National Geographic : 1969 Jul
The Eisenhower Story loneliness and isolation of a commander at a time when such a momentous decision has to be taken, with full knowledge that failure or success rests on his judgment alone." Ike-who remembered his decision as a matter of mere seconds-finally raised his head. "Well," he said, "we'll go!" "Quit Worrying, General" At dusk of that same day, men of the 101st Airborne Division-faces blackened for the night operation-stood on an airdrome near Newbury (pages 2-3). Laden with packs, para chutes, and weapons, they were scheduled to drop behind Utah Beach. A car halted beside the runway. To the astonishment of the troops, out clambered the Supreme Commander. Ike circulated among them, relieving ten sion with discussions of crop yields and hair cuts and anything else that came to mind. The men, in their turn, reassured their lead er. "Now quit worrying, General," one said. "We'll take care of this thing for you." Ike stayed until midnight, when the last squad filed into the last C-47. Then he watched the airplanes roar into the blackness, their red navigational lights blinking, diminishing, vanishing. And he remembered that a high Royal Air Force officer had predicted that these men might suffer 70 percent casualties. If the general's agony came on the eve of battle, that of his troops came in the misty morning of D-Day on the Normandy coast. On Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches, British "Every one of those men is precious to me," General Eisenhower said of the four million troops under his command in World War II. Four weeks after D-Day, he visits front-line forces near Monte bourg (left). By this time the tightly constricted Allied beachhead in Normandy brimmed with more than a million men. On July 25 they finally punctured a segment of the solid German perimeter and poured through the breach in a long-awaited "breakout." Buoyed by these events, an exuberant Lt. Gen. George S. Patton (above) joins Lt. Gens. Bradley and Courtney H. Hodges in hailing Ike.