Today in History: June 6

Today is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day.

Allied forces began the fight to retake Europe from Nazi Germany with an invasion that began at the beaches in Normandy along the coast of France. The numbers are stunning: in one single day, more than 160,000 troops made the beach landing, with 5000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers taking part. By the end of the day, more than 10,000 American and British troops were dead, as were more than 1000 Germans.

About a month after the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower showed an aide a handwritten note he had written the night before Operation Overlord began. It was an “In case of failure” note and it is only four sentences long, but it gives a sense of the his integrity and how much was riding on the 150,000-man invasion of France. It reads (after the jump):

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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

“It is mine alone.” At one spot, one can see that he crossed out the beginning of what was probably going to be a weak, bureaucratic-sounding sentence, “This particular operation,” and he replaces it with “My decision to attack,” and thus takes responsibility. He always credited the fighters for their triumphs, and he was going to take the blame if the mission failed.

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Carl Jung died 55 years ago today. Senator Robert F. Kennedy died on this date in 1968. J. Paul Getty died 40 years ago today. Anne Bancroft died 11 years ago today. Billy Preston died 10 years ago today. “A Change Is Gonna Come”:

 
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V.C. Andrews was born on this date in 1923. Maxine Kumin was born on this date in 1925. Billie Whitelaw was born on this date in 1932. Levi Stubbs was born 80 years ago today.

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Governor George Deukmejian is 88. David Scott is 84. Gary U.S. Bonds is 77. Marian Wright Edelman is 77. Robert Englund is 69. Harvey Fierstein is 62. Sandra Bernhard is 61. Björn Borg is 60. Colin Quinn is 57. Cam Neely is 51. Angela Cavagna is 50. Paul Giamatti is 49.

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