Skip to comments.D-Day: Eisenhower and His Paratroopers
Posted on 06/06/2012 11:41:15 AM PDT by Retain Mike
General Dwight Eisenhower arrived in London to head Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) during the last five months of planning for D-Day. He achieved much more than the popular portrayal of managing a political/military alliance. Though he never led troops in combat, his leadership sustained many unprecedented initiatives for the successful Normandy landings. The air assault examples the frightful uncertainties plaguing critical hazards run on this Day of Days.
The night before D-Day, 20,400 American and British paratroopers dropped behind the Normandy beaches from 1,250 C-47 aircraft plus gliders. This massive assault was attempted just 17 years after Charles Lindberg had flown the Atlantic solo for the first time.
To the last moment Ike's air commander, British Air Chief Marshall Leigh-Mallory, saw only tragic forebodings reinforced by memories of American problems in North Africa and Sicily, and the German catastrophe on Crete. The German losses were so severe that Hitler forbid any further massive air assaults. Leigh-Mallory anticipated hundreds of unarmed planes and gliders being destroyed with surviving paratroopers fighting isolated until killed or captured.
The planes would arrive over Normandy the night of June 5 in three streams with each 300 miles long, allowing the Germans up to two hours to reposition night fighters and anti-aircraft artillery for maximum slaughter of the transports. Most pilots were flying their first combat mission. Leigh-Mallory had specific intelligence the German 91st Air Landing Division, specialists in fighting paratroopers, and the 6th Parachute Regiment had inexplicably moved into the area around St. Mere-Eglise, where the American divisions were to land. Could these movements mean the deception plan for D-Day directing attention to Pas de Calais was breaking down?
Ike remained strategically committed to the airborne assault, but compassionately devoted to the men. The evening before D-Day, Eisenhower left SHAEF headquarters at 6 PM, traveling to Newbury where the 101st Airborne was boarding for its first combat mission. Ike arrived at 8 PM and did not leave until the last C-47 was airborne over three hours later.
In My Three Years with Eisenhower Captain Harry C. Butcher says, "We saw hundreds of paratroopers with blackened and grotesque faces, packing up for the big hop and jump. Ike wandered through them, stepping over, packs, guns, and a variety of equipment such as only paratroop people can devise, chinning with this and that one. All were put at ease. He was promised a job after the war by a Texan who said he roped, not dallied, his cows, and at least there was enough to eat in the work. Ike has developed or disclosed an informality and friendliness with troopers that almost amazed me".
In Crusade in Europe General Dwight Eisenhower says, "I found the men in fine fettle, many of them joshingly admonishing me that I had no cause for worry, since the 101st was on the job, and everything would be taken care of in fine shape. I stayed with them until the last of them were in the air, somewhere about midnight. After a two hour trip back to my own camp, I had only a short time to wait until the first news should come in.
One of the first D-Day reports was from Leigh-Mallory with news only 29 of 1,250 C-47's were missing and only four gliders were unaccounted for. That morning Leigh-Mallory sent Ike a message frankly saying it is sometimes difficult to admit that one is wrong, but he had never had a greater pleasure than in doing so on this occasion. He congratulated Ike on the wisdom and courage of his command decision.
The above represents only one of many crushing anxieties Eisenhower persevered through. President Roosevelt understood the enormous risks, and asked the nation to pray for the coming invasion. Resting today in the luxury of historical certainty prevents us from imagining the dark specters hovering about nearly all invasion planning aspects.
It was not until years afterward that the troops in the gliders were considered “airborne.”
Manhood, courage and virility personified. On all sides.
I never get tired of hearing this magnificent story of Ike visiting the fabled 101st on the eve of Normandy.
God bless all our fighting men and women - and, especially, the 101st Airborne Division.
Yes. Thank you for reminding me.
and hey, what about that moving tribute to D-Day given by Obama today...uh, oops...never mind.
(if the Normandy invasion had been led by a gay platoon, he’d be all over it...)
I know one of those pilots who flew the paratroopers over that night (also involved in invasions of Sicily and Italy). The stories he recounts are both heartening and gut-wrenching.
At Sicily, German planes had attacked our ships minutes before his squadron flew the paratroopers in to invade the inland. Allied ships thought his squadron were more German planes, so a bunch of his buddies got blasted out of the sky by our own ships.
During the practices for Normandie (nighttime, of course), there were some horrific mid-air accidents that almost cost him his life.
Yet they all did their duty at tremendous cost. I’m just glad my kids have had a chance to learn from him.
The 101 is a first class fighting outfit, no doubt about it. But to be fair, in all of WW2 the Screaming Eagles only made two combat jumps. The 82nd. made five.
....anybody seen Obama’s D-day thought of the day?...anybody?.anywhere?
re: “The 101 is a first class fighting outfit, no doubt about it. But to be fair, in all of WW2 the Screaming Eagles only made two combat jumps. The 82nd. made five.”
Hear! Hear! Absolutely correct. God bless the 82nd as well. Forgive my memory which gets worse the older I get.
That is a real privilege. Before my son entered the Marine Corps he had the chance to know a family friend who landed the first day on Tarawa.
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
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.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well 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
I have full confidence in your courage and 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.
SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower
I also left my comment at YT for people to see....*grins*
I got to visit the D-Day beaches in 2006. It is an experience I will never forgot. Brought some sand back from Omaha Beach.
You know the 82nd was in that invasion also don't you? Why not bless them also, I am sure God has.
My Uncle Harvey, who is 90 today, was in the 101st at that place and at that time. The only thing he ever says is that they were just doing their jobs.
A very gutsy tactic was that.
I saw an interview with one of the paratroops in this photo. He said that even though it appears like Ike is conveying vital last-minute instructions, he was actually talking about his experience working in a store when he was a kid.
Now that makes sense.
I guess he figured they had enough on their minds and wanted them to relax a little before they loaded up for the jump.
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