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.
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?
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.