This image depicts General Eisenhower's handwritten note accepting responsibility for the D-day invasion if it were not successful. Check-out the date. He wrote the document on June 5, 1944. He dated it July 5, 1944.
Intended as a press release, if things went badly during the invasion, the General tucked away the note in his wallet, then forgot about it. The invasion, after all, was successful.
On July 11th (known, at the time, as "D+35" for thirty-five days post-invasion), Eisenhower found the note. He called-in his naval aide, Capt. Harry C. Butcher. The General's assistant read these words written on a plain sheet of paper:
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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.
Eisenhower penned other notes like this one, on the eve of other amphibious operations, but he usually tore them up. He wanted to tear-up this one, too, but Butcher convinced him not to do that.
The naval aide sensed how important it would be for future generations to understand how the Supreme Allied Commander viewed his enormous responsibility the night before thousands of men would die on Normandy's beaches and in the skies above France.
The biege piece of paper, measuring 4½ x 7 inches, is getting fragile. In a way, it resembles the young men who fought at Normandy but still survive. They, too, are getting on in years but their importance in a war-changing battle will live-on when they—like General Eisenhower—are gone.
Archivists at the Eisenhower Library & Museum (in Abilene, Kansas) refer to this note as the "In Case of Failure" message. They safeguard it in an acid-free folder in the Library’s security vault.
What did the General say about the wrong date on his important note?
The July 5 date must have been a careless error. (See The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower: The War Years III.)
Perhaps, instead of "a careless error," it was the drama of the moment and his concern about the troops whom he described as "tense as a coiled spring."
Click on the image for a better view.
Image online, courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas.
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