Firing for effect: the use of field artillery in the Normandy Campaign

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Southern New Hampshire University
Unlike today’s global political situation, World War II was a time of great cooperation between nations, the Allies that encountered and defeated the Axis powers in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific basin. This cooperation extended down to the battlefield, where individual types of military units operated in concert with each other to present an integrated front to their adversaries. Field artillery units represented one component of this highly-integrated battlefield, contributing heavily to Allied victories around the globe. Nowhere is the use of field artillery better demonstrated than during Operation OVERLORD, the campaign to invade Northern Europe in June of 1944. Historians have however generally ignored the use of field artillery during Operation OVERLORD, instead understandably choosing to concentrate on the D-Day Allied landings on the Normandy beaches, an operation that represents one of the most dramatic days in the history of modern warfare. Those historians that do address the following Normandy Campaign (the Campaign) to gain an Allied foothold in Northern Europe address the campaign more from the perspective of the invading Allied infantry, while largely ignoring the contribution made by the field artillery. This work will examine in detail the use of field artillery during Operation OVERLORD in an effort to gauge the contribution that artillery made to the overall Campaign. By using secondary sources to discuss the planning and execution of the Operation, it will provide the reader with an understanding of how OVERLORD came into existence, how it was planned and how the Campaign unfolded. Then, by using archival primary-source material, compiled contemporaneously by the field artillery units involved in the Campaign, it will demonstrate that the use of field artillery was vital to the Allied victory in Northern France in June of 1944. (Author abstract)