COMMENTARY | The D Day invasion of Normandy is likely the most well-known battle in the history of the world. It was a near run thing, something that Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower certainly recognized.
Before the invasion, Eisenhower drafted a letter to be issued just in case the invasion had failed.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
What if D Day had failed? It would not have altered the ultimate outcome of the war in Europe. The balance of forces were too great against Germany to be otherwise. But it would have delayed the end of the war for at least a year, with all the attended suffering and death.
The first consequence would have been that Eisenhower would have had to resign in disgrace. There would have been no Eisenhower presidency in the 1950s that proved to be such a balm for that decade. He likely would have been replaced by Omar Bradley, a compromise candidate between Montgomery and Patton.
The Germans, secure in the knowledge that a second attempt at an invasion would not happen for at least a year, would have been able to shift forces out of France to slow the Russian advance in the East and the western allied advance in Italy. The fronts may well have become frozen for the next several months, with the allies stepping up air bombing.
Would failure in Normandy have affected the 1944 elections? In our history FDR, albeit at death’s door, was able to easily win a fourth term as a popular war leader. It could be that Thomas Dewey could have become the first Republican president since 1932, with results that would have stretched beyond World War II.
Fast forward to 1945. Germany would have been in a weaker position a year after D Day, being bled white on the eastern front and Italy. A renewed invasion attempt would have been more likely to have succeeded. But then a wild card was being contrived in Los Alamos, New Mexico, that might have been used to end the war in Europe once and for all.
It therefore is possible that a major consequence of a failure in Normandy would have been the atomic destruction of Berlin. How that would have affected subsequent history in Europe is hard to imagine.