SALT LAKE CITY — On the day before he launched the largest seaborne invasion in history, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a lot on his mind.
But in the midst of ordering 155,000 troops to storm the Normandy beaches, laying the foundations of an Allied victory on the Western Front, there was one item on the general's to-do list he made sure not to neglect: writing a letter to his wife.
A newly surfaced handwritten letter to his wife Mamie reveals Eisenhower reassuring his wife that she shouldn’t take a gap in communication personally, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Starting tomorrow,” Eisenhower wrote on June 5, 1944, “I have a series of trips that will last without interruption from six to ten days.”
“So if you have a lapse in arriving letters, don’t jump at the conclusion that I don’t want to write — I’ll simply have no opportunity to pick up a pen,” Eisenhower assured his wife.
The letter is vague, perhaps deliberately, The Wall Street Journal reported, perhaps to prevent the specifics of their war plans from being discovered by the Germans.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance Los Angeles, an international human rights organization, bought the letter, which had previously been in the possession of John S.D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower’s late son. The museum, which collects key documents related to the Holocaust, is putting the letter on display for the first time in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Here we are 75 years later, and there’s not one country I can think that’s not battling with the return of bigotry and anti-Semitism,” the center’s director, Rabbi Marvin Hier, told The Wall Street Journal.
Even 75 years later, some love letters between couples, longing for one another across thousands of miles as such a historic event took place, have survived the test of time, retaining their emotional power and poignancy.
Capt. Norman Skinner, a 38-year-old officer with the Royal Army Service Corps, wrote to his wife Gladys and their two daughters while he prepared for the invasion, The Sun reported.
“My thoughts at this moment, in this lovely Saturday afternoon, are with you all now," he wrote. "I can imagine you in the garden having tea with Janey and Anne getting ready to put them to bed.
“Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do.”
He landed on Sword Beach on June 6, but died the next day.
Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men.
Skinner's letter was read by British Prime Minister Theresa May Wednesday evening at an event produced by the BBC to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, according to The Sun.
Another set of letters, preserved by the Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History, captured the anticipation and fear associated with D-Day in an exchange between a husband and wife.
Moe Weiner, a Brooklyn, New York native, was serving in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps in England on June 6, 1944. He did not participate in the D-Day invasion himself, but expressed his excitement about the event to his wife, Sylvia, a social worker in New York City.
"It’s a little hard to sit down and calmly write a letter, just as though nothing were happening. Of course nothing has happened except the most world shaking event.
"Although I’m bursting to talk about it, I can’t. Not that I know anything; even opinions are taboo at this particular stage."
Sylvia wrote to Moe on the same day, after hearing the news of the D-Day invasion, describing her frantic search for newspaper accounts of the event and the silence on the train as other commuters processed the news.
"Well — D-Day! It has come — God! So long awaited — so feared — so rejoiced — such release — such new tenseness — such excitement — such quiet — Well — darling — all of these feelings & emotions were expressed & felt by American people today — as you can well understand. People — & that includes me were torn between feelings of gladness that 'the beginning of the end' has come — and with the fear of great sacrifices —"
Read Eisenhower’s full letter below:
Starting tomorrow I have a series of trips that will last without interruption from six to ten days. So if you have a lapse in arriving letters, don’t jump at the conclusion that I don’t want to write — I’ll simply have no opportunity to pick up a pen.4 comments on this story
I’m a bit stymied in my mind as to subject to write about. So many things are taboo — and the individual with whom you are acquainted (including myself) go along in accustomed ways. Mikey is a jewell. I often wonder how I existed without him.
Anyway the real purpose of this note was to say I’m well, and love you as much as ever, all the time, day and night. Your picture (in a gilt frame) is directly in front of my desk. I look at you all the time. Another is in my bed room. Loads of love — always.