January had been a hectic month for the Overlord planners preparing for the invasion of France. Detailed planning had been undertaken by the COSSAC staff under General Frederick Morgan (Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander) since April 1943. However the Supreme Allied Commander had not been appointed until Christmas Eve – and then Dwight D. Eisenhower necessarily travelled back to England via Washington, arriving in mid January.
General Montgomery, who was to command all Allied land forces for the first part of the operation, arrived in Britain from Italy on 3rd January. He immediately decided that the planned assault was too narrow. Two more landing beaches – Omaha and Utah – were quickly added to the plans.
Eisenhower approved these plans almost as soon as he was appraised of them. The troops were available – but the means to get them across the English Channel were not. Suddenly a lot of additional work needed to be done rather urgently. It was a testing time for all involved, including General Omar Bradley who was to command the US land forces:
The decision to defer D day from early May to June was made late in January, 1944. When Eisenhower, shortly after his arrival in England, counted up the deficits in landing craft, he grew increasingly concerned over the nearing assault deadline.
On January 24, while summarizing his arguments for widening the OVERLORD beachhead, he reported to the War Department that “from the Army point of view” the May D day would be preferable. But in the same message he also said, “Rather … than risk failure with reduced forces on the early date, I would accept a postponement of a month if I were assured of then obtaining the strength required.”
Now alarmed over the menacing shortage in craft, the British Chiefs seconded Ike’s proposal for delay and on January 31 the U. S. chiefs joined them. Although I, too, favored delay while we sought additional craft, I found it difficult to understand why this single, most decisive attack of the entire war should have to compete with the Pacic for its minimum means. Naval bombardment support had been rationed to OVERLORD on an equally tightfisted basis.
And while I knew nothing of the navy’s commitments in the Pacic war, I was irritated by this disposition of the navy to look on OVERLORD as a European stepchild.
This promise of a month’s delay came as good news to the airmen, for the additional weeks would enable us to soften the enemy still more by bombing. Even the far-off Russians welcomed the change in plan. By June, spring thaws on the Eastern front would have dried sufficiently to permit resumption of the Red Army offensive.