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The big D-Day screw-ups that have been covered up for 75-years

Posted by John T. Reed on

Today is the 51st anniversary of my class’s graduation from West Point. General Dwight Eisenhower’s son David graduated from West Point, the following day, in 1944: D-Day. General Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, the commander of D-Day. (He was West Point Class of 1915. He and I exchanged a salute at his 50th reunion at West Point when I was a freshman.)
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Like everyone else, I am awed by the scale of the invasion—still the largest ever. I am also awed by the courage of the infantry and the paratroopers.
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But I am also reminded every June 6th about the cowardice of the Navy and Army Air Corps and the intelligence mistake made by the jerks who sent the rangers up the cliffs at Pont du Hoc—and I am angered by the fact that these screw-ups have gotten almost no media coverage. 75 years and the bad guys on our side of the invasion are still getting away with it.
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Regarding the rangers—I and most of my West Point classmates graduate from ranger school—the way the story is told is false. They claim the rangers needed to go up those cliffs to silence the big coast artillery gun up there looking right down on the landing beaches.
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Who said there was a big gun up there? Intelligence. They were wrong. The “gun” was a telephone pole put there to fool intelligence into thinking it was a cannon. It worked. Men died to “silence” a telephone pole. There was a gun mount there ready to receive such a gun, but the Germans apparently could not manufacture the gun or transport it there.
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The story is either told that they DID silence such a gun, or in the more detailed, albeit also false, version, the guns were moved and the rangers found them and heroically silenced them. Bull!
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The bunkers atop the cliffs were heavily defended by German infantry. I have no idea why. They killed a lot of Americans. But the Americans eventually won that battle.
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Then having nothing to do even though the invasion was still going on down on the beaches below them, a couple of rangers began wandering around on the high ground behind the cliffs. Lo and behold, they found a German battery of towed howitzers or 88’s, I am not sure which.
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Coast artillery guns like they thought were in the bunker where the telephone pole was are massive built with huge guns attached to concrete pillars on the floor of the bunker. There were actually two such emplacements with the guns removed at West Point when we were cadets. Cadets before our time used to be trained on them shooting at targets on the Hudson River. Towed artillery has two rubber tires on each gun so they can be towed behind a truck or half-track. Towed artillery fires much smaller ammunition and generally has a much shorter range.
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Furthermore, the towed battery the rangers found was UNMANNED. As they tip-toed around, they found the entire battery’s manpower was in another area HAVING LUNCH—on freaking D-Day! They had not even left a guard at the guns.
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So the rangers used the thermite grenades they had brought to destroy the non-existent coast artillery guns to instead destroy the towed artillery pieces.
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Nice job, but they met no resistance from the dining Germans. In other words, overall the rangers heroic scaling a sheer 100-foot cliff under enemy fire was a cluster. Moron U.S. Army Intelligence sent our guys on a bloody wild telephone pole chase and a German artillery battery with a criminally negligent commander failed to even guard their guns in the middle of the biggest battle in the history of the world while they dined. The rangers were reduced to being mere unopposed vandals for that somewhat useful part of the operation.
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Had there been a coast artillery gun on that cliff, it could have and should have been taken out by bombers or naval guns.
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The D-Day paratroopers were widely scattered all over creation far from their assigned objectives. That is well known. They exposed it in the movie Pearl Harbor.
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WHY is not well known. The pilots of the planes from which the paratroopers jumped—or some percentage of them—were cowards. As the flak exploded around them, they panicked and hit the green light button which told the paratroopers to jump now. Now, however, was not over their objective. The cowardly Army Air-Corps pilots turned the paratrooper operation into another cluster.
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In the event, the scattering of the paratroopers had a somewhat beneficial effect. It made the Germans think we dropped paratroopers everywhere—which we did—but it was a screw-up, not a coordinated plan.
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The paratroopers were supposed to prevent German reserves from getting to the beaches. They did, but only barely. The cowardice of many, maybe most, of the pilots, was covered up—except for that brief scene in Pearl Harbor, and here.
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The most poignant depiction of the RESULTS of the cowardly pilots was the scene in The Longest Day where John Wayne comes upon all the American paratroopers hanging dead from their chutes in trees and on roofs in Sainte-Mère-Église.
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Then there were the NAVY cowards. This was the top brass, not the middle or bottom of the chain of command. Their actual main objective in the prep for D-Day and the invasion itself was to protect their ships from shore-based artillery and, possibly, the Luftwaffe. In the event, the Luftwaffe only made a cameo appearance.
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The Navy brass demanded the Air Corps bombers prepping the beach err on the side of dropping the bombs too far behind the beach to avoid possibly hitting a ship in the Channel. And they did. Virtually all of the bombs fell harmlessly behind the German bunkers in flooded fields.
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In addition to that, the brass told the warships—as opposed to the landing craft—stay out of German artillery range. Unfortunately, that is another way of saying stay so far from the beach that the guns on the warships cannot hit the beach.
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The German bunkers on the invasion beaches were so strong and powerfully built that they were impervious to allied infantry weapons. The only weapons strong enough to destroy the bunkers were high explosive bombs and battleship 16-inch guns and the big guns on the cruisers and destroyers.
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So our infantry got murdered by untouched German bunkers. In the event, a Navy Destroyer commander could not stand what he was seeing and decided to ignore orders and move close enough to the beach that his guns could hit the bunkers. Other ship captains saw that and followed his example.
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The fact that the cowardly Navy brass was more interested in protecting their ships from American bombs and German artillery than they were in the success of the invasion and the welfare of the Army ground troops has generally been covered up, and the courage of the order-ignoring ship captains has generally not been heralded.
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I condemn Eisenhower for these failures. He should have forced the Air Corps and the Navy to rehearse their part in the invasion which would have revealed these problems. He was apparently persuaded that they had to go withOUT the rehearsal.
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One rehearsal was a disaster when the ships rehearsing the landings were attacked by German submarines. That was also covered up.
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So rehearse it in Iceland or Maine or California. Or, if you cannot rehearse it, bear down very heavily on realistic war games of it on land. Something!
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The intelligence failure was egregious. The Navy orders to the Air Corps and their own warships to avoid damage to Navy ships at all costs were mass negligent homicide—worse than the cop who just got charged with crimes for not going into the scene of a school shooting.
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And here we are 75 years later and they are still covering up these failures.

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