This week marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy. This amphibious Allied effort comprised a joint effort between British, Canadian, and American troops. Operation Overlord was massive in scope, and required effectively launching 12,000 planes and 7,000 vessels, landing 24,000 paratroopers into enemy territory, and transporting 160,000 troops across the English Channel and onto and over 50 miles of beaches.
To commemorate this epic operation, I talk to historian Alex Kershaw about his latest book, The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II. We begin our conversation with the context of the invasion and how the plans for it began years before 1944. Alex then walks us through the pre-dawn missions that paved the way for the larger invasion in the morning and how perilously close these first missions came to failing. Along the way he tells the stories of individual men who took part in this sweeping operation, including Frank Lillyman, the first paratrooper to land in Normandy; Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., a 56-year-old general and son of President Theodore Roosevelt; and Lord Lovat, a Scottish commando who brought along his personal bagpiper to pipe the British commandos ashore on D-Day. Alex and I discuss why only four Medals of Honor and one Victoria Cross were awarded on D-Day, despite the high number of heroic acts performed that day by ordinary men placed in an extraordinary circumstances. We end our conversation discussing the legacy of D-Day three-fourths of a century later.
- What was the state of the war in early 1944?
- The primary architects of the invasion
- How much did the Nazis know about the invasion?
- Eisenhower’s mindset on June 5th (the day before the operation)
- The first Americans to see combat on D-Day
- Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s D-Day experience
- What was the sea/ground invasion really like?
- The true story of the bagpiper of D-Day
- The Germans’ initial response of the invasion
- At what point were the Allied forces confident of victory?
- Why so few Medals of Honor have been given
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Our first interview with Alex about the 45th infantry
- Saving Private Ryan
- Allied invasion of Sicily
- AoM series on Eisenhower
- AoM series on Churchill
- Major John Howard
- Theodore Roosevelt, Jr
- Lord Lovat
- Remembrances From the Men Who Were There
- Ronald Reagan’s speech on D-Day’s 40th anniversary
- Battle of the Bulge
- Leadership Lessons from Major Dick Winters
Connect With Alex
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