Tag Archives: World War II

Why the Anniversary of D-Day Gave Me a Moment of Happiness.

My husband and I sleep with all-news radio playing (which I’m sure is a very bad idea, but we do), and I woke this morning to the reminder that today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allied trips landed on the beaches of  Normandy.

I read a lot about D-Day when I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, my biography of Churchill. What a subject! How I loved writing that book.

And one of my favorite moments in my research was when I read about what General Eisenhower did to prepare for the invasion.

In case the invasion failed, Eisenhower had prepared a statement, known as “In Case of Failure”:

incaseoffailure

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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

 

 

This is a momentous example of one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received, from my father. He said, “If you take the blame, when you deserve it, people will give you responsibility.” I’ve found that to be very true.

And this memory reminded me of another story that I love about Eisenhower. It illustrates one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Sometimes, words only diminish what we want to convey.

I love this story so much that I get choked up whenever I think about it. (If you want to see me tell the story, you can watch the video here.)

At the end of the war, in May 1945, the German military commanders had unconditionally surrendered, and the time came when they signed the surrender documents. Obviously this was a momentous, awe-inspiring event.

Afterwards, General Eisenhower needed to send a message to the combined Chiefs of Staff, to tell them that this had been done, and Eisenhower’s colleagues proposed various drafts of grand language for the victory message.

Eisenhower rejected all suggestions, and wrote:

“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”

missionofthisalliedforce

So simple, so beautiful. Sometimes words can only diminish what we want to convey.

One of the most pure, satisfying sources of happiness is the feeling of transcendence. It can be difficult, in the crush of everyday life, to find moments of transcendence. Memories prompted by this D-Day anniversary brought me that feeling of awe.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

Story: An Englishman Would Not Take Snapshots.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: An Englishman would not take snapshots of a fine vessel sinking…

 

In case you want to read the text:

The Middle East have no sense of publicity. The Admiralty is even worse. We complain that there are no photographs of the sinking of the Bismarck. Tripp says that the official photographer was in the Suffolk and that the Suffolk was too far away. We say, ‘But why didn’t one of our reconnaissance machines fly over the ship and take photographs?’ He replies, ‘Well you see, you must see, well upon my word, well after all, an Englishman would not like to take snapshots of a fine vessel sinking.’ Is he right? I felt abashed when he said it. I think he is right.

— Harold Nicolson, Diary, June 10, 1941, when he was working at the wartime Ministry of Information

I love this story so much (could you tell I got a little choked up, when reading it?). It reminds me that in my own life, I should always to try to live up to the highest ideals of the United States.

How about you? Does anything in your own life remind you of that aim to be a good citizen? Many people have mentioned to me how emotional they feel when they hear the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

You can check out the archives of videos here.  More than 1.3 MILLION views. Remember to subscribe!

Story: Sometimes Words Only Diminish What You Want To Convey.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: Sometimes words only diminish what you want to convey. I’ve never forgotten this story, ever since I came across it while doing research for 40 Ways To Look at Winston Churchill. I love it so much; I get choked up whenever I think about Eisenhower’s message.

If you’d like to see a photo of the actual document sent by Eisenhower, with its single sentence, it’s here.

 

If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Stop talking, or, a happiness lesson from Sex and the City 2.

8 tips for finding the right thing to say in a difficult situation.

11 tips for broaching difficult subjects.

Zoikes, it’s not often that Dwight Eisenhower and Carrie Bradshaw appear together in one post.

You can check out the archives of videos here.