At 3:30 a.m. on June 5, General Dwight Eisenhower later wrote, "our little camp [at Portsmouth, England] was shaking and shuddering under a wind of almost hurricane proportions." The worst June storm in 20 years raged over the Channel; already the invasion had been postponed a day, and now there seemed no choice but to delay for another fortnight, at least, until the tides were right again. Heavyhearted, Ike splashed through the rain to a fateful 4 a.m. meeting with his meteorologists and top commanders. An agonizing choice was posed by the latest forecast: a brief break in the storm, perhaps 24 hours or so.
Tensely, the assembled Allied command looked to Ike for decision. In such weather, airborne and amphibious landings could be disastrous; the storm, resuming, might isolate the leading elements cross-Channel. On the other hand, a fortnight of delay would demoralize 2,000,000 pent-up troops, tangle intricate plans, and perhaps tip off the Germans. The conference lapsed into silence while Ike briefly pondered the dangers. Then he looked up, his face brightening. "Well," he said, "we'll go."
The Unanswerable Question. Last weekend, exactly ten years after his great decision. President Eisenhower loafed with Mamie at Camp David, his hideout in Maryland's Catoctin Mountain. He visited his nearby farm at Gettysburg. Pa., waded through waist-high wheat, then returned to Camp David for a session with bridge-playing friends. To the D-day anniversary ceremonies in Normandy he sent a copper torch and message, recalling Allied wartime unity (item: "My pleasant association with the outstanding soldier, Marshal Zhukov").
In the White House, beforehand, he chatted with a group of war correspondents emplaning on a return trip to the beaches. He joshed the Chicago Tribune's spade-bearded Jack Thompson, whose whiskers are greying now: "There was a lot more brown in that beard." Like any old soldier, he talked of the war and reiterated the old unanswerable question: What did these sacrifices mean? Leaning against his desk, he said earnestly: "The people who know war, those that experienced it . . . I believe we are the most earnest advocates of peace in the world. I believe those people that talk about peace academically but who never had to dive into a ditch when a 109 came overthey really don't know what it is."
"You mean an 88?" asked a correspondent, thinking of German artillery.
"No, a Messerschmitt 109," said Ike firmly, thinking of strafing airplanes.
The Last Word. Earlier in the week President Eisenhower, as the only living ex-president of Columbia University, showed up at the bicentennial banquet in New York and spoke in denunciation of "demagogues thirsty for personal power and public notice"a remark which was instantly interpreted as a reference to Senator Joe McCarthy.
At his news conference the President reported on Administration action against subversives: 68 Communist leaders indicted or convicted; 352 alien subversives ordered deported and 127 barred from entry. It is an impressive list of accomplishments, he said, and all of it done in absolute accordance with the due processes of law.