* Was D-Day Meant to Stop the Red Army, not to Beat the Nazis?

* Was D-Day Meant to Stop the Red Army, not to Beat the Nazis?

One of the most cherished tenets of the history of World War II in the West is that it was the success of Operation Overlord---the massive and unprecedented amphibious cross-English Channel invasion of northwestern Europe beginning on D-Day, June 6, 1944---that broke the back of the Third Reich and ended the war.

But is this really the case, in either a military or a political sense? Did the vast Allied armada sail from England to defeat the GERMAN Army in Nazi-Occupied Europe, or was it actually to keep Josef Stalin's thundering RED Army out of France and away from the Channel coast?

When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill congratulated the Soviet dictator at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 for having taken Adolf Hitler's capital, Berlin, Stalin merely huffed, "The Tsar got to Paris!" He was referring to the 1814 entry into the French capital by his predecessor as ruler of All the Russias, Tsar Alexander I. Indeed, throughout the latter stages of the war---from the Battle of Stalingrad on---Churchill had feared just such a development taking place.

Accordingly, up until the very launching of the Overlord strike, he opposed any invasion of France, reckoning that it would fall to the Allies in any event when the Third Reich surrendered, just as did, in fact, in 1945 the following: Denmark, Norway and Crete, all virtually without a shot being fired. He preferred instead an Allied thrust into today's troubled Balkan region, a link-up with Yugoslavian Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito's forces, and a drive on Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria to keep the Red Army out of Central Europe, where it became firmly entrenched by the end of the war in 1945.

The American high command, however, refused to consider postwar grand politics until after the war was won militarily, and to it a cross-Channel invasion was the easiest, least expensive way to do that. Thus, Stalin was handed intact the old Austro-Hungarian Empire of the fallen Habsburg Dynasty, the Poland of the Romanov Tsars for which Great Britain had gone to war to save in 1939, and half of the old Bismarckian Reich of the Hohenzollerns, an historic coup by any yardstick.

Stalin was well aware of Churchill's attempts to throttle the almost stillborn Russian Revolution a generation earlier, when Allied troops had been sent to northern Russia to aid the counterrevolutionary White forces in defeating the Reds to restore the deposed Tsar Nicholas II to power. He was fully aware as well that Churchill would do so again if he could, and he believed firmly that the Western Allies wished for nothing but that Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany would tear themselves apart while the West looked on impassively, without cost.

Why should they intervene when their enemies were destroying each other? Stalin pressed Churchill at their Moscow summit conference in August 1942 for a so-called "Second Front" Allied invasion of Western Europe for late 1942 or spring 1943. Instead, to placate him, North Africa was invaded, at a time when the British had already defeated German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his Panzer Army Afrika at Second El Alamein.

Indeed, the Allies did have a plan in place for an emergency landing in France in 1943 should it become evident that the Red Army might be defeated, but this was scrapped after the stunning German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943, followed by the Soviet victory in the greatest tank battle in history at Kursk that July. At that point---almost a full year before a single Allied soldier stepped ashore at Normandy---the Soviets had won the war militarily, unless the Nazis got the atomic bomb first.

Stalin knew this, and then---and only then---consented to leave Soviet soil for the first time to meet with Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt at Teheran in late 1943. He had already won the war and no longer needed the Western Allies as he had before; rather, THEY needed HIM to help win the war against Japan in the Far East to save Western lives. Now the West definitely wanted to invade Western Europe, to prevent the coming Iron Curtain from extending to the shores of Normandy and Brittany, an actual possibility before the end of the 1940s.

Could Stalin have defeated the Nazis alone? All available evidence points in the affirmative at that late stage. Berlin would still have fallen in 1945, and perhaps Paris and Brussels in late 1945, or early 1946.

Diplomatically, there may well have been a secret meeting between Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov and his German opposite number, Joachim von Ribbentrop, to cut a second anti-Western alliance deal late in 1943, just as had been done before, in August 1939. The Allies feared this development as well. The entire German High Command knew the war was lost---unless a political solution could be found whereby the Nazis allied either with the West against the East or vice versa, and there were rival factions within the top leadership cadre arguing both tacks.

At Teheran, Stalin foiled Churchill's Balkan plans by standing fast, not only for the Normandy invasion, but also for a second invasion France---Operation Anvil-Dragoon---which took place on Aug. 16, 1944, and tied down what available forces the West had, away from the Balkans.

The Germans were well aware of this political dissension in the Allied High Command, and counted on a political change of fortunes, just as Italy had changed sides in both World Wars to emerge on the winning end twice, as the so-called "whore of Europe." The Nazis simply couldn't fathom that the West would prefer their destruction to an anti-Soviet pact to keep the Red Army out of Central Europe, but that is what happened, how World War II ended, and the Cold War that both Hitler and Churchill correctly foresaw from different perspectives began.

There was a positive side to this equation, however: Stalin never got to Paris, nor did the tank treads of the Red Army grind to a wet halt at the water's edge of the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in France.

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