McCain Asserts Eisenhower Had No Plan B on Normandy

May 31, 2007 at 8:47 am | Posted in American politics, McCain, Military, War | 9 Comments

John McCain states that General Eisenhower did not have a plan B for D-Day.

Which is why McCain says there can be no consideration of a Plan B, an alternative to the current U.S. occupation of Iraq.

“I believe that Gen. Eisenhower didn’t have a Plan B at Normandy, and I don’t think that Gen. Grant had a Plan B when he decided to take Richmond,” McCain told The Associated Press on Sunday.

I’m not as familiar with the details of Eisenhower’s planning, but somehow I think that this is not quite accurate. Anyone with a little more knowledge about Eisenhower’s battle plans for Normandy, could y’all shed a little light on the subject? I’ll go digging for some information myself. But it just seems wrong that a general like Eisenhower would not be prepared for plan A failing against a mighty and powerful German army. Same with General Grant during the Civil War.


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  1. Anecdotaly, he was. He is supposed to have written a memo that he kept in his pocket, saying “The invasion of Europe has failed, the responsibility is mine alone.” or words to that effect. Personally I think that was more likely made up by some biographer trying to show what a noble character he was. Is the memo in existence?

    In my experience of the military, to even contemplate failure of the plan one has is to damn it with negativism. Of course I was at a very low level (platoon commander in a training unit).

    I suppose maybe there were staff officers somewhere who worked on a contingency plan for Operation Overlord. If there were, their deliberations have not been revealed because they were not needed. Overlord was on such a large scale that no meaningful amount of resources other than conjecture, could be devoted to an alternative.

    To take Richmond was not a plan. It was an aim. Selection and Maintenance of the Aim is regarded as the most important Principle of War. It would be more accurate to say Grant’s aim was to destroy Lee’s army. He attacked places that Lee had to defend, and changed those places as he saw fit, which is why he beseiged Petersburg rather than Richmond itself.

    So McCains statement is rhetoric stating that planning for the event of failure is to set the process of failure in motion.

    cheers Bob

  2. I don’t know whether there were plan B’s for Normandy or the Civil war. But neither of them are Iraq. John McCain is a fear mongering politician, who despite his war background has gone of the George W. Bush deep end on Iraq. How disappointing.

  3. addioz,

    Thanks for the comments. What do you make of the old saying that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?” Doesn’t the military have a similar saying about how even your best plans go out the window once the soldiers are on the ground? It isn’t a matter of believing your plan will fail, but that you’re adaptive and ready for when your enemy’s responses adapt also?

    I know when I play chess, or any game for that matter, I have a plan that I lay out, but when meeting with the enemy, I find I need to change it or I lose, because my enemy sees my plan and changes, so as to not lose himself.

    It seems wise to be prepared. Not for failure, but for the change sure to come from our enemy.

  4. Daniel,
    There is a military equivalent which is something like “No plan survives the first contact with the enemy.” which I think is often attributed to Karl von Clauswitz, the famous military theoretician. I don’t know if that is taken out of some context I don’t understand, but it sounds to me as if it goes a bit too far. I agree with what you say about being adaptive and military plans would have to be like that, but in a best-case scenario, one would have a program of stages in mind, and reserve resources to commit to overcome set-backs which occur, until ones’ desired objective is attained.
    I was never any good at chess, but a bit better at military type board games. One thing I don’t understand is how in any sense sports players and coaches can claim to have a “game plan” in place. They can only have some simple idea like “play to his backhand” in their mind. In those chess games, did you ever think that you had identified the opponent’s plan and used this knowledge to win?

    To stay a bit “on topic” (I think) it seems like the american government went to war and won the conventional phase easily but have had much more trouble with what has come after. I have no idea how long they expected to be there to tidy up, or how long they thought was too much. This matters to me because my government, Australia, seems to have this attitude, do whatever the USA does, no matter what happens.


  5. addioz,

    Thanks again for your comments. Indeed that was the quote I was looking for.

    I’ve just never understood this new mindset by war proponents (and indeed the Secretary of State herself) that preparing a plan B is inviting plan A to fail. Hardly. One is wise to never underestimate his enemy.

  6. Daniel,
    Well, I have just found out what a cynical old fellow I have become. The date being about the 6th of June, the popular media have features about Operation Overlord, often mis-named D-Day. Every military operation has its D Day, the date it commences. Operation Overlord was the Allied landing in Normandy in 1944.
    So in the last eek I have seen a few mentions and at least two mentioned Gen Eisenhower’s memo anticipating failure of the attempt to get a secure lodgement in occupied France. Then I happened to be browsing in my local library when I saw a book on the subject on the shelf. I wondered what it had to say on the subject. To my amazement, there was an illustration of the note in the book. It does not say where the note is kept, but I guess Ike’s Presidential library is a logical place.
    My apologies to all biographers for implying that they would do such a thing as fake a story to make their subject look good. Or bad as the case may be.
    It also goes to show there are things of value to be found in popular history books as well as the academic ones.
    It was one in a Time-Life series on World War II.
    I have tried to insert a picture here, I will put it on my own blog.
    D Botting , 2004, D-Day Invasion, Time-Life Inc.

  7. Pictures are here

    They are not large!


  8. addioz,

    Thank you for sharing that. I do recall that Eisenhower fretted that Operation Overlord would not be successful (but I had forgotten about it).

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