Use this primary source text to explore key historical events.
- Use this primary source with the D-Day Narrative to give students a fuller understanding of the campaign. This primary source can also be used with the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima Narrative and the Phil “Bo” Perabo, Letter Home, 1945 Primary Source to showcase American soldiers’ experiences during WWII.
From the moment the United States entered World War II, it began to plan how to invade the European continent to strike at the heart of the Nazi war machine. Although the Allies successfully landed in Sicily and moved up the boot of Italy in the summer and fall of 1943, leaders knew that a landing in France would eventually be necessary to reach Berlin. Dwight Eisenhower was named commander of an Allied expeditionary force and spent almost a year planning a landing on the beaches of Normandy, France, known as Operation Overlord. On June 6, 1944, the day of the invasion, Eisenhower gave his order of the day to all of the troops under his command.
- Who wrote this document?
- Why did the Allies invade Normandy?
|Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
|embark(v): to begin
|You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
|Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
|United Nations(n): The United Nations here refers to the official name for the Allies and should not be confused with the international organization created at the end of World War II.
munition(n): military weapon or equipment
|But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940–41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The freemen of the world are marching together to victory!
|I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
|beseech(v): to ask urgently
|Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
- What was Eisenhower’s goal for the invasion?
- What had changed for the United Nations since 1941?
- Who did Eisenhower encourage the men to ask for blessings?
Historical Reasoning Questions
- Consider the religious language that Eisenhower uses throughout his message. Why do you think he does this?
- Before the landings at Normandy began, Eisenhower wrote the following note to release in case of failure.
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.
What can you discern about Eisenhower’s character from this message?
Dwight Eisenhower, D-Day Statement https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/?dod-date=606