On Pause: Americans Waiting for News from Normandy on D-Day, June 6 1944

June 6, 1944 was a Tuesday. By the time New York woke up, the invasion of Normandy had already been going on for over 12 hours (with the time difference, the invasion started at about 6pm the night before). Office of War Information (OWI) photographers Howard Hollem, Edward Laurie, and MacLaugharie were in New York when it happened, and captured the city collectively holding its breath, waiting for news from Normandy.

The Invasion had originally been scheduled for June 5, but was pushed back due to bad weather.  Though Americans back home didn’t know the precise date of the landing, everyone knew it would be soon, as troops had been practicing landing on English beaches since April.

WW2 WWII Library of Congress Final dress rehearsal for "D-Day"

Final dress rehearsal for “D-Day”

The most important part of the Invasion was of course keeping it a secret.  By the end of May, all of the invading troops were stationed on the coast of England, many sealed in their camps to keep their numbers hidden.  Most didn’t even know where the landing would occur until they were already on the way.

Departures for Normandy began on May 31.  As the entire armada numbered 2 million people, the departures were spread out over 5 days.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the day, "Full victory--nothing else" to paratroopers somewhere in England, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe Library of Congress WW2 WWII

General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the day, “Full victory–nothing else” to paratroopers somewhere in England, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe

“Ships and boats of every nature and size churned the rough Channel surface, seemingly in a mass so solid one could have walked from shore to shore. I specifically remember thinking that Hitler must have been mad to think that Germany could defeat a nation capable of filling the sea and sky with so much ordnance.”–Lt. Charles Mohrle, P-47 pilot

The invasion started just after midnight on June 6, with 20,000 paratroopers dropping behind enemy lines, and planes and ships battering the coast with bombs and artillery fire in anticipation for the landing.  Just after dawn, about 150,000 allied troops landed along a 50 mile stretch of Normandy, and the push back against Hitler began in full force.

Bird's-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons, and allied troops landing in Normandy, France on D-Day WW2 WWII Library of Congress

Bird’s-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons, and allied troops landing in Normandy, France on D-Day

Along with the secrecy of the of the invasion, there were heavy restrictions on the media and orders to delay announcing the Allies’ arrival. But at 2am New York time (8 hours after the invasion began) a radio station in Calais, France announced that D-day had begun.

Probably similar to the rest of the country, New Yorkers spent D-day at church services, giving blood, at public rallies to support the war effort, or huddled around their radio waiting for news. Those who passed through Times Square could look up at the Times building and see news headlines scroll by. The faces captured by the OWI photographers display anticipation, worry, and the rapt attention of individuals who seem to have stopped whatever they were doing to look up at the news.

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

New York, New York. Times Square and vicinity on D-Day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Times Square and vicinity on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Times Square and vicinity on D-day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Times Square and vicinity on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Times Square and vicinity on D-day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Two sailors at Times Square on D-day looking at the latest news line on the Times building

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Two sailors at Times Square on D-day looking at the latest news line on the Times building

“‘This is D-Day,’ the BBC announced at 12 o’clock. ‘This is the day.’ The invasion has begun!… Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we’ve all talked so much about, which still seems too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true?… the best part of the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way. Those terrible Germans have oppressed and threatened us for so long that the thought of friends and salvation means everything to us!” –Anne Frank, diary entry, June 6, 1944

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul's Church on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul’s Church on D-day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul's Church on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul’s Church on D-day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul's Church on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul’s Church on D-day

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Seven o'clock mass on D-day in the Lady Chapel, Saint Patrick's Cathedral

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Seven o’clock mass on D-day in the Lady Chapel, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. D-day services in a synagogue on West Twenty-third Street

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. D-day services in a synagogue on West Twenty-third Street

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. D-day sevices in a synagogue on West Twenty-third Street

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. D-day sevices in a synagogue on West Twenty-third Street

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul's Church on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Noon mass at Saint Vincent de Paul’s Church on D-day

On the evening of June 6, President Roosevelt gave a radio broadcast about D-day. It included a prayer that had been printed in newspapers that afternoon, so listeners could say it along with the president.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. A woman addressing the crowd at the D-day rally at Madison Square

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. A woman addressing the crowd at the D-day rally at Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Monsignor William E. Cashin at the D-day rally in Madison Square

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Monsignor William E. Cashin at the D-day rally in Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the D-day rally in Madison Square

New York, New York. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the D-day rally in Madison Square

WW2 WWII Library of Congress New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Part of the parade on D-day, Madison Square

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Part of the parade on D-day, Madison Square

WW2 WWII New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia standing in the crowd

New York, New York. A crowd on D-day in Madison Square. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia standing in the crowd

WW2 WWII New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Blood donors on D-day

New York, New York. June 6, 1944. Blood donors on D-day

To read two excellent, in-depth articles about D-day and the weeks leading up to it, see here and here. President Roosevelt’s full D-day radio broadcast can be found here. To see more of the Library of Congress photos, visit their website or Flickr photostream.




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Costandinos | Black & White Photography
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Amazing collection of images that accurately tell the story of that day… I wonder how much we have learned since then…

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