OK, Let's Go

Seen at the Normandy Visitor Center, this tells the story of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision to launch Operation Overlord.

Video Transcript

NARRATOR: June 4th 1944, World War II has been underway for one thousand seven hundred thirty-nine days. Located in an old mansion called Southwick house on the southern coast of England is the forward base of SHAEF, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. It is in this building that the allied high command is setting the stage for D-day and the invasion of Nazi Occupied Europe. During the first few days in June the previously pleasant channel weather has turned treacherous. By the fourth of June when the massive invasion force has already embarked, a full-blown channel storm has rendered any hope of invading on the morning of the fifth impossible. The fifty-four year old supreme commander of the Allied forces, General Dwight D. Eisenhower faces a critical decision: launch operation overlord, the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of the world, or wait for better weather. What is more, Ike has just been presented with alarming intelligence reports. Top secret Ultra intelligence has detected movement of the German 91st division right into the middle of the 82nd Airborne Division’s planned drop zone. One dire prediction is that dropping the 82nd Airborne into the Cherbourg peninsula could result in over fifty percent casualties.

GENERAL EISENHOWER: Early in the morning on June 4th I came from my camp about a mile from here, came to this room and, uh, Captain Stagg who was the Chief Meteorologist for the allied forces, he made the presentations. That morning the stars were out, it looked beautiful and he gave us the worst report you ever saw. Then he talked about gales hitting the Normandy beaches and winds up to, you know, the rate of forty-five miles an hour, that kind of thing. Landing would be impossible so I just said, alright, we have to postpone, so we postponed for twenty-four hours.

NARRATOR: As the rain beat furiously on the windows of Southwick House, Captain Stagg and his meteorological team made their predictions to General Eisenhower and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. He predicted a break in the weather that could last between twenty-four and thirty-six hours. The decision to launch rested squarely on the shoulders of General Eisenhower. Over five thousand four hundred assault crafts with one hundred fifty six thousand men were at sea. Three million other soldiers, almost eleven thousand aircraft and a trailing procession of vehicles, equipment and armament extended through London and beyond. The option Ike favored would determine the war’s outcome. The Allied high command gathered again in Southwick House. General Eisenhower went around the room asking opinions. There was no outright consensus. Ike finally turned to General Montgomery, “do you see any reason for not going Tuesday?” Monty gave his answer: “I would say, go.” That evening as General Eisenhower sat alone in his personal trailer one of the Twentieth Century’s most consequential decisions tormented the supreme commander. Final approval would come after Ike fitfully slept for a few hours. At 0330 on 5 June, General Eisenhower returned once again to Southwick House.

GENERAL EISENHOWER: I sat silently just reviewing these things maybe, I’d say, thirty-five or forty-five seconds. Now it’s been reported by some of the people present for example my own Chief of Staff says that’s five minutes, well I know that wasn’t—but five minutes under such conditions sounds like a year. Actually I’d think after thirty, forty-five seconds something like that I just got up and said okay, we’ll go and, uh, every—this room was emptied in two seconds. Well of course that’s the most terrible time for the senior commander, he’d done all that he can do, all the planning and matter of fact there’s very little more that any commander above division command can do anything once you get started. And then finally along about six in the evening I went over to the field from which the airborne, the American airborne, started out. And um, there was a very fine experience. They were getting ready and all camouflaged and their faces blackened and all this. And there they saw me and of course they recognized me and they said, ah, quit worrying General we’ll take care of this thing for you. And that kind of—of thing was a good feeling. As they started off, I watched them out of sight.

ANNOUNCER: This is the last alerting announcement from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

GENERAL EISENHOWER: 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.