Reprinted from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum |
As dawn broke on June 6, 1944, German soldiers defending the French coast at Normandy beheld an awe-inspiring sight—the largest amphibious invasion force in history massed in the waters of the English Channel. The long-awaited invasion of northwest Europe was underway.
The giant invasion had taken years to organize. Hundreds of thousands of men and millions of tons of weapons and equipment were transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Britain in advance of the operation. The invasion force consisted chiefly of Americans, Britons, and Canadians. But troops of the Free French and many other nations also participated.
The invasion was the culmination of Franklin Roosevelt’s Grand Strategy, especially his decision to pursue a “Germany First” policy and his insistence—in the face of Churchill’s preference for a peripheral strategy—that the operation go forward in 1944.
The Normandy invasion established a solid “Second Front” in Europe. Its success left Hitler’s armies trapped in a vise, fighting the Red Army in the East and an expanding Anglo-American-Canadian force in the West.
During the tense early hours of the invasion, FDR monitored reports from the front. That evening, he delivered a statement to the American people. It took the form of a prayer, which he read on national radio.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer
On the night of June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt went on national radio to address the nation for the first time about the Normandy invasion. His speech took the form of a prayer.
The date and timing of the Normandy invasion had been top secret. During a national radio broadcast on June 5 about the Allied liberation of Rome, President Roosevelt made no mention of the Normandy operation, already underway at that time.
When he spoke to the country on June 6, the President felt the need to explain his earlier silence. Shortly before he went on the air, he added several handwritten lines to the opening of his speech that addressed that point. They read: “Last night, when I spoke to you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.”
Prayer on D-Day, June 6, 1944:
“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.