A&E Original Movie
Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2 Parts)
It took men of distinct bravery to embark upon the unparalleled military operations of June 6, 1944. This special A & E presentation, Ike: Countdown to D-Day, tells the story of the man who masterminded the Allied Forces invasion of Nazi-occupied France—an undertaking of unprecedented scale and world importance. Before being elected the thirty-fourth President of the United States, General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, making him the single most powerful decision-maker in the military campaign to defeat the Nazi regime and propel the end of the war. Ike: Countdown to D-Day captures the dramatic deliberations leading up to the invasion of France, centering on Eisenhower’s strategic skills as he developed the blueprint for D-Day. This compelling program reveals Eisenhower’s keen abilities at unifying the Allied leaders, a formidable task accomplished under the extreme pressures of politics and timing. Though some purported that Eisenhower lacked “flair and audacity,” this special presentation shows how “Ike” had precisely the right combination of leadership characteristics necessary to deliver the stunning plan which helped overturn fascism.
Ike: Countdown to D-Day offers unique insights into the tactics behind the D-Day invasion. As he relied upon what may have been the “most important weather forecast in history,” this program presents the depth of Eisenhower’s military vision together with his courageous willingness to go ahead with the plan despite the grave risk of unknown storms, military realignments, and possible strategic miscalculations. With the knowledge that high casualty rates were a near certainty, Eisenhower bore the weight of this reality while standing firm in the belief that the invasion would eliminate the possibility of even greater casualties in the future. This program provides students with an excellent background for understanding the implications of D-Day, demonstrating the powerful mix of planning, alliance-building, and guess-work behind Eisenhower’s crucial role. Ike: Countdown to D-Day invites students to consider the tense inner-workings of decision-making and leadership Eisenhower embodied as he navigated his forces through this momentous historical turning point. Ike: Countdown to D-Day is an outstanding resource for use as a companion to lesson plans on the events of World War II, both before and after the Eisenhower’s tenure as Supreme Commander.
Ike: Countdown to D-Day would be useful for World history courses, and U.S. History courses with units on World War II. It is appropriate for high school students. It fulfills the following standards as outlined by the National Council for History Education: Conflict and Cooperation, and Comparative History of Major Developments.
What characteristics do you think made Dwight Eisenhower such an effective military leader?
Was Eisenhower interested in publicity and personal acclaim? What are some examples from the program which support your argument?
How did Eisenhower manage to convince Churchill to support his plan for the invasion of France?
In this program, Charles de Gaulle refused to support Eisenhowers plan. What were his reasons for this position?
Why was the weather forecast such a critical issue for the success of the D-Day campaign?
Do you think Ike seems like a likeable figure? How would you describe his personality? Would you predict that he would later become President based upon his personality in this program?
Eisenhower said that he felt neither dread nor joy as he was about to give the orders to proceed with the invasion. Why do you think he felt this way? Do you think he was bearing a lot of stress despite his convictions?
What was the significance of Ikes camaraderie with the troops? Do you think he was acting, or did he have a genuine connection with these men?
Eisenhower noted that it would be the generals commanding troops who would be responsible for the success of the operation, but that he would take the blame if it failed. Do you think he would have been blamed had D-Day been a catastrophe for the Allies?
How do you think Eisenhower arrived at his decision not to postpone the military operation in France but to go ahead with the date of June 6th?
What was the result of Ikes military strategy?
This program concentrates on Eisenhowers decision to authorize the invasion of France in 1944. By this point, World War II had already been going on for years. To understand the events in Ike: Countdown to D-Day it is helpful to have a broader context for the status of the war at this moment. At the library or using the Internet, research the major events of the war leading up to June 6, 1944. Locate a map of France during this era which will allow you to visualize the military operations of D-Day. Break up into groups of four or five. On a poster-board or using a PowerPoint presentation, paste your map of the Normandy region. Include a brief chronology of the war, listing five to ten of the most important events leading up to D-Day. This project will provide you with a sense of how the events in this program fit into the larger events of World War II.
One of the pivotal scenes in the program shows Dwight Eisenhower candidly talking to some of the young soldiers who would be embarking upon missions during D-Day. In this scene, Eisenhower jokes with the men and builds a rapport with them. Imagine that you are one of these men, you have just met the Supreme Commander but have not yet proceeded with the invasion. Write a letter as if you were one of these men writing home to your family. Describe how you felt upon meeting Eisenhower, including how he came across as a leader and one-time soldier himself. When you are writing the letter, try to describe to you family the reasons Ike was such an effective Supreme Commander.
On the morning of the D-Day invasion, Eisenhower delivered a speech to the troops, hoping to inspire them in the face of great adversity. At the library, locate this speech. Read the speech and consider the words Eisenhower uses to encourage the troops. Then, imagine you are a journalist who was present during this speech. In a short article of 3- paragraphs, describe Eisenhowers message to the troops. Include brief background information on the plan for the invasion along with a summary of the argument Eisenhower uses for the importance of this enormous mission.
Ike: Countdown to D-Day focuses on a short but crucial period in Dwight Eisenhowers life as a military and political leader. The career of Ike had many phases both before and after the drama of D-Day. For this activity, create a mini-biography of Eisenhower on a poster-board or using a PowerPoint presentation. Collect more background information on the important events in Eisenhowers career starting with his birth and concluding with the end of his Presidency. Include in your biography images of Ike along with some of the most important events in his career. You may also want to include a quote from one of his speeches or Presidential addresses. After you have concluded this project, display your finished product in your classroom, or share your findings with your classmates in a brief presentation.
- Web sites:
Links and background information on D-Day:
An education site dedicated to World War II history:
A web site from the Eisenhower Center, devoted to the life and history of President Dwight D. Eisenhower:
Links for more information on the Eisenhower Presidency and legacy:
Ambrose, Stephen E. The Victors, Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II (Touchstone Books, 1999).
Ambrose, Stephen E. and Hugh Ambrose (Introduction), The Supreme Commander, the War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, (University Press of Mississippi, 1999).
DEste, Carlo. Eisenhower: A Soldiers Life, (Owl Books, 2003).
Eisenhower, Dwight D. Eisenhower at War, (Vintage, 1987).