Ethics & Public Policy Center

Ike Revisited


George Weigel

Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies


 

AMERICAN PURPOSE is not intended to be penitential reading. Thus, from time to time, we want to share some of the lighter things crossing the editor’s desk that have some bearing on the issues on which we chew in this forum.

Just recently we’ve rediscovered a piece by our friend R. James Woolsey, undersecretary of the Navy in the Carter administration and a prominent member of the Scowcroft Commission on the future of strategic forces-two jobs that would not automatically seem to recommend Mr. Woolsey as a humorist. But another stereotype crumbles. Herewith, then, Mr. Woolsey’s fictitious news story, answering the question, “How would the invasion of Europe be received in America if it were being carried out this week . . . judged the way we judge such things today?” Mr. Woolsey suggests the headline, “General With Roving Eye Loses 10,000 Troops in France,” for a piece written to commemorate the 40th anniversary of D-day, but which remains salient as we approach the 43d anniversary of the longest day:

“SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHERN ENGLAND, June 7. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, rumored to be romantically involved with his ‘driver’ Kay Summersby, ordered an invasion of Normandy in the early morning hours yesterday.

“American casualties, many as a consequence of drownings in landing craft in the storm-tossed Normandy surf-about which the general had been warned -are thought to be among the highest for any single day of military operations since the Civil War. Reliable sources in Eisenhower headquarters have revealed that in the middle of the night he disregarded pessimistic weather predictions and overrode the suggestions of several subordinates in ordering the June 6 attack, which included an assault by Army Rangers on a German gun position atop a 100-foot sheer cliff, an operation described by a staff aide as a ‘crazy gamble that was bound to get somebody badly hurt.’

“Eisenhower has drafted a ‘contingency’ message, not yet officially issued, which takes full personal responsibility for the invasion’s failure. A copy of the message was obtained by this reporter; it indicates that Eisenhower may well believe that a debacle in Normandy is imminent. The possible role of Miss Summersby in the general’s late-night invasion decision is not known.

“Miss Summersby could not be reached for comment.

“In another major Washington development, first-term Republican Congressman Buford Grundge, prominent critic of American involvement in the arms race, which led to the current hostilities, and of the unpopular military aid program to a British government involved in such controversial human rights practices as massive wartime relocation of children, has called for a major investigation of Army procurement . . .

“At the prestigious Institute for Analytical Analysis in Washington, Berlinologist Carson Whiffle strongly supported Grundge. ‘I,’ he said, ‘am deeply concerned. Any further armored warfare in Normandy will undermine the arguments of the dovish faction in Berlin . . .’

“Whiffle said his institute expected quick and positive action on its grant application, submitted today to the Studebaker Foundation, for funds to film interviews with the families of every American casualty of the invasion, to be shown nationwide in movie theaters this autumn . . .

“In New York . . . ACLU President Garrison O. Pugh charged today that there was massive deception involved in the planning for the Normandy operation. ‘Military duplicity and secrecy led the American people to believe that this invasion would probably occur at Pas de Calais, not Normandy,’ said Pugh. ‘There are significant constitutional issues here.’

“Meanwhile, at Eisenhower’s headquarters here, the weight of informal staff opinion leans heavily to the view that dissension among the general’s subordinates will prevent a breakout from the tiny Normandy beachhead. ‘A prima donna like Patton will never work for a pedestrian general like Bradley,’ said one knowledgeable officer who preferred not to be identified . . .

“The careful wording of yesterday’s White House press release on the invasion suggests that President Roosevelt and Gen. Marshall (who, it is widely known, wanted to lead the invasion himself), are ready to cut Eisenhower adrift if the invasion fails. And tonight that likelihood looms large among the drowned and machine-gunned bodies on the oddly-named ‘Omaha’ Beach.

“As he embarked on his way to Normandy, one private first class, Willie Brown of Biloxi, Miss., gave a surprising answer to this reporter’s query about the reason for what is beginning to be called ‘Eisenhower’s Folly.’

“‘We’re here to free Europe,’ Brown claimed.

“But it remains to be seen whether this sort of naiveté in the ranks and Eisenhower’s wee-hours, foul-weather, and quite possibly bleary-eyed gamble will prevail against the raging elements and the Panzers of the Third Reich.”

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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