MIGHTY HISTORY

See Eisenhower tour the graveyard of D-Day 20 years later

Former President and Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower toured the beaches of Normandy, and its graveyard, with Walter Cronkite on the 20th anniversary of the massive battle.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander for the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II and NATO soon after, toured the graveyard over Omaha Beach in France in 1966. He was with Walter Cronkite at the end of a trip where the two men toured Eisenhower's headquarters for the invasion and saw the spots in which thousands of men died in service to their country.


Dwight D. Eisenhower as a major general in World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

One of the things that's striking about the video, embedded below, is just how keenly aware Eisenhower is of what sacrifices were made at his order. He shares with Cronkite the fears he had for the invasion and gives us a window into his own life at the time.

During the D-Day invasion, as American, British, and Canadian troops were fighting to take the beaches of Normandy, Eisenhower's own son was graduating from West Point. The younger Eisenhower would later ship to Europe. survive the war, and go on to have four children and enjoy a full life. Eisenhower talks about his grandchildren, showing a clear appreciation of how lucky he and his wife were to get their son back from a war that took so many others.

And this appreciation of life, and of the contributions made by young GIs, existed throughout the visit according to a news article about the video and the CBS news production that created it.

Allied forces unload supplies and troops onto the beaches of Normandy.

(U.S. Marines)

"The thing that pulled us out," Eisenhower told Cronkite, "was the bravery and courage and initiative of the American G.I."

That bravery, courage, and initiative carried the day — then the week, month, and, eventually, the war. But it also cost the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. and Allied troops. 9,000 of them were buried on the cliff overlooking Omaha Beach where Cronkite and Eisenhower spoke.

The video of their discussion is below. You can also see the 60-minute CBS program here, or hear an audio essay from Cronkite about the experience here.