Ike stayed home at No. 10

The nation has paid a lot of attention during the past week to an event that occurred 70 years on the French coastline along the English Channel.

We looked back at the D-Day, the Normandy invasion, which we’ve done every decade it seems since that fateful amphibious assault. PBS devoted lots of coverage to it, broadcasting specials that looked at the search for wreckage left behind and employing state-of-the-art technology to re-create the battle as it unfolded on June 6, 1944.

The American Experience has an online stream of its coverage of D-Day. Here it is:


The thought occurred to me, though, about the 10th anniversary of the invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.

It was led by U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who issued the simple command, “OK. We’ll go,” to start the invasion.

Ten years later, that general had become president of the United States. In 1954, some dignitaries gathered on the French coastline to mark the anniversary of an event that was still very fresh in everyone’s mind. Heck, a decade is virtually no time at all, right?

What did President Eisenhower do? He stayed on this side of the Atlantic. He didn’t travel to Europe. The ceremonies marking the invasion, the president said, need not be about him. He wanted the attention to center on the brave men who stormed the beach on that overcast morning. They were the heroes.

In the years since then, U.S. presidents have traveled to Normandy to take part in elaborate ceremonies. That is totally appropriate.

For the general who would become commander in chief, it was too much too soon. He reflected quietly at home about what we’ve come to appreciate as the pivotal turning point in the world’s bloodiest war.


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