D-Day: How It Helped to Form the World We Know Today
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By William Tucker
Contributor, In Homeland Security
D-Day – June 6, 1944 – marked the Allied invasion of France and the eventual liberation of Western Europe. In a mere three months, Allied forces advanced to the Rhine and prepared to invade Germany.
D-Day, formally known as Operation Overlord, was the largest amphibious assault in military history and involved troops from 12 nations. The invasion was a testament to the importance of secrecy, intelligence and logistics in moving so many soldiers and equipment.
Throughout the invasion, intelligence was inaccurate and logistics were imperfect. But the will to fight and the courage displayed by the troops that landed along the Normandy coast more than made up for these shortcomings.
Without that successful invasion, the Soviet Union and Europe would have continued to suffer from the full might of the Nazi war machine. Germany’s western flank would have remained secure and the war would have continued.
US Manufacturing Industry a Strong Contributing Factor in D-Day Success
However, it was not just the soldiers and the secrecy of the invasion that ultimately made D-Day a success. It was the manufacturing industry in the U.S. that churned out tanks, aircraft and naval vessels at such a stunning rate that the Axis powers simply could not keep pace.
This fact has been stated over and over, but it is important to remember that war creates as it destroys. The landings at Normandy doomed the Nazi regime and spawned a new international economic order.
US Creates an International Order and New Economic System
When Germany finally surrendered on May 8, 1945, Europe was devastated. What began as an alliance to defeat Germany left Europe divided.
The Soviet Union dominated the eastern part of Europe and the U.S.-led allies controlled the west. That division later became the Cold War.
In the U.S., the military and intelligence structures created during World War II were institutionalized within two years under the National Security Act of 1947. By 1949, the U.S. was leading the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to contain its former ally, the Soviet Union.
Americans were able to make these dramatic advances and offer world leadership because the U.S. mainland was untouched by the war and was fully industrialized. With a new and efficient system for managing its armed forces and collecting intelligence, the U.S. leveraged its good fortune. It backed two new systems to ensure global security and international commerce – the Bretton Woods Agreement and NATO.
The Bretton Woods Agreement created a new economic system based on the U.S. dollar; the security of this system was underwritten by the U.S. military via the NATO alliance. This was not just an American-led order; it was an American order in totality.
With much of Europe’s economy destroyed by the war, the nations of Western Europe had little choice but to buy into the new system. They needed U.S. dollars to rebuild.
The World’s Economy Would Be Different Without D-Day
We often think of the modern world and the associated politics as a post-Cold War era, but the Cold War sprang directly from World War II. Furthermore, without the success of the D-Day landing, the war might have turned out differently.
All of the effort that went into the war and D-Day gave birth to an America that was unrivaled in power and prominence.
When the U.K. and France tried to seize the Suez Canal and pursue their interests without Washington in 1956, for example, they were publicly hung out to dry. The U.S. even went so far as to threaten sanctions if the two NATO partners did not withdraw.
The U.S. system, set up initially to help rebuild Europe, was quickly transformed into an international system to control global commerce and contain Soviet expansion. That meant the Allies had to play by Washington’s rules.
After all, the Soviets had an economic system and they too wanted to export it. However, the Soviet system was no match for the U.S. model that represented a prepackaged system ready to roll out with minimal upkeep. Sometimes, that upkeep required Washington to push its allies back into line.
Remember D-Day as a Day of Courage and Success
Today, the D-Day landing is remembered as it should be – a monumental undertaking by a courageous force that rolled back an evil enemy. However, keep in mind how much was riding on that success; the fruit born from that success created the American system we see today.
Politics and people will evolve with the times. The systems they create evolve, too.
The current world economic system, born from the devastation of WWII, has evolved as well. There is no Soviet Union and Europe was rebuilt decades ago.
The U.S. will still pursue its economic and national interests, but the American-dominated system is gone. In fact, the United States has all but achieved energy independence, allowing the U.S. to shrink its global footprint should it so desire.
U.S. international concerns will shift and security policies will eventually follow suit. History can turn on a dime, but in this case, it turned on an impressive and much-vaunted military operation that we remember today.