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What did Ike say to launch the D-Day invasion?

Today’s blog post comes from James Worsham, Editor of Publications at the National Archives, and Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower talks with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in Newbury, England, on June 5, 1944, prior to their departure for their role in the D-day invasion, dropping behind enemy lines.  The soldier with a “23” tag was a fellow Kansan, Lt. Wallace C. Strobel.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower talks with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in Newbury, England, on June 5, 1944, prior to their departure for their role in the D-day invasion, dropping behind enemy lines. The soldier with a “23” tag was a fellow Kansan, Lt. Wallace C. Strobel. (National Archives Identifier 531217)

The Supreme Allied Commander listened to his weather officer’s forecast,  then observed as his commanders struggled to make sense of the report.

Finally, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, having ordered the biggest invasion force in history to a state of readiness, spoke:  “The question is just how long can you keep this operation on the end of a limb and let it hang there.”

The next morning, Eisenhower arose at 3:30 and met with his staff again.  He asked each one what he thought about launching the invasion of Western Europe the next day, June 6, 1944. They all said yes.

Then Eisenhower got up, paced around the room, pondering what was riding on this decision — the fate of millions.

Then he stopped pacing, looked at his commanders, and gave the go-ahead for the D-day invasion of Western Europe by the allies to bring down Hitler’s Third Reich.

But what words did Eisenhower use to give his commanders the green light 70 years ago this week?

Eisenhower meets with his commanders in January 1944.  Far left is Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley and far right is Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith.

Eisenhower meets with his commanders in January 1944. Far left is Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley and far right is Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. (Eisenhower Library)

Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, ponders that question in the latest issue of Prologue magazine.

“It is puzzling that one of the most important decisions of the 20th century did not bequeath to posterity a memorable quote to mark the occasion, something to live up to the magnitude of the decision,” Rives writes.  “Something iconic like Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s vow to the people of he Philippines, ‘I shall return.’”

Eyewitnesses to Ike’s historic decision could not agree on what he actually said.  Was it “Well, we’ll go” or “All right, we move” or “OK, boys, We will go.”

Even Eisenhower himself was not consistent in his recollections of what he said. In a 1964 article for Paris Match, he recalled that he said: “We will attack tomorrow.”

In his Prologue article, Rives explores the many recollections of that moment. Then, he tells us what Eisenhower himself remembered about that morning 70 years ago, when the tide of war began to turn in favor of the allies.

A view on June 6, 1944, from a coast Guard Barge hitting the French coast with the first waves of invaders.  U.S. troops wade ashore  under heavy machine gun fire  from Nazi beach nests.

A view on June 6, 1944, from a coast Guard Barge hitting the French coast with the first waves of invaders. U.S. troops wade ashore under heavy machine gun fire from Nazi beach nests. (National Archives Identifier 513173)

 

 

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Comments

Comment from Patrick Osborn
Time June 6, 2014 at 8:39 am

The bottom photo was not taken from a barge. It was taken from a position above the engine compartment of a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), more commonly known as a “Higgins boat.” A barge is a relatively large, flat-bottomed craft, typically used to move freight, and usually pushed or pulled by another vessel. The Higgins boat was small, had a conventional boat-style hull, and had its own motive power. Not only was the Higgins boat far more nimble than a barge, its integral bow ramp permitted troops and vehicles to disembark quickly directly onto a beach, something that could not be done from a barge. The development of the LCVP and other specialized craft revolutionized amphibious warfare.

Mary Reply:

Thank you for pointing this out. The photo caption was condensed from the original caption on the image in the National Archives: “Down the ramp of a Coast Guard Landing barge Yankee soldiers storm toward the beach–sweeping fire of Nazi defenders in the D-Day Invasion of the French Coast. Troops ahead may be seen lying flat under the deadly machine gun resistance of the Germans. Soon the Nazis were driven back under the overwhelming Invasion forces thrown in from Coast Guard and Navy amphibious craft.”
The Archivist featured the Higgins boat patent in his blog on June 6 — http://blogs.archives.gov/aotus/?p=5536 — and the vessel in the picture does look like the patent drawing.