As Eisenhower contemplated the assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the hours before D-Day, he knew how dangerous the operation was.
But what if Hitler hadn’t meddled, or a crash development program had enabled jet fighters to fly in significant numbers on D-Day? The Luftwaffe’s bomber fleet was a skeleton force by the summer of 1944, so the invasion probably wouldn’t have been disrupted by bombing. But large numbers of Me-262s might have driven Allied bombers from the sky, enabling the panzer divisions to operate in daylight with impunity.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s face was grim but composed as he read a short message to the assembled group of reporters on the morning of June 7, 1944.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
Eisenhower never actually uttered these words. But he did scribble them down in the tense days before the Normandy invasion. Despite the years of planning for D-Day, and the awesome armada of men, ships and planes that he commanded, Eisenhower knew how risky it was to storm ashore into the heart of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
(This first appeared in 2014.)
With seventy years of hindsight, it is easy to assume that by June 1944, the Third Reich was doomed. Russian armies were relentlessly advancing from the East; Anglo-American armies were invading from the West, while German cities and factories burned under around-the-clock attacks by American and British bombers.
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