Leadership and Responsibility on the Longest Day


failure-message

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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

The troops did not fail.  More than 140,000 Allied soldiers came ashore at Normandy, on this day 69 years ago.   The Second Front so long in the coming was established.  The cost was more than ten thousand casualties, of which approximately 4,000 were killed.  The same number that died in Iraq in eight years, died on the French coast in a single morning.   Tens of thousands more would die before Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally eleven months and one day later.

General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous note hearkens to a brand of leadership seemingly all but extinct today.   People in positions of great responsibility shouldering the burden for their decisions and everything that is done or fails to be done by those in their charge.    What difference does it make?   The difference between victory and defeat, liberty and subjugation, existence and extinction.

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5 responses to “Leadership and Responsibility on the Longest Day

  1. David Navarre

    History re-imagined through the Zero lens….
    —-
    During congressional hearings in July 1944, the Secretary of War was asked why no invasion of France took place in June of that year.

    “(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Secretary Stimson told reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Eisenhower, Gen. Marshall and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

    In papers smuggled out of France in the 1970s, it appears that preparations in Normandy and in the south of France did not meet the high standards of Field Marshal Rommel and that his own personal evaluation was that an invasion in mid-1944 could well have succeeded, though at great cost. One can only wonder whether the Germans would have held out against the second front the Russians had called for.

    In his memoirs, the liberator of Rome, then-General and later President Mark Clark stated that an invasion of France would not have helped, only resulting in massive casualties.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/26/panetta-military-lacked-enough-information-to-intervene-during-benghazi-attack/#ixzz2VRwJ2kup

  2. Esli

    Inconceivable. In these days when putting a brigade combat team in the field is large-scale training, I can’t imagine sending almost a third of the army over the same beach in 24 hours. We don’t even consider training on many doctrinal missions these days because they occur at the Division or higher, such as the pursuit, exploitation, or mobile defense.
    As an aside, I always remember this also as the date I went to the E5 promotion board back in 1988. In many ways, that felt like my own little D-Day, even though I passed. (Passing was way more than most were doing in that board….)

  3. Barry Jones

    While this is not new news to me, I have always thought this is a top notch model for all leaders (military or civilian), but unfortunately one that is more often ignored. I left the Army as a Captain almost 30 years ago and many people have asked what the difference is between the Military and Civilian management styles. My reply is that the Army spent over decade (ROTC and active duty time combined) telling me that while Authority MUST be delegated, responsibility can NEVER be delegate. However, I have found that in the civilian world the converse is standard. From what i read, it is looking like delegate responsibility and withhold authority is becoming the military norm as well. The civilian world has too many manager and not enough leaders and I hate to see that model migrating to the military as well. It is a lousy way to do business.

    • scottthebadger

      You are spot on. That is a perfect assessment of the current administrations ‘leadership style’.

  4. Eisenhower’s stature rises every decade.

    His book At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends was very interesting and fun to read. One item I got from that book was how an early tank towing evolution had a wire snap under load, almost killing Pattan and Eisenhower.

    IMHO, he was the last President to get the entire Federal Government to do it’s job well. He used his Cabinet officers and their expertise masterfully.

    The Eisenhower Museum in Abilene Kansas is facinating. They had one of his officer evaluations from MacArthur. It was very understated from todays overblown FITREPS. His foreign awards and presentation sword collection was also very interesting. My wife liked the strong emphasis on Mamie in part of the museum.