June 6, 1944

 

I had planned to post a re-cap of last evening’s BGT deTour today, but then I received a really special e-mail. It was written by a gentleman who would have been about 14 years old 69 years ago.  Simply entitled June 6, 1944, the e-mail detailed his experience in Lexington, Ky on D-Day when he learned 155,000 troops stormed the shores of Normandy.

He wrote:

I remember the morning was cool and cloudy. I was awakened early by the newspaper carriers going up and down the street yelling “Extra, Extra” then some words about the invasion.  From then all ears were glued to the radio to hear about the invasion and its progress and the causalities.  Most families had some loved one who had been waiting in England  for this day.  There was no TV so if you wanted to see the warfare, you had to go to the theater and watch the MovieTone  news, which played between features.

Families  waited for the dreaded telegram telling that their loved one was killed or missing in action, although some mail got through from the front.  The mail was censored, photographed to reduce the weight and sent as V-Mail.

I remember there was a detachment of military personnel living in  the old Phoenix hotel and they marched to class at UK every morning.

Lexington was wide open and MPs patrolled the streets.

It was a turbulent time and after D-Day, I  think everyone worked harder because they felt  that the end of the war was in sight.  It was a patriotic and unified effort time for the country.  I am fortunate to have experienced it.

 

Sixty-nine years after the fact, his memories are sharp and clear. And they are tied to place. His description brings to mind a busy downtown with paper boys on the corner. Families pacing the floors of their homes waiting for news. Listening. Or sitting in theaters, not for the entertainment, but for the news reels in between films. Young men posted at an old hotel, neat and proud in their uniforms, marching up the hill to the University of Kentuckyeach the morning,  wearily returning each afternoon. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

d-day

Ben Ali Theatre located down the street from the Phoenix Hotel (ca. 1942), D-Day newspapers (via Google), Military group at the University of Kentucky (ca. 1947), the Phoenix Hotel (n.d.), Ben Ali (ca. 1933). All images via The Kentucky Digital Library unless otherwise noted

I hope we all take a few minutes to reflect today on the sacrifices of servicemen and their families everywhere. We owe a debt of gratitude to this generation (at home and abroad) beyond anything we can repay, but at least we can honor their memory.

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2 comments

  1. Gary Soderman

    Nice post .. I had the good fortune to visit the beaches at Normandy back in 1970, while traveling through Europe !! .. I was awed by the thought of what had happened on that beach just 26 years earlier !! .. Now as I reflect back, I feel compassion for both the young Americans and the young Germans !! .. Most of the American guys were probably feeling a patriotic calling, but I’m not so sure about those poor Germans huddled in those pill boxes !!

    • bricksandmortarpreservation

      I agree with you! And it’s absolutely incredible the way the battle has forever changed the landscape. I was there in 2007, and I was floored by the craters. When I imagined the beaches of Normandy, it never even occurred to me to imagine them to be marred. And then to see how deep and wide they are all these years later – I can’t even imagine the violence of explosions that were able to leave such indelible scars on the earth.

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