When Faced With Simple, Hard Choices, We Need to Be Like Ike — a ‘Designated Son of a Bitch’

Directed by Robert Harmon and starring Tom Selleck within the title position, the 2004 made-for-TV movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day jogs my memory that life presents us two sorts of selections: advanced but simple, and easy however onerous. 

The previous consists of quite a few variables which may take appreciable time to unravel. As soon as these points are resolved, nevertheless, the choice itself will develop into apparent. The second includes being tugged between two stark choices. Just a few days earlier than my father’s demise from most cancers, for instance, his oncologist gave him a selection about whether or not or to not get a blood transfusion. It stays stunning to immediately communicate of demise in our society, and he or she phrased it too delicately for my father to grasp. Bewildered, he turned to me.

“Dad,” I mentioned, “you’re going to die. If you happen to get the transfusion, you’ll dwell a day or two longer, however you’ll die in additional ache. If you happen to don’t, you’ll die sooner however in much less ache.” He requested me what to do. “I might get the transfusion,” I responded with out a hint of emotion. “It offers you time to say goodbye to these you’re keen on.” 

Everybody current, together with the oncologist, was vaguely aghast, though my father was so addled on morphine that solely the bluntest clarification, bereft of pathos, would have gotten by way of. I keep in mind pondering of Admiral Ernest J. King, who served as U.S. chief of naval operations throughout World Struggle II. He’s mentioned to have as soon as remarked, “When the going will get robust, they name for the sons of bitches.” In my household, I used to be the designated son of a bitch.

Normal Dwight D. Eisenhower was, in his personal means and on an incomparably better scale, a delegated son of a bitch. We seldom consider him that means, whereas the phrase springs readily to thoughts with regard to Normal George S. Patton or Ernie King—so stern he was as soon as characterised as somebody who “shaves each morning with a blowtorch.” Not Ike, whose affable method and well-known grin made him look like everybody’s favourite uncle. True, Eisenhower had unmatched folks abilities, which helped make him an unparalleled army diplomat. However his major present was the flexibility to make the straightforward, onerous selections—an perception that lies on the coronary heart of Ike: Countdown to D-Day.

The movie dispenses with the phantasm of an amiable Ike instantly, opening with a close-up shot of the final exhaling smoke from certainly one of his ubiquitous cigarettes and talking to somebody offscreen in a sluggish, testy voice: “Let me put it one other means,” he emphasizes. “If I’m not given full and unfettered command of this case, you possibly can, if I could put it politely, sir, take this job and shove it the place you select as a result of I’ll have rattling effectively stop.” It’s December 1943, and the “scenario” in query is the D-Day invasion, of which Ike calls for supreme command. The “somebody” offscreen seems to be Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who spars with Eisenhower in his workplace in regards to the conceitedness of demanding such energy whereas in the end agreeing that there should be, as Ike insists, “one conductor of the orchestra.”

Because the movie progresses by way of 1944, we witness tons of of workers officers at Eisenhower’s headquarters onerous at work on invasion planning particulars. A key “advanced but simple” drawback hinges on whether or not Normandy’s seashores will help the burden of a tank. (The info says it is going to, reassures Normal Omar Bradley.) An agonizing “easy however onerous” selection considerations the deployment of 30,000 airborne troops. Eisenhower is advised that if dropped instantly behind German seaside defenses, 70 p.c could develop into casualties. Eisenhower hopes this estimate is excessive, but it surely doesn’t matter if not; it’s vital to present the seaborne troops an opportunity to achieve a safe toehold. Every part relies on that—and 21,000 lifeless, wounded, or captured paratroopers shouldn’t be too excessive a worth to pay. When Eisenhower makes his well-known go to to members of the one hundred and first Airborne Division within the hours earlier than their soar—one of many few instances Selleck portrays his character as relaxed and avuncular—the viewers realizes that D-Day’s supreme commander believes he’s sending most of them to their deaths.

The movie’s most pivotal “easy but onerous” selection, nevertheless, is the stark “go-no-go” resolution of whether or not to launch the D-Day invasion itself. Eisenhower receives assurances that the climate throughout the mission’s finest window—June 5-6, 1944—will probably be gentle. It isn’t, and a storm speeding throughout the North Atlantic wrecks the prospect of a June 5 invasion. A Royal Air Power meteorologist then forecasts a 24-hour lull during which the landings stand a robust likelihood of success. That’s excellent news, however solely an informed guess. A fallback choice is obtainable in mid-July, however with no promise that situations will probably be higher. “I’m fairly optimistic the order should be given,” Ike says quietly, firmly, and with out a hint of drama. The easy, onerous selections want no drama.