Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover text informationAmerican Experience Logo
The Film & More
Special Features
Did You Know?
Voices of D-Day
Hot Off the Presses
Letters from the Front
Share Your Story

People & Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Hot Off the Presses

Allied ships crossing the English Channel Allied leaders kept the massive D-Day invasion absolutely secret until the operation was well underway. As news reached the States, Americans quickly understood the "grim business" their sons, husbands, and friends were experiencing. An article from the Associated Press outlines the operation, and a second, from a Louisville newspaper, documents people's reactions to the news.

Detroit News
Hitler's Wall Broken as Allies Move Inland
SUPREME HEADQUARTERS, (AP) -- Allied Expeditionary Force, June 6

Allied troops landed on the Normandy coast of France in tremendous strength by cloudy daylight today and stormed several miles inland with tanks and infantry in the grand assault which Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called a crusade in which "we will accept nothing less than full victory."

German broadcasts said the Allies penetrated several kilometers in between Caen and Isigny, which are 35 miles apart and respectively nine and two miles from the sea.

German opposition apparently was less effective than expected, although fierce in many respects, and the Germans said they were bringing reinforcements continuously up to the coast, where "a battle for life or death is in progress."

The seaborne troops, led by Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery, surged across the channel from England in 4,000 regular ships and additional thousands of smaller craft.

They were preceded by massed flights of parachute and glider forces who landed inland during the darkness.

ElevenBombing over France thousand planes supported the attack.

The Germans radio said the landings were made from Cherbourg to Le Harve, a strip of coast roughly 100 miles, and later said additional landings were being made "west of Cherbourg," indicating that the Allies intended to seize the Normandy peninsula with its ports and airdomes as the first base of their campaign to destroy the power of Nazi Germany.

One German broadcast said the Allied landing barges penetrated the Orne and Vire estuaries under artificial fog and "tried to carry out landing operations on a major scale in the rear of the Atlantic wall."

The initial landings were made from 6:00 to 8:25 a.m., British time (midnight to 2:25 a.m., Detroit time). The Germans said subsequent landings were made on the English Channel isles of Jersey and Guernsey and that invasion at new points on the continent was expected hourly.

Aside from confirming that Normandy was the general area of the assault, supreme headquarters of the Allied expeditionary force was silent concerning the location.

From Moscow came word that the Russian army was massing in preparation for another great attack from the east as its part in defeating Germany.

All reports from the beachhead, meager though they were in specific detail, agreed that the Allies had made good the great gamble of amphibious landing against possibly the strongest fortified section of coast in the world.

The airborne troops' principal scenes of operations were placed by the Germans at Caen and Berfleur. The Germans said the American 82nd and 101st Parachute Divisions had landed on the Normandy peninsula, along with the American 28th and 100th Airborne Divisions.

They said the British 1st and 6th airborne divisions were operating in the Seine Bay area. The Germans complained that at some points dummy parachutes were dropped, exploding on touch.

The parachutists and glider men went in after a personal farewell from Gen. Eisenhower. The Germans said they landed at Caen and made deep penetrations at many points with at least four British parachute divisions employed besides the Americans and Canadians.

The Channel was rough and there were showers at dawn, but later the sun broke through the clouds. At supreme headquarters it was stated that the condition of the sea had caused some great anxiety, but that the troops had gone ashore, even though many were seasick.

Allied headquarters kept silent until 9:32 a.m. British time (3:32 a.m. Detroit time), when the following communiqué was issued:

"Under the command of Gen. Eisenhower, Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France."

This was referred to as Communiqué No.1.

It was made known that the supreme command felt it necessary to yield the initiative in the war of words to the Germans in order to retain the initiative on land and keep the German high command in the dark as long as possible.

Louisville Courier-Journal
News Brings Tears And Prayers Here

There were no cheers and no hurrahs.

For one thing, Louisville learned of the invasion of France piecemeal. Most citizens were sound asleep when the story reached the city today about 3 a.m.

For another, it was not a matter for hurrahing. To many of them it was the tugging of the heartstrings as hundreds of their sons, brothers, and husbands faced the grim reality of a beachhead landing in the big league of war.

There was Mrs. Annie Donaldson who was at the bus station to go home. She heard a taxicab radio.

Gets Down on Knees and Prays
"I went into the lounge and got right down on my knees and prayed," she said. "Just last week I got a letter from my boy. He was in England, waiting, and he wrote me, 'Mother, when you hear the boys are on the way pray for us like you used to when I was a little boy and climbed up in your lap to go to sleep.' I prayed and I cried. I just couldn't help the crying and I didn't want to help the praying."

And there was L. L. Barlow, who works for Railway Express. He was standing out in front of the Broadway office.

"I just heard it about 2 o'clock," he remarked. "I've got a son-in-law over that way somewhere. Funny thing the way it hits you. I didn't think of him at first. Instead I thought of that baby of his who lives with us and wondered if he'd ever get home to see him."

The son-in-law is Cpl. Roy Marley who lived with his father.

It's Grim Business to Sergeant
Sgt. William Fouche, Coschocton, Ohio, was hurrying up the street to stand in line for the Fort Knox bus. He was grim about the whole business.

"My three brothers are already on hand for the party and I expect I'll be getting there too," he explained. "Those boys can take care of themselves and there'll be more of us going along to help them."

Up at the Union Station the train for Nashville had just pulled out and the station was quiet. Behind the lunch counter, Mrs. Ethel Wagner, was tuning her ear to catch what was coming in from a receiver in the barbershop. "My two boys are in the States," she answered. "But I've been thinking here about the mothers who have boys over there. They must be going through a lot."

There was a big crowd at the station when word first got around that the Americans had stormed into France. People showed little reaction for a time.

"But a crowd of soldiers on one of the trains were cheering when it pulled out," said J. Branham, night clerk to the station master. "Someone went through and told them the news and they let out a whoop and a holler."

Clifford Hall was another to whom the business was mighty personal. He had just heard the news.

"Those two brothers of mine are going to a mighty big show," was his reaction. "They've been wanting to get into it for a long time and I guess this is their chance. For me -- I'm all washed out. They took a look at my heart and sent me home."

The two brothers are Norman Hall and Vincent Hall.

Girl Cries On Hearing News
Allied medics with wounded The editions of the Courier-Journal at the Greyhound station were snatched eagerly by the soldiers waiting for the Fort Knox "reveille special" buses.

"Well, boys," said Sgt. William Chenery, with a half-dozen "hash marks," to a bunch of youngsters looking over his shoulder as he read, "this looks like it's the thing. I hope we can get over there and get to those Germans."

To Pvt. John Flaherty, the thing was a bit disappointing.

"The gang I teamed up with is over that way somewhere," he said," and here I am home reading about it. Aw, nuts."

The news spread slowly at first and then more rapidly as word was passed from mouth to mouth and listening posts were set up wherever anyone had the latest dope.

Two young couples, eating quietly in a restaurant, ran outside when they saw through the window the headline on the papers. With them was a fifth person, a young woman.

They peered at the headlines a moment, crumpled up the paper and hailed a passing taxicab. One girl was crying softly. One of the others put her arms around her as they climbed into the car.

"He'll be all right," she said to her as the driver whisked them away.

There was a sort of fervent determination to be calm about the whole thing. The usual reaction was "Well it's here at last."

But there were exceptions.

Why Doesn't Hitler Quit?
"I don't see," thought C. A. Langley, "why Hitler doesn't just quit and save a lot of lives. He ought to know he's licked. When they can get ashore like they have it is just a question of time. But he'll cost a lot of our men and his before we get through, I reckon."

Langley's only son overseas is in Australia.

"It's been mighty hard for two years," he reflected, "and now there are lots of other people who are going through this same thing."

Russell Roberts was all primed to head toward Europe and take part in the adventure.

"But instead," he said, "I wound up in a hospital and then out of the Army all together. My buddies will have to tote my load for me."

Maj. Ted McDowell, public relations officer at Fort Knox, said the fort was asleep when word got out that way.

"In fact," he said, "your phone call was the first I had heard about it. I guess we will find them excited tomorrow."

The only people at Jeffersonville Boat and Machine Company yards who heard about it early was were some people in the office.

"The men haven't got word yet," said a guard at the yard. "They are going on doing what they've been doing -- building the boats to take the boys there."

War Plants Work On
Most of the other war industries worked on through without interruption. Police heard one whistle blow.

The churches will remain open today for prayer under a plan arranged by Mayor Wilson Wyatt and the ministers of the city. This was adopted in lieu of any celebration of a more boisterous nature.

How many of the Jefferson County men are in the invasion forces can only be estimated. If the proportion of men in service overseas is the same for this county as for the nation as a whole there are 15,000.

Hundreds of these were in Britain and scores of them are crawling toward the spitting guns along the Atlantic Wall that is the first obstacle to be passed on the road to Berlin.

Site Navigation

Special Features: Did You Know? | Voices of D-Day | Hot Off the Presses
Paratroopers | Letters from the Front | Share Your Story

D-Day Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide