W ith all the years of preparation, the billions of American dollars and British pounds spent, the hundreds of thousands of men trained, the hundreds of generals and other high-ranking experts spending days and sleepless nights planning, in the end, Abe realized, it all comes down to G-d.

Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe by the Allies, was about to begin. The officers had been briefed on June 2; the mission was scheduled for Sunday, June 4. The airborne troops were ready to fly, jump, and kill. Their faces had been blacked for camouflage. Their officers, Abe included, had removed the insignias from their uniforms, replacing them with vertical stripes on their helmets so they could be identified by Allied troops, but not by the Germans who would be especially eager to imprison or kill officers.

Their equipment — more than 100 pounds for each man — had been checked, rechecked, and checked once again. Three days of K-rations, matches, chocolate bars, socks, 160 rounds of ammo, compass, grenades, pistol, canteen, shovel, spoon, bayonet, first-aid kit, gas mask, knife, an anti-tank mine that alone weighed more than ten pounds, life jacket, cigarettes, rifle, disassembled pieces of machine guns, mortars and other equipment, and an escape kit that included a map of France and a hacksaw. Everything had its place, strapped to shoulders, chest, back, or in “leg bags” clipped to their thighs. Nothing could be carried — the paratroopers needed both hands for landing.

Somehow every soldier also found a place for personal items: a picture of a parent or child, a good-luck charm, a precious letter from a wife or girlfriend. For Abe, this meant a photograph of Annie holding little Mutty at his first birthday party; his journal, with a pen stuck into it; his tefillin, safe in a waterproof box he’d had specially made while in England and, wedged in next to his rifle, the Pontiac hood ornament he hoped would grace one of the thousands of jeeps Allied ships would be bringing over to France.

The Allied troops were ready. G-d, though, had other plans. At 4:15 a.m. on June 4, Captain James Stagg, Overlord’s chief meteorological officer, made the final call: though skies were now clear, a low pressure system was coming in and would make landfall over Normandy in just a few hours, endangering the landing and making air cover impossible.


At 6 a.m. the invasion was called off.

Though some GIs were relieved, most grumbled: They were ready and wanted to get the job over with. For Abe, though, the delay was something else: a clear and powerful reminder that G-d, and not Ike, was the Supreme Commander. As he shoved still another clip of ammo into his leg bag, it was a profoundly comforting and empowering thought.