The voice of the president was soothing as it came through radios across America that evening, with the same slow cadences, precise enunciation and warmth people had heard from Franklin D. Roosevelt for years.

But this was June 6, 1944 — D-Day, in World War II. Allied troops had begun the high-risk landings on the beaches of Normandy. And Roosevelt wished to tell the citizens how dangerous an enterprise it was, and how the soldiers and sailors needed their support and God’s.

The “prayer” he said that night is one of his most moving addresses: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor. … Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts.”

The Friends of the National World War II Memorial, in Washington, announced Thursday that a $2 million grant will allow the addition of FDR’s “D-Day Prayer” to the memorial. The money comes from the Lilly Endowment Inc., said Holly Rotondi, executive director of the friends of the memorial.

Roosevelt’s address, as much a speech as a prayer, is expected to be etched on a large bronze plaque supported by two granite pillars in an area called the Circle of Remembrance at the edge of the memorial, Rotondi said.

The bronze will include the address “in its entirety,” Rotondi said. “We will not change anything. It’s a historic document."

It is the first major addition to the 16-year-old memorial, aside from a tribute to World War II veteran and former senator Bob Dole, added in 2011, she said. Approvals of the concept design have come from the city’s federal arts and planning commissions.

But further approvals are necessary, she said. Dedication is anticipated for June 6, 2022, the 78th anniversary of D-Day.

“Of all FDR’s radio broadcasts I believe it was the most powerful,” D-Day historian Alex Kershaw said in an email. “It united every American in their will to win, to support the war effort, to sacrifice [and] it beautifully encapsulated the Allied and U.S. mission in WWII.”

“Families all across the nation listened to the broadcast,” he said. “In Bedford, Virginia, pop 3,000, families gathered around radios and really prayed as they listened because they knew their boys were in the invasion. They did not know that 19 were already dead on Omaha Beach.”

The address was delivered at 9:57 p.m., as Roosevelt sat before a microphone in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, according to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

World War II in Europe had been underway since 1939 and the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany occupied much of Western Europe. The Allies faced a harsh challenge in landing in France, the president said.

“They will need Thy blessings,” he prayed. “Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. … They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest. … The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war."

“Some will never return,” he said. “Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.”

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.”

Kershaw said: “6 June, 1944, was — to my mind — America’s finest hour, the peak of its moral authority, and FDR’s prayer the most unifying, most moving articulation of all that the world admired and respected about the U.S.’s mission.”

The World War II Memorial Prayer Act was introduced into the Senate in 2013 by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.) It cleared Congress and was signed into law in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

The Lilly funding will also go toward restoring the Circle of Remembrance, Rotondi said.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy,” Roosevelt prayed that night.

“Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies,” he said. “Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace … a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.”

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.”


Read more: