Moral Courage and D-Day

By Newt Gingrich

ddayThe challenge of the Normandy landing and the courage it took to win are vividly displayed at Pointe du Hoc, the steep cliff Army Rangers scaled to take out German artillery that endangered an entire beach. President Ronald Reagan captured their courage in a 40th anniversary speech about “the Boys of Pointe du Hoc.” Callista and I were privileged to film there when we made “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny.” The site is an extraordinary reminder of human courage.

The challenge of the Normandy landing and the courage it took to win are vividly displayed at Pointe du Hoc, the steep cliff Army Rangers scaled to take out German artillery that endangered an entire beach. President Ronald Reagan captured their courage in a 40th anniversary speech about “the Boys of Pointe du Hoc.” Callista and I were privileged to film there when we made “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny.” The site is an extraordinary reminder of human courage.

Eisenhower listened to his meteorologists who told him there would be a break in the weather for a few days and then it would get worse. Eisenhower decided to gamble on landing on the sixth. If he had, not all those hundreds of thousand of soldiers, sailors and airmen would have been called back. Word would almost certainly have leaked. The following month when the moon and tide would have been right to try again, the worst storm in decades hit Normandy and the invasion would have been destroyed or postponed.
Eisenhower’s moral courage in taking responsibility for the greatest single activity then undertaken by humans was a key to success.
Eisenhower knew that despite the best efforts of all the allied forces, they might fail. He prepared a note to release if the invasion collapsed. In it, he took all responsibility. He carried it in his pocket all that day.
It read: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 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. June Fifth.”
Carrying that handwritten note in his pocket, Eisenhower went out to visit the paratroopers he was about to launch into battle. One of the most poignant pictures shows Eisenhower motioning with his hand talking to a combat-equipped paratrooper. It turned out the young man was from Michigan and they were discussing trout fishing. Ike was showing him how he cast for trout.
That calm, positive demeanor while taking full responsibility for the greatest military operation of all time was a true profile in courage and moral responsibility.
Your Friend,
Newt

 

 

 

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