For the past few years to commemorate the D Day invasion of France I’ve posted about the,
as written in The Atlantic magazine in 1960. I recommend that you read that again, but I want to talk about a couple of other things this year.
Dwight David Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and as such was in overall command of Operation Overlord, which was the code name for the invasion of France.
Eisenhower was somewhat of an unusual choice on the face of it. He was a West Point graduate in 1915 and graduated in the middle of his class. During World War I, despite repeated requests he was never sent to France and never saw combat. Instead, he was assigned to a variety of tasks involving organizing units that went on to see combat. He displayed a talent for organization and spent the inter war years in jobs that helped him hone those skills.
So, why was a middle aged officer, with no combat experience given the biggest job in the biggest war in human history?
Logistics. Eisenhower understood that no modern war could be won without preparation and a functional supply line. That’s why there are so many none combat jobs in the military, more than actual fighters. An army (or navy, or air force) needs a million items in order to win a war. Uniforms, food, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, shelters, radios, and everything else needed for a modern war have to be furnished, maintained, and replaced.
That was Eisenhower’s talent along with planning for a large battle.
Which is why he ended up in command of all of the troops in Europe. Not just the United States troops, but those of Britain, the Free French, the Polish, everyone.
Eisenhower also had a sense of responsibility.
Just before the invasion, he gave this order to the troops about to launch the invasion.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces:
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.
The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other
Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans
great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground.
Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned.
The free men of the world are marching together to victory.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
He also prepared this speech,
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 on 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.
No excuses, no qualifications, no shifting of blame. He, and he alone, bore the responsibility for failure. Fortunately, he never had to give that speech, the invasion was a success.
I will leave you with a speech by President Ronald Reagan delivered on the 40th anniversary of the invasion. He sums up the risks and dangers faced by the troops on that fateful day. There is nothing that I can add.