Today is the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy on five beaches of France. In those long-ago days, computers were an idea and technology was, by today’s standards at least, at the grade school level.
It’s kind of difficult to imagine how the logistics was pulled off without the aid of today’s planning, sourcing and procurement software. You think you’ve got a tough job? Even with two years or so to plan it was a daunting task. And just imagine the stakes: freeing Europe and saving the world from evil murderous despotism!
Even the weather was a gamble. Conditions had to be just right, and there were no satellites to help with predictions. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the allied supreme commander and later U.S. President, was asked by President John Kennedy how the allies overcame the entrenched Germans at Normandy. His response: “We had better meteorologists.”
Overlord was the code name for the entire operation, but there were two key elements to it: Neptune was the name of the assault phase, and Bolero was the logistics phase. Even with technology, talented people are necessary. In 1943-44, it took people. Lots of people. At its height, Bolero involved more than 31,000 officers and 350,000 enlisted men. All they did was coordinate an invasion force of 156,000 troops, 11,590 aircraft and 6,939 vessels (including 1,213 combat ships, 4,126 landing craft and 1,600 ancillary craft and merchant vessels). About 196,000 naval personnel took part in Neptune.
Five days later, on June 11, 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,248 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. The fight went on, of course, but the winds of war had shifted.
Do we rely too much on technology today? No, but perhaps we get lazy and assume it will solve all of our problems. The whole point here is to remember that talented men and women can do whatever it takes to get the job done. The latest technology in the hands of creative, driven people is an unbeatable force.