Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


“I thank the Gods of War we went when we did"
June 5, 2014 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Today, June 5, would be the 70th anniversary of D-Day if not for the last-minute prognostication of British meteorologist James Stagg. The planners of the Normandy landings originally designated June 5, 1944 as D-Day, basing their decision on a favorable combination of tide patterns and a full moon, which would help with pilot visibility. On the evening of June 4, however, Royal Air Force meteorologist Captain James Stagg met with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower with a dire last-minute warning: a large storm brewing just north of Scotland would bring heavy winds, turbulent seas, and thick cloud cover over the English Channel. Ike's decision to change the invasion to June 6, on the advice of a lone meteorologist practicing an emergent and unreliable science, may have been the turning point of the war. Historian John Ross, author of The Forecast for D-Day and the Weatherman Behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble, contends, "Had Ike listened to his countrymen's predictions and launched D-day on June 5, it would have failed with catastrophic consequences for the Western Allies and world history."
posted by eitan (41 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ironically, my great-grandfather became ein Wetterfrosch for the Luftwaffe to get out of SS conscription/frontline combat duty.
posted by Ryvar at 11:18 AM on June 5


Had D-Day failed Russia would have won it anyway. Maybe taken an extra 6 or 12 months.
posted by stbalbach at 11:32 AM on June 5 [5 favorites]


And Berlin would have been A-Bombed.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:34 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


Had D-Day failed Russia would have won it anyway. Maybe taken an extra 6 or 12 months.

At that time, wouldn't that outcome have been considered as bad as anything to the Allies?
posted by Think_Long at 11:35 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Not to be pedantic, but June 5, 1944 would have been the 70th anniversary of 'C-Day', not 'D-Day'.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:37 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Had D-Day failed it would likely have meant Soviet domination of Western Europe for 50 years. I think that certainly would have been bad news for the citizens of Western Europe.
posted by bowline at 11:38 AM on June 5 [7 favorites]


Did Churchill intentionally delay D-Day? "Many Russians are convinced to this day that the delay was a deliberate ploy. While D-Day "helped us a great deal", Kosyak said, Churchill "wanted the Russians and Germans to destroy each other in this war, and to enter it at the right moment when both were weakened".
posted by stbalbach at 11:41 AM on June 5


Had D-Day failed Russia would have won it anyway. Maybe taken an extra 6 or 12 months.

The first link only goes that far, quoting Ike as saying "The conquest of western Europe could well have taken another year.” But the second link invites you to imagine further ramifications:
"The Communists might well take control of the continent, and Eisenhower would have been sacked, never to become president, opening the door for General Douglas McArthur who wanted to use nuclear weapons in Korea." It's not as if we can presume nuclear war from a D-Day failure, but it's certainly impossible to just shrug off such a pivotal moment.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 11:44 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


There's a long legacy of crucial military decisions made on the basis of shaky science. We mostly know about the successful ones.
posted by tommasz at 11:44 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


Not to be pedantic, but June 5, 1944 would have been the 70th anniversary of 'C-Day', not 'D-Day'.

D-Day means "the day this operation happens," not "the fourth day" or "the day after C-Day." It's unique to any particular operation, and tends to change based on how preparation for the operation forces changes to the actual date that the operation needs to kick off.

Days before and after a particular D-Day are "D-Day minus one" and "D-Day plus one," respectively, not "C-Day" and "E-Day."

June 6th, 1944, isn't the only D-Day. It's just an important one that got remembered as such.
posted by Etrigan at 11:47 AM on June 5 [16 favorites]


Not to be pedantic, but June 5, 1944 would have been the 70th anniversary of 'C-Day', not 'D-Day'.

What happened in 1874?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:48 AM on June 5 [11 favorites]


There is a similarly toned account in The Making of the Atomic Bomb of Leslie Groves waking up the Trinity meteorologist because fierce storms were whipping the site before dawn on the test date, and the weather guy coolly explaining to him that the storms would stop when the sun came up. Which they did, and the test went forward.
posted by localroger at 12:02 PM on June 5


Not to be pedantic, but June 5, 1944 would have been the 70th anniversary of 'C-Day', not 'D-Day'.

"D-day" is a designation like "h-hour" or "m-minute". It's basically an "x" to denote "that time we will say". June 7 was not "e-day". Had the invasion started on June 5th, it would have been "d-day".
posted by hal_c_on at 12:19 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


wow! a story like this make me think about the butterfly effect.

It also makes me feel that success for most of the things is accidental ...

there simply are so many factors which can influence or change the decision that its amazing we are able to get results as per plan.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 12:24 PM on June 5


Metafilter: Not to be pedantic, but…
posted by mazola at 12:27 PM on June 5 [14 favorites]


I'm speculating but I can't imagine Russia going much further than they ultimately did should D-day have been a failed effort [not that it was a spectacular military success but if you throw enough people and lead...]. Yugoslavia seemed the bulwhark and I'm having trouble imagining France or Italy as a Soviet country. That might just be because it didn't turn out that way though.
posted by vapidave at 12:40 PM on June 5


At that time, wouldn't that outcome have been considered as bad as anything to the Allies?

I think you mean Western Powers, Russia joined Allied Forces in June '41, before the US.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:45 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


"What happened in 1874?"

June 4, 1874 – The flag of Estonia is adopted as the flag of the Estonian Students Society in Otepää.
posted by marienbad at 12:48 PM on June 5 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately the clearing weather didn't much help the airborne troops to hit their drop zones, nor the bombers to knock out the beach defenses or blow the craters the landing troops needed for shelter from the presighted guns that covered every inch of Omaha.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:01 PM on June 5


I wish I could unreservedly recommend the 2011 novel Turbulence by Giles Foden (he also wrote The Last King of Scotland).

Amazon teaser:
"Five days before D-day, a team of Allied scientists is charged with making an accurate weather forecast for the landings. Henry Meadows—a young math prodigy from the Met Office—is sent to Scotland to uncover Wallace Ryman’s revolutionary system for understanding turbulence..."

It's brilliantly written fiction, and meticulously researched -as far as I know. But it's also a mess structurally, basically a heroic failure. (I still loved it!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:26 PM on June 5


As so happens, WWII Today is on 1944 now, and has begun their countdown to the invasion. Scroll down to start at June 4, and be sure to open up each entry for an expanded read (and pics!).
posted by Thorzdad at 1:35 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Now I want somebody to write a scrupulously-researched novel (a la Willis' Doomsday and All Clear) in which D-Day is June 5, it fails, and all the ramifications of that, leading to anti-Soviet French resistance fighters/activists/whathaveyou in, say, 2020, inventing time travel and going back and convincing the Air Force meteorologist to change the date, resulting in the world we live in.

I don't have time to write such a novel. Have at it, internet.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:02 PM on June 5 [7 favorites]


I'm having trouble imagining France or Italy as a Soviet country.

The Italian Communist party was extremely powerful during the early Cold War, the largest left-wing party in Italy. Stalin was well thought-of. A communist revolution was far from impossible. In a world where D-Day didn't happen, a communist Italy seems like the most probable outcome.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:51 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]


Yugoslavia seemed the bulwhark and I'm having trouble imagining France or Italy as a Soviet country.

Fun Fact: the Tito/Stalin split was partially based on the fact that Tito wanted Trieste (Trst) for Yugoslavia, but Stalin thought that that argument would needlessly antagonize the West.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:56 PM on June 5


Unfortunately the clearing weather didn't much help the airborne troops to hit their drop zones, nor the bombers to knock out the beach defenses or blow the craters the landing troops needed for shelter from the presighted guns that covered every inch of Omaha.

I have previously mentioned here a quote that I remember from ca. college reading along the lines that "D-Day was a failure in every significant way (or way that mattered), except that it was a success."
It is un-google-able, so could mean it never existed -- in which case I am happy to take credit for inventing it.

The stuff that gets me is things like the floating tanks that sank to the bottom of the channel with men inside, thanks to choppier-than-predicted waters.

Now I want somebody to write a scrupulously-researched novel (a la Willis' Doomsday and All Clear) in which D-Day is June 5, it fails, and all the ramifications of that

What if you drop a Roman legion into Normandy on, say, June 3 ....
posted by dhartung at 6:17 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


In a world where D-Day didn't happen, a communist Italy seems like the most probable outcome.

I imagine that some people were very gladio that Italy never went communist.
posted by CincyBlues at 7:04 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


in which D-Day is June 5, it fails, and all the ramifications of that....

Burying Private Ryan.
posted by storybored at 7:24 PM on June 5


D-Day means "the day this operation happens," not "the fourth day" or "the day after C-Day."

Weird...I have a very strong recollection of being taught in school (25 years ago mind) that there were designated days and that D-Day was the 4th designated day in the range. Humph.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:54 PM on June 5


Metafilter: Not to be pedantic, but…

Metafilter: Not to be pedantic butt
posted by srboisvert at 8:24 PM on June 5


D-Day means "the day this operation happens," not "the fourth day" or "the day after C-Day." It's unique to any particular operation, and tends to change based on how preparation for the operation forces changes to the actual date that the operation needs to kick off.

My wife told me this last night and blew my tiny mind.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:44 PM on June 5


Had D-Day failed Russia would have won it anyway. Maybe taken an extra 6 or 12 months.

By May 1944 the Soviets had pushed the Germans out of Russia and Ukraine, and out of half of Byelorussia, covering over half of the 1,380 miles between Stalingrad and Berlin.

By contrast, Normandy is about 375 miles from Germany.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:58 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Guardian liveblog on today's anniversary events.

This morning at 8am Radio 4 is beginning to rerun its broadcasts of the BBC's original 1944 news reports, starting with actor Benedict Cumberbatch reading the bulletin during the Today programme in a few minutes' time. The tribute runs until Sunday evening
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:22 AM on June 6


Its an interesting counter factual, but surely in the event that D-Day failed, if we assume the Soviets continue their way into Berlin, surely the axis command would have little choice but to reduce or give up the occupation of most of Western Europe in a defence of Germany? In that case D-day would occur later, but still happen. It would probably lead to a postwar Germany entirely occupied by soviet russia of course, which would indeed be a dramatic alternate history to occupy.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:17 AM on June 6


vapidave: "I'm having trouble imagining France or Italy as a Soviet country."
France and Italy are probably the countries in Western Europe that were closest to getting Soviet-style Communism in the 20th Century.
posted by brokkr at 2:41 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble imagining France or Italy as a Soviet country.

France and Italy are probably the countries in Western Europe that were closest to getting Soviet-style Communism in the 20th Century.

Soviet-style in France, nah, Trotskyist definitely. Definitely as in Jospin and formerly the ICO while still going strong as more "generic" Communism. Still going strong: I live not far from their Nice headquarters, for instance. I get flyers all the time, they chat with people at the market, that sort of thing.

OH HAI NSA wh@%#*

*** Connection timed out
posted by fraula at 5:06 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


In the 1945 French elections the communist party had 26%, Workers International had 23% and the Radical Socialists had another 11% i.e. 60% of the vote.

In Italy in the 1948 elections, which doubled as a CIA/USSR tug of war, the alliance of communists and socialists got 31% (the two parties had 39% in 1946.

So yeah, not such an improbable scenario.
posted by ersatz at 5:09 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


It looks like a New Zealander was responsible for it.
posted by arzakh at 5:17 AM on June 6


"The Greek Civil War (Greek: ο Eμφύλιος [Πόλεμος], "the Civil War") was fought from 1946-49 between the Greek government army—backed by the United Kingdom and the United States—and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by the USSR, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania." More, here.
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:19 AM on June 6


Weird...I have a very strong recollection of being taught in school (25 years ago mind) that there were designated days and that D-Day was the 4th designated day in the range. Humph.

In the live coverage news, the term "D-Day" is used throughout, even in the first translations of unconfirmed German news accounts, hours before the Allied headquarters have announced the invasion. So it is clearly well known at the time as the term for when the invasion begins.
posted by wotsac at 12:56 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Weird...I have a very strong recollection of being taught in school (25 years ago mind) that there were designated days and that D-Day was the 4th designated day in the range. Humph.

I had a high school history teacher who told us that U-boats were called that because they were U-shaped. I even remember the motion he made with his hands. Good teacher for the most part, but he did have the occasional... factual gap.
posted by Etrigan at 1:20 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


I had a high school history teacher who told us that U-boats were called that because they were U-shaped.

Did someone take too many lessons from the X wings and Y wings in Star Wars?
posted by Think_Long at 1:38 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


« Older "In Silicon Valley, where The Work of creating The...  |  Celebrate the (admittedly stil... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments