The role of spirits in aiding troops and strategists

The 80th anniversary of D-Day has brought many memories to our minds. I want to share anecdotes about how alcohol supported the troops during those times. My father joined them post-invasion, making this history very personal.

Eisenhower acquired a fondness for Johnny Walker Black Label scotch while planning the invasion in the UK. In the lead-up to D-Day, he consumed 24 cups of coffee and smoked six packs of cigarettes daily, which is astonishing considering the stress of planning such an event.

A bit of ingenuity

In his book “A Man Walks into a Pub,” Pete Brown mentions that Spitfires were flown into France with beer barrels attached under their wings. The long-range fuel tanks were modified to transport British ale. These flights were often unauthorized, and to deceive the administrative staff, pilots would list their cargo as ‘XXX Depth Charge’ on official reports.

It wasn’t just the British who cherished their beer; American soldiers also preferred it. Following the initial landings, supplying enough beer to the troops became a logistical challenge, leading to the infamous “beer battles” as soldiers sought beer supplies. The American military even established European breweries to guarantee a consistent supply for their troops.

Celebrating with the renowned libation of Normandy

Calvados, the famous apple brandy from Normandy, became a favored drink among the soldiers as the Allies advanced inland and liberated towns and villages. They found large reserves of Calvados, which they celebrated with, making it a symbol of liberation. To this day, several Canadian military regiments honor Calvados as their official regimental drink.

A celebration isn’t complete without champagne.

Winston Churchill, known for his fondness for good spirits, was especially interested in the success of the D-Day invasion. He reportedly had shipments of his favorite champagne, Pol Roger, sent to him. After the successful landings, Churchill enjoyed his champagne as a personal celebration and a gesture of confidence in the Allied efforts. This wasn’t new to him since he’s known to drink two bottles of Pol Roger daily.

The soldiers’ reward

As the Allies pushed through Normandy and moved towards Paris, there was significant concern about the fate of the wine cellars in the capital. Many Parisian wine merchants and cellar masters went to great lengths to hide their most valuable bottles from the Nazis during the occupation. When Paris was liberated in August 1944, these hidden treasures were uncovered, and both Parisians and Allied soldiers celebrated with some of the finest wines France had to offer. This was also a concern for the people’s cellar.

These anecdotes highlight wine and spirits’ role in boosting morale, celebrating victories, and forging bonds between soldiers and civilians during and after the crucial events of D-Day. As most of us know, these bonds continue through our lives today as we socialize and celebrate with family and friends.