Saturday, June 02, 2007

This Is D-Day (almost) ...

Where were you and what were were you doing in the wee hours of Tuesday, June 6, 1944? I was 9 years old and lived on Pipkin Street in Beaumont and I was asleep. Little did I know what was taking place overseas.

But, Mr. Alfred Aden, who still resides in Beaumont, knew what was going on overseas. He was there. He and some 3 million additional military personnel were beginning a gigantic operation known today as the Normandy Invasion. This invasion also is known as the turning point of WW2.

Mr. Aden was 20 years old and served as Radioman aboard a sub-chaser that led in one of the first waves of troop landing crafts in that historic assault. It was just before dawn and the landing crafts were so low in the water that they could not see where they were going. That’s one reason why the sub-chasers led the way.

Aden described how that they were crossing the English channel on the 5th of June when he received a radio message that read, “postmark #1.” This decoded into the message, “Operation Overlord postponed …return to base of origin.” So they all turned around and returned to England. The weather was so bad that General Eisenhower called off the attack for fear the huge waves would swamp the landing craft. They started out again on the 6th of June. Aden told me that he thought the weather was worse on the 6th than it was on the 5th. But the operation was not postponed again.

One of the more intriguing stories with this invasion involved the advancing First United States Army Group (FUSAG), which did not exist, commanded by General George Patton, who was not on the scene, and the very successful missions that this nonexistent Army Group never carried out. Sound confusing? “Confusion” is exactly what Eisenhower and the other allied commanders wanted to present to the defending German army.

This elaborate, “Operation Quicksilver,” was the largest, most carefully-planned, most vital and most successful of all the Allied deception operations. False information was “leaked” on the radio. German spies were caught and converted into counter agents to help leak false information back to their superiors. The Axis forces were made to believe that a massive invasion was to launch forth from Dover and hit Calais. Fake, inflatable tanks were lined up on the beaches of Dover. False night-lighting was set up on those beaches. Even fake arm patches for nonexistent FUSAG uniforms were manufactured. The night before the early morning Normandy assault began, U. S. aircraft flew behind the German lines at Calais and parachuted dummies (mannequins) wired with firecrackers. The Axis was under siege by some mysterious airborne division … or so they thought.

The Germans were so convinced that the Pas de Calais would be the assault target, that they kept nineteen powerful divisions including important panzer (tank) reserves in place to defend that region. These enemy divisions including the tanks stood idle on the day of the invasion, awaiting an assault that never came. Also these divisions were pinned in the Calais area for almost two months following the Normandy invasion. (For additional information on this “Phantom Ghost Army,” run a Google Search for FUSAG).

Referring to the Battle of Normandy, Adolf Hitler stated, “ … if the enemy here succeeds … consequences of staggering proportions will follow within a short time.”
And in this rare instance, Hitler was right on.
Looking back to 1944, many of us in Beaumont literally were sleeping as the Normandy invasion kicked off. Today as we survey our national and international tensions, let us not be caught sleeping while our enemies lurk about finding ways to devour us. Do we need a wake-up call?
God bless America.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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