June 6, 1944: The Great Crusade

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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 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 and 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.

(Signed, ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower’)

The late Paul Fussell, then an infantry Lieutenant, remarked once that most troops he knew who heard of this message took it fairly cynically, as they did most “inspirational” messages from higher ups.  Pretty words would not change who was going to pay the blood price to accomplish the mission, a fact that the men at the sharp end of the stick knew all too well.  As far as they were concerned this wasn’t a crusade but a dirty job that had to be done and that it was their bad luck to be the ones to have to do it.  He then noted that it was not until he was involved in liberating a death camp that it struck him that they had been engaged in something very like a crusade after all.



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