Introduction

On June 6, 1944 (known as D-Day) the Allied Forces launched a series of attacks on German-occupied northern France. A massive naval armada crossed the English Channel and troops stormed the beaches at Normandy from amphibious landing vehicles like the one shown in the photograph on page 84. Bad weather compounded the logistical difficulties of attacking the well-defended shoreline. Uncertain whether the attack would succeed, Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared two messages on June 5, 1944. One was distributed to troops right after Eisenhower made the decision to attack at dawn. The second he scribbled in private to be released if the attack failed. The attacks secured a beachhead, so this second message was never issued.


Sources: Dwight D. Eisenhower, “D-day statement to soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force, 6/44,” Pre-Presidential Papers, 1916-1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (Collection DDE-EPRE), National Archives and Records Administration. https://goo.gl/cF8gpY; Dwight D. Eisenhower, “In Case of Failure D-Day Message,” Pre-Presidential Papers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (Principal File: Butcher Diary, 1942-1945; National Archives Identifier: 186470). https://goo.gl/chcbc2; Photo, “Into the Jaws of Death,” Public Domain Photographs, 1882-1962, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (National Archives Identifier: 195515). https://goo.gl/CxyFbC.


Order of the Day, June 6, 1944

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS

ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations1 have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

Hand-written, unissued message:

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 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.

Study Questions

A. What is Eisenhower’s key message to troops before they attack? What different message does his second note convey? How do these documents influence your interpretation of the photo?

B. How do Eisenhower’s two messages compare to the message that MacArthur issued in the Philippines?

Footnotes

  1. The term “United Nations” was first used in a statement issued January 1, 1942, by the United States, Great Britain, the USSR, and 23 other nations, pledging to continue fighting the Axis powers.