Friday, June 6, 2014

A Sometimes Overlooked Lesson from D-Day

I am a lifelong student of World War 2--having read my first book by William L. Shirer in the fourth grade, and dozens of books on the heroes, villians, battles, and politics of the conflict. In every accounting, D-Day deserves special attention. You can learn so much from the tactics of the day, both good and bad. You can be inspired by the bravery of tens of thousands of men who stormed heavily fortified beaches in horrendous weather with the high likelihood of danger and death ahead. You can see the providential hand of God at work at various points in the battle and in the circumstances.

But one lesson that strikes a chord with me is the willingness of General Eisenhower to make such a tough decision in giving the go-ahead, and being prepared if this greatest effort of the war failed. He had prepared a note ahead of time (incorrectly dated July 5 instead of June), found later, that read: 

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 on 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."

He received the laurels of victory, but was ready to take the responsibility and blame for defeat. That is what good leaders do. We were blessed to have such leaders on that day.

It has been 70 years since the Allies stormed the Normandy beaches. It has been nearly 50 years since General, and then President Eisenhower died. We are still in the debt of those, from their leader on down, who bravely fought to take the beaches, liberate Europe, and defeat an evil foe.