One of Eisenhower's top aides, PFC Melvin Snodgrass (retired), broke 64 years of silence last week to reveal the hidden details behind the invasion of Normandy - also known as "D-Day", "The Longest Day," and "The French Connection".
"It was all part of a bet that Ike had going with the Desert Fox," Snodgrass informed me.
"British Field Marshal Montgomery?"
"No," said Snodgrass. "He was 'the Desert Ass'. The Desert Fox was Erwin Rommel, the German commander. He was in charge of defending Europe and Ike bet him 100,000 Reichmarks that the Allies could make a successful invasion. Actually, it was a pretty stupid bet on Ike's part."
"Why?" I asked. "After all, the Allies had the advantage in both manpower and equipment."
"Sure," said Snodgrass, "but what Ike failed to realize was that if he did manage to pull off the invasion, Reichmarks would be worthless.
"Anyhow," he said, "Ike used a variation of three card monte. He set up three invasion beaches, Juno, Sword, and Omaha and Montgomery had to guess which one the Allies would invade. But Ike pulled a swifty on him and invaded all three."
"But that's not how three card monte works," I protested. "No matter which one Rommel chose he would find Allied troops and win the bet."
"You underestimate Ike," Snodgrass told me. "You see, at the same time, he told Charles De Gaulle that he was actually going to invade at Pas de Calais. De Gaulle, of course, immediately leaked the secret."
"De gaulle of the man!" I exclaimed. "Ike must have been furious."
"Not at all," Snodgrass countered. "It was exactly what he wanted. Ike knew that De Gaulle liked clean toilets - unusual for the French, really - and he sent his chief urinal scrubber, a young Resistance lieutenant by the name of Jacques Chirac, into Pas de Calais to make certain that the crappers were shiny. Chirac was immediately captured by the Germans and told them everything."
"He didn't have much Resistance, huh?"
"Actually, the Germans tricked him," said Snodgrass. "They told him they were really Arabs and Chirac never was able to refuse an Arab anything."
"But why did the Germans believe Chirac?" I asked. "Nobody else ever did."
"That's where George Patton came in," Snodgrass explained. "You see, he was the Americans' best general and the Nazis knew that Ike wouldn't be stupid enough to have the biggest invasion of the war without putting old Blood and Guts in charge of it."
"But Patton didn't lead the invasion forces," I protested. "Bradley did."
"Right," Snodgrass confirmed. "Because Ike was actually smart enough to be stupid enough not to put Patton in charge because Rommel knew that Ike was too smart for that."
"That makes no sense at all," I said.
"Exactly," Snodgrass agreed. "You see, Ike told Patton to back up Chirac's story. So Patton started calling ahead to Pas De Calais to make hotel reservations and find out where the best places in town were for dinner and getting pearl-handled revolvers cleaned. When the invasion came, Rommel was so certain that it was going to be there that he didn't even bother checking the three beaches. It was a perfect three card monte switch, except that Ike used four cards."
"Rommel must have been furious," I told him.
"Well, I can tell you this - he wasn't going around wearing any 'I Like Ike' buttons," Snodgrass answered. "Of course, he wasn't anywhere as annoyed as De Gaulle was."
"Why was De Gaulle upset?" I asked. "After all, he was with the Allies."
"He was?" Snodgrass asked in surprise. "Nobody at Ike's headquarters knew that. Actually, De Gaulle thought he should be the Supreme Commander. He took it as a personal insult that anybody else would hold that title."
"But there were very few French soldiers in the D-Day invasion," I objected. "Why should De Gaulle have been in charge?"
"De Gaulle didn't see things that way," Snodgrass told me. "In fact, he still doesn't."
"What do you mean 'still'? I thought that De Gaulle died a long time ago."
"He did," Snodgrass said. "He entered the Pearly Gates in 1970 - and even though there are very few Frenchmen in Heaven, he still thinks he should be God."