The Supreme Command and Allied Success

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

By the time he received his fifth star in December 1945, Eisenhower had been responsible for the success of four amphibious operations (which Clausewitz called the most difficult tactical maneuver). The last, at Normandy, involving 156,000 men in one day, was the largest in history. It was part of a larger assault codenamed “Overlord” — with its D-Day naval phase codenamed “Neptune.” The former included not just the landings but the ensuing campaign on the European continent to destroy the German army and Hitler’s regime. It thus met Clausewitz’s definition of “an offensive for the total overthrow of the enemy,” an undertaking recalling Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812 – that was the most difficult strategic military undertaking. The enemy is on the defensive, always the stronger mode of battle. He is behind fortifications on familiar terrain, protecting his home soil, and if he retreats, he has ever shorter lines for reinforcement and supply.

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Ike’s Activities During the Battle

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

Colonel Jimmy Gault of the British Army became, among other things, the supreme commander’s “advance man” to locate sites for — and supervise setting up — AFHQ’s advanced command posts. His duties also included accompanying the supreme commander on troop inspections and official visits of various kinds. Fortunately for historians, Gault kept a diary, noting in it that in the weeks leading up to D-day, Ike departed SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) each Monday evening for dinner with Churchill. On May 26, however, he recorded that Ike had lunch alone with the king and queen at Buckingham Palace. After D-day but before establishing on August 7 his advanced command post in France, Gault wrote that Ike visited Normandy eight times. The first of these, on D+1 (June 7, 1944) while attempting to view the fighting at Omaha Beach—“the supreme commander kept telling them to go in closer”– the fast mine layer Apollo carrying him and his party, including Admiral Ramsay and Butcher, went aground on a sandbar. After numerous insistent orders to the engine room to move the vessel first forward and then backward in reverse gear, the captain was able to get the ship back into open water. It had to limp at slow speed to the flagship with bent propellers and drive shafts. A destroyer then came alongside and carried the supreme commander and his party back to Portsmouth. The event delayed Ike’s return by six hours.

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D-day: Its Approach and Aftermath

Excerpt from an early draft of the manuscript for a book entitled: “Eisenhower and Summersby:  The General and His Wartime Aide.”

In England during the build-up for D-day under Ike’s command in January, 1944, the mishaps continued. An amphibious training exercise in the spring of 1944 at Slapton Sands on the south coast near Plymouth, involved nine LSTs (the large Landing Ship Tanks) and 30,000 troops. Unfortunately, 749 American army and navy personnel died — figures that were concealed at the time as a matter of wartime security. Summersby later described it. “Eisenhower and other allied commanders were” embarked “on an infantry landing craft to witness the exercise [codenamed “Tiger”] to simulate the one anticipated by the 4th infantry division on beach [Utah] at Normandy on D-day,” she recalled. “But the maneuver went sour. Bombers, navy vessels, airplanes, and special units fouled up in everything from timing to orders.” To ensure realistic battle conditions, Eisenhower had authorized live fire. Several troops were killed. But the major damage came from enemy action the following day. The LSTs came under attack by nine German fast patrol boats (e-boats) based on the other side of the Channel in Cherbourg. Poorly defended by just one Royal Navy destroyer, one LST was sunk, one abandoned, and another badly damaged.

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