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Enemy Capabilities on D-Day

Enemy (German) Capabilities on D-Day, the invasion of Fortress Europe at Normandy in 1944.

In our planning for the assault, it was necessary and increasingly so as D-day approached-to take into consideration the normal enemy capabilities which he might employ against our attack. We assumed that the enemy, once aware that a full-scale invasion was under way, would throw everything he possessed on the land, sea, and in the air against the assault. We accordingly made preparations to counter his reaction. Mention has already been made of the enemy's capability in the air and the over-all disruption of his plans as the result of strategic bombing of the German Air Force production resources and of the tactical bombing of airfields in the vicinity of the assault area. In spite of his losses, nevertheless, it was anticipated that he might, by carefully husbanding the fighters and bombers remaining to him, attack the invasion forces with furious-if brief-air effort. Against this, our covering squadrons of fighters were allocated as already outlined in the air plan for the assault.

In addition to air attack, the ruthless and even reckless employment of all enemy naval forces was also expected. We estimated that the enemy was capable of employing within the first few days of the assault the following forces: 5 destroyers, 9-11 torpedo boats, 50-60 E-boats, 50-60 R-boats, 25-30 "M" class mine sweepers, and 60 miscellaneous local craft. In addition to the surface craft available, the enemy was also in a position to use 130 U-boats forthwith and to reinforce these by D-plus-14 to a total of 200. Against the anticipated attacks from these craft, the navy was to undertake preliminary mine laying outside the channels of our approach. Aircraft of RAF Coastal Command also were to maintain a constant patrol in sufficient density and over such an extended stretch of the Channel that no U-boat would be capable of reaching the battle area without first surfacing and becoming vulnerable to attack. In the event that any enemy vessels proved capable, in spite of these measures, of reaching the task forces and assault convoys, the Navy's protective screen of ships, together with the considerable air umbrella supporting the task forces, was felt to be in sufficient strength to neutralize any serious threat.

The enemy had, as early as February, disposed of 53 divisions in the west under the supreme command of Field Marshal von Rundstedt. By 3 June his strength in France, Belgium, and Holland had been increased to 60 divisions, including 10 panzer type and 50 infantry divisions. Of these, 36 infantry and 6 panzer divisions were located in the general coastal area opposite England, from Holland to Lorient in western France. In the immediate area of our Normandy assault the Germans had concentrated 9 infantry divisions and 1 panzer division, while their greatest strength the Fifteenth Army-remained in the Pas-de-Calais. The bombing of the Seine bridges and other communications served to isolate the battle zone from immediate reinforcement and the diversionary plans were responsible for holding strategic reserves away from the Normandy beaches. Thus, although disposing of 60 divisions, the enemy's immediate capabilities for their employment were considerably reduced.

Apart from the estimates of normal enemy capabilities, one unusual danger hung as a threat over OVERLORD from July 1943 through D-day. The Germans were emplacing what appeared to be rocket or pilotless aircraft sites on the Channel coast, and while the weapons appeared to be largely oriented on London, there was the possibility that our concentration of shipping in the ports of southern England would prove an attractive target and that the mounting of the operation would meet with interference from the new menace. The staff consequently gave some consideration to changing the areas where the amphibious forces were to be mounted, but, because other places did not have adequate facilities and the whole naval plan would have had to be altered, we adhered to our original plans. Defensive and offensive countermeasures against the threat were taken, and the Pas-de-Calais area, where the majority of the sites were located, was subjected to severe and continual bombing which served to delay the employment of the V-weapons until after our assault had been launched.

With our land forces assembled in the areas where the assault was to be mounted and with the Channel exercises under way, I felt that the final decision as to the launching of the assault should be made from a forward command post located near the invasion bases on the Channel coast and, accordingly, my tactical headquarters were set up in the vicinity of Portsmouth. As I June approached I had visited the greater part of the divisions to be engaged in the operations as well as air force installations and several of the larger naval ships. Without exception, the morale of the men was extraordinarily high and they looked forward to the immediate task confronting them with sober confidence. This same confidence, born of the long hours of arduous preparatory toil, existed within all echelons of the services and was noticeably present when the final plans of all the commanders were formally presented at St. Paul's School, 21 Army Group Headquarters in London, on 15 May.

With the planning and preparatory period completed, it now became necessary to make the supreme decision for which I was responsible-the designation of the exact day for the assault against the continent of Europe.


Arrow  The D-Day Assault



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