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The Invasion of Normandy, 1943


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#1 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:03 PM

Hi: I did a search in this forum and came up with nothing on this topic. (But then again I don't seem to have a knack for search phrasing.)

I read a book by John Grigg called "1943 - The Victory That Never Was." He makes a convincing argument that the western Allies should have left the German 5th Army to rot in Tunisia and left Sicily alone. Instead they should have invaded France in 1943.

There are some problems about this concept to consider. Did the western Allies have the trained manpower to build up a bridgehead faster than the Germans could counter it? Did they have enough air superiority to protect the invasion and hinder the supply and reinforcement of the German opposition?

If this has been discussed previously, pardon me, and direct me to that thread. Thanks.
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#2 OpanaPointer

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:32 PM

That's a questions we've dealt with before. To invade Europe 18 months after Pearl Harbor we would have had to go in with considerably fewer assets. I really need to get that statistical analysis of landcraft construction for WWII.

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#3 brndirt1

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:50 PM

Afraid I must agree with any dissenters on this topic, the western allied forces didn't have the trained men, the landing ships, the aircraft, nor the POL supplies stockpiled by 1943 to make the attempt.

A falled try would be worse than no attempt at all. Think how far back that defeat would throw the western allies, building all of it back up, training all the men, replacing all the lost material, would put the next attempt probably even further into the future. All the while the Red Army is fighting even more of the Nazi land/air forces engaged on the Eastern Front.

A non-starter to my mind.
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#4 LRusso216

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:53 PM

I'd have to agree that it wouldn't have been feasible. Just look at the difficulties the Allies (especially the Americans) had with the North African landings. Such an attempt in Europe would have lead to disaster, and who know how long until it would have been tried again.

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#5 Spartanroller

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:57 PM

In addition to the landing craft numbers available issue;

The air superiority necessary wasn't just an 'on the day' thing - there was a long air campaign necessary to knock out the infrastructure.

The argument about 'trained' or otherwise manpower is more about practiced procedures and experienced planners than actual infantry training.

the idea of leaving the German command intact in North Africa or southern Italy would have entailed a lot more Naval assets to stay in the Med to make sure they weren't reinforced, supplied, and much more importantly that campaign had to be carried out to make sure which side the French North African forces were on as well. If they had stayed loyal to Germany, then the Afrika Korps could have been supplied and fought on from Morocco/Algeria/Spain.

Another aspect to consider is that until Kursk and even later in the East, the Germans were feeling confident, and would have switched many more forces and resources than they actually did in 1944.

Edited by Spartanroller, 08 October 2010 - 07:41 PM.

Cheers, Nigel :)

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#6 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:08 PM

I will disagree with the landing craft issue. The western Allies in Europe actually had more landing craft available in 1943 than in 1944. Remember they landed eight divisions in Sicily, not just the five they managed in Normandy. When the US Navy high command discovered that there would be no invasion of France in 1943, they switched most of the invasion craft - LSTs in particular - to the Pacific. The central Pacific offensive had been stalled up to that point due to lack of landing craft. The US Navy wanted to prosecute the war in the area where they had control. The LSTs used at Normandy were mostly built in Britain and controlled by the RN.

If there is another thread on this topic, please someone redirect me. I would love to read it.
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#7 OpanaPointer

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:15 PM

The landing craft were needed in the Pacific, everything was amphibious there of course. We had to distribute forces according to what was needed where. Abandoning the war in the Pacific gives you all the landing craft you need for Europe, but that wasn't going to happen.

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#8 belasar

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:15 PM

German defences in 1943 were less complete and had fewer overall troops deployed, so I suspect that the Allies could have gotten ashore and created some form of lodgement (think a Super Anzio). But the limitations mentioned above would have made a break out nearly impossible in 1943. A 1944 invasion would still be needed.
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#9 ozjohn39

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:36 PM

Remember also that the USAAF did not manage to start any large scale bombing operations in the ETO until May 1943, only a month before the probable 1943 'D-Day'.


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#10 Skipper

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:45 PM

It was not only a matter of logistics. the Americans gained vital battle experiment in North Africa. It turned them from unexperimented rookies in 1942 into valuable soldiers in 1944. Without this essential life training, they would have faced tremendous trouble . 1943 was too early and the 1942 Dieppe disaster was still in everybody's mind to confirm this.

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#11 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:51 PM

Remembering that the western Allies had Enigma, and that the Soviets knew that the big Kursk offensive was coming, it strikes me that the invasion of France would most likely have been scheduled for July 1943, when the majority of German troops in the east were somewhat tied up.

This would have made things easier for the invaders, or at least pulled the weight off the Soviet forces, remembering that Hitler cancelled Operation Zitadelle almost as soon as he heard about the landings in Italy.

I'm not saying that the U.S. Army should not have invaded North Africa in 1942. I'm assuming that they would have, and gained the needed experience. However, once they had the Germans pinned in Tunisia, they could have left forces there and started organizing for the invasion of France. The German records of the 5th Army basically indicate that their supply situation was so bad they would have had to surrender or face starvation about the time that they surrendered anyway, whether the Allied land forces had attacked or not.

Of course, this is all hind-sight.

Edited by LouisXIV, 08 October 2010 - 08:06 PM.

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#12 Skipper

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:00 PM

But Germany could still count on Italy those days and the German troops needed to occupy Italy and Corsica could have been sent to Normandy instead.

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#13 Spartanroller

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:01 PM

Also armoured equipment was an issue - imagine 'Pre-Day' in 1943 with large numbers of M3s fighting through the bocage. (I know the Sherman was well in service by then, but a decision to go for it in '43 might have led to production concentrating on the Lee/Grant in order to get numbers up). The Canadian Ram/Grizzly's might well have been used, and the Brits would have had early 6 pounder Churchills, Crusaders and Valentines, and almost no specialist vehicles. The Americans would still have been dependent largely on the 37mm AT gun at infantry level, and had no significant number of tank destroyers with a better gun than the M3/M4 75mm. Not to mention the Boys AT rifle.

The Germans still would have had the Tiger and the long 75mm Stugs, The PaK 40, and very soon the Panther, Elefant/Ferdinand, Nashorn, PaK 43, Panzerfaust etc.

I'll let someone else do the ground attack aircraft.

43 would have been bad, even with a southern France invasion, which couldn't have happened easily without Italy dealt with one way or another.
Cheers, Nigel :)

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#14 brndirt1

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:01 PM

Remembering that the western Allies had Enigma, and that the Soviets knew that the big Kursk offensive was coming, it strikes me that the invasion of France would most likely have been scheduled for July 1943, when the majority of German troops in the east were somewhat tied up.

This would have made things easier for the invaders, or at least pulled the weight off the Soviet forces, remembering that Hitler cancelled Operation Zitadelle almost as soon as he heard about the landings in Italy.


You are slightly incorrect about the value of Enigma, especially in relation to land forces and such. That isn't a determining factor here.
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#15 Spartanroller

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:04 PM

But Germany could still count on Italy those days and the German troops needed to occupy Italy and Corsica could have been sent to Normandy instead.


there's a good what if - what if Kesselring had been in at least local charge of Normandy, and Italian troops were available to reinforce the Germans there also?
Cheers, Nigel :)

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#16 ULITHI

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:10 PM

So, did General Marshall not know that we did not have enough landing craft to invade in 1943? That seems pretty incredible to me if he didn't. Or was the operation he invisioned vastly smaller than what Overlord was to become?
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#17 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:16 PM

You are slightly incorrect about the value of Enigma, especially in relation to land forces and such. That isn't a determining factor here.

I'm just saying that everyone in the west knew that Operation Zitadelle was coming. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the western Allies were some of the first to give the Soviet Union definite news of its impending.

So, did General Marshall not know that we did not have enough landing craft to invade in 1943? That seems pretty incredible to me if he didn't. Or was the operation he invisioned vastly smaller than what Overlord was to become?


I will disagree with the landing craft issue. The western Allies in Europe actually had more landing craft available in 1943 than in 1944. Remember they landed eight divisions in Sicily, not just the five they managed in Normandy. When the US Navy high command discovered that there would be no invasion of France in 1943, they switched most of the invasion craft - LSTs in particular - to the Pacific. The central Pacific offensive had been stalled up to that point due to lack of landing craft. The US Navy wanted to prosecute the war in the area where they had control. The LSTs used at Normandy were mostly built in Britain and controlled by the RN.


The Allies were scrambling for LSTs for Normandy 1944, because the U.S. Navy had taken all theirs to the Pacific toward the end of 1943.
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#18 Carronade

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:19 PM

There are points on both sides; I've never made up my mind about it. It is significant that an eight-division shore-to-shore landing (plus elements of two airborne divisions) was conducted in July 1943 using ports, air bases, logistic infrastructure, everything vastly inferior to that of England, which had just been fought over and captured a few months earlier.

The seaborne landings in Normandy comprised six divisions, but four more (4th,90th, 51, 7 Armoured) landed on D+1, indicating that they had been embarked prior to D-Day. There's no question on the shipping side that the initial landing could be done in 1943; the issue is the rate of buildup.

Of the nine D-Day divisions, five were new to battle (also 3 Div had not been in action since 1940) as were the American Rangers, most of the Commandos, nearly all of the specialized support units, and the vast majority of follow-up forces. The western front inevitably mainly involved inexperienced units going up against the Wehrmacht - as did most of the action in the Med, come to think of it.

"Where things are needed" is entirely up to the national command authorities who set the overall strategy and priorities for the war. In this context I think a commitment to a cross-Channel landing in 1943 would have had to be made very early, perhaps at the first conference after our entry into the war. The single biggest change from America being in the war was that such a landing, which had been literally impossible previously, became not just possible but at some point inevitable. Troops and resources would be in the pipeline for a year or more ahead of time; you couldn't just decide at Casablanca to do it later that spring.

ozjohn39 mentioned bombing. That would be one of the biggest changes in a decision to go in 1943. The strategic bombing campaign, especially the American side of it, would be curtailed. The "bomber barons" wouldn't like it, but the air mission would be support of the landing and the armies on the Continent (for some reason it's considered strategic and air-minded and all those wonderful things to bomb enemy factories for a year but tactical and somehow inferior to help your army capture those same factories a year earlier).

Air superiority would be won over the battlefield rather than over Germany - no Schweinfurts - just like it was everywhere else in the war.

Perhaps the biggest difference from 1943 to 1944 was that everyone on both side knew there would be an invasion in 1944. In 1943 the Germans were mainly focussed on the Med, where the North African was approaching its inevitably conclusion and further disasters loomed (like Gregg I would conduct Torch etc. as they were, aside from drawing the enemy's attention, there was a legitimate need to get American troops into action somewhere before summer 1943).
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#19 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:32 PM

Also armoured equipment was an issue - imagine 'Pre-Day' in 1943 with large numbers of M3s fighting through the bocage. (I know the Sherman was well in service by then, but a decision to go for it in '43 might have led to production concentrating on the Lee/Grant in order to get numbers up)., PaK 43, Panzerfaust etc.


I don't think so! Once the Medium Tank M4A1 was properly in production by - I believe - September 1942, the Medium Tank M3 production was discontinued. Remember they had a similar chassis. The M3 production was completely changed over to M4 lines by something like the beginning of November 1943. I don't think they would have changed it back, and I don't think they were so stupid as to continue it. They knew from British reports on the "Grant" at Gazala and the M3 and M4A1 at el Alamein which one was the better unit.

"Where things are needed" is entirely up to the national command authorities who set the overall strategy and priorities for the war. In this context I think a commitment to a cross-Channel landing in 1943 would have had to be made very early, perhaps at the first conference after our entry into the war. The single biggest change from America being in the war was that such a landing, which had been literally impossible previously, became not just possible but at some point inevitable. Troops and resources would be in the pipeline for a year or more ahead of time; you couldn't just decide at Casablanca to do it later that spring.


The troops and equipment were in the pipeline. The decision of whether or not to invade France in 1943 was made at Casablanca. The decision to invade Sicily was made after Casablanca.

Edited by LouisXIV, 08 October 2010 - 08:42 PM.

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#20 Spartanroller

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:59 PM

I don't think so! Once the Medium Tank M4A1 was properly in production by - I believe - September 1942, the Medium Tank M3 production was discontinued. Remember they had a similar chassis. The M3 production was completely changed over to M4 lines by something like the beginning of November 1943. I don't think they would have changed it back, and I don't think they were so stupid as to continue it. They knew from British reports on the "Grant" at Gazala and the M3 and M4A1 at el Alamein which one was the better unit.


You are probably right, but if a definite decision had been made to have a north France invasion in 1943 (probably may/june) by the end of 1942, and the North African campaign had not been fought as it was to conclusion, 'Pre-Day' in '43 would have quite probably involved many equipments that were not capable of combat with what the Germans had in general service at the time. 1943 was when the allies started to get relatively realistic, if not actually competitive items in the field in enough numbers to invade France. They wouldn't have been ready for 'Pre-Day'.
Cheers, Nigel :)

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#21 Mark4

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 09:18 PM

The germans were preparing for Operation citidale and was just deafeated in stalingrad and thier wasnt alot of defenses in place in 1943 i think the allies would have had atleast some form of success.
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#22 Spartanroller

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 09:27 PM

The point about the defences is that we chose Normandy in 1944 to avoid the worst of them anyway, although they were definitely improved, and Citadel preparation destined units could have switched west in 1943 in a very short space of time.
Cheers, Nigel :)

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#23 Nicnac

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 10:31 PM

Has anyone mentioned yet that by skipping Sicily, the allies may have had to automatically rule out landings in Italy?

And if so, by doing that, they would fail to open a front which ends up tying down MANY german troops for the rest of the war. Remember, Germany didn't surrender the last bit of Italy until the middle of 1945.
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#24 LouisXIV

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 11:53 PM

Has anyone mentioned yet that by skipping Sicily, the allies may have had to automatically rule out landings in Italy?

And if so, by doing that, they would fail to open a front which ends up tying down MANY german troops for the rest of the war. Remember, Germany didn't surrender the last bit of Italy until the middle of 1945.

Do some research! There were many more Allied Divisions tied up in the Italian campaign than there were German. For Germany, Italy was the most economic campaign there was. It was stupid of the Allied leaders to pursue a campaign in such a rugged country without using to the full their water-borne advantages. Especially with pedantic leaders like Clark and Montgomery.

I seem to recall that there were something like 40+ Allied divisions tied up in Italy at one point. The Germans never had more than 12 there. Italy was a strategic defensive victory for the Germans, and most likely served to lengthen the war.
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#25 Spartanroller

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 12:00 AM

Back to your original question, what if nothing was different up until the point of Op Husky, but the Allies had decided to land those forces in southern France instead of on Sicily (not a great distance extra to travel), but the French landings had all the possible support they could have because they were intended to be 'The' invasion of the mainland and not a sideshow?
Cheers, Nigel :)

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