Victor Davis Hanson: The Other D-Day
Things to think about, with the war in Iraq and the war on terror in mind...
Our forefathers made several mistakes. They attacked nonexistent artillery emplacements. Planes dropped paratroopers far from intended targets. Critical landing assignments on Omaha Beach were missed.
Once they left shore, it got worse. Indeed, D-Day was soon forgotten in the nightmare of GIs being blown apart in the Normandy hedgerows by well-concealed, entrenched German panzers. Apparently, no American planners - from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall down to the staff of Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower - had anticipated either the difficulty of penetrating miles of these dense thickets or the deadliness of new German model tanks and anti-tank weapons.
So we landed in Europe with the weaponry we had - and it was in large part vastly inferior to that of the Wehrmacht .
The most brilliant armored commander in U.S. history, George S. Patton, had been sacked from theater command for slapping an ill soldier the prior year in Sicily. Gens. Omar N. Bradley and Bernard L. Montgomery lacked his genius and audacity - and tens of thousands of Allied soldiers were to pay for Patton's absence at Normandy.
We finally broke out of the mess, after using heavy bombers to blast holes in the German lines. But again, these operations were fraught with foul-ups.
Of course, World War II was an all-out fight for our very existence in a way many believe the war against terror that began on 9/11 is not. Even more would doubt that al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq pose the same threat to civilization as the Wehrmacht did in Europe.
Nevertheless, the Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error - and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn't be perfect, only good enough, to win.
And lastly, a choice quote from General Patton on National Review Online, which explored the role of Marines on D-Day:
Outlining his colorful albeit controversial vision of the future, Patton said, "The quicker we clean up this g**damned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the g**damned Marines get all of the credit."