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1943 Invasion of France?


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#1 R011

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1320 PM

I'm sure this has been addressed before.

If the Allies had decided to cancel the invasion of Sicily as well as curtailed operations in the Pacific in 1942/3, how many amphibious assets would that have had available for the invasion of France instead? How would that have compared to what they had a year later? How would this have affected subsequent operations?

How likely is it that they could have suspended those historical 1942/43 operations?
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#2 Catalan

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1329 PM

IIRC, there weren't enough landing craft in 1943 for one invasion. Take in mind that there weren't enough landing craft in 1944 to simultanuously launch the invasions of Normandy and those in Southern France. In other words, any invasion at that date would have most likely been piece meal. Furthermore, even should the invasion have taken place post-July 6th [Kursk], German defenses were much more robust and proffessional, although admittedly, the giant fortwork along the Atlantic Wall wasn't as complete either [in respect to all the minor details Rommel completed]. In any case, more soldiers would have been German and less would have been from occupied territories [Poles, Ukrainians and other White Russians, et cetera]. The Luftwaffe would have had a much greater role, as well, while the Western Allies wouldn't have had as much aircraft.

In other words, it isn't likely that they would have suspended operations in Sicily in favour of operations in France - especially with the vehement opposition coming from the United States, who by and far by Operation Torch had become the major partner in the West [between the U.K. and the USA, and later France]. Chances of success in France at that point in time were fairly low, considering that German forces did pretty well during the seperate U.S. landings in Italy - Sicily being the exception rather than the rule.

As for hard numbers, I really couldn't offer them to you. None of the sources I have really get into that much detail. Makes you kind of wish that there was an author as celebrated and sold as David M. Glantz for the ETO. Given, there are, they are just much harder to find and less well known.

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#3 Redbeard

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1413 PM

I believe the main factor is that by 1943 the Germans could by rail deploy and supply troops faster than the allies could land and supply them. Not only were the Germans more in control of the skies and with fuel, but the allies would also be short of the fuel pipeline and the Mulberries.

The Atlantic wall would also be much less intensive, but that really doesn't matter so much if the Germans can move troops.

That a major invasion is scheduled to 1943 can hardly be kept hidden, and German planning might be changed accordingly - like waiting with Citadelle until the invasion of France is beaten off.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
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#4 KingSargent

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1441 PM

Sicily actually had a bigger lift in the initial landing than Normandy did, so getting a force ashore wouldn't have been a problem. An OVERLORD - style "across the beach" logistics base using landing craft shuttles from Blighty would not have been as doable, but might not have been necessary either.

Such an operation could not have been done on the spur of the moment, especially re-allocation of global assets. IOW, it would have to have been decided at the Combined Chiefs of Staff (and FDR+WSC) level by mid-1942, and stuck to. One reason there was "always a shortage of landing craft" is that strategic planning sucked - not the planning, but the sticking to the planning. Every theater commander came up with "gotta do it NOW" operations that required them demanding or retaining assets that had previously been allocated to someone else.

Mounting OVERLORD in 1943 would not have been doable. However IMHO it would not have taken OVERLORD to land in France in 1943. The "Atlantic Wall" was non-existent. One reason Omaha Beach was chosen as a landing site by COSSAC was that it was totally undefended when chosen. The defenses came later than summer 1943.

We have done this before, in fact my keyboard is whimpering "Not AGAIN!" It is quite true that the LW had not been "written down" yet, nor had the French transport system been obliterated. But the tactical effect of both could have been done in 1943. Arguments on this should be in the 2005 archives.

As for postponing operations in the Pacific, there wasn't a single operation in 1943 that was worth it in terms of casualties per contribution to the war effort. MacArthur's SWPA antics might have been of use had he gone for the one strategic target in his area (the NEI oilfields), but he didn't. SoPac operations were equally pointless - in what way did struggling up the Solomons chain contribute to strategic victory?

In short, I think that France could have been successfully invaded in 1943, but it would have taken a firm hand on top and complete revamping of the course of the war.
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#5 KingSargent

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1451 PM

[quote name='Redbeard' date='Tue 4 Apr 2006 1913']
I believe the main factor is that by 1943 the Germans could by rail deploy and supply troops faster than the allies could land and supply them. Not only were the Germans more in control of the skies and with fuel, but the allies would also be short of the fuel pipeline and the Mulberries. In order to move and deploy troops you must have troops to move and deploy. The Germans were at their lowest ebb in 1943 as far as troop strengths go. The armies destroyed at Stalingrad and "Tunisgrad" needed to be replaced.

The Atlantic wall would also be much less intensive, but that really doesn't matter so much if the Germans can move troops. They could move troops in Northeast France, but Allied air power in 1943 was sufficient to cordon off an area around a beachead. Doing that would have enabled short-range Allied air to be useful, as it was the "writing down" of the LW was done with expensive SBC assets. An invasion in 1943 does not mean a cessation of the SBC, if fact it would probably assist it since the LW would be forced to fight over France as well as over Germany.

That a major invasion is scheduled to 1943 can hardly be kept hidden, and German planning might be changed accordingly - like waiting with Citadelle until the invasion of France is beaten off. And what makes you think the USSR would have waited? Had the Germans sent the Citadel troops west, there were two nice big salients around Orel and Kharkhov for Joe & Co. to gobble up.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
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#6 Ken Estes

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1510 PM

It has come up each year in several forms. King Sargent points out skillfully the size of the Op Husky fleet at Sicily and what it lifts, more impressive than Normandy's initial assault, but not the throughput. Ike's preconditions [listed in his Crusade in Europe]are not yet accomplished: sufficient troops in UK, number of landing craft, defeat of U-Boat [maybe done but not recognized yet], air supremecy sufficient to isolate the battlefield, and the construction of artificial harbors. But also there is the narrow weather envelope May-August, the need for airborne troops and airlift, and a host of other matters that were not in place in early 1943. None of these concern the German army and its auxiliaries on the ground, by the way, and that was only accountable in the deception plan, the five rein. division assault force (assuming 1 would fail) and placing 3 airborne divisions in the path of reinforcements. One does not embark on such a mighty endeavor on the spur of the moment and the Axis collapse in Tunisia could not be predicted in a way that could have accellerated Op Neptune preparations.
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#7 KingSargent

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1629 PM

[quote name='Ken Estes' date='Tue 4 Apr 2006 2010']
It has come up each year in several forms. King Sargent points out skillfully the size of the Op Husky fleet at Sicily and what it lifts, more impressive than Normandy's initial assault, but not the throughput. Ike's preconditions [listed in his Crusade in Europe]are not yet accomplished: sufficient troops in UK, number of landing craft, defeat of U-Boat [maybe done but not recognized yet], air supremecy sufficient to isolate the battlefield, and the construction of artificial harbors.
Ike's "preconditions" are post facto, and applicable to the situation in 1944, not 1943. Lots of the artificial harbor stuff was fairly silly. The USN CO (Hewitt?) in Europe thought that PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean) was ridiculous - "I unload tankers into tank farms in Britain, they build a pipeline under the Channel to pump the oil to tank farms we build in Normandy. Why not just unload the tankers in Normandy?"

But also there is the narrow weather envelope May-August, the need for airborne troops and airlift, and a host of other matters that were not in place in early 1943.
Neither were the German placemants that made the airborne ops in Normandy important.


None of these concern the German army and its auxiliaries on the ground, by the way, and that was only accountable in the deception plan, the five rein. division assault force (assuming 1 would fail) and placing 3 airborne divisions in the path of reinforcements.
I'm not sure I understand your meaning here, but the "German army on the ground" in France in 1943 was strong in numbers of divisions, weak in actual combat power. Most of the "divisions" that frightened AlanBrooke into incontinence were HQ cadre preparing to train troops to rebuild divisions lost in Winter 1942-3. There were few divisions on the coasts and most of the German armor units that gave Monty fits in Normandy hadn't even been formed yet - nor did they have technically superior equipment that they had in 1944.


One does not embark on such a mighty endeavor on the spur of the moment
I believe that I said that.


and the Axis collapse in Tunisia could not be predicted in a way that could have accellerated Op Neptune preparations.
I don't see why not. It's not as if the Germans and Italians were going to rally, get huge armored armies across the Sicilian Narrows, and kick the Allies out of North Africa. Amphibious assets especially could have left the Med, and the contraction of the German lodgement in Tunisia effectively freed many divisions for which there simply wasn't room in the front line.

If they could do HUSKY with lead time only dating from the Casablanca Conference, why could they not have done NEPTUNE with planning dating from mid-1942?

BTW, I said a landing could succeed in 1943, I didn't say the war would end 50 weeks later (the OVERLORD result). What I think possible is a landing that stretches the German Army thin as it is trying to rebuild (and historically succeeding), that entices the Luftwaffe into combat where large numbers of short-range Allied a/c can get at it, and sucks U-boats out of the mid-Atlantic into waters that can be inundated with short-range ASW assets.

Let there be a three-dimensional war of attrition, build up forces and logistics, and do the breakout in May 1944 instead of August 1944.


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#8 Ken Estes

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1651 PM

Let there be a three-dimensional war of attrition, build up forces and logistics, and do the breakout in May 1944 instead of August 1944.


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King, this is in fact our difference. I think what you propose is exactly what Marshall and his cadre precisely wanted to avoid, and the Brits, with their horror of Flanders Fields, needed no such urging.

The 90 division army -actually 89 - [40 divs and 154 air groups in Europe by Oct44] was built for a series of campaigns that explicitly could not include being bogged down, such as became the case in Italy. The replacement system was woefully inadequate even for the actual campaign of maneuver through early45.

Occupying an enclave in 1943 and planning a May44 [or whatever] breakout places the German Army in a situation where it performs at its best, albeit still losing in the end.

Attrition worked fine in the air and at sea, although we lose 21M tons of shipping in the process of beating the U-boat. We were on much 'thinner ice' with ground forces.
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#9 Ken Estes

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1653 PM


One does not embark on such a mighty endeavor on the spur of the moment
I believe that I said that.

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Heh! You said all while I was still typing...you had not yet posted when I started my post.

Edited by Ken Estes, 04 April 2006 - 1655 PM.

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#10 KingSargent

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 1740 PM

[quote name='Ken Estes' date='Tue 4 Apr 2006 2151']
King, this is in fact our difference. I think what you propose is exactly what Marshall and his cadre precisely wanted to avoid, and the Brits, with their horror of Flanders Fields, needed no such urging.
The big difference is who is doing the attrition. I would dig in and let the excellent defensive terrain work for us rather than the Germans. Hitler would go nuts over a French lodgement and commit assets needed elsewhere against it.


The 90 division army -actually 89 - [40 divs and 154 air groups in Europe by Oct44] was built for a series of campaigns that explicitly could not include being bogged down, such as became the case in Italy. The replacement system was woefully inadequate even for the actual campaign of maneuver through early45.
Quite true, but possibly a continental commitment in 1943 would have clued people to the problems in time to correct the system. If the replacement system didn't get fixed, I'll bet there would have been more incentive to field up-gunned Shermans, and Congress wouldn't have stopped artillery ammo production.


Occupying an enclave in 1943 and planning a May44 [or whatever] breakout places the German Army in a situation where it performs at its best, albeit still losing in the end.
How did the German Army perform best attacking entrenched troops with superior weapons and command of the air - if we couldn't command the air over Germany in 1943, we certainly could over most of France.

Not addressed yet is the effect on allies. Stalin would be happy, the French around the world would be more enthusiastic for the Allies if there was actual fighting in France.


Attrition worked fine in the air and at sea, although we lose 21M tons of shipping in the process of beating the U-boat. We were on much 'thinner ice' with ground forces.
We would be better off in ground forces if we didn't have all those troops going nowhere valuable in Italy and the Pacific. And the attrition I mentioned would be more of the Allies using the lodgement as 'bait' to get the Germans out where they could be killed, not constant headlong assaults against excellent defensive positions like we did in Italy.

Most of the 21M(?) tons of shipping we lost was lost before 1943. The problem with the U-boats was that they moved to areas safe for them every time our ASW got the edge. By 1943 they were using the mid-Atlantic because that was out of range of shore based ASW a/c and we didn't have enough CVEs for ASW (another lack that could be fixed by putting the Pacific on hold until the new fast carrier forces were ready). If there is an invasion in the Channel, you can bet Hitler is going to order the U-boats in, and the short-range ASW available in Blighty was fairly enormous. I wouldn't want to be in a U-boat in the narrow shallow channel with all the Allied ASW that could reach the Channel from England after me.

Same with air forces, we had to wait until we got long-range fighter to hunt the LW over Germany because they wouldn't play in France. If we have a lodgement in France in 1943, Hitler is going to make the LW play with our shorter-range stuff.

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#11 philgollin

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0238 AM

What's that famous quote about logistics ?

First, the Battle of the Atlantic (well mid-North Atlantic) was not really turned until May 1943. Sure before then you could pretty much guarantee fast troopers, but not the slow freighters or tankers. There are some very strange ideas around which are based on Clay Blairs silly strategic ideas rather than the heavyweight strategic logistic studies of WW2.

Second, the supply situation to the land war in 1944 was, to put it mildly, poor, a year earlier with a years less shipping and stockpiling would have been worse still. Without the sheltering effect of the Mulberries and PLUTO and DUKWs how are the supplies going to get ashore ?

Pure idiocy
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#12 KingSargent

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0348 AM

[quote name='philgollin' date='Wed 5 Apr 2006 0738']
What's that famous quote about logistics ?

First, the Battle of the Atlantic (well mid-North Atlantic) was not really turned until May 1943. Sure before then you could pretty much guarantee fast troopers, but not the slow freighters or tankers. There are some very strange ideas around which are based on Clay Blairs silly strategic ideas rather than the heavyweight strategic logistic studies of WW2. One object of the approach is to turn the Battle of the Atlantic into a short-range affair where more Allied ASW can be brought to bear.

Second, the supply situation to the land war in 1944 was, to put it mildly, poor, a year earlier with a years less shipping and stockpiling would have been worse still. Sure it was poor. We were supporting campaigns all over the world that were going noplace. The Pacific may have consumed a small portion of the total logistical effort for land ops, but moving those supplies cost at least three times the lift per ton of movement to the ETO.

Considering that we would be finding the troops and lift for a Cross-Channel attack by NOT wasting time and resources in the Med and Pacific, and considering that those campaigns never suffered any major shortages despite longer transit routes, I think there would be no shortages for a French operation.


Without the sheltering effect of the Mulberries and PLUTO and DUKWs how are the supplies going to get ashore ?
How did they get ashore in the Med and in the Pacific? One US Pacific vet admiral who was moved to Europe said he could have kept the whole invasion supplied with 1000 LSTs* and there was no reason for Mulberries and such nonsense.

We probably would have had Cherbourg at least fairly quickly; Normandy (assuming that is where we land) was essentially undefended at the time - one reason it was chosen as the objective initially.


Pure idiocy
But pure idiocy that had been established by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in 1942, and that the US went to Casablanca fully prepared to expedite. The US JCS went with plans in hand to facilitate an operation in France in 1943 - what they wanted to do was work out the details, and they got blind-sided by a masterful presentation of scare tactics by a man terrified of going to France again. AB and the IGS had spent lots of time concocting lies and the US JCS were not prepared to counter them, since they had been following the plan they were given in 1942.

Churchill was fully prepared to go until AlanBrooke whimpered at him so resoundingly, and AB and WSC snowed FDR into agreeing with them. FDR overrode the US JCS, and the war went off track. The US diverted a lot of assets to the Pacific since they had no intention of dying for Britain's Imperial policies in the Med diversions and with the French landings off they saw no reason not to let the Pacific have enough toys to play with.

*Note that the admiral did not say where the 1000 LSTs would be coming from. <_< It would be interesting to determine just how much effort went into artificial harbors and how much more amphibious lift that effort might have generated.


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#13 JohnB

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0413 AM

It has come up each year in several forms. King Sargent points out skillfully the size of the Op Husky fleet at Sicily and what it lifts, more impressive than Normandy's initial assault, but not the throughput.

View Post


Nope, the HUSKY fleet put ashore only about half the number of men (80,000) during the first two days of the landing as were landed in the first day of NEPTUNE.

I think this specious comparison has come from there being more troops afloat for HUSKY, although as Operation TIGER showed having troops afloat is not necessarily a good idea.
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#14 KingSargent

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0446 AM

Nope, the HUSKY fleet put ashore only about half the number of men (80,000) during the first two days of the landing as were landed in the first day of NEPTUNE.

I think this specious comparison has come from there being more troops afloat for HUSKY, although as Operation TIGER showed having troops afloat is not necessarily a good idea.

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NEPTUNE did not happen. You mean OVERLORD. :P :D

I think we have a discrepancy of the term "initial landings." You are using it as the first wave to go ashore, I am referring (as you suggest) to the entire first lift. Some didn't even get ashore, IIRC - being "strategic reserve" that was not needed, like half of 2nd AD.
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#15 JohnB

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0529 AM

I think we have a discrepancy of the term "initial landings." You are using it as the first wave to go ashore, I am referring (as you suggest) to the entire first lift. Some didn't even get ashore, IIRC - being "strategic reserve" that was not needed, like half of 2nd AD.

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Huh? I said the first day(s) not first lift.

Worth pointing out that a large deep water port, Syracuse, was captured on the first day of HUSKY and several minor harbours to boot.

Another comparison - 510 major landing ships & craft for HUSKY - 2,135 major landing ships & craft for OVERLORD/NEPTUNE.
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#16 Tim the Tank Nut

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0725 AM

It is almost certain that the Pacific forces knew more about invading a hostile beach than the European forces did. The problem comes in the lead time required to spread that knowledge around. That is something that armies still grapple with today.
LST's and LVT's en masse at D-Day could have saved a lot of lives. While I don't really believe a 1943 invasion would have been better off, it certainly could have been done. I suspect the PTO would have really stagnated at that may have been politically un-acceptable.
One thing I've always wondered about D-Day, everyone talks about the mighty battle fleet and all but the BB gun support was nowhere near what it could have been and should have been. Why wasn't there a much larger gun force? In 44 we had BB's everywhere.
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#17 KingSargent

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 0727 AM

Huh? I said the first day(s) not first lift.

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Right, but the first wave (or lift) is all the present at sea and scheduled to go ashore, even if it takes more than a couple of days. At least that is the way I was using it.
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#18 JWB

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 2136 PM

Casablanca Conference>

http://www.army.mil/...44/chapter1.htm
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#19 JWB

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 2138 PM

Tim the Tank Nut
While I don't really believe a 1943 invasion would have been better off, it certainly could have been done.


It would have been better for the generic reason that it is better to attack the weak against the weak than the strong against the strong.
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#20 KingSargent

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 2220 PM

One thing I've always wondered about D-Day, everyone talks about the mighty battle fleet and all but the BB gun support was nowhere near what it could have been and should have been.  Why wasn't there a much larger gun force?  In 44 we had BB's everywhere.

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The original plans had almost no naval gunfire support. The Brits wanted to do it witha few Hunt-class DDs with 4" guns, which had proved extremely inadequate at Dieppe.

The lousy weather interfering with spotter planes made things difficult, and none of the ships had recent experience so accuracy wasn't too good. The Pacific bombardment groups got lots of practice.

The most effective NGS was unplanned, DD skippers noticing the problems and taking their ships very close inshore to render direct support. The German defenses above the OMAHA bluffs were partly neutralized by 40mm fire from DDs.

In 1944, we did have BBs everywhere and all in use, so the ones for OVERLORD were basically the leftovers. The Brits used Warspite with one turret knocked out and only one functioning screw IIRC, the US contribution was three of the four oldest BBs in the fleet and one brand-new CA that was essentially doing her work-up target practice before heading to the PTO.

OTOH, had the invasion gone off in 1943 as originally planned, there wouldn't have been all those other calls for fire support as the Atlantic would have priority.

Using LVTs on OMAHA wouldn't have done any good, they couldn't get up the bluffs. On UTAH they could have been invaluable getting across the flooded marshes so the movement off the beach wasn't confined to a few causeways.
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