Friday, July 20, 2007

Great accomplishments only seem inevitable in retrospect

One of the defining moments of my life was when I was 10 years old and watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon saying, "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong claims what he really said was "That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Because of a transmission glitch, those of us back home huddled by our small televisions heard it the first way, and for us that will always be the reality of what he said.

What we didn't know, though, huddled by the TV, was that:
There was real fear that once on the lunar surface the astronauts might end up marooned and beyond rescue. In fact, President Nixon had a condolence speech ready to go in the event things turned out badly.
This reminds me of something similar that General Eisenhower did; he wrote a letter which he tucked into his desk on the evening of June 5th accepting personal responsibility for the defeat of the Allied Forces on D-Day.
Our landings have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Great accomplishments only seem inevitable in retrospect.

1 comment:

Steve Stevenson said...

A footnote on the Ike story. The story is that he spent the whole night before walking the beach, mulling over everything. And he did so completely alone. He was of a mind that he wanted no one to share the guilt if D-Day failed.