At the beginning of January General Montgomery had arrived back in England and had reviewed the Overlord plans for the invasion of Europe. He immediately insisted that they be expanded – and the Omaha and Utah landing areas were added to the plan. After approval by Eisenhower, SHAEF’s (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) Initial Joint Plan had gone out to the two allied Armies for development at the beginning of February.
Omar Bradley headed the US First Army and during this period he oversaw some intensive staff work. Meanwhile Operation Bolero was accelerating. The build up of US troops in Britain had begun very modestly in 1942. Now there were over a million US service men and women in the UK, and over half a million more would join them before June.
There were still many issues to be resolved, not least a shortage of landing craft to take the invasion force across the Channel. Nevertheless Bradley was confident that the plan was taking shape:
Of all the invasion plans, and there were plans for each echelon in the chain of command, none were more intricate, more detailed, and weightier than those of the assault Armies. When on February 25, 1944, we completed the First Army plan for OVERLORD and called for the corps to come into the picture, we stitched together a huge mimeographed volume with more words than Gone with the Wind. In all, 324 complete copies of this limited edition were published by First Army.
On D day alone, First Army was to put ashore the equivalent of more than 200 trainloads of troops. By D plus 14 the U.S. build-up would more than double the strength of the U. S. Army at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Within two weeks after crashing the wall we would have landed enough vehicles to form a double column from Pittsburgh to Chicago.
The more than 55,000 men who were to assault the American beaches on D day came from approximately 200 individual units – ranging from a division of 14,000 men to a photographic team of two. Every individual, every vehicle, had become part of a monstrous jigsaw puzzle that was to be disassembled for ferrying across the Channel and then reassembled on the far shore.
The equipment we were to carry varied from 120-foot steel span bridges to sulpha pills. It even included fresh drinking water: 300,500 gallons of it for the first three days ashore.
To Thorson, our G-8, and Wilson, G-4, there fell the onerous task of monitoring priorities on this lift. Thorson controlled the allocation of combat vehicles and personnel while Wilson controlled the supply and service units. Within a month they had become harassed men. For rare was the individual who did not believe that unless he were landed on D day, OVERLORD could not succeed.
To make room for troops, services, and weapons supporting the assault units it became necessary to prune from every command all but its most essential transportation. As a result, even the 1st Division was pared down from its normal complement to fewer than half its vehicles. When an officer of the division complained, Tubby simply growled back, “Look, my friend, you’re not going very far on D day. If you find yourself stumped because you’re short on trucks, just call for me and I’ll piggyback you to Paris.”