Sidebars of History: D-Day as It Happened

 

shutterstock_238061590It is 12:30 AM Eastern War Time. Outside of London, where the British have instituted “Double Summer Time,” it is 6:30. A German refugee working for the Associated Press is monitoring the shortwave transmissions of the Nazis. His ears perk up and he quickly sends out what he’s heard. By 12:37, it’s moved across the entire AP wire.

NBC is carrying dance music on its East Coast feed and on the West Coast, where it’s only in the 9 o’clock hour of June 5th, they’re airing a mostly forgotten weekly drama from San Francisco called Hawthorne House. The on-duty announcer in New York interrupts programming to read the AP bulletin.

For the next two hours both NBC and CBS will caution that these reports are unconfirmed and, since they originate with the Germans, they may be highly unreliable.

NBC also deviates from its still familiar three-note network identification.

The “Fourth Chime” is an internal paging system calling all essential news employees and engineering staff to their positions. It first sounded in 1937, when the Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst; again in ’38 at the height of the Munich Crisis; and yet again in December of 1941. (After D-Day it will not sound down the network line until 1985 — when GE buys controlling interest in RCA and brings an end to an era in American broadcasting.)

At 3:32 EWT/12:32 PWT the speculation ends. Both networks relay a broadcast from the BBC. Through the high-pitched hiss and whistles and the static of Atlantic storms comes the calming voice of Dwight David Eisenhower.

ClevelandNewsNow it is real. The Seattle Times reported from the Boeing plant which was churning out B-17s as fast as they could:

The night workers of the graveyard shift were on the job—as they had been for years of nights—relentlessly turning out bombers for the destruction of Hitler’s crumbling empire. Then, at 1 a.m., loudspeakers came to life all over the plant. “Confirmation has been received,” came a solemn voice, with an undertone of excitement and jubilation, “that the invasion of France has started.” The guns, the drills and the hammers were stilled. A hush like that of a cathedral descended over the thousands of overalled men and slacks-clad women. For a moment they stood, in spontaneous recognition of the solemnity of the moment. Then, breaking the spell, men and women shook hands, slapped each other on the back, as if to say: “Let’s get on with it!” They picked up their tools.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, America would be introduced to the concept of wall-to-wall coverage. The AP transmitted over 40,000 words on June 6th alone. Newsboys hawked extra editions on every street corner in the land. Radio sponsors who bought blocks of time from the networks handed them back for more bulletins and analysis. By the end of the day, listeners across North America had heard from King George VI, prayed with President Roosevelt, and prayed and prayed some more — in churches, in synagogues, in the kitchen and on the shop floor, wherever they might be.

At 10:15 PM EWT the day was summed up best, not by a news man or politician, but by the best friend a US Service man ever had. After the familiar strains of Thanks for the Memories, a solemn Bob Hope took to the air:

American_Flag_and_Cross_in_Normandy_American_Cemetery_and_MemorialMany of the true heroes of that day never came back. The US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations — and those are just the ones that took place on the 6th of June.

Today, words like ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ are bandied about for people and situations that don’t deserve it. Actors pat themselves on the back for doing nude scenes like it is the equivalent of an amphibious assault. Self mutilating has-beens are called heroes for publicly cross-dressing. “Sacrifice” is what they call a tax increase.

We’ve thrown the youth of the nation to war across the globe many times since that day. Would those that gave all look at America today and do it all over again?

A tip of the radio windscreen to Feliks Banel and his I Still Love Radio blog, Bill Harris and the History of the NBC Chimes, and Archive.org where you can listen to the complete recordings of NBC and CBS from June 6, 1944.


Note: This post was originally published on June 6th, 2015.

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  1. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Thanks, E.J.

    • #1
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:02 pm
    • Like1 like
  2. Profile photo of Gary McVey Member

    EJ, I’d pay my Thatcher fees for stuff like this, even if there were only a dozen such moments in a year. Sometimes there’s not even one. Bravo. And thanks, once again, for bringing some light, and some glamour, to the often-ignored shadow world of shortwave relays, wires, and a solitary figure with headphones, intently nudging a dial a millimeter into clarity.

    Thanks.

    • #2
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:35 pm
    • Like2 likes
  3. Profile photo of Batjac Member

    Excellent post, thanks.

    • #3
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm
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  4. Profile photo of David Foster Member

    ***Main Feed*** so I can link it in my D-Day roundup tomorrow!

    • #4
    • June 5, 2015 at 7:53 pm
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  5. Profile photo of EJHill Contributor
    EJHill Post author

    Gary – Thanks for the kind words. Broadcasting really came of age that day. When I hear journalists talk about JFK’s assassination being “the day America lost her innocence,” I never know if I should laugh or cry.

    I look at my country today and cry out now. Why? Was all of the blood, the pain and the lives really worth it?

    • #5
    • June 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm
    • Like1 like
  6. Profile photo of Gary McVey Member

    In your heart you know it was, EJ. If all it gained us was a couple of generations of freedom, it was still worth it. We’ll all fight for more. And we’ve got you–a bit of Disney, a bit of Capra, a bit of Sarnoff.

    • #6
    • June 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm
    • Like1 like
  7. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    My uncle had been in a unit training for D-Day when he was transferred to another one that was sent to Italy. He rolled into Rome seventy one years ago last night, after bitter fighting that he never really talked much about.

    His original unit landed on D-Day and fought across France. They were in the “quiet” sector of the Ardennes Forest when the Battle of the Bulge started. A number of them were captured and machine gunned by the SS at Malmedy.

    He probably would have been with them but for that transfer.

    • #7
    • June 5, 2015 at 11:45 pm
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  8. Profile photo of Dave Sussman Contributor

    We just finished watching Into The Storm, a 2009 movie about Churchills leadership 1940-45 and then I saw/heard your post.

    Hearing this tonight was poignant. Great post. Thanks EJ.

    • #8
    • June 6, 2015 at 12:22 am
    • Like1 like
  9. Profile photo of Gary McVey Member

    I’ve done “the circuit”, playing the audio five times tonight. I can’t believe how polished, patriotic, and professional the radio announcers are. 25 years before this, the idea of the world being linked by voice was science fiction; here, they sound almost as used to it as we are, 71 years later. What a miracle–both D Day itself, and a radio in nearly every home in America, however distant or remote.

    • #9
    • June 6, 2015 at 12:56 am
    • Like1 like
  10. Profile photo of captainpower Member

    I would probably never have heard these if not for you. Thanks.

    Bob Hope said it well.

    The description was a vivid exposition of the collective pooling together of American grit for years of domestic hardship to support the war effort.

    (Aside, I didn’t realize our troops were referred to as kids as far back as 1945 until I heard Bob Hope call them that. I contrast Bob Hope’s usage as a term of endearment with the attempt to cast our troops as hapless victims in more recent times.)

    Gary McVey:In your heart you know it was [worth “all of the blood, the pain and the lives”], EJ. If all it gained us was a couple of generations of freedom, it was still worth it.

    I try to resist the temptation to think that the current America is normative: a little hard work can bear great results. By contrast, for much of human history a ton of hard work bore little results.

    Thanks Gary: great reminder that not only isn’t freedom free, but its cost is high.

    • #10
    • June 6, 2015 at 3:59 am
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  11. Profile photo of Vance Richards Member

    Thanks for this. I went to the archive links at the bottom and I have been listening for the last hour as if it was all live. Growing up you could always find a WWII vet, but the last one I knew personally died a few months ago. These radio broadcasts are a great link back to that time in history, thanks again.

    • #11
    • June 6, 2015 at 5:52 am
    • Like1 like
  12. Profile photo of Larry Koler Member

    Beautiful, Beautiful, EJ. Thanks.

    • #12
    • June 6, 2015 at 9:40 am
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  13. Profile photo of Joe Gee Inactive

    Great post. Thank you very much.

    • #13
    • June 6, 2015 at 9:50 am
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  14. Profile photo of 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    My father-in-law was with the 5th Ranger Battalion. He was a replacement for one of the “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” who didn’t make it past the beaches. He’ll turn 90 in December.

    Seventy-one years…what a different world.

    Thank you, EJ.

    • #14
    • June 6, 2015 at 10:03 am
    • Like1 like
  15. Profile photo of Trink Reagan

    As Western Chauvinist’s and my father crossed the English channel, Dad’s mother paced the floor in her parents’ home – weeping inconsolably. It runs in our family. Her mother and a few of their descendants through some, yet unexplained, neurological faculty – receive . . . . have a ‘knowing’ . . . . about strong emotional states in loved ones – even on the other side of the planet.

    Dad landed on bloody Omaha and I’ll never forget his relating the scene of bodies stacked like cordwood as he and his men moved past them to set up their positions to bring down the German planes strafing the beach. Someone in the family still has the brass casing that his men presented to him that brought down one of those planes.

    It was so touching to hear Bob Hope referring to “those kids”. My dad lived to come home and raise his own kids.

    We owe so much.

    Thanks for this great post, E.j.

    Robert Leighton Strong – as he is remembered in the WWII Memorial

    PLATOON LEADER FOR AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY, ATTACHED TO THE 457TH BATTALION, 3RD ARMY. D-DAY LANDING ON OMAHA BEACH H+12. SERVED UNDER GENERAL PATTON DURING THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE.

    • #15
    • June 6, 2015 at 12:56 pm
    • Like4 likes
  16. Profile photo of Basil Fawlty Inactive

    They done good for a slave army.

    • #16
    • June 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm
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  17. Profile photo of George Savage Admin

    Thanks, EJ. Beautiful post.

    • #17
    • June 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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  18. Profile photo of AQ Member
    AQ

    My father flew a B-26 over Normandy on D-Day. His plane was named “Susanne” after my mother, who passed away last year. Dad died on June 6, 1967, and though he was not injured in the war, I believe it changed him forever and contributed to the struggles that caused his early death. RIP, dad. Thank you for the suffering you endured for our freedom.

    • #18
    • June 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm
    • Like1 like
  19. Profile photo of Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Thanks, EJ. As for your question as to whether it was worth, of course it was. Many lives were saved from the gas showers and furnaces. Evil men were punished. And a measure of freedom is still preserved. Perhaps most importantly, those acts of courage were seen and will be honored by a kind and merciful God.

    • #19
    • June 6, 2015 at 2:56 pm
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  20. Profile photo of Dave Sussman Contributor

    By the way… Further to the movie I mentioned above, it was jarring to see the British Labor party do everything possible to NOT go to war with Germany.

    One parliament leader actually stated in the well he couldn’t determine who he wanted more to triumph, Churchill or Hitler.

    If the Left had their way, as the Jewish grandson of a POW in Nazi Germany, I and millions wouldn’t be here today.

    • #20
    • June 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm
    • Like2 likes
  21. Profile photo of Trink Reagan

    E.J. I want to thank you again. My husband and I are listening to those remarkable broadcasts. We had no idea these existed.

    • #21
    • June 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm
    • Like1 like
  22. Profile photo of John Hendrix Inactive

    Thank you, EJHill. That was excellent.

    Out of all of those clips, the one of Bob Hope affected me the most. Even though I felt that I was perfectly aware–via old movies, etc.–that Bob Hope was of the WW II generation that didn’t prepare me for hearing Bob Hope making a public statement about the Normandy invasion. Hearing that clip of Bob Hope brought that home to me in a new way.

    Again, thank you.

    • #22
    • June 6, 2015 at 7:54 pm
    • Like2 likes
  23. Profile photo of James Gawron Thatcher

    EJ,

    Thanks for the feel of the real. I also love the Eisenhower D-Day speech. Although this version had been enhanced with music and colorized actual war photography, I can still feel what it must have been like to hear that speech.

    Your task will not be an easy one.

    The tide has turned.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #23
    • June 6, 2015 at 9:58 pm
    • Like1 like
  24. Profile photo of Valiuth Member

    Basil Fawlty:They done good for a slave army.

    Way to bring the mood down. I’m quite sure many if not most volunteered.

    • #24
    • June 7, 2015 at 12:52 am
    • Like1 like
  25. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor

    Valiuth:

    Basil Fawlty:They done good for a slave army.

    Way to bring the mood down. I’m quite sure many if not most volunteered.

    I was sure he was joking! Could anyone say, citizens conscripted after Pearl Harbor are slaves?

    • #25
    • June 7, 2015 at 12:56 am
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  26. Profile photo of Basil Fawlty Inactive

    Titus Techera:

    Valiuth:

    Basil Fawlty:They done good for a slave army.

    Way to bring the mood down. I’m quite sure many if not most volunteered.

    I was sure he was joking! Could anyone say, citizens conscripted after Pearl Harbor are slaves?

    Unfortunately, yes.

    • #26
    • June 7, 2015 at 3:38 am
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  27. Profile photo of Basil Fawlty Inactive

    Valiuth:

    Basil Fawlty:They done good for a slave army.

    Way to bring the mood down. I’m quite sure many if not most volunteered.

    So only the draftees were slaves?

    • #27
    • June 7, 2015 at 3:40 am
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  28. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor

    So this is a quarrel. But we can quarrel about the draft another time–not on D-Day-

    • #28
    • June 7, 2015 at 3:50 am
    • Like3 likes
  29. Profile photo of Basil Fawlty Inactive

    Titus Techera:So this is a quarrel. But we can quarrel about the draft another time–not on D-Day-

    It’s not a quarrel, it’s a fundamental disagreement over the status of citizens who were drafted into the armed forces. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor the draftees who fought and died on D-Day than to remind people on the anniversary of D-Day that referring to them slaves disrespects them and their service.

    • #29
    • June 7, 2015 at 4:19 am
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  30. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor

    Basil Fawlty:

    Titus Techera:So this is a quarrel. But we can quarrel about the draft another time–not on D-Day-

    It’s not a quarrel, it’s a fundamental disagreement over the status of citizens who were drafted into the armed forces. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor the draftees who fought and died on D-Day than to remind people on the anniversary of D-Day that referring to them slaves disrespects them and their service.

    I agree that if anyone said that it would be inappropriate & a rebuke, swift & trenchant, would be in order. But nobody said that in this discussion or anywhere else on Ricochet now–you brought up the subject–cannot we leave this for say next week? I agree, it is a vile thing to say. I’m willing to go through the quarrel with or without fundamental this, that or the other. But not now.

    If anyone thinks it appropriate, I’d be happy to get rid of my comments. I really do not want to annoy people, especially after all the moving witnesses-

    • #30
    • June 7, 2015 at 4:51 am
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