Seventy-eight years ago, soldiers from the Greatest Generation of many countries stormed ashore on a French shoreline. Their aim: to liberate Europe from the clutches of history’s most despicable tyrant.
The D-Day invasion began. Within a year of that massive operation, the architect of that despotic regime in Nazi Germany would be dead. The shooting stopped. The rebuilding of a shattered continent would begin.
The ranks of those brave warriors are down to a fraction of those who commenced the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe are depleted now to a fraction of those who took part. Time’s relentless march has claimed those men, but we always must honor what they did.
The invasion force was led by American, British and Canadian soldiers who landed on five beachheads. They were supported by many nations allied in the common goal of liberating Europe.
I want to call attention to one of the Americans who led that effort: supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.
He issued the order to launch the invasion with the simple command, “OK, we’ll go.” Weather had forced one postponement. Then the men set forth on their journey into history.
I want to call attention to a message that Gen. Eisenhower was prepared to share had the operation failed. Ike would take full responsibility for a failure had the Nazis been able to push the invaders off the beach that day.
He wrote: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.”
He did not have to deliver that message. Instead, he declared to the world that the forces under his command had secured the beachheads and had begun their march inland. He didn’t take singular credit. On the contrary, he praised the gallantry and heroism of the fighting men who risked everything to secure liberty’s blessings for those who suffered under the most oppressive tyranny imaginable.
Gen. Eisenhower was the consummate leader.
All any of us can do so many decades later is thank those men for their sacrifice.