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  • Robert M. Edsel

Remembering D-Day

Today marks the 75th anniversary of “D-Day,” when Western Allied forces landed tens of thousands of troops along the Normandy coastline in what was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Today the outcome is not just well known, but legend. Countless books and films have been written about just that twenty-four hour period; many more will, no doubt, follow in the future despite the passage of time. But the success of the invasion was anything but assured. President Roosevelt announced the invasion to the American public in a radio address that took the form of a prayer.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers prior to D-Day.  (NARA)

Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower, ever thoughtful, ever prepared, carried with him hand-written remarks that explained the failure of the mission if enemy resistance and the weather forced a withdrawal of his forces. Imagine, under the most intense pressure, with the fate of thousands of young soldiers resting on the outcome of your decision, having the presence of mind to compose such words. Even more remarkable to me is his unequivocal ownership of the decision. Ike didn’t point fingers at others or make excuses although such a list would have been justified---and long. He simply stated that the responsibility for the failure was his and his alone. I’ve long considered Eisenhower a great leader: this is just one more example of his thoughtful leadership. Fortunately, Eisenhower did not have occasion to release those words to the public. The Western Allied landings were an unqualified success, one that proved an inflection point in the course of history.

Many brave men died on June 6, 1944. Many more would die in the ten bloody months of fighting that followed until the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 7, 1945. We honor all that fought in that epic struggle for liberty – those that lived, and those who died – by remembering who paid for the freedom we enjoy today.

Eisenhower's never-delivered remarks explaining the reason for the failure of the mission (NARA/Eisenhower Library)

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