This Day in History: FDR & Churchill plan ahead for D-Day

On this day in 1943, FDR and Winston Churchill are in the midst of the so-called TRIDENT Conference in Washington, D.C. The United States and the United Kingdom were then discussing the D-Day landings in Normandy. Did you know that the planning for D-Day started so far in advance? As FDR and Churchill talked, that massive Allied invasion was still more than a year in the future.

Unfortunately, Allied forces lacked the resources to undertake such a large offensive any sooner.

As the TRIDENT Conference wrapped up in May 1943, they were looking at a target date of May 1, 1944 for the Channel crossing and landings in France. But even that late date didn’t stick! In the end, the target date was moved to June 5. Bad weather would further delay the landings until June 6, 1944.

No one could then foresee these delays, of course. Perhaps it was for the best? Delays surely would have made Churchill pretty unhappy! A quick end to the war was important to him. He’d even taken a break from the conference with FDR and his military advisers on this day so long ago. Instead, he took the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress.

You may know that Churchill famously addressed Congress in December 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now he was back again, speaking of his worry that critical support could be lost if the war were to continue for too long. The enemy would win, not because it was stronger, but only because resolve among the Allies had been undermined.

“We have surmounted many serious dangers,” he told Congress, “but there is one grave danger which will go along with us till the end; that danger is the undue prolongation of the war. . . . And it is in the dragging-out of the war at enormous expense, until the democracies are tired or bored or split, that the main hopes of Germany and Japan must now reside.”

Churchill concluded defiantly: “We must destroy this hope as we have destroyed so many others . . . . By singleness of purpose, by steadfastness of conduct, by tenacity and endurance such as we have so far displayed—by these, and only by these, can we discharge our duty to the future of the world and to the destiny of man.”

Churchill was always one to argue for perseverance, wasn’t he? But, then again, he was talking to a receptive audience. Perhaps he even remembered that Americans have a long history of persevering and overcoming the odds?! Ironically, the British Prime Minister was reminding Americans of a trait that had enabled them to defeat the British during the American Revolution.

Churchill was exactly right, of course. Dogged perseverance has seen Americans through many tough times—and it can do so again today, if we let it.

P.S. The photo is of U.S. forces approaching “Omaha” Beach on June 6, 1944.

Primary Sources & Further Reading: