In an article published on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, military historian Benoît Lemay, of the Royal Military College of Kingston, Ontario pointed out, “There are many misconceptions about the Normandy landing. It is believed to have enabled the Allies to win the Second World War. A more nuanced view is required. In fact, in June 1944, Germany had already lost. The landing only served to accelerate the end of the war. It was the Russians on the Eastern Front who did most of the work. For propaganda reasons, during the Cold War years that followed, the West would try to minimize the Soviet effort. It would be conveyed that it was the Allies who did most of the work.”
Lemay explained the motives behind the landing: “In reality, the Allies landed in France not only to defeat the Germans, but also to ensure that Western Europe did not fall under the Soviet yoke. There was a political aspect and economic interests.”
During their meeting in Tehran at the end of November 1943, the three leaders — Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt — agreed a Second Front would be opened. It was the landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944 that opened this Second Front, in the military context created by the Red Army, where Germany had already lost the war because of it and now had to fight on two sides.
According to the invasion plans, Caen was to be liberated on the evening of June 6 but the fighting was so fierce, it was only finally liberated 40 days later on July 17. The French historian Claude Quétel explains, “On June 22, 1944, a little more than a fortnight after the Normandy landings — and three years to the day after the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazi armies — Stalin attacked the Hitlerite troops from his side. The objective: to hold down a maximum of German divisions in the East to facilitate the progression of the Allies to the West. Stalin went all out. For this operation, no less than 166 divisions, 1,300,000 men, 5,000 aircraft, 2,700 tanks were mobilized. The main front is not the one thought to be in Normandy: it was in the East.”
However, Quétel writes, “This Soviet offensive, the largest since the beginning of the war, has often been obscured in the Western world because of the Cold War and rewriting of history.”
Quétel tells us: “The Russian victories in Stalingrad and especially Kursk changed the game. The major risk for the Anglo-Saxons was no longer to see Stalin sign a separate peace with Hitler, but to see him win the final victory alone! It became urgent to discuss strategy […] with the Soviets. The Tehran Conference brought Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin together for the first time in this war.”
Historian Antony Beevor summarized what happened a few days before the landing in Normandy: “Roosevelt wanted to remind his subordinates that the Allies were not liberating France to install General de Gaulle in power.” The U.S goal was to “impose a military government until elections were held,” which would take some time. This is why Roosevelt “insisted on creating an occupation currency.” The disagreements were serious in Roosevelt’s entourage, and “Churchill did his best to persuade him that they had to work with de Gaulle.” Roosevelt yielded. De Gaulle was then made aware of the landing that had been planned without his knowledge in his own country. He learned about it on June 4, the day before the landing was originally scheduled to take place; it was postponed a day due to bad weather. The “occupation” of part of Europe would take place anyway, but without a U.S. “military government” and its “occupation currency” in France.
In an interview, Beevor expressed the concern of the Anglo-American Allies with regard to a surrender of Germany only to the Soviet Union if the disembarkation of their troops was delayed:
“Eisenhower’s decision to launch the operations on June 6, despite warnings from weather specialists, after a first postponement on the 5th, was not only a courageous decision, it was a historic stance. If he had said, ‘we postpone the date,’ the next possible window was exactly in the middle of the great storm of June 19, one of the worst in the [English] Channel. He would therefore have again had to suspend operations probably until the spring of 1945. This would have had unimaginable consequences, not only for the secrecy of the operations and for the maintenance for a very long time of the armada assembled in Great Britain, but, especially during this period, the Red Army would not only have arrived in Berlin, but would have had time to cross the Rhine and go, why not? all the way to La Rochelle […] You can imagine the scene!”
The decisive role of the Soviet Union in the military defeat of fascist Germany was accepted by everyone at the time such as the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, even before the landing at Normandy, on May 17, 1944, honoured the city of Stalingrad declaring:
“In the name of the people of the United States of America, I present this scroll to the City of Stalingrad to commemorate our admiration for its gallant defenders whose courage, fortitude, and devotion during the siege of September 13, 1942 to January 31, 1943 will inspire forever the hearts of all free people. Their glorious victory stemmed the tide of invasion and marked the turning point in the war of the Allied Nations against the forces of aggression.”
Nonetheless, the Anglo-American imperialists like to claim that they, not the Soviets, with the invasion of Normandy were the decisive force in defeating Hitler. The D-Day Commemorations are used to make this claim and do warmongering propaganda against Russia today. This does a great disservice not only to the peoples of the former Soviet Union whose sacrifice in the war literally saved Europe, but also to the anti-fascist forces in Britain, the U.S., Canada and the European countries who fought heroically to do their part in the war. It is done to claim that wars of aggression and occupation today are for democracy, peace and freedom which dishonours the anti-fascist contribution of the soldiers who fought in the Second Front even more.
(A version of this article was translated from the original French and abridged for publication by TML Weekly on the 74th anniversary of D-Day. Photo: TML)