The Hidden Power Behind D-Day
by Phillips Payson O’Brien Smithsonian.com
In early June 1944, as Allied troops in England made their final preparations before embarking on the greatest invasion of all time, the eyes of the American media turned not to the beaches of Normandy, but to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, a speck of a town more than 4,000 miles from Hitler’s Fortress Europe. There, at a small liberal arts college, Admiral William D. Leahy, the highest-ranking member of the American military, was set to give a commencement speech before an assemblage of reporters.
Leahy is little remembered. He can be seen in countless wartime photographs hovering a few feet from President Franklin Roosevelt with a sour grimace on his face, though today one could be forgiven for assuming that the man in the white peaked cap and the gold braids was some anonymous aide, rather than one of the most powerful men in the world.