In World War 2, why did the Allies land on the beaches that were heavily fortified with pillboxes and machine gunners and whatnot? Surely there were some beaches in Europe that were not being defended by the Germans.
They did: in Sicily and later in South Italy. But Stalin demanded that the western Allies made a landing elsewhere as well, to open up a new front and divert some Axis troops away from the Eastern front.
Churchill prefered a landing somewhere in the Adriatic (either Istria or Dalmatia), as they could coordinate a joint operation with the partisans. The Americans, on the other hand, prefered to launch a landing on the Atlantic coast. Normandy was much closer to Britain than the Adriatic was to the Allied positions in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, a previous landing on the coast near Dieppe had failed and the Allies feared Operation Overlord would be a failure, too.
Well you have to keep a couple things in mind. 1. Their were mulitple landings out side of Normandy. Southern Italy and Southern France where invaded as well. 2. The bulk of Allied Strength lay in Britain so it made a lot of sense to make your main thrust close to the majority of your air bases and supplies. 3. Where else would you invade? A lot of German Strength lay in Calais and Flanders. Brittany is a peninsula. Denmark suffers from the same problem. The Netherlands is too dense and urban. The Frisian coast was too close to the German heartlands.
Normandy was the perfect place to land. And the lands weren't even that bloody. The battles during the Bulge were much worse. Same with the landings in the Pacfic theatre. The Normandy landings were almost as smooth as you could hope for considering the size and importance of the operation.
>Operation Fortitude was the code name for a World War II military deception employed by the Allied nations as part of an overall deception strategy (code named Bodyguard) during the build-up to the 1944 Normandy landings. Fortitude was divided into two sub-plans, North and South, with the aim of misleading the German high command as to the location of the imminent invasion.
>Both Fortitude plans involved the creation of phantom field armies (based in Edinburgh and the south of England) which threatened Norway (Fortitude North) and Pas de Calais (Fortitude South). The operation was intended to divert Axis attention away from Normandy and, after the invasion on June 6, 1944, to delay reinforcement by convincing the Germans that the landings were purely a diversionary attack.
Those beaches were landed on as well. But Stalin demanded an invasion of France be made and so Normandy was chosen. Which was the best strategic option as it was more lightly defended than some of the closer parts of France.
The English Channel is short enough that people quite often swim it.
On D-Day you have hundreds and thousands of troops being ferried across on all sorts of vessels such as landing craft, which aren't suitable for going properly 'out to sea' and even the ones in proper boats were stuffed in conditions that weren't remotely suitable for anything except such a short trip.
In short it wasn't a fleet that could have just sailed off anywhere it liked and conducted the assault there instead.
Normandy was the ideal invasion point. Four sites were initially selected; the Pas de Calais, Brittany, Normandy, and the Cotentin. As Brittany and the Cotentin are narrow peninsulas, it would be quite easy for the Germans to rush troops to cut off the neck of the isthmus after the Allies had landed, trapping them and leaving them nowhere to go but back into the sea. For that reason, these two sites were rejected. The Pas de Calais seemed like a logical landing spot, as it is the closest land to the United Kingdom. Because of this, it was heavily fortified, more so than some parts of Normandy (large coastal guns fired at England across the Channel at the point!) With these other choices eliminated because of tactical and strategic reasons, that left only Normandy. If Brittany or the Cotentin was attacked, the Germans would know right away the Allies' first route of advance (out of the peninsulas) and could cut them off and destroy them with much less troops than if we landed on a broad front.
An assault at Normandy could go in multiple directions; it could simultaneously threaten the Germans' port facilities at Cherbourg or enable a lightning thrust south, or south and then east towards Paris and the German border, throwing off and complicating the enemy's defense strategy. If the allies landed at Normandy, the Germans would not initially know which way we would go; a turn northwest towards Cherbourg (which actually was the first move), an attack south to expand the beachhead, or and attack to the southeast, towards Paris.
Remember that many of the small landing craft the Allies used had relatively poor characteristics when loaded, or traveling on the open sea. Their range was also sometimes very limited. This resulted in them being split into sections and carried on the decks of larger, seagoing ships; the sections were then lowered by crane into the water and reassembled. The shorter the distance these small craft had to travel, the better.
I can't imagine how it must have felt, getting shipped all the way from America, you get on the first landing craft. Minutes later you get mowed down by german machine guns before even stepping foot on european soil.
The entire Atlantic Wall was fortified. Compared to Calais, Normandy was relatively under-defended.
Note that heavy resistance was only seen on Omaha, which unfortunately has entered American popular thinking as representative of all landings that day.
in a life and death situation you do not reflect on the context at all, only on surviving. not until they made it through the battle would they be reflecting on what it "felt" like. And since your scenario involves getting mowed down, well, that reflection never came.
History would have turned out much better if Churchill got his way, and the Western allies kept as much territory out of Soviet hands as possible.
What I don't understand is why the Americans were so naive about this.
Not him, and on my phone, but I'd recommend The Path to Victory by Douglas Porch. The "soft underbelly" of Southern Europe was a much tougher target than Normandy, and violating your agreements with Stalin while the war still rages carries enormous risks.
>What I don't understand is why the Americans were so naive about this.
The americans were already pissed about the British refusing to divert more resources to the Pacific and just wanted the European theater over with so they could go and finish off the japs.
Furthermore, the British were much more concerned with the future of Europe because, surprise, they live in Europe. American doctrine weighed other matters. This is also one of the reasons they didn't march on Berlin, despite the fact that the Brits could have reached it a few weeks before the Russians did. Had the overall allied commander been a Brit, the lines would have been drawn much differently during the end of the war - but more lives would have been lost too.
>What I don't understand is why the Americans were so naive about this.
Did it not have more to do with FDR's hatred of colonialism and distrust of Churchill and Britain's postwar ambitions? FDR thought Churchill was playing the USSR against him and the two argued about it at every Big Three conference.
FDR's scheme for a utopian Europe without artificial trade barriers protected under the authority of the planned United Nations was certainly naive, (and eerily socialist), and he probably saw the Soviets as more likely to support it.
>I can't believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy. The peace cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples. Equality of peoples involves the utmost freedom of competitive trade. Will anyone suggest that Germany's attempt to dominate trade in central Europe was not a major contributing factor to war?'
Mountains don't exactly start on the shoreline. Mountains also didn't stop the Allies from taking over Italy.
How did the Axis take over the Balkans if mountains are such a problem, then?
Not him but,
they do start on the shoreline, unless you land in N. Italy or modern day Slovenia.
The Axis came from the North, where there are no mountains, also they encountered little real resistance.
>showing neutral countries as a part of the Atlantic Wall
Well, in Slovenia you could go from the South-West to the North-East, towards Wien, without encountering major mountains.
Also from Trieste-Ljubljana-Wien there was decent infrastructure.
I think that this could be possible.
A civil war within a war. First it was the Axis vs the resistance, then the resistance split and it was the Axis vs the chetniks vs the partisans.
Due to partisan raids, the village folk throughout Italian-occupied Slovenia formed village guards to fight against the partisans. The chetniks at one point fought with the partisans against the Germans and in another moment with the Germans against the partisans. There was infighting in the homeguard. Partisans would die in freak accidents where weapons would malfunction and they either got shot in the back or died in mortar explosions. There was even an organisation of assassins, called the Black hand that killed people on all sides for money, leaving behind notes with a blak handprint. They started out as pro-Catholic, anti-communist assassins but they were later employed by everyone, even certain Axis elements.
They do in fact have that choice. HitLer was already looking to conclude separate peace as early as 1943.
Granted, it's extremely unlikely, but still possible that Stalin would grab a chance to take a breather and let his two rivals kill each other after being betrayed like that.
Hitler already made one non-aggression pact with the USSR, his ideology was to conquer Soviet lands and turn them into a German Empire. The Soviets would have been stupid to make peace with him at any point.
Unless, of course, it's a tactical "peace" arming all the while, and waiting for Gemsny to spend itself against the west before rejoining.
At the very least, it was something FDR was worried about, likely or not.
Conversely, if the West insisted on taking southern Europe, Stalin could have concentrated his armies much more tightly in the north. Given that countries liberated by the Soviets all wound up in the Warsaw Pact IIRC, I think this invasion would wind up trading western control of Yugoslavia and maybe Hungary for a Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic and Soviet occupation of everything inside the Großedeutschland nominal borders.
in reality most of the Atlantic Wall was pretty shit. sure there were pillboxes and trenches and actual defenses but they weren't too great, even in the Channel by late '43. Rommel had to deal with shitty defenses when he took command of the 7th and 15th Armies. Even after months of constructing more fortifications in Normandy, they weren't enough to hold the beaches.
Mostly logistical and operative concerns. It turns out, it's actually much tricker to land on an opposing beach and then keep sending troops and supplies to break out of the beachhead than it looks, and come 1942, you had a lot of the troops slated for Normandy already assembled, but the sorts of craft necessary to get and keep them there hadn't even been invented yet, let alone tested or constructed in sufficient quantity to send them over.
And a lot of people forget Italy and the Balkans: Germany committed roughly 50 divisions to Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece, and that was a deployment from mid 43 onwards.