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To What Extent Was General Eisenhower Personally Responsible for the Allied Success of D-Day

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General Eisenhower’s involvement in D-Day has been widely debated as Stephen E. Ambrose once said “the operation will forever be linked to one name, Dwight Eisenhower ”. Eisenhower will always be linked with the success of D-Day as a result of him being the Supreme Allied Commander; however he was not the only general or even individual who played a part in its success. The main factors for consideration are Eisenhower’s leadership and Eisenhower’s strategy and tactics. Many historians argue that Eisenhower’s personal leadership was the reason for the success of D-Day. Anthony Beevor says that “Eisenhower’s ability to keep such a disparate team together was an extraordinary achievement ” Stephen E. Ambrose wrote “Eisenhower tended to seek out words and phrases that would appease .” These historians agree that Eisenhower’s political awareness in regards to the handling of his generals was the reason for success; Eisenhower was plagued by generals who did not respect him due to his lack of experience. Eisenhower however was experienced, he was the Commanding General of the European Theatre of Operations and he was the SCAEF of the North African Theatre of Operations. For example Dr Andrew Gordon wrote “Eisenhower, and his chief of staff General Bedell Smith, had worked and won with these officers from as far back as TORCH ” Professor Samuel J Newland agrees “D-Day is the prime example of the power and synergy that can be created by a strong alliance. ” Eisenhower recognised this and he realised that for the allies to win the war they had to be a single unified front in their decisions. Newland also wrote “Roosevelt sensed early on that Eisenhower held unique abilities to work within an alliance structure. ” This is ultimately why Eisenhower was chosen to be Supreme Commander because unlike many others of the American generals at the time (such as Patton) he had the ability to compromise and appease, he used this ability in the invasion of Sicily and Italy which he commanded. Where he divided the army in to two groups the East and West group, the east being led by Montgomery and the west by Patton. This can be supported by other historians such as Beevor who wrote “One has to acknowledge the huge achievement in keeping such a disparate alliance together with such conflicting characters. ” Many people underrate Eisenhower’s ability to compromise as simply a way for him to appease the leaders of the Allied nations, but as we can see, many historians do believe him to be a very effective commander and be a great leader of the allied forces. However some historians argue that Eisenhower’s personal leadership was not the reason for the success of D-Day. Joseph Balkoski wrote “for most of 1943, virtually no one, including President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, considered Ike the leading candidate to command that momentous operation. ”, Balkoski is not the only historian to question Eisenhower’s credentials Ambrose wrote that “in his first combat experience Eisenhower had been unsure of himself, often depressed, irritable, liable to make snap judgements on insufficient information, defensive in both his mind and tactics. ”.This shows us that Eisenhower’s leadership was not as strong and convincing as many Americans would have us believe Eisenhower lacked combat experience, he did not have the respect of his colleagues given to those who served in battle such as Patton and Marshall, this is supported by Eisenhower’s own note that he wrote in which he accepted personal failure for the landings had they failed. Furthermore Eisenhower could barely control the men underneath him, Beevor wrote “He (Eisenhower) was well liked by Field Marshal Brooke and Montgomery but neither rated him as a soldier....Brooke wrote in his diary”, “but it is equally clear that he knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of supreme commander as far as running war is concerned ” this shows Brooke’s own personal opinion of Eisenhower. However Brooke’s relationship with Eisenhower could be considered tepid compared to Eisenhower’s relationship with Montgomery which was stormy at best. Montgomery did not always agree with Eisenhower’s leadership he believed that Eisenhower favoured the plans of the US generals over the British. However, the original Overlord plan was written by British Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan. Beevor wrote that “Monty’s characteristically terse judgement on Eisenhower after the war was: “Nice chap, no soldier ”, this highlights Eisenhower’s inability to conduct the respect of his subordinates and ultimately shows his inability to lead these men in battle due to their lack of respect for him, Bradley wrote that Eisenhower had little grasp of sound battlefield tactics. Richard Overy agrees with this steely relationship between the two men, he writes “relations between Eisenhower and Montgomery deteriorated. At Eisenhower’s Head quarters there was talk of sackings: his deputies urged him to confront Montgomery and demand action. ” In addition to this Eisenhower had very little respect from his colleagues in SHAEF due to his lack of his experience in command. Carlo D’Este supports this when he quotes Patton “Patton frequently lamented that they were fighting two enemies the Germans and SHAEF, writing to his wife, Bea “God deliver us from our friends. We can handle the enemy. ” Both of these historians agree that Eisenhower seemed to lose control of the people who he commanded or that he never gained control of them in the first place not only this but also Eisenhower had to fight to get what he wanted through.
Although many historians agree that there was a conflict between the two leaders, ultimately most of them see these two as comrades debating over the correct course of action much like the parallels between Rommel and Field Marshall Rundstedt on the German side. Had Eisenhower been unable to control difficult commanders i.e. Montgomery and Patton then the success of the invasion would have been dubious. Arguably Eisenhower’s ability to contain these generals as part of his own invasion force without stifling their ability to command or their creativity in battle was his best contribution to the success of the invasion; this is most convincingly supported by Ambrose. Who suggests that Eisenhower should be considered a great leader because he kept together a group of men who came from completely differing backgrounds and in many ways were poles apart ideologically.
Many historians argue that Eisenhower’s involvement in strategy and tactics was the reason for the success of D-Day. Anthony Beevor wrote “Eisenhower demonstrated good judgement on all the key decisions over the Normandy invasion and his diplomatic skills held a fractious coalition together .” This shows that Eisenhower’s strategy and tactics were key to the success of D-Day but it was not just his own strategy, he let other commanders opinions be known and often took them on board, Carlo D’Este supports this when he wrote “Eisenhower had done what he did best, establishing the conditions under which his field commanders carried out his strategic guidance. ” The deception and pre-planning that Eisenhower and the other generals employed before D-Day was integral to the success of it, this can be supported by many historians. Richard Overy wrote that “The campaign of misinformation did just enough to prevent German sources discovering the focal point of invasion or the precise timing. Had they been able to do so the concentration of forces to oppose allied landings would have made Overlord too dangerous to attempt. ” Ambrose agrees with this when he wrote “One leadership attribute was his attention to detail, complemented by his instinctive knowledge of which detail to pay attention to. ” Eisenhower played close attention to the running of the deception campaign he was personally involved in the transmission of letters between SHAEF and double agents such as Joan Pujol Garcia (Garbo). Eisenhower ultimately made the decision to move D-Day from the 5th to the 6th of June because Eisenhower knew that there would be a break in the weather on the 6th. Group Captain James Stag, RAF, Chief Meteorological Officer, SHAEF “General Eisenhower pressed me hard for my opinion about the weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6 and 7. ” Eisenhower is largely credited with the use of the airborne divisions even though in the landings in Italy at Salerno he had denied the Airborne troops involvement, at D-Day he saw the benefit of these troops even though other members of the SHAEF disagreed with him such as Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. It is a consensual opinion among historians that the vast planning behind the D-Day landings was the reason for its success, as we can see from Samuel J Newland “The Allied landings were so well planned, so well supported with an admirable deception plan that, together with a little bit of pure luck they succeeded. ”.
However some historians disagree that Eisenhower’s involvement in strategy and tactics was the reason for the success of D-Day. Anthony Beevor writes “Brooke himself acknowledged that “national spectacles pervert the perspective of the strategic landscape.” ”Brooke is saying that it was not Eisenhower’s strategy alone it was the strategy of the leaders of the Allied countries and that Eisenhower had to work around these leader opinions and influence, Patton wrote that Eisenhower has no personal knowledge of war. Also a mistake in the strategy of Eisenhower’s was to pit himself against Rommel who the allies feared to be one of the great German leaders of the war. Anthony Beevor wrote “Increasingly convinced that the Allies might well land in Normandy after all, Rommel visited the coastal defences there frequently. He thought that the long curving bay which the allies had designated Omaha beach was similar to Salerno, where they had landed in Italy. ” Led by Eisenhower this is one of the reasons why Omaha saw the largest losses of the Allies on any of the beaches in Normandy. Richard Overy says “Overlord approved not on its strategic merits alone, but also to seal the alliance. ” So arguably Eisenhower should have made more of an effort to make it a plan based only on strategic merit. Stephen E. Ambrose said that “But decisiveness and willingness to take risks on the political front contrasted sharply with his indecisiveness and caution on the military front. ” this shows that although Eisenhower was an effective leader, his appeasing of the generals did not make up for his lack of effective military strategy. Alan Moorehead further agrees “Eisenhower himself was already involved with too many problems: political, international, financial, governmental. ” This meant that he had to rely on the experience of other members of the SHAEF, this made him appear as an inferior leader compared to someone like Montgomery who was a brilliant battlefield commander.
Eisenhower’s own strategy was not one that can be mapped out; his strategy was one of consolidation and compromise this is most strongly supported by Anthony Beevor. Beevor sets the scene that although Eisenhower may not have had the best strategies of the Allied commanders. His success was in his ability to create the environment where each commander’s opinion could be heard and debated, Eisenhower’s lack of military strategy did make a difference to the way he was viewed by other commanders but his political strategy did make the difference between the success and failure of D-Day. Evidence suggests that Eisenhower was only partially responsible for the strategic planning that lead to the success of D-Day. However, he was integral in keeping the fragile coalition of military leaders together who were under his command. President Roosevelt appointed him because of his ability to compromise with the Generals beneath him and although his own ideas may have been pushed aside, he managed to combine the ideas of others. Had Eisenhower not been part of D-Day then the ideas of such commanders as Montgomery or Patton may have been passed off or resulted in the squabbles of arrogant generals seeking praise and promotion.

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