This book is an interesting departure – it isn’t a history of the attack itself but of the planning process before the invasion and how it failed, resulting in the high casualties and near defeat at Omaha.
Differing Invasion Philosophies
One factor was the different outlook the US and England had on how to conduct an amphibious invasion. The US tended to not worry about surprise, favoring a huge, daylight naval and air bombardment to work over the beach area. This worked well in the Pacific, where the defender was an isolated island, but would give time for the Germans to respond.
The British tended to favor surprise, landing at night with minimal bombardment at an undefended spot. In this case, though, the limited places where a large invasion could take place meant there were no options to ‘sneak into’.
The result was a compromise that probably was worse than either alternative on its own. The landing would be at dawn, with a short naval and air bombardment. If it worked, fine, but if the defenses were not destroyed they would have clear shots at the invading troops.
Air power Overconfidence
The invasion planners assumed that the air force could destroy installations on the beach with speed. As usual, the claims of the air force were not sustained by the result, and the defenses were not appreciably degraded.
The plan to use half of two divisions in the initial attack, one of them green was probably a mistake. The corps commander wanted to get the entire 1st Division ashore together. At a lower level, too, the arrangement of many of the assault craft loading was such that commanders were exposed at the front of the vessels. A good idea if there was no opposition, not so much if these men were the first ones killed.
The ‘floating tank’ gimmick was used to avoid having to use too many tank carrying craft, but in the conditions of Omaha these tanks sank and were lost.
There was also an underestimation of how difficult the invasion was going to be, thus the fact that other considerations than maximizing success tended to take precedence at every level. The troops on the ground managed to ‘muddle through’ but a better plan and better preparation would have made the invasion a lot easier and less costly.