On my many walking visits to the vast Normandy battlefield in France, I kept recalling the ever so wise dictum of Prussia’s great monarch, Frederick the Great: ‘he who defends everything, defends nothing.’ On this 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings, it’s well worth recalling the old warrior-king.
Adolf Hitler, a veteran of the infantry, should certainly have known better. Defending the European coast from Brittany to Norway was an impossibility given Germany’s military and economic weakness in 1944. But he did not understand this. Having so brilliantly overcome France’s Maginot Line fortifications in 1940, Hitler and his High Command repeated the same strategic and tactical errors as the French only four years later: not having enough reserves to effectively counter-attack enemy breakthrough forces.
Germany’s vaunted Atlantic Wall looked formidable on paper, but it was too long, too thin, lacked defensive depth and was lacking in adequate reserve forces. The linear Maginot Line suffered the same failings. America’s fortifications protecting Manila and Britain’s ‘impregnable’ fortifications at Singapore also proved worthless. The Japanese merely marched into their undefended rears.
In 1940, the German Wehrmacht was modern history’s supreme fighting machine. But only four years later, the Wehrmacht was broken. Most Americans, British and Canadians believe that D-Day was the decisive stroke that ended WWII in Europe. But this is not true.
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Germany’s mighty Wehrmacht, which included the Luftwaffe, was destroyed by Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Red Army claims to have destroyed 507 German…