By BARRY SINGER
On the first day of 1944, Winston Churchill issued an instruction about Normandy landing nomenclature to his three Chiefs of Staff. “I hope that all expressions such as ‘Invasion of Europe’ or ‘Assault upon the Fortress of Europe‘ may be eliminated henceforward,” he insisted. “…Our object is the liberation of Europe from German tyranny….There is no need for us to make a present to Hitler of the idea that he is the defender of a Europe we are seeking to invade.”
Churchill wanted to cross the English Channel with the troops on D-Day to observe the invasion firsthand. King George VI, however, restrained him. Churchill waited three more days before making plans to go. On June 12, D-Day+6, he embarked at Dover, telegraphing to Stalin, “It is a wonderful gift to see this city of ships stretching along the coast for nearly fifty miles.”
For his own Normandy landing, Churchill was run right up onto the beaches in an amphibious vehicle. He was then driven to General Montgomery’s headquarters, where he lunched amid air raid alarms and anti-aircraft fire that, Monty would later observe, left the Prime Minister rather pleased. Returning to his destroyer, Churchill persuaded the Admiral onboard to “have a plug at them ourselves before we go home,” leading to an artillery barrage that Churchill would later record as “the only time I have ever been onboard a naval vessel when she fired ‘in anger.’”
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.