Eisenhower’s Letter

When I took two weeks to travel Europe several years ago, I really studied the D-Day invasions of June 6, 1944.  Part of the trip that Jon Lemke and I planned was to visit the Normandy beaches where the epic battles took place that signaled the coming end of WWII, and I wanted to know the full history.

It was Eisenhower who was in charge of the joint Allied forces, and the coming invasion of Europe was called Operation Overlord.  It was to be the largest amphibious assault in military history.  It involved an armada of 5,333 Allied vessels.

One of the interesting features of the invasion was the decision that Eisenhower had to make.  The seas were stormy and he had to decide during a 36-hour window whether to launch the invasion or postpone it until June 19. Launching on June 6th was better for the element of surprise and for troop morale, but waiting was better for weather conditions on the sea and in the sky (as many paratroopers were involved in the assault).

Eisenhower made the choice to launch the invasion on June 6. In a famous scene, Eisenhower signaled the invasion with a speech to the soldiers.

What many don’t know, is that he carried in his pocket during that speech a letter accepting full responsibility for the operation’s failure – should things go wrong.

I’ve been thinking about Eisenhower’s Letter today.

Are there risks that Christian leaders and pastors need to be taking?  Are we willing to put troops in play rather than continue to build up and risk nothing? More importantly, are we willing to accept responsibility if things don’t work out.  Do we carry with us a letter like Eisenhower’s?

My conclusion is that Eisenhower’s Letter and risk go hand in hand.  No risk – no letter.

Since leadership and responsibility are closely tied, maybe I can say, “No risk – no responsibility.”  Therefore, if responsibility – then risk.

It is easy to do what has always been done.  It is easy to huddle up.  But if leaders are going to take the responsibility to care for churches and lead them through current realities – there will be risk.  Turning the ship into the wave or leading people into the uncertainties of the future necessarily involves decision, commitment and risk.

I’m probably out on a ledge with this whole conversation, but I feel compelled to think about responsibility and risk.  If I don’t, it seems like I’ve abdicated leadership and am simply politicking.

(Here’s a picture of Eisenhower talking to paratroopers just prior to the D-Day invasion.)




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