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Subject: 6 June 1944 rss

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Jim Ransom
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Every year around this time I focus on those brave men who participated in OVERLORD. I guess living near Bedford VA, home to the "Bedford Boys" of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment and the National D-Day Memorial, causes me to remember and honor the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of all who took part in the Great Crusade, as Eisenhower called it.

And so I offer some quotes from past and present Commanders in Chief about this momentous event.

"They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate." — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio broadcast, June 6, 1944

"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war." — President Reagan in Normandy to mark the 40th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1984

"We know that progress is not inevitable. But neither was victory upon these beaches. Now, as then, the inner voice tells us to stand up and move forward. Now, as then, free people must choose." — President Clinton in Normandy to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1994

"That road to V-E Day was hard and long, and traveled by weary and valiant men. And history will always record where that road began. It began here, with the first footprints on the beaches of Normandy." — President George W. Bush in Normandy to mark the 60th anniversary, June 6, 2004

"It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide." — President Obama in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary, June 2009
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Nick West
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I take the opportunity to widen the range of quotes and to emphasise the fact that many other of the United Nations contributed to the success of Operation Overlord either on the 6th June or later, not least General Montgomery who was the overall Land Forces Commander for Overlord.

His Personal Message to be read out to all troops' once embarked read:

"The time has come to deal the enemy a terrific blow in Western Europe.

The blow will be struck by the combined sea, land and air forces of the Allies - together constituting one great Allied team, under the supreme
command of General Eisenhower.

On the eve of this great adventure I send my best wishes to every soldier in the Allied team.

To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings.

Let us pray that 'The Lord Mighty in Battle' will go forth with our armies, and that His special providence will aid us in the struggle.

I want every soldier to know that I have complete confidence in the successful outcome of the operations we are now to begin. With stout hearts , and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory.

And as we enter battle, let us recall the words of a famous soldier spoken many year ago:-
' He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desertrs are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all.'

Good luck to each one of you. And good hunting on the mainland."

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Jim Ransom
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Nice one -- I like seeing Montgomery's actual written comments. Here is another, less famous quote from D-Day, one that fortunately never had to be used. It is Eisenhower's "in case the landings failed" message.

Quote:
"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 on 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."


I have always been struck how he was ready to accepted full responsibility for the "failure." There are no excuses offered, just "I am responsible and therefore at fault." Kind of refreshing in these days of blaming and dodging.

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Nick West
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The Prime Minister was also conflicted by doubts and fears in the run up to D-Day.

He visited Monty at 21st Army Group HQ the week before the invasion and whilst, complementing Monty and his Staff, also managed to convey his anxiety by writing this in his HQ Mess's visitors book (I preserve his peculiar but distinctive blank verse of the original):

"On the verge of the greatest Adventure
with which these pages have dealt
I record my confidence that
all will be well
& that
the organisations and equipment of the army
will be worthy of the valour
of the soldier
& the genius of their chief.

Winston S. Churchill
19.v.44"

He was tiring badly by 1944 and struggled to deliver the defiant and inspiring speeches of 1940 up to 1942.

The reference to "the organisations and equipment of the army" is to his attempt to discuss the adminitrative tail of the army upon him discovering that 2000 clerks were to be taken over and that by D+20 there would be one vehicle for every 4.84 men in France.

Monty prevented it by simply telling him that he could not allow him to open such a discussion at his HQ a week before the landings, and that if he insisted it could only mean that Churchill had lost confidence in him which left him with no other honourable route open to him but to resign.
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Hunga Dunga
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jpr755 wrote:
"It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide." — President Obama in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary, June 2009

Much of the progress that would define the 20th century was created by German scientists!
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Matthew Barber
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Hungadunga wrote:
jpr755 wrote:
"It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide." — President Obama in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary, June 2009

Much of the progress that would define the 20th century was created by German scientists!


...and the landings at Normandy made them way easier to snatch up at war's end
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J.D. Hall
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notquitekarpov wrote:
' He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desertrs are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all.'

Monty quoting the Jacobin Montrose? Do tell. Talk about opposites.
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Nick West
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Yes. Very different commanders but Monty had a better record of success!

Have a lot of time James Graham though - a hero of my adopted land of course. Tactically brilliant but of questionable stategic judgement - consistently fighting for the wrong side!

Roundheads: right but revolting.
Royalists: wrong but romantic. laugh

Meanwhile Overlord was the perfect foil for Monty's unique talent - a set piece dog-fight.


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Hunga Dunga
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thatsmybarber wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
jpr755 wrote:
"It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide." — President Obama in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary, June 2009

Much of the progress that would define the 20th century was created by German scientists!


...and the landings at Normandy made them way easier to snatch up at war's end

I think those fellows would have made "progress" in the 20th century no matter how the Normandy Invasion turned out...
 
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Robert Stuart
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notquitekarpov wrote:
Yes. Very different commanders but Monty had a better record of success!


One thing I will say about Montgomery: he had the ability to not take risks. That is, he had the ability to grind through to a victory, of sorts, when given a clear superiority in numbers and materiel.

 
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Jon M
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bob_santafe wrote:
notquitekarpov wrote:
Yes. Very different commanders but Monty had a better record of success!


One thing I will say about Montgomery: he had the ability to not take risks. That is, he had the ability to grind through to a victory, of sorts, when given a clear superiority in numbers and materiel.



Considering the early parts of the war consisted of Allied forces with superiority in numbers losing to German forces then this was probably no bad thing.
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Robert Stuart
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Jon_1066 wrote:
bob_santafe wrote:
notquitekarpov wrote:
Yes. Very different commanders but Monty had a better record of success!


One thing I will say about Montgomery: he had the ability to not take risks. That is, he had the ability to grind through to a victory, of sorts, when given a clear superiority in numbers and materiel.



Considering the early parts of the war consisted of Allied forces with superiority in numbers losing to German forces then this was probably no bad thing.


It certainly wasn't! He did have the ability not to get shellacked. As you say, no bad thing.

Montgomery was competent at the army and army group level. When he was tasked to operate at a higher level, and especially a level at which he had to coordinate both British and American forces, the task strained and at times exceeded his competence -- but that's a different matter.

 
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Nick West
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Simply incorrect. His performance at Army Group level from D-Day until Eisenhower assumed land forces command was the outstanding Allied Army Group command performance of the War.

Operational competence was not the issue, it was his character flaws and the fact that the American commanders hated him, that were the problems with him holding higher Allied Commands.
 
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