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War!:  The Second Front

The Second Front

From 1942 to 1944 one subject dominated Allied strategic debate - the creation of a Second Front in Europe. During these years, the Soviet Union single-handedly resisted a massive German invasion. Stalin demanded his allies strike at the heart of Hitler's empire in northwest Europe, establishing a "second front."

FDR's military advisers favored an early assault on northwest Europe. But Churchill argued a large buildup of forces in Britain was necessary to ensure success. He urged a strategy of attacks along the edges of the Axis empire instead, beginning with North Africa and Italy, while preparations took place for the big invasion of northwest Europe.

Eager to keep Americans focused on fighting Germany, Roosevelt agreed. To reassure Stalin about Anglo-American resolve, FDR announced at the 1943 Casablanca Conference that the Allies would only accept an "unconditional surrender" from the Axis Powers. He and Churchill also initiated a combined bombing offensive against Germany.

During 1942, 1943, and 1944, American forces also made steady advances in the Pacific - exceeding early expectations that they could only maintain a "holding pattern" until the defeat of Germany.

D-Day: June 6, 1944

"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity."

     - Franklin Roosevelt, Prayer on D-Day, Radio Address, June 6, 1944

On June 6, 1944, German soldiers defending the French coast at Normandy beheld an awe-inspiring sight - the largest amphibious invasion force in history massed in the English Channel. The long-awaited invasion of northwest Europe was underway.

The invasion took years to organize. Hundreds of thousands of men and millions of tons of equipment were transported to Great Britain. The invasion force included Americans, Britons, and Canadians, with additional troops from France and other Allied nations.

The operation was the culmination of FDR's Grand Strategy, especially his decision to defeat "Germany First" and his insistence - over Churchill's opposition - that the invasion go forward in Spring 1944. It established a solid "Second Front" in Europe, leaving Hitler's armies trapped in a vise, fighting the Soviets in the East and Allied forces in the West.

To learn more about FDR's Globe, shown above, visit our Digital Artifact Collection.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Home Page   National Archives and Records Administration
Lobby Foundations of a Public Life A New Deal FDR's "Act of Faith" The Promise of Change America, 1932: A Nation in Fear Temporary Exhibit Gallery War!  Lower level FDR's Death and Legacy First Lady Behind the scenes Legacy During the tense early hours of the D-Day invasion, FDR monitored reports from the front.