Today Is The Anniversary Of D Day

Today is the 65th anniversary of the landing on the beaches of France by the Allied Armies.  General Dwight Eisenhower chose to go on that day because the weather reports showed that day as the only possible window in a stormy period.  He met with his troops before the invasion to talk to them and send them off with prayers and well wishes.  He composed a letter to be read in case the invasion failed.  The letter took full responsibility for that failure if it occurred.  Because of the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower and the courage of the American, Canadian, and British troops, we are free today to do our Saturday errands, enjoy our children, and generally live our lives in freedom.

This is the text of the letter General Eisenhower wrote in case the invasion failed:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.”

Just a quick personal note about D Day–my father was one of the soldiers who landed on Utah beach.  He never talked much about his wartime experiences, but there are two things I remember from talking to him.  When the Allied troops landed on Utah Beach, they had been blown off course by the winds and heavy surf.  Because of that, they encountered less resistance from the Germans and were able to more forward more quickly than they might have otherwise moved.  The other thing he mentioned was the total secrecy surrounding the invasion.  There were cardboard tanks placed in England to make it look as if they were going ashore at Calais (which was the closest point to England).  Everything was top secret–but the payday before the invasion, they were paid in French francs!!!

 

June 6, 1944

D Day is something we read about in our history books.  I am not sure (until “Saving Private Ryan” was released) that any civilian understood how difficult and awful that invasion was.  As we remember those events today, we need to understand that victory on D Day was not a given.  We owe our freedom in America to those who stormed the beaches that day.  There was a letter written by General Eisenhower in case it failed.  This is what the free republic website says about that letter:

On the afternoon of July 11, 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower came across a forgotten note tucked inside his wallet. He called in his naval aide, Capt. Harry C. Butcher, who, taking the paper, read:

“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.”

It was dated, in Ike’s hand, July 5. Butcher knew it had to have been — and was — written June 5, when “Bravery and devotion” might yet fail the Allies on Normandy’s beaches.

That July afternoon was D plus 35. On June 6, D-Day, the largest armada in history had crossed the English Channel, landing nine divisions of sea and airborne troops in a sweeping assault upon Nazi-occupied France that put the Allies on the road to victory.

Eisenhower penned such notes on the eves of other amphibious operations, secretly tearing each one up afterward. “I told him I wanted it,” Butcher would later recall. Ike gave in, reluctantly.

The sheet of beige paper — at 41/2 by 7 inches, it looks as if it came from a notepad — is brittle and fragile, like many of the once strapping young men who advanced through surf and bullets, each carrying 75 pounds of equipment. The paper doesn’t carry the letterhead of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, which Eisenhower was. It’s cheaply made. The four sentences on it are written in pencil, and were composed on a portable table.

Archivists at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum in Abilene, Kan., call it the “In Case of Failure” message. It’s safeguarded in an acid-free folder in the security vault there, a veteran, too, of dark days when freedom hung in the balance.

 The gift of freedom is not free.  If you see a member of the military today, say thank you.

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