National Geographic : 1969 Jul
National Geographic, July 1969 subhumans. Every day, political prisoners and hostages died by the hundreds from Kiel to Kharkov. In the somber words of Winston Churchill, "the long night of barbarism" once again obscured the Continent. Overlord was the key to the liberation of Europe, to the dispelling of all the horrors of Nazi tyranny. General Eisenhower knew that he could not afford to fail. The possibility of failure haunted him. He even scrawled a brief communique to be released in the event of an Allied defeat. In many respects, it is the measure of the man. It read: "Our landings in the Cherbourg Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 avail able. 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." Fortunately, the note died in Eisenhower's pocket. Early in June the Supreme Commander and his staff moved into an advance command post, a camp on the grounds of Southwick House, a manor near the key loading point of Portsmouth. His aides remember Ike during those tense days as restless and preoccupied. Most mornings he rose before first light; often he went to the darkened kitchen of the offi cers' mess and pensively cooked his own breakfast. At every opportunity, he visited the troops preparing to embark. Day of Decision The first agonizing command decision came in the still, predawn calm of June 4, D-Day minus one. At 4 a.m. Eisenhower and his staff trooped into the library of Southwick House to receive a meteorological report. Aides passed out steaming mugs of coffee, and the officers clustered about the fire crack ling pleasantly on the hearth. But despite the star-strewn skies outside the manor, the chief meteorological officer had bad news: Gales Ghostly relics still intrude on the peaceful Normandy landscape a quarter of a century after D-Day. Strolling past the rusted hulk of an Allied landing craft on Omaha Beach, ex-GI Leo Heroux reminisces with his wife, whom he met after landing with the inva sion forces in 1944. Heroux remained in France after the war, settling near Bayeux. Grim specter of war, a Nazi gun emplace ment looms above a field of ripening wheat at Longues-sur-Mer, between Omaha and Gold Beaches, where enemy fire reaped a deadly D-Day harvest on that fateful June 6.