I thought it would be fitting on this 70th anniversary of D-Day to reprint a couple of short messages from General Eisenhower. The first is his message to the troops on the eve of the invasion:
“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a 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 the 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 blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
— Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
The second, though probably not as well known, is the draft of Eisenhower’s “in case of failure” message. I think it is just as powerful, not only as it makes crystal clear that in 1944 the outcome of the war was in no way certain, but also shows the true character of a man who – at the time – truly carried the weight of the free world on his shoulders. As as happened too many times to be mere coincidence in our Nation’s history, we seem to find the right person, at the right place, at the right time.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.”
According to recent Veteran’s Administration statistics, we are losing our World War II veterans at a rate of 555 each day. If you know one, or meet one – especially today – please take the time to thank them for their sacrifice. Too soon it will be too late.