Thursday, 6 June 2019

the longest day

The retreat and evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk having taken place and commemorated on the eve of the Normandy landings that would take place five years later, D-Day, codenamed Operation Neptune, was a long time in development and planning. Though failing to achieve immediate gains for the Allies battling Nazi Germany with only two beachheads linked and sustaining heavy casualties, the manoeuvre that took place on this day seventy-five years ago established a Western Front in Europe, a wedge to divide German efforts since it began its march towards Moscow with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and began the liberation of occupied France. 

Recognising that troop strength and materiel had not yet built itself up to the level to counter the German forces (mindful of the aforementioned withdrawal), the plan was delayed for months and focus was strategically shifted to North Africa, with the Allies eventually winning that theatre in 1943. With Nazi forces weakened and demoralised, commanding generals looked again to the French coast—planning with great secrecy and deception so defences could not be marshalled and the Allies could retain an element of surprise.  The carpenters that built the wooden planning map for General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Southwick House near Portsmouth were detained from April to September to prevent accidental disclosure of the location of the landings while a local medium was imprisoned for witchcraft lest she divine the plans.   
The date was chosen due to the best possible tidal conditions and phase of the moon and any postponement would see the situation degrade quickly. May we never forget the sacrifices of that day and may they never be in vain.