The debt we owe to those who took part on D-Day and the subsequent Battle of Normandy is immense. The invasion of 6 June 1944 changed the course of history.
In retrospect, given the Allies’ intense preparation, and the extent of Germany’s dwindling resources and overstretched commitments, East and West, the success of the invasion seems almost inevitable. But of course that was far from the case. The prospect of failure loomed large in the minds of Eisenhower and his political masters, and for all those involved and for all those who, under the yoke of Nazi oppression, awaited liberation. The outcome of the war and the make-up of a post-war Europe would have been very different had, on 6 June, the invasion of Normandy failed. The story of D-Day would have marked the continuation, not the beginning of the end, of Europe’s new Dark Age. Had the Allies’ invasion of France been repulsed, had the Germans triumphed during the Battle of Normandy, had the Germans not been so emphatically deceived, it would have spelled disaster for the Allies and the cause of freedom. Germany would have been on full alert for a repeat attempt, which would have taken another year or more to prepare, had it taken place at all. The USA would have turned its attention and its resources to the war in the Pacific. Hitler would have had a free hand to concentrate his efforts in defeating the Soviet Union in the East. Had he failed, which, in all likelihood, would have been the case, Stalin’s troops, having overrun Berlin, would have advanced into western Germany and, from there, into Western Europe. The post-war map of Europe would have looked far different – instead of an ‘Iron Curtain’ separating East from West, the curtain would have separated North and South, dividing Britain from a Europe dominated throughout by Stalin. Much of Western Europe would have suffered continued subjugation – only under a different master and different uniform. The Cold War, as chilly as it was, would have been that much colder.
May we never forget…
A poppy on Juno beach, 6 June 2004