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World Battlefronts: Setting the Date

3 minute read

No single decision by any man or group of men has set or will set the date for the Big Invasion. That date was set when the Allied command decided to invade, was and is being set, repeatedly, each time the commanders make decisions about the number of troops, the conditions of tide, the ammunition and oil stores, etc. that must exist before the attempt is made.

And the date will not be finally set until some day the meteorologists bring in a weather report and General Eisenhower says, “Tonight we move.”

Yet some of the most vital decisions and events that set the date are obviously in the making. In Britain last week:

¶ A coastal strip ten miles deep and running all the way from The Wash, on the east coast, around to Land’s End, westernmost tip of England, was closed to civilian visitors; even the local residents were forbidden to have binoculars.

¶ Civil airmail service to continental Europe and Africa was halted.

¶ The Admiralty issued an appeal to amateur yachtsmen and other civilian boatmen (many of whom helped to save the shattered B.E.F. at Dunkirk in 1940) to serve the Royal Navy “for short periods of duty during the next six months.”

All of this may not have signified much more than a bride’s beginning to buy her trousseau in expectation. A better indi cation may have been given by a seemingly platitudinous statement that pious, hard-hitting General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery gave to the press:

“The second front has already begun. It is going on now. We finished in Tunisia in the middle of May and then we began bombing Italy. When we thought the Italians were softened up enough, I invaded Sicily. While that was going on, we continued to bomb Italy. Then, when everything was ready, we invaded Italy and knocked her out of the war. Now we are bombing Germany—and how we are bombing her. It’s terrific. When Germany is sufficiently stunned, then we will invade.”

General Montgomery, an able field officer, probably has no more to do with overall military decisions about the second front than General MacArthur has to do with major U.S. strategy in the Pacific. But if his remarks could be taken at face value—if the invasion will come when Germany has been “sufficiently stunned” by bombing—then invasion is likely to be weeks away. For the bombers’ clear track to Berlin (see p. 28) has only just been opened. The stunning is only about to begin.

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