As we commemorate D-Day, it’s often easy to forget that the invasion was considered a long shot. CNN reminds us that it remains “[t]he largest amphibious (land and water) invasion in history”. Everything had to go off without a hitch. This was the Allies chance to stick it to the Axis forces and land a startling blow to the Nazis.
The fact this operation succeeded at all is amazing, the fact it went off without any major hitch is astonishing. But what was it like down on the ground? What did this future president go through on that day?
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Starting tomorrow I have a series of trips that will last without interruption from six to ten days. So if you have a lapse in arriving letters, don’t jump at the conclusion that I don’t want to write — I’ll simply have no opportunity to pick up a pen. I’m a bit stymied in my mind as to subjects to write about. So many things are taboo — and the individual with whom you are acquainted (including myself) go along in accustomed ways. Mickey is a jewell. I often wonder how existed without him. Anyway the real purpose of this note was to say I’m well, and love you as much as ever, all the time, day and night. Your picture (in a gilt frame) is directly in front of my desk. I look at you all the time. Another is in my bed room. Loads of love — always.
This transcript of a letter to his wife is thanks to the Wall Street Journal. The vague language, however, is because General Ike wasn’t allowed to give away any war plans—hence why he calls D-Day a “series of trips”. It’s also why he says he’s “stymied” about what to write about.
Most importantly, however, the letter reveals how tense everything really was.
Image Via MilitaryHistoryNow.com
Nazi Germany controlled much of Western Europe, but the Allies wanted to chance that. On June 5th 156,000 Allied forces were to be sent, by ship or plan, over the English Channel to land a strike against the German Army dug in at Normandy, France.
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There was a window of only four days to attack, but the worse came on June 4th. History.com reveals that “[w]hen bad weather hit the channel on June 4, Eisenhower wrestled with the idea of postponing Operation Overlord” given that “[w]eather conditions were predicted to worsen over the next two weeks”.
Stationed at his forward command post at Southwick House in Portsmouth, England, General Eisenhower spoke to a meteorologist. Encyclopedia Britannica writes that Group Captain. James Stagg, a Royal Air Force meteorologist, predicted “a temporary break in the weather might allow the invasion to go ahead on June 6”.
The the Wall Street Journal writes that “Gen. Eisenhower paced the room at length and finally said, ‘O.K.—we’ll go,’ setting in motion an attack that had been in the works for more than a year.”
Meanwhile, the Germans believed that the weather made it impossible for an Allied Invasion. Boy, they got the surprise of a lifetime when Eisenhower ordered 155,000 troops to invade, either by land or by sea.
Image Via The New York Times
The fact is we even have this letter is thanks to the late John S.D. Eisenhower (pictured above), who kept the letter. Fortunately, after John. S. D. Eisenhower’s death in 2013 mean the letter was lost because he sold it to The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum.
Image Via wiesenthal.com
A collector of key documents relating to World War 2, specially the Holocaust, The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum has plans to put the letter on display for the 75th anniversary of D-Day this Thursday, June 6th 2019.
Image Via The Eisenhower Encyclopedia
On a personal note I find it amazing and touching how, in those crowded hours, Eisenhower managed to tell Mamie, “I’m well, and love you as much as ever, all the time, day and night…I look at you all the time.”
Featured Image Via History.com