This year, it has been especially gratifying here at Casemate Publishers to see D-Day commemorated so well in the papers, on the internet, and on TV.
It’s a sad fact that by now on the 70th anniversary, many of the veterans of that epic battle have already gone from us, and by the time the 75th comes around we may remain with very few.
But we at Casemate have been publishing their stories all along, as well as honoring those veterans, and we only appreciate the increased public attention during this 70th anniversary year.
To recount the importance of this epic event:
By 1944 Nazi Germany—with the best military extant at that time—had taken over all of continental Europe. They had also subsumed all the industrial capacity and resources of the continent to create a veritable “fortress” that defied any other world power to topple it.
By 1944 it was left to the Americans and British to dare a way, via a seaborne invasion, to break into Nazi-held Europe and re-establish democracy and civilized Western principles once and for all.
Naturally the Germans knew the Amis/Brits were coming, and they had fortified the French coastline with massive gun emplacements and entrenchments. Plus, they also put their best general on the scene, Rommel, with a considerable armored reserve, including practically every SS Panzer Division the Germans had.
When 150,000 U.S. and British troops sailed off from England on that dark morning of June 6, 1944, who knew what they would meet? If the invasion failed, the entire war was lost. The West wouldn’t try it again. If the invasion actually succeeded there was nothing but another horrific year of battles to come.
The Anglo-American high command hedged its bets by spreading three full divisions of airborne troops behind enemy lines just before the first seaborne troops hit the beaches. It turned out to be utter chaos—both for the Germans and our paratroopers. Forty percent of all US casualties on D-Day were among our 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
On the beaches themselves, it was mainly at Omaha where our “Big Red One”, and its follow-up 29th Infantry, ran into buzzsaws of German fire from the heights. With some 12,000 casualties among the invading forces on the first day alone, it was not even known till nighttime that the Anglo-Americans had indeed gained a slim toehold on the Continent.
But the problem next was that Rommel was assembling his vast array of panzer divisions for a counter blow. He had known enough not to keep his armor too close to the Channel, where they’d be subject to Allied air or naval firepower. But once the paratroopers and seaborne soldiers had established their small beachhead, now the panzers would be coming in.
It is difficult to think of another battle in history—much less World War II—upon which the future course of the world hung more on a thread. A giant leap into the unknown—in the face of fortifications that had had been years in preparation and the best expertise of the German Wehrmacht—it’s still amazing to this day that our daring young soldiers accepted the challenge, and indeed, on that day, were able to crack Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.”
D-Day was perhaps the biggest throw-of-the-dice offensive in history. If it had failed, all was lost. But since our young soldiers succeeded, Hitler was doomed. Already in ferocious combat with the Russians in the east, he now had the Americans and their Allies on the continent with a front against him in the west.
To be sure, D-Day would be followed by a solid two months of horrendous combat—once the panzers came in, before the Allies could finally claim Normandy as liberated. And then nearly a year of further combat ensued until Germany finally succumbed. But it was the initial crack-in at Normandy on June 6, 1944 that was the most daring attack of all.
Here at Casemate, we’ve been intrigued by this battle since the beginning, publishing many works from participants—both on the beaches and among the airborne, as well as from the enemy’s perspective.
A casual glance at our website on this anniversary, as well as our Facebook page, our full catalog or bi-monthly Warrior publication, will inform readers of our own fascination with the importance of that day on June 6.
Meantime we can’t say enough for our remaining WWII vets, some of whom we’ve had the pleasure to have known, and hope their firsthand stories will continue to endure until the 80th anniversary of D-Day, also far beyond.
To see a list of featured and upcoming D-Day titles, visit here.