American Portraits

General Dwight D. Eisenhower: D-Day and Responsibility

In this lesson, students will read an account about General Eisenhower’s actions on D-Day and how they can act responsibly in their own lives through readings, discussions, and a presentation project.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Rule of Law image

Rule of Law

Government and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power. Those laws respect individual rights, are transparently enacted, are justly applied, and are stable.


At 4:15 a.m. on June 5, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower faced the most significant decision of his life. As the wind and rain pounded against the windows of his headquarters, he had to decide whether to send 156,000 Allied troops to invade northern France in order to begin to retake Europe from German occupation. After learning that the weather would briefly improve over the next thirty-six hours to coincide with favorable tides and moonlight to provide a narrow window of opportunity to launch the attack, Eisenhower silently paced the room with a grave responsibility on his shoulders. Finally, he ordered that the largest amphibious invasion in history begin that night. They would attack German General Irwin Rommel’s formidable defensive network, the Western Wall….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can you take responsibility for your own actions as General Eisenhower did on D-Day?

Virtue Defined

Responsibility is accountability to myself and others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will read an account about General Eisenhower’s actions on D-Day and how they can act responsibly in their own lives through readings, discussions, and a presentation project.


  • Evaluate General Eisenhower’s responsible actions on D-Day.
  • Create a presentation demonstrating how they can be responsible in their own lives.
  • Apply their knowledge about responsible behavior to their own lives.


In 1939, the world watched in horror as Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. Within days, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Germany, Italy, and Japan allied together and were known as the Axis Powers, while France, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and others formed the Allied Powers. The United States entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of the major turning points in the war for the Allies was Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day, which was launched on June 6, 1944, in Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, orchestrated the operation.

Eisenhower was born in 1890 in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas. He attended West Point-the U.S. Military Academy-where he graduated in 1915 with a second lieutenant commission.

Soon after the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower was a commanding general in both the European and North African theaters. In 1943, he became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In this role, Eisenhower was in charge of planning and executing Operation Overlord, the plan to liberate Europe from Nazi rule. Following the success of the D-Day invasion and the Allied Powers’ victory, Eisenhower became the military governor of Germany, then returned to the United States, where he became Army Chief of Staff. In 1952, Eisenhower was elected as thirty-fourth president of the United States.


  • Allied Powers
  • Axis Powers
  • D-Day
  • Normandy
  • Operation Overlord
  • Expeditionary
  • Tyranny
  • Commission
  • Amphibious

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was General Eisenhower? Why did he believe that acting responsibly was important? How did his action affect the freedom of others?
  • What was General Eisenhower’s role in the D-Day invasion?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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