U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had to make the most difficult of decisions on this day 75 years ago.
Does the supreme Allied commander of all forces in Europe send men into a storm, or does he wait for the sky to clear enough for these men to save the world from the tyranny that had conquered much of Europe?
The weather over the English Channel had forced one postponement of the launch of an invasion. The general waited and waited. Then Ike told his high command, “OK, we’ll go.”
On the morning of June 6, 1944, thousands of men from the United States, Great Britain and Canada climbed into landing craft and proceeded to launch an invasion that many historians believe turned the tide toward victory in Europe. Ships from many nations bombarded the shoreline. Warplanes dropped thousands of bombs and strafed the enemy. Paratroopers flew during the night and dropped behind enemy lines to begin the attack.
The main invasion force landed on five beachheads on the coast of France. Normandy became the bloody battleground where those men fought their hearts out to liberate a continent.
Dignitaries from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada — and many other Allied nations that played a role in that liberation — will gather at Normandy to pay tribute to the men who answered humanity’s call. The president of the United States Donald Trump will be there, along with British Prime Minister Teresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
They will no doubt be joined by a few of the dwindling number of men who are still among us. They are old men now. The next landmark commemoration, in five years, when we mark the 80th year since the D-Day landing, well could occur without any of those brave warriors. They are well into their 90s now and, of course, time is not their friend.
It’s been reported many times that Gen. Eisenhower wrote two statements prior to sending those men into battle. One of the statements referred to a failed mission. Ike was prepared to take full responsibility for that failure.
He didn’t have to read that statement to the anxious world. The mission, which was fraught with error and misjudgment, nevertheless succeeded. The men secured the beachhead, caught their breath, gathered up their equipment and then began the march across Europe.
So, we will honor those men’s untold bravery. We must always honor them for the valor and the righteousness of the cause for which they fought — and died.