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.

Just Posted

Manslaughter charge laid against Red Deer man more than a year after homicide

A manslaughter charge has been laid against a Red Deer man, more… Continue reading

Woman facing charges after pedestrian critically injured in hit and run

A woman is in custody in connection with an alleged hit and… Continue reading

Friday hail storm came at a bad time for farmers

Amount of damage a hail storm does often depends on how far along crops are

Concern growing over poor hay crops

Hay yields in some areas half of what it was last year

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Adam Henrique signs $29.1M, 5-year extension with Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Centre Adam Henrique has signed a $29.1 million, five-year… Continue reading

Fashion firms upend design routine to focus on speed, trends

NEW YORK — Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was… Continue reading

Trimming and tidying: Perennials need care too

The great attraction in growing perennial flowers is that you never have… Continue reading

Johnny Depp settles lawsuits involving former managers

LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp has settled lawsuits with his former business… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month