5 Quotes from Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day Book

Stephen AmbroseIf you are joining us on one of our D-Day tours — D-Day to the Rhine or Operation Overlord — we highly recommend you read Stephen E. Ambrose’s seminal work, D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II. This book will give you a deeper understanding of the battles of Omaha and Utah beaches from a first hand perspective of the men who fought, although as Dr. Ambrose said himself, “The best way to understand history is to study the places where it was made.”

5 Quotes from Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day Book

To inspire you, we present five quotes from D-Day: June 6, 1944.

“When you talk about combat leadership under fire on the beach at Normandy,” Ellery concluded, “I don’t see how the credit can go to anyone other than the company-grade officers and senior NCOs who led the way. It is good to be reminded that there are such men, that there always have been and always will be. We sometimes forget, I think, that you can manufacture weapons, and you can purchase ammunition, but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.”

“Pvt. Robert Fruling said he spent two and a half days at Pointe-du-Hoc, all of it crawling on his stomach. He returned on the twenty-fifth anniversary of D-Day “to see what the place looked like standing up” (Louis Lisko interview, EC).”

“No matter how bad things got, no matter how anxious the staff became, the commander had to “preserve optimism in himself and in his command. Without confidence, enthusiasm and optimism in the command, victory is scarcely obtainable.” Eisenhower realized that “optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any other direction.” He learned that a commander’s optimism “has a most extraordinary effect upon all with whom he comes in contact. With this clear realization, I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory—that any pessimism and discouragement I might ever feel would be reserved for my pillow.”

“On the edge of town, Fitzgerald saw a sight “that has never left my memory. It was a picture story of the death of one 82nd Airborne trooper. He had occupied a German foxhole and made it his personal Alamo. In a half circle around the hole lay the bodies of nine German soldiers. The body closest to the hole was only three feet away, a potato masher [grenade] in its fist. The other distorted forms lay where they had fallen, testimony to the ferocity of the fight. His ammunition bandoliers were still on his shoulders, empty of M-1 clips. Cartridge cases littered the ground. His rifle stock was broken in two. He had fought alone and, like many others that night, he had died alone. “I looked at his dog tags. The name read Martin V. Hersh. I wrote the name down in a small prayer book I carried, hoping someday I would meet someone who knew him. I never did.”

“While Rommel was going to see Hitler to beg for more tanks and a tighter command structure, Eisenhower was visited by Churchill, who was coming to the supreme commander to beg a favor. He wanted to go along on the invasion, on HMS Belfast. (“Of course, no one likes to be shot at,” Eisenhower later remarked, “but I must say that more people wanted in than wanted out on this one.”) As Eisenhower related the story, “I told him he couldn’t do it. I was in command of this operation and I wasn’t going to risk losing him. He was worth too much to the Allied cause. “He thought a moment and said, ‘You have the operational command of all forces, but you are not responsible administratively for the makeup of the crews.’ “And I said, ‘Yes, that’s right.’ “He said, ‘Well, then I can sign on as a member of the crew of one of His Majesty’s ships, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ “I said, ‘That’s correct. But, Prime Minister, you will make my burden a lot heavier if you do it.’ ” Churchill said he was going to do it anyway. Eisenhower had his chief of staff, General Smith, call King George VI to explain the problem. The king told Smith, “You boys leave Winston to me.” He called Churchill to say, “Well, as long as you feel that it is desirable to go along, I think it is my duty to go along with you.” Churchill gave up.”