In this War Studies Advanced Program, Gen. James Dubik will examine the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy, France. Students will consider the role of the commanders, both military and civilian; geography and history; and the political, strategic, and technological challenges that made Operation Overlord one of the most difficult military operations in history.  Among the themes students will cover are:

Achieving unity of effort and coherency of action: Thinking and acting in depth—temporal, geographic, militarily, politically—and along multiple lines of operation, domestic and alliance.

Alignment: Designing nested objectives and actions among the levels of war—grand strategic, strategic, operational, and tactical—military and non-military, domestic and alliance.

Theory and practice: Understanding how the theory of war informs and guides the practice of war.

Leadership: The meaning and practice of leadership in a large, distributed, dynamic, and complex civil-military activity.

Waging war: Understanding war involves more than fighting; waging war as an enterprise.

War Studies Advanced Programs are open only to alumni of the basic War Studies course. These sessions are offered in the winter and summer, and focus either on a national security challenge or on a historical conflict. Learn more about the War Studies Program.

Images courtesy U.S. Department of Defense (1 | 2)

Kim Kagan on the importance of military history

Faculty

James M. Dubik

LTG James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.) is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and a Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. General Dubik has extensive operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Bosnia, Haiti, Panama, and in many NATO countries.

Frederick W. Kagan

Frederick W. Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program at the Institute for the Study of War. The author of the 2007 report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” he is one of the intellectual architects of the successful “surge” strategy in Iraq. He is the Director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

Kimberly Kagan

Kimberly Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program and founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. She is a military historian who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale, Georgetown, and American University.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were the key strategic decisions associated with the D-Day invasion? How were they made, by whom, using what organizations?
  2. What were the key facts bearing on these decisions, how were they gathered and analyzed?
  3. What alternatives were considered, and what were the reasons the decision went the way it did?
  4. How would related political, military, and economic factors act as influencers of the final decisions?
  5. What were the alliance dynamics throughout the decision-making process?
  6. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Trace the development of the organizational dimension of the D-Day invasion. How did the overall C2 and senior/subordinate relationships emerge? Over what timeline? Why?
  2. What was the relationship between the planning and execution phases (initial invasion and subsequent plans for breaking out of the lodgment) and the decisions made about C2 and senior/subordinate relationships?
  3. What were the alliance dynamics that impacted the organizational dimension?
  4. In what ways were the US and UK similarly organized, and in what ways did they differ? What caused the difference?
  5. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Training seemed to focus on the beginning, the invasion and establishment of the lodgment. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  2. What evidence can you adduce to verify and refute the claim that pre-invasion training was multi-echelon, multi-phased, multi-service, multi-national, and multi-specialty?
  3. Operational preparation seemed to focus on the end, how things might end up when Germany was defeated. Again, do you agree? Why or why not?
  4. How would you characterize the civil, military, alliance, and civ-mil “operational preparation”?
  5. How did the training and operational preparation affect the design and execution of the invasion and the conditions necessary for subsequent operations?
  6. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were the varieties of air power used in support of the invasion? How would you describe the phasing of these varieties and their relationship with the ground scheme of maneuver?
  2. What were the varieties of naval gun power used in support of the invasion? How would you describe the phasing of these varieties and their relationship with the ground scheme of maneuver?
  3. Assess what worked and why, as well as what did not work and why?
  4. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the deception plan and when did it begin? When did it end?
  2. How much of the plan was an orchestrated execution of a deliberate plan and how much not? How do you assess the difference?
  3. Why did the deception work?
  4. What was the relationship of the deception plan to the actual D-Day invasion plan?
  5. What was unconventional portion of the D-Day invasion? When did it begin? When did it end?
  6. How do you assess the tensions and differences between the US and UK as well as the tension between the French resistance and the allies?
  7. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How were the assault on Pointe de Hoc, the airborne operations conducted by the 82D and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the Jedburgh teams supposed to contribute to the D-Day invasion? Did they make those contributions?
  2. What parts of the plan unfolded as envisioned, and what parts did not? What caused the differences, and how did the forces adapt?
  3. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were the exact maneuver and logistical support plans on Utah and Omaha beaches for the invasion?
  2. How much was learned from the multiple amphibious operations conducted in the Pacific?…from those conducted in North Africa and Italy?
  3. When was the lodgment supposed to be established?
  4. What went according to plan, and what did not? What were the causes of the differences?
  5. What adaptations were made at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels from the invasion to the establishment of the lodgment area?
  6. To what degree, if any, did the subsequent breakout and counter-offensive operations have on the design of the invasion and lodgment?
  7. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did planning for governance of occupied territory begin? What options existed for such governance?
  2. What were the political and military arguments made during the planning process? How did the final plan emerge from the alternatives?
  3. What were the major components of the plan? What lessons from North Africa and Italy were incorporated into the plan?
  4. Any insights about our current wars?

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. List the major “lessons learned” from the invasion—what the authors present as well as your own list.
  2. What is the difference between a technical and an adaptive leadership problem? How would you apply this distinction to the problems faced in planning, preparing, executing, and adapting the D-Day invasion?
  3. What are the prescriptions for leaders facing adaptive problems? How does Heifetz suggest they proceed?
  4. How would you evaluate the senior civil and military leaders with respect to Heifetz’s suggested approach?
  5. Any insights about our current wars?

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