Order of the Day

Order of the Day

70 years ago — June 5, 1944 … in the afternoon, it was a nervous Dwight D. Eisenhower who awaited the English night when Allied paratroopers would begin their flights to make their drops in France. Maybe his state of mind is best illustrated by a message he scribbled and tucked in his wallet — a message that he would deliver publicly if the invasion failed. Ike actually mis-dated the note “July 5.” It said:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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

Later that day, Ike issued his famous Order of the Day for June 6, one that instantly became a classic. The order was distributed to GIs and British troops and most folded it up and put it in their wallets or their pockets — and many, when they returned home, had it framed and hung in their houses. After the war, many American GIs talked about how proud they were to have this order in their possession. Then, on the night of June 5, Ike made his spur-of-the-moment emotional visit to the 101st Airborne Division in Newbury, Wiltshire, where — in one of the most iconic photographs of WWII — he was caught on film talking to Lt. Wallace C. Stroble, jump-master for Group 23. Ike returned to Southwick to wait out the night and await word of the invasion’s success or failure. That night, all over Britain, the sky filled with the roar of airplanes. And shortly thereafter, the invasion armada — more than 5,000 ships strong carrying more than 156,000 troops — headed toward the French coast, toward Normandy.

General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day — June 6, 1944

“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 hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allied 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 all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.