The 4th of July, Eisenhower, and Jefferson

(This is actually from my more personal blog that tends to discuss culture and coaching, rather than gaming and history.  Still, there’s a relevance.  History exists for us to draw comparisons, to think critically.  For me in these instances, it’s always struck me that success on D-Day or in the American Revolution were not sure things–and these men realized it.)

Interesting pairing, huh?

As the United States heads for what is considered its birthday, No.242, on July 4th–there’s some stuff to consider (not including the fact that the United States’ birth doesn’t arguably take place until September 1787 with the creation of the Constitution) that most people don’t really think about.

First, Eisenhower’s letter he distributed to American soldiers as they began the Overlord campaign in June, 1944–D-Day:

“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. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

“But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

“I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

“Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower “

A classic letter, written simply and clearly.  Ike had faults as a commander, but an understanding of the psyche of the men under his command was certainly not one of them.  The thing is, when General Eisenhower wrote that letter, he wrote a second one, one that didn’t get published.  It’s significantly shorter:

“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.    —–July 5.”  (It tells you the stress he was under that he whiffed on what month it was when he wrote the letter…not just the day, but the month.)

Anyways–with all that, what about the Declaration of Independence, Jim?   I’m glad you asked.  It’s a bit too long to put here in a blog, so here’s the link to the text.

Eisenhower wrote two notes–one explaining what we were doing, then a second in case of failure.  Read the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress did both in a single document.   Just as Ike’s plain message resonated with its target audience, so, too did Jefferson’s more elegant prose.

The DoI gives the reasons for breaking off from England’s control, but in doing so, it lays them out in great detail–enough that if the revolution fails, the rebels will still have history on their side to judge their causes (and never underestimate the long term power of history as judge).   It is a brilliant document, and reading it for what it is, it is one of the 3 or 4 greatest pieces of propaganda ever written.  It inspires you to take up arms against injustice, just as those soldiers on June 6, 1944, took to Normandy to help liberate nation from the Nazis. It inspires you just as the French peasant Army of the Rhein’s marching song, La Marseillais, makes you want to defend France from all comers, especially in a Casablanca bar.

Take the time to read the Declaration.  Admire its brilliance in terms of rhetoric and writing.  Read the objections the Continental Congress had to Britain’s oppression and overbearing centralized power–how many of those objections are afflicting the US today?  And think of this all with the understand that when it was written, Jefferson and those others expected to lose, to be hanged as traitors to the British Empire.

The United States has a responsibility to try living up to the ideals within the Declaration of Independence.  We can never achieve those goals–they are ideals, after all–but we owe it to the Founding Fathers and we owe it to our children and our children’s children to try.