D-Day and ‘Divine Destiny’

This June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Second World War allied landings in Normandy. Described as the largest seaborne invasion in history, it was a critical turning point in the war.

TORONTO — This June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Second World War allied landings in Normandy. Described as the largest seaborne invasion in history, it was a critical turning point in the war.

And the scale was certainly enormous. Facilitated by an invasion fleet of over 6,000 ships, 132,000 troops were put ashore on five beaches during the first day. In support, allied aircraft flew almost 13,000 sorties.

Unsurprisingly, immediate allied casualties were significant — about 10,000 men that day. The toughest going was on Omaha, one of the two American beaches. Indeed, things were initially so difficult there that consideration was briefly given to abandoning it.

Planning for the invasion had been a complex affair. There was the issue of an appropriate strategy, the need for surprise in terms of timing and landing destinations, and the sheer logistics of assembling a suitable invasion force. In addition, nature presented its own challenges, specifically, tides and weather.

Because the tides would be right, June 5 to 7 was the summer of 1944’s first window of opportunity. But if the weather didn’t co-operate, it would be another two weeks before the tides were right again.

 Accordingly, June 5 was targeted as the invasion date, with the ultimate call residing with the supreme commander, Dwight Eisenhower. In addition to his senior command team – an American and four Brits — Eisenhower’s support circle included RAF Group Captain J.M. Stagg, who, as chief meteorologist, was indispensable.

On the evening of June 3, Stagg brought bad news. The weather was deteriorating rapidly, so much so that forecasting more than a day in advance was problematical. But he’d have an update early the following morning, June 4.

Historian Jean Edward Smith summarises that update succinctly: Stagg “predicted low clouds, high winds, and formidable wave action on the French coast for the morning of June 5. Air support would be impossible, naval gunfire would be inefficient, and the handling of landing craft would be hazardous.”

Although his command team was split, Eisenhower opted to postpone. Air support, after all, was essential.

But Stagg’s next updates, on the evening of June 4 and the early morning of June 5, offered a ray of hope. There’d be a brief break in the weather, sufficient to make June 6 possible. While visibility wouldn’t be ideal for air support, it was the best shot available in the current window.

So, after reviewing it with his command team, Eisenhower decided to go. And at 6:30 in the morning of June 6, the first wave of the seaborne invasion went ashore.

Once the decision was made and the machinery set in motion, there was little for Eisenhower to do but wait. On the evening of June 5, he paid a visit to the American airborne units that would constitute the invasion’s vanguard, all the while privately aware that their casualty rate could go as high as 70 per cent.

Then, after the last transport had taken off, he retired to his trailer with Kay Summersby, the Anglo-Irish woman who served as his personal driver and to whom he was romantically attached. As she subsequently recounted, “he was so tired that his hand shook when he lit a cigarette.”

Apparently, while the British high command was unimpressed with Eisenhower’s military skills, they considered him to be a lucky general. And fellow American George Patton remarked that Eisenhower’s “D.D.” initials stood for “Divine Destiny.” Be that as it may, June 1944 certainly brought its share of good luck.

Believing that the D-Day landings were a diversion, the Germans held back 19 divisions and 800 tanks for what they thought would be the real invasion at Pas-de-Calais. And had Eisenhower postponed again and waited two weeks, the weather would have been even worse.

Back home, D-Day’s success sealed Eisenhower’s reputation. The words beneath his image on the Time magazine cover of June 19, 1944, put it this way: “He loosed the fateful fighting.” And as America’s most popular war hero, both parties sought him out as a presidential candidate.

Luck, however, still wasn’t done with Eisenhower. Mid-20th century American moral conventions being what they were, had the nature of his relationship with Kay Summersby been in 1952’s public domain, he might never have been elected president. But it wasn’t and he was.

Perhaps Patton was on to something.

Troy Media columnist Pat Murphy worked in the Canadian financial services industry for over 30 years. Originally from Ireland, he has a degree in history and economics.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read