Was D-day unnecessary?

Have recently heard this was the consensus of historians now. Real reason was to keep Russia defeating Germany and claiming more of Europe. That might be a very valid concern but sure puts a different spin on it.

It was not only necessary to contain the Soviets, but it was also necessary to keep the alliance together by fulfilling a commitment to Stalin by Churchill and Roosevelt to open up a second front in order to take some of the pressure off the Soviet army.

But was it militarily necessary? Probably not. With hindsight we can say that even without the D-day invasion the allies still would have won in the autumn of 1945 once atomic bomb production ramped up and we had enough to blast Germany and Japan into oblivion both at the same time. But none of that was known at the time - hence, there was enormous pressure to go forward with the invasion.

And even without the invasion or the A-bomb the Russians were still winning with conventional weapons. The way the fighting was going It looks probable that the Russians would have defeated Germany on their own some time in 1946.

I think in terms of what people knew at the time, D Day was necessary.

It is a long slog but the trilogy about Churchill written by William Manchester is very well researched.

@barrons Could you provide a link to an article regarding this? I would be interested in reading one that you thought was good.

It wasn’t clear at all at the time that D-Day (an invasion of Normandy, principally amphibious) was “necessary.” The British resisted it for a long time, on the grounds that no further invasion of Europe was necessary to win the war, and that there were other options that were both less risky and more effective for limiting Russian imperialism after the war (e.g., opening up a second front in the Danube Valley), and delaying sending troops into northern Europe until is was clear that the German army was at the point of collapse.

D-Day was pretty effective at shortening the war, but that’s because it was successful. Its success was hardly guaranteed in advance. It could easily have been a disaster.

@snowball It was a radio broadcast I heard on a long drive last month. My rental had satellite radio so I listened to lots of broadcasts I dont usually hear. First I was dubious as it was introduced as a long held Russian claim. Then several US historians mostly agreed on the main point. Russia was rolling and heavily outgunned the Germans. Victory was assumed.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “necessary.” If you mean was D-Day required to shorten the war and assure the certain defeat of a Nazi Germany that was already losing, then yes, it was necessary. If you mean would the Allies have stalemated or even lost WWII if they had not mounted the D-Day invasion, then no, it was not necessary.

I think that, as always, hindsight is 20-20.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge events of the past by the perspective of the present.

You should ask these people: 1. A Veteran who was there and landed. 2. A German and ended up in East Germany rather than West Germany and who has lived to see reunification. Or ask any European who watched the Allies come into their town to liberate them from German rule. The world waited and watched and without D-day the world would be quite different ( and not for the better).

At what cost, estimates are 13 million died in the concentration camps. How many more would have died if D Day didn’t happen and the war continued till 1946. It is estimated 3 million killed were Soviet POWs. This total doesn’t include how many more would have died, civilians and military, just from the prolonged combat.

“Necessary” or not depends on what purpose/goal is being referred to.

With most of the death camps east of Germany it is likely the Russians would have gotten to most of them before the US.


Of course, “‘necessary’ or not depends in what purpose/goal is being referred to,” but (at least as I understand things) reasonable arguments were being made at the time that the Normandy invasion (or any massive invasion of northern France in the summer of 1944) was not the most efficient means of accomplishing any of the goals that people admitted to caring about. The major objectives seem to have been (a) open a second front in Europe to relieve pressure on the Russian front, (b) limit the area under Soviet control when the war ended, © specifically, ensure that Western Europe was not under Soviet control when the war ended, and of course (d) demoralize the German people and German military so as to end the war earlier.

The British argument was apparently that the Danube Valley was a much softer target than northern France. A second front could be opened there with less risk and fewer casualties, and it would put British and American troops in locations that otherwise would certainly be occupied by the Soviets. Eventually, British and American troops would have to go into France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc., but that could happen after the Germans effectively stopped defending them (as they certainly would) in order to slow the Soviet advance. The idea was that the Germans desperately preferred to surrender to the West rather than to the Soviets and would ultimately in effect invite the Western forces to occupy Western Europe including Germany. Meanwhile the bombing campaign had already made it impossible for Germany to sustain its war effort.

The issue with D-Day was that, by attacking an area the Germans were still heavily defending, it risked giving the Germans a significant, morale-boosting victory (and at a huge cost in lives and materiel to the British and Americans). That didn’t happen in the end, but things were very dicey for days if not weeks after June 6, and casualties were very heavy. The fact that it ultimately did work was a huge victory for the good guys, but that alone doesn’t mean that it was the best choice to make.

Another reason the British were very wary of landing in Normandy was they had gotten their butts kicked trying a smaller version of that in Dieppe raid of 1942. They sent in 6000 men to seize the port of Dieppe and were met by a strong German defense. The British were forced to retreat with over 60% of their forces killed, captured, or wounded while accomplishing none of their objectives.

This taught them that successfully invading Normandy was not going to be easy. They viewed the American eagerness for the D-Day invasion as naive over-confidence.

Interesting exchange, thank you JHS and Scipio

In this proposal, how would the Allies have gotten armies into the Danube Valley?

According to the maps at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Atlas_of_the_World_Battle_Fronts_in_Semimonthly_Phases_to_August_15_1945 , in late May 1944, the western Allies controlled southern Italy, Sardinia, and Corsica, while the USSR was approximately back to its pre-war border, with Germany and other Axis countries controlling all of the countries that the Danube flows through. The USSR was the closest to any part of the Danube, and reached it in September 1944.

If D-Day had not happened, my father might have starved to death in a German POW camp.

Alternative history is always a tricky business, of course. But I know that the men in the POW camp where he was imprisoned gratefully followed the progress of the Allied troops, using a radio that was hidden from the guards, and passing messages around on tiny pieces of paper. There was a lot of uncertainty at the time of the Battle of the Bulge (Edited to add: in the POW camp, I mean). However, my father was certain that the Allies would prevail, and I believe he helped to keep up the morale of the men in his POW room.

This question reminds me of General Anthony McAuliffe’s reply when the 101st Airborne was surrounded at Bastogne, and the Germans demanded his surrender: “Nuts!”

D-Day probably saved a large number of Russian lives. Their casualties were huge.

“If D-Day had not happened, my father might have starved to death in a German POW camp.”

If the A-bomb had not happened, my father would have definitely been shot to death in a Japanese POW camp.

He was stationed in the Philippines and was wounded in combat and then taken prisoner when the field hospital was captured by the Japanese Army. He rotted in POW camps in the Philippines and later in Japan itself for three and a half years. But the POWs all knew they were going to die when the US invasion came, because all the guards had standing orders to kill the prisoners and report for combat duty if and when the invasion started. They were all saved by the sudden end of the war due to the A-bomb.

The morality, justification, or necessity of the US use of the atomic bomb was never questioned or debated in our house.

I’d guess for everyone on this forum who is actually a parent, it goes without saying that being a POW in a Japanese camp was a very great deal worse than being a POW in a German camp, but I’ll mention that. I am really sorry for your father’s experience, Scipio.

There were rumors in the German POW camp that the Germans also planned to shoot the POW’s. I don’t know whether this was true or not. My father believes that Himmler came to the camp near the final days, to countermand the order to shoot the POW’s.

The Germans were certainly planning to relocate the POW’s by a march. The guards put on a demonstration of a group of men (Germans) marching, with one man falling behind. He was repeatedly attacked by the guard dogs. He was wearing padding, of course. However, the message to the POW’s about a relocation march was pretty clear. Men came around to the various POW rooms after that to ask the men whether they thought they could march 5 miles if their lives depended on it. My father said that he could not. In his area of the camp, they had been on 400 calories per day rations for about 6 weeks at that point. (I think that higher-ranking American and British officers were treated better.) The highest ranking American officer in the camp told the Germans that the POW’s would not march out. One way or another, his position prevailed.

My father was liberated from his POW camp by the Russians as they advanced from the east. The ex-POW’s were told that in six weeks, they would be headed for combat in Japan. Of course, that did not happen.