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True Leadership and Responsibly: Eisenhower’s Letter in Case D-Day Failed

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz noted: “It is now quite clear how greatly the objective of war makes it a matter of assessing probabilities. Only one more element is needed to make war a gamble – chance: the very last thing that war lacks. No other human activity is so continuously or universally bound up with chance. And through through the element of guesswork and luck come to play a great part in war…. If we now consider briefly the subjective nature of war – the means by which war has to be fought – it will look more like a gamble. The highest of all moral qualities in time of danger is certainly courage.”

For a year General Dwight D. Eisenhower had worked to marshal the largest force possible to launch the long awaited invasion of Nazi Occupied France. Eisenhower surrounded himself with an exceptional staff, but had to fight for what he would need for the coming invasion. He had to struggle with Admiral Ernest King for the landing ships and crafts he needed, against the competing needs of Admiral Nimitz, and General MacArthur’s Forces in the Pacific Theatre of operations. He had to battle the Allied bomber commands, Air Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris’s British Bomber Command, and 8th Air Force and Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, Commander of Strategic Air Forces for bombers to support the invasion. This meant taking them away from the strategic bombing command against the heart of German industry; and finally he had to battle Winston Churchill to be in overall command of the multi-national force being assembled to attack.

The invasion was his baby. He had the ultimate responsibility for its success or failure. He knew the dangers. In 1942 the British launched a raid using Canadian troops on the English Channel port of Dieppe. It was a disaster. With all the work he had done to get his forces ready for the invasion, Eisenhower knew that he owned the result regardless of the outcome.

Eisenhower understood that everything in war is a gamble and that success is not guaranteed. The weather conditions of the English Channel are unpredictable. They only  offer a few month window of opportunity to successfully mount a cross channel invasion. The Germans found that out in 1940 when after their failure to clear the skies of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain by early September, that the a favorable opportunity for Operation Sea Lion had passed and would never come again.

The Allied invasion required a full moon for a massive three division nighttime paratroop drop, and favorable weather for the landing craft to get ashore. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating. High winds, seas, and rain forced a cancellation of the planned June 5th invasion, the open question was whether conditions would be on the 6th would be favorable. If not the next opportunity would not be for at least two more weeks, in which the Germans would continue to strengthen their defensive positions along the Atlantic Wall. 

The German weather forecasters, had lost lost the ability to observe weather in the western and mid-Atlantic due to the allies sweeping the ships that relayed weather information from the Atlantic. Blind to oncoming weather systems, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe meteorologists anticipated that the bad weather would continue to be unfavorable for an invasion. With this in mind, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Commander of Army Group B which had operational control over the potential landing beaches, decided to make a visit to his wife for her birthday and a trip to Berlin to plead for more resources. Other Senior German Commanders departed to inland areas to conduct war games and were not with their units on the night of June 5th.

Meanwhile, the forecasters at Eisenhower’s headquarters had access to weather data from the mid-Atlantic unavailable to the Germans, predicted a brief lull in the storm, not perfect weather, but acceptable. Eisenhower met with his staff and made the decision to go ahead with the invasion in the night of June 5th and June 6th with the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the British 6th Airborne Division landing behind the German coastal fortifications.

But the weather was just one factor, the Allies did not know the latest German deployments, including the movement of the crack 352nd Infantry Division to Omaha Beach. Likewise, a prompt German response with heavy Panzer units could throw the invaders back into the sea if they moved fast enough. One threat was already deployed, but the other was a real probability knowing German doctrine.

However, neither Eisenhower or his staff knew of the conflict in the German High Command and Hitler regarding the deployment of the Panzer Divisions in France. Rommel argued that the Panzer Divisions should be deployed near the potential invasion beaches. However, traditionalists in the German command and Hitler decided that most of the Panzer Divisions should be held back awaiting a point that they could make a massive and decisive counterattack that would drive the Allies out of Europe. However, most of these men had commanded Panzers in Poland in 1939, France and the Low Countries in 1940, and the Soviet Union. In all of those campaigns the Germans always enjoyed air superiority or parity. But Rommel, a veteran of Africa and the West knew the power of allied tactical air assets, and the havoc they could inflict on the Panzers. Rommel believed that the invasion had to be defeated on the beachheads and the allies not given the chance to advance inland, in which case he knew that there would be no chance of defeating the invasion.

Eisenhower also knew that the success of the invasion depended on the success of the landings. A disaster at any of the landing beaches could doom the it. In light of this and so many other ways that could cause the invasion to fail, Eisenhower, wrote a letter to his troops and the world when the invasion commenced. It read:

“Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force:

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 oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations1 have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

However, prepared for any eventuality he also also wrote a letter in case the invasion failed, as it nearly did on Omaha Beach. That letter noted:

“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 the attempt it is mine alone.”

It was dated July 5th, not June 5th, the mistake obviously due to the pressure of what he was feeling for his soldiers, and the mission. Likewise, there was very real threat to his own career if the mission failed. He knew that his adversaries in the United States military and in Britain would have seen that would see that he was relieved and sent back to the United States in disgrace. As Eisenhower’s successor as President, John F. Kennedy said: “Victory has a hundred fathers, defeat is an orphan.”

Likewise, defeat could embolden those in the United States and Britain willing to make peace with Germany at any price. Such an outcome could have destroyed the allied alliance that ended up defeating Germany, rebuilding a democratic Western Europe, establishing NATO, the United Nations, and many other international organizations that have done much good for America and the world.

In a sense Eisenhower was in a similar situation to Grant and Sherman in the Summer of 1864, if they failed, Abraham Lincoln could have been defeated by the anti-war pro-Confederacy Copperheads, who would have settled leaving the South independent, the country divided, and slavery in place. Defeat would have ended the American experiment. Defeat in Normandy could easily have destroyed the Allied alliance, and given the Germans  the time they needed to turn defeat into victory. The whole course of the war and history could have changed, for the worse, with Hitler’s Nazi Regime controlling most of Europe, continuing its genocidal policies, and developing weapons far in advance of the Allies.

Eisenhower would not make excuses if the invasion failed. He was ready to take full responsibility if Overlord failed, regardless of how it happened. The buck stopped with him.

Likewise, he knew that the failure of the invasion would have made it possible for the Nazis to divert needed forces to the Eastern Front, where they might have been able to turn back the Soviet Operation Bagration which destroyed the German Army Group Center. Likewise, the success of the invasion opened the way for the Soviets to drive the Nazis from Soviet territory, advance to Warsaw, and knock key German allies out of the war. Before long, Hungary, Romania, and Finland had abandoned the Germans.

The fact that the invasion succeeded was as much as luck as it was the careful planning, and the exceptional courage, and dogged determination of the Allied troops. The American 4th Infantry Division landed on the wrong beach. Had they landed on the correct beach they could have faced slaughter. The Allied Airborne Divisions were scattered over much of Normandy and had to improvise to capture the targets needed to assist the invasion forces. Had Hitler’s lackeys the courage to wake him when the invasion was in its early stages , he might have released Panzer Divisions sooner than he did. Had Rommel not gone back to Germany for his wife’s birthday and to plead with Hitler for more troops, and been on the ground to coordinate the German response; or the number of realistic “might have beens” that could of defeated the the invasion, and Eisenhower was well aware of them.

Eisenhower’s willingness to take responsibility for defeat as well as give his troops credit for the eventual victory over the Nazis sets him apart from so many others then, and now who would deflect blame for a failed operation to their subordinates and lie about the results achieved.

In the age where the American President blatantly refuses to take responsibility for his actions, blames subordinates and allies for his failures, and who abdicates the duties of his office on an hourly basis, the ability for Eisenhower to be ready to acceptance of failure is an example that we must emulate. Donald Trump would have surrendered to Germany, given Hitler a platform to proclaim his defiance of human rights and international law, and the rights of American citizens at home. Interestingly enough over the past week many highly respected Generals and Admirals, active and retired, have warned against the dangers posed by President Trump.

History and humanity are always the product of character, integrity, and responsibility, or their opposites. All qualities Eisenhower had, and Trump does not, and as many well respected American military commanders are now speaking out about. But I was doing this as early as 2015 and 2016.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Code Of Honor: Time for Governor Northam to Resign or Admit that He is a Fraud

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I pride myself in holding to a code of honor that I learned as an Army ROTC Cadet at UCLA back in 1981 to 1983. It was the West Point honor code: “A cadet will not lie cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

While attending the Virginia Military Institute about the same time that I was at beginning my military career as an ROTC cadet at UCLA, and enlisted member of the California Army National Guard, Governor Ralph Northam was graduating from the ROTC program at VMI where he headed the honor court of the Corps of Cadets.

Today, after the revelations of his personal page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School Yearbook became public knowledge which included pictures of him in either blackface, or dressed as a Klansman, the governor offered a bizarre explanation and refused to resign his office despite the condemnation of the Virginia Democratic Party, Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Former Governor Terry MacCauliffe, Representative Bobby Scott, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and far to many more Democratic Party leaders than I can list here.

Now I personally believe that he has probably grown into a better person than he was in 1984, but even so his political judgement is flawed and his arrogance in thinking that he can escape this is mind boggling.

I am a Democrat, and if I am going to criticize members of the GOP, including President Trump for racist rants, behaviors, and affiliations I cannot be silent when a man who I admire and respect cannot own responsibility for his actions as a younger man. If he had any conscience or sense of political sense he would have admitted that these pictures existed before he ever ran for office in the House Of Delegates, not to mention Lieutenant Governor and later Governor.

Honestly, I don’t believe that those pictures represent who he is today, but his incredibly inept explanations and disregard of his party and it’s leaders in an era where everything that he supposedly stands for today is under attack by President Trump and the Trumpified GOP is completely irresponsible and harmful to his party and the country.

For me it all comes down to honor. I have written about this before, and I must be honest. Governor Northam must resign to save himself and the agenda that he was elected to advance. Everyone has skeletons in their closet, but not everyone is elected to serve in public office. Election to such office, demands a higher sense of responsibility than being a private citizen. Had he not entered politics and been elected Governor of Virginia, such an oversight wouldn’t matter a bit, except to his closest family and friends; but he is the Governor and as such this matters far more than it would had he remained a private citizen.

Likewise, if he was only a politician, but not a former Army Officer, not the former head of the VMI honor court, and not a physician who swore an oath to do no harm. Likewise, knowing these photos existed he deceived the African Americans who worked with and for him during his campaigns by not admitting to their existence before they became the issue that they are.

The problem is, that many white Virginians, as well as white citizens of other states see nothing wrong with the pictures. But for Virginians this is part of our dark and racially charged past. My family were all Virginians, and both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy, in the same regiment, the 8th Virginia Cavalry. Both sides of the family owned slaves, and fought to to keep them. The only rights that they fought for was the right to enslave others and to,support laws that forced Free States to comply with slavery. That was what the compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law Of 1850 were all about.

Today, Governor Northam in his policies and politics stands against what the Confederacy stood for, but privately he cannot take responsibility for his incredibly stupid, insensitive, and racist acts documented in a Medical School yearbook that he supplied the photos for his page.

Those actions took place 35 years ago, but this weekend he brought them into the present. Despite his stated desire to take Virginia to a new future, he took us all back to a past that sadly it has never fully abandoned.

It is time for him to resign and hand over the Governor’s office to Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, a descendant of Virginia slaves. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax will be much more effective than the politically, and morally crippled Ralph Northam. Every minute Northam remains in office supplies Trump and his allies with the free advantage of an unforced error. It is the “own goal” that keeps on giving.

From a point of honor, from a point of simple decency, and from the simple pragmatism of real life politics Governor Northam has no choice but to resign. Of he doesn’t he’s a fool. He needs to be honest. There is nothing else that he can do unless he hasn’t changed over the last 35 years. Of that’s who he really is he should simply become a Republican and join the ranks of every major White Supremacist in the county.

That’s just my opinion, but I still believe in a code of honor that Governor Northam at one time supposedly upheld.

So, call me an old fashioned Pharisee, but I still hold to the Cadet Code, and the Motto Of West Point: Duty, Honor, Country.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Principiis obsta, Finem respice—Resist the beginnings, Consider the end: A Name Change at Padre Steve’s World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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I have been so busy working in the house the last couple of day, Monday in fact until about 10 PM that I didn’t get much in the way of writing done. Our contractor came today and began work in the house and I have about done almost everything to complete work in the most heavily damaged section of our home. I still have a bit more to do in that room as we get it in shape to be Judy’s art work room and a secondary library and overflow guest room.

I am happy with my work. Tomorrow we should be able to start moving her art supplies, materials, and equipment into it. I will also finally be able to take a crack at our personal belongings that were damaged when our air conditioning condensation pan drains got plugged while we were on leave back in May. We finally got the money from the insurance to begin the repairs and because I am doing much of the work myself have been able to use the much of what I saved to be able to do some badly needed renovations. It has been stressful but in the end it our home will gain a lot in value, but I digress…

Late last night I decided to change the title of this website. I actually did it twice and finally settled on this tonight:

Padre Steve’s World: Resist the beginnings, Consider the end. 

I think it is more appropriate than what I first came up with which was “The Best Little Blog You Never Heard of ” I decided that was a little too pompous despite the fact that I actually do put a lot of research and reflection into almost everything that I post here. The fact is that the twin phrases Principiis obsta and Finem respice, the first from the Roman philosopher Ovid, and the latter most likely from the Book of Ecclesiastes and the writings of the early Christian apologist Tertullian. The were quoted to American Jewish Professor Milton Mayer by a German colleague after the Second World War as a warning of what happens when otherwise good people say nothing and fail to resist evil.

So anyway. I am very tired and need to get some decent sleep since I got so little last night.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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I’m Back: Realism and Responsibility after the Election of Donald Trump 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World, 

Winston Churchill wrote: “Courage is is what it is to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” 

Last night I was in a state of shock regarding the election of Donald Trump to the office of President. I was despairing and I said that I was going to immediately put in my retirement papers and move to Europe. I did really mean it, and that may yet happen. But my wife Judy helped put things in perspective this morning and told me not to make any hasty moves. That allowed me to take a deep breath. I spent this morning alone in my office with the door closed. I pretty much stayed off social media and apart from checking my work e-mail and reading the comics I just sat back reflecting on what happened before taking the afternoon off and going to lunch. I needed to sit down and listen, and one of my older bar buddies showed up and he too helped me put things in perspective. 

During that time I saw a good number of comments posted to the blog and my Facebook account encouraging me to stay engaged and not to give up. Those were also helpful and while I have not answered any of them yet but I appreciate all of the kind words and thoughts. 

Now I am not happy with the results of the election and I am frightened at what Trump and his congressional majorities have promised to do. That being said now that the election is over I am committed to doing what neither he or congressional Republicans did for President Obama, I will give him a chance and treat him with the respect his office is due. I remember how badly President Obama was treated by Mitch McConnell, and if I thought it was wrong for him to be treated in such a manner, how could I be a part in doing that to anyone? even Donald Trump. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if you are a Democrat, being obstructionists will only worsen the party’s situation. We have to be mature and show that we can endure defeat with dignity and grace. 

The fact is, that whether or not progressives like me like it, he has been elected with majorities in both the House and Senate, and we cannot change that. That being said, if we want to be taken seriously we must work for the common good and then figure out what we really believe as progressives and how to win elections. It is not good enough to simply oppose Trump and the GOP; we have to enunciate a positive vision and then go back to basics and that includes being the party of decency and civility. 

As for now I will not be retiring or leaving the country, even though an old German friend is now begging me to move there and promising to help me. That still might happen, but not yet. 

So anyway, it’s time to take a deep breath and do the right thing for the country. We cannot afford for Trump to fail, if he fails it hurts all of us and we can’t afford for him to screw up. If he does, let it be his doing, not ours, and let his supporters take the blame for electing him. As Abraham Lincoln correctly observed: “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they chose to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they’ll have to sit on the blisters.” That may seem unpalatable, but it is reality, and I am the ultimate realist. I guess that’s why I’m still here. 

Until tomorrow. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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