Rich Galen

It was worse on the other side of the world. According to the U.S. Navy's history of the Battle of Iwo Jima:

"The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead."

For those who think that June 6, 1944 to V-E Day was about 10 minutes, consider this: The breakout at St. Lô - that opened the vast French plain to Allied forces - wasn't accomplished until late July. It took almost six weeks to slug the 21 miles from Omaha Beach.

From "Normandy, Battles that Changed the World,"

"Despite having landed about a million men and 177,000 vehicles in Normandy by July, their lodgment remained modest, extending inland for 25 miles at best but for little more than five miles in most places."

What kept the troops moving forward? For most of them, according to both contemporaneous and historical accounts, there were two reasons. First, it was their job. Second, if they didn't do it someone else - maybe their buddy fighting right next to them - would have to.

Stephen E. Ambrose noted in his book on D-Day that Americans were trained to have whoever was senior - a General Officer or a Corporal - take command and move the battle forward.

Back at Supreme Headquarters, Eisenhower had uttered the three words, "Ok, let's go" that set Operation Overlord in action. He distributed a letter the night before the invasion that began:

"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade toward which we have striven these many months."

It ended with:

"Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

But that wasn't the message that impresses me most. It was a message was never delivered. Eisenhower kept it in his pocket in case the invasion failed and the troops had to be withdrawn. It ended with:

"If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."

The big lesson of D-Day is that leadership means taking responsibility. Whether a mother telling her kids not to waste food, to a soldier leading an attack, to a sailor trying to maneuver through high seas and racing tides, to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

"If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.