In the fall of 1781, American and French forces laid siege to Yorktown, Virginia, wherein a large group of British troops, led by General Charles Cornwallis, was stationed. The British were heavily outnumbered, and on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis and his men were forced to surrender. Although the Revolutionary War continued for close to two years after this battle, it is widely considered to be the battle in which the British lost the war, the proverbial “nail in the coffin” (Perkins). Another battle, with much the same far-reaching and profound results, occurred 163 years later, in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944: the Allied Invasion of Normandy (Ambrose 1). This invasion, commonly referred to as D-Day, had a great number of decisive effects upon the world, namely, it ensured the defeat of the Nazis by opening a third major front in the war, it prevented numerous potential disasters which might have thrown the world into chaos had it not happened, and it established the United States as the reigning superpower of the world.
In the early months of 1942, Joseph Stalin began pressuring his American and British allies—Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill—to start a third major front in the war against Germany. He felt that they were not pulling their weight in the war effort. Up until that point, Russian soldiers had been responsible for eighty percent of all German casualties. Stalin’s impatience with the reluctance of his allies continued to grow until a meeting between the three leaders in November 1843 in Tehran, Iran. At this meeting, Roosevelt agreed to specify a date for the invasion. Churchill was more hesitant due to the failed British amphibious assault on Dieppe, France, in August 1942. He believed that the best and fastest way to beat the Nazis was to travel into Southern Europe via Italy. But, Roosevelt and Stalin outvoted him, and the invasion of France was scheduled for May 1944 (“D-Day Invasion”).
The invasion required an unbelievable amount of planning and coordination, as nothing like it had ever been attempted before (Ambrose 40). It required the organization of 175,000 troops, 50,000 vehicles, 5,333 ships and over 11,000 airplanes (Ambrose 24-25). The Allies faced a myriad of problems, the greatest of which was a shortage of available landing craft (Ambrose 44). In fact, it was such a serious problem that the Allies’ entire strategy was planned around it. Winston Churchill grumbled that “the destinies of two great empires seemed to be tied up in some…things called LSTs” (Ambrose 44-45). LST, or “landing ship, tank,” refers to a 327 foot long ship used extensively in the D-Day invasion (Ambrose 43).
Though the Germans already knew that the Allies were strengthening their forces in England and that an invasion was coming, they did not know when or where. Thus, they decided to build up the entire coastline, forming the “Atlantic Wall.” However, the Germans were too ambitious with their defenses, and at the time of...