In early June 1944, southern England swarmed with Allied troops preparing for one of the greatest events of World War II – a massive invasion of northern France. The Allies had spent months getting ready for D-Day. The plan: about 2,700 ships carrying landing craft and 176,000 men would cross the English Channel and assault German fortifications across a 60-mile front in Normandy.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the invasion, originally chose June 5 as D-Day, but bad weather and rough seas forced a delay. Then Eisenhower received a new weather forecast. The skies would clear and the seas would calm just long enough to launch the invasion the next day. But the window of opportunity would be short.
The general gave the order: “O.K., let’s go.” Then he went to his portable desk, scribbled the following note, and slipped it into his wallet to use in case things went badly.
||Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.
It was a statement Eisenhower never had to use. His words, however, remind us that democracies need leaders who have the courage to make the tough calls and then take the heat for them, when necessary.