D-Day remembered: June 6th 1944
Note: this is a repost of my annual D-Day post.
“I am quite positive that the order must be given.”
With those words the plan to liberate Europe was put into motion. On June 4th allied ships set out across the English channel to begin the much waited for offensive scheduled to begin on June 5th. Torrential downpours forced the delay of the mission but the ships could not be turned around unless the invasion was rescheduled. Running the risk of being spotted by the Germans, the ships were to sit there and wait for another opportunity.
June 5th, the allied commanders met to discuss the weather and the future of the invasion while troops were floating in the channel with no place to go and nothing to do but wait for the decision whether the order was a go or whether the invasion would be postponed. The seas were rough and the waves were high, crashing down over the landing crafts, many soldiers were sick and all of them were tired. Physically tired, and mentally tired. They were also tired of waiting, if there was to be an invasion they wanted to get it over with. To the troops waiting was worse than fighting.
The weather reports looked bad and most likely another postponement would be necessary but Dwight D. Eisenhower was waiting for the final weather report of the day before making his decision. A postponement now would mean calling off the plans altogether at this point and beginning again at a much later date. With the final weather report came some good news, it looked like there might be a break in the weather at just the right time and just long enough to begin the invasion.
Ike began to survey the other generals in the room for their opinions. Opinions were split, it appeared to some that it was too risky and that the weather report wasn’t good enough, or certain enough, to carry out the invasion. It still looked too risky.
Ironically it was a general who was known for his deliberate and careful pace on the battlefield, a general who many thought (including Ike himself and General Patton) moved too slow and was too cautious who may have swayed Dwight D Eisenhower; when asked, General Montgomery said, “I would say. GO!”
The fate of Europe hung in the balance.
Ike paced back and forth, the fate of the free world and Nazi Germany weighed on his shoulders. All eyes were upon him as he finally turned to the generals in the room and said, “I am quite positive that the order must be given.” That was his order to go and the largest amphibious landing in history was about to get underway; the first attempt at a cross channel invasion since the 1600′s was put in motion.
Knowing that the weather conditions were not ideal, and because of this there was the very real possibility that the invasion could fail, Ike sat down and penned the following statement just in case:
“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 folded the piece of paper and stuck it in his pocket. That is where the paper would stay.
On the ships the soldiers listened to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s June 6th Order of the Day:
“We will accept nothing less than full victory!”
June 6th, D-Day. The most important day of the twentieth century. Landing crafts followed the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who were deployed during the night behind enemy lines. The casualties were high, especially on Omaha Beach; many were killed as the doors to the landing craft opened, never even having the chance to leave the landing craft; while many drowned in the waters never having reached the beach. The first to reach the beach faced heavy casualties as the Germans were dug in with fortifications that the slave labor they had captured during the war were forced to build.
They faced a hell that day that is unimaginable to those who were not involved. But through persistence, drive, faith, courage, determination, and a little deception the soldiers of the United States, Great Britain, and Canada kept moving forward, buoyed in the belief that the cause was just and noble. The Germans defended the beaches viciously, but at the end of the day the invasion succeeded, the beaches were taken, and the liberation of a continent had begun.
The Germans knew that the invasion was coming but they did not know where and they did not know when. The Germans thought the invasion would probably be at Pais de Calais because it would provide the shortest path to Germany, and the Germans were also concerned about General Patton, who was actually part of a plan of deception. He was “commanding” a fake army across from Pais de Calais, fully equipped with inflatable tanks. The Germans did not think that an invasion of France would take place without America’s best general, they had no idea that General Patton was actually being punished by Ike and would not be participating in the invasion, they assumed from wherever Patton was, the true invasion would come.
Field General Rommel, the Desert Fox, figuring that the tide was wrong for the invasion, and confident that the weather would not allow an invasion, left the battlefield to buy his wife a new pair of shoes for her birthday.
Adolf Hitler was asleep, and as the invasion began nobody dared to wake him. The Führer had taken over command of the Panzer tank division and nobody could order the tanks to the invasion site but he. As he slept the Germans lost valuable time. By the time the order came from the Führer for the Panzers to get to the scene for backup it was too late. If Rommel was on the scene during the invasion, and if the Panzers were ordered to the scene in time, perhaps Ike would have had to release the statement that he had written in case the invasion failed.
Adolph Hitler was now thankfully in the last year of his life, as was Field General Rommel; both by their own hand. Rommel after being implicated in an assassination plot against Hitler.
June 6th, 1944, the longest day, and the most important day of the twentieth century, the day that the liberation of a continent began. The day that the destruction of the Nazis and the downfall of Adolph Hitler began. A day that must never be forgotten for these men proved that they were indeed from the greatest generation.
I have included a couple of D-Day tribute videos. In the first one you have the pleasure of listening to Iron Maiden playing “The Longest Day,” set to the opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan,” followed by Ronald Reagan’s speech from Normandy on the 40th anniversary in 1984.
Thank you to not only those who fought and lived and those who fought and died on D-Day, but thank you also to all of those who have ever fought in the name of freedom throughout history. It is because of them that I am able to write this today. I will never forget them and I hope that you do not ever forget them either.