Decoder Buzz

The day before D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower wrote this famous message…

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower originally planned for D-Day to happen on June 5. The ‘unpredictable’ English weather intervened. But Eisenhower still wrote a famous letter that day.

By Staff writer / June 5, 2014

Allied forces Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks with US Army paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division at Greenham Common Airfield in England on June 5, 1944.

US National Archives/Reuters

WASHINGTON

For US Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower – for the thousands of American troops bound for the Normandy invasion – June 5, 1944, was a day of waiting for their lives to change forever.

Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation’s capital.

The landings on the coast of France should already have been underway. June 5 was General Eisenhower’s original D-Day. But the weather from England over the Channel to target beaches was bad and deteriorating.

“The weather in this country is practically unpredictable. For some days our experts have been meeting almost hourly and I have been holding Commander-in-Chief meetings once or twice a day to consider the reports and tentative predictions,” reads a secret Eisenhower memo dated June 3.

At a crucial meeting on the evening of June 4, Eisenhower’s weather team told him they believed the weather would improve just enough so the invasion could proceed in the next few days. Eisenhower decided to push back D-Day by one day and go ahead with the invasion on June 6.

That’s how “June 6” became US historical shorthand, a date that needs little explanation, like “September 11.”

Crucially, the Allied domination of the air made it easier for the US to gather meteorological information. The Germans were not as well informed. Their experts predicted continued storms. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of the German Army group defending along the coast where the Allies planned to land, went back to Germany for his wife’s birthday.

In England, Allied junior officers began opening their sealed orders. Troop convoys began leaving the southern English ports. In the morning, Eisenhower watched troops embarking at Portsmouth. In the evening he visited the 101st US Airborne Division near Newbury. They were already prepared to leave for France.

The photos from that visit are iconic. Many of the men have already blackened their faces and donned camouflaged helmets. Eisenhower in contrast is immaculate and seems intent upon communicating something of importance with the unit.

On June 5, Eisenhower also wrote one of the most famous undelivered notes of US history. It’s known today as the “In Case of Failure Message.”

For the rest of the post…

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops,” it began

Advertisements