In 1982 when I graduated from law school, and went to work at a law firm, I was reminded of just how living a memory D-Day still was at that time. The senior partner had lost his son on Omaha Beach. Another partner, who had been elected a judge and left the firm before I arrived, had been severely wounded at Omaha Beach and still walked with a pronounced limp as a result. A third partner in the firm had been a ground officer with the Eighth Air Force, and had helped to co-ordinate air support on D-Day. In the intervening years all of those men have died, and soon the events of D-Day will leave living memory as the last of the veterans depart. It is important that we remember this day that began what Eisenhower called the Crusade in Europe.
Eisenhower demonstrated his true greatness when he secretly had this letter prepared to be released in the event the Normandy landings failed: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 troop, the air force 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.” Italics added. A willingness to shoulder all the blame in the event of such a colossal defeat is something rare in history. Eisenhower idolized General Robert E. Lee and Lee showed precisely this same rare quality. After Pickett’s Charge he met the defeated Confederate troops and told them that it was all his fault. He tendered his resignation to Jefferson Davis, which the Confederate President wisely refused to accept. It is easy to be noble in victory, far harder in defeat.
In the event D-Day did not fail. 2,499 Americans and 1,915 from Great Britain, Canada and the other Allied Powers, paid the ultimate price for the victory gained that day. They deserve to be remembered for helping to remove a terrible evil from the world 74 years ago.