D Day Normandy

Northantslad

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Right, so I am far from a military tactician nor a leading authority on the history of the Normandy landings. I have however read quite a bit (Ambroses books are good), watched numerous documentaries on the subject and watch Saving Private Ryan, which is regarded as quite historically accurate and with regards to the opening scenes relevant to my question.
One thing I have never understood and given our air superiority we had in June 1944, is that why didn't the allies heavily bomb the fortifications and defences, prior to the landings of infantry? Of course, I understand that there would have had to have been a break between bombing and landing, to avoid bombing our own troops, but given also that many men were risked and lost in not only the main landing, but also in specific missions to disable artillery positions, could these positions and the main defences have been weakened and in some cases eliminated prior to the main landing by aircraft bombing them first?

Not the most pleasant of questions I know, and also I am not suggesting that bombing is pleasant either, regardless of who is bombing who, but in terms of a military tactic, does anyone know why this wasn't done? It is a question I have always had and the film being on the other night reminded me. Must be a reason, anyone?
 

Phoenixicus

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Heavy bombing was a haphazard affair and a high percentage either missed the target or didn't go off.
It would have also alerted the Germans that the invasion was a possibility which in turn would have led to the Panzer divisions being held in the rear being brought up to the front. (the delay in doing this was one of the main factors why the Germans lost the beachheads)
Before the landing craft set off for the beaches the heavy warships shelled the fortifications as they could hit the targets with more accuracy.
Even then though with heavy ordnance they inflicted little damage to the bunkers
Nazi Megastructures (on the Atlantic Wall) is well worth watching and shows how well built and complex the fortifications were.
 

Somersetlad

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From what my father told me we did, the squadron he was with towed the gliders over the channel, released them and then went on their bombing runs, before returning home to load up and go again. The huge 1000 bomber raids were much later on targets in Germany. You have to remember that bombing was not accurate then, no laser guided munitions and cruise missiles, very few bombs hit their intended targets, to take out an artillery position would have been almost impossible.
 

floatfisher44

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As far as I know from what History I read a great deal of effort and deception was made by the Allies
to kid Hitler that the invasion would come in the Par de Calais area. This ensured a large part of
his Panza tanks were there.Not in Normandy where we landed. We also bombed the likes of the tunnels on the railway,with Tallboy (heavy ) bombs to close the Rail lines and make movement difficult.
Several were so badly hit they were only repaired after the war ended.
General Patton the U.S.A. known go for it commander was seen and appeared to be operating in the S/East to continue the deception, Fake Radio transmissions, Aircraft dropping aluminium window
to look like an advancing invasion force was used.
Over the preceeding months the whole Coastal and defenses were attacked with Aircraft, but
they could not plaster Normandy or they may well reveal their actual invasion plan,the biggest in military
history. Probably still is.!!!
 

andyb28

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They did bomb but it didn't have much effect and the germans flooded the fields behind the beaches so alot of the paras landed in it
 

Phoenixicus

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Little known fact but on the first three days of each battle the invasion of Okinawa was more numerous in manpower and number of ships than Normandy.
Operation Barbarossa was the largest land invasion ever.
 

kevin o connor

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Prebombing the beaches would have taken away the element of surprise ! The fortifications were practically bomb proof ! Plus of course before the main landing small numbers of troops had been parachuted in or landed by dingy to disable as many of the fortifications as possible so you would have in fact being bombing your own troops !
 

Neil ofthe nene

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I too have read quite a bit about D Day and beyond (and other battles). There certainly was a pre attack bombardment though probably more from ships than aircraft, in part, as has been as said, due to the more accurate fire from a ship.

But the Germans had prepared extensively for an invasion all along the coast. Bunkers were effectively bomb and shell proof, naval guns could never fire as heavy a missile as a bunker busting bomb, but the bomb was not as accurate as naval gunfire. The bunkers were linked by underground tunnels and living quarters under the bunkers was safe from attack. The pre-invasion bombardment was more about keeping the German defender's underground for as long as possible. But they still had time to man the impregnable defences as the first wave of troops landed. If you have been to Normandy you will know that at low tide the beaches are very wide. Attack had to be at low tide to reveal to the incoming boats the defences that at high tide would be submerged. A laden soldier advancing up the beach would give the defenders a few minutes to man their emplacements. And many firing positions were pre-sighted to provide accurate and crossing fields of fire.

Once the boots were on the beaches the bombardment would have to stop. However as the battle advanced from the beachhead troops were able to call in accurate missions against troops and field artillery and tanks from slow, low flying fighter bombers, known by the Germans as Jager Bombers or Jabos.

I would caution anyone reading Ambrose to exercise some caution in his accounts. He is primarily interested in the stories of soldiers and as such his histories can show a marked lack of knowledge or detail of other aspects of the campaign. He is certainly worth reading, I have just finished his book "Citizen Soldiers". It probably should be required reading of all 18-21 year olds that think their life is tough. In that book he makes mistakes, some corrected in the reprint I read. One uncorrected is that an actual escape from Colditz was made via a glider. A glider was built but never used.

Ambrose, being American, of course also concentrates on the US forces and in Citizen Soldiers is not very complimentary at times about the British commanders and some troops. So may be difficult for avid patriots to read.

It is some years since I last read Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day but I am fairly certain he states in his preface that he only included anecdotes that were backed up from a second independent source. That may, or may not, reassure the reader that his writing is historically accurate.
 

SeanB

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It's also reported that a lot of the bombers were worried about dropping their bombs on the invading troops so waited slightly longer before releasing them. A delay of 30 seconds can lead to the bombs landing well behind the front line defences. Smoke also made accurate observation from off shore ships more difficult.
Anthony Beevor is probably a better read for accuracy than Ambrose.
 

SeanB

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The Germans in Normandy by Richard Hargreaves is an excellent read of the invasion and subsequent period but from the Germans perspective.
 

Chervil

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This may be of interest .
Aerial bombing in Normandy
If it is something which you want to look into, I would suggest two books, both By Max Hastings
Overlord-D Day and the Battle for Normandy
Armageddon - The Battle for Germany
 
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tonerain

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I recall reading that the plan for the Omaha beach landing called for the big ships to fire on to the beach itself, thus creating fox holes for the landing troops. However the shelling was inaccurate and troops faced the awful prospect of hundreds of yards of beach raked with German machine gun fire.
 

dam

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I recall reading that the plan for the Omaha beach landing called for the big ships to fire on to the beach itself, thus creating fox holes for the landing troops. However the shelling was inaccurate and troops faced the awful prospect of hundreds of yards of beach raked with German machine gun fire.
I spent a week in Normandy last year and it really is an awe inspiring trip to make, the yanks on Omaha beach suffered more than any of the other invaders and driving along it you can see why, it is a natural defence, hills and sand dunes run the full length of the beach about 100/ 200 yards from the top of the beach with only two or three gaps between them, these became bottle necks and killing zones, add to what you posted about how far the tide was out and the open distance these kids had to transverse its no wonder there were so many casualties.

One thing not mentioned was incompetence of the generals who planned it, the height of the tide being one and the co-ordinates for bombarding the defences were way out and much of the ordinance sailed much too far inland without troubling the German defenders.

A little thing that tends to be overlooked in history is once the beach heads were established and allied troops and supplies poured ashore is the length of time it took to actually break out of Normandy, again looking at the landscape its not hard to see why, small fields and hundreds of hedgerows which as someone else said the Germans flooded as a defence strategy.

If anyone has not done the trip to Normandy I urge you to do so, its not only fascinating but the coastline is stunning as well, we were lucky and parked our motorhome up at night overlooking the beaches Juno was particularly brilliant watching the cockle and clam farmers (100's of them) going about their business at first light and the scores of trotting horses training as the sun was going down, probably best of all was watching families of otters playing in the fields and streams at the back of the beaches.
 

jods

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Who cares about the past? Time to move on. Still moaning about a War that ended 70 years ago.
 
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fishingmad123

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would love to hear the german version of d day landings , im not a nazi supporter but only the victors tales are told
 

Chervil

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would love to hear the german version of d day landings , im not a nazi supporter but only the victors tales are told
As you say the victors normally write history. There are quite a few books written from the German perspective. Sean B mentions one in post 10. Also on kindle, there is; D Day Through German Eyes - The Hidden Story of June 6th 1944.
 

Phoenixicus

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When I worked in Germany the two world wars were still subjects that the Germans did not like to talk about openly (and not just because they lost) as they suffered a lot of horrors of their own. When the topic did arise I always felt they talked about it with a lot of shame and the modern generations still burden the guilt
The education system is very open about the atrocities caused by the Nazi Party and most Germans will oppose Right Wing politics at all costs.
 

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