The day the allies moved decisively to open a second front against Nazi Germany. Many many long months and years went into preparations for that day. The scale of some of which still stands as records today. One man presided over this awesome movement, Dwight Eisenhower. He would eventually go on to become the 34th US President.
But on the eve of D-Day, there were no grantees of success and no crystal ball to know the outcome. Even with months of meticulous planning, the weight of that enormous decision to launch close to 160,000 very young men in the first wave against a battle hardened enemy, must have weighed heavily on Eisenhower.
We are given a glimpse into this burden by a succinct 65 word note he wrote “In case of Failure”. Each line is profound, and his choice of words is extremely telling.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
One can hardly blame him for dating it 5 July under the terrible circumstances.
As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force – Eisenhower was the man in whom every young soldier placed absolute trust. Some of these men who showed the kind of “bravery and devotion to duty” he referred to, have signed the Log Book. Men like William Parker, Herman Zeitchik, and Guy Whidden who were among those sent in that first wave, while others like Richard Bailey flew overhead attacking enemy targets inland.
The success of that day is now the stuff of legend. But on 5th June 1944, with victory anything but guaranteed, at the crossroads of a stupendously monumental historical moment, Eisenhower displayed the kind of courage and leadership that is so desperately needed today.
Last Updated on 19 November 2020 by Lars McKie
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