Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The D-Day That Wasn’t

 

Ike-8aWhile Peter and Jeff are rightfully reminding us of the legacy of D-Day on its 70th anniversary, here’s a different angle from which to consider the commemoration: what didn’t happen.

As Jeff noted in his earlier post, the number of unforeseen variables were legion. That tends to be the case in wartime, and especially in an undertaking of this scale and complexity. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to thwart our efforts … but what if it had?

Two years ago, I posted here the speech that had been prepared for President Nixon should the moon landing have been a failure. It’s a fascinating peek into alternative history and as moving as you’d expect given that it came from the pen of Bill Safire. Here’s another document that never saw the light of day: the statement that had been prepared by General Dwight D. Eisenhower should D-Day have been a failure:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Haver area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 upon 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.”

Oh, that last sentence. General Eisenhower, attempting one of the most ambitious military assaults of all time — the failure of which could conceivably have been explained through an endless array of rationalizations — stepping up and taking full responsibility. Would anyone have thought less of him if he issued the exact same statement minus the final sentence? And yet one imagines he couldn’t live with himself had he done so. 

Our culture has a bad habit of overusing the word “hero.” Ike, however, deserved the designation — as did so many of the men who lived through that day … and so many who didn’t make it to the dusk.

There are 16 comments.

  1. Rachel Lu Contributor

    Did you see that piece on how Eisenhower wouldn’t commemorate D-Day in subsequent years with a triumphalist speech, because the thought of all those lost lives was just too painful to him? Amazing stuff. Really moving.

    • #1
    • June 6, 2014, at 2:22 PM PST
    • Like
  2. EJHill Podcaster

    Marine and I used to mark this day every year by watching The Longest Day. Marine Corps boot camp prevented that this year so I chose a dose of the real thing.

    Archive.org has NBC’s complete broadcast day available for listening. From the first bulletins at 2:50 am EWT and on to the truncated prime time “comedy” lineup of Fibber McGee and Molly and Bob “I’m being serious now” Hope, it’s a fascinating glimpse into that time period.

    The first word of the invasion came from the Nazi propaganda wire service TransOceanic. Then comes hours of NBC analysts speculating about it. Either poor journalism isn’t new or we’ve bought too far into the mythology of a glorious past.

    The amazing part is the amount of pastors NBC invited to deliver prayers before the start of the next news block. Times certainly have changed.

    • #2
    • June 6, 2014, at 3:01 PM PST
    • Like
  3. Nitwit MN Inactive

    Guys like Gen Eisenhower don’t exist any longer in the public sphere.

    • #3
    • June 6, 2014, at 3:07 PM PST
    • Like
  4. Tim H. Member

    Reading that actually made my arm hairs stand up on end! I was hoping that TCM would be playing The Longest Day today, but no luck. I was telling my younger daughter earlier about the invasion and wanted to show her something that depicted the landing in film. She is too young for Saving Private Ryan, but I think she could handle this one.

    One bright note: If Turner Classic Movies does bring it back into their rotation, they now have both live streaming and on-demand viewing over the web. They limit the selection to about five dozen movies at a time, available for about a week or so each, and it seems to be the ones that they’ve recently played on-air. That’s a pretty good selection, though, and it’s all free—no charge!

    • #4
    • June 6, 2014, at 3:51 PM PST
    • Like
  5. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Imagine this instead: “we were, um, just informed this morning, um, about these developments. We had no idea, uh, until the newsreels, uh, that there had been an invasion planned. No one could be madder than I am about this, uh, attempt to usurp the sovereign territory of, uh, another nation. I am appointing a special task force to investigate, uh, this action, and get to the bottom of it, when they are prepared to present their findings, we will comment again. Until then, I’ll say nothing else except that these troubles were brewing during the Hoover administration, as you recall.”

    • #5
    • June 6, 2014, at 3:52 PM PST
    • Like
  6. Jeffrey Earl Warren Contributor

    Troy, you nailed it. Ike was a man of character, who valued character and who exhibited character.

    ( I had written a great snarky remark which I just deleted becasue Ike would not have approved because it showed a lack of “respect for the office.” Ike was a big man and had no time for the petty things that occupy our little minds. Out of respect for what he would have wanted, I’ll hold it in and just marvel at his humility and willingness to know where the buck stops. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. Thanks for reminding us all.

    • #6
    • June 6, 2014, at 4:33 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Arahant Member

    Troy Senik, Ed.: Oh, that last sentence.

    Indeed!

    • #7
    • June 6, 2014, at 5:56 PM PST
    • Like
  8. profdlp Inactive

    Here is a recording of Kate Smith’s show and her pausing to pray for the troops live on the radio:

    https://ia601203.us.archive.org/16/items/1944RadioNews/1944-06-06-1200-CBS-Kate-Smith-Speaks—Prayer-For-Our-Troops.mp3

    • #8
    • June 6, 2014, at 11:15 PM PST
    • Like
  9. David Williamson Inactive

    I expect Mr Obama had a similar speech written (by himself, of course – he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters) in case the rescue of our brave guys in Benghazi went wrong – oh, wait…

    How far we have fallen.

    • #9
    • June 7, 2014, at 1:59 AM PST
    • Like
  10. Kozak Member

    On the alternate history ramp, the decision to go was a very close one. DDay was supposed to be on the 5th and was delayed for the weather. The forecast barely gave adequate weather on the 6th and Ike decided to gamble. If he hadn’t, the next combination of tides and moon were in 2 weeks, and at that time one of the worst storms in a decade hit the Channel and Normandy coast and the invasion would have been impossible. Ike later sent a note to the weathermen in his command saying in effect thank God we went when we did.

     Who knows what might have happened? Certainly keeping the invasion plans unknown to the Germans would have been a major factor and if they had become aware of the planned location of the invasion…….

    • #10
    • June 7, 2014, at 5:19 AM PST
    • Like
  11. ctlaw Coolidge

    I dissent.

    I think almost any US or Commonwealth general in Ike’s position would have written something similar. Probably the majority of generals today would have.

    President “my predecessor…” would not.

    • #11
    • June 7, 2014, at 7:29 AM PST
    • Like
  12. tabula rasa Member

    As I’ve written elsewhere, my father was part of the invasion (the fourth day).

    He was seriously wounded four months later, and spent months in a military hospital recovering from several serious surgeries.

    In the latter part of 1945, General Eisenhower showed up in the ward where Dad was recovering from yet another surgery. He went around to each wounded soldier, looked them in the eye, shook their hands, and thanked them for their service.

    You could criticize any politician at my home, except for Ike. My father revered him, and I think he did so with good reason. Dad always said that Ike was a “soldier’s general.”

    Dad liked Ike. I like Ike too.

    • #12
    • June 7, 2014, at 1:53 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Al Sparks Thatcher

    A nit.

    I have a lot of admiration for Ike Eisenhower. But he doesn’t meet my very limited definition of “hero”, which has been inflated way too much in the last few decades. Ike’s career did not afford him the opportunity to display physical acts of valor or sacrifice where he put his life on the line.

    My definition of hero includes that. It’s rare where a general in the modern era had that opportunity as generals, and if they did it usually meant they weren’t doing their job.

    Ike displayed the kind of character where if he had had that opportunity, he no doubt would have responded to the call. But he just didn’t.

    • #13
    • June 7, 2014, at 5:35 PM PST
    • Like
  14. Buckeye Inactive

    Not to take one ounce away from Ike, who was a man of Honor.
    — But then there was Patton, a man of Action. Hard to compare them, since they played totally different roles — both needed. Al Sparks, does Patton fit your definition of Hero?

    • #14
    • June 7, 2014, at 7:44 PM PST
    • Like
  15. Dustoff Inactive

    Nailed it Cow Girl!

    • #15
    • June 7, 2014, at 10:38 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Grendel Member

    Cow Girl:

    Imagine this instead: ”we were, um, just informed this morning, um, about these developments. We had no idea, uh, until the newsreels, uh, that there had been an invasion planned. No one could be madder than I am about this, uh, attempt to usurp the sovereign territory of, uh, another nation. I am appointing a special task force to investigate, uh, this action, and get to the bottom of it, when they are prepared to present their findings, we will comment again. Until then, I’ll say nothing else except that these troubles were brewing during the Hoover administration, as you recall.”

     Bingo! But suppose BHO had been the one to announce a success:

    Our program to bring peace, justice, and security to all folks is succeeding as I planned. With my leadership behind them, a multi-national and multi-lingual contingent has liberated the Naztea-Party-occupied sector of the Asian landmass. The bitter clingers to Tinder, Churchy, and Koch have waited in vain to keep a rising sea of popular sentiment (#risingsea) from beginning to fundamentally restructure the power structure left in that part of the world by previous administrations.

    • #16
    • June 9, 2014, at 1:39 PM PST
    • Like