An unorthodox view on OP 'Overlord'

The only thing approaching a unifying theme for this cataclysm we call “WW II” is the United States, THE major allied participant in the Pacific (think logistics all you commonwealth coalition guys that are thinking “what about us” as you read this) and the United States becomes the principal partner in the Western alliance which is handling, admittedly only 20-30% of the European War duties against the background of the massive Soviet-German war. I have written this before but will write it again, we say at CGSC that Overlord was simply a deception operation to support BAGRATION and the destruction of Army Group Center!

En Avant!

Dr. John T. Kuehn
CDR USN (ret)
Associate Professor of Military History
Adjunct Professor, Norwich University
CGSC Ft Leavenworth

Hat tip to War and Game.


  1. I think this is something of a misunderstanding. I think it is very difficult to see OP Overlord as a deception move because I don't think it was ever viewed as such by neither the Germans nor the Allies. It would also suggest a level of coordination that never existed between the Western powers and the Soviet Union.

    It is - however - entirely correct that the main fighting was on the Eastern Front. At any given time 75 to 85 percent of the Wehrmacht was fighting there. Something like 85 percent of the German casualties happened there. The battle of Kursk in 1943 happened on an area at the size of Belgium. The battle of Moscow in 1941-42 involved an area at the size of France. The fighting at Omaha Beach, Bastogne or Remagen were peanuts compared to the titanic battles in the East.

    The truth is in other words far worse: The war on the Western Front was merely a sideshow and only occurred when the German army was already halfway defeated. Funny thing is that kids and even educated people in the West are only dimly aware of these facts. I once worked as a teacher in a public school in 2005-06 and it came as a surprise to them when I revealed that the Hollywood-version of history was (to say the least) not entirely correct and that the battles in Normandy (like depicted in “Saving Private Ryan”) could hardly be compared with Stalingrad or Kursk. They hardly even knew the Soviet Union/Russia played any role in the war.

  2. I agree.
    He seems to have used the (questionable) rhetorical tool of exaggeration to improve his chance of penetrating the shells of the audience's preconceptions.

  3. Without the need to Occupy France and defend Italy, the Kursk Offensive would have been 3x as strong as it was.
    The Red Army would have been shattered.

    Seriously, re read the history off the battle.
    The Sovets knew what was happening and spent months reinforcing and digging in.
    Weeks before the attack was launched the German forces were gutted to counter the Italian Landings.
    And still, the Sovets suffered much heavier casualtes.

  4. Germany had hardly the assets to reinforce Zitadelle with more than 50% of the original strength, even if the Western Allies had disappeared in late '42.

    He mentioned 20-30% Western contribution to Germany's defeat, I would estimate it at 30-40% and that's it The Soviet Union did most of the work, albeit it would have been inferior 1vs1 as long as Germany was able to exploit resources of the previously occupied countries.

  5. Sven
    The French and Italian Occupation forces were over a million strong at the time of the Kursk offensive werent they?
    If those men were freed up the Kursk push, the RA would have been shattered.
    Well, it never would have gotten to Kursk, the three prongs of Barbarrosa would have succeded instead of being dragged into a stalemate.

    Most of the fighting took place on the eastern front, that cant be argued.
    But RAF and USAAF Bomber Commands forced 2/3's of German Artilery production to switch to anti air, the threat of invasion forced Germany to apply masses of manpower and economic resources to The Atlantic Wall.

    Fought in the east, won in the west.
    I always considered that an unconventional viewpoint really, much because most people look at the big battles and assume they must have been important.

  6. There were very few combat divisions in Italy and most occupation troops were made up of very old men with captured weapons.
    Forget movies where German troops in France are 20ish soldiers with typical German equipment marching in step. Think of sergeant Schultz with a captured Belgian rifle instead.
    300,000 personnel in France were part of the extremely bloated Luftwaffe and unfit for duty in a battle such as Kursk.

    You cannot simply take the 40% of the Wehrmacht that was not at the Eastern Front, sent it there and expect to reinforce that front by half. About 80% of the Wehrmacht's ground combat power was already in the East between Barbarossa and late '43.
    The front-line forces in Italy/Sicily were for example at no time larger than the losses in Stalingrad alone. Libya/Egypt was a drain on the Wehrmacht's supply of trucks and fixed a tenth of the German armour divisions, but that was almost the whole effect of the British on the German army for years.
    D-Day happened one and a half year AFTER the turn of events in the East.

    I would furthermore not count occupation forces as kept busy by Western Allies. The Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and the coastal defence forces as well s the front-line forces in Italy/Sicily and very few reserve field divisions were kept away from the Eastern Front by the Western Allies, but not the roughly 25% of the Wehrmacht that were on occupation duty.