In attempting very briefly to assess the factors underlying the Allied success in this campaign, I would stress the importance of three episodes as being the most decisive in insuring victory.
The first of these was the battle of the Normandy beaches. We sailed for France, possessed of all the tactical information which an efficient intelligence service could provide, but we had yet to take the measure of the foe we were to meet. We were embarking upon the largest amphibious operation in history against a coastline bristling with all the defenses modern ingenuity could devise, and behind the beaches lay the German armies of the west which had not been tried in full-scale battle since the dark days of 1940.
As we struggled first to gain and then to hold our footing in Normandy, we learned the strength and also the weakness of these armies. We learned that the German soldier was still the same stubborn fighter whom we had met in Africa and in Italy, but we saw, too, how slender was the thread upon which his existence in France depended. During the months of June and July all the difficulties of communications and supply which were ultimately to prove his undoing became manifest. It was thus that we were enabled to establish ourselves on the Continent and to build up the great armies necessary to achieve the liberation of Europe. We learned also, at this time, how inadequate was the enemy's intelligence concerning the Allied intentions. Thanks to his air weakness and consequent lack of reconnaissance, he was completely misled by our diversionary operations, holding back until too late the forces in the Pas-de-Calais which, had they been rushed across the Seine when first we landed, might well have turned the scales against us.
The second vital battle was that of the Falaise pocket. Here the enemy showed that fatal tendency to stand and fight when all the logic of war demanded a strategic withdrawal. By so doing, he allowed his Seventh Army to be encircled and ground to pieces, and the battle for France was decided among the bloody orchards and hedgerows of Normandy. As the broken forces fled eastward we strained every effort to complete their overthrow before they could reach the shelter of the Siegfried Line, but the logistical burden was too great, and we had to wait until the weary winter drew to a close before we could strike the final blow.
The third decisive phase in the campaign consisted of the battles west of the Rhine during February and March. Once again the enemy played into our hands by his insistence upon fighting the battle where he stood. In the lowland country between the Rhine and the Meuse, in the Eifel, and in the Saar, the armies which had been intended to defend Germany were shattered beyond recovery. The potential barrier of the Rhine lay practically undefended before us, and from that time onward there was no German force in existence capable of halting our forward march. The war was won before the Rhine was crossed.
Throughout the struggle, it was in his logistical inability to maintain his armies in the field that the enemy's fatal weakness lay. Courage his forces had in full measure, but courage was not enough. Reinforcements failed to arrive, weapons, ammunition, and food alike ran short, and the dearth of fuel caused their powers of tactical mobility to dwindle to the vanishing point. In the last stages of the campaign they could do little more than wait for the Allied avalanche to sweep over them.
For this state of affairs we had, above all, to be grateful to the work of the Allied air forces. Long before we landed in France, the heavy bombers had begun their task of destroying the centers of production upon which the enemy relied, and the fruits of this effort were evident immediately the land campaign began. Following the invasion, these strategic blows at the heart of German industry were continued, and the task was also undertaken of cutting the supply lines which linked the factories to the fronts. Meanwhile the tactical aircraft, by their incessant bombing and strafing of the enemy before us in the field, broke his powers of resistance and prepared the way for the ground advances which struck toward the center of Germany. Those thrusts, moreover, were made with a rapidity which only the expedient of airborne supply could support. The overwhelming Allied superiority in the air was indeed essential to our victory. It at once undermined the basis of the enemy's strength and enabled us to prepare and execute our own ground operations in complete security.
It is difficult even for a professional soldier to appreciate the tremendous power which was achieved on the battlefields and in the skies of western Europe by the concerted efforts of the Allied nations. As stated earlier in this report, most of the 90 divisions which fought in the later phases of our operations were habitually reinforced to a strength of 17,000 men by tank, tank destroyer, and antiaircraft attachments. An idea of their shattering impact upon the Nazi war machine comes from consideration of the terrific firepower which they represent, of the mass of heavier Corps and Army artillery which supported them, of the inexhaustible supply system that sustained them, and of the flexibility with which their efforts could be applied by means of the efficient communications system. For behind the combat units the efforts of 3 millions of other men and women in uniform were devoted to maintaining them in action. We could, in effect, apply against the enemy on the Continent a force 30 times as large as the Allied armies which defeated Napoleon on the battlefield at Waterloo. In addition, we had available nearly 11,000 fighter and bomber airplanes whose mobile firepower could be applied at virtually any point we desired, as I have just described, and whose annihilating effects are evidenced by the wreckage of a powerful nation's cities, industries, and communications, and by the destruction of the air forces which defended them. To this power was added the striking and strangling force of two formidable naval fleets working as one.
Mention has already been made of the skill and devotion of our service forces whose efforts, both in the field and at home, made an essential contribution to our victory. To them, and to the civilian workers of factory and farm who provided us with unstinted means, we are forever indebted. Our enormous material superiority gave us an unchallengeable advantage over our foes. While Germany's own war potential crumbled, that of the Allies rose to heights unprecedented. No army or navy was ever supported so generously or so well. Never, during the entire campaign, were we forced to fight a major battle without the weapons that were needed.
More important even than the weapons, however, was the indomitable fighting spirit of the men of the Allied nations who wielded them. The courage and devotion to duty which they exhibited throughout the campaign, in the grim days of the Ardennes counteroffensive as well as in the excitement of the dash across France and later the advances into the midst of Germany, were unsurpassable. It was the spirit that had enabled them to withstand the shocks of Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor which brought us at the last to Lubeck, to Torgau, and to Berchtesgaden.
Underlying this invincibility of spirit was the confidence in Allied unity and the justice of the common cause which permeated all who were engaged, directly or indirectly, in the struggle. The comradeship which had been first exemplified in North Africa carried us to new triumphs in north west Europe. Within my own Headquarters the American and British personnel worked harmoniously together, obliterating all distinction of national outlook in their zealous service to a single organization, while in the field of battle the men of the Allied armies fought shoulder to shoulder under my supreme command.
Those civilian volunteers who shared the rigors and dangers of campaign that they might brighten the existence of our men have the assurance of our warmest gratitude.
The United States of America and Great Britain have worked, not merely as allies, but as one nation, pooling their resources of men and material alike, in this struggle against the forces of evil engendered by Hitler's Germany. In the Expeditionary Forces which it has been my privilege to lead, both in the Mediterranean Theater and in Northwest Europe, an Allied experiment unprecedented in the history of the world has been carried out with decisive results.
In concluding this report it is with regret that I am unable to record here the details of my personal and official obligations and gratitude to those who served so devotedly at Supreme Headquarters and at the other headquarters which cooperated so loyally and effectively with us. Nor can I make adequate recognition of the collaboration of those many individuals in civil and military positions in Great Britain and the United States with whom my duties brought me into contact, and whose efforts aided in a major degree the accomplishment of our common task. Yet I know that all these would have me pay a final tribute to the memory of two very senior and gallant officers who started the campaign with us and who lost their lives before its conclusion. These were Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay of the Royal Navy, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory of the Royal Air Force. At the beginning of the operation these officers were respectively my Naval Commander-in-Chief and my Air Commander-in-Chief. The former lost his life in an airplane accident near Versailles, France, while still serving in the same capacity. The latter, relieved from my command to take over the Allied Air Forces in Southeast Asia, was lost in an airplane accident near Grenoble, France. The war service, the devotion to duty, and the sacrifice of these two outstanding men typify the irreplaceable cost of the campaign represented in the lives of thousands of officers and enlisted men and members of the women's services, of the American, British, and French forces.
All of them died in the spirit of that unity which joined the Allies in our common ideals. To them, and to those who bear the wounds of battle, we, their comrades in arms, render most grateful and humble tribute.
Under the arrangements made by the Combined Chiefs of Staff for the control of the field forces, General of the Army George C. Marshall acted as their executive in transmitting to me their orders and instructions. Moreover, under that most distinguished Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, General Marshall was always my direct administrative superior in my capacity as a commander of United States Army forces. To this great soldier-statesman, I owe a particular debt for his friendly counsel and constant support. There was nothing throughout the war so morally sustaining as the knowledge that General Marshall concurred in the plans I was adopting and the means I was talking to put them into effect.
Signed: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Allied Expeditionary Force
13 JULY 1945
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