Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Eisenhower, D-Day and the Whole Nine Yards

I'm catching up on some old reading and read a great piece on D-Day in the December 2007 issue of the Smithsonian - Ike at D-Day : The rain he worried about. The Camel cigarettes he chain-smoked. The letter he wrote in case of failure. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's defining moment comes to life in an excerpt from Michael Korda's best-selling new biography.

Korda's piece, or perhaps his protagonist, rivets. Makes one yearn for compassionate strong men - both Churchill and Eisenhower cry under the weight of the awesome responsibility of sending men to their death. And the wait for the weather fascinates and the wrongheadedness of the Germans is gross. I knew not of the former but I did of the latter. Korda succeeds in relaying the scope of the preparation and the difficulty of the decision to go forward on June 6th.

Two interesting bits to quote -
When asked what kind of generals he liked, Napolean is said to have replied, "Lucky One." Noby in the room could have known it, but luck was about to strike Eisenhower.
That would be a clearing in the weather that the Germans had no clue about.

Then this -
the belts of .50-caliber ammunition for the heavy machine guns of the American bombers were 27 feet long (whence the expression "the whole nine yards")
I had no idea that's where the expression came from...very cool.

Also the fascimile of a note Eisenhower wrote the morning of the invasion in case of failures shows his edits:
Our landing in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.
Originally he had written, "and the troops have been withdrawn."

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