After a difficult decision affecting your team: Eisenhower and the paratroopers before D-day

December 29, 2013 by Joshua
in Freedom, Leadership

Yesterday’s clip on Ike deciding whether to risk sending tens of thousands of men into potentially pointless suicide missions with losses up to seventy percent didn’t show how he followed up.

Those paratroopers were the first wave of the invasion, to jump the night before the amphibious invasion. He decided to send them.

What do you do when you decide to send tens of thousands of young men possibly to become sitting ducks–seventy percent of them?

Ike had spent most of the months preparing for launch working with Generals, diplomats, the King, the President, and so on. The military chain of command took care of soldiers going to battle. Ike had little fighting experience.

But on the night before D-Day, he drove to the paratroopers and devoted his time to them. He spoke with them, joked, listened, and so on, showing he understood and cared, improving their morale, which could mean the difference between life and death to them, the invading troops depending on them, and the free world depending on them.

He faced the men he knew risked dying in such great numbers. Was he making them feel better just to help the cause despite impending death for many of them? I’m sure that was part of it. But he also took responsibility he didn’t have to that required facing the men risking dying. Here is a picture of him talking to them.

Eisenhower with paratroopers before d-day


History shows the invasion succeeded overall. The paratroopers didn’t suffer seventy percent losses–more like twenty percent. Twenty percent still means a lot of death.

Personal Responsibility

Leigh-Mallory wrote the following to Ike after the invasion. The results turning out better than feared doesn’t make his concern for his men misplaced. For all we know, things could have turned out better had Ike chosen otherwise. We can’t know.

I am more thankful than I can say that my misgivings were unfounded…May I congratulate you on the wisdom of your choice.

Ike wrote a note not found until years later in case the invasion failed. How many leaders that you know could or would have written a note such as this?

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 duly could do. If any blame or fault is attached to the attempt it is mine alone.

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1 response to “After a difficult decision affecting your team: Eisenhower and the paratroopers before D-day

  1. Pingback: Eisenhower, D-Day, and keeping teams strong while making hard choices | Joshua Spodek

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