The Power of Perspective

leading perspectiveAt 6:35am on June 6, 1944 the first Allied soldiers stepped ashore at Omaha Beach. They were instantly showered with enemy fire raining down on them from fortified positions carved into the bluffs above. The hail of machine gun and artillery fire would continue unabated for hours as wave after wave of ships bottled up by underwater obstacles poured soldiers into the kill zone.

Among those first soldiers were elements of the 16th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel George Taylor. When Taylor arrived on the beach around 8:00am, he found remnants of his battle-hardened regiment in total confusion. With most of their leaders killed or incapacitated, those who had survived the first two hours were pinned down by the relentless enemy fire.

The invasion of Europe had stalled just seven yards in.

Seeing thousands of leaderless soldiers hunkering down behind the seawall or whatever cover they could find, Taylor realized this was a tipping point. Exposing himself to the deadly fire, he moved up and down the line finding officers, gathering teams together, and assigning new objectives. But what do you say to a man to make him face that kind of mortal danger?

Colonel Taylor simply put things in perspective:

There are only two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here!

Under Taylor’s leadership, the 16th Infantry advanced over 200 yards inland, neutralized the German strongpoints, repelled counter-attacks and were instrumental in consolidating the Allied beachhead on Omaha.

5 thoughts on “The Power of Perspective”

  1. Brilliant post. It took me back to my youth.

    My dad was in the military and we had the good fortune of living in Belgium for two years. Much of our weekends and holidays were spent travelling. As a family we visited some of the major military sites, among them Waterloo, Vimy and Junu Beach (I’m Canadian). My parents’ motiviation to go to those places was not necessarily to show us but to satisfy their individual needs; my father’s military and my mother’s historical. By doing this they didn’t make the experience about “teaching the children”, which took the pressure off us. What they in fact did was bring us into their curiosity and desire to see where it all happened and they brought it to life with their knowledge of the big story. They were able to use the canvas of the actual spots to paint a picture that gave great depth and meaning to the surrounding. It was a perfect way to teaching us about perspective without making it seem like a lesson. Great leadership and parenting that have served my sisters and me well in life.

    1. Normandy was the first place I visited in the world that I had the thought, “I’m going to bring my kids here.” That was a decade before I had any.

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