“An achievement of the highest order”
Stalin congratulates Churchill on the “masterly execution” of D-Day
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.