D-Day: a German perspective

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This week in the Argyllshire Advertiser you can read all about the critical contribution one Combined Operations training centre on Loch Fyne made to the D-Day landings.

But what was the reaction in the German media to this sudden, massive attack of 5,000 ships and 150,000 troops on the Normandy coast?

For our first-hand account from the Nazi side we have to thank Scottish soldiers taken prisoner during the Dunkirk operation in 1940.

While imprisoned by the Nazis in the Stalag PoW camps in Poland, the prisoners had access to propaganda-filled German newspapers.

In the edition of June 7, 1944 the newspaper Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported (no translation required):

Die Invasion hat begonnen

As the Allies fought their way, often hand-to-hand, through fields and hedges, through the French countryside, the front page of the magazine Stuttgarter Illustrierte a fortnight later showed the haunted faces of young German soldiers, while inside pages featured pictures of destruction at the hands of the Allies alongside images of German victories.

Squeezed by Russian forces to the east and the Allies to the West the Nazi propaganda machine spread Hitler’s message. In the July 22, 1944 edition Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung carried the front page headline:

Mit dem Fuhrer zum Sieg or ‘With the Fuhrer to Victory’

Tellingly, the sub-headline reads: ‘after the complete collapse of the conspiracy’. All was not well at the top of the Third Reich.

By the end of August, the Germans were in full retreat out of France.

Victory, though, was still far from secure for the Allies, and by winter 1944 the advance had stalled. Hitler launched a surprise counter-offensive in December in the Ardennes, countered by US and British forces in the Battle of the Bulge.

Air supremacy eventually told when the weather cleared and the Germans were halted. Hitler’s last-ditch gamble had failed; his reserves exhausted.

The Allied advance resumed and in March 1945 they crossed the Rhine.

In April, British and American troops linked up with the Russians on the Elbe.

The war in Europe ended with German surrender on May 7, 1945.

Yet without the skill, experience and courage of the 250,000 troops of many Allied nations trained in amphibious assault between between 1940 and 1944 at the Combined Operations centre at Inveraray on Loch Fyne – how different might the outcome have been?