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Special Announcement

A Moment of Character: General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Statement of Accountability

When leaders take full accountability for their leadership, decisions become clearer, actions more decisive, and organizations grow and succeed. This also requires a commitment to be accountable even - and perhaps especially - if things go wrong. Good leaders think through every decision, plan ahead, and are accountable for both success and failure.

General Dwight Eisenhower giving orders to American paratroopers in England prior to D-Day.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, made this statement of full accountability for the D-Day landings should they fail. Written June 5 but mistakenly dated July 5, it was never sent.

An outstanding example of this commitment to accountability, no matter what the outcome, can be found in one of America's greatest leaders, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he prepared for June 6, 1944 - D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Normandy.

As commander of the Allied forces, Eisenhower had amassed nearly three million Allied troops in southern England in preparation for the cross-channel attack. More than 4,000 American, British, and Canadian ships and 1,200 planes were also ready.

Despite the complexities of such massive preparations, uncertain weather forecasts, disagreements over strategy, and timing problems about tidal conditions, Eisenhower took bold action. Early on the morning of June 5, 1944, he made the decision to proceed with the attack.

But he also made another, perhaps more important decision, should the invasion result in disaster.

That same day, Eisenhower penned a private note to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, assuming responsibility for the decision to launch the invasion and taking full blame if the Allied landing failed to establish a beachhead at Normandy. He wrote:

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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."

The next day, June 6, 1944, Eisenhower and the Allies landed in northern France. After a long day of hard fighting, 160,000 Allied troops had come ashore and taken control of 80 miles of French coastline, and the road to victory lay ahead. The note would never be sent.

The invasion was risky, and failure would have resulted in unimaginable consequences for the free world. Eisenhower knew the dangers, was resolute in his decision, and uncompromising in his commitment to full accountability.

At CACI, we take inspiration from leaders like General Eisenhower. We are accountable for serving our customers with excellence, and if failures occur we don't make excuses, we make it right . We believe that full and true accountability, like that displayed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, drives success.

Learn more about leadership, accountability, and character in
Character: The Ultimate Success Factor by CACI Executive Chairman
and Chairman of the Board Dr. J.P. London.

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