The Battle for Northwest Europe
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor. . . . These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. . . . They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
-- Franklin Roosevelt, D-Day prayer, June 6, 1944.
As spring began to unroll its green carpet across the south of England in 1944, American Gls drilled on the softly undulating fields, staged mock attacks on the shingle beaches and in the leafing copses, rumbled in trucks and tanks along stone-hedged roads, snickered at the quaint ways of the tea- and warm-beer-drinking British, and oiled and sighted their gleaming new weapons. Occasionally they relieved their boredom by setting fire to haystacks with tracer bullets. The teeming Yanks, arriving at a rate of 150, 000 per month since late 1943, were "overpaid, oversexed, and over here, " the British quipped. (To which the Yanks replied that their British comrades-in-arms were underpaid, undersexed, and under Eisenhower.) Yanks and Britons alike joked that only the thousands of barrage balloons tethered to southern England kept the island afloat under the stupendous weight of materiel stockpiled for the invasion: some five million tons of munitions and supplies, including more than a hundred thousand vehicles. Offshore, an armada of more than six thousand ships was assembling to move that horde of apprehensive men and those mountains of weapons, food, and equipment across the Channel.
The nearly two million American ground troops and the almost equal number of U.S. Army Air Forces personnel in Britain represented the bulk of the more than seven million men the U.S. Army then had under arms. That huge force, mass-produced in short order like so much