Early in the war Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, faced with grievous losses in the great encirclements of 1941, was agitating for a second front in continental Europe. The war in North Africa was not enough.
Churchill calmly received his scorn when they first met in 1942. The year Britain stood alone still weighed on his mind, and Stalin seemed to take no note of it. Almost immediately upon greeting Churchill Stalin demanded a landing in France before the end of the year. He could point to over 4,000,000 casualties in the last half 1941 alone.
What he got was the Dieppe Raid. Thousands of Canadians were killed, and it was clear that combined operations had a lot of learning to do if a landing was going to work. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Dieppe Raid commander, imparted his experience to the staff of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the new theatre commander.
Eisenhower took command of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in January 1944. Created in June 1942, SHAEF’s only clear directive was to accomplish a landing in France as soon as possible. How, where, and when were not explicit. By the time Eisenhower took command, plans had been hashed over in London for years.