CACI Commemorates the 71st Anniversary of D-Day
- the Allied Invasion of Normandy
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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."
- Unsent letter from General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, June 5, 1944
June 6th marks the 71st anniversary of the landings at Normandy, France, which began the final part of the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the forces of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The entire operation, codenamed Operation Overlord, of which the Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were a part, was an unrivalled masterpiece of military planning and execution. It was also a testament to the sacrifice and character of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen involved, and the importance that character plays in the success or failure of any endeavor.
Planning for an invasion of Europe began almost immediately following the Fall of France in June 1940. The importance of opening a second front increased once Hitler began the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1941, and the Allies invaded Italy in 1943, ultimately taking Rome and sparking a coup d'etat that took the life of Benito Mussolini and his mistress. But a much larger force would be necessary to liberate Europe.
Hitler believed that the Pas de Calais, the port that traditionally connected England with France, would be the logical location for an invasion of northern Europe. The Allies fed that belief through a massive campaign of deception and misinformation called Operation Bodyguard. Through this campaign, Allied forces built dummy tanks, planes, and landing craft, positioning them in Kent and Sussex, the closest points to France in England. Even as they built an elaborate deception, Allied bombers systematically destroyed Third Reich radar emplacements along the northern coast of France, reducing Germany's ability to see and respond to the actual invasion when it came.
Allied ingenuity was also applied to the means of actually waging war, not just looking like it. Engineers developed special landing craft, tanks, bridges, and even an oil pipeline to ensure that the vital substance would be available once the beaches were taken.
Eisenhower's Moment of Character
General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers on June 5, 1944. According to the memoir of Lt Wallace C. Strobel (wearing number 23), Eisenhower gave them the order of the Day: Full victory - nothing less.
The invasion of France would ultimately require the use of thousands of ships, hundreds of planes, and nearly two million soldiers. Amidst the organized chaos of coordinating that many people and machines, General Eisenhower sat down and wrote two letters, one to the soldiers who would fight and die on the beaches of Normandy, and one to his superior, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall.
To his men, General Eisenhower wrote:
"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 the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world �
"I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle.
"We will accept nothing less than full Victory!"
His message was one of faith in the justness of the Allied cause, and in the character and skill of the men under his command.
Eisenhower's second letter, quoted in full at the beginning of this article, was a message to be sent if the invasion failed its objectives. It is a sober reflection on the cost of command and the ultimate responsibility of leadership. In it, Eisenhower gives all the credit to those under his command, and shoulders full responsibility for the failure of the operation himself. He offers no excuses, although the complexity of the operation would have provided a multitude.
Fortunately, Eisenhower never had to send his letter to General Marshall. Although there were delays in capturing some important positions, Operation Overlord was a resounding success, though it came at a high cost. While the overall D-Day victory turned the tide in the European front, the price for the Allies was high, with over 4,000 dead and almost 10,000 casualties.
Reflecting on their sacrifices, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London, CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, said, "The anniversary of D-Day is a solemn occasion to remember the bravery of all who fought and sacrificed to free the world from tyranny. Sadly, it's a battle that we find ourselves still fighting today, in different locales and with different enemies, though perhaps no less formidable. Many of our heroes from D-Day are gone, but their legacy lives on in all the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who continue to fight for freedom."
Dr. London also notes that the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, together with the National Park Service, is commemorating the anniversary with a wreath-laying ceremony at noon on June 6, 2015 at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Dr. London serves on the Friends Board of Directors.
Dr. London's uncle, 2nd Lt. Gordon L. Phillips, USA, participated in the Normandy invasion with the 83rd Infantry Division, but was killed in action in early July 1944 leading up to the famous battle for St. L� later that month.