Members of the British 6th Airborne Division being briefed for the invasion
From the vantage point of 71 years, the monumental Normandy invasion smoothly unfolded on June 6, 1944, according to a meticulously detailed plan, with 3 million men, 47 divisions, and 6,000 ships piercing Nazi defenses in an inevitable and unstoppable march to Berlin.
Operation Overlord was an almost-impossible political and logistical nightmare to conceive and execute, with the Allied high command weighing and discarding many options for landing sites, dates, and equipment, then pulling together the ultimate battle plan in secret.
According to David Eisenhower, grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, Germany’s unwillingness to risk the Luftwaffe in the early stages of any invasion meant that their barely existent aerial surveillance in the weeks leading up to D-Day relegated military leaders to making calculations based on their knowledge of overall Allied strength and obsolete information regarding the actual troop numbers in southern England. And while that concentration of land, sea, and air forces persuaded Hitler that Normandy was likely the Allied target, its deployment went undetected.
Before the invasion General Eisenhower wrote a now-famous memo to be released if Operation Overlord failed, saying that the responsibility was his alone. However, its success led to the liberation of Paris and hastened the end of the war in Europe. The daring cross-Channel operation opened a new Western front, striking a psychological blow to the German military.
Eisenhower is the director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.