This is a wrap up of the previous posts based on the book, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Batle of World War II, by Stephen Ambrose.
Here are some overall conclusions and lessons from the D-Day assault. Note that these are my own interpretations of the book’s lessons. The author did not present an itemized list, as such. Also, these are not meant to be all-encompassing. These are just some of the lessons emphasized by the readings in the book.
· Almost nothing went right.
· Naval gunfire from destroyers was instrumental in aiding initial infantry progress.
· Numbers were our biggest advantage and, ultimately, ensured success.
· The Germans failed to pick the right defensive strategy.
· The Germans failed to pick a single defensive strategy and wound up distributing their assets among multiple commanders with multiple strategies for defense, thus diluting their capabilities.
· Mines were devastating.
· Airborne assault troops were effective only by staying within physical proximity of the main assault force, thereby able to link up within 24 hours, and accomplished their missions, to the degree they did, through sheer, overwhelming numbers.
lack of specialized engineering vehicles proved costly. US
· The lack of tanks in the initial assault waves proved costly.
Unsurprisingly, the conclusions and lessons mirror each other.
· Mines are a devastatingly effective weapon against an amphibious assault. We need to vastly increase our MCM capability and our offensive mine warfare (mine laying) capability.
· Naval gunfire is mandatory. Naval guns will be the only source of high explosive available during initial phases of an assault. The Navy’s doctrine of standing off 25-50 miles, out of range of the few 5” guns we have, is unsatisfactory and will leave the Marines without support.
· Numbers matter and are the most important factor in the success of an assault.
· Everything will go wrong. Our arrogance regarding our faith in complex networks of data, communications, shared sensors, GPS, etc. is breathtaking. None of those will work and we need to train for loss of the electromagnetic spectrum and we need to develop many more old-fashioned weapons that work without external input and communications.
· Inland airborne assault forces are unsustainable beyond 24 hours and will become combat ineffective after that period if not relieved.
· We will need orders of magnitude more supplies and equipment than are currently allocated for an assault
The overwhelming conclusion from an examination of D-Day is that the
military is totally incapable of
conducting an assault anywhere near this scale today. That’s not necessarily surprising or even
disappointing – it took the Allies a couple of years to build up the strength
to conduct the assault. What is
disappointing is that we have lost the ability to conduct even a small scale
assault against a peer defender. US
Consider just the mine aspect of an assault. The Allies used hundreds of minesweepers for one operation. The Navy has 11 minesweepers and some helos available today. A relative handful of mines can absolutely paralyze and negate our assault options.
Reading the book conveys a stunning appreciation for the tonnage of supplies and equipment that were thrown at the assault. Tons were destroyed before they could get a hundred feet beyond the shore and yet untold tons more kept coming. Today, we have an utterly unrealistic view about the amount of weapons and supplies needed to conduct high end combat. We have neither the tonnage of supplies nor the means to transport them to support and sustain even a minor assault involving high end combat.
D-Day saw the use of over 5,000 vessels including over 1,000 warships. Today, the entire Navy consists of only 280 ships. The Navy has nowhere near the numbers or types (LCT, LST, LSM, LCVP, MCM, etc.) of ships to support an assault.
While the technology has changed, the lessons involving amphibious assault have not. We’ve lost the institutional memory of those lessons but that does not mean that the lessons do not still apply. They do and we will relearn those lessons when the time comes and will pay in blood to do so.
(4)Second Line of Defense, “Closing the US Navy’s Mine Warfare Gap”, Scott Truver,