Tag Archives: D-Day

The ‘best’ are great, the worst are, well, something else

Donald Trump has shown an ability to hire a wide-ranging array of key administration officials. They run from the brightest of lights to the dimmest of bulbs.

I consider Defense Secretary James Mattis to be among the stars of the Trump administration. He’s a retired four-star Marine Corps general; tested in combat. He’s dedicated to the defense of this country. Thoughtful, learned and a totally competent strategic thinker.

I hope he stays for the duration of the Trump administration, although Mattis’s tenure is beginning to show signs of wobbliness.

Then there’s the president’s latest selection to be our ambassador to the United Nations.

I am having difficulty wrapping my noggin around this one. Heather Nauert is nominated to be our nation’s top envoy on the world stage. Her credentials? None. She has nothing to offer.

Except for this: She once was a “news” personality on the Fox News News Channel, the president’s network of choice. She did a co-hosting gig on “Fox & Friends.” She dressed up in goofy costumes and acted totally, well, the way morning “news” talk show co-hosts often act.

Then she got a job as spokeswoman for the State Department. You might be recall how she sought to praise U.S.-Germany relations by citing, for instance, the upcoming D-Day commemoration. D’oh! Wait a second!

Our guys fought the Germans to the death on the beaches at Normandy, France. We were at war.

This is the kind of “experience” the president sought when he named this person to be our advocate on at the United Nations.

Weird, man.

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

Trump ‘insults’ Canadians … nice!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has some strong thoughts about Donald Trump’s decision to impose punishing tariffs on Canadian steel sent to the United States.

He said: “Our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II … and the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other, somehow — this is insulting to them.”

At a personal level, Trudeau has taken serious offense to the president’s curious decision to go to “war” against the nation with which the United States shares the longest unsecured border in the world.

Yes, Canadians fought alongside Americans and Brits at Normandy. Curiously, we are about to honor the D-Day invasion in a few days.

Sure, Trump recognizes the longstanding alliance between the United States and Canada. Then he said our allies are taking advantage of us in trade. His response is to get back at them; impose these tariffs in a classic protectionist move.

Trudeau is looking for some sign of “common sense,” but says he cannot find it in the policy announced by the “U.S. administration.”

Well, Mr. Prime Minister, a lot of Americans are just as confused as you are. Let us know when common sense presents itself.

In Trump World: Buck stops … somewhere else

Commanders in chief are supposed to know a fundamental truth about sitting atop a large and complex military chain of command.

They are allowed to take some of the credit for success, but they also must take responsibility when missions don’t go according to plan.

Donald J. Trump signed off on a mission to kill or capture some top al-Qaeda leaders, to collect some intelligence on the terror network and, presumably, to return all the men assigned to carry out the mission back home.

The mission that occurred in Yemen in late January. A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died in the fire fight. A state-of-the-art Osprey V-22 tiltrotor aircraft was lost. Some al-Qaeda leaders died in the battle. So did some civilians, including at least one child.

Military and national security officials are still trying to assess the value of the intelligence collected. We keep hearing conflicting assessments. The president, of course, says it is of high value.

But the current commander in chief has done something that is quite extraordinary — and inexcusable. He is laying the blame for Petty Officer Owens’ death on the military planners. “They” lost the SEAL, Trump has said.

Wait a flippin’ minute, Mr. President! The buck is supposed to stop at your desk. One of your predecessors, President Truman, famously posted the sign on his Oval Office desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” President Kennedy once declared that “victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan” after the failed Bay of Pigs operation shortly after he became president.

Trump’s response? He has declared that the planning for the Yemen raid was done by President Obama’s national security team. They crafted the plan that failed, Trump has implied. It’s their fault, too!

This is not what commanders in chief do. Under any other circumstance, presidents stand up and take the heat when things go badly. They do not blame others — namely the military brass or their predecessors. JFK’s failed mission in Cuba was actually conceived by his predecessor, President Eisenhower, but the new guy took the hickey, accepted full responsibility for the mission’s failure.

A military man who just a few years later would become commander in chief himself, devised a strategy to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — supreme commander of Allied Forces — launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944. The mission succeeded, Europe would be liberated.

But Ike had written an alternative announcement he would have read over the radio had the mission failed. In the message that was never broadcast, he took full responsibility for its failure.

That is what leaders do.

I am not going to wander into the muck over whether the Yemen raid was a success or failure. The president’s assertion that the generals were to blame for the death of a brave young SEAL suggests to me that he has doubts about the mission’s overall success.

Whatever the case, the event occurred on the commander in chief’s watch and it is that person — no one else — who should be held fully accountable.

Three words launched campaign to save the world


“OK. We’ll go.”

Right then and right there, with those words, the order went out from the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe.

The invasion of Europe was on.

General of the U.S. Army Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a terrible dilemma. The weather over the English Channel had been horrible. The invasion of France had been delayed once already. Hundreds of thousands of men had assembled and prepared in Great Britain for Operation Overlord.

Ike then caught a bit of a break. The weather was going to cooperate — more or less — on June 6, 1944. That’s when he decided to issue the order.

The men set out in ships. They boarded landing craft and hit the French coastline along five beachheads. American and British soldiers stormed four of them; Canadians stormed the fifth one.

Eisenhower had drafted two statements in preparation for that event, one to proclaim victory on the beach, the other to take full responsibility in case it went badly. He didn’t have to deliver the latter statement.

It has become fashionable in the present day to invoke Ike’s memory as we discuss the merits of the individuals seeking the U.S. presidency. Those who defend the current Republican presumptive nominee’s lack of government experience often cite Eisenhower’s own lack of such qualifications when he ran for president in 1952.

No, he didn’t have that kind of experience. All he did, though, was save the world from tyranny.

Eight years after saying simply, “OK. We’ll go,” the presidency became his for the taking.

So it was on this day 72 years ago that thousands upon thousands of young men followed their commander’s order.

May God bless them all.

Ike's 'other' D-Day message

We’ve been marking the 70th anniversary of the landing at Normandy, France.

On June 6, 1944, American, British, Canadian and other Allied troops stormed ashore and began the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.

It would end in victory nearly a year later when Germany would surrender, ending the European combat operations in World War II.

U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was the supreme commander of Allied forces that landed in France. He announced to the world the fact that the landing had occurred and that the men were marching inland.

He had another message he never had to deliver. It was brief. It was folded in his wallet. It said:

“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.”

This note is worth mentioning because it embodies the finest qualities of a leader.

Gen. Eisenhower was that man.

'Think of these men'

Presidents of the United States often are called upon to pay tribute to their forebears, the people who made it possible — to a large degree — for them to hold the office they occupy.

President Reagan stood on a bluff overlooking Normandy’s Omaha Beach in 1984 to salute “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” the U.S. Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs on June 6, 1944 to assault Nazi machine gun posts while launching the greatest amphibious assault in world history.

Today, one of President Reagan’s successors, President Obama, reminded the world of the courage of those men who stormed ashore that day 70 years ago, “wave after wave” of men seeking to liberate people “they had never met.”

“When you lose hope,” he said today in commemorating that monumental day, “think of these men.”


Indeed, cynics everywhere should think of what those men did that day — and what they had done for years prior and what they would do for another year after that landing.

Maybe a little reflection might wash away some of that cynicism.

Those brave young men saved the world from tyranny.

What’s left to say to those who are left?

Thank you.

Yes, they were heroes

They’re old now. They’re in their late 80s or in their 90s.

They once were young, full of eager anticipation and they wanted to fight for their country. They had joined the fight of their lives to save the world from tyranny.

And 70 years ago, on June 6, 1944, thousands of them jumped out of landing craft and ran ashore at Normandy, France to liberate Europe from the Nazis who had occupied the continent.

Some of them returned to that beach today to remember the chaos, the blood, the sacrifice and what they did on behalf of the world.

Many of them don’t consider themselves heroes. Many of us who came along later will disagree vehemently with that view.

They surely were heroes. They are heroes to this day.

It was called “D-Day.” Why that name? There was no symbolism, no hidden meaning. It’s commonly accepted that “D-Day” meant merely, well, that was the day of the massive amphibious assault.

Was the assault performed without a hitch? Hardly. There were mistakes all along the huge front. Landing craft opened up and men drowned in too-deep water. Airborne troops flown in behind the German lines were dropped in wrong locations. Chaos ensued.

The men persevered. They fought their way off the beaches, facing deadly small arms fire and a determined enemy.

These heroes were not to be denied.

They are old now and they are leaving this world at a quickening pace.

But oh, how we owe them for what they did seven decades ago.

They are heroes. All of them.