Advocating OVERLORD: The D-Day Strategy and the Atomic Bomb

Available: NOW  Hardcover, Paperback and E-book
Publisher: Potomac Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1612349625
ISBN-13: 978-1612349626

“Well, there it is. It won’t work, but you must bloody well make it,” said the chief of Britain’s military leaders in March 1943, when he ordered the start of planning for what became known as Operation Overlord. So challenged by as much skepticism as support from top leaders, and with little to build on, a tight knit Allied team, COSSAC, did develop a viable plan to liberate Europe from the west. It would begin with a cross-Channel assault in 1944, D-Day. Winning Anglo-American approval in 1943 for the Overlord plan was harder still – and did not happen in a vacuum.

Simultaneously, the two countries also were talking through a crisis in World War II’s other great secret, whether to repair a rupture in their cooperation to develop an atomic bomb. Only a few at the very top had the “need to know” that not one, but two separate negotiations were under way. From January1943, month by month, the two negotiations came into ever closer proximity. Did Churchill signal in May and Roosevelt press in August for a quid pro quo, the Prime Minister’s acceptance of Overlord for the President’s reopening of the Manhattan Project to the British? Those two decisions, one after the other by only hours, were a seminal outcome of the August 1943 Quadrant Conference. Advocating Overlord argues that they, indeed, were the components of a quid pro quo.

Within days, even before their American counterparts knew of FDR’s action, British atomic scientists showed up in the United States ready to go to work. Just as quickly, ships sailed from the United States, beginning an eight-month surge of over one million troops to Britain. Thus, the core force to execute D-Day was set in place as a new fact on the ground that made irreversible the Allied commitment to Overlord.

Throughout 1943, battlefield events gave context to the negotiations, particularly in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the skies over Europe. Axis U-boat operations and the Allies Combined Bomber Offensive were alike in that they were both campaigns of attrition which would fail to achieve their primary goals. Advocating Overlord examines how each influenced liberation strategy negotiations.

But why has the story of coming to Anglo-American agreement on liberation strategy not considered paralleling atomic negotiation before now? The answer may rest in the pace of declassification of the Allies’ most sensitive secrets. By 1975, when the diplomatic history of the Manhattan Project was declassified, the arc of the story of the Allies’ military strategy negotiations already had been set by earlier, security conscious official histories and the memoirs of the principals who, by 1975, had gone on to their reward. The irresistible drama of the near collapse of discussions between military leaders in May 1943, as an example, leaves understandable the overlooking of concurrent atomic discussions at the White House only seven blocks away. Yet, the outcome of both would be taken to Roosevelt and Churchill who would talk further.

Neither the military strategy negotiation that set the path to the liberation of Europe nor the atomic cooperation that began the era of nuclear anxiety which persists can be understood completely without examining both together. Advocating Overlord is the first book-length account of their 1943 concurrency and the probable linkage of these two endeavors.

The book is based on eight years of research and site visits in the United States, Canada, Britain, and France. Hundreds of primary documents were studied in archives and libraries. Advocating Overlord owes a particular debt to the ground-breaking, peer-reviewed 1976 paper of Dr. Brian Loring Villa on Normandy and the atomic bomb. Helpful with new insights, also, were the recently published works of historians from many countries written with benefit from further declassification but, also, written freer from the national biases that burdened generations closer to the trauma of the war.


“Very well-written and very well-researched in British and American archival and manuscript materials as well as published works, Philip Padgett’s Advocating Overlord: The D-Day Strategy and the Atomic Bomb provides a detailed analysis of the Anglo-American disagreements over both European strategy and atomic sharing during World War II. In doing so it offers a provocative, fascinating reinterpretation of the relationship between the two disputes.”

Mark Stoler
author of Allies and Adversaries: the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II and The Politics of the Second Front

“In Advocating Overlord, Philip Padgett not only offers a carefully-argued and nuanced account of D-Day and all that went with it, but shows how the apparently unconnected Anglo-American wartime effort to build an atomic bomb informed and sometimes complicated Overlord planning at the highest level. This connectivity is rarely discussed but in Advocating Overlord it becomes the driver of a fascinating account of Anglo-American military planning, politics and diplomacy.”

Dr. Kevin Ruane
author of Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War

“Philip Padgett’s important book sheds new light on Allied planning for OVERLORD, a process that involved not just hard bargaining, but a lot of serious thinking. Even those well versed in the history of the war will find much to ponder here, including the entanglement of OVERLORD with the American effort to exclude the British from participation in the building of the atomic bomb, and the final transformation of America’s international role, away from “hemispheric defense,” and toward enduring global engagement.”

Daniel Moran
co-editor of Maritime Strategy and Global Security

“By any measure, the journey during World War II of the United States and the United Kingdom, thrown together by malign forces and, while often diverted by clashing personalities and differing national priorities, gradually accepting the necessity of common action to launch the Allied invasion of northwest Europe, has been exhaustively explored over the past seven decades. However, Philip Padgett has provided a novel roadmap for tracing this familiar story. His Advocating Overlord: The D-Day Strategy and the Atomic Bomb is evocatively written, grounded in authoritative research in British and U.S. sources, and offers an intriguing thesis regarding the nexus of issues that led to OVERLORD.”

Theodore A. Wilson
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Kansas

“Padgett has provided us with an excellent, extremely insightful study of the pivotal negotiations during 1943 that determined whether and how the fledgling Anglo-American alliance would solidify to make a significant contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany and go on to provide the basis for post-war western security.”

Dr. Richard Harding
University of Westminster

“A verbal Bayeux Tapestry, Philip Padgett’s panorama is a mesmerizing tale of how in 1943 Franklin Roosevelt rebuffed Winston Churchill’s passion for an exclusively Mediterranean campaign and authorized instead the Anglo-American amphibious assault on Normandy of June 6, 1944, meanwhile limiting British participation in development of the atomic bomb.”

Dr. Kenneth J. Hagan
Professor and Museum Director Emeritus, U.S. Naval Academy

“When thinking about the Second World War, Operation OVERLORD and the Manhattan Project are definitely two major subjects that have received significant attention over the years. However, rarely have these two highly discussed events been handled in a parallel manner. Philip Padgett has written an intriguing history that provides keen insights into the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain as they worked toward the planned Allied invasion of Europe, as well as engineering and construction of the atomic bombs. Simply in Advocating OVERLORD: The Atomic Bomb and the D-Day Strategy Decision, Padgett has written an insightful history of how these two significant events influenced one another within the context of the Second World War, as well as the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain.”

Dr. Sean N. Kalic
author of The U.S. Presidents and the Militarization of Space 1946-1967

“From the very first sentence, this is a gripping tale that illuminates the critical transition from World War II into the Atomic Age. Exhaustively documented, this book is a treasure for the amateur and professional historian alike.”

David Wood
Journalist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2012

Get Notified When a New Blog Post Goes Live

Signup for updates and blog posts from Phil Padgett