The Eisenhower years; 5; D-Day: The Prelude
The following program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. April 1945 Hitler's War Machine was driving toward the Caucasus on the West while Rommel's Afrika Corps neared El Alamein and the fear was enough to link up between those two. Their continued ominous intelligence reports of German heavy water production in Norway. They allies were in the shadow of what General Marshall called a very black power. In Washington the assistant chief of staff in charge of war plans Major General Dwight Eisenhower drafted a plan to strike a major blow against the Germans in Europe. It called for a cross-channel invasion of France on the Normandy beaches. It was the beginning of what was to be the biggest military operation in history. It would take two years of planning building and preparation. And D-Day would mark the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany.
He had to decide on whether to go with the weather we had yesterday profiling a two weeks general of the army Omar Bradley recalls the agony of decision on those fateful days in June of 1944 as the supreme allied commander Wade invasion against DeLay. You could only get should walk tired and and daylight together once every two weeks and we didn't go on the June 5th 6:00 or 7:00. We couldn't go until two weeks later I possibly sat silently just reviewing the same maybe say 35 or 45 seconds. And yet I just said OK go in this room was empty. The Eisenhower years. A Chronicle in sound of the life of the white Eisenhower produced by extension radio
television at Kansas State University. With a superlative regarding D-Day and its planning are myriad The mightiest Armada ever the biggest military operation in history. The beginning of the end for Hitler. D-day was all of those. It involves staggering amounts of money energy and insurance. Actually the concept of an allied return to the Continent was born in the minds of the British at Dunkirk. Churchill assigned a small group of planners the task of devising such a plan in 1940 but the specific cross-channel plan came from Eisenhower in 1942.
It was that year that then Brigadier General Eisenhower was named as System chief of staff in charge of war plans in Washington. In a memo to his boss General George Marshall Eisenhower outlined his views of global strategy and a key point was the retention of Russia in the war. He called for material aid to Russia and also an allied thrust to Europe big enough to draw off a sizable portion of the German army on the Russian front. His plan was for a cross-channel invasion. Roosevelt and the US Chiefs of Staff agreed to it for the spring of 1943. Churchill asked for and got an invasion of North Africa first and the cross-channel invasion was put off until 1944. Full scale planning of the invasion was started in 43 commanded by a British Lieutenant General Frederick Moore. Joining the staff that year with us General Omar Bradley. British staff had been working on the landing for several months when I went to England in October the 1st of October. Forty three
and we didn't get down to detail planning until I came up in January. You know North Africa having been decimated you take supreme command and made several basic decisions and then from January to June we were doing planning detailed planning in the last two months of 1943 the time came for President Roosevelt to name a Supreme Allied Commander. The choice in everyone's mind was between generals Marshall and Eisenhower. It was Roosevelt's decision. Author biographer Ken Davis says Roosevelt originally opted for Marshall I think Marshall himself made that decision sort of thing anyway Marshall Marshall wanted to wanted it to be supreme commander. He wanted it so bad but. He also realized that he had been tangling with the British all these years tangled in the Arcadia conference said tangle over and over again a tangle about torture he was supposed to torch and he and the British had been fighting as he had to do.
I mean he was the American. And so that he could not have done as well as I could because he had he was already tagged with certain points of view whereas I had none. But he was tagged with so that the marshal if Martin said he wanted it he would have had it ROSAT would have appointed him and certainly Churchill would have gone in a lot of other people thought that they couldn't live without Marshall in Washington church. Roosevelt himself said you know Marshall he said I don't think I can sleep well at night with you out of the country so. So I really think it was Marshall who decided he should not be and should be. It was the announcement of General Eisenhower as appointment as supreme allied commander came on Christmas Eve 1943. Ike arrived in London the next month and the man who became his public relations officer Lieutenant Colonel Thor Smith remembers that day. He arrived in the middle of one of the very worst historical pea soup fog that London has ever had.
And of course we were in a frenzy to get the releases out and all that sort of thing and we actually had to walk from one place to another in front of the jeep with a flashlight. It was as bad as all that and one of the first things we had to do was get a picture of the hike I command. General I can. And Tedder and and all the rest of the the the big brass of the famous War Room picture that you've seen around was trying to get all that up. All of that brass together in one room and with all the cameramen they wanted to get a picture of it. It was really quite a quite a first assignment for for me with John and I. Many people feel that Eisenhower's greatest accomplishment was the forging of shakes his ability to weld and then wield and allied sword biographer Kenneth Davis. What's shaping up to be insisted it be a actual fusion. No no nationalism whatever in the headquarters. And he insisted on
optimism and courage and so he did a beautiful job there. It was it was I could me but I kept his problems and managing the British and American Brass. And one of his biggest problems was Field Marshal Montgomery they frequently clashed on tactical decisions and I cough and found Montgomery hard to handle. General Omar Bradley he was hard to handle Yes and. You know always was very good just to go. And he thought he should have been made the supreme ground commander and I consisted if he was acting as such he was a little bit hard to handle sometimes and make it go like it is to work together and the one always a big thank you Thor Smith who now have become a public relations officer recalls the problems with General Montgomery and says they were hired by the British press in a way some of the British press
had a sort of a chip on the shoulder you know. General I mean concern all through this was not to disturb the allied unity but the press minutely what they were constantly speculating about. It was my number two in command when General Bradley going to take charge of American troops in the field and and any any shift at all was considered a slight on the other end. It ended up being being this is one of the stickiest problems of that. General Eisenhower had to cope with. And of course the press didn't help any and in this respect why he he was a little bit sensitive toward any think pieces about like about the command structure about the first thing I was in OUR did after assuming command was to enlarge the D-Day plan. Both he and I felt that it was not broad enough. The cost plan called for
3 division and 50 assault on the Normandy coast with the assumption that they would also be simultaneous landings on the south of France with two divisions. But all the key leaders Eisenhower Montgomery Marshall and Churchill agreed the three division landing in Normandy was too small. It was expanded to include all five divisions and the south of France operation was delayed. Now the planning detailed planning became intense. General Bradley you were working me tonight 20 hours a day and you had to have certain basic decisions on which to break it down and. The planning of an invasion amphibious operations are very detailed Yeah yeah to try and unload of everyone a boat to go and every landing craft. And I remember one figure which is rather impressive to me and that is that during the first thank us for our we landed some 7000 different items on the beach
and had to be in the right proportion. Had two different surgical instruments weapons ammunition everything. 7000 different times to be planned to go in there right now and craft takes a lot of detail. We had to have a particular combination of Haydn's light and moon and this showed that you had about two days in. You could have the perfect condition or nearly perfect condition in a few days in May. We'd like to have gone on the 5th of May. But we do get the breadth of attack we thought necessary we had to wait until June. The ideal days were from June of June for what was the ideal but what was satisfactory fifty six and. And even possibly. But that would have been a stretch now.
I think July I mean the best and we came down here praying that the weather would be sufficiently good we could go on that you had to prove this is on which we landed which was quite a decision where to go paddock I hear Normandy or go further south where you go you had to prove that you had to decide on the troops that had land on each of the five beaches and what support they could get. And he had a lot of decisions to be made in connection with D-Day and it turned out they were all good. By now the British Isles were jammed with men and equipment so much that a common joke was the only thing keeping her afloat with a barrage balloons. Logistics became the key element of the war against Hitler and a massive plan took final shape. It was massive in more ways than one. For instance a complete set of maybe orders including maps weighed 300 pounds. And while this went
on so did a concerted intelligence effort to fool the Germans across the channel. General Bradley the German agents in England and the British knew them pretty well. They were tipped off that we were going to invade and how to Calais and we've built up a paper army. And east England. We even took the radio operators from Africa and with certain divisions and because they get to know the radio operators touch always you know somebody's voice. So we actually sent these operators have they sent messages back and forth and German scores picked them up and they believe we were going to Vegas to particle A. We went to the trouble of building a platform to look like boats for example just take burgeon limb on the rudder of the ship of a of a ship. From there it looked like ship and we even went to the trouble of laying those boards up there to make them look like ships in the harbor and so forth and. I. Think they left at 15 time me up around particle wave even after we landed the norm
because they were sure that it is just fate and we were going to make the main landing a particle away and Hitler's idea mostly I think the German general saw through it and what Hitler would give me and he said duties had remained up there for the main invasion. And they didn't pull him out until we broke out the 25th of July. Thor Smith it was one of the best cover and deception plans I'm told has ever been handled in the in in the history of warfare. I saw a list one time of all the different elements of the cover and deception plan that went on and it was about 25 different things all knitted together like this. By that I mean you know fake divisions here and fake story in a newspaper there and you know it that the thing was all all buttoned up. An invasion of Europe involving men by the millions more than 10000 planes in
excess of a thousand ships and yet it had to remain secret. There were hair raising slip ups but the Germans never really found out. General Bradley I still don't understand because too many people knew about it. We went on the basis that we wanted those who needed to know were told about it. But I know a lot of people that didn't need to know were told about it. And I just still American to me why the Germans didn't pick it up. Eisenhower's personal aide Harry butcher there were numerous incidents that were very worrisome officer or two talking at a cocktail party giving the name and the date of the day. It really hadn't been settled but first week of June was close enough you know. There was a case of one turning up in Chicago. All the plans at the home of a German
named family a family of German descent with a German name in a great batch of many graphs the plans for D-Day. And this was a lot of consternation it was discovered by some counter-intelligence. The. Officer listed them in Chicago. And of course the word came back to our headquarters and it was looked into immediately and what had happened was that a G.I. in the mail room taken about homebodies family. And the bird only addresses this package to his family. It's supposed to go to the water park by courier. But in some way it gets in the mail addressed to his family. So it was a scare for a while. Then on the night of.
The night of D-Day the day before D-Day one of the American press associations in its London office inadvertently put on a D-Day announcement in practice. But fortunately it was it was caught before it ever got printed. As the time for the invasion to the planning phase was completed then it became a question of time as the build up of men and machines continued. It was also a question of what to do with General Ike for his aid. Terry Butcher from where I sat in this tent camp it was a problem of trying to keep up. Some diversion for Gen Y. Maybe you play some bridge and maybe you do. Dream up a trip to see the paratroopers United D-Day maybe go down to the what they call a. They are the hards the places where the landing craft loaded with troops in the
light go on keep busy keep something going on. Horseman a long time before the advance command post was set up while he starred in going out and visiting the troops all over England. It would take church along one time in Montgomery along another time and and frequently go on his own and so we were really travelling tourist there for several months before D-Day. He felt that one of the one of the best things in the world was the morale building of the troops was to just go see them. And so we we went every place. Usually on these business we would be in a convoy of sorts and I and you know as much as I was conducting the press while we'd be about two or three cars back and just about the time we would come alongside of whoever it was that they were it would be the delayed reaction they'd realize who it was that was coming to see them. It was it was General Churchill or somebody like that and it was it was set up for us being three cars back two or
three cars back in the convoy. It was just a constant succession of these wide eyed amazed faces realizing who it was that they'd just seen. Now the day I actually approached the tenseness in the I don't know headquarters increased. He was a bit irritable for a week or 10 days beforehand. He had asked the cook to bake some beans and he wanted beans baked in a certain way. And none of us quite know just how he won the debate. So we had four or five kinds of beans over a period of weeks or days. He was never quite satisfied with any of the beans and he vowed that he could make better beans and the cook was making one of Ike's key decisions came just before D-Day regarding the paratroop drops to precede the invasion. General Bradley said they were imperative but air marshal Lee moderate who was in charge of the air
operations felt the losses would be too high. General Bradley I wanted Airborne Division drop back of Utah base because right back of the beach it was a big swamp which the Germans had flooded and destroyed three naira causeway going across with a machine gun on each one of those just cause a lot of trouble because you can't flank a match can get out away to a swamp it's too deep. So I wanted the back of those swamps and the other end of those current ways secured by airborne So the plan was to put the 80 second hundred first airborne back of Utah Beach. And General I blushingly Mallory the British man in charge of the air. Objected he said the losses to the airborne troops would be too great and he didn't want to prove it. But I finally approved it and we want to head into good thing because they did drop back of that swamp with security. We went very fast on Utah Beach. Harry Butcher also recalls that Eisenhower decision the morning of D-Day I happened
to take the call and the tent camp at our command post air marshall leave Mowery who was calling to tell him to convey to General Ike his congratulations on and on the decision to have the airborne operation go forward that it had worked and that he was relieved and that the losses were substantially less than he had predicted he was a very good sport about it. Typically British apologized for being butting a burden an extra responsibility on the Supreme Commander. Ike was faced with another problem another decision this one involving Winston Churchill himself. But Churchill wanted to go on me. On a destroyer on D-Day to be good to see the action to be a part of the. Invasion. And I had to tell Churchill if you were worse to me alive safe and sound. Away from the battle in your regular
job as Prime Minister you're worth to me two divisions at least. If you go on this. If I let you go on the invasion fleet it will take X number of ships to look after you and you've been nuisance and Churchill had to wasn't satisfied of this to say he wanted to go and he said I shall have to go to his Majesty and offer to lay down the mantle of my office unless you let me go on this venture. And I said oh I told you I don't want you to go and he didn't go. But the big decision came for Dwight Eisenhower as the window of gold arrived. That first week of June and the weather turned sour. Eisenhower recalled those days in a CBS interview filmed at Southwark house Ike's advanced headquarters at ports. Early on the morning of June 4th I came to my camp about a mile from here came in this room and Captain Stagg who was the chief meteorologist for the allied
forces with me it was supported by two or three Americans a couple of the British but he made the presentation that morning the stars were out in the beautiful and he gave us the worst report you ever saw. Then he talked about cables hitting the Normandy beaches and winds up to you know the rate of 25 miles an hour that kind of thing. Landing would be impossible. So I just said All right we have to postpone. So we postponed for 24 hours. The morning of the Fifth that scene was repeated in the midst of a storm that shook Southwick house and prove the prediction of meteorologist Captain Stagg. He said Well. Give some give you some good news. And then he told us about this. I got in here and gave us some. And as I remember he predicted this good weather would last between 24 and 36 hours. Now that wasn't too good because you could get
so many troops ashore and then to stop landing would be pretty bad. We were trying for these. You know these artificial ports and we hope that with this rate we could do it if we're still at Kent State. But when he gave in and said if there are waves now on the beaches we're not going to be more than three feet or something of that kind than the wind is going down it be some opportunity for bombing and the gunfire from the Navy ships could be spotted pretty well I thought it was just the best of a bad bargain so I possibly sat silently just reviewing the same maybe white say 35 or 45 seconds. Now it's been reported by some of the people present for example my own team's task as a 5 minutes. I know that when you try minutes on such conditions sound like an ear. Actually I think after 30 45 seconds something yet I discover said
OK we'll go and everything to this room was empty in two seconds. I think that one the most far reaching decisions made during the war because two weeks later the storm we couldn't go much worse than when we went in. So we could've gone two weeks later and we had to get a port for supplies before the 15th to September because in the channel the storm gets so bad after the 15th of September that you can't land supplies over the beach. So we had gone we did right and when we get the decision made and the waiting General Eisenhower recalled those long hours. Well of course that's the most terrible time for the senior commander. He's done all that he can do all the planning and matter of fact is very little more than any commander below I mean above the division command and do everything at once you start. So the
first thing I did I went over and fortified myself with a lot of coffee and breakfast. Then I began to go up and down the wars. Some of the ships are still starting out and I saw people if it sent them off and so on. And I came up here during the middle of the day to see if any news coming out. And I kept pretty close to my communications center and then finally along about 6:00 in the evening I went over to a field from which see airborne American air started. I couldn't get all these deals because there are many of them but I did go into the hundred First Division and it was a very fine experience. They were getting ready and all camouflaged and their faces were black and then all this and then they saw me and of course they recognized me as a not quite a worry in general you would think it is a boy in that kind of thing it was good for you it was a started off I watched them out of sight and it took me a
couple hours to get back to my headquarters. Thora Smith. We didn't get back until the early hours of the morning and then we knew that each hour was just a few hours away so we stayed up and it was very tense because it was the show was on. But there was no feedback at that point so you just. Nothing to do except sit and wait for. And and actually have a little frustrating too. I mean even fridge wasn't anything for him to do except sit and wait and as he waited a thousand ships were churning through the English Channel and within a few hours the 6th of June 1944 would take its place in the memory of mankind. The Eisenhower years produce by extension Radio-TV at Kansas State University on a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The producer
narrator is Ralph Titus research bike and write. Music for the Eisenhower years was composed by Gail Cuba. Performed by the Kansas State University Chamber Symphony conducted by Luther 11. Our thanks to CBS News for providing General Eisenhower's interview at Southwick house. Next week D-Day the conclusion. This is Paul the week. This is the national educational radio network.
- The Eisenhower years
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- D-Day: The Prelude
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Chicago: “The Eisenhower years; 5; D-Day: The Prelude,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6362.
- MLA: “The Eisenhower years; 5; D-Day: The Prelude.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6362>.
- APA: The Eisenhower years; 5; D-Day: The Prelude. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6362