Operation Sledgehammer

This was an Allied (primarily US) unrealised plan for a landing of limited aims on the Cotentin peninsula of German-occupied northern France together with its major port at Cherbourg, or the western tip of the Brittany peninsula with its port of Brest (autumn 1942, later amended to 1943).

The operation was seen as an emergency undertaking to be implemented in the event that either the USSR or Germany seemed in danger of imminent military collapse. The main objective of the operation was to capture Cherbourg (or possibly Brest) in north-western France in order to establish a defensible lodgement on the continent of Europe, this foothold then constituting a staging area for the larger invasion force which would drive across France and into Germany.

In this way the Allies hoped to be able to capitalise on their ‘Bolero’ build-up (for ‘Round-up’, proposed for the spring of 1943) either to help the USSR or to seal the fate of Germany.

The plan was proposed in the spring of 1942 by the US Army strategic planning department under Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and subsequently underwent considerable development to keep abreast of current war situations, but always fell foul of the British, who felt that the move was fraught with military dangers and offered little real strategic advantage because of its inbuilt limitations; these fears were generally well founded, and the British reservations about the plan gradually infected the Americans.

The Allies eventually agreed that they did not have enough landing craft at the time, and in August 1942 abandoned the concept in favour of ‘Torch’ using the same scale of forces but in a theatre of less possible resistance and thus able to exert a direct influence on the outcome of the war, in this instance North Africa where large numbers of French troops were based and might thus come over to the Allied cause.