June 6, 1944; 71 years ago. D-Day, Operation Overlord, the invasion of the beaches of Normandy, began. I will, soon, publish an article on American exceptionalism. It is a daunting task, far more difficult than I imagined. I fear it will reveal no sign of exceptionalism in its author, yet I continue to work at it, knowing I’ll have to eventually abandon it in despair.
On this anniversary of D-Day, we may discover what American exceptionalism means. General Dwight D. Eisenhower revealed the depths of his character and leadership in a secret message, a message he prepared if the invasion failed:
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 available. 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.
Eisenhower never had to use that message, but at terrible cost, a cost that reveals only a part, but a very important part, of what it means to be American, and why America remains the one, truly indispensable nation.
The Atlantic has published an excerpt from the works of Historian S.L.A. Marshall, first published in 1960 when D-Day was only 16 years past. By all means, take the link and read it. It is at once humbling, and beautiful. And on this day, and every day, give thanks for fellow Americans who believed enough in us, and in America to give up all their tomorrows.