How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
IN the summer of 1944 the American Army came of age. The successful invasion of Normandy and the quick capture of Cherbourg in June meant the negation, in a strategic sense, of all Hitler's hopes and marked the beginning of the end for Germany. In rapid succession, in late July and August, the forces of the Allies broke out from the Cotentin peninsula, smashed much of the German Seventh Army, overran Brittany, captured Paris and reached the Meuse at Sedan. Simultaneously, they invaded southern France. Coupled with great German defeats on the Eastern Front, the defections in the Balkans and convulsions within the Nazi Reich, these victories put the unmistakable stamp of success on an American "amateur army," raised, organized, trained and equipped within five years.
The summer of 1944 was also a season of American triumphs in the Pacific. The conquest of the Marianas was almost as important a milestone in the history of the Pacific war as the invasion of France was in the European struggle. In the South Pacific, the advances in New Guinea put our forces on the doorstep of the Philippines; and in Burma, despite the monsoon, British, American and Chinese forces won remarkable and still growing victories.
The reactions expressed in Germany in the machinations of the Hitler "assassination plot," and in Japan by the fall of the Tojo cabinet, were direct reflections of the Allied successes. Both in the East and the West the end was beginning to be clearly defined.
The invasion of western Europe was the greatest and most successful combined operation of its type in military history. Some 8,000 Allied planes gave direct or indirect support to the landings, and 800 fighting craft, ranging in size from trawlers and motor torpedo boats to 16-inch gunned battleships, supported an invasion fleet of more than 3,200 transports and landing craft. The initial airborne operations involved the landing of three divisions by parachute and glider, probably the greatest airborne operation ever undertaken. In sheer magnitude, there has been nothing in the history of amphibious operations to compare with the Normandy invasion.
Some of the superlatives applied to it have been exaggerated, however. Far larger and more modern fighting fleets than the Anglo-American task forces that steamed across the Channel have operated in the Pacific. Many of the techniques of amphibious war in the Pacific are more advanced than those applied in the Bay of the Seine; indeed, our whole magnificent concept of amphibious war and combined operations is a product of our Pacific experience. Some of the weapons used in the early fighting in France were not as new or effective as those this correspondent has seen in other theaters and in the United States. Despite some pre-D-Day misgivings of this and other observers, nevertheless, the forces and weapons employed proved to be more than adequate for the job; the first stage of the invasion was far easier, and Allied casualties far lighter, than had been expected.
German opposition was not so strong as foreseen. In retrospect, it appears certain that the removal of Marshal von Rundstedt, the German commander in France at the time of the invasion, was for cause; he had had two years to strengthen the defenses of the French coast, and yet until Marshal Erwin Rommel's inspection in the winter of 1943-44 many obvious measures of defense were not taken. At the time of the invasion, the beach and coast defenses had been considerably improved since the winter, and troops had been shifted to the Normandy region. Fortifications were still in progress; in one 500-yard strip of beach this correspondent saw three heavy reënforced concrete casemates still under construction, and in numerous pastures "Rommel's asparagus" -- heavy wooden posts up-ended in the earth to prevent airborne landings -- were in course of installation.
The German defenses, though formidable, were not so dense on D-Day as the Japanese obstacles encountered at Tarawa or in the Marshalls, in the opinion of this correspondent and of officers who had served in the Pacific. But in the Pacific we had never assaulted a continental land mass, or a beach dominated by high cliffs, as we did in one landing in Normandy. So far, the Japanese opportunity for counteroffensive has been limited, since our naval and air superiority has enabled us to cut the sea-lanes by which Japanese insular positions could receive reënforcements. In Europe we attacked a continent and faced the danger that the enemy's land-based lines of communication might give him a chance to smash our beachheads. His inability to launch that large-scale counteroffensive which was so much feared prior to D-Day has been due to the same factors of sea and air superiority that have won us success in the Pacific; of course it was also a result of the great Russian offensive, which so threatened the German position that the process of shifting troops from east to west, actually begun in June, had to be halted and reversed.
The victories of D-Day and the immediate weeks thereafter had their antecedents, therefore, in the months of bitter struggle that broke the back of the German submarine campaign, and in the great air battles that raged over the Reich in 1943 and 1944. Perhaps the most significant date in the history of the air war is the week of February 20-26, 1944, when the great bombers of the Eighth Air Force dealt a well-nigh mortal blow to the German aircraft industry. The limited scale of German air opposition in June of 1944 gave it pregnant meaning. The pre-invasion bombings not only defeated the Luftwaffe, but smashed so heavily at German land communications that the enemy's ability to reënforce and supply his divisions in Normandy was greatly impaired. And after D-Day we dominated the daytime skies so completely that the vaunted power of the German Army to manœuvre was also greatly weakened.
The clue to the victory, then, is to be found partly in the months of struggle on the seas and in the skies before the invasion proper began. It also is to be found in the careful planning during that period, and in the wise and skillful leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who fashioned out of "SHAEF" (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) a cumbrous but on the whole smooth-working instrument of Anglo-American coöperation. General Eisenhower's friendly but dynamic personality is the key to the success of SHAEF; perhaps no one else but "Ike" could so rapidly have welded together such a diffuse and often clashing group of personalities and nationalities. In Africa he was sometimes described as a figurehead. Occasionally, in his effort to emphasize the Allied point of view rather than his American nationalism, he has seemed to "bend over backward" and to do less than justice to the Americans under his command. But just before D-Day, in one of the most momentous decisions of this or any war, he proved his wisdom, his strength and his willingness to accept responsibility.
A study of the weather record in the Bay of the Seine, Normandy and contiguous areas for the past 45 years had shown that there were likely to be two "quiet periods" during June which would best meet the various conflicting weather requirements of Navy, Air Forces, airborne troops and ground troops. One of these, it was predicted, would start on June 5 and might end within three or four days; another would start about two weeks later. June 5, therefore, was the original D-Day for the operation. All the vast fleets in most of the ports of England were loaded and ready before that time. But June 4, the day on which many of the ships had to leave port, dawned overcast and blustery; in one of the south coast ports of England where this correspondent was aboard an invasion flagship the weather was patently impossible. A postponement for one day was ordered; a longer delay might have meant a two-weeks' postponement to the next "quiet period." Such a delay would have had bad effects upon morale and might have resulted in a leak to the enemy. Had it actually been ordered it would, as things turned out, have put our forces ashore in Normandy just on the eve of the great storm which swept the Bay of the Seine from about June 19 to 22. The results would almost certainly have been disastrous. General Eisenhower's courageous decision to start the invasion on June 6 despite continued unpropitious weather has already received the approval of history.
Pre-invasion bombings had hammered many of the German coastal batteries in the landing area from Cherbourg to Le Havre. The Germans could not be certain of our intentions, however, since two batteries were bombed on other parts of the coast of northwestern France in the weeks before D-Day for every one attacked in the Bay of the Seine area. The direction of our assault was further masked by feints. A small naval demonstration was made on D-Day in the Pas-de-Calais area; troops of the American Third Army climbed into landing boats in Harwich and other British east coast ports, feinting an attack upon the Low Countries; and in Scotland some Allied planes and troops feinted assaults upon Norway. But we wasted none of our strength in diversionary landings. The full force of Allied might was funneled against the Cotentin peninsula.
The assault and covering forces were divided into two principal task forces -- a western group, mainly American, and an eastern group, mainly British. Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay was "ANCXF" (Allied Naval Command, Expeditionary Forces) under General Eisenhower, and though handicapped by the arbitrary division of the waters around the British Isles between his own and various British home naval commands, he did a good job of coordination. The Eastern Task Force was under Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, R.N., and the Western Task Force under Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk, U.S.N. The former landed forces which were largely British, under the command of Lieutenant-General
Sir Miles C. Dempsey; and the latter landed forces which were largely American, under the command of Lieutenant-General Omar N. Bradley. General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery exercised the joint ground command (under General Eisenhower) for the initial assault period and still retained tactical command of all Allied land forces on the date of writing, almost three months after D-Day, a considerably longer period than originally planned.
The original landings from the sea were made in four separate areas on the Bay of the Seine between the Isles St. Marcouf and the Orne River (see above map). Landings from the air were made in three separate areas, extending from the town of Ste. Mère-Eglise and the Merderet River (a tributary of the River Douve, on the Cotentin peninsula) eastward to the vicinity of Cabourg. The assault forces were divided about half and half between British and American troops,[i] and this proportion remained about the same until D-Day-plus-20 when the American ratio, as planned, commenced to increase. The subsequent build-up was largely composed of American troops. The British, who have combed out their manpower more thoroughly than we have, and have even transferred men from the Royal Navy to the Army to provide needed replacements, contributed their maximum effort to the reconquest of Europe early. The follow-up forces of the invasion had to be largely American.
The purpose of this article is not to describe the combined Anglo-American invasion of the Continent, but rather to outline the American part of the operation. But it is necessary to point out that the retention of General Montgomery as ground commander well beyond the initial assault phase, when the American contribution in men had become far greater than the British, was productive of considerable criticism and was a psychological and perhaps a tactical mistake. In all operations by Allies there is a human tendency for the men of one army to blame the commanders of another for their own leaders' mistakes; this is always accentuated when the actual tactical command is exercised by a foreigner. This tendency was noticeable in Normandy. The American Army has a splendid field soldier in General Bradley; by its accomplishments and its size it deserved its own leader. General Montgomery has been criticized in both the British and American press for overcaution. This correspondent subscribes to these criticisms, yet must at once emphasize that in the plans for the invasion the Americans were assigned the offensive role in Normandy, the British the defensive. The British were to seize and hold the vital Caen area -- the hinge of the whole Allied position in Normandy. They did so, and they protected firmly the American flank while American troops cut across the base of the Cotentin peninsula, captured Cherbourg and subsequently broke through into Brittany.
The first task on D-Day and immediately thereafter was the linking up of the various disconnected landings into one great beachhead. The western, or American, task force was subdivided into two principal assault forces -- one under the late Rear Admiral Don Pardee Moon, which made and supported the seaborne assault on a part of the long strip of beach between Quinéville and the mouth of the Douve River; the other under Rear Admiral John Leslie Hall, Jr., which made and supported the principal American landing between the Pointe du Hoe and Ste. Honorine. The naval support forces in the Western Task Force included the old but still serviceable battleships Texas and Arkansas, the Nevada (reconstructed after she was sunk at Pearl Harbor), the cruisers Augusta (flagship of Admiral Kirk) and Tuscaloosa, and many American destroyers and miscellaneous craft, in addition to British ships.
The landings started very early in the morning of June 6, when parachute troops of the 101st and 82nd American Airborne Divisions, followed later by glider-borne infantry, started dropping from the skies near Ste. Mère-Eglise and Carentan, and across the Merderet River. The 101st Division was commanded by Brigadier-General Maxwell D. Taylor, who made his first parachute jump above the dark fields around Ste. Mère-Eglise. He had succeeded Major-General William C. ("Bill") Lee, probably the finest of our airborne leaders and the "father of American paratroops," who was taken seriously ill with a heart attack sometime before D-Day. The division's operations showed that Brigadier-General Taylor filled the job ably.
The mission of the 101st Division was to capture Ste. Mère-Eglise and to secure the landward approaches to a causeway which ran across an area which the Germans had inundated. The western American seaborne landing was to be made upon the beach near this causeway. The paratroopers' mission was successfully accomplished, and seaborne troops were able to penetrate inland swiftly. The mission of the 82nd Division was to seize bridgeheads across the Merderet River and, in unison with the 101st Division, to divert and occupy the German 91st Division and to prevent it from interfering with our seaborne landings. The American 82nd was strung out over large areas when dropped; a few of its paratroopers landed outside Cherbourg and some came down on the eastern American beach; yet in time, aided by increments of the division transported to France by sea, it too accomplished its mission admirably. Both airborne divisions lost heavily, but the work of both was essential to the success of the landings. The glider troops were less successful than the parachutists; many gliders were cracked-up in landing, some on "Rommel's asparagus" and others against hedgerows.[ii]
About 6:30 A.M. June 6, shortly after dawn, while the airborne troops were still fighting ashore, the seaborne landings began. They had been preceded by a heavy air bombardment, which was intended to neutralize, or partially neutralize, the beach defenses. Because of a low overcast, however, most of the planes bombed "blind," and little damage was done to the beach defenses. But the bombardments of the two months prior to invasion, and the pre-landing naval bombardment, had neutralized some of the enemy's coastal batteries, though by no means all of them. These batteries, in particular six 155 mm. guns emplaced on the commanding bluff of Pointe du Hoe near Grandcamp, were especially feared; the Navy had calculated that we might have to reckon with the fire of as many as 120 enemy guns 3 inches in size or larger in the Western Task Force area alone. Opposed to them would be at least 200 naval guns 4.5 inches in size or larger. The naval gunfire support was particularly effective on D-Day and the days immediately following, but in retrospect it seems likely that not as many batteries opposed us in the invasion area as we had expected. And [ILLEGIBLE WORDS]any of them directed their fire against our landing craft and the troops on the beaches instead of against our shipping. Only one American destroyer and some smaller combat craft were sunk by enemy gunfire during the assault phase.
The seaborne landing on the western American beach was preceded by seizure of the Isles St. Marcouf by a cavalry reconnaissance detachment which met with no opposition. The main landing in the west was made on a strip of low-lying beach, called for convenience "Utah beach," in front of the areas inundated by the Germans near Ste. Mère-Eglise. A regimental combat team of the 4th Infantry Division, Major-General Raymond O. Barton commanding, conducted this landing and made good its foothold, with relatively light opposition from second-line troops of the German 709th Division. The penetration inland was rapid because of the work of our airborne troops, as noted above.
But in the eastern American landing, on "Omaha beach," from Vierville to St. Laurent, we ran into a hornet's nest. Here the German 716th Division, a second-line unit with a considerable proportion of foreigners, had been reënforced some weeks previously by the 352nd, a first-line division, and some of these men were in the beach defenses on June 6. Cliffs 90 to 100 feet high in some instances, into which the Germans had tunnelled, dominated most of this beach, and there were only three "draws" or gulleys which led up to the plateau.
The weather made this hard job still tougher. On D-Day morning it was still rough and some of our amphibian "ducks" swamped -- some with 105 mm. guns and full cargoes in them. A number of the troops and landing boats had a hard time in the surf.
The German underwater beach defenses -- four-pronged devices of steel and timber, great timber ramps, steel rails up-ended in concrete, mines and other obstacles designed to disembowel landing craft -- also caused difficulties. The landings were purposely made shortly after low tide, so that Army and Navy demolition parties could "blow" these obstacles with specially placed hand charges. But the fire from the German beach defenses was so fierce that some of the gaps were not immediately blown. The assault troops, pinned down to the beaches, took shelter behind the obstacles and made the task of the demolition parties even more difficult. The tide was rising, and on [ILLEGIBLE WORDS]at D-Day morning the landing on "Omaha" of combat teams from the "Fighting First" Division, Major-General Clarence R. Huebner commanding, and from the 29th ("Blue and Grey") Division, was behind schedule.
And it was then that leadership, courage and devotion paid their dividends. Some men already honored and some who will remain forever unsung brought victory from a possible defeat. This correspondent inspected Omaha beach on D-plus-2 when it was still enfiladed by enemy fire and when the corps command post was a ditch on top of a bluff 800 yards inland. It was a welter of smashed boats, vehicles and equipment, and some bodies still unburied -- a battlefield closely won. It deserves a proud place in the memories and traditions of the United States. These men who died on Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, and those who still survive, broke the thin crust of the much-vaunted German Atlantic Wall.
The initial assaults were successful. The immediate objective thereafter was to build up the strength of our forces ashore and to deepen and link up our footholds. This phase of consolidation proceeded rapidly (though behind schedule) despite poor boat handling, some inefficiencies in unloading, and failure by the Navy to employ all of the available landing craft to maximum advantage. It was pressed through enfilading fire, bad weather, rough seas, beach obstacles and nightly attacks upon the invasion fleet by small numbers of enemy planes, including mine-laying planes and, later, one or two torpedo planes.
The 1st Division on the left flank of the American front broke the resistance of the enemy's 352nd Division and by D-plus-10 had advanced 19 miles inland to Caumont. At this time, the division had virtually no Germans in front of it, and the United States 2nd Armored Division was ashore. Some observers felt that an opportunity was missed, and that these two divisions might have punched inland to threaten the whole German position in Normandy. But at that time we were still expecting a strong German counteroffensive, our eyes were upon Cherbourg, and the 1st Division, a hard-fighting, efficient outfit which had driven a deep salient into the enemy's lines, was worried about its flanks. So the 1st was ordered to hold at Caumont, and there it remained in a defensive position until about D-plus-45 when it was relieved for other operations.
The 1st rapidly connected with the British beachhead to its east; and pockets of enemy resistance left behind on the coast were cleaned up. At the same time concentric attacks were started against Carentan, the town which controlled the communications from the eastern to the western American beachheads. Carentan fell to the 101st Airborne Division and the 2nd Armored after a brief but fierce struggle, and the four separate Anglo-American landings became one great beachhead.
Almost immediately the 9th Division (Major-General Manton S. Eddy commanding), which in Normandy has proved itself to be one of America's finest, and the 82nd Airborne, commenced to push westward across the base of the peninsula from Ste. Mère-Eglise and Pont-Hébert. The peninsula severed, the advance upon Cherbourg began, while the rest of the American line remained more or less static, except for slight improvements of its position. Cherbourg fell to Major-General Joseph Lawton Collins' 7th Corps, then composed of three infantry divisions -- the 9th, 4th and 79th (Major-General Ira T. Wyche) -- in a whirlwind campaign which was a minor military classic.
Thus, on D-plus-21 -- somewhat behind official schedule, but nevertheless well ahead of most expectations -- the new American Army had landed in France, had broken through the Atlantic Wall, smashed four to five German divisions, taken thousands of prisoners, and by its quick capture of Cherbourg had made our foothold in France secure. Cherbourg's capture nullified all German strategy for the past 18 months: it meant that Germany could no longer hope to throw us back into the sea and that Germany's defeat was certain, barring a secret weapon of undreamed-of potentialities.
The next phase of the Battle of France was virtually positional warfare. The month of hedgerow fighting that lasted until late in July brought some of the bloodiest and bitterest minor engagements ever fought by the American Army. All our divisions and many commanders were tried on the testing ground of the Normandy bocage country -- terrain endowed by nature with all the attributes of defense -- and some were found wanting. Casualties were heavy and progress was by yards. Too often we fought terrain instead of Germans; too often we showed overcaution. But there were other reasons for the relatively slow progress. A great storm swept our supply beaches from June 19 to 22, destroying hundreds of landing craft, practically cutting off the flow of supplies and reënforcements for a time, and badly damaging the artificial ports which Prime Minister Churchill mentioned in a recent address to Parliament. Moreover, a fire in the Cotentin peninsula destroyed 1,000 tons of badly needed ammunition; and a profusion of German mines in Cherbourg harbor delayed the opening of that port.[iii]
The fact that the First American Army had not broken out of the Cotentin peninsula and into the northern part of Brittany, coupled with all these difficulties of supply, brought a major change in our plans. The original blueprint of invasion called for a second landing, to be made on the southern part of the Brittany peninsula, near St. Nazaire and Nantes (see map on page 12) on D-plus-41. The Brittany landing was now abandoned and all our available forces were concentrated in Normandy.
The inching advance of "hedgerow war" finally gave us jumping-off positions for a break-through offensive. St. Lô was at last captured on July 18 by the 29th Division, which had been in action continuously since D-Day.
On July 25 the 9th, 4th and 30th Divisions attacked on an
8,000-yard front, preceded by a very heavy air bombardment (which struck some of our own troops). The massed armor of the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions drove through the partial gaps made by the infantry, and accompanied by the 1st Division smashed deep into the German rear areas toward the sea. Coutances, Granville and then Avranches were quickly reached, but many of the German elements west of St. Lô were not trapped by the original drive. General Bradley unleashed more armor, however, and soon spearheads were running wild across Brittany and turning toward Paris. Some units drove ahead as much as 40 miles a day against scant opposition: the Germans had virtually stripped Brittany to reënforce Normandy. This was blitzkrieg, American style. The Brittany ports -- Brest, St. Nazaire, Nantes, St. Malo -- were soon invested (at St. Malo, the resistance directed by a German colonel, called the "madman of St. Malo," was bitter). Then American armor turned inland toward Le Mans, which was entered on August 9. As one armored spearhead turned north toward Alençon, the British and Canadians near Caen moved south in a coördinated attempt to encircle the German Seventh Army. By August 13 this thrust had moved south almost to Falaise, and the encircling American armor had reached Argentan. This trap was finally closed, but not until the German Seventh Army had extricated most of its armor. The 12th SS Panzer Division, already badly mauled in prior fighting, was virtually destroyed in the Argentan-Falaise pocket, together with German infantry and other units. The German casualties in this trap were estimated at from 50,000 to 100,000.
But this escape of the battered Seventh Army, which by mid-August had been reënforced by some few elements of the Fifteenth Army from north of the Seine, did not free it from danger. Another encircling movement was begun, this time by the British and Canadians pushing north toward Le Havre and by another American armored spearhead pushing west from Evreux. Several American bridgeheads were established across the Seine, one at Mantes, another east of Paris, as American armor ran wild across France. As a result, another sizeable segment of the retreating and disorganized Seventh Army was pinned back against the Seine. The Army Commander, SS General Hausser, was wounded; thousands of vehicles were lost -- strafed by Allied planes or shelled by Allied guns. As these lines are written, the battle of the Seine pocket is still in progress. Though German losses have been heavy, considerable parts of the Seventh Army appear to have escaped across the Seine to join the Fifteenth. From D-Day to August 25, however, the Germans had lost in northern France an estimated 400,000 casualties; the "meat-grinding" process made famous on the Eastern Front was in action in the West.[iv]
The rush through Brittany and Normandy and the capture of Paris were accomplished, under General Bradley's direction, by the armor of the Third American Army, operating under Lieutenant-General George S. Patton. This Army formed part of the first U. S. Army Group ever to take the field in American military history. General Bradley relinquished command of the First -- the hard-fighting "break-through" Army -- to Lieutenant-General Courtney Hodges, and assumed command of the group of two American armies, called the Twelfth Army Group. This group continued to operate under the tactical command of General Montgomery, who in an official announcement on August 21 was called for the first time "overall commander of Allied ground forces." General Montgomery also commanded the Twenty-first Army Group, which in August consisted of the Second British Army and the First Canadian Army. At the end of the month it was reported (though not officially) that General Bradley had been given parallel operational status with General Montgomery, who was promoted by King George to the rank of Field Marshal.
As a result of the blows described above, and particularly the outflanking operations across the Seine, Paris fell to Allied troops on August 24. An American armored column moved to Troyes, threatening to cut France in half. On August 31 the First American Army crossed the Meuse and the Third was reported in the Argonne Forest.
To complete the demoralization of the German defense, American, French and British forces, with seaborne and airborne troops, had landed on August 15 along a 100-mile stretch of the Mediterranean coast of southern France. Their object was to thrust up the Rhone valley and sever communications between the Germans in France and those in Italy. The landings were in the Toulon-Cannes area, and were made by the Seventh Army (Lieutenant-General Alexander M. Patch commanding), composed of French and American troops, from and supported by a fleet of some 800 ships.
These landings in the south of France had been delayed for some time because of differences between the British and the Americans as to whether the Balkans or southern France should be invaded. They came too late to be of much assistance to the major operation in northwestern France or to trap many German troops. The German forces remaining in southern France probably did not consist of more than from seven to eleven divisions of the Nineteenth German Army and other formations; and perhaps the number was even less. From the start these did not offer much opposition, though one of our landing attempts, near Frejus, was repulsed.[v] Grenoble, Marseille, Toulon and Cannes were taken in quick order. Nice was occupied August 31. At the time of writing, our troops were in control of the southern Rhone valley, and most of the passes across the Alps from Italy were in our hands or cut by the French Forces of the Interior. These victories in the south, supplementing the major strategical successes in northern France, clearly meant that all of the country would soon be cleared of Germans.[vi] As August ended the enemy's defense was crumbling fast in every part of the west. His armies were still in being, however, and it was thought that he possessed secret weapons of new types which he would bring into use.
The victories in France during the summer were paralleled by triumphs elsewhere. In Italy the German positions below Rome were finally smashed by overwhelming power on the ground; two new American divisions, the 85th and 88th, bore their burden creditably. After the capture of Rome on June 5, the Germans fought skillful delaying actions up the length of the peninsula to the vicinity of Florence and Pisa, where in late July and early August their resistance stiffened as they fell back upon their "Gothic line" of fortifications north of Florence.
The strategic bombardment of Germany from the air continued. The most important targets during the summer were German synthetic oil plants or oil refineries. Allied bases were established in Russia and three-way shuttle bombing between Britain, Russia and Italy was inaugurated. Enemy antiaircraft opposition increased, but fighter opposition fell off in effectiveness. Much of our air effort was diverted to tactical support of the ground armies in France, and much to bombardment of the German robot-plane and rocket launching sites in France.
In the Pacific, during the months of June and July, the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the 27th Army Division took Saipan in the Marianas; and the Marines subsequently took nearby Tinian. Guam was captured by the 3rd Marine Division, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the 77th Army Division. In these operations 44,956 Japanese dead were counted and about 100 military prisoners taken. Our casualties were 4,470 dead, 20,345 wounded, and 721 missing. At the time of the fighting in the Marianas, our Navy and Air Force had a brush with the Japanese Fleet, which resulted in the sinking of four Japanese ships and the damaging of ten others.
Later, American task forces, both naval and air, bombed Japanese bases and convoys in the Bonin Islands; and in August, preinvasion bombing of Mindanao in the Philippines started. In New Guinea, American footholds were extended to the extreme western tip, and the remnants of the trapped Japanese Eighteenth Army were encircled and further reduced.
In Burma, despite the terrors of the monsoon, a mixed American and Chinese force finally captured Myitkyina on August 4. And in China, the 14th Air Force supported the Chinese in their attempts to halt Japanese drives. New super-bombers -- B-29's -- bombed Japan five times and targets in Sumatra once during June, July and August. The ring of steel was closing around the Oriental enemy also.
[i] The actual initial seaborne assault was made by the British in somewhat greater strength than our own, due to the more favorable configuration of the British beaches, but we landed two airborne divisions as against the British one.
[ii] The crack-ups were probably due in part to use of British instead of American gliders; the pilots were inexperienced in the use of these types in night operations. The results also indicated that Americans need better navigation in the use of airborne troops. Other needs are a quick-release parachute harness and weapons easily employed by parachutists while still in the air.
[iii] Great gallantry was displayed by British divers wearing plastic helmets who went below the surface among magnetic mines in attempts to clear wrecks.
[iv] Preliminary figures of the cost of the invasion of western France and of the subsequent operations in Normandy and Brittany were as follows up to July 20, before the big break-through: the United States had lost 11,026 killed, 52,669 wounded, 5,831 missing; the British had lost 5,646 killed, 27,766 wounded, 6,182 missing; the Canadians had lost 919 killed, 4,454 wounded, and 1,272 missing -- a grand total of 105,765. Naval losses of the invasion for the United States were three destroyers, one destroyer escort, two mine-sweepers, a fleet tug, a transport, various small craft, and numerous landing craft.
[v] Preliminary U.S. Army casualties to August 20 in the landings in southern France were 1,221 killed and missing and 1,754 hospitalized.
[vi] The Brittany ports, however, were still in German hands at the time of writing, a fact of some concern, since these ports will be needed when the fall gales start. The assault on Brest, garrisoned by perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 Germans, started on August 25.