President Eisenhower stayed away from Normandy commemorations

Former President Eisenhower is known for many things, but what he is not known for is his vocal tributes to the WWII landings at Normandy. This is somewhat unique. The current leader, President Obama, will be giving a speech this year. Others in the past have done the same ever since Ronald Reagan set the bar, including Clinton and the younger Bush. Some, however, stand apart, such as President Eisenhower.

He is not the only one not to have attended. Some have had good reasons, such as Lyndon Johnson when he decided to remain stateside in the wake of JFK’s death. Others were not so defensible, such as Richard Nixon (whose infamous scandal had just come to light). President Eisenhower, however had a more direct involvement—he actually issued the command for the troops to storm the coasts on D-Day. He therefore had a more personal connection to the event than the aforementioned politicians, and that actually played a very large part in his decision not to celebrate the event, The New York Times reports.

The last thing he wanted was for his own part in the command to be honored. He did not believe in being made into a hero. Furthermore, he had deep remorse for the lives lost during the landings. President Eisenhower had a tendency to become very emotional on the subject, and it had affected his public speaking years before the tenth anniversary of the landings. It was not that he felt the fallen deserved no commemoration, but lacked the control to give it to them and did not want to take any for himself.

Not only was he not present for any sort of memorial ceremony, he actually spent the day completely out of the public eye. Opting instead to stay at Camp David, he did decide to at least write out a statement. President Eisenhower kept his word count short. He simply made a brief tribute to the soldiers who were lost during the fray and the character attributes he felt they possessed that lent a hand in the war effort.

President Eisenhower was a serious man who cared deeply for the veterans of World War II as well as those they lost. Like many WWII vets, he did not feel the need to be heaped in glory. Rather, the only thing that President Eisenhower truly desired was for the sacrifices of others to be solemnly remembered and praised.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE