June 6, 2019
CACI Commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy - D-Day
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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."
- Unsent letter from General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, June 5, 1944
June 6, 1944. D-Day. Under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 160,000 soldiers from nine countries began the final thrust in the Allies’ World War II campaign to liberate Europe from the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
Much could go wrong, as Allied commanders were well aware. But much went right. We are fortunate today that these commanders planned well, their soldiers fought heroically, and fascism was ultimately defeated.
Operation Overlord, the codename for the invasion, began with Operation Bodyguard in 1943. This was the elaborate deception designed to mislead the enemy as to the date, time, and location of the invasion; the number of troops involved; and the weaponry and armament being deployed.
Under the umbrella of Overlord, Operation Neptune would be the codename for the beach landing at Normandy, and Operations Fortitude-North and Fortitude-South would create the belief that the initial attack would be at Pas de Calais rather than at Normandy.
Pas de Calais, the port that traditionally connected England with France, would be the logical location for an invasion of northern Europe. The Allies fed that belief through a massive campaign of deception and misinformation in which Allied forces built dummy tanks, planes, and landing craft in Kent and Sussex, the closest points to France. Even as they built an elaborate deception, Allied bombers systematically destroyed Third Reich radar emplacements along the northern coast of France, reducing Germany’s ability to see and respond to the actual invasion when it came.Allied ingenuity was also applied to the means of actually waging war, not just looking like it. Engineers developed special landing craft, tanks, bridges, and even an oil pipeline to ensure that that vital substance would be available once the beaches were taken.
The invasion of France would ultimately require the use of thousands of ships, hundreds of planes, and nearly two million soldiers. Amid the organized chaos of coordinating thousands of troops and machines, General Eisenhower wrote two letters: one to the soldiers who would fight and die on the beaches of Normandy, and one to his superior, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall.
To his men, General Eisenhower wrote:
“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 the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world …
“I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle.
“We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”
Eisenhower’s second letter, quoted in full at the beginning of this article, was a message to be sent if the invasion failed. It is a sober reflection on the cost of command and the ultimate responsibility of leadership. In the letter, Eisenhower gives all the credit to those under his command and shoulders full responsibility for the failure of the operation himself. He offers no excuses, although the complexity of the operation would have provided a multitude..
Fortunately, Eisenhower never had to send this second letter. Operation Overlord was a resounding success, though it came at a high cost.
As CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board Dr. J.P. (Jack) London notes, “D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in history. It included 160,000 troops on June 6th alone, with a total of 875,000 landing by the end of June. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those young men, and we remember them with honor and appreciation each year.”
Dr. London also has a personal connection to the landmark event. His uncle, 2nd Lt. Gordon L. Phillips, USA, participated in the Normandy invasion with the 83rd Infantry Division. He was later killed in action.
Of the heroes of D-Day, Dr. London says, “They are stirring reminders that freedom is not free, and that our struggle to remain free continues even today, though in different locales and against a new and ruthless enemy. The legacy of the heroes of D-Day lives on in all the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who continue to fight for freedom.”
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