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The Night Before D-Day

Focusing on Details: Compare and Contrast

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

General Eisenhower's experience and the Allied troops' preparations were finally put to the test on the morning of June 6, 1944. An invasion force of 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and nearly three million soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors was assembled in England for the assault. Prior to sending troops out on the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, General Dwight Eisenhower wrote two notes — one to rally the troops to victory, the other written in case the invasion of Normandy failed.

Read and analyze these two documents. Note the similarities and differences in style, tone, message.


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Worksheet

The Night Before D-Day

Focusing on Details: Compare and Contrast

Examine the documents included in this activity and write your response in the space provided.


Using both documents, answer the following questions:
  • How does Eisenhower describe the invasion?
  • How does Eisenhower describe the troops?
  • How does Eisenhower describe the enemy?
  • How does Eisenhower describe his role in the invasion?
  • Based on your analysis, what are the major similarities and differences between these two different documents. Focus on aspects such as style, tone, audience, message, etc.

Your Response




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Conclusion

The Night Before D-Day

Focusing on Details: Compare and Contrast

  • What are the similarities and differences between these two documents?
  • What do these notes reveal about General Eisenhower on the night before D-Day?


Your Response




Document

D-Day Statement to Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force

6/1944

This statement from General Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen taking part in the D-day invasion. It was handed to Allied troops stepping onto their transports on the eve of the cross-channel assault into Normandy. As Commander of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, Eisenhower provided hope for those about to liberate the European continent from Nazi tyranny.

Almost immediately after France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the Allies planned a cross-Channel assault on the German occupying forces. At the Quebec Conference in August 1943, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt reaffirmed the plan, which was code-named Overlord. Although Churchill acceded begrudgingly to the operation, historians note that the British still harbored persistent doubts about whether Overlord would succeed.

The decision to mount the invasion was cemented at the Teheran Conference held in November and December 1943. Joseph Stalin, on his first trip outside the Soviet Union since 1912, pressed Roosevelt and Churchill for details about the plan, particularly the identity of the supreme commander of Overlord. Churchill and Roosevelt told Stalin that the invasion "would be possible" by August 1, 1944, but that no decision had yet been made to name a supreme commander. Stalin commented: "Then nothing will come of these operations. Who carries the moral and technical responsibility for this operation?" Churchill and Roosevelt acknowledged the need to name the commander without further delay. Shortly after the conference ended, Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower to that position.

By May 1944, 2,876,000 Allied troops were amassed in southern England. While awaiting deployment orders, they prepared for the assault by practicing with live ammunition. The largest armada in history, made up of more than 4,000 American, British, and Canadian ships, lay in wait. More that 1,200 planes stood ready to deliver seasoned airborne troops behind enemy lines, to silence German ground resistance as best they could, and to dominate the skies of the impending battle theater.

Against a tense backdrop of uncertain weather forecasts, disagreements in strategy, and related timing dilemmas predicated on the need for optimal tidal conditions, Eisenhower decided before dawn on June 5 to proceed with Overlord. Later that same afternoon, he scribbled a note intended for release, accepting responsibility for the decision to launch the invasion and full blame, should the effort to create a beachhead on the Normandy coast fail.

Much more polished is this printed Order of the Day for June 6, 1944, which Eisenhower began drafting in February. The order was distributed to the 175,000-member expeditionary force on the eve of the invasion.

Transcript

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

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 hope 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.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

[signature]
This primary source comes from the Collection DDE-EPRE: Eisenhower, Dwight D: Papers, Pre-Presidential.
National Archives Identifier: 186473
Full Citation: D-Day Statement to Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force; 6/1944; Principal Files, 1916 - 1952; Collection DDE-EPRE: Eisenhower, Dwight D: Papers, Pre-Presidential, ; Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, KS. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/dday-statement, November 30, 2020]


D-Day Statement to Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force

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Document

"In Case of Failure" Message Drafted by General Dwight Eisenhower in Case the D-Day Invasion Failed

6/5/1944

General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the final order that put the vast D-day operation in motion on June 5, 1944, after a break in the stormy weather was predicted for the next day. Following his decision, Eisenhower dashed off this note, in case the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day (June 6th) failed. In the statement, he praised the men under his command and claimed that any fault or failure "is mine alone." The only apparent hint of nerves on his part is his error in dating the note "July 5" instead of June 5.

Transcript

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.
This primary source comes from the Collection DDE-EPRE: Eisenhower, Dwight D: Papers, Pre-Presidential.
National Archives Identifier: 186470
Full Citation: "In Case of Failure" Message Drafted by General Dwight Eisenhower in Case the D-Day Invasion Failed; 6/5/1944; Principal Files, 1916 - 1952; Collection DDE-EPRE: Eisenhower, Dwight D: Papers, Pre-Presidential, ; Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, KS. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/in-case-of-failure, November 30, 2020]


"In Case of Failure" Message Drafted by General Dwight Eisenhower in Case the D-Day Invasion Failed

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