D-Day June 6, 1944
Normandy Landing and the Re-Writing of History
– François Lazure –
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!
In June 2014, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landing in France, then-President François Hollande said that the “fate of humanity was played out on June 6, 1944.” He said that he “wanted this ceremony to be useful, not just for the memory, not just for the evocation of the sacrifice, but also because peace is threatened in the world today.” He then invoked D-Day as justification for France’s violation of rights at home and aggression and war abroad, saying, “It is because France itself has experienced barbarity that it is doing its duty to preserve peace everywhere, within the borders of Europe, as in Africa,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise declared at that commemoration: “This June 6, 1944 […] was the beginning of the liberation” since by means of this landing, it was the “Allies who launched this liberation movement to permanently free us from Nazism.”
Then came U.S. President Barack Obama who said that “it was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom.” In his words, Normandy became “this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history.” In 2009, Obama said in his speech in France to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day, “Had the Allies failed here, Hitler’s occupation of this continent might have continued indefinitely. […] Victory here secured a foothold in France […] it made possible the achievements that followed the liberation of Europe: the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.”
In a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on June 4, 2014, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed these falsities, saying that Normandy was “a turning point in the world’s history.” Harper was no less adamant to equate the landing at Normandy with current U.S.-led wars of aggression and occupation. Canadian soldiers buried in France “are a poignant reminder that our country will always stand up for what is good, what is right and what is just. It was as true then as it has been in the years since the Second World War in places like Korea, Afghanistan and Libya,” he said.
The decisive role of the Soviet Union in the military defeat of fascist Germany was accepted by everyone at the time, and admitted before Hitler’s suicide and the end of the war. In fact, it was admitted even before the landing at Normandy by the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who honoured the city of Stalingrad on May 17, 1944, 20 days before the Normandy landing, 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.
The “turning point in the war” in January 1943 was followed seven months later by the victory in Kursk in August 1943, which also made history. In the report Stalin presented in Moscow on November 26, 1943, on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the victory of the October socialist revolution, he said, “If the Battle of Stalingrad announced the decline of the German fascist army, the battle of Kursk placed it in front of a catastrophe.”
“The cause of German fascism is lost, and the sanguinary ‘New Order’ it has established is approaching collapse. […] The time is long past when the Hitlerite clique made a great noise about the Germans winning world domination. Now as is known, the Germans have other matters than world domination to worry about. They have to think about keeping body and soul together.”
In the May 1, 1944 issue of Pravda, published 36 days before the landing at Normandy, Stalin wrote: “Under the blows of the Red Army the bloc of Fascist States is cracking and falling to pieces. […] These underlings of Hitler, whose countries have been occupied, or are being occupied, by the Germans, cannot now fail to see that Germany has lost the war.”
Stalin emphasizes: “As a result of the successful offensive, the Red Army has emerged on our State frontiers on a stretch of over 400 kilometres (250 miles), and liberated more than three-quarters of occupied Soviet land from the German-fascist yoke. The aim now is to clear the whole of our land from the fascist invaders and to re-establish the State frontiers of the Soviet Union along the entire line from the Black Sea to the Barents Sea.”
Even though one quarter of the country remained to be liberated 36 days before the landing in Normandy, Stalin notes that already “the Red Army has emerged on our State frontiers with Rumania and Czechoslovakia and now continues battering the enemy troops on the territory of Rumania. […] But our tasks cannot be confined to the expulsion of the enemy troops from our Motherland. […] To rid our country and the countries allied with us from the danger of enslavement, the wounded German beast must be pursued close on its heels and finished off in its own lair.”
In short, the invaded Soviet motherland liberated herself and began to liberate others. Initiated in Stalingrad, the march to defeat the Nazis now continued beyond the national borders all the way to Berlin. For the Anglo-American imperialists to claim they defeated Hitler with the invasion of Normandy does a great disservice 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 and this dishonours the anti-fascist contribution of the soldiers who fought in the Second Front even more.
1. La Presse, June 6, 2014. Translated from French by TML.
3. Le Monde-Hors série: 1944/Débarquements, résistances, libérations, May-July 2014, La bataille de Normandie en neufs points, pp.20-23. Quote translated from French by TML.
5. Antony Beevor, The Second World War, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2012.
6. Antony Beevor , “Ce n’était pas gagné d’avance,” Le Point , June 5, 2014, pp.58-62. Quote translated from French by TML.
7. Le Monde, June 6, 2014. Translated from French by TML.
8. Barack Obama, Speech Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, Normandy, June 6, 2014.
9. Speech by Barack Obama at the American Cemetery at Normandy, June 6, 2009.
10. La Presse, op. cit.
11. J.V. Stalin, Correspondence with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman Vol. 2 (1941 – 1945), footnote no. 67.
12. J.V. Stalin, Speech at Celebration Meeting of the Moscow Soviet of Working People’s Deputies and Moscow Party and Public Organizations, November 6, 1943, Collected Works, Vol. 15.
13. Order of the Day, No. 70, May 1, 1944, op. cit.
15. J.V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Voters of the Stalin Electoral District, Moscow. February 9, 1946.
(TML Archives. Translated from the original French and abridged for publication.)