Remembering D-Day In a Time of National Crisis

Today, June 6, 2020, as thousands gather in Washington to exercise their Constitutional right to assemble peaceably to petition their government for redress of grievance – terrible, deeply justified grievance – the Washington Post published this editorial. I commend it to you.

“On the anniversary of D-Day, a reminder of true leadership”

By The Washington Post Editorial Board

June 5, 2020 at 2:03 p.m. EDT

“THIS DAY used to be commemorated regularly on newspaper editorial pages: the day when Allied forces invaded Europe and began the long, bloody march to Germany. In time, the custom faded, but still the papers would receive letters to the editor every year complaining about the absence of a tribute on June 6, letters mostly from the dwindling number of people who remembered that day all too well.

“Today, it’s worth reviving the custom, if only because of the lesson it contains about leadership and its obligations — a lesson that seems to have been largely forgotten by many of our leaders. In June 1944, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, faced a harrowing choice about whether to proceed with the invasion of Normandy. The weather was terrible, the prospect of huge casualties all too real. But to delay any longer would be disastrous, Eisenhower believed. He made the decision to go ahead.

“’During the somber lull between the decision and the invasion, Ike scribbled a quick note and stuffed it in his wallet, as was his custom before every major operation,’ writes Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower presidential library. Chances are you have read it before, but it’s worth another look; it has special meaning this D-Day. Eisenhower intended it to be made public in the event the invasion was repelled. It read simply:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 troops, the air 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.’

“’Ike disdained pomposity in word and manner,’ writes Mr. Rives. ‘He disliked the ‘slick talker’ and the ‘desk pounder.’ The histrionic gesture or declamation just wasn’t in him.’ But in the last sentence of a hastily written note 76 years ago, the future president said all that needed to be said about the essence of leadership and the locus of responsibility, in words that are not heard often today, and never from our president when fault or blame is to be assigned.”

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