The Liberation Trilogy, by Rick Atkinson

The Epic Story of the Liberation of Europe in World War II

To mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, I've asked my fellow historian Joseph Balkoski, whose scholarship on Operation OVERLORD is unsurpassed, to write a series of short essays about preparations for the invasion. A new article will appear every two weeks between now and June 6.

— Rick Atkinson


Rommel and the Atlantic Wall
by Joseph Balkoski
Posted February 17, 2014

General Montgomery’s revised OVERLORD plan strove to ensure victory by relying on that venerable military principle known as “concentration of force.” Even more essential, however, were the tenets of secrecy and surprise: if the Germans figured out where and when the D-Day invasion would take place, even the most brilliant plan’s chance of success would be diminished by an alarming factor.

Once the Anglo-American high command agreed in August 1943 that Morgan’s OVERLORD scheme would be the Allies’ chief military operation of 1944, keeping the invasion plan secret for nine or more months would be a formidable challenge. Still more disquieting was the determination by Allied intelligence in early 1944 that the Germans were energetically enlarging their armies in western Europe and bolstering the coastal defenses of their “Atlantic Wall.” True, Adolf Hitler possessed only meager talents as a military strategist, but he had correctly deduced the Allies’ intent more than a year before D-Day when he warned his generals, “A major landing of the enemy in the West would bring us to a generally critical position.” In a November 3, 1943, directive, Hitler avowed, “Only an all-out effort in the construction of fortifications, an unsurpassed effort that will enlist all available manpower and physical resources of Germany and the occupied areas, will be able to strengthen our defenses along the coast within the short time that still appears to be left to us. . . . Should the enemy nevertheless force a landing by concentrating his armed might, he must be hit by the full fury of our counterattack. . . . I expect that all agencies will make a supreme effort toward utilizing every moment of the remaining time in preparing for the decisive battle in the West.”

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