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Beach Landings Played a Significant Role in This War: Discuss Each of the Allied Maritime Beach Landings and How/Why They Were Important

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Every great conflict has a turning point when one side takes the lead over the other and the balance of power starts to shift. For World War Two, the “bloodiest conflict in human history”, this turning point would be the famous large-scale Allied invasion of Normandy that broke into Nazi Europe on June 6th, 1944, know as D-Day. It was one of the most significant days in all of World War Two that would set the stage for the Allied push to end the war

By 1943, the balance of World War Two was turning toward the side of the allies. They had won critical battles in Africa and driven out the Nazi occupiers. And Mussolini, the fascist dictator of the Axis power of Italy had been overthrown and killed. The Allies had fought the Germans victoriously in Italy, taking Rome, and the US was pushing Japan’s advance back towards their own nation. However, it became clear that an invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe would be necessary to break Hitler’s hold and put an end to the war. Pressure was also increased by the Soviet Union’s movements eastward into Europe. Allies feared a “Europe ruled from Moscow instead of Berlin”. Allied leaders agreed that an invasion could decide the outcome of the war- it could set up a quick victory or a long struggle depending on the results.

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As attacks inevitably bogged down, the Allies relied increasingly on their artillery and air support. For its part, the German High Command was never able to gather sufficient resources for a concentrated counter-offensive. Instead, armoured divisions were fed into the line piecemeal to shore up depleted infantry formations. It was a battle of attrition, which the Allies with their vast superiority in men and materiel were bound to win. The Allied plan for a broad, phased advance was overtaken by events, and the final breakout was dramatic. Hitler's refusal to allow his commanders freedom to give up ground, and insistence on reinforcing failure, gave the Allies a more complete victory than they could have hoped for, as enemy units were sucked in to the maelstrom and destroyed. Most of the divisions committed to the defence of France were either wiped out or reduced to remnants. Some 400,000 German troops were lost. Allied numbers and material support clearly had an impact, but it was significant that the fighting forces had defeated even the most fanatical German formations in the field. The battle for Normandy was an impressive feat of arms as well as an exposition of Allied logistical and industrial muscle. The Allied advance in north-west Europe would slow dramatically that autumn as German resistance stiffened on the borders of the Reich. The war would not be over by Christmas. But D-Day had opened another major front, where the bulk of America's rapidly expanding army could at last be brought to bear. It led to the liberation of France, denying Germany any further exploitation of that country’s economic and manpower resources. The U-boat ports, V-weapon sites and a large section of Germany’s air defence network were captured or rendered useless. And it convinced the German High Command - other than a few ardent Nazi generals - that total defeat was now inevitable.

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For Americans, June 6, 1944 “D-Day” has come to symbolize World War II, with commemorations at home and abroad. How did this date come to assume such significance and how have the commemorations changed over the 65 years since the Normandy landings? How does D-Day function in U.S. cultural memory and in domestic politics and foreign policy? This paper will look at some of the major trends in D-Day remembrances, particularly in international commemorations and D-Day’s meaning in U.S. and Allied foreign policy. Although war commemorations are ostensibly directed at reflecting on the hallowed past, the D-Day observances, particularly since the 1980s, have also marked new beginnings in both domestic and foreign policy. As the invasion was taking place in June 1944, there was, of course, a great deal of coverage in the U.S. media. The events in Normandy, however, shared the June headlines with other simultaneous developments on the European front including the fall of Rome. By the time the invasion’s fifth anniversary rolled around in 1949 the day was marked by a “colorful but modest memorial service” at the beach. The U.S. was represented at the event by the military attaché and the naval attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. A French naval guard, a local bugle corps and an honor guard from an American Legion Post in Paris all took part (New York Times, 6 June 1954). A pair of young girls from the surrounding villages placed wreaths on the beach, and a U.S. Air Force Flying Fortresses passed over, firing rockets and dropping flowers. The anniversaries of the early 1950s reflected the tenor of the times, evoking both the economic and military Cold War projects of the U.S. in Europe: the Marshall Plan and NATO. Barry Bingham, head of the Marshall Plan Mission in France, used the occasion of the 1950 D-Day commemoration ceremony to praise France’s postwar recovery efforts.Held in the middle of the Korean War, the 1952 D-Day commemoration at Utah Beach proved an opportunity for General Matthew D. Ridgway, Supreme Commander Allied Forces in Europe and a D-Day veteran, to speak of U.S. purpose in the Cold War against “a new and more fearful totalitarianism.” He warned the Communist powers not to “underestimate our resolve to live as free men in our own territories (The New York Times, 6 June 1949)

We will gather the strength we have pledged to one another and set it before our people and our lands as a protective shield until reason backed by strength halts further aggression….”

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In summary, by the end of August 1944, the Allies had reached the Seine River, Paris was liberated and the Germans had been removed from northwestern France, effectively concluding the Battle of Normandy. The Allied forces then prepared to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet troops moving in from the east. The Normandy invasion began to turn the tide against the Nazis

A significant psychological blow, it also prevented Hitler from sending troops from France to build up his Eastern Front against the advancing Soviets. The following spring, on May 8, 1945, the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Hitler had committed suicide a week earlier, on April 30.

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“Normandy Marks D-Day Anniversary,” The New York Times, 6 June 1949, 1.

“Recovery in France is Hailed,” The New York Times, 6 June 1950, 2.

“Reds Warned by Ridgway to Avoid War,” Washington Post, 7 1952, 3.

“Eisenhower Day Serene,” The New York Times, 6 June 1954, 30.

“Eisenhower Cites D-Day Solidarity,” New York Times, 6 June 1954, 30.

Val Adams, “Eisenhower going to Normandy to film D-Day program,” The New York Times, 15July . 1963, 43.

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