What would you say if D-Day failed?

The Atlantic Wire dug up “Doomsday” speeches from  General Dwight Eisenhower in the event the Germans stopped the D-Day invasion and from Pres. Nixon had Apollo 11 failed. The story points out the different styles of both speeches.

 

Eisenhower on D-Day:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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

 

And the start of Nixon’s speech on Apollo 11:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

I dig the Atlantic’s take on the two speeches:

Eisenhower’s communication was brief and matter of fact because the events did not need interpretation. The stakes of D-Day were clear: it was a major offensive on the road to victory.

By contrast, Nixon’s speech is poetic and rich in imagery because the meaning of the moon landing was not self-evident. The event was deeply symbolic, capturing the individual human spirit, America’s technological prowess in the Cold War, and a giant leap for mankind.

 

What struck me was how you it might feel to deliver those words. I love how simple Eisenhower’s statement is on the invasion, but also the leadership it shows. This man understood what it meant to be a combat leader. He was willing to take the blame, as he should as the commanding general, for making the call. A call that I can’t imagine ever being made again. Can you fathom now a general committing five divisions to such a high risk mission, knowing that the chances of defeat are high?

As for Nixon, his is a scarier speech because like the Atlantic points out the Apollo 11 mission, while life and death, was really more about as he put it “a search for truth and understanding.” It isn’t as easy to explain things with such lofty goals. But I think the tone of the speech helps hammer home the point. The US space program was a big step for Earth, not just one country.

Overall, an interesting look at a history that could have been and the words that would have defined it.

 

 

2 comments

  • I once had a history professor who said Eisenhower’s habit of taking the blame for failures made him a great general, but a bad president. Notably, Eisenhower publicly took the blame when Francis Gary Powers’ U2 was shot down over the Soviet Union.My professor said that a president needs to at least appear infallible. It’s an interesting idea–if a general’s plan fails, he can be noble and offer himself up as the scapegoat. Any number of generals would be waiting in the wings to take over for him. Not necessarily so with the president… Nixon, then the VP, wasn’t ready for Prime Time.

  • Maybe off-topic: I just Googled Eisenhower’s draft. It’s interesting that he wrote it on July 5th. By then, the Allies already had a million troops in Normandy and were fighting in the hedgerows (but before the breakout). Eisenhower obviously still had doubts on the invasion even then.

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