Dooley: Cliche Movie Nazis, Vols Somehow Alike

When he isn’t thinking of ways to be fired as quickly as possible, Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley is regaling the press with - what else? - light and lively Nazi war stories.

Derek Dooley: Nazi War Historian

(Movie Nazis Yes, Real Nazis No.)

At a press conference today, Dooley compared the conduct of his Tennessee players in a 41-10 loss to Alabama Saturday to a hopelessly cliched portrayal of Nazi soldiers at the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Text of Dooley’s comments is below:

“Right now we’re like the Germans in World War II. Here comes the boats, they’re coming. You have the binoculars, and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, the invasion is coming.’ That’s what they did, they were in the bunkers. It’s coming, they call (Generalfeldmarschall Erwin) Rommel — they can’t find Rommel. (Pretending to speak into a radio.) ‘What do we do? I’m not doing anything until I get orders.’ (Pretends to look through binoculars.) ‘Have you gotten Rommel yet?’

“All right, and the Americans were the exact opposite. We hit the beach, and we were on the wrong spot. ‘What do we do? I don’t know, but these guys are firing and we better hide over there and blow some stuff up to get up there.’ They weren’t looking for (help). That’s where we’ve got to make that transition.

“I don’t want the German people to get upset at me. I’m not attacking them, but that’s what happened. You had one group, they weren’t worried about what the plan was and orders and all that. When the war hits, things change. You’ve got to go.

You had the other group, and they go, ‘Wait a minute. They told us the invasion was way further north’ where we had the empty tanks and we were hiding Patton out. ‘We weren’t ready for this, now what do we do?’ ‘We better wait until Rommel tells us what to do.’

“I hope I got my names right.”

So we’ve got Dooley’s version of the comportment of Nazi soldiers at Normandy. Great.

As much as I’d like to take the rookie Tennessee football coach’s word for it, just for fun let’s take a look at an official U.S. Department of the Navy report on the Normandy invasion published by 1st Lt. F.A. Robert C. Dart on March 28, 1947.

The report includes details from the,”interrogation of Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge and Generalleutnant Dihm concerning Generalfeldmarschall Rommel and the preparation of German defenses prior to the Normandy Invasion.

During his interrogation, Generalleutnant Dihm, who was charged by Rommel to oversee “the work on coastal defenses” at Normandy, explained why the Germans were unable to repel the invasion:

The main reason for the failure of the defense of the Cotentin Peninsula was not so much the result of tactical surprise, since a landing in Normandy had been expected, as it was the absolute air supremacy of the Allies.

Long before and even during the attack a considerable part of the artillery was nearly eliminated by air attacks—at least to the extent that it was unable to fire on the sea.

The infantry near the beach was so greatly battered by air raids shortly before and during the attack that it could no longer operate effectively. As a result, the Allies were able to land even at ebb tide and therefore were not hindered at all by the obstacles placed along the foreshore.

If the enemy air force had not succeeded in disorganizing the infantry so completely before the beginning of the first assault wave, this first and decisive attack up the glacis from the exposed foreshore through the obstacles or their debris would surely have been more costly-if it did not fail altogether.

You can read more from Generalleutnant Dihm’s interrogation here.

While it is true that Rommel was away from Normandy celebrating his wife’s birthday when the Allies landed on Omaha Beach, Dihm gives no indication that Rommel’s absence is what ultimately led to the catastrophic coastal collapse of German forces.

Instead, Dihm makes plain that air superiority was the main reason the Nazis were defeated at Normandy, not “tactical surprise.”

It is understandable that Dooley would mischaracterize the German defense at Normandy as the definitive feature film on the subject, at least until Saving Private Ryan, was the John Wayne epic The Longest Day.

The Longest Day

In that 1962 movie, the Germans are largely portrayed as blithering imbeciles who couldn’t have been more surprised by the Normandy invasion. In fact, the scene Dooley described during his press conference - with the binoculars - is very similar to a scene in the famous film.

Here’s Dooley’s comments today on video, with short snippet of The Longest Day dropped in for comparison’s stake:

Complete coincidence, I’m sure.

While Generalleutnant Dihm may have cleaned up his version of events at Omaha Beach to suit his own personal agenda, it isn’t unreasonable to side with someone who was actually there as opposed to the #1 Robert Osborne fan among major college football coaches.

Word of advice to Dooley: If you’re going to compare the Vols to the Nazis, play it safe:

Phil Fulmer is Sgt. Schultz