He wrote four sentences, totaling 65 words. He said more, in fewer words, than America’s greatest economizer of words. He wrote about the bravery and devotion to duty by the troops, the air, and the Navy. He faulted them nothing; he blamed himself for everything. He wrote the words but never sent the letter, because the landings were a success.
He signed and stamped another letter, on official letterhead, below the symbol of his office: the flaming sword of freedom, designed to cut the black of the Nazi night over Europe, while pointing to the final rainbow of peace and liberty.
He commanded leaders named Bradley, Ramsay, Tedder, Montgomery, Leigh-Mallory, and Bedell Smith. He honored the Constitution and obeyed his commander in chief. He did this, and more.
His name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
On that day, 75 years ago today, another writer was under Eisenhower’s command: a soldier in the 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Division.
He fought on Utah Beach. He fought in the Hürtgen Forest. He braved D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. But he never recovered from what he saw in war, nor what was left to see in the daylight of peace: the corpses and crematoria of Dachau, where his coreligionists had been murdered and burned, where his people had been starved, sickened, and shot, where other officers—at other camps—were too cowardly to do what General Eisenhower had done without fear; see the bodies, memorialize the dead, and imprint their images on the memory of the world.
Our writer had the will of Eisenhower.
His name was Staff Sergeant Jerome David Salinger.
Between D-Day and Dachau, J.D. Salinger also met Ernest Hemingway in Paris.
Holden, Papa, and Ike—three writers with the right stuff.
Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images