At the Casablanca Conference of January 1943, the Combined (i.e. Allied) Chiefs of Staff directed the formation of a British and American authority called Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Command (COSSAC) to continue making plans and preparations for the invasion of France, a process that since late 1941 had generated several plans for cross-Channel landings. On 17 April 1943, British Lieutenant General Sir Frederick E. Morgan, K.B.E., convened his combined staff to revise and consolidate the existing invasion plans in light of the lessons learned from the intervening Mediterranean operations. In July, COSSAC completed the Appreciation and Outline Plan for OVERLORD, which was approved at the Quebec Conference in August. Over the ensuing months, most of the COSSAC staff was absorbed by the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
Appointed Supreme Commander on Christmas Eve of 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed command on 15 January 1944. More than a year earlier, General George C. Marshall had made him Supreme Commander of Operation TORCH, the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa. Success of TORCH had depended not only on the harmonious cooperation of the combined commanders and staff but also on the enlistment of the defeated Vichy French to preserve civil governance and order in the very territory the Allies had liberated from them. Such unique experience, buttressed by General Eisenhower’s firm understanding of the exceptional complexities and challenges of leading a combined force in joint operations, augured well for his command and the outcome of Operation OVERLORD.
The plans that COSSAC incorporated in the OVERLORD Plan had been drawn up for several projected cross-Channel operations: WETBOB, SLEDGEHAMMER, ROUNDUP, and ROUNDHAMMER among them. Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s sense of history and drama foreclosed on the association of any of those pedestrian codenames with an endeavor of D-Day’s epic scope, but on the list of several hundred pre-approved codenames one did stand out: OVERLORD. Redolent with echoes of chivalric quests and crusader knights, OVERLORD hit the mark dead center.
The shoulder patch General Eisenhower adopted for SHAEF literally embroiders Churchill’s theme. The SHAEF patch takes the form of a black (for Nazi oppression) crusader shield decorated with a flaming sword of expulsion (cf. Genesis 3:22-24) centered beneath a rainbow that comprises the colors of the twelve nations of the AEF. In his Order of the Day for D-Day, the Supreme Commander leaves no doubt about his vision of the operation. “You are about to embark,” General Eisenhower begins, “upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.” That he later opted to call his postwar memoir Crusade in Europe reveals the lasting appeal the metaphor had to him.
Within a domed Tuscan folly located at the north end of Reynolds Garden, the bronze sculpture of General Eisenhower stands canopied by a mosaic after the D-Day battle map in the operation center at Southwick House. The classical-revival lines of the folly allude broadly to the architectural vocabulary of Southwick House, Southampton, England, where Eisenhower took the decision to launch D-Day on 6 June despite the difficult weather.
Inspired by a touching photograph of the Supreme Commander’s avuncular conversation (about fly fishing!) with Lieutenant Wallace C. Strobel of Company E, 502d Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division shortly before it deployed from Greenham Common, Brothers’s intimate portrayal leavens Eisenhower’s generalship with a measure of understated humanness that speaks volumes about the public-private dichotomies that inform command.
If such a characterization humanizes this epic protagonist, it also documents his worthiness to serve as the Supreme Commander. The full-figure portrait, draws attention to his distinct role, a role emphasized as a matter of sculptural form, by the contrasting presentation of portrait busts of the six officers in Eisenhower’s command group. As if emanating from the right and left hands of the Supreme Commander, Eisenhower’s lieutenants will be set, in accordance with conventional precedence (as shown in the photograph below) upon granite pedestals already emplaced along the perimeter of a central area planted to echo the design of the SHAEF shoulder patch. Deputy Supreme Commander Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur William Tedder, Naval Commander Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay, and First U.S. Army Commander Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley will appear along the path to General Eisenhower’s right front; Ground Forces Commander Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, Air Force Commander Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory, and Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith to his left.