Amphibious Warfare in World War II: The History and Legacy of the War’s Most Important Landing Operations

Written by Charles River Editors
Category: · History

*Includes pictures
*Includes accounts of the fighting
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

A swift, sudden attack from the ocean, putting soldiers ashore on a hostile coast at some point weakly defended by the enemy, has been a powerful tactical and strategic tool since the late Bronze Age. Utilized by the Sea Peoples against New Kingdom Egypt and the Greek city-states in their internecine wars, amphibious warfare combined high mobility with a strong chance of complete surprise.

The technique continued in use through such periods as the early Medieval era, when Viking armies numbering up to 10,000 men struck suddenly and devastatingly from the sea using their highly seaworthy longships or “dragonships” (drekkar). At around the same time, the Normans carried out amphibious landings of invasion forces, including mounted men, in Muslim-occupied Sicily (1061) and Saxon England (1066).

As navies grew larger and the Spanish clashed with the Turks in the Mediterranean during the Renaissance, some military forces introduced specialized marines for the first time. These men, trained specially for landings carried out using ships’ boats, formed a part of many European navies from the 16th century onward.

World War II, however, witnessed a sudden explosion in the scope and metamorphosis in the methods of amphibious warfare. With battlefields covering significant portions of the planetary surface, combined with the availability of the modern era’s powerful technology and vehicles, the mighty conflict witnessed tactical and strategic amphibious operations unlike any the world had seen before.

All major powers involved in the war utilized amphibious operations to one degree or another. Even the Soviets launched more than 150 amphibious assaults during the war, albeit with very mixed success given the lack of dedicated landing craft and their variable troop quality. However, as the war continued, the United States developed the largest and most sophisticated assortment of amphibious warfare tactics, strategies, and equipment.

The invasion of Sicily in 1943 was the largest amphibious operation in history, but it would be dwarfed on June 6, 1944. That day, forever known as D-Day, the Allies commenced Operation Overlord by staging the largest and most complex amphibious invasion in human history. The complex operation would require tightly coordinated naval and air bombardment, paratroopers, and even inflatable tanks that would be able to fire on fortifications from the coastline, all while landing over 150,000 men across nearly 70 miles of French beaches. Given the incredibly complex plan, it’s no surprise that Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had already written a letter apologizing for the failure of the invasion, which he carried in his coat pocket throughout the day.

Ultimately, amphibious operations at places like Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and various parts of Europe determined the course of the war, and Amphibious Warfare in World War II: The History and Legacy of the War’s Most Important Landing Operations examines these crucial events. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about World War II’s amphibious warfare like never before.

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