How did D Day start?

D-Day June 1944: The invasion saw excesses on both sides

The fighting was tough and extremely bloody. On June 6, 1944, American and German soldiers wrestled for almost twelve hours on Omaha Beach in Normandy, the ten kilometer wide central landing zone of the Allied invasion "Operation Overlord".

Around 2,000 bodies of GIs were lying on the sandy beach after these fights; no one counted the dead among the German defenders of the 352nd Infantry Division. However, staff officers of the 1st US Division noted communications over the radio that a total of 130 German soldiers had been captured. At the end of the “longest day”, however, only 66 arrived at the collection point on the beach to be embarked for southern England.

What happened to the remaining 64 men is not known. One or the other of them may have succumbed to injuries sustained prior to capture, and some escaped. But most of them were certainly shot, even though they had surrendered, according to the notorious principle: prisoners are not taken.

There are many accounts of Allied soldiers committing war crimes in combat or immediately afterwards on D-Day and in the weeks that followed. A well-known account is from Ernest Hemingway; it is relativized by his admirers to literary fiction, although there is much to be said for it, according to the military historian Peter Lieb, that the then US war correspondent had done what he described.

Hemingway confessed to it

In a private letter from 1949 the writer had stated, among other things: “I once killed a very snotty SS-Kraut who, when I told him I would kill him, said: 'You will not kill me! Because you are afraid and because you are a degenerate mixed race. It also violates the Geneva Convention. "What a mistake, brother," I said to him and shot him three times quickly in the stomach. "

On the upcoming 70th anniversary of the invasion, Lieb, a German who teaches at the British military academy Sandhurst, has written a book about "Operation Overlord". The narrow volume shows what modern war history can look like in the best case.

Lieb describes the preparations for the largest landing operation in world history to date, in which 5337 ships of all sizes were involved, from battleships to landing craft. Unlike Anthony Beevor in his highly acclaimed volume “D-Day”, Lieb does not tend to go into lengthy battle descriptions, but always uses examples when they make an important facet understandable.