Quote of the moment: What if D-Day had failed? IKE said, ‘blame me’

June 11, 2012

Eisenhower's unused statement on the failure of D-Day

Eisenhower’s contingency statement, in case D-Day failed – image from the National Archives

This quote actually isn’t a quote. It was never said by the man who wrote it down to say it. It carries a powerful lesson because of what it is.

The Bathtub recently posted Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s “order of the day” to the troops about to conduct the Allied invasion of Normandy — D-Day — to establish the toehold in Europe the Allies needed to march to Berlin, and to end World War II in Europe. As a charge to the troops, it was okay — Eisenhower-style words, not Churchill-style, but effective enough. One measure of its effectiveness was the success of the invasion, which established the toe-hold from which the assaults on the Third Reich were made.

When Eisenhower wrote his words of encouragement to the troops, and especially after he visited with some of the troops, he worried about the success of the operation. It was a great gamble. Many of the things the Allies needed to go right — like weather — had gone wrong. Victory was not assured. Defeat strode the beaches of Normandy waiting to drive the Allies back into the water, to die. [Photo shows Eisenhower meeting with troops of the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, on the eve of the invasion. It was these men whose courage he lauded. Update: Someone “took hostage” the photo I linked to — a thumbnail version is appended; I leave the original link in hopes it might be liberated] eisenhower-with-paratrooper-eve-of-d-day.jpg

Eisenhower wrote a second statement, a shorter one. This one was directed to the world. It assumed the assault had failed. In a few short sentences, Eisenhower commended the courage and commitment of the troops who, he wrote, had done all they could. The invasion was a chance, a good chance based on the best intelligence the Allies had, Eisenhower wrote. But it had failed.

The failure, Eisenhower wrote, was not the fault of the troops, but was entirely Eisenhower’s.

He didn’t blame the weather, though he could have. He didn’t blame fatigue of the troops, though they were tired, some simply from drilling, many from war. He didn’t blame the superior field position of the Germans, though the Germans clearly had the upper hand. He didn’t blame the almost-bizarre attempts to use technology that look almost clownish in retrospect — the gliders that carried troops behind the lines, sometimes too far, sometimes killing the pilots when the gliders’ cargo shifted on landing; the flotation devices that were supposed to float tanks to the beaches to provide cover for the troops (but which failed, drowning the tank crews and leaving the foot soldiers on their own); the bombing of the forts and pillboxes on the beaches, which failed because the bombers could not see their targets through the clouds.

There may have been a plan B, but in the event of failure, Eisenhower was prepared to establish who was accountable, whose head should roll if anyone’s should.

Eisenhower took full responsibility.

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 troop, the air [force] 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.

Do you think anyone in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?  I have several candidates.  Who do you think is leader enough to shoulder the blame for such a massive, hypothetical debacle?

  • The message may also be viewed here. Yes, it’s incorrectly dated July 5 — should have been June 5.

This is an encore post.


School reform: 250,000 teachers fired?

June 11, 2012

Is this any way to run education reform?

Plugging his own jobs creation bill, President Obama said that 250,000 teachers lost jobs in state budget cuts in the last few months.  NEA’s news line reported:

Obama Cites Teacher Layoffs In Push For Jobs Bill.

The AP (6/9) reports President Obama “wants Congress to help states rehire teachers and act on a key part of last year’s jobs bill.” In his weekly address, the President said “many states have been squeezed by the economic recession and have been forced to lay off teachers — about 250,000 across the nation.”

The Los Angeles Times (6/10, Reston) reports the President “renewed his push for his stalled jobs bill in his weekly address Saturday, arguing that the legislation could play a critical role in preventing teachers around the country from being pink-slipped in cash-strapped states.” He said, “It should concern everyone that right now — all across America — tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off. … When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start falling behind. And our economy takes a hit.” The Times notes that he cited “the shrinking pool of teachers in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.”

Politico (6/9, Boak) says the President “told voters to send Republicans to the principal’s office,” calling on Congress “to pass a measure to stop teacher layoffs that he first proposed last September. The $30 billion package to fill in the gaps left by slashed state education budgets failed to get a passing grade from Capitol Hill.” The President said, “In Pennsylvania alone, there are 9,000 fewer educators in our schools today than just a year ago. In Ohio, the number is close to 7,000. And nationwide, over the past three years, school districts have lost over 250,000 educators.”

The Hill (6/9, Sink) says his “messaging largely echoed his remarks at an unplanned press conference Friday at the White House. But that effort was overshadowed” by his “remark that ‘the private sector is doing fine’ in terms of job growth, drawing immediate criticism from Republicans.” The Hill (6/9, Sink) also reports the Obama campaign also released a new web video criticizing Mitt Romney “for saying Friday that the federal government shouldn’t move forward with legislation that would give cash-strapped states money for teachers and emergency responders.”

Meanwhile, The Hill (6/9, Pecquet) reports in the Republican address, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) criticized the Affordable Care Act, saying, “The President’s policies are standing in the way of a stronger economy. His healthcare law well may be the worst offender, driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. It’s making things worse in our economy, and it needs to be fully repealed.”

It’s difficult to find an analogy about just how contrary to wisdom is the idea of laying off teachers in a national economic recession.  Imagine Mitt Romney saying, “We need to keep Americans safe, so I propose we lay off policemen and firefighters.”   It wouldn’t make any sense.  Surely Americans would rise up in protest.

What’s that?


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