. . . on Monday morning, May 15,  . . . at St. Paul’s School on Hammersmith Road, in western London . . . , the greatest Anglo-American military conclave of World War II gathered on the war’s 1,720th day to rehearse the deathblow intended to destroy Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Admirals, generals, field marshals, logisticians, and staff wizards by the score climbed from their limousines and marched into a Gothic building of red brick and terra cotta, where American military police -- known as “Snowdrops” for their white helmets, pistol belts, leggings, and gloves -- scrutinized the 146 engraved invitations and security passes that had been distributed a month earlier. Then, six uniformed ushers escorted the guests, later described as “big men with the air of fame about them,” into the Model Room, a cold and dimly lit auditorium with black columns and hard, narrow benches reputedly designed to keep young schoolboys awake.
Top-secret charts and maps now lined the Model Room. Since January, the school had served as the headquarters for the British 21st Army Group, and here the detailed planning for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France, had gelled. As more senior officers found their seats in Rows B through J, some spread blankets across their laps or cinched their greatcoats against the chill. Row A, 14 armchairs arranged elbow to elbow, was reserved for the highest of the mighty, and now these men began to take their seats. The British prime minister, Winston Churchill, dressed in a black frock coat and puffing his usual Havana cigar, entered with the supreme allied commander, General Dwight Eisenhower. Neither cheers nor applause greeted them, but the assembly stood as one when George VI strolled down the aisle to sit on Eisenhower’s right. Churchill bowed to his monarch, then resumed puffing his cigar. . . .
AN UGLY PIECE OF WATER
Cometh the hour, cometh the man: at 10 AM, Eisenhower rose to greet the 145 comrades who would lead the assault on “Fortress Europe.” Behind him in the cockpit of the Model Room