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 Nations 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.
Comment: This order of the day from General Eisenhower was distributed as a leaflet to Allied Forces on the eve of the D-Day invasion. Inspiring, yes? Much will be said and much will be done today to commemorate the events and memory of that day. There’s nothing I can add.
The words I find even more inspiring are those written by General Eisenhower to be issued in the event of a failed D-Day invasion. He was willing to absolutely own a major failure in a strong, active voice statement.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.”
We don’t hear words like this today, much less witness this display of personal responsibility. I can’t remember hearing anyone at this level saying “I made a mistake” rather than “mistakes were made” for a very long time. But I do remember Charlie Beckwith loudly saying in front of all that he screwed that one up after a failed hostage rescue exercise by the nascent Delta Force in 1979. I was present only because several of my Recondo School instructors posed as the hostage taking aggressors. Beckwith and my instructors served together in MACV-SOG. I was a mere 1LT, a straphanger who kept his mouth shut and listened.