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Asked: Why is it called D-Day?

Normandy On June 6th, 1944, approximately a 150,000 soldiers poured out of boats and through the meat-grinder of German defenses on the beaches of France in a somewhat desperate attempt to turn back the tide of oppression, fascism and all those other things that some truly bad people were trying to push on the rest of the world.

That operation was called D-Day, and since then the name has lived on as a moniker for a day of decisive action. But other than that I had no idea what it was called D-Day, so I started looking things up.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. There’s a startling consensus of online references that there’s no conclusive explanation of why they referred to the invasion date as “D-Day.”
  2. Second, this hasn’t seemed to stop anybody from making guesses.

The articles I read pointed out that D-Day seemed to be just a “day,” and it’s well within the military mind-set to pick such a simple naming convention.   The clever thing about obscuring the date is that even if the enemy knew where you were going to attack, without knowing when you were going to attack, they have to stay on maximum alert from now to whenever to try to stop you.  And that never works.

Going back to my reading, I also saw suggestions that it might be “Decisive/Decision” which vaguely makes sense, I guess. That one seems a little more questionable. But since everybody is speculating, why not add to the mix.

My theory is simple. I think the D is the result of one of two scenarios:

  • Possible, the plan name was meant to provide another misdirection. In support:
    • It’s well documented that Allied forces put effort into creating false impressions of where the attack would land. Misdirection drew German forces and supplies away from where they could oppose the landing.
    • The Allied armies had famously been defeated and evacuated at Dunkirk in 1940, given a certain symbolic value to reclaiming that patch of shore.
  • Most likely, in my mind, is that the generals had a series of scenarios for an invasion and had given them clever names like “Alpha,” “Bravo,” and so on.  And if they picked plan Delta, then the attak probably happens on Delta-day. D-day.

That second theory has the elegance of simplicity, but I don’t know if I’m right. Then again, what they called the plan doesn’t really matter.

Since posting, Jenna Waterford has pointed me to a lyrical explanation, that they invaded on D-Day at H-hour: The Day of Days; the Hour of Hours.  This does seem consistent with the do-or-die atmosphere that is attributed to this invasion.  (And I love having smart friends.  Even if they expose my dreadful use of English.)

Sannerville CWG

Does it?

I plan to make a pilgrimage, some day. It seems important to pay my respects.

(Pictures by and Martin McDonald, respectively)

Sunil has a decent memory, a penchant for curious and obscure facts, and a good hand with the search engines. As a result, people seem to bring him questions, because maybe he’ll know. Asked: is a series capturing some of the questions that come his way. The series might provide some answers to those questions. Some of the answers could even be right.

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