THEY were the words intended to help us face the tragedies that never were.
The failure of the D-Day landings, the death of the Apollo 11 astronauts, and the outbreak of World War Three were events that thankfully never came to pass.
The speeches written in case the unthinkable happened have survived, however. All have now been gathered together in Speeches of Note, a collection of some of the greatest orations of all time.
The unspoken speeches provide a fascinating and chilling look at an alternative history, according to Dr Fabian Hilfrich, who teaches contemporary history at Edinburgh University.
“These read almost like obituaries. Like those, they’re written in advance because once the event happens, it’s almost too late to send someone away to write a heartfelt speech,” he said. “When you look at Eisenhower’s words [to be read in the event of failed D-Day landings], it is a typical soldier’s speech. He very clearly takes responsibility and it suggests the next step he might have taken may have been to step down.”
The speeches also reveal the thinking of world leaders at the time, according to Dr Hilfrich. “Nixon’s speech is much more lyrical, reflecting the large speech-writing staff a US President has,” he added. “This one is very soft and he probably employed a more lyrical writer, perhaps a former journalist.
“Nixon was enjoying a honeymoon period at the time, and he wanted to keep the attention away from the unpopular Vietnam War. His speech was an attempt perhaps to preserve that honeymoon period even in the event of the moon landings failing.”
The Queen’s speech, to be delivered if The Cold War turned into a full-scale nuclear conflict, is especially chilling, in Dr Hilfrich’s eyes.
“What I find interesting is that it tells us something about this period of the Cold War,” he explained.
“Some historians consider 1983 to be the Second Cold War, when tensions were rising again after a period of détente in the 70s. We now know the Soviets believed NATO’s Able Archer military exercise was cover for a real attack and were preparing to respond.
“Tensions were high and the Queen’s speech was written in response to this. It maybe shows just how serious the threat of World War Three actually was.
“There’s an otherworldliness to this speech,” explained Dr Hilfrich. “The writer is trying to do their best to convey the same feeling of previous British conflicts, and the spirit of The Blitz.”
General Dwight D Eisenhower, Commander of Allied Forces, June 5, 1944.
It was short and to the point and, if delivered, would have signalled the most disastrous turning-point in World War Two.
As 150,000 Allied troops poured onto the beaches of Normandy as they launched the D-Day landings to retake continental Europe and drive the Nazis back to Germany, General Dwight D Eisenhower, carried a hand-written four sentences in his wallet for a month, to be read if the invasion failed, taking full responsibility for the defeat.
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon 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.
President Richard Nixon’s speech if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin died on their voyage to and from the moon.
President Richard Nixon never had to deliver this speech. In fact, he never even saw it after it was drafted by officials. However, it was there to be read if the unthinkable had happened and the first men on the men, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, were lost
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
The Queen’s speech warning of nuclear war, 1983
In the early 1980s, as relations between the West and the USSR hit new lows and the Cold War plunged into temperatures uncharted since the Cuban Missile Crisis, there were genuine fears of a third world war. In Britain, officials drafted this speech for the Queen
When I spoke to you less than three months ago we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas. Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow. The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.
Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.
I have never forgotten the sorrow and pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939. Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.
We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history. The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology. But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.
My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country. My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.
It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.
My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.
As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.
God Bless you all.