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Winston Churchill opposed the successful D-Day Plan recommended by Gen. Eisenhower

Gen. Eisenhower Threatened to Quit Just Before D-Day, but FDR supported him

Perhaps no one’s role in the victory of the Allied Forces over Hitler in World War II has been as exaggerated in history as much as that of the British prime minister, Winston Churchill.

The leader who made the major decisions was the commander-in-chief of the U.S., President Franklin D. Roosevelt — not Churchill.

D-Day invasion, Operation Overlord, which was launched 80 years ago, is a primary example of this.

FDR allowed the generals — not politicians — to devise strategy

Make no mistake about the basic history of WWII: President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the man who orchestrated that victory, but that occurred because he allowed his generals to dictate the military strategy.

FDR devised the political strategy, but those in command like Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied troops, had planned the detailed invasion of Normandy that ultimately took place on June 6, 1944.

The president and his general worked well together, but the commander was outraged when the meticulously-devised plans for D-Day were opposed by the British, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

In fact, he was so upset that he threatened to quit unless the British agreed with the D-Day plan prepared by the generals and high command.

The outrage

Here is a synopsis of the conflict that took place between the high command on the ground and the British,

Dwight D. Eisenhower became legendary for his ability to get officers and armies from different nations to work together to defeat Nazi Germany.

But if needed, he was also willing to take a more confrontational approach.

In fact, just a few months before the critical D-Day invasion, Eisenhower threatened to quit his command and go back to the United States. Eisenhower had been in heated talks with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over a controversial plan to bomb the French railway and road system ahead of the Normandy invasion.

Allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew from the start of the war that a massive invasion of mainland Europe would be critical to relieve pressure from the Soviet army fighting the Nazis in the east.

The so-called Transportation Plan, largely devised by British zoologist-turned-military strategist named Solly Zuckerman with the help of British Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, called for diverting Allied strategic bombers that had been hammering German industrial plants.

Instead, Eisenhower wanted them to temporarily shift to a new mission—crippling the transportation infrastructure that the Germans might use to move troops and equipment to the coastal region, thus hindering them from rushing to counter the Allied invasion force.

“Eisenhower wanted to use our heavy strategic bombers, the big four-engine planes that were built to destroy German cities and the economy, and send them to wreck the French roads and railway system,” explains Robert Citino, executive director of the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and senior historian at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Patrick J. Kiger, “Why Gen. Eisenhower Threatened to Quit Just Before D-Day,”, March 22, 2019

So, the man who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe and the five-star rank as General of the Army, realized that the British plan could doom D-Day.

Therefore, he took action when the Air Force people, not under his command, were jeopardizing that plan — and the British prime minister was supporting them — and not Ike.

The off-the-field battle

The battle with Churchill was one that Eisenhower did not seek, but he did not back down, knowing that Franklin D. Roosevelt was 100 percent in support of the plan.

Still, as Allied commander, he felt that he had to take a stand, regardless of whose toes he stepped on in the process,

“That was probably Eisenhower’s biggest frustration—his lack of control over the air forces, and their unwillingness to listen to him and desire to go their own way,” Carlo D’Este, author of biographies of both Eisenhower and Churchill, said.

To make matters even worse for Eisenhower, the Transportation Plan had another, even more powerful opponent—Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who already was feeling uneasy about the invasion, since the depleted British army—"they were running on fumes,” D’Este explains—couldn’t afford another punishing setback.

Added to that was another dilemma. Eisenhower wanted to drop bombs on France, an Allied country that the British and Americans were supposed to be liberating, and in addition to destroying the railroads, the raids ran the risk of inflicting casualties among the French civilian population.

Patrick J. Kiger,, March 22, 2019

The threat

Then, when the time came to present the final D-Day plan to the American commander-in-chief, he made his move,

On March 22, Eisenhower dictated a memo that detailed the history of the dispute. By the time that he finished it, he was so irked that he bluntly stated that if his opponents didn’t give in quickly, he planned “to take drastic action and inform the Combined Chiefs of Staff that unless the matter is settled, at once I will request relief from this Command.”

He made the threat more explicitly in a conversation with Tedder, the British officer who backed Eisenhower’s plan. “By God,” Eisenhower told him, “You tell that bunch that if they can’t get together and stop quarreling like children, I will tell the prime minister to get someone else to run this damned war. I’ll quit.”

Apparently, the threat worked. The prime minister did express his misgivings in a subsequent meeting with the British War Cabinet, where according to Ambrose, he warned that Eisenhower’s plan “will smear the good name of Royal Air Forces across the world.” But eventually, he too decided to sign off on the Transportation Plan, though he tried to diffuse the responsibility by putting the question to President Franklin Roosevelt for final approval.

FDR told Churchill that military considerations trumped the humanitarian question, and that the bombing should proceed.

Patrick J. Kiger,, March 22, 2019

That is why Franklin D. Roosevelt is always considered either the best, the second-best, of the third-best in the greatest-president rankings — along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

He let the generals fight the war — and when it came down to supporting them over a prime minister, he did that.

And that is why the invasion of Normandy, D-Day, succeeded as a strategy. Many brave Americans lost their lives in the plan — and he they knew that — but they realized that this was the only way to defeat Adolph Hitler forever.

So, today, thank those brave soldiers and sailors and planners and political leaders who gave us that victory.

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