June 17, 2014 [LINK / comment]

D-Day + 70 years

I would be remiss in letting the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France at Normandy in 1944 pass without at least mentioning it. I was pleased that anniversary of "D-Day" did get a fair amount of recognition. It's hard for many people to imagine what was really at stake, and how great were the unknowns at the time. Would our forces succeed in grabbing a foothold on the continent, or would Hitler's legions push them back into the English Channel. The difficult and bloody battles at Omaha Beach showed just how bad things could have gone if the Germans had had better intelligence on Allied plans.

Indeed, those plans were quite flawed, and not much went the way it was supposed to on June 6. Paratroopers were scattered for miles around as the transport plane pilots got confused by clouds and flak, while the many of the amphibious Sherman tanks sank in the heavy waves, along with their crews. Weather was poor, and indeed General Eisenhower had already postponed the invasion one day, and was close to postponing it a second day. For reasons of optimum tides and moonlight, the invasion had to take place on June 5, 6, or 7, or else wait for two more weeks. Another delay could have given the Germans a chance to get better prepared.

I was hoping to observe the D-Day anniversary by visiting the museum of the 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, located at the National Guard Armory in Staunton, but it was closed the day I went there.

U.S. Army 105mm howitzer

U.S. Army 105 mm howitzer, at the National Guard Armory in Staunton, Virginia.

Below you will see a (reduced-size) preliminary version of the map of a wargame which I have been working on for many years: "Western Front: Germany vs. the Allies, 1914-1945." It is similar to the Avalon Hill game "D-Day," but is much more realistic, with more attention to terrain detail, force levels, and logistics. I was going to finish it in time to take home with my on my vacation, but couldn't quite "get 'r done." Wait till next year!

Western Front map