What if D-Day had failed?

7/24/2012 • Ask Mr. History

If D-day had failed and the troops were pulled off the beaches, what was plan “B”? Where there backup invasion plans of Europe? If so, what were they? Where can I learn more?

—Phil Stewart


Dear Mr. Stewart,

Given the size, scope, location, and timing of D-Day, there was little room for alternate scenarios if Operation Overlord had failed. Calais was closer, but Adolf Hitler expected that to be the landing zone and had the most powerful defenses there (Operation Fortitude had been designed to keep him expecting the landing to be there even as the Allied force was heading to Normandy). The weather was a critical factor—it delayed the invasion for days and failure on June 6 would have held up any further action for two weeks—at which point the Channel would have been experiencing its worst storms in years (June 19-22). Failure was really not an option and nobody, least of all General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was able or willing to consider anything short of success. Everyone involved conducted themselves accordingly, which (combined with virtually complete Allied air superiority) assured that there would not have to be a “Plan B.”

Where can you learn more? D-Day is one of the most written about campaigns in history!  Check your library or the military section in any book store or e-catalog. Osprey Publishing put out entire books in its “Campaigns” series devoted to each beach and additional separate ones for the subsequent breakout operations. Samuel Eliot Morrison covers the naval aspect in his history of U.S. Naval Operations. The U.S. Army put out a treatment on the landings and subsequent expansion of the beachheads in its series. The list is endless and still growing.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
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3 Responses to What if D-Day had failed?

  1. John Merkatatis says:

    I see that you are a researcher; do you know any researcher who advises a reader to consult only books written in his country? what about German accounts on the same subject?

    Do you think that the allied high command had taken into account that Hitler would interfere in operational decisions? and when he finally consented to release the armoured force,that force had to be engaged piece meal because the reaction was already overdue?
    I am certain that you understand that five divisions is not big deal
    to repel on the beaches and the force to do that was ready for the order to be released.A well coordinated assault by the German panzers and Panchergrenadier divisions would have mopped up the beaches;”Failure was not an option? that is not a sound military thinking for an operation of such magnitude! Counting the factors of a
    tactical situation,two out of three were against the allies….and you cannot count Adolf being on your side.In a normal situation the germans would have thrown every last man,tank,gun and aeroplane for that operation knowing full well that if the landing operation was unsuccesful,the allies had no hope of mounting another operation in the near foreseable future.

  2. Louie says:

    Terrible answer. Saying ‘failure was not an option’ is a cliche and does not answer the question. D-Day came close to failure. It was a close run thing.

    For anyone wondering, the most likely scenario agreed upon by historians is that if D-Day failed the Germans would have likely lost anyway – just in a way that would have been detrimental to the West.

    The allies would not have been able to launch an attack for another year, and the element of surprise would have been lost. This would have given Hitler the breathing space he needed to dragging out the War in the East, using up his strategic reserve he wasted at the Battle of the Bulge against the Russians.

    However, the Germans would not be able to force a peace on the revitalized Russian juggernaut, and would slowly lose – helped along possibly by americans using the first nukes on Germany rather than Japan.

    After this, the victorious Red Army would have swept through a nuked Germany, Austria, the low nations, Denmark and France, and would have likely taken down Franco’s Spain while they were at it. Facing the whole of Europe bar Southern Italy under the Red Curtain, Britain, Switzerland and the northern Scandinavian nations would have had to enter some sort of humiliating and disasterous compromise with Stalin and the Americans would have withdrew in isolation and even more paranoia and antagonism against Russia. The whole of western history post 1945 would have developed differently with the advantage in Communism’s favour. It is a scary thought.

    Yes, this is a speculation, though it is the one I have seen come up most often and most agreed upon.

  3. geogus says:

    I don’t agree failure would lead to a red Europe.

    hiltler peace with western allies and for sure would try again in order to fight the soviets,

    would the allies risk a western socialist Europe by nuking Germany.

    I think it might be possible a negotiated peace with western allies in order to stop urss. Maybe in exchange for the release of France.

    today the Nazis are so demonized (as they should be) that historians don’t even consider this plausible possibility.

    prior the war the main goal of the soviets was to spread socialism after the major capitalist powers destroyed themselves in war.

    if the outcome of d-day failure is a red Europe, so we would have an soviet total victory.

    don’t know if UK and US wouldn’t make an deal with Nazis to prevent that. Maybe yes.

    sorry poor English, not native tongue

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