Final Preparations for the Invasion

In the final weeks before D Day, General Eisenhower spent much of his time visiting Allied units and observing maneuvers and exercises. A firm believer that a commander should show himself to the troops, he, in common with General Montgomery and General Bradley, made numerous trips to military units. In spite of conferences, staff meetings, and the reception of prominent visitors, he found time in the period between 1 February and 1 June to visit twenty-six divisions, twenty-four airfields, five ships of war, and a number of depots, shops, hospitals, and other installations.1

He attempted to see as many men as possible, to examine their weapons and equipment, to speak informally to them about the value of their specific tasks and the importance of the larger mission of which they were a part. He was anxious not only to inspire the troops under his command to do their best, but to develop a feeling on the part of both the British and U.S. troops that they were brothers-in-arms.

While these visits were in progress, the Allies were intensifying the air attacks on the invasion coast, strengthening the propaganda campaign against the enemy, and making plans for effective use of the French Resistance forces. The Supreme Commander himself was called on to recommend and take action on security measures, to discipline some of his commanders because of their breaches of security or issuance of unapproved statements, and to give the final order for the assault. (Chart 4)

Intensified Air Efforts Against the Enemy

Air preparations for OVERLORD were intensified in April 1944 and continued with increased force until the assault. Aside from the POINTBLANK operations, which aided OVERLORD by attacks on the German economy and air force, Allied air activities consisted of a number of different campaigns designed especially to expose and soften up the enemy in the invasion area. One of these, photographic reconnaissance, begun more than a year before, furnished the assault commanders with photo coverage of the European coast from the Netherlands to the Spanish frontier. It was thus possible to plot coastal defenses, bridges, prospective airfields, airborne drop zones, flooded areas, and enemy dumps and depots. From 1 April to




AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE photograph of beach defenses.

5 June 1944, the Allied Expeditionary Air Force flew more than 3,000 photographic reconnaissance sorties and the other air commands flew an additional 1,500.2

In March 1944 the Allied air forces started their bombing operations against enemy lines of communications in France and Belgium with attacks against railway marshaling yards and repair stations. In the last weeks of May they began bombing locomotives and bridges. Mid-April 1944 had already seen the opening of a special campaign to neutralize coastal defenses, and early May the start of an offensive on enemy radar installations and wireless telegraph facilities, ammunition and fuel dumps, military camps and headquarters, and airfields. The attack on V-weapon launching sites, which had been inaugurated earlier in the year, was stepped up as the invasion period approached. Air forces were also busy protecting the Allied naval and ground forces against enemy bombers and reconnaissance planes during the assembly of the assault forces. Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory estimated that in the six weeks before D Day the enemy flew only 125 reconnaissance sorties in the Channel area and four over the Thames Estuary and the east coast. Very few of these approached land. Thus the


presence of the great concentrations of men and craft did not become known to the enemy. Those occasional bombers which ventured over the British Isles were usually dealt with effectively and were responsible for only incidental damage.

Propaganda Efforts Against the Enemy

Long-range strategic propaganda campaigns were continued in 1944, being changed only to focus attention on the cross-Channel attack. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which had been active since 1939 in attacking German morale and encouraging the people of occupied countries to resist, was joined before D Day by the Office of War Information short-wave transmitters operating under the name of the American Broadcasting Station in Europe (ABSIE). A leaflet campaign, carried on since 1939 with the effective aid of the Royal Air Force and augmented after August 1943 by the Eighth Air Force, was intensified in the three months before D Day. During the period between 1939 and D Day some two and three-quarter billion leaflets were distributed of which more than two billion were dropped by the Royal Air Force.3 In addition, propaganda agencies supporting SHAEF operations produced and dropped a daily leaflet newspaper to the German troops. Beginning on 25 April 1944 and continuing until the end of the war, Allied planes dropped between a half million and a million copies of each edition of Nachrichten fuer die Truppe. This publication contained timely and accurate military information and news from the German home front designed to gain the German soldier's confidence in the truthfulness of the source and to keep him fully informed of the defeats suffered by the Germans and their allies.4

Besides carrying on pre-D-Day efforts to undermine German morale, the Allies appealed to peoples in occupied countries to resist the enemy and to prepare to support the Allied cause actively when liberating forces landed on the Continent. Allied planes dropped weekly newspapers carrying news of interest and encouragement to occupied areas. Beginning with the British Courrier de l'Air for the French, and adding the American L'Amerique en Guerre, the propaganda agencies extended their activities to other occupied countries and to Germany. The work of disseminating leaflets and newspapers, initially borne in large part by the Royal Air Force, was assumed more and more by the Eighth Air Force, which assigned a special squadron of B-l7's for the purpose.5

On 20 May 1944 the British Broadcasting Corporation and the American Broadcasting Station in Europe began a series of "Voice of SHAEF" broadcasts beamed at France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. Seven broadcasts made before D Day instructed the peoples of those occupied countries to gather information which the Allied forces would need on their arrival, but to refrain from premature uprisings.6


Security for the Operation

One of the important requirements for the commander of any great military offensive is the gaining of surprise. Because of the hazards involved in assaulting a heavily fortified coast, this element was vital to the success of OVERLORD. But the extensive movements and concentrations of men, supplies, and ships made the task of preserving the necessary secrecy especially difficult. The most rigid precautions became necessary. COSSAC in August 1943 established the OVERLORD Security Sub-Committee of the Inter-Services Security Board to draft special regulations for guarding secrets of the cross-Channel operation. At the recommendation of the subcommittee, COSSAC in September 1943 adopted a special procedure, known as BIGOT, by which all papers relating to the OVERLORD operations which disclosed the target area or the precise dates of the assault were limited in circulation to a small group of officers and men and subjected to stringent safeguards. The code word NEPTUNE was applied to these papers to distinguish them from OVERLORD documents that did not have to be handled with the same extreme degree of caution.7

The most crucial period for secrecy was that from mid-March until after D Day when the heaviest concentrations of troops and landing craft in the coastal areas were being made. To deal with the problem, SHAEF asked for regulations during the critical weeks of preparation which would bar the entry of civilians into coastal areas, stop members of the armed forces from taking leave outside the United Kingdom, and forbid foreign diplomats from sending messages in code from the United Kingdom. A special committee headed by Sir Findlater Stewart and consisting of representatives of the British service ministries, COSSAC (SHAEF), the Home Office, the Ministry of Home Security, and the Ministry of Health undertook to formulate such regulations.8

The civil ministries promptly objected to some of the proposals. General Morgan protested strongly against their stand and stressed the grave military need for security inasmuch as even a forty-eight-hour warning to the Germans of Allied dispositions or intentions would seriously diminish the chances of a successful landing. Intimating that the civil ministries were holding back in fear of offending the civilian population, he warned, "If we fail, there won't be any more politics--and certainly no more Lend-Lease!" In view of the Prime Minister's and War Office's opposition to outright bans on visits of civilians to restricted coastal areas, which Mr. Churchill thought could be handled more effectively by a ban on all communications from the United Kingdom in the final critical weeks, no action was taken in the first two months of 1944.9

While broad security policy was being considered by the ministries, General Eisenhower ordered all units under his command to maintain the highest standard of individual security discipline and to mete out severe disciplinary action in case of violation of security. He required that the greatest care be used, except in case of


operational necessity, to guard persons familiar with the chief details of impending operations from unnecessary exposure to capture by the enemy as a result of participation in preliminary landing operations, reconnaissance, or flights over the battle area.10

General Montgomery in early March urged the Supreme Commander to request a ban on visits by civilians to restricted areas. General Eisenhower now insisted that the War Cabinet impose the ban. He warned that it "would go hard with our consciences if we were to feel, in later years, that by neglecting any security precaution we had compromised the success of these vital operations or needlessly squandered men's lives." Four days later the War Cabinet declared that from April a visitor's ban would be imposed "throughout the coastal region from the Wash to Cornwall, with the addition of an area in Scotland adjacent to the Firth of Forth.11

Despite the ban on visits to coastal areas, censorship of outgoing mail and news dispatched from the United Kingdom, and restrictions on travel, there were still possible sources of leaks. The most feared of these were diplomatic communications not subject to censorship. The Foreign Office and War Cabinet were understandably reluctant to apply so drastic a measure as censorship to the correspondence of Allied representatives. But General Eisenhower, regarding this source of leakage as "the gravest risk to the security of our operations and to lives of our sailors, soldiers, and airmen," on 9 April asked that such a ban be put into effect as soon as possible after mid-April. On 17 April, the War Cabinet ruled that from that date foreign diplomatic representatives would not be permitted to receive or send uncensored communications and that couriers of such staffs would not be allowed to leave the United Kingdom. The restrictions were applied to all foreign countries save the United States and the USSR. Strong protests were immediately forthcoming, particularly in the case of the French Committee of National Liberation which ordered General Koenig to break off negotiations with SHAEF. A modification of the ban was later made in favor of the French, but the basic rule stood until after D Day.12

Despite many precautions, leaks in security occurred. A scare developed in late March when secret documents dealing with phases of the OVERLORD operation were discovered in the Chicago post office. Improperly wrapped, the envelope containing them had come open and its contents noted casually by a dozen postal employees. A flurry ensued in Washington and London until it was found that a sergeant in Headquarters, ETOUSA, had addressed the envelope to his sister in Chicago through an error. Investigation showed that carelessness and not espionage was involved.13 Far more serious and spectacular was the case of the commander of the IX Air Force Service Command in the United Kingdom. The general, in the presence of a number of guests in a public dining room at Claridge's Hotel on 18 April, declared that the invasion would begin before 15 June 1944. When details


of the incident were confirmed, General Eisenhower, a West Point classmate of the officer, ordered him removed from his post, reduced to his permanent rank of colonel, and sent back to the United States.14

After the war, German files in Berlin revealed that the enemy by the opening weeks of 1944 had discovered the meaning of OVERLORD and was certain that the main attack for 1944 would be in western Europe and not the eastern Mediterranean. This information, which reached the Germans from sources in the British Embassy, Ankara, initially identified the main attack as OVERLOCK. Later reports, rated by the Germans as accurate since their disclosure was contrary to English interest, were regarded as "conclusive evidence that the Anglo-Saxons are determined to force a show-down by opening the second front in 1944. However, this second front will not be in the Balkans." The analysis of 8 February 1944 by the Chief of the Western Branch of the Intelligence Division of the German Army (OKH/Fremde Heere West) stated:

1. For 1944 an operation is planned outside the Mediterranean that will seek to force a decision and, therefore, will be carried out with all available forces. This operation is probably being prepared under the code name of OVERLORD. The intention of committing large forces becomes clear from the fact that the operation is expected to produce the final military decision within a comparatively short period of time. . . . On 18 Jan 44, therefore, the Anglo-Saxon command was committed to a large-scale operation which would seek a final decision (second front).

The documents lack any indication of the exact area of this major attack. However, the distribution of enemy forces and troop movements clearly point to England as a point of departure.

Two weeks later, an intelligence report added:

The frequently expressed determination to bring the war to an end in 1944 is to be considered the keynote of the enemy's operational planning. It is also repeatedly mentioned as a definite fact that the decision will be sought by a large-scale attack in western Europe. In this connection Turkey's entry into the war is considered of value only within a limited period of time. From the foregoing facts it must be concluded that a showdown is to be attempted during the first--or at latest during the second-third of 1944. The early start of operations in Italy (fighting at Cassino and Anzio) which must be considered only with the framework of the over-all operational planning of the enemy (holding attack) points in the same direction.15

The possibility that the name of the operation would leak out had always been considered by the OVERLORD planners. They would have been relieved to know that their most carefully guarded secret-the exact area of the main blow and the approximate date--were not included in the German intelligence estimates. Later, they would have reflected that by the end of May everything which appeared in the January and February estimates, except the code name OVERLORD, could have been easily surmised from the accounts in the Allied press.

The Patton Episode

Scarcely had General Eisenhower punished the Air Force general for a breach of security when he was faced with the prospect of removing an Army commander, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton,Jr., from command


of the Third U.S. Army. In an effort to avoid any incident in the United Kingdom which might reawaken the public's memory of the Sicilian episode in which General Patton had slapped a patient in an Army hospital, General Eisenhower had warned the Third Army commander shortly after his arrival not to make public speeches without permission, and to guard all his statements so that there would be no chance of misinterpretation. Shortly afterward, as the result of a flurry over a speech he had made before a U.S. group in England, General Patton promised to refrain from public utterances. Near the end of April, however, in speaking before what he believed to be a private gathering, the Third Army commander declared that the United States and Great Britain would run the world of the future. This apparent affront to other Allied powers led to angry outcries in the U.S. Congress and press. General Marshall, who was trying to win Congressional approval for an Army permanent promotion list including General Patton's name, was dismayed by the incident which brought into question the Third Army commander's fitness for command and threatened to kill all Army promotions.16

General Eisenhower asked General Marshall if retention of General Patton would diminish the confidence of the public and the government in the War Department, indicating that in such a case stern disciplinary action would be required. He then sent a blistering letter to General Patton asking for a complete explanation and warning him of the "serious potentialities" of his speech. Reflecting on the fact that the Third Army commander seemed incapable of holding his tongue, General Eisenhower informed General Marshall that "on all the evidence now available I will relieve him from command and send him home unless some new and unforeseen information should be developed in the case." He was reluctant to take this action in view of General Patton's proved ability to conduct "a ruthless drive," and added that there was always the possibility that the war might yet develop a situation where Patton, despite his lack of balance, "should be rushed into the breach."17

Before receiving the second message suggesting relief of the Third Army commander, General Marshall assured General Eisenhower that confidence of the public in the War Department had to be measured against the success of the OVERLORD operation. He declared: "If you feel that the operation can be carried on with the same assurance of success with [Lt. Gen. Courtney H.] Hodges in command, for example, instead of Patton, all well and good. If you doubt it, then between us we can bear the burden of the already unfortunate reaction. I fear the harm has already been fatal to the confirmation of the permanent list." On 1 May General Marshall gave General Eisenhower exclusive responsibility for deciding whether or not to keep Patton in command. He insisted that the position of the War Department was not to be considered in the decision, but "only OVERLORD and your own heavy responsibility for its success."18

The Supreme Commander, aware "that the relief of Patton would lose to us his experience


as commander of an Army in battle and his demonstrated ability of getting the utmost out of soldiers in offensive operations," decided on the basis of the effects upon OVERLORD to retain his subordinate in command. He informed the Third Army commander that he was being kept despite damaging repercussions resulting from his personal indiscretions. "I do this," he added, "solely because of my faith in you as a battle leader and for no other motives." The decision was applauded in Washington by Secretary Stimson who praised General Eisenhower's judicial poise and good judgment "as well as the great courage which you have shown in making this decision."19

Exercises and Maneuvers

The numerous exercises held before the invasion gave the Supreme Commander an excellent opportunity to see his troops in action and to find errors which would need elimination before D Day. Beginning in late December 1943, a series of exercises was held at brigade, divisional, and corps level. Final rehearsals were held in late April and early May in the south of England. Activities included the concentration, marshaling, and embarkation of troops, a short movement by water, disembarkation with naval and air support, a beach assault using service ammunition, the securing of a beachhead, and a rapid advance inland. The rehearsals were planned to resemble the OVERLORD operation, except for differences in the sequences of landings and timing made to deceive the enemy if he was observing the maneuvers. The Allies were perturbed when, during one of the last exercises, a German E-boat attacked seven LST's, sinking two of the craft with more than 700 casualties. The enemy concluded that the craft were engaged in exercises, but seemed to draw no conclusions from them relative to the cross-Channel operation.

The rehearsals were followed by the final and major briefing of the key commanders. This conference was held under the supervision of SHAEF on 15 May in St. Paul's School, General Montgomery's headquarters in London, in the presence of the King, the Prime Minister, Field Marshal Smuts, the British Chiefs of Staff, members of the War Cabinet, and the chief Allied commanders--one of the great military gatherings of the war. General Eisenhower opened the meeting and was followed by General Montgomery, Admiral Ramsay, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory, and General Bradley who gave broad outlines of the revised plans for OVERLORD as well as a statement of the support the various commanders were to receive in their operations. The King and the Prime Minister also made short speeches. Of this dramatic meeting, General Eisenhower later wrote that it "not only marked the virtual completion of all preliminary planning and preparation but seemed to impart additional confidence as each of the scores of commanders and staff officers present learned in detail the extent of the assistance he would receive for his own particular part of the vast undertaking."20

The Decision To Go

With final preparations under way, the Supreme Commander considered the all-important question of the date for OVERLORD.


In the discussions at Tehran, 1 May 1944 had been provisionally accepted. When it became necessary to enlarge the assault area and seek more landing craft, the date was changed to the end of May. Ultimately the target date--Y Day--the date on which all preparations had to be complete, was set for 1 June. It was understood that D Day, the day of attack, would come as soon thereafter as the tides, phases of the moon, hours of daylight, and weather would permit. A study of these factors revealed that only three days in early June--5, 6, and 7--filled all requirements of the invasion force. On 8 May, the Supreme Commander after a discussion with his commanders selected the date of Y plus 4 (5 June). General Eisenhower informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff of this decision on 17 May, saying that 6 and 7 June were acceptable in case bad weather interfered but that any further postponement required major changes in the operation or a delay until 19 June when tidal conditions would again be favorable. He asked them to notify the Russians, who had promised to start their attack shortly after the cross-Channel assault, of the change in date.21

On the assumption that the attack would be made on 5 June, the Supreme Commander gave orders in mid-May for the concentration of the assault force near the invasion port areas of southern England. The enormous heaps of munitions, supplies, and equipment which had been stored throughout the United Kingdom were now moved by unending convoys to the south. As warehouses overflowed, the matériel was placed in carefully camouflaged positions along the roadways preparatory to final loading. Thousands of men next moved into tented areas in the fields of Cornwall, Devon, Sussex, and the other southern counties, whence they could be taken to landing craft waiting in near-by coves and inlets and then transported to the great concentrations of ships at Portland, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, and the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile, special efforts were made to get the men keyed to the proper psychological pitch for the attack. General Eisenhower urged his commanders to overcome any lack of a will to fight on the part of their troops by explaining the critical importance of defeating the Germans. Articles in Army publications stressed the vicious policies and beliefs of the enemy and the necessity of dealing ruthlessly with him. To combat the fears of those who anticipated heavy losses in the invasion and dreaded the shock and pain of battle, the Supreme Commander urged troop leaders to discuss candidly with their men the D Day prospects. Service newspapers, like Stars and Stripes, ran special articles which described the miracles of modern combat medicine and gave optimistic predictions on the chance of survival.

The best psychological preparations for the cross-Channel landings lay, however, in the personal briefings which unit commanders gave their men. Gathered together in units as small as platoons and squads, the men carefully studied their particular assignment for D Day. Foam-rubber models of the beaches, detailed maps and charts of the landing area, photographs of fortifications and obstacles were analyzed for enemy strength and weakness. An attempt was made to orient each man, showing him his place in relation


to other men in his platoon and the units on his flanks. He became familiar with the landmarks which were supposed to greet him when he got ashore, the exits by which he could leave the beach, and the likely locations of minefields and machine gun nests. More important to his peace of mind was the assurance of powerful naval and air support which was supposed to neutralize enemy opposition. At last, after the marshaling areas were carefully sealed off from the rest of England by wire and armed guards, the men were given the exact place of landing, the target date of the attack, and the broad outline of what the Allies expected to do once they got ashore. Before the end of May, it was clear that this concentration was not merely another exercise.

With the final briefings went the waterproofing of vehicles, the checking of weapons, adjustments of personal gear, and last-minute inspections. Invasion money was issued, family allotments made, and precautions given on the proper behavior of soldiers in liberated countries. Spurred by a last-minute warning that the enemy might use gas to stop the invasion, the Allied commanders reiterated their standing instructions concerning the means of detecting and combating such attacks. Nor were the perils of the sea forgotten as seasick pills and vomit bags were handed out, and lifebelts issued and tested. Now that the men knew where they were going, French phrase books were distributed and enterprising linguists held occasional classes for soldiers who looked forward to social interludes on the Continent. At length, cigarettes, toothbrushes, extra socks, K and D rations, and rounds of ammunition were passed out to each soldier. Little remained then but to get a crew cut, write a last letter home, and make a final inspection of equipment. By 1 June, as the units farthest from the invasion area began their move, few details had been overlooked. The first days of June brought an almost unbearable tension as the men, aware that their return home depended on the speed and effectiveness with which they completed their task, waited impatiently for the word to go.

But that word depended on one factor that could not be arranged by the planners-the weather. In the last days of May, the Supreme Commander began to watch the weather forecasts very closely. He got in the habit of talking over the reports with the Chief Meteorological Officer, SHAEF, Group Captain J. M. Stagg, so that he understood fully the value of the reports and the basis on which they were made. On 1 June, General Eisenhower arranged for the Allied commanders to meet him daily to consider the final decision for the attack. He realized that it was unlikely that so great an operation could be started and then stopped again without complete loss of secrecy. Loadings of ships had begun by 1 June, and it was clear that putting back to harbor and unloading ships would give rise to mishaps. Worse still, a delay meant an additional chance for the enemy's pilotless aircraft to begin their operations, or the possibility that the next favorable period for tides in mid-June would have even less satisfactory weather than that which would prevail on 5 June. Even more important was the effect of postponement on morale. The men who composed the assault forces had been brought to a pitch of readiness which would be hard to reach again. All these factors had to be weighed by the Supreme Commander as he studied the reports of the weatherman and debated whether or not to give the signal for the attack.


Weather information was furnished the Supreme Commander by a Meteorological Committee presided over by the Chief Meteorological Officer, SHAEF, and including meteorological officers from the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, the Admiralty, U.S. Weather Services (U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe), and the Air Ministry. In most cases, the officers submitted their opinions by telephone to the chairman, their reports were opened to general discussion, and a final forecast was drawn up which was in turn presented for the approval or disapproval of the various weather officers.22

Forecasts which were somewhat optimistic on 29 May were less hopeful by 2 June, but since there was some lack of certainty the Supreme Commander decided to order part of the assault forces to sail toward rendezvous points the following morning. The weather experts on 3 June again reported unpromising weather which would probably rule out 5 June as D Day, but General Eisenhower confirmed orders for one of the U.S. task forces to sail subject to a possible last-minute change. In the early morning of 4 June, the meteorological officers revealed that conditions on the following day would not permit the air forces to carry out their part of the assault program. Neither the air nor the naval commanders felt they should start the attack under the circumstances, although General Montgomery indicated his forces were ready to go. General Eisenhower, recalling that the operation had been accepted as feasible only if Allied air superiority could be brought to bear, ordered a twenty-four-hour postponement and called for a meeting at 2130 that evening to decide whether the attack could begin on 6 June. Convoys already at sea were ordered to turn back.

The decisive meeting was held, as the others had been, near Portsmouth in the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force mess room at Southwick House, Admiral Ramsay's headquarters. The meeting place was a large room, lined on three sides by bookcases which were mostly empty, and containing a table and a number of easy chairs. Present in addition to General Eisenhower were Tedder, Leigh-Mallory, Robb, Wigglesworth, Smith, Montgomery, Strong, Bull, de Guingand, Gale, Ramsay, and Creasy. Once the group was seated informally in the easy chairs, the weatherman, Group Captain Stagg, accompanied as usual by Instructor Commander John Fleming of the Royal Navy and Lt. Col. Donald D. Yates of the U.S. Army Air Forces, presented the agreed-on forecast. A new weather front had recently been observed which gave some hope of improvement throughout 5 June and until the morning of Tuesday the 6th. The skies were expected to clear' sufficiently for heavy bombers to operate during the night of the 5th and at H Hour the following morning, although it was possible that later changes might interfere with fighter-bombers and with spotting for naval bombardment. Some hope was thus given, but there was a chance that the reports were wrong and the fleet would be forced to turn back. Any possibility of postponing the decision for several hours until a new forecast could be made was dashed, however, by Admiral Ramsay's declaration that "Admiral Kirk must be told within


the next half hour if OVERLORD is to take place on Tuesday. If he is told it is on and his forces sail and are then recalled, they will not be ready again for Wednesday morning; therefore a further postponement would be for 48 hours." General Eisenhower polled his advisers. Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory was pessimistic and believed that the operation would be "chancey," a conclusion in which Air Chief Marshal Tedder concurred. General Montgomery, reiterating his advice of the previous day, voted "Go!" The question was now up to the Supreme Commander. He could take the gamble and launch the attack with the possibility he would lack air support, or he could turn back the task forces and await the fortunes of a later date. The fatefulness of his decision strongly impressed the assembled commanders, several of whom wrote accounts of the moment. General Smith was struck by "the loneliness and isolation of a commander at a time when such a momentous decision was to be taken by him, with full knowledge that failure or success rests on his individual decision." The Supreme Commander calmly weighed the alternatives, pointing out that it was the danger of not going which was "too chancey." The question, as he saw it, was "just how long can you hang this operation at the end of a limb and let it hang there." To this question there could be only one answer: "GO."23

The orders went out to the fleet that the attack was on, but a final meeting of the Supreme Commander and his aides was set for the early morning of 5 June. At 0330 as the Allied commanders started for their meeting place, they found little in the weather to make them hopeful. The rain and wind and mud that greeted them as they made their way to the naval headquarters gave no promise of fair weather for the 6th. However, the experts, who had made a final forecast at 0200, offered some hope that the 6th might see a break in the weather which might last thirty-six hours. They were unwilling to predict what might happen after that time. On the basis of this advice, General Eisenhower held to his decision of the previous evening. Using the code which he had already sent the War Department, he notified the Combined Chiefs of Staff: "Halcyon plus 5 finally and definitely confirmed."24


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (8) * Next Chapter (10)


1. A list of visits has been included in Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 238. Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower, contains a number of references to General Eisenhower's visits to troops in the period mentioned.

2. The information for this section has been taken from Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Despatch to the Supreme Commander, AEF, November 1944, Supplement to The London Gazette, December 31, 1946, pp. 42--54. Statistical information has been included to give some idea of the forces employed and the tonnages of bombs dropped. All statistics, as the dispatch notes, are subject to correction. See also Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II: III, ARGUMENT to V-E Day, January 1944 to May 1945 (Chicago, 1951), pp. 138--81.

3. Memo SHAEF for Br COS, 14 Mar 44, SHAEF SGS 091.412 Propaganda, I. Psychological Warfare Division (SHAEF), An Account of Its Operations in the Western European Operation, 1944 -- 45 (Bad Homburg, 1945) pp. 17, 159.

4. PWD (SHAEF), An Account of Its Operations, p. 46, says Nachrichten appeared in two editions which ran from 750,000 to a million copies each. The same volume speaks of "up to a half million copies daily--sometimes more  . . ." (p. 163) and again "quantities per issue ranged as high as 1,700,000 copies" (Exhibit 21).

5. PWD (SHAEF), An Account of Its Operations, p. 159.

6. Texts of Voice of SHAEF broadcasts are in PWD (SHAEF), An Account of Its Operations, pp. 106--11.

7. Memo, Maj Gen P. G. Whitefoord, 14 Aug 43; Security Instruction 1, Communications, 17 Sep 43. Both in SHAEF SGS 380.01/4 Security for Opns.

8. Memo with appendices by Gen Whitefoord, 9 Sep 43; Barker to CIS, 18 Oct 43; COS (44) nth mtg, 10 Jan 44; COS (44) 10th mtg, 13 Jan 44; Memo, Smith for Br COS, 20 Jan 44. All in SHAEF SGS 380.01/4 Security for Opns.

9. COS (44) 7th mtg, 10 Jan 44; Memo by Gilmer for Smith concerning Morganís Itr, 4 Feb 44; Morgan to G-2 and G- 3, 9 Feb 44. All in SHAEF SGS 380.01/4 Security for Opns.

10. Eisenhower to 21 A Gp, FUSAG, AEAF, and ANCXF, 23 Feb 44; Morgan to ANCXF and AEAF, 28 Feb 44. Both in SHAEF SGS 380.01/4 Security for Opns.

11. Montgomery to Eisenhower, 3 Mar 44; Eisenhower to Br COS, 6 Mar 44; Hollis to Eisenhower, 11 Mar 44. All in SHAEF SGS 380.01/4 Security for Opns.

12. Eisenhower to Brooke, 9 Apr 44, Brooke to Eisenhower, 17 Aug 44. Both in SHAEF SGS 311.7/1 Stoppage of Diplomatic Communication.

13. Diary Office CinC, 23 Mar and 4 Apr 44.

14. Diary Office CinC, 12 May 44; New York Times, June 7, 10, 1944; Eisenhower to Marshall, 3 May 44, Eisenhower personal file.

15. German Foreign Office political report IM51 gRs, 8 Jan 44 (copy dtd 12 Jan 44), Intelligence analysis, Militaerische Auswertung der Sonderunterlagen WFSt ueber Tuerkei aus dem Zeitabschnitt Sept. 43-Jan. 44, 8 and 21 Feb 44, 0berkommando des Heeres/Fremde Heere West Handakte Chef. Italics in original.]

16. Marshall to Eisenhower (apparently 26 Apr 44), Diary Office CinC, 11 Dec 44.

17. Smith to Marshall, 27 Apr 44; Eisenhower to Marshall, 29 Apr 44; Eisenhower to Patton, 29 Apr 44; Eisenhower to Marshall, 30 Apr 44. These messages in Diary Office CinC and Eisenhower personal file.

18. Marshall to Eisenhower, 29 Apr 44; McNarney for Marshall to Eisenhower, 1 May 44. Both in Eisenhower personal file.

19. Eisenhower to Marshall, 3 May 44; Eisenhower to Patton, 3 May 44. Both in Eisenhower personal file. Stimson to Eisenhower, 5 May 44, Diary Office CinC.

20. Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower, pp. 539-40; Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 245.

21. Diary, Office CinC, 9 May 44; Eisenhower to CCS, SCAF 30, 17 May 44. Maj. Gen. John Russell Deane, in The Strange Alliance: The Story of Our Efforts at Wartime Co-Operation With Russia (New York, 1947), p. 150, tells of various changes in date which he gave the Russians in Moscow.

22. Report by Allied Naval CinC Expeditionary Force on Operation NEPTUNE, App. 16, I, 156--65. (This appendix contains detailed forecasts during the period in question, showing the opinions of the various meteorological officers.) Memo, SHAEF, 26 May 44, sub: Weather Forecasts, SHAEF G--3 Ops A 000.91 Meteorological Matters.

23. Accounts of the two final meetings have been written by Air Vice Marshal James M. Robb (a signed carbon copy of his original report, written on the morning of 5 June 1944, was given by him to the author); Gen Bull, Memo for Record, 5 June 44, SHAEF G--3 file; Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, "Eisenhowerís Six Great Decisions," Saturday Evening Post, June 8, 1946, p. 218; Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 249--50; de Guingand, Operation Victory, pp. 372-74; and Leigh-Mallory Despatch, Supplement to The London Gazette, December 31, 1946, p. 55. The author has also received statements by Eisenhower, Tedder, Creasy, and Strong. There are some differences as to the exact phrasing of General Eisenhowerís final statements in making the decision and for that reason the accounts of Robb and Bull have been omitted. Both General Bull and Air Marshal Robb have given lists of the persons present, although General Bull omits General Gale from the list. Both accounts indicate that Air Marshal Coningham was present at the earlier meetings.

24. Diary Office CinC, 5 Jan 44, contains details on the decision apparently given Butcher by General Eisenhower shortly after the decision was made.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Charles Hardinger for the HyperWar Foundation