Dwight Eisenhower and the D-Day Invasion
Today, it can be easy to believe in the inevitability of the success of the invasion of Normandy and subsequent Allied liberation of Europe from Nazi control. However, the outcome of the D-Day invasion was anything but inevitable to the military planners and soldiers who waited anxiously in the grey twilight on the evening of June 5, 1944.
One soldier who knew all too well the enormous risks faced by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force was Dwight D. Eisenhower. In this lesson, students will examine Eisenhower’s Order of the Day on June 6, 1944, and the statement he prepared in the event the invasion failed. In doing so, they will assess Eisenhower’s leadership style, the purpose of both messages, and the importance of responsibility in leadership.
- Students will study General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day from June 6, 1944
- Students will assess Eisenhower’s role as a leader
- Students will apply their knowledge about character and leadership to their own lives
- Handout A: Eisenhower’s Order of the Day draft
- Handout B: Eisenhower’s Official Order of the Day
- Handout C: Eisenhower’s Statement for a Failed Invasion
- Handout D: Eisenhower’s Statement for a Failed Invasion (Transcribed)
Activity (30 minutes)
Directions: Have students read the handouts and answer the following questions.
- Is there any evidence in Handout A (draft version) that Eisenhower was uncertain about the outcome of the invasion? Explain.
- How does Eisenhower characterize the invasion in Handout B?
- Who is Eisenhower’s audience?
- What language does he use to focus the message on the recipient?
- What strikes you about Eisenhower’s statement of failure (Handout C and Handout D)?
- How did the tone and words of Eisenhower’s two messages differ?
- How does Eisenhower demonstrate the character trait of responsibility in his failure statement?
- Why might this trait be important in a leader?
Have students watch the following dramatization of Eisenhower’s Order of the Day, which comes from the documentary World War II in HD (2009) from the History Channel.
How have the producers used the following to dramatize Eisenhower’s order:
Do you think Eisenhower’s message is more powerful as read to the soldiers before the invasion or in this documentary? Why?