quality, full strength infantry division is what we end up running into. part of the thing was an intelligence problem, intelligence failure when you think about the outcome of this thing. part of it also is rommel's
concept of the conduct of the defense. during that year he is in charge, not even a full year, he will dig more tank ditches, reinforced the beaches -- all of those things will take place under rommel's leadership. morrison in his book on the normandy invasion, he wrote the following -- " altogether, the germans have provided the best imitation of help for an invading force that american troops had encountered anywhere. even the japanese defenses at you at jima, terawa and peleliu are not to be compared to this. " the difference was that the navy could pull up to those islands and below the heck out of them for days and days. you cannot do that at normandy, why? if you pulled up to normandy, 10 battleships and cruisers
there started to destroy the defenses there, it would telegraph to the germans where the invasion was taking place. the element of surprise is significant in terms of the conduct of this thing. it is important to this. look at the other side of this thing. you guys ought to recognize this guy. who is this? yeah, president -- ultimately becomes president eisenhower, supreme allied commander. who is next in the chain of command? his deputy is? who was he? british deputy commander. general walter smith, he is the chief of staff. who is he? no, he is an american. walter smith is un-american. 1947, he will become the first -- walter smith is an american. 1947, he will become the first director of the cia. central intelligence agency. if you take a look at this thing, all of the seniormost operational commanders are
british. i always get that question, why did the british get all of the seniormost operational command jobs? you got un-american at the very -- you got an american at the very top of the chain of the command. however, montgomery will be commanding the 21st army group, and under that will be the u.s. first army under general omar bradley, one of the five-star generals we produce. then you have general dempsey, a british commander, commanding the british second army, which will land alongside the u.s. forces at normandy. this command structure is a holdover from the mediterranean theater. eisenhower was made supreme commander also and the british tended to get the seniormost operational assignments. let's think about this job, eisenhower. who else might have been in the running for this job?
patton? you could make an argument for patton. patton will be given a very interesting assignment. he will be put in charge of a fake army. we will call this operation fortitude. it is a planned invasion, but no troops involved. it is a deception plan. patton is given that assignment. we create the illusion that we are going to attack with another army in the area of calais. underut a fake army patton, so patton does have a role to play, and operation fortitude is part of that. there is a guy named general marshall. general marshall probably would have liked a job as supreme allied commander. there is also a guy named alan brooke. head of the british imperial staff. both of them would have liked this job. alan brooke was promised the job
several times by a guy named churchill. what do you think? why didn't he get it? ,y the time you get to normandy american resources, numbers of divisions are starting to dwarf those of britain. when we were in north africa, in sicily, there was relative parity. by the time you get to normandy, the parity is gone. when you take a look at what is going to happen in normandy, you have 60 american divisions and 16 british divisions in europe. who should be in charge? yeah, the americans. 60 american divisions, 16 british divisions, and two of those are canadians. they could have gone with either army. however, eisenhower is the guy who ultimately ends up with the job. marshall -- roosevelt once said
he did not sleep well at night when marshall was out of washington, d.c. marshall was the guy that has been running the war the whole time. as a consequence of that, admiral king made an argument to fdr that marshall ought to stay in washington, that he ought to stay the guy that is orchestrating the overall war effort of the united states. the guys executing what we call the victory plan. so he did not get the job either. eisenhower probably third in line for this position. we create this thing called the combined chiefs of staff. these are the orders they gave to eisenhower. you will enter the continent of europe and in conjunction with other united nations undertake to destroy the german force is. mission statement. this was about two pages long,
telling you how to do it and all those things, but it was a mission statement. it did not tell you how to do it. mission statement, don't tell me how to do it, just let me go forward with it. that is what they did. however, eisenhower is selected or informed he will be the supreme allied commander in december of 1943. montgomery, who will command the british effort, he is also selected in december of 1943. the plans were made before eisenhower and montgomery were even selected. there was this thing called the cossack staff, a guy named general morgan, a british to start at the time and american one star called raymond barker, they will be the guys who develop the initial plan for the normandy invasion. when eisenhower is selected and montgomery comes into this thing, the plans have already been developed. they inherit all the work that
was done by the cossack staff. the chief of staff, supreme allied commander, that is what the cossack staff stands for. they did enormous research. thousand mile front. they did research on beaches, quality of the beaches. they looked at fort facilities, thinking about all the difficult things that had to take place. all of the research was done even before eisenhower was selected for this thing. cossack staff does not get the credit they deserve for this, the planning of the normandy invasion. they come up with a plan. they will have three divisions landing alongside of each other here at normandy. they will have two airborne divisions in this thing. this area right here you see here, this is all flooded out intentionally by the germans. this is where the airborne operations are supposed to take place.
but this is intentionally flooded. every commander who served in the mediterranean looked at this plan and said it is too small. there is a story about churchill and montgomery having dinner in december of 1943, and churchill pulls out the plans for the normandy invasion and shows them to montgomery. montgomery excuses himself, and that is not normally what you do from the prime minister. he excuses himself from dinner, takes the plans up, studies them all night, gets back up in the morning, comes down, talks to churchill, and says the plan is too small. eisenhower is told he needs to report to the united states and talk to the commander in chief. eisenhower was also given the plans for the normandy invasion. he takes a look and guess what he says? too small. not enough forces were being landed. both of them -- both were
selected in december 1943, both of them come to the same conclusions from looking at the initial plan. but the cossack staff was given limitations. somebody told them, if they have this many limitations, they would have incorporated them. they are working with limitations that they had. but this is the initial plan. ultimately, montgomery who will be in charge of the ground forces, will change that plan. this is what becomes known as the montgomery plan. as a consequence of that, they will expand the landing into this area at utah beach. toond up with omaha and you -- omaha and utah beach. the americans will end up with these beaches. they put three divisions ashore, the americans put two divisions ashore. the 29th infantry envision will come in alongside the big red one.
where is the first infantry division at now? fort riley, that's right. it is still with us today. ultimately, this is what the plan looks like. commander.is theater everything is under his authority. montgomery is the ground force commander, the guy in command of the overall amphibious operation for the invasion. keep in mind, this will be the largest invasion in history. even today, nothing comes close to this thing. 5000 ships will be involved in this thing. 1000 warships, 4000 transportation ships, etc. etc.. it is an and or miss event to be orchestrated. montgomery is the commander of the overall. omar bradley, first u.s. army. then we will send in the seventh
corps under collins. he will be chief of staff of the army. he will go in there, and then another general will command the fifth corps. that will consist of the big red one, the first infantry division, the second infantry division, and the 29th infantry division. all of those will be part of a fifth corps that will land at a place called omaha beach. this is the landing -- beaches, we just talked about this. these are the ports they will be coming out of for the invasion. portland, portsmouth, etc. the entire area of the british coastline now is owned, essentially, by the military for this invasion. stockpiles, large stockpiles of equipment. i'm going to run through this quickly again.
tons and tons of equipment are stockpiled for the invasion for the cross channel attack. the destinies -- these are churchill's words -- the destinies of two great empires seem to be tied to something called lst. the landing was supposed to take place in may. when eisenhower and then montgomery take a look at the plan and they expand it, they need more landing craft, they need more lst's. a call goes out to the united states to see how many more they can get together, how many more landing craft they can get together. instead of thee, landing taking place in may, it was pushed back to june so they can get everything they need for the landing. in terms of the equipment, a division in combat goes through tons of equipment a day. bullets, fuel, think about a tank and just the gas it goes
through. all the ammunition it will go through in combat. when we think about all of those things, tons and tons of equipment would have to be transported across the english channel appeared to do the -- transported across the english channel. to do this thing, they needed two pieces of technology. who has been to normandy? did you visit omaha beach? have you seen those pieces of this thing called the mulberry? if you go there now, pieces of this stuff is still out there. i think i told you before, i did a thing for nova on this, and awfully coast of france, under -- and off the coast of france, under the water, it is just a graveyard. tanks, ships, all sorts of things left over from the invasion. right now on the coast of france. but this is an lst. this was developed during world war ii. they were made where? a lot of them were made right
here in the midwest. indiana, chicago, illinois, a lot of those things were made right here. you would float them right down the mississippi river and send them to england. many of theset so things, they did not even name them, they just stuck a number on them, lst, send it over for the invasion. this is an important piece of technology for the conduct of the landing. it has a ballast tank in it that palm's water in and out. water in and out. it gets ready to go to see. it pumps water in and out, rides in the water. with getting ready to offload, it pumps water out and that allows them to deposit the stuff off of it. there is another lst with a tank coming off this thing.
there is a lot in this slide. i just want you to pay attention to the bottom. 29 july. total 1,566,000 personnel. vehicles, 332,000. supplies in terms of tons, 1,000,602 tons. you see the logistics problem in trying to get across the english channel with all this equipment and stuff you need for this thing? it is a huge requirement. to do this, they created this thing called the mulberry. an artificial port, artificial harbor. this was a british idea. they created breakwaters. that is what you see here. they created artificial breakwaters, and this thing was like an erector set. these pontoons were built and they sunk them and they pumped water back out as they got closer to the landing. over to tugboats pulled
the omaha beach, one in the british sector and one in the american sector, and they linked it all together like an erector set, and ultimately created a port facility using this system. to create the breakwater, they sunk ships. that is what i mean. off the coast of normandy now, it is still a graveyard with lots of stuff out there. this is how it works. instant port, bring it with me. airpower. let's figure out the missions of airpower for the normandy invasion. got to get air superiority over the battlefield. we have got that one, right? then we have something called the transportation plan. this was something that was greatly debated. airpower guys said they did not want to do it. eisenhower made an argument for it, and ultimately they ended up
doing it. take a look at what we are trying to do. we have got a band here. what they want to do is isolate the battlefield. what they want to do is destroy transportation, rail systems, bridges, roads that lead into the normandy area. that is the idea. to do that, what else do they have to do? they have to bomb a lot of other things so they don't give away the location of the site. i think last class when we were talking about the strategic bombing campaign, how many frenchman did we kill? 70,000, that's right. with the normandy invasion in preparation, the strategic killng campaign, we will 70,000 frenchmen in the process of world war ii. airpower's got this mission. -- airpowers got this mission. during the preparation for the bombing in the normandy area, they also had the mission to
prep the beaches. before the landing takes place, the beaches have to be prepared. in addition to that, they got to drop the 82nd, 101st airborne, and then drop the sixth british airborne division on both flanks of the invasion. the big question is timing on this thing. what time do we go in with this? that is the debate. this is where i wrote omaha beach. many long years ago, i was at normandy, standing on omaha beach, trying to understand -- trying to explain the invasion to a group of cadets. as you know, i am retired army, so i spent a lot of time in the infantry. when i thought about the way we did this, i thought, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. a daylight assault against a deliberate defense, years in the making. who wants to do that? who wants to come out of the landing craft, charge across 100
meters of beaches against machine-gun fire? there has got to be a better way to do this. that was my argument. that is what i was thinking when i was trying to explain this to the cadets. general, serve under a and we used to plan to fight the russians in europe. this was before the collapse of the soviet union. we would dig in defense after defense after defense, and i could not imagine somebody trying to charge one of these things here and plan on living through this thing. the marine corps will try to conduct an amphibious operation against the japanese deliberate defense. there will be 2000 fewer marines in the process of trying to do this thing. they had a two-hour prep for this.
at normandy, they are going to have 40 minute preparation for this thing. ,y the time you get to iwo jima the marine corps are requiring three to four days of preparation against an enemy defense before they conduct an amphibious assault. again, at normandy, you are going to have 30 to 40 minutes. you ask yourself, why do you do it this way? big red one has conducted a few of these. they landed in north africa and in sicily. both times, they went in at night, under the cover of darkness. they went in under conditions that limited the effectiveness of enemy fire. at normandy, they did not have that either. they went in just as daylight was breaking. 6:30 in then at 0 morning. the question is, why did they do this? i have two warfare doctrines,
u.s. navy marine corps doctrine and british amphibious doctrine over here, and they seemed to not use either one of them in terms of the process of conducting the invasion. that is the question i explore in "omaha beach." let's think about this thing. you are the big red one now, you are the first infantry division. you have been sitting in the over 24 hours. the landing was supposed to take 5th, but the weather was bad, and eisenhower decided we are going to postpone it. you've been sitting in the ships a while. finally, there is a break in the weather and eisenhower makes the decision we will conduct the landing. everybody now set sail across -- sets sail across the english channel. you are in your transport ship, and you are starting to move across the english channel. but at but at 01:00 that
morning, the u.s. navy serves , and givesnd eggs you a nice big breakfast. everything is good. 3:00, your ship comes to a halt. we are in the transport area. you are about 11 miles off the coast. 11 miles off the coast of france. the enemy is 11 miles away. it is just complete dark out there. orders are given to commence landing operations. now the landing craft go over the side. the waves are six feet high. ship is right in the water, landing craft right on top of it. you are getting your cargo net, you have got your back. you throw that over the side, put it in the landing graft, then you start to climb over the side down the cargo net. you have to time it just right. if you don't time it right, you could be smashed against the landing craft it comes back up. if you do it wrong the other
way, you will be down, the landing craft will be down. you release and fall down and may fall a few feet down and get knocked out. a few people were. a few people failed to time this thing just right. however, your landing craft is full. remember, the navy was good to you, they fed you all that breakfast. you are on an ocean that has got six-foot waves. a lot of people are getting seasick in the process of this thing. you move away from the ship. you go to what is called an assembly area. the landing craft are circling, one after the other. they use a system of flags. when you get an entire boat division together, that is when they head in toward the shore. you are with the big red one now. you are now soaking wet, some of you are barfing up the bacon and eggs you got this morning.
some of the landing craft are getting swamped, and guys have pulled off their helmets and started bailing water out. part of you is thinking, why did they do it so far? why 11 miles from the shore? the british were only like five miles from the shore. why did we do this? the navy was concerned that the germans had long-range artillery. as a consequence, what they wanted to do was put the transport area outside of the range of the german main guns, and that is what they ended up doing. so you have got 11 miles you are going to be on the ocean in your small landing craft and a big ocean. all of these craft are heading in. into towardsmoving the shore, you can start to see in the background the uss arkansas, uss nevada, two of the oldest battleships in the navy,
but they are over there and you can sort of see the outline of those things. pretty soon, they are going to open up on the beaches. it is overcast, but as you start to move into towards the beaches, you can see the b-17s, the b-24th, you can see all the airpower going in toward the beach. with all the airpower and naval gunfire, you get a warm and fuzzy feeling. everything is going to be all right. we are going to hit these beaches. all that airpower is going to destroy everything. all that naval gunfire is going to pound everything, and when we get there, we will also have tank support on the beach. again, you have been in your landing craft for about an hour or so. you are heading into the beach. and you see some guys -- you look over to the side and see some guys floundering in the water. tank battalion. they had this thing called dd tanks. tose dd tanks were supposed
-- if i can find one here -- these were supposed to precede the invasion. it has a canvas shroud. these things are supposed to go out into the water. they had what you call a duplex drive, two propellers in the back. this is your tank support for the beach. let me take you out of your landing craft and put you into a tank. you are with the 741st tank battalion. four tanks and a landing craft here. the first one rolls out into the water. it immediately starts to sink. the second one rolls off and into the water. let's say you're in the third tank. the second one rolls off into the water. it starts to sink. you are in the third tank. what are you thinking? this is not a good idea. this is not a good idea. some of these ideas are coming to you.
however, the third one rolls off. then the fourth one rolls off. 32 tanks in the battalion in the landing. 25 of them go to the bottom of the english channel. there is your tank support. a good part of it, anyway. there are other tanks that will be delivered all the way to the beach, but the guys in these dd tanks, a great many of them went to the bottom of the english channel. most of these guys do get out of the tanks. there will be other landing craft trying to pick these guys up as they head into the beaches. all of your firepower, a lot of your tank firepower, has gone to the bottom now. now, you are still heading in. they have the thing called
lctr's, landing craft with rockets on them. you see these great shows, all these rockets launched into the air, and you can see the preparation on the beaches. then the sun starts to come up and you see the battleships firing and airpower dropping, and then you get closer and closer to the beaches, and something seems to be wrong. as you get closer to the beaches, you will find, gee, all those obstacles are still there. where are all the craters from the artillery fire that we saw? where are the destroyed bunkers? as you get closer and closer, the germans wake up, fully manned, fully equipped, and they start killing americans at a place called omaha beach. the airpower missed. it landed three miles behind the beaches in some cases. the u.s. navy conducted counter battery fire first and instead of concentrating on the beaches, they concentrated on enemy
artillery positions. in addition to that, they only had 30 to 40 minutes of preparation in the first place to destroy those. so the air force missed. the rockets missed. my tank support is all at the bottom of the english channel. not all of it -- there is still some that will make it to the beaches. when you hit the beaches, what happens? the germans are ready. they are awake. they have all of those obstacles out there. they are in a mood to start killing americans, which is what they start doing. it will be a difficult day for the americans at omaha beach. page 18. 500 to 600 yards from the shore, the assault force began receiving small arms fire, tank
artillery, machine gun fire. some landing craft received directives and sank. those men still alive went into the sea and swam as best they could. german machine gunners found their range, zeroed in on the ramps of the landing craft, and fired patterns that killed or wounded the first four or five down the ramps. converging fire from automatic weapons produced heavy casualties. some soldiers jumped overboard to avoid the murderous fire, and in the process lost much of their equipment. small unit leaders suffered inordinately high casualties, because under the new bow section organization, they were the first off, according to one account. -- ultimately, the invasion will be won by soldiers. soldiers were not put ashore in the best condition. some of them were seasick when they hit this, some of them were blown off course because of the bad weather and wind.
but primarily, the reason it is so difficult is that the german defenses were completely intact when the invasion took place. nothing that they were told was going to happen in terms of the fire support plan from beach, nothing they were told would take place, took place. as a consequence of that, infantry end up trying to fight the battle for omaha beach. we had different types of soldiers on this beach. general omar bradley will make this claim. let me see if i have this. let me see if we can get to the end here, we are running out of time. this is general omar bradley. this is about as close as you are going to get a general officer to say we screwed up. "despite the setbacks that we had suffered as a result of bad weather and ineffective bombings, i was shaken to find that we had gone against omaha
beach with so thin a margin of safety. had a less experienced division then the big red one, the first infantry division, stumbled into this crack position, it might easily have been thrown back into the channel." bookal omar bradley in his , "a soldier's story," acknowledges that. things were very bad at omaha beach. let me conclude with these thoughts. i want you to think about this. in terms of the historiography, omaha beach, of the five beaches, was the most difficult. as a consequence, many historians have taken a look at this and said it was a tactical failure. that the commander of the big red one, he is in part at fault. i make the other argument. i make the argument that the overall plan, the operational level, montgomery's plan, bradley's plan, was flawed. and that what happened at omaha beach could've happened at utah
beach, could have happened at the other beaches. it was not the tactical guys. the tactical guys argued against the plan that was put in place. it was the operational commanders, not the tactical commanders, who are at most fault for what happens here at omaha beach. some historians also make the argument that the outcome was inevitable. it was not. we could have lost. rommel well understood -- if hitler had given everything rommel everything he wanted, if he had done everything rommel wanted him to do, we probably would have lost omaha beach. not just omaha beach. we would have lost the atlantic. if hitler had listened to his generals and given them what he wanted to put in the defense there, europe might look very different today. thoughts, questions?
how am i doing? thoughts, questions? boy, i must have done a great job, huh? no, everybody good? ok. we will call it a day and pick this up again. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. all weekend, american history tv is joining our cable partners to showcase the history of hyde park new york. to learn more about the cities on our current tour, visit c-span.org/cities tour. we continue with our look at the history of hyde park.