D-Day and the End of the Bloomingdale’s Catalog
Of course, a number of screwups in equipment planning occurred on the part of the Allies as well as the German defenders. Among them:
* Tank Skirts Large canvas skirts were fitted over the tops of 35-ton Sherman tanks, causing them to float low in the water and look like innocuous rubber rafts. Equipped with small propellers, these tanks were designed to operate in seas with no more than 1-foot swells. On D-Day, 32 tanks of the 741 Tank Battalion were launched from a mother ship 6,000 yards from shore into 6-foot seas, and 25 of them went straight to the bottom with virtually no escape for the crew. Only two arrived on the beach. Shortly thereafter, three additional tanks landed, but all five were knocked out within minutes.
* Rip Currents The American and British Army planners were clearly not sailors. They did not figure on the fierce rip currents that roared parallel to the landing sites, which caused the square-sided, fully loaded landing craft with relatively weak power plants to skitter out of control and end up thousands of feet away from their intended destinations.
* German Generals Not Owning Their Jobs On the morning of June 6, German commander Marshal Erwin Rommel was grabbing a quick visit home in the town of Ulm. His deputy, Gen. Hans Speidel, realized at once that he was watching the actual Allied invasion and ordered into the fray the 12th and 21st SS Panzer Tank Divisions held in reserve in the Caen and Calais areas.
Hitler, back in his eyrie in the Bavarian Alps, was a night owl who routinely went to bed at 3 or 4 a.m. and slept until noon. No one dared wake Der Fuhrer, even though 5,000 ships were off the coast of Normandy, and Allied troops and equipment were streaming ashore. Hitler had also been duped by the Allies’ FUSAG propaganda campaign, and he countermanded Speidel’s order for tank reinforcements. By the time the Panzers were unleashed, the Allies had a foothold, and they were too late.