On June 6, 1944 more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Nazi-occupied Normandy, France, as part of the largest land, air, and seaborne invasion in history. Known as “D-Day”, the operation began the liberation of France and later Western Europe and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front. The “D”, oddly enough, stands for “Day”. So quite literally, when we say “D-Day” we’re saying “Day Day”. In military terms, this coded designation was used for the day of any important invasion or military occupation.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander of the battle. His message was succinct and clear to the soldiers who would carry out the mission:
…“I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
By the end of the day, 150,000 Allied troops were ashore and in control of 80 square miles of the French coast. D-Day was a military success, opening Europe to the Allies and resulted in a German surrender less than a year later.
But did you know about the other speech? You know, the one that Eisenhower wrote if…well…if things didn’t go as planned. It read:
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.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 on 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’s “In Case of Failure” letter was recovered by an aide a month after D-Day.
In case of failure.
Granted, I’ve got a ton of respect for General Eisenhower and his accomplishments on D-Day. Because of his bravery and leadership in battle, he went on to eventually became President of the United States. But I can’t say as though I’ve ever written an In Case of Failure letter. Which begs the question…Why? Why am I so against failure? Wasn’t Eisenhower smart to have that letter ready just in case? He was, but I may have just worded it differently.
You see, I’m certainly against failure, it grinds against the very fabric of who I am. But I’m all for learning. Learning embraces the very essence of my being. As I often say, you don’t win or lose…you win or learn. You find ways not to repeat that mistake. You find ways not to fail. You find paths not to go down again…and you learn from the experience.
Embracing failure stifles the learning process. It damages the experience and causes your mind to submit to a feeling of defeat. Whereas learning embraces the experience and turns it into raw material for a greater purpose.
Gentle reader, may we never fail.
Rather, may we seek to learn, and in so doing, wring out every good aspect of the experience, and seek to succeed, and thus fulfill our greater purpose, the next time we try.