Selection of Commanders
Selecting a supreme commander for the cross-Channel invasion was no easy matter. When an invasion in 1943 had seemed possible and the bulk of the resources would have been British, Churchill had informed General Brooke that he was to command the invasion forces. Later, when the preponderance of American resources dictated the choice of an American commander, Roosevelt and the British as well inclined toward General Marshall. But because Roosevelt wished Marshall to remain in control of the over-all American effort (Marshall was invaluable in balancing the sometimes conflicting demands of the Pacific and European theaters), the president, in December 1943, appointed General Eisenhower supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Walter Bedell Smith, transformed the COSSAC staff into the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), with General Morgan remaining as deputy chief of staff. Eisenhower assumed his new position on Jan. 16, 1944, and General Devers was transferred to North Africa as commander of United States forces in the Mediterranean.
Gen. (later Field Marshal) Sir Bernard Law Montgomery (later 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein), who had led the Eighth Army in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, was at the same time named to command the Twenty-first Army Group, the supreme British headquarters for the invasion. Eisenhower directed Montgomery to act as ground force commander during the initial phase of the invasion but reserved for himself the eventual control of the Allied land forces. The major ground commanders were Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Sir Miles C. Dempsey, who commanded the British Second Army; Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) Henry D. G. Crerar, in command of the Canadian First Army; and Lt. Gen. (later General of the Army) Omar N. Bradley, who took command of the United States First Army and of the United States First Army Group (later renamed the Twelfth Army Group). Lt. Gen. (later Gen.) George S. Patton, Jr., placed in command of the United States Third Army, was to head the immediate American follow-up force.
Eisenhower’s deputy commander, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder (later 1st Baron Tedder), acted as coordinator of the air forces: the tactical air forces organized under Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory, who commanded the Allied Expeditionary Air Forces (AEAF) ; and the strategic air forces, composed of the RAF Bomber Command, under Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris, and the United States Strategic Air Forces under General Spaatz. Adm. Sir Bertram H. Ramsay took command of the naval forces for the invasion, with Rear Adm. (later Admiral of the Fleet) Sir Philip Vian commanding the Eastern Naval Task Force, scheduled to transport British troops, and Rear Adm. (later Adm.) Alan G. Kirk the Western Naval Task Force, which was to carry the American assault forces.