D-Day: Normandy--Refugees and Allied Civilian Affairs Department

Figure 1.--Figure 1.--Here we see a British Army photograph showing some of the refugees from the D-Day fighting in Normandy. The press caption read, "Young Frenchman Finds a Friend Somewhere in France: A Canadian fighting man squats to chat with a young French refugee in the battle area of Normandy. The little boy and the old woman behind him were among many hungry refuges who had not eaten for three days before they were fed by the Civilian Affairs Department of the Allied Forces." The photograph was taken June 15, 1944. The press caption is probably wrong. The Canadian soldier looks too old to be a combat soldier. A Canadian reader suggsts that the cross shoulder patch may mean that he is a chaplin. American chaplains wore unit shoulder patches. Note that his belt is not fitted with military hardware or attachments for spare ammo magazines or grenades or other equipment. Our Canadian reader cautions, "I am just pointing out the possibility of him being clergy. I do not know for sure if that badge does mean clergy. I did a search and could not find any photos or references to Canadian Army clergy uniforms or shoulder patches and also could not find any listings of any Canadian outfit that had that as a regiment patch. At he start of World War II the Canadian Army did accept volunteers of older men (30s) for combat duty as they were so short staffed. To me the biggest thing is his belt and what is not on there. Even if he is behind the lines a combat soldier will at least have a side arm on his belt. That would only come off during R and R time behind the lines and not when dealing with refugees because of the chance that there might be a German soldier hiding with the civilians."

Both the Whermacht and the Allies had civil affairs components. The roles of the two groups, however, varied greatly. The Germans were primarily concerned with controlling a generally hostile civilian population in occupied countries. In this they worked with the security forces under SS command. This included rounding up Jews. The Whermacht's other main assignment was to attract as much food and other resources as possible for its own uses and to transport to the Reich to support the German war effort. This process was more regularized in France, conducted under the terms of the 1940 Franco-German Armistice. The Germans were much more brutal in the East where civilian food shortages simply fit into the German Hunger Plan. Even so, the German exploitation of the French economy was such that it created very severe food and other shortages. Rural areas like Normandy fared better than the major cities as regard to food. Supplying food to the local population was entirely the responsibility of French authorities and not the Germans. The Allied Civil Affairs Department (CAD) in sharp contrast cooperated with the local population to reestablishing civilian administration and to provide essential services like food, electricity, and water. As a result of the heavy fighting i n water, such services had broken down. Cities like Caen were in ruin and large numbers of people were in desperate need of food. This the CAD did what it could to provide on an emergency basis. Here the Allies had a serious limitation. The success of the D-Day Normandy operation was in part a struggle of logistics. This is why the Germans defended the ports so strongly. It became a matter of whether the Allies could amass and supply a substantial lodgment before the Germans concentrated in force. Every ton of food delivered to feed civilians meant a ton of supplies that was not delivered to the the fighting forces. And all the supplies at first had to be landed on the beaches, an inefficient way of moving supplies, as no ports were available. Fortunately for the Allies, OKW did not move immediately to concentrate its forces in Normandy, especially the Panzer divisions. OKW and Hitler hesitated, believing for some time that FUSAG and the major Allied invasion force would land in the Pas de Calais, they shortest and most direct route to the Reich.


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