If D-Day Had Not Failed
By Charles R. Testrake
Exercise 9, Page 38: Write a piece of fiction that sounds, most of the time, like an essay, but periodically degrades (or improves) into fictional narrative. The essay should be about something specific that matters a great deal to you.
The format for this short story was inspired by Winston Churchill’s 1931 short story, “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Battle of Gettysburg.” In his story, Churchill writes an academic essay as if Confederate General Robert E. Lee had won the Battle of Gettysburg, and then speculates of what would have happened if he had lost. I attempted to perform a similar double twist with this story, however unlike Churchill; I deliberately tried to get things wrong. For example in reality Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945, not March 1945 as depicted in my story.
"Our landings in the Cherbourg Harbor have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
General Dwight David Eisenhower
Supreme Commander—Allied Expeditionary Force
07 June 1944
It has been called the biggest military blunder in history, yet it was by no means inevitable that the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy would fail, as many military historians have since claimed. Indeed, General Eisenhower’s invasion plan was quite sound. It was just met with a series of unfortunate occurrences.
The invasion had been originally scheduled for May, but was postponed until June due to logistical issues, such as an inadequate number of landing craft. Then on June 4th, it had to be postponed a second time because of bad weather. In the early morning of June 5th, Eisenhower held a meeting with his subordinates.
“What about the weather?” Eisenhower asked. All eyes turned to the man standing just opposite the conference table. He was tall and lean, sporting a thin mustache. Group Captain James Stagg cleared his throat.
“General,” said Stagg. “We anticipate there being a break in the storm beginning this evening. It should last approximately 36-hours.”
“A small window!” said Eisenhower.
“Yes Sir!” replied Stagg.
Eisenhower thanked his chief meteorologist and dismissed him. Once Stagg had left the room, Eisenhower turned to his commanders.
“Gentlemen,” he said. “The attack will take place on June 6th.”
The break in the weather that Stagg had predicted never came. Most of the Allied landing craft did not even make it to shore, and on the few that did, the Allied soldiers were quickly killed or captured by the defending Germans. Several pockets of British and America airborne troops did manage to hold out for several weeks, but they were eventually annihilated.
Now, let us speculate on what if Stagg had been correct, and the weather had broken as he predicted. Given the Allied superiority in men, armaments, and equipment; it is reasonable to assume that if they had managed to establish a beachhead, as a result of a break in the weather, the invasion would have succeeded.
The most immediate beneficiary of this success would have been Eisenhower. It is almost certain that he would not have been relieved of his command on June 15th, and later demoted back to his permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His career might have even partially emulated that of his former commanding officer, General Douglas McArthur, with a promotion to General of the Army. However his given his temperament, it is unlikely that Eisenhower would have ever entered the political arena.
The inevitable Allied victory would have certainly happened much early than the spring of 1946, perhaps as early as the fall of 1944. This in turn might have prevented Thomas Dewey’s upset over Franklin Roosevelt in that year’s American Presidential Election.
If Roosevelt had been elected to a fourth term, then his new Vice President, Harry Truman, would have become President upon Roosevelt’s death in March 1945. So then, how would have a President Truman have dealt with the end of the war, the decision to use the atomic bomb, and the growing threat from the Soviet Union?
In the scenario we have created, in seems unlikely that the former Missouri haberdasher would ever have had to decide whether or not to use the atomic bomb of the Germans. Dewey agonized over this decision for weeks, before finally deciding against using the new weapon. Yet would Truman have used the weapon on the Japanese?
During Dewey’s 1947 impeachment trial, Senator Truman was the deciding vote for the acquittal of the President. He later wrote the following in his memoirs: “I could not, in all consciousness, have voted to convict the President. If providence and fate had put me in his place, I could not have ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent women and children, in vague hope of shorten the war.”
As for the growing Cold War with the Soviets, Truman would have been faced with a completely different set of circumstances than Dewey. The east/west divide would have probably been in western Poland instead of France. There would have been no Paris Wall. Yet given the political situation in America at that time, it would have been impossible for any American President to sustain military and financial aid to Europe indefinitely.
It is at this point that our divergence in time has to come to an end. Even if the D-Day had not failed, the forces of history would have been too strong to cause any major changes. It was unavoidable that by the end of the 20th century, capitalism and democracy would crumble and be replaced by Stalinist communism. So we must therefore conclude in the final analysis, that D-Day did not really matter that much.