D-Day and the End of the Bloomingdale’s Catalog
The logistics were staggering, starting years before deciding precisely where to launch the cross-channel invasion and how to pull it off.
It was not unlike marketing, where you get inside the heads of the people you want to reach, and then figure out their objections and how to overcome them.
What truly fascinated me were the gimmicks, gadgets and inventions—from a simple child’s toy to giant six-story, movable structures—that the planners and their staffs came up with. Among the ideas that contributed to the success of D-Day:
* The Cricket On the night of June 5, 17,000 British and American paratroopers and glider troops descended into Normandy intent on capturing some bridges and destroying others, cutting communication wires, taking out gun emplacements, and generally creating utter confusion. The night was black, and the men’s faces were blackened. They had flashlights but could not use them because their positions would be given away to the enemy. How to communicate? Somebody came up with the idea of giving every soldier a child’s metal cricket toy—a piece of metal that, when squeezed, clicked twice. If a soldier saw a dark figure, he would click the cricket once. The response was two clicks. No response and you shot the guy. Reproductions of “Le Criquet” are on sale in museums all over Normandy and go like hotcakes.
* Mulberries How do you land vehicles from ships a thousand yards offshore onto a beach? The revolutionary solution was the creation of artificial ports code-named Mulberries: 200-foot-long hollow, concrete caissons six stories high that would be towed across the English Channel and sunk offshore by opening cocks to allow seawater in. The idea was at first pooh-poohed by the planners, but Churchill caught wind of it and ordered the project to go forward. Floating roads were built to shore, and trucks could drive out, be loaded directly from the vessels and drive back to shore. The remains of these Mulberries can be seen off Omaha and Gold Beaches today.