Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Feb 26

The Other D-Days in WW2

Where does the name “D-Day” come from, and how D-Days were there?.

What is the actual meaning of the D in D-Day?.  A popular view in France is that it stands for disembarkation or debarkation, referring to the invading Allied troops disembarking from their landing craft. Another, more romantic, explanation is decision, deliverance or doom. None of these are the true meaning of “D-Day.”

In 1964 the former Supreme Allied Commander and President Eisenhower was asked what “D-Day” meant. President Eisenhower’s executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schulz,  responded, writing  “General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date;’ therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

“Departed date” comes from a rather authoritative source but it still doesn’t paint a complete picture. Schulz’s statement might have reflected how the phrase was understood specifically during the planning of amphibious operations, however, the historical use doesn’t seem to fully support the claim.  It appears, the U.S. military first used the term D-Day on September 7, 1918, during the World War I, referring to a planned attack: “The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient.” The attack on the German-held area protruding into French lines started on September 12 and was the first and only offensive of the war launched entirely by American troops. Catching the Germans mid-retreat and with their artillery out of position, the battle saw the First Army victorious, thanks in part to the exploits of then-Lieutenant Colonel George Patton.

A brief anecdote about this first D-Day is in order. During the battle, Patton happened to meet Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, another officer who reached the apex of his fame in World War II, on a hilltop. While the two were talking, a German creeping artillery barrage started up, each barrage landing closer and closer to the hill. Both officers had a reputation for fearlessness and neither wanted to flinch in front of the other, so they ignored the approaching peril and carried on their chat until the barrage passed over them, leaving both men unharmed.

The battle, however, was not an amphibious attack, so Schulz’s post-World War II explanation is incorrect. The version accepted by the military today is that D simply stands for “day””and H for “hour.” While the phrases sound generic, their use, however, is pretty specific. Large, complex operations that take multiple days must be planned in great detail and comprise numerous dates and times for various actions and deadlines. If an operation starts early or late, as the Normandy invasion did due to bad weather, all of these times must be changed as well. Rather than setting every date and time in the traditional way and then possibly having to scramble to change it, the starting day and hour of the operation are simply designated D-Day and H-hour regardless of when exactly they would occur. All preceding and subsequent times are given relative to them. For example, D-3 means three days before and H+75 means 75 minutes after the operation commences. Numbers added to or subtracted from H-Hour could also represent hours. This way, last-minute changes in the schedule of the operation don’t force planners to rewrite every single document, nor others to use outdated texts with incorrect times.

The terms D-Day and H-hour saw use numerous times until the most famous example, Operation Overlord. The invasion of Normandy, however, was such a major effort that its very existence caused a decline in the use of the phrases elsewhere. With so much effort, supplies, transport capacity and personnel tied up in the landing in Western Europe, other major operations in the same year received different codes for their starting times to avoid confusion. Thus, the October 20, 1944 invasion of the Island of Leyte in the Philippines started on A-Day, while the first day of the landing on Okinawa, on April 1, 1945, was L-Day, for “landing.”

X-Day was planned to be the invasion of Japan on November 1, 1945, and Y-Day the invasion of Tokyo Plains on March 1, 1946 but these attacks never manifested due to the war ending. J-Day was used as a general term for the date of a specific assault in both world wars. Z-Day was the landing of Australian forces to liberate Brunei in North Borneo on June 10, 1945 and Q-Day was June 23, 1945 rehearsal for Trinity, the first atomic bomb test.

Check out these other WW2 Posts: Dead Man’s Corner – Normandy WW2 American Slang D-Day: June 6, 1944 The Sherman Tank

Feb 26

World War II Today: February 26

1936 Japanese military troops march into Tokyo to conduct a coup and assassinate political leaders.

1940 US War Department activates Air Defense Command under Brig. Gen. James Chaney.

1941 Franco, in response to Hitler’s appeal to enter the war, says ‘I stand today already at your side, entirely and decidedly at your disposal,’ but refuses to enter the war.

British take the Somali capital in East Africa.

Dutch protest Nazi measures against the Jews, German soldiers fire on protesters in Amsterdam, 9 killed, hundreds arrested.

1942 The RAF launches an attack against the battleship Gneisenau, which is being repaired at Kiel’s floating dock. The damage caused is severe and the battleship is never again put to sea under her own power.

Churchill exhorts General Auchinleck to launch an offensive against the German and Italian forces that are gathering in front of the Gazala line. He reminds Auchinleck that the longer he waits, the more time Rommel will have to rebuild his strength. To this General Auchinleck reply’s that his intention is to first build up an armoured striking force as quickly as possible and strengthen the defenses of the Gazala line. Only then would he mount a major offensive, which he advised Churchill would be in early June.

While carrying Army fighters to the Netherlands East Indies, the first U.S. carrier, the USS Langley, is sunk by Japanese bombers.

1943 Von Arnim launches a five-day counter attack in northern Tunisia, gaining some ground. Montgomery issues the plan Operation ‘Pugilist’, which is to smash the Mareth defensive Line in southern Tunisia.

U.S. B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators pound German docks and U-boat lairs at Wilhelmshaven.

1944 Bad weather ends ‘Big Week’, during which 26 German aircraft production related factories are hit putting German monthly production down by 20%.

Japanese retreat from Sinzweya, Burma, ending “Battle of the Admin Box,” as British troops relieve trapped Indian troops.

1945 The attacks by the US Ninth Army into the Hurtgen Forest make little progress.

US Ninth Army reaches Rhine south of Düsseldorf.

Army Group Courland repulses heavy Red Army attacks in the area of Prekuln.

Syria declares war on Germany and Japan.

U.S. Marines land on Verde Island, to the Southeast of Manila.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 12 WWII Today: December 27 WWII Today: February 7

Feb 25

World War II Today: February 25

1941 British Commando’s land on the Italian held Island of Castelorizzo in the Dodecanese.

The British submarine, HMS Upholder, sinks the Italian Cruiser Armando Diaz to the southwest of Malta.

British Nigerian troops of the 11th African Division occupy Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland, having advanced up the coast.

The 12th African Division pushes up the river Juba in Italian Somaliland towards the Abyssinian border town of Dolo.

First delivery of Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers to US Army Air Force.

1942 After the withdrawal of ABDA HQ from Java, Wavell himself now leaves for Australia.

The debate in the House of Commons comes to a close with many speakers being sharply critical of government policy, with the bombing of Germany being called in to question.

1943 The RAF begins a round the clock bombing campaign in Tunisia, with 2,000 raids in the next 48 hours.

First time US Eighth Air Force (based in England) and US Fifteenth Air Force (based in Italy) bomb the same target—Regensburg, Germany.

U-boats break off attack on Allied North Atlantic convoy ON-166; 15 of 49 ships have been lost since February 21.

US reoccupies abandoned Kasserine Pass.

In New Zealand, Japanese POWs attempt escape; 48 POWs and one guard killed.

1944 Convoy JW-57 (43 ships and 19 escorts) sailing the Loch Ewe to the Kola Peninsula, is attacked on 25 February off Norway. One destroyer, HMS Mahratta, is sunk by U-990 for 1,920 tons.

U.S. forces destroy 135 Japanese planes in Marianas and Guam.

1945 Turkey declares war against Germany.

400 RAF bombers carry out attacks against Dortmund and Rheine.

US Fifth Fleet carrier aircraft and B-29 bombers strike Tokyo in devastating raid.

US M26 Pershing tanks are first used in combat in Europe, by the US 3rd Armored Division near the Roer River.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 22 WWII Today: October 8 WWII Today: May 9