“An achieve­ment of the high­est or­der”

Stalin con­grat­u­lates Churchill on the “mas­terly ex­e­cu­tion” of D-Day

BBC History Magazine - - Second World War Letters -

On 6 June 1944, Bri­tish, Amer­i­can, Cana­dian and other Al­lied forces fi­nally landed along 50 miles of Nor­mandy beaches, backed by a for­mi­da­ble ar­ray of war­ships and airpower. Ca­su­al­ties were lighter than feared and the beach­head was soon se­cure. For nearly three years, Stalin had scoffed at the chal­lenge of cross­ing the Chan­nel, some­times ac­cus­ing the Al­lies of cowardice. But on 11 June he sent Churchill a re­mark­able mes­sage of praise.

“My col­leagues and I can­not but ad­mit that the his­tory of war­fare knows no other like un­der­tak­ing from the point of view of its scale, its vast con­cep­tion and its mas­terly ex­e­cu­tion. As is well known, Napoleon in his time failed ig­no­min­iously in his plan to force the Chan­nel. The hys­ter­i­cal Hitler, who boasted for two years that he would ef­fect a forc­ing of the Chan­nel, was un­able to make

11 JUNE 1944

up his mind even to hint at at­tempt­ing to carry out his threat. Only our Al­lies have suc­ceeded in re­al­is­ing with hon­our the grandiose plan of the forc­ing of the Chan­nel. His­tory will record this deed as an achieve­ment of the high­est or­der.”

June 1944 was, in fact, the high-wa­ter mark of the Grand Al­liance. Stalin timed his ma­jor of­fen­sive on the eastern front, Op­er­a­tion Ba­gra­tion, to start a cou­ple of weeks af­ter the Over­lord land­ings in Nor­mandy. By co­in­ci­dence, the start date was 22 June – three years to the day af­ter Hitler in­vaded the USSR. Over the next month, the Sovi­ets de­stroyed Hitler’s Army Group Cen­tre and drove 400 miles west to the edge of War­saw. With the Re­ich now fac­ing war on two fronts, it is no ac­ci­dent that the most se­ri­ous plot against Hitler’s life was mounted on 20 July. The end was in sight.

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