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Normandy After D-Day: June 7-30, 1944

Germany's Terrible Situation

Converted for the Web from "Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From The Normandy Beaches, To The Bulge, To The Surrender Of Germany" by Stephen E. Ambrose

Simultaneously, the Americans were on the offensive in Italy and in the Pacific, and were conducting a major air offensive inside Germany. But the Germans were fighting on four fronts, the Eastern, Western, Southern, and Home. They could not possibly win a war of attrition, no matter how much closer to Normandy the German industrial centers were than the American.

The senior German commanders in the West, Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin Rommel, were perfectly aware of that fact. Having failed to stop the Allied assault on the beaches, having failed to prevent a linkup of the invasion forces, completely lacking any air support and seriously deficient in air defense, chronically short on fuel, sometimes of ammunition, taking heavy casualties, they despaired. On June 28, the two field marshals set off for Hitler's headquarters in Berchtesgaden. On the drive, they talked. Rundstedt had already told Hitler's lackeys to "make peace." Now he said the same to Rommel.

"I agree with you," Rommel replied. "The war must be ended immediately. I shall tell the Führer so, clearly and unequivocally."

Rommel knew what that meant. Hitler had told him, six months earlier, "Nobody will make peace with me." But the failure to stop the landing on the beaches had put victory out of the question. Hitler would have to go, be forced to resign and give himself up, for the good of Germany. And now, at once. Every day the war went on made a terrible situation worse.

The showdown meeting with Hitler came at a full-dress conference attended by the top echelon of the high command: Field Marshals Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, and Goering, along with Admiral Karl Dönitz and many lesser lights, were there. Rommel spoke first. He said the moment was critical. He told his Führer, "The whole world stands arrayed against Germany, and this disproportion of strength --"

Hitler cut him off. Would the Herr Feldmarschall please concern himself with the military, not the political situation?

Rommel replied that history demanded he deal with the entire situation. Hitler rebuked him again and ordered him to stick to the military situation only. Rommel then gave a most gloomy report.

Hitler took over. He said the critical task was to halt the enemy offensive. This would be accomplished by the Luftwaffe, he declared. He announced that 1,000 new fighters were coming out of the factories and would be in Normandy shortly. He talked about new secret weapons -- the V-2 -- that would turn the tide. He said the Allied communications between Britain and Normandy would be cut by the Kriegsmarine, which would soon be adding a large number of torpedo boats to lay mines in the Channel, and new submarines to operate off the invasion beaches. And large convoys of brand-new trucks would soon be headed west from the Rhine toward Normandy.

This was pure fantasy. Hitler was clearly crazy. The German high command knew it, without question, and should have called for the men with the straitjacket. But nothing was done.

As the meeting broke up, Rommel said he could not leave without speaking directly to Hitler, "about Germany."

Hitler wheeled on him: "Field Marshal, I think you had better leave the room!" Rommel did.

For the Americans, numbers of units and qualifies and quantifies of equipment helped make victory possible, but it still took men to make it happen. And out in the hedgerows, it wasn't so apparent to the GIs that their side enjoyed great manpower and equipment advantages. Indeed it often looked the other way to them. As, indeed, sometimes it was. Meanwhile all those American vehicles would be idle until the GIs managed to break out of the hedgerows. And that rested on the wits, endurance, and execution of the tankers, artillery, and infantry at the front.

Copyright © 1997 by -Tubbs, Inc. Afterword copyright © 1998 by Ambrose-Tubbs, Inc. Converted for the Web with the permission of Simon & Schuster.

Click to Amazon to purchase "Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From The Normandy Beaches, To The Bulge, To The Surrender Of Germany" by Stephen E. Ambrose.

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