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D-Day Is A Day That Remains Hard To Wrap Your Head Around

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 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.
-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

I asked Capt Conns to write a little something about DDay because he’s a West Point grad and an Army Captain. Like most officers, Connor learned about leadership from speeches and books about great men and women. There is no one better for an Army man to learn from than General Eisenhower. Take it away, Cons.

The speech above is what General Eisenhower gave to the Allied forces before storming the beaches of Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. Sidenote – writing the operation order for this mission must’ve been hell. “Hey, Captain Cons. Whatcha workin on?” “Oh, just the OpOrd to save the world.” “Oh.”

I’d venture to say most of you have never read that speech. I think it’s important to understand the grave task that General Eisenhower had to impress upon these men. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” Many of these men had left their homes years before and at this point, probably didn’t think they would ever make it back.

Now, they were approaching shore on a boat with gunfire and artillery waiting for them, or they parachuted in during the darkness of night, against an enemy that had a decided advantage. Either way, they were staring death in the eye and yet, they forged ahead. The fortitude of these brave men is uncommon.

I’ve often thought about what could have been going through their heads on the precipice of this battle. I like to believe most of them simply believed it was their duty to be there that day. Duty to their country, their family, their God (if they had one), all in the name of preserving Freedom. General Eisenhower was banking on that and the momentum the Allies were riding. “The tide has turned.” More importantly, I like to believe these men wholeheartedly endorsed when Gen Eisenhower said, “We will accept nothing less than full victory,” and they stormed those beaches because 6 June 1944 was going to be the start of that Victory.

You will see reminders of D-Day all over the place today, and that’s actually good. On ZBT we have said courage is not the absence of fear but marching to the sounds of the guns in the face of fear. Arriving on the beachhead of Normandy, those men moved forward with historical courage, and we don’t speak German today because they did.