"D-Day +75 In the Eyes of America's Post-War Generations"
by Dwight David Eisenhower II
We’re here students and ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to address the 24th annual governor’s lecture in the humanities in this the year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D day landings. This is an opportunity for Americans to look back and to see the ways that our lives have been affected by that long ago event and how history has been shaped. Generally since then, the world has changed. I think the DNA continues to stand out and we appreciate that this year as a monumental achievement that demonstrates what a free country aroused to unity and an action can achieve. Uh, it is gaining in historical stature as an event, uh, in on the 70th anniversary of D day, this is 2014.
There was a commemoration of DD on June 6th held at Aero munch, which attracted a, uh, head of state or a head of government from every belligerent in the European war. Uh, in 2014 in short, the D day landing site became the point at which everybody involved in world war II in the European theater. Everyone including the Soviets, including the Germans, had decided to commemorate world war II. That’s a huge concession on the part of the Soviets. Earlier this year, one colonist went so far as to state quote on June 6th, 1944, 75 years ago, the Nazi war machine was attacked from the sea on the beaches of Normandy. [inaudible] wasn’t is the greatest single event for good ever wrought by man. And yet we are still learning the story of D-Day. Uh, as many in the audience might, might know, uh, you had a parent or our grandparents and so forth who were involved in world war II.
Uh, veterans of that conflict did not talk about a great deal for the many years. And interestingly, my family was no exception. They resisted being called heroes. Perhaps they knew too well the fears that they had experienced. Perhaps they remembered too well those were left behind, but in any case they were circumspect, but there could be no doubt that this was a central event in their lives and an influential event in airlines. One of our favorite family stories was 10 years after D-Day. It’s June 6th, 1954 Dwight Eisenhower is now president. His brother Milton is president of Penn state and Dwight Eisenhower is the commencement speaker at Penn state. Penn state is a massive university like university of Nebraska. This is a commencement that is going to be held outdoors. The event is threatened by rain, so you can imagine the potential logistical nightmare of trying to move a Penn state commencement inside. They’re waiting in the president’s office. Milton is walking around the room, ringing his hands saying, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? And Dwight is standing over in a corner saying, Milton, since June six 1944 I have never worried about the rain.
Thank you, governor for adding all that information about the weather so people could get that. I think that, uh, the significance of, of DNA permeated our home. We lived in Gettysburg. He moved to Gettysburg as if he was a farmer and that’s what he aspired to be in his retirement years. But he bought a farm in Gettysburg. And I think that by buying a farm in Gettysburg, he was at some level associating Gettysburg, the 19th century Normandy with Normandy the 20th century Gettysburg. These are battles that have shaped our future, uh, and the, he understood that as well as everybody else who went through it. By the way, having grown up on a battlefield, I recommend to people in the audience, particularly students, uh, that they find a way to get to the Normandy battlefield. And while you’re at it, American civil war battlefields as well.
I spent many Sundays when I was a boy with my father touring a Chancellorsville him and asses one and two Antietam, uh, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, cold Harbor and so forth. Battlefields are eloquent. Uh, there are places where you can learn things that, uh, uh, one simply can’t quantify from a distance or considering the question in the abstract. I remember how eloquent Normandy was the first time I saw it in 1962 and went to Europe on a trip with my grandparents. I was now a young teenager, and so I was eligible to be sort of admitted into the experience that they had had over 14, 15 years. This is a trip that began with a transatlantic voyage, which emphasized the distance between America and France. We disembarked sure board, which was a DD target. We boarded a train and this train moves slowly down the Normandy Battlefront town by town through San Mary glaze, San low, San Laurent, Oramash, bayou, lease you one town after another.
I will never forget the thousands and thousands of people who turned out to Crete, general Eisenhower. I’d never seen him in that way before. And we moved from there into the unforgettable scenes of a renascent Europe in 1962 emerging from the shadow of the ward. Palpably, I remember the massive crowds and Paris and bond bond Germany, Copenhagen, Paris again, and in London as Dwight Eisenhower calls on day McMillan, Churchill and other figures of that war. It was an extraordinary, uh, Panorama of the world that deed a rot, so to speak. And as it turns out, it’s actually a diplomatic mission. Dwight Eisenhower was in Europe that summer, in part on a fact finding mission for president Kennedy. And several years ago, the Kennedy library actually sent me transcripts of phone conversations between general Eisenhower and president Kennedy in which my grandfather reported that to Kennedy on his meetings with add an hour and with the gall and McMillan and others on the question of Berlin, Berlin was simmering all summer. Berlin had been a flashpoint in the cold war between the United States and Soviet union, a very dangerous flashpoint at several in several intervals in 1948 and again in 1958. And, uh, so, uh, Eisenhower’s briefing Kennedy on this, he’s briefing him on his reception. And then at the end of this tape, there is a fourth conversation, which is absolutely fascinating. The date is October, 22 1962 in three hours, president Kennedy is going to announce a blockade or a quarantine of Cuba. This is the most dangerous moment of the cold war.
And Kennedy is asking Eisenhower’s advice, who has dealt with the Soviets and dealt with the Berlin and the Cuba problem. And he says to him, a general, I would like your advice. My experts are divided. One half say that the Soviets intend this move into Cuba as a way of gaining leverage over Berlin and that if we move against Cuba, they will move on. Berlin. Uh, my, the other half of my advisers say that this is an opportunistic foray by the Soviets, that they will not connect what we do in Cuba to Berlin. What? See you, my grandfather paused for a minute and he says, mr president, this is your call. I don’t envy you. I do not believe that you will find the link. That was correct. That was the basis for president Kennedy’s world saving judgment, which only he could make that we could safely act in Cuba and defend our interests at that critical moment.
In the cold war. I would say that you could write thesis on this conversation. Everything is there. One of the things that bears out is what my father used to say or what he used to repeat. One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings, which was that as president of the United States, he was paid to make six good decisions a year, six. Well, that was a decision that president Kennedy was paid to make on October 22 and he did very well that day, so I’ve always thought of it in that sense. It is also a picture of the post war. This is a moment in which you can see two great systems confronting each other across Europe. This is a system as well as a rivalry. It is a system or a pattern of international order that lasted from 1945 to 1992 but this is a system of international order characterized by profound distrust between the major powers is made stable by mutual assured destruction.
That oxymoron and it is a war, not just a system in the sense that both sides substantially agreed on one point, and that is sooner or later one side or the other must prevail. Either the world would become communist or the world would become free. That is the world that DD brings on. That is the, that is the immediate aftermath of world war II. And I have to say that, uh, and as the governor pointed out, I was, uh, happy and carefree as a teenager. We all accepted these tensions. We accepted this reality. As a matter of course. Uh, I was being paid by the way, 25 cents an hour. I had to work at the Gettysburg farm, which is why maybe I was playing a little poker. I was trying to enhance my earnings. I knew my grandfather in this period is a fisherman. As a golfer. Uh, I was actually rather apolitical in this period. I think you might find that interesting. I grew up in a military household as much as a political household. I thought everybody was a Republican, uh, until I went to prep school. Um, I was a natural foil for one of the great practical jokes and Phillips Exeter Academy history. That was my nomination and election by acclamation. And in absentia to the only partisan political office I’ve ever held. Secretary treasurer, young Democrats.
Mroommate, uh, who went on to become a Congressman, made sure that that became an item in the paper, which is how my parents found out about it. They thought it was kind of funny. My grandfather did not think it was funny at all. And in fact, uh, the man I had known affectionately for years as granted, I came to know his general Eisenhower.
I think I would have stayed on this course except I go to Amherst college in the fall of 1966. I meet my future wife Julie at Smith. I liked her immediately. Uh, but you can imagine the obstacles in the, in the path of a relationship like this. I remember the second time calling on her and approaching a Proctor in Baldwin Hills. Smith had a system of Proctor. She was a bio major. I think she was reading a bio textbook. She had horn rimmed glasses, street blonde hair. I walked up to her and I remember feeling a little self conscious saying, I’m David Eisenhower. I would like to see Julie Nixon. And she looked at me and said, my name is Harry Truman.
But I persisted. I persisted. And thanks to that I received a kind of baptism exposure to national politics in a way that, uh, even as a grandson, even being around my grandfather in the 1950s, uh, an exposure that I did not have, uh, my first appearance in politics was right here in Omaha. Uh, we attended a statehood day in Omaha. This is March of 1968 and governor team and your predecessor governor, uh, was on the stage along with Senator Curtis. Senator [inaudible], the keynote speaker was Howard Howard Baker. I became, and you didn’t mention this either, and Admiral the Nebraska Navy
I outrank everybody and I served with on the Albany, but this was a, an amazing year. 1968 is the year that we actually begin to move away from this post DD era. Vietnam is the dominant issue that you’re and Richard Nixon, we were part of that campaign ran on a riddle. He ran on a pledge in 1968 at the height of that very difficult war to end the war and win the peace America wins Wars to win the peace he pledged to in the war. And when the piece suggesting that what lay ahead was a long period of diplomacy in which setback or developments in Indochina, which mean one thing in one context would come to mean something in a different context. When the war was over suggesting that the agony of Vietnam could be redeemed in some way. I learned a great deal about, I think, uh, political leadership, uh, being exposed at a young age, that campaign first the importance of mission.
Now the presidency, like general ship in world war II was a mission or in a job that is you run to do something. Your success and effectiveness depend upon it. As Dwight Eisenhower put it once, quote, we succeed only as we identify in life or in war or anything else, a single overriding objective and based all other considerations upon it. That was one thing I learned. I learned, um, as I say, the intelligence, the American political electorate, this was a nuanced campaign. Pledges were made. This is a most difficult moment in American history and yet audiences understood the issues that were at stake. They understood the choices that they faced, they made them in America, wound up ultimately in a much better place. I resolved to become a student of those times. I wanted to learn about my family and that’s what brings me to DDAY and brings me here tonight.
I started with the most familiar topic and that was my grandfather. The person I knew in Gettysburg, the person I worked for in the 1960s and so I approached random house and I said, I’d like to write a book about my grandfather. And they said, fine. And I said, I’d like to base it sort of on the end of his life. I’ve now published that book and they said, fine. There are very good books on post-presidency and so forth. I found that it was difficult to start a book situating Dwight Eisenhower and Gettysburg in 1961 without covering the year 1960 when the final year of his presidency, when he made the Supreme effort to resolve the cold war, uh, through negotiation with Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet union. This was brute broken up by the U two affair. It’s actually a tragic year in American history. I didn’t feel that it could be explained without dipping back into the 1958 1959 Berlin crisis, which did not make any sense unless I covered Lebanon 1958 or the Syrian crisis in 1957 I found myself falling, falling back to the Sputnik crisis. Little rock could not be ignored. The SU, as a fair of 1956, the 56 election, the 1955 Geneva conference, 1954 Indochina war one, the settlement of the Korean war that brought me to McCarthy in Republican politics in 1952 and on backwards. And I finally started Dwight Eisenhower’s born October 14th, 1890
in Denison, Texas. The problem there was historians like to have sources. The only source that I’m aware of of Dwight Eisenhower’s, the only authentic document from his early boyhood that anybody wrote was a postcard that his father, my namesake, David Eisenhower, wrote to Ida Eisenhower, his wife and the six Eisenhower boys from Washington in the summer of 1908. And the postcard reads, quote, hot close quote. That’s all it says.
I felt that, um, that was a questionable basis to write a, uh, uh, a profile of Dwight Eisenhower in the younger days. I looked at his times with Fox Conner, who had served as a Nebraskan black Jack Pershing in world war one. This is a very formative period in Dwight Eisenhower’s professional life is service with George Patton at Fort Meade. Uh, his actual service for Pershing in Paris, 1926-28 in service, uh, with MacArthur and so on. Uh, but none of these things, uh, felt like a satisfactory beginning. In fact, I found a point in the fall of 1943 where I think it can be said from a biographical point of view that everything that happens before 19 fall of 1943 when Dwight Eisenhower’s named commander of overlord, everything that happens is necessary for a full picture of this man, but nothing that happened to him before November, 1943 could have specifically prepared him for the responsibilities that he assumed that month a and discharged in may of 1945 by contrast, what happens to him between November, 1943 in may of 1945 makes it predictable and inevitable that he’d be president of the United and what happens to America between November 43 in the terror on conference in may of 1945 makes it predictable and inevitable that the United States assume the preeminent position that we did in the world with the conclusion of hostilities in may of 43 the pre four 43 story would highlight something that I think is important to emphasize to students here as well as people who are interested in the subject and many people are you can turn on television practically any night and find four documentaries on world war II is an enormous story.
Overlord is a kind of miracle. Uh, it involved crossing the oceans, projecting military force 4,000 miles from our shores, hurling them against the greatest army of Europe, which is defending those shores. It was not foreseen. It was not expected. Americans did not really believe it was possible. If one looks at the Chronicles of the interwar years and read the press of the period, it was difficult for Americans to focus on the developing crisis in Europe. It was difficult to imagine that the Germans would succeed in reopening all of the questions that we thought had been settled by our president Wilson at the end of the great war. It was difficult to imagine that people would permit their governments to resume a war on the scale of world war I. It was difficult to imagine that the first and second lines of defense against the ascendant axis would not hold the first line being diplomacy.
The second line being the French army, but a contest beckoned and Americans were listening and the United States had power over this contest defined vessels by Winston Churchill on September three 1939 his Wars declared in Europe. This is not a question of fighting for Dansik or fighting for Poland. We are fighting to save the whole world from the pestilence of Nazi tyranny and in defense of all that is most sacred demand. This is no war of domination or Imperial aggrandizement or material gain, no war to shut any country out of its sunlight. It is a war viewed in its inherent quality to establish on impregnable rocks the rights of the individual and to establish and revive the stature of man. This was a huge issue in Americans in time. Grasped the dimensions of it and we found ourselves gradually becoming drawn into the European conflict, but it was gradually Winston Churchill in the fall of 1940 after the fall of France and the expulsion of the Western democracies from Western Europe goes on BBC, any pledges to the French people that we shall return, we shall invade Europe.
We will re-establish a second front. We will liberate France. So the D day invasion 75 years ago is the fulfillment of one of the earliest strategic ideas in world war II. It passes through a number of variations and it’s shaped by a number of contingencies. It depends upon the survival of Britain and Britain served fights for its survival in 1940. It depends upon the survival of the Soviet union at as at least an independent nation. When Germany invades the Soviet union in 1941 issue is joined, the survival of the Soviet union becomes indispensable for any plans to return to the continent. We consider a number of variations on the D landing, uh, as a stop gap to prevent a Soviet collapse because their cooperation is so important. The Americans have to win the production battle. Let me recommend a book by Arthur Herman called freedom’s forge, which describes the production miracle of world war II.
What Americans produced in evidence everywhere here in Omaha as well. We had to win the battle of the Atlantic. The allies lose 14 million tons of shipping between 1941 and 1945 6 million tons of shipping in 1942 alone. We have to defeat the German U boat menace and we never did entirely. We had to gain aerial superiority over all of Europe. Now the eighth and 15th air force backed by British bomber command directing pointblank and German industry and morale targets to try to engage the lift Wafa in aerial combat to write down their fighter force and their bomber force and to set up conditions Varial superiority over any battlegrounds that we would open. We had to mobilize an army and Navy. We had to test it in the early, the preliminary theaters of that war and they’re posted on the map right there. This is a North Africa and Italy are shown there.
At the end of 1943 we discovered command unlike Lincoln in the American civil war, Franklin Roosevelt identified his command team quite early in world war II and stuck with it. Eisenhower, Bradley Patton, the lesser known people. DZero who commands five core Omaha beach Huebner who was Omaha beach, Eddie Collins Hodges. And others are identified very early. The overlord plan passes through the approvals process, becomes a plan. The planning begins in may of 1943, uh, Roosevelt and Churchill, uh, approve the plan a number of times and finally they present it to the Soviets. And fall of 1943 and arrived at the quote lawyers bargain at Tehran in 1943. The terror on conference in 1943 at which Eisenhower’s name Supreme commander, or after which and at which the Americans, British and Soviets come together on a plan to defeat Germany in the pursuit phase of world war II is a turning point.
To this point, the Americans and British, the British hadn’t been been expelled from Europe in 1940 are kind of on the sidelines of a giant war, which is region. And between the Soviet union and Germany on the Eastern front, there was a school of thought as we approached the Soviets, do we really want overlord number one? Number two, are the Soviets even going to permit one at this stage? Overlord being the codename for the landings known as D D uh, why did we question D-Day? Why did we question overlord? Germany was losing the war in the fall of 1943 a victorious strategy was in place and a combination of the gigantic red army advances from the East, our theater in Italy and around the clock bombardment of Germany would we felt in time produce a victory. If you have a Victoria’s strategy, you do not change that strategy.
Conventional military wisdom says, but defeating Germany I think was probably a negative statement of American war aims at this state. The true American worrying was not simply to defeat Germany. It was in the wake of Munich in the wake of the collapse of France in 1940. It was to claim for the Western democracies a decisive role in accomplishing the result. The allied forces are going to be on the forefront and so they are not going to take on Germany where it is weak in the Mediterranean. We’re going to take them on where they are strong and strongest and that is the English channel because we are going to end this war as quickly as possible with the Americans and the British. Assuming a decisive role in the outcome and what that means is Western influence over Western Europe when the war ends, will the Soviets, except that as it turns out, the entire conferences dominated by Stalin’s demand that Roosevelt and Churchill Naima commander and that Roosevelt and Churchill Mount the operation, the Soviets to that point had lost 25 million people in the war and they needed help.
They were not going to be able to prevail in this contest by themselves. They needed this needed as badly enough to negotiate for end of it. The entire post war comes into view. At this conference you had the military sessions by day. You had the dinners by night and at night, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt discuss the broader implications of the bargain, which is being worked out at Tehran, which is that the Soviets advanced from the East, the allies advanced from the West, the meet in central Germany, they impose a regime of partition on Germany and we win the war. What will be the outcome? This war Stalin on the night of November 29 1943 confronts Churchill with Roosevelt watching on what will guarantee the Soviet union and Europe that Germany will not be permitted to rise and threaten world peace begin not be permitted to invade the Soviet union.
A third time. Churchill fences, the question they discuss at one point, Churchill says, well, the fact that we are all here, representative Teran means that we all have common interests and common interests or a reliable basis, a reliable guarantee for planning in the future. It was not good enough for the Soviet premier. He did demanded a guarantee and finally Churchill said, Marshall Stalin, no guarantee is possible. The world rolls on. Nothing is final. All we can do here at the Terran conference is to make the world safe for 50 years from 1943 until 1992 meaning that for 50 years there will be one question on the mind of every statesman in every great power. And that is how to avoid the last war, how to avoid the carnage and the destruction of the last war. And then after 50 years in 1992, a third generation will come to power and it will be willing to take a chance on new arrangements to reevaluate, reevaluate the world and see at a new, and that is more or less a what happens as we know in assessing the overlord operation, which ensues.
I’d like to make this point at the outset. I’m going to brief you on a couple of particulars here. First of all, both sides of the Normandy campaign expected to win. There are a lot of histories which, uh, uh, give a currency to a lot of German statements at the end of the war, I think intended to please their captors, uh, that they saw the allied victory coming all along, that they were prepared for it and so forth and that they intended to be on our side and the postwar, all sides of this conflict expected to win. Uh, the question came up this morning in a question and answer, uh, was Dwight Eisenhower worried about the success of overlord given the overwhelming and American advantages? In fact, that Germans, uh, greatly outnumbered us in France. Uh, certainly at the outset of the campaign, they outnumbered us throughout the enormity campaign.
They had more infantry on the ground. We had more aircraft, we had more Navy, they had more infantry. The priority that the Germans attached to France originates in a November four, 1943 fear or directive at Adolph Hitler to his high command acknowledging losses in the East, but noting that in the East, Germany can trade space for time. Germany cannot trade space for time in the West, and therefore the West assumes top priority in German military thinking as of November, 1943. That does not mean, uh, that does not mean more troops than the Eastern front, which is wide open terrain requiring more troops. Forde’s defense, it did mean an acceleration of preparations for the Atlantic Wall meant a steady reinforcement of France. It meant planning as they’re engaged in the same guessing game that we are in. The map illustrates that you see the the arcs illustrate landing sites, potential landing sites. The Germans are asking the same questions. We are in the winter of 1943, early 44. They’re asking questions about the suitability of beaches, naval turnaround times, the proximity of ports, of the strength of German defenses. Eventually, two schools arise in the German high command over how to meet the threat of allied invasion. Two characters that you would be interested in reading about if you go to books on the subject. One Gerd von Ranched and Field Marshal Von Renge Dead. A cynic. The man who had masterminded the defeat of France in 1940. The deep contempt for the democracies. His view was we cannot know where the landings are going to come. Let them come. We will organize a counter offensive and we will defeat them as we did in 1940.
Erwin Rommel is the second. He’s come. He is tasked. In fact, one of the consequences, the Führer Directive 51 is the division of France into new sectors along the LIWA River, north of that sector as Army B south of that sector is Army Group G Rommel is placed in command of Army B and there are two armies formed under his command one-seventh Army to defend Normandy, the other 15th army to defend the region that is closest to southern England. The politcally Rommel’s view was different. Rahmbo, by the way, is seen as a kind of pro-Western figure. In fact, Rahma was a dedicated Nazi, but Rommel had faced the West and he had respect for our fighting ability. He knew what the air ground combination had accomplished in Africa. And his view was this is an invasion that has to be defeated at the ocean’s edge. And so you had this long debate in the German command. Throughout the late winter and early spring of 1944, where to position Panzer units, where to position infantry units, which are going to meet the first shock of the invasion, the von Roosted approach, let them land, deal with them later was based on the truth that Germany could not know where we were going to land. Rommel’s approach of defeating this thing at the beaches was based on the truth that he could not count on reinforcements, and that depended on the Russians and the interconnectedness of the eastern and western fronts. And so both had a point.
Both made their point, both in one way or another, one concessions in the broad concessions that were finally worked out with high command. I’ll say one thing about the German troops that we were facing to consider the stakes of this war. We faced infantry divisions. We faced Panzer units, which were the greatest units of the war. We faced static units. Static units were units without transport that were assigned to defend ports such as, sure port where we landed in 1962. A lot has been written about the poor quality of the German troops defending the channel, quote, coast of focusing on these twenty odd divisions, so-called static divisions, many of them are comprised of Polish and Russian volunteers who’ve been captured on the eastern front. They’re considered to be unreliable. Many of them are over age. And yet, as historian Max Hastings says. These same men prevented the allies almost everywhere from gaining their D-Day objectives. And on the American beach, Omaha brought them close to defeat even before the crack units of the SS and Vermont approached the battlefield. Why? Ask yourself a simple question. See a battle? See a problem through the eyes of the soldiers who we’re fighting it. You are a Red Army captive of the German Army. You are given an opportunity to serve in the German army as an alternative to starving in a prisoner camp. You take that opportunity. You are now serving in the German army. When the war is over. You are repatriated to Russia. What kind of future do you have? You have no future.
These people fought fanatically, every German port was defended by a static unit. With the commander pledging personally to Hitler to defend that port to the last round of ammunition, the last generations and every port was in German hands that we had not forcibly taken over. On May 8th, 1945, the three hundred fifty second field division that moved into Omaha sector three days before the landings there consisting one third Russian, had 15000 thousand effectors at the beginning of the battle. By July twenty ninth, 1944, 115000 effectively had been reduced to one hundred and fifty. They lost everybody.
People say that Rama was a defeatist. Well, he wasn’t defeatist. He foresaw an eventual alliance with the West, but he had a precondition for that. Germany could only forge a relationship with the West if they defeated the overlap. Lord Landing’s first. So here you see a irreducible conflict between the allies whose intention is to defeat the Germans in Normandy and to impose unconditional surrender on the Germans. And Rommel, who proposes to defeat the landings at Normandy and to accept conditions negotiated later on. There is no middle ground. What results? Again, as a kind of command compromise, I think I can illustrate with a map they’re guessing, by the way, the beaches. There’s a remarkable consensus on both sides of the Atlantic now where the real choices are. The real choices are close to Dover. That is right across the Narrows part of the channel or Normandy. The conventional German view was we were coming at Potti, Clay. That is the view that they told us. And that’s where they were expecting the landings. There are only two dissenting voices in the German high command von Wrenched and expected to land at Paté Calais. There were two dissenting voices in the German high command, Erwin Rommel, who commanded Army group b and Adolph Hitler.
They both expected the landing at Normandy. Robert was determined to defeat the landings at the beaches, he famously says. The main line of resistance must be here. Everything we have must be on the coast. Believe me, the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive for the allies as well as the Germans. It will be the longest day from an allied point of view. What’s interesting about our plans is the consistency of plans as planning began in May of 1943. According to the COSAC, that’s an acronym for the entity that was formed to plan the overall landings. The COSAC is one of the great planning and administrative achievements in all of history, the planning of Overlord. We knew everything about the Normandy coast and a consistent feature of the plan from the outset was an intention to land in Normandy. How we kept that intention secret is to me one of the miraculous aspects of this event. Three divisions and two divisions in the follow up. That was the original idea. Let’s see if I can give you a better illustration of that here. The initial overlord plans would have been confined to what is identified. There is D-Day objective would’ve been east of the town. In Sydney, it would have included Omaha Beach, a Canadian beach, any British beach.
And what happens is that in the course of reassessing plans, one of Eisenhower’s most important moves of the commander was to extend the front of the landing to include Utah Beach and to include Sword Beach in the British sector. Other features were consistent our intention to land with moonlight and our intention to land with a rising tide. One thing that makes us landings, makes the landings conceivable is the ingenuity of our planning. We were not going to take a port very quickly. You need a port if you’re gonna supply an army. And that’s our answer to the problem of lack of ports was to build our own ports, build them literally, and to tow them across the English Channel and to place them behind our beaches, the so-called mulberries. If you go to Normandy, you will see the ruins of these beaches and they are the most spectacular ruins of the battle. All of this is fortified by deception, plans of playing on our advantage that we knew were coming. The Germans can not be sure. Eisenhower had many challenges to overcome in the spring of 1944 as he’s planning this. Probably the easiest psychological obstacle to overcome was a well established British doctrine by 1944 that the Germans were simply too powerful to take on, particularly in an appose landing.
I think that that idea had lost standing with everyone. Mainly Churchill who never really accepted it. A more pernicious one was the view promoted by our Air Marshal Spotts. Harris knew little Eger LeMay and others, and so forth. That overlord was essentially unnecessary, that we could win the war from the air, that we could bomb them into submission. This is a variation on the idea of no overlord at all. But it’s the scans of our true purpose and overlord. It was not to defeat the Germans. He was to defeat the Germans with the allies, assuming a major role in assuring the outcome. There is no evading the hard responsibility of D-Day. Omaha Beach preparing for tonight, also an academy. Yeah, I’m going to be in Omaha and Omaha Beach. This is the scene of the greatest feat of American arms. I grew up in Gettysburg, the greatest. The most amazing 45 minutes in American 19th century history, I think, is when three Confederate divisions are told that they must assault the union positions at Cemetery Ridge. And they know that they are walking into a firestorm, that more than half of them will die perish in the next 45 minutes.
And yet they marched on. Omaha Beach. In the face of the 350 second field division, which had moved in and we were fully aware of that threat, is a Pickett’s charge that worked and it worked because of the ingenuity and the determination of our soldiers. They’re backed by tremendous logistical power. We deployed as many as 7000 ships of all kinds, including landing craft, 150 combatants. We deployed 10000 air aerial sorties or the beach. The Germans who had most of their fighters back in Germany could muster 50 sorties over the battlefront. We’ve mustered 10000. They mustered something like seven naval sorties against a armada of 1150 combatants and many other supporting troops. One wrenched and interrogated at the end of the war was given an opportunity to compliment the valor of the American and the British soldier. And he declined to do it. He felt that way to the end of his life. He said all he did in Normandy was you just applied overwhelming material superiority. There was nothing we could do. Course we were better soldiers and so forth. And so Bedell Smith, who’s my grandfather’s chief of staff and conducting the interrogation, gave him a second chance of honor instead decline the second chance finally, but else miss it. I did not get my third chance. I was not going argue with them because we planned it that way. And so we planned it.
These forces going ashore, there are two great questions. The first was the morale of democracies. We have a British army, American army. The British Army have been defeated in 1940. Now the American army is untested and coming from a great distance. The other great liability is that we are an allied force. The Germans are a national force. We are an allied force. What of British morale? What of American morale? If the British army was personified in Field Marshal Montgomery, your people who had a kind of disdain for outsiders. The Americans were newcomers to this. But he is a supreme professional. He had a passion for tidiness. He was a man of coldness, an instance of instant sensitivity, a monkish student of war who understood the conduct of military operations, a consummate trainer and motivator of troops with, according to one observer, an iron will to prevail. If the Americans are personified by Dwight Eisenhower, who was he? He’s not a monkish student of war. When we talk about Dwight Eisenhower, we always talk about the civilian qualities.
He was a president. And so, you know, he’s liked by his troops. It’s one reason why he became president. So forth. Was he he was accused of being a politician and a mixer. Really? Not a lot of strategists. I talked to a Republican operative many years ago in researching this book, Man by the name of Len Hall, whose career began in 1912 with Teddy Roosevelt. And I asked him, what do you make of Eisenhower as a military commander? He’s called a politician in that role and he’s called a non-politician when he’s a politician. What do you make of him? And he said, you know, the two greatest natural politicians that he knew in his life in a career spanning 60 years, were Alva Happy. Werder Smith, governor of New York, and Dwight Eisenhower knew how knew what to do in every circumstance. He’s a great natural politician, so guilty as charged.
He was also typically American. He’s from the Midwest. He’s not far from here. He’s from Aveling. He was somebody who actually was I’m the only Dwight David Eisenhower, he’s born David Dwight Eisenhower, when he enrolled at West Point in the fall of 9th spring of 1911. He switched his first and second names because he liked the sequence better and nobody’s any the wiser. He listed Tyler, Texas, as his birthplace instead of Denison, because apparently it is better to be from Tyler. I’m not sure that nobody’s any the wiser.
He neglected to tell West Point that he had played professional baseball for two years and the Kansas State League. He was asked about rumors that he had played professional baseball in 1989. In 1910 by Red Patterson, who was a baseball PR man, invented the tape measure, Homer said. General, there are rumors that you played under an alias Wilson in the Kansas State League, 8:41 1910. Which one were you? There were two Wilsons in that league which will reunite, said the one that could hit him. But he’s also a commander who is in a hurry. Paul Fussell, a colleague of mine at University of Pennsylvania who wrote a book called by the New American Library, one of the top 100 books written by an American in the 20th century, a very dark memoir of his service in a hurricane, forced upon a symposium with this very formidable man.
And he looked over me at one point and said, well, I will compliment your book on one aspect. I think that you you understand why Dwight Eisenhower was popular in the theater. He never wore a helmet. Never pretended to be on the frontline one with other soldiers and he was in a hurry to get the war over and the soldiers appreciated it, but he was great. And as von Clausewitz says, a powerful emotion much must stir. The ability of a great military leader, be it ambition. In the case of Caesar, be it hatred of the enemy. In the case of Hannibal. Be it pride in a glorious defeat. In the case of Frederick the Great and Dwight Eisenhower, according to one profile that I accept, it was relentless clarity of purpose and like Montgomery, an absolute will to win. How did this allied command work in the final analysis? It was a question of coming together on the mission of this force. This was a viable force as long as it was united behind its mission of defeating Germany in the most direct manner possible and in the quickest time possible, committing all resources to it regardless of political and national considerations. This was the secret of Dwight Eisenhower’s command, and it was the point on which he insisted that every operation be discussed in terms of contributing to ultimate victory.
And so he achieved unity as best you can in a command and in an army, which the Germans viewed as vulnerable because Americans and British was fighting side by side with the stories of how Americans and British knew and esteemed each other, how they fought this war as a single army legion. One of my favorites is Winston Churchill, my grandfather. Recent books out saying, you know, criticizing their partnership, not understanding something I personally saw in the presence of Winston Churchill. Their extraordinary camaraderie that was developed under the pressure of this event. Churchill arrives in Portsmouth, which is my grandfather’s command headquarters on the night before the invasion. As the rains are coming and he knows the invasion is on and he says if this goes down, I go down with you. Eisenhower and Churchill worry complete partnership in this period. And Churchill’s loyalty to him and to the successive overlord are one of the great stories, I think, of this entire event. Eisenhower Churchill had their differences.
Churchill, several days before had notified the Supreme Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, that he had decided to go ashore with the first wave of British troops. And my granddad got back to him and said. Permission denied. And Churchill said, who are you to deny me permission? And Dwight Eisenhower said, Okay, all right. All right. So he notifies Buckingham Palace where upon King George reaches Winston Churchill and he says, Prime Minister, if you go ashore on D-Day, so will I. And that was the end of it. And so forth. So Churchill had to wait his turn. But the solidarity of the Americans, the British, which is something that is also evident in our culture today, was really this was forged. It seems to me in this great event in triumph and treasure, just the sheer size of it, they impressed everybody involved. The hazards impressed everybody involved. But I think that people understood that it was vital for the future that this succeed because it had to succeed. It would succeed. One of my favorite vignettes is Admiral Ramsay, who’s the naval commander, chief of Overlord, four days before the invasion goes off, is in a jeep and he’s in the Portsmouth area. And he asks his driver to pull over and he gets out and he says to no one in particular. It is tragic and ironic that the stage is being set for such great sacrifice. But if out of it comes peace and happiness.
Who would have it otherwise? That was the philosophy that the commanders took in the battle in the end. Dwight Eisenhower had to make decisions and this was one reason the war was difficult to talk about. In subsequent years, one of them was. He is confronted with estimates. If you look at the map of the battlefield, right, there are estimates that the western flank, which is where the 80 second and hundred first airborne are going to land, it’s being reinforced steadily by the Germans, who by now are relatively certain the landings are coming in Normandy. He receives an estimate from his air commander in chief that the hundred and first and eighty second airborne being dropped in the Utah beach sector will lose 90 percent to casualties, 90 percent. Eisenhower says you have the right to express your objection to this operation in writing. Lee Mallory put it in writing. Eisenhower recessed. His logic was this operation must succeed. The Airborne is essential to success. Therefore, the airborne must go. But he felt it, and so on the night before the landings, he took time out from his headquarters. He drove over to visit Speek, look into the eye of the soldiers of the Hundred and First Airborne who dropped him that night. And then the decision on the night of June 4th, 9:00 p.m. on the strength of a weather forecast, saying that there would be an interval in these storms. Dwight Eisenhower ordered go. This is the longest day, D-Day.
And we’ve had a number of commemorations of it. Twenty five years after the operation, there was a symposium at the Eisenhower Library, and a participant in that symposium was Admiral Friedrich Roocke, who had been naval commander in chief of the German Navy on the night of D-Day. And twenty five years later, he’s said this to the symposium on June 7th, 1919. I was a young naval officer preparing to scuttle a German destroyer at Schapel Flow. Twenty five years later, on the morning of D-Day, plus 1 June 7, 1944, I realized that the allies had established a permanent beachhead and that the war was definitely lost, meaning definitely won. So D-Day turns the tide. Eisenhower will make six decisions in 1944 to open the front in Normandy, to consolidate the front through a series of actions by which our region, our reinforcements were able to flow into the beachhead to extend the front by insisting on the anvil drag moon landings through southern France to defend the Western Front with a series of command reforms and measures in the crisis ridden December 1944 in the face of the and counter offensive to ready the final of the advanced by closing the White Rhine along its length. And finally, as von Clausewitz said, capturing public opinion by overrunning the nation and seizing its capital, which he defers to the Russians on. He permits the Russians, in effect, to enter Berlin. His view was this as Eisenhower single-minded to the end. By April of 1945, the Germans were attempting to surrender on our front. They’re asking us to go everywhere, and his position was everything they want us to do. We will do the opposite. At the height of the Vietnam War, he was asked about North Vietnamese demands to stop the bombing of the North. And his reply was, does the enemy hated the enemy? He was inviting us to enter Berlin. And so Eisenhower, therefore did not go. He was going to do what they the opposite of what they wished us to do. He was going to take up and occupy German positions and overrun them militarily until they got the idea.
We were serious about imposing unconditional surrender on him. And when they got that idea, they surrendered at 2:45 a.m. May 7, 1945. So peace comes. It is a hard and bitter peace. It is a piece which one year after the overlord operation, Winston Churchill will describe in a speech in nearby Missouri in which he surveys of what he calls the estimated sum of human pain, which is evident in Europe. He will address the post-war question of ferent preventing war, preventing war through peaceful means without sacrificing the West’s ultimate purpose. In the same speech, he describes the shadow of an Iron Curtain, which is descending on Europe as he spoke. He acknowledged the valiant Red Army. He acknowledged the Soviet Union’s legitimate desire for security. But he also praised his audience that the Soviets desired the fruits of war. He also said they desire these fruits without the risk of war. And so we could contain the Soviet empire and we would have to do so for the foreseeable future. He is forecasting a hard and bitter peace which lasted through most of our lifetimes.
We are on the doorstep of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War involving many, many limited and very difficult conflicts. We are at the point of the fifty fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War. These are wars fought distant from Europe. They will accelerate the rise of Asia. Introducing new elements into international affairs. Bringing forth Richard Nixon’s pledge in 1968 to end the war and win the peace. These are wars that will test our patients. They will frustrate us. All Dwight Eisenhower could say in on the 20th anniversary of D-Day when he’s interviewed by Walter Cronkite looking at D-Day. He not could not know for sure, but it was leading that what D-Day did was it bought us time. Bought us time.
America experienced as much frustration in the postwar Europe, but there are many rays of sunlight in 1967, at the height of the difficulty Americans having over the Vietnam War. One of my favorite writers, Longshoreman Eric Hoffer, visits Washington. He emerges from a meeting with Lyndon Johnson and he says, what a country. He says, choose a president by lot in America. You’ll get a Harry Truman. He says the only thing new in all of history is America. It is a land where ordinary people can do extraordinary things. And collectively, this is what Americans accomplished at Overlord. He was a time of troubles. And and yet by the late 1970s, we find ourselves amazingly in a good position. I’m also sure that it was illogical. I think it’s a matter of perception. Americans have long taken overlord for granted. But how does Overlord how does D-Day look to the rest of the world? Ask yourself this question. Our purposes were frustrated in the Korean War. But how did the Korean War look through foreigners? Our purposes were defeated in Vietnam. But what is the true meaning of the Vietnam War that America did not achieve its purpose in Vietnam or that America had sustained an effort in Vietnam?
Beginning in 1964, at a point where we think that that war might be lost, sustains an effort for 10 years, sustaining 500000 troops 8000 miles from America, an operation that no other country in the world could even conceive of doing. What’s the true meaning of that conflict? Ask yourself this from the point of view of a country in 1979 valuating developments in the Soviet Union. Evaluating American’s efforts in this century, whose side do you want to be on? By early 1983, we’re still locked in the so-called Vietnam malaise. But James Reston, the dean of New York of press correspondents in Washington, writes about walking down Connecticut Avenue. He says, I had a funny thought today. He says, I think we’ve won the Cold War and do not know it. Ronald Reagan knew it.
He came to DDay where I hope all of you will go to Normandy on D-Day plus 40. And this is where the true appreciation of the significance of this event begins. He describes the dawn. He stands at the point to hockey, says, We are here to mark the day in history when allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, most of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen. The Jews cried out in the camps. Million cries out for liberation. Europe was enslaved. Here in Normandy, the rescue began. On the same day he proceeds to the Omaha cemetery. Not to talk about the dawn of overlord, but to extol the world of 1984, which is the world that DDay made possible. And what he notes is that the commemoration at the cemetery was for soldiers who had come to Normandy not as conquerors, but as liberators. As American forces marched into Germany, they went not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearn to be free. In 1984, today, in their memory and for all who fought here, we celebrate the triumph of freedom. From a terrible war, we learned that unity made us invincible now and peace. That same unity makes us secure. Our alliance, forged in the Crucible War, tempered by the realities of the postwar world, has succeeded. The threat in Europe has been contained. The peace has been kept. This land is secure.
The message there was that the ultimate purposes of D-Day had finally been realized and that sooner or later the Soviets, in the spirit of this new age, we’re going to have to reconsider and perhaps accept knowing our friendship, but our assistance in a post post-war era. There were final post Brits to write the 50 years and not run their course. This is not 1992. So we had Gorbachev in the period of perestroika. We have a for glasnost. We have enough treaties. We have the enunciation of a new doctrine which students of post-war Europe will be interested in. Europe had been or Eastern Europe had been under the domination of the Warsaw Pact organized by the Soviets. All of a sudden, Gorbachev in 1989 announces the Frank Sinatra Doctrine. The Frank Sinatra Doctrine is he’s going to allow east from Europe to do it their way and so they did. In 1990 and 1989 the Berlin Wall falls. 1990 the hundredth anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s birth. Germany is unified. One of the true miracles of my lifetime. I never thought I would see it. And then the most stunning of all. On January 1st 1992 Soviet Union ceased to exist. Voluntarily Gorbachev signed the surrender and the Soviet Union was no more. These are events that amaze us still no reality seems more permanent than the division of Europe and the menacing Soviets in the wake of World War II. But I think that we can see clearly in hindsight. Now that containment worked and they went away. That events ultimately confirmed the good judgment of leaders decades before. And the wisdom of the strategy that underlie D-Day.
That is the overriding priority of assuring that the Western democracies assumed a decisive role in the outcome of World War 2. So peace and happiness did come. And would anyone have it otherwise. That is kind of the message. Looking at the 1984 and beyond. 2019 I should add in closing is our last chance to it was our last chance which made the Normandy very very meaningful this year was our last chance to say thank you to the veterans who served there there were some veterans and their quite aged now but I would say that this is also an occasion to thank all the veterans. Of all of America’s foreign wars because all of them have elements of the miracles that we see in operation at D-Day. We thank all of them for their service for keeping America safe for extending our helping hand and above all for demonstrating and reminding us of the best that is in all of us as citizens of this country. Thank you.
Thank you Professor Eisenhower. Greetings. As you can see my name is Scott Wilson. I’m a history teacher at Omaha Central High School and I have the pleasure of moderating the question and answer. Between you all and David Eisenhower. If you have a question there is a detachable form inside your program that you can write on and ambassadors in the aisles will collect and bring those questions to the stage. You can also ask a question by Twitter using the hashtag and #negovlecture that is #negovlecture. I’d like to remind you at the end of the evening both David and Joe Sarita will be available on the second floor outside of the lecture hall to sign copies of their books. Okay so we’ve got Some questions and we’ll have some questions from the audience coming in. You talked about the Reagans speaking about the world the D-Day made possible. Seventy five years on it’s it’s clear and this audience is a good example of that. How much D-Day still occupies a place in American memory. Probably British Canadian certainly French. Do you have a sense of the importance that people around the world placed on D-Day and maybe maybe you speak about that. And you mentioned the Soviet Union. Where do they place D-Day in terms of significance in the war or even in the postwar world?
An interesting fact is that. The Soviets who are undergoing this great ordeal in 1942 and 43 mounted a massive propaganda campaign demanding a second front. And this is what D-Day is. The second front, and they’re acting like we’re stalling them. They’re acting like we don’t want to do it or we can’t do it. They’re acting like we’re letting them down. And this is a spirit that carries over into the Tehran conference. When Stalin is asked about his views on Normandy on D-Day overlord. He simply answers with a with a demand. What is his name? What is the name of the commander? They want this operation. They demand it now having minimized all of the difficulties. And having demanded it in such a brusk way for so long literally on the day after. The Overlord landings Stalin summons Herman to the Kremlin to say history has never seen an operation of this magnitude. Congratulations. To the Americans. What’s remarkable to me. Growing up and looking looking back on my boyhood is again I underscore this is how much we sort of took this in stride. We spoke of Normandy in my household not a lot but discussions or reminiscences of the war sort of flow and discussions of the American Civil War. American Civil War was fought in our backyard. Overlords fought overseas 4000 miles away there is a huge difference. Julian I go to Normandy fairly regularly this past spring we were picked up by a French chauffeur driven from Paris to San Malo which is a wonderful drive by the way you see the months and Michel. Boy what a sight that is. And He’s waving his hands and he has all kinds of. He’s very well read. We were a little worried and we wanted to keep his eyes on the road ahead and so forth. But he says he says you know the amazing thing about this I know I can understand people who will fight for their country. I can understand people who will fight for their families but this business of fighting for others. He says that’s what makes us really really remarkable. And I think that that lives on.
I think Americans are adding to that. It seems to me is the tech technical virtuosity that coming together. The meshing of gears, the mobilization of the homefront. the development of industry the production. Of the material necessary the mobilization of a 15 million man army. All these things in a country half of our size stand when all is said and done and when we’re living in a different world perhaps a different world in which China is important and we’re looking to Asia and so forth. I still say that people who sift through the evidences in the remains of our society are going to encounter this massive event. It’s going to be the Great Pyramid of Giza. It’s going to be the signature of America on our age. As a accomplishment. And a demonstration again of what a free and aroused and organized people can accomplish.
You mentioned in your talk part of the Logistic and planning of the Normandy invasion was managing some of the strong personalities in the Allied leadership you mentioned Churchill there’s certainly de Gaulle even the military leaders like Montgomery. What was your grandfather’s relationship with those leaders in later years maybe even as President. I know you mentioned his strong camaraderie and Churchill.
In a sense serve different masters Montgomery’s job as British commander was his job according to the British Chiefs of Staff. Was to Make trouble for Americans and to assert British views in allied counsels. And he did a very good job that. He managed to offend most of the Americans he came into contact with. I interviewed a lot of living associates of my grandfather at the at the dawn of research and I still trying to figure out which book I was going to write when I went out and talked to generals and I ask every one of them about Montgomery. And I got a very interesting response and that is OK. Here’s the question how does one general evaluate another general. I’m talking about Mark Clark. MARTIN Collins and so forth and the way generals Read each other Is not how smart they are strategists or how I would say accurate they are as Logistical Planners. The bottom line for General Is the ability to motivate performance and combat. And on that count Every American general I spoke with had very high regard for General Montgomery. The 21st Army Group the British second army. These are crack units. He brought them to Great pitch for D-Day they performed brilliantly in answer to all of the cynicism. The Germans insisted that the British would not fight in the Western democracies or soft. He was he’s a great motivator. Now what happens is de Gaulle’s mission of course is to defend France. Eisenhower’s job is to mesh Mel all of this together. I think that my grandfather was personally disappointed in Montgomery when the time came to write memoirs.
Montgomery had a choice. He could have in the glow of victory he could have emphasized how much he is a British or contributed to the success of the grand alliance. He could emphasize what he as a reluctant allied commander had done to aid Britain. And he chose to do the latter. And so he’s very critical of Eisenhower not as a person but as a as a strategist. And so there was an estrangement which underscores that the great strategic liability that we had and this is another thing that Americans take for granted because we like everybody and we’re from everywhere. We like everybody or we’re from everywhere. And so we assume yhat we can get along with anyone. The cold gaze of the German field marshals and the high command and so forth are looking at this and they’re saying this is a flimsy coalition. There is no way american British forces can be able to coordinate adequately and prevent disaster on their front when we can get around to organizing a major offensive on it. And so I think that we underestimate. This is another achievement. This is the second permanent visa. And that is the ability of the American and British forces to cooperate and to fight as a single army. And they did and this is a very inspiring chapter. It’s not something that is repeated or lives on. We go our separate ways. Now we are different nations. We admire each other. We follow their royal family. Things like that, but it does demonstrate as I say the capacity. That we have and I think that’s something that Americans continue and I think this is one of the glories of America as we continue to assume that we can get along with anybody. And I and I think that that is proven by our experience.
Was there a point in the war that General Eisenhower realized that the war with Germany was going to be won?
I think that the point at which he knows Germany is going to be one is when we break out of the Normandy Beach. At a portion that I could not get to in the talk is really what ensues from the landings. The Germans succeeded in containing the lodgement area in a fairly large area. We were able to move about a million and a half troop reinforcements in the Normandy. But we had more and we needed more room. And this forces us into a dramatic passage which I cover nice in our war I consider it the most extraordinary portion of the entire story that I was reading and researching. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I’m I’m drafting this every night. I could not wait to get to my typewriter. I could not wait to look at the various primary sources that I was consulting. And this is the organization of the final the Supreme offensive to break out of the Normandy Beach and to secure the landing victory. And this unfolds between June July 19th and July 25th 1944. And what’s at stake in the ferocious and argument behind the scenes between Montgomery and Bradley and Eisenhower and by the way if you’re reading strategy arguments involving Americans and British in world war II were to always keep one factor in mind because it’s present.
And unspoken in every discussion and then as casualties is between an American or British force. Which is going to attack first? Which is gonna draw enemy fire on it? Which is gonna soak off enemy resistance to ease the path for the other side? That’s a national question and that courses through everything and so on July 18th and 19th after much preparation Eisenhower arranged for a British offensive on the on the eastern wing of the battlefront. Bradley was ready to go in the west facing sand low. The British offensive went off Goodwood on the 18th. It’s the most massive preliminary bombardment and aerial bombardment of enemy positions to date only to be exceeded by the American offensive that would follow. The British launch every tank they have in their army. He reached the Borg of us bridge the Germans Stop it. Four SS divisions or hurled against the British. The the advances checked. The Americans are set to go on the 20 are because the German attention the drift of panzers in the American sector have been halted. The Americans are ready to go and it rains. A day later it rains again a day later it rains again. A day later it rains again. A day later it rains again. Finally on the night of July 24th. The German Panzers and the German defenses are drifting back into the American sector.
Eisenhower must have one more attack than the British and it took everything he had. The British by now are complaining that they’re at the bottom of their manpower barrel. They cannot afford any more sacrifices. It’s your turn. But confronted with the logic of the situation the imperative need to break out. Montgomery Gordon an offensive for the morning of July 25th it coincided with the American attack at Sandalow. And the great breakthrough achieved at that point. The great celebrations began. We liberate Paris, there is a feeling of there’s actually rather dangerous just a flood of relief. One of the things that we enjoy seeing enormity is a film made by a French company. This is one of the things about being 75 years away from Normandy, new companies new voices new perspectives are making themselves heard on the subject. And there is a great French film which is shown near the air much of Ocean front made by a French documentary company. And the very end of it, the end of the Normandy campaign is De Gaulle reviewing French troops and American troops as they march down the Champs Liza in Paris and the hilarity the relief the joy. Of that event, it’s amazing because everybody knew that the war was won but there were more battles to fight. And so there were more command challenges the face. And looking back on it the secret to it, was understanding that simple persuasions was not enough that in the end what made leadership work there was relentless determination and focus on an overriding objective. And Eisenhower would not let anybody talk about military operations in any other terms and that worked. Until May 7 1945. I think the command would be dissolved if he’d gone to two weeks long but it worked.
On the flip side of that your grandfather famously wrote this letter. On the occasion that it should the invasion fail. Do you have any other insight or any other comment about things that he really worried about that were critical of that? If this doesn’t work or this doesn’t work that the invasion was going to really be in peril. Did you have any more insight into you think is a very worried very much worried about?
Well if you track day to day movements of German units as I did I actually had a mockup when I was drafting this thing and you looked at the drift of German units. Germans say we’re coming in part of Calais. They’re saying all your deception operations fool us. That’s what they say. But where were their troops. Now their troops are steadily moving into the Normandy area. The panzers were all cheating toward Norman. Everybody’s cheating. Normally if you’re supreme commander you’re looking at this board and ponds layer and 21 Panzer and 12th ss. Toughness as Panzer unit. This is one of the toughest units in the war. This was a Hitler Youth unit. You can imagine everybody in the unit was 18 19 years old. You’re all Hitler Youth and this was a Panzer unit is the probably the most ferocious unit on the Western Front. There is a motto in the 12th SS that is enjoy the world enjoy the war because the peace is going to be terrible. These people really want to fight. And you see these people moving into your area and I can just imagine what that must have been like. I’ll say this, my father lived to write 12 books. My father and his son and I talked about this. My most important source for Eisenhower was my father. I was not really encouraged to raise this subject with my grandfather but my father and grandfather had this is sort of an experience in common so they talked about it all the time. And one of the last things my father said to me was David just remember there is only one thing that counted from our family’s point of view one thing one thing. Forget the presidency. D-Day worked. That’s it. And I think that’s the way granddad looked at it. I think thereafter he never worried about the ring.
Well. For our last question here I’d like to bring it back to the governor’s question. I think that a lot of us here in the audience would like could you explain how Omaha Beach got its name?
Governor I’m happy. There are a lot of mysteries. Believe it or not about World War 2. We were asked a couple questions of when we go over there what what does D-Day mean? What does each hour mean? What is the origins of these code names? And I believe that there is a story Governor that apparently General Bradley had a Nebraskan on his staff. Who suggested Immortalize this city. Forever. This is the critical moment. The greatest feat of American arms and World War II occurred at Omaha. Name for this fair city and no one seems to know for sure. Apparently Bradley disclosed this in his memoir somewhat later. There is actually a fair amount of that story. World War II believe it or not because of the weight secrecy act work and so forth there’s a still a portion of that story which has not been told it will continue to be told. We now stand 75 years after the event with the capacity far more sources on this than we had some years ago. This does mark a moment when the D-Day invasion I would say passes into history. Raised in Gettysburg, in the recent memory of the town of Gettysburg was the seventy fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was 1938. If you see this wonderful Ken Burns documentary an American Civil War it begins with the reunion of the boys of the blue and gray. For the dedication of the peace light monument at Gettysburg July 1 2 3 1938 speakers Franklin Roosevelt and his word to them is that America has now transcended this conflict. We’re now a unified nation. The messages this unified nation now must come together in this great effort. Now we’re going to be involved in Europe. Seventy five years now after D-Day we do find ourselves in a new World. But, according one American president history is not a guide to the future but what history does particularly this history is it gives us confidence in the future. And that’s what overlord does. That is his precious legacy for us all. And why it is such a pleasure to speak of it and to speak of it here in Omaha. Thank you very much.