D-DAY LESSONS: 70 years ago, thousands of people kept secrets to end the ambitions of one man, but today, few can do the same to protect their own country and people
THOSE watching their television sets on Friday evening -- specifically news channels -- would have been greeted by visuals from Normandy in France, where the 70th anniversary memorials for that most famous of D-Days were taking place.
In military parlance, D-Day is the term used to indicate the day a mission would take place. There were countless D-Days before June 6, 1944. There have been countless others since.
But mention D-Day and the Normandy landings come to mind straight away, for most people anyway.
Some 132,000 Allied troops were landed on the five sectors of beaches in Normandy chosen for the invasion -- Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha -- on that day alone.
There were also 24,000 paratroopers who led the way hours earlier, landing under cover of darkness to work behind the lines on various missions, flown aboard more than 1,000 aircraft. By the end of August, the Allies had landed some three million soldiers in Europe.
The beach landings on D-Day, codenamed Operation Neptune (many think it was called Operation Overlord, but that codename was for the entire operation to invade Normandy, while Neptune was for the crossing of the English Channel), was the beginning of the end for the Nazis in western Europe. It was a massive operation, indeed.
Some 5,000 vessels were involved in carrying troops across the English Channel. It was no mean feat gathering such assets, and to make matters even more incredible, these vessels were from several countries.
It was, one can only imagine, a logistics nightmare, but one which ultimately proved successful.
But let's set aside the logistic preparations, the bravery of the men who fought that day so long ago and the huge expenditure it must have called for. One important factor which contributed to the eventual success of the invasion against Adolf Hitler's so-called Fortress Europe remains not very widely known. And, it begun months before.
Operation Bodyguard, and the various independent operations under it, was a high-level deception plan which Allied Command initiated. These operations allowed the Allies to achieve tactical surprise on D-Day itself.
These operations achieved several objectives: convincing the Germans that the invasion would eventually be carried out in Calais, that the invasion would come at a later date and that the Allies had more men than they actually did.
The last objective was achieved by feeding misinformation to the Nazis. The Germans "learned" that the Allies had "activated" more army groups in addition to those already in Britain.
This gave the impression that more troops were arriving in Britain. In truth, these extra army groups were non-existent.
The first objective, meanwhile, was so successful that when the invasion did happen, Hitler delayed sending reinforcements -- including his much-feared tank divisions -- to Normandy from Calais, believing that the former was merely a feint by the Allies and that the real invasion would still occur at the latter. This was an unplanned but happy (for the Allies) consequence of Bodyguard.
But all the planning and execution of plans and deceptions would not have counted for much, or anything at all, if there had been loose lips on the side of the Allies.
The entire plan was known only to a few people, and only later on -- close to D-Day -- filtered down the line. Even then, information was compartmentalised.
Hard to imagine, isn't it? Hundreds of thousands of people involved in the landings, from the troops on the beach and those in the vessels, to those back in England monitoring and coordinating things, yet, information was successfully kept from the Germans.
Fast forward almost 70 years -- several time zones away -- and we have Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein admitting that graft and information leakages within security forces were the main causes of the recent breaches in security in the coastal regions of Sabah.
It is an embarrassment, really. Seventy years ago, hundreds of thousands of people kept secrets so that they could end the ambitions of one man and his political party set on controlling Europe. Today, a few people out of only several thousand can't do the same to protect their own country and people.
The fact that these are people who have taken a solemn oath to protect the nation and its people, to throw back any foreign intent on challenging Malaysia's sovereignty, makes it even worse.
The authorities need to do everything possible to weed out the black sheep, the traitors among our own security forces.
Make no mistake about it, graft in exchange for any security information is an act of treachery. It is treason of the highest order.
Leslie Andres | firstname.lastname@example.org New Straits Times Columnist 08 June 2014