Hermit crabs are not true crabs, and certainly not hermits.
I love the structure of hermit crabs, the flat legs fanning out from
the shell, cartoonish eyes and angled antennae tapping away. People who like hermit crabs
will understand that, while everyone else will not.
After seeing the disastrous Omaha Beach landing in Saving Private Ryan,
I became very curious about how it could have been done better.
If you asked an 11-year-old boy how it could have been done
better, he would of course recommend a parachute drop. Okay, let's get this business over with.
The naval forces kerplow the beach with their big guns.
Then four or five lines of bombers - "fingers" - approach from north to
south to bomb the beach in four or five spots on the 5.9-kilometre Omaha
Beach, from the water to a bit inland.
This would be a barrage of thunderous explosions, with much
wider shock waves.
This is extra speculative because during
the actual D-Day the navy wanted to avoid having bombs dumped
on them, so they forced the bombers to delay releasing their
bombs. As a result the beach was (arguably) missed completely,
one of the reasons the Omaha Beach landing went so badly.
Flying right behind each finger of bombers come lines of C-47 Skytrain
planes carrying paratroopers. There would be no issue with
paratroopers landing in the wrong spot or at the wrong time, at least
relative to the bombers.
Would they fly at different heights?
Are paratroopers available? I suspect all the U.S. paratroopers
were used for the drops around Utah Beach. As for the Brits,
some were not used on D-Day. They were eventually dumped into the failed Arnhem offensive
("a bridge too far"). There is also the issue of aircraft
I don't believe dropping paratroopers into an area immediately
after it was bombed has ever been done. It would be smoky. Heat goes up. Dropping on a fortified
area had been done, successfully, by Germans at
Fort Eben-Emael in 1940.
Following behind the paratroopers come
the landing craft.
The paratroopers are dealing with the fortified positions and opening up a path inland, while the
troops coming in landing craft reinforce the vulnerable
paratroopers, after working through barbed wire and mines.
If the landing troops and the paratroopers don't connect
they would both be in serious trouble.
It's nice to picture paratroopers landing right on top of the
fortified positions. However, while
I'm not an expert on parachute landings I suspect people in planes would err on the
side of not dropping people in the ocean, and they would drop in a comfortable field, sort themselves out, then move north in good order
(and not seasick).
Between the thunderous, battering bombardment, agressive paratroopers
moving toward them from an awkward direction and a horizon full of ships
sending landing craft toward them from the opposite direction, I'm sure
the defenders - not as numerous as you think - would be dealt with and a
safe path would be opened up.
The advantage of this fingers approach is that German defensive positions
could be attacked, not head on but from the more vulnerable sides and rear by troops that had moved off the beach. Also some battlefield depth would be achieved within
The way I see it, these parachute drops would be a bit different than
the ones that actually happened. It would not take place during the
black of night but at 6:30 a.m.. You would be looking for
the border of ocean and land, not a remote field. Since the planes are
not going deep inland they would not face as many anti-aircraft guns.
Would paratroopers be eaten up by anti-aircraft fire?
During the actual landing at Omaha Beach the first wave was massacred,
and subsequent waves were piled up in deadly chaos. With this new approach,
fingers combined with waves of troops landing on the length of Omaha Beach,
the first wave would be massacred,
and subsequent waves would be piled up in deadly chaos, although things would
get progressively better. So why not have troops land safely only in
secured beach areas? There are four reasons not to do this:
1) The fustest with the mostest. Forget the beach battles.
The Normandy campaign as a whole was a story of who could bring more forces
to the battlefield faster than their opponent. Keep sending bodies moving
south, alive or whatever, in a conveyer belt of wave after wave. Put
yourself in the shoes of a defending German commander. Having troops
land in secured areas means that these secured areas could be gradually
expanded, but notice the word "gradually". You have to secure the draws
so that tanks and other vehicles can move off the beach.
2) Concentration of fire. German artillery was presited for
areas of Omaha Beach. An artillery observer just had to say a code word
like "Elefant" and artillery fire from different sources would then be concentrated for a period of time, say, midway from
the water's edge to the seawall on a specific section of the beach. There
could also be concentration of fire in the approach to the beach.
3) Landing in certain spots could be messy. Much can go
wrong already, but with fingers in random places people would have to
improvise who goes where when on the fly (including navy men removing
obstacles). Might the landing craft arrive in the wrong spot - which actually happened - or would navigation be easy?
4) Having troops land on the length of the beach would give an early boost to rolling up the flank as the defenders would be attacked from
With the clean fingers plan, troops would only land in the fingers
areas. Ram, jam troops in those areas. Ships could still batter
the non-finger shoreline so that gunners and artillery observers and anyone else in the area are having a bad day. This would go on for, I don't know, 15-20 minutes, as long as you can determine what
you are shooting at. Eventually the secured beach
areas would expand. Flares might be useful.
The disadvantages of this plan have been listed above. But consider
this: You know how in Saving Private Ryan the troops were massacred by
(among other things) machine guns shooting north at them?
Picture all the troops landing at Omaha Beach and none of them have to
face machine guns shooting north at them.
THE REAL WORLD OPTION
So there is the paratrooper option, the integrated fire support
(see the Stuff page) and there is the real world option.
The real world option is just a little tweaking of the existing plan
they had and its execution.
Before the actual D-Day navy people forced the bombers to wait a few
seconds before releasing their bombs, so that bombs would not be dropped
on the navy. As a result the bombers (arguably) missed the beach
So if there was no delay before dropping the bombs, the beach could
have been plastered. The bombardment was intended to bash not just
the machine gun pillboxes but also the artillery.
Before the invasion the British had an excercise. The weather was
and the duplex drive tanks could not handle that. As a result, during
D-Day the British released their duplex drive Sherman tanks relatively
close to the beach. American forces released their duplex drive tanks
relatively far from the beach. As a result, most of the sank in the
If the American tanks are released close to the beach, the troops coming
ashore would have their firepower and armour to help them get off the
beach. This is not quite a panacea. Some tanks would still sink, and
they would not arrive at the same time as the troops. Once they come
to shore they could and would be shot at by anti-tank weapons
firing down the length of the beach, with
not a lot of manoeuvre options.
During the actual D-Day on Omaha the landed troops were pinned down
and massacred for hours. Eventually destroyers came very close to the
beach, even almost scraping the bottom, to pound targets.
Coming close meant that visibility in that smoky environment was improved.
There was some wrangling to allow the destroyers to do this.
The guns on a destroyer are powerful, and this certainly helped the troops
to make it off the beach.
For a tweaked D-Day plan, there should at least be plans made for the
possible use of destroyers for close support.
I would provide a tarp for the landing craft to prevent them being
I would also provide ginger to the soldiers to deal with seasickness.