Four years ago today, on June 6, 1944, the Allied Armies under
Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower invaded the German-held
continent of Europe in the greatest amphibious operation ever
attempted by any nation or group of nations in the history of
On that day, thousands upon thousands of American and British
soldiers swarmed ashore on a 100-mile front which stretched from
Le Havre to Cherbourg in northwestern France.
They came in seemingly endless waves through the howling surf
of the English channel, airplanes above them, naval guns in support.
They ran, they crawled, they stumbled into the mined and fire
swept beaches of Normandy, fought for their lives in the clinging
sand and inched ahead with a relentless fury that would not be
denied. They came shooting and they meant to stay. Eleven months
later an amazed world saw the end of the war in the West.
The general public and GI Joe knew it as D-Day. It was "Operation
Overlord" to the Supreme Commander and his staff. But to
Americans everywhere, the 6th of June, 1944, marked the beginning
of the greatest battle of all time.
Only then, with the guns hammering a drumfire of death and
destruction on both sides, did we fully realize that our citizen
army was challenging the most efficient and deadly war machine
that the world had ever seen.
How shall we rank June 6 among the great days of American
history? It was certainly one of the most dramatic and important
of all World War II events. The great invasion sounded the knell
of German hopes for ultimate victory for the western allies.
And, four years after, what do we remember of D-Day?
The men who engaged in that bitter fight will never forget,
for theirs was the mission to kill or be killed. They remember
the day in terrible flashes of recollection in which the crash
of artillery and the biting stench of cordite, the scenes of
wild destruction and fear, and hand to hand combat are all fused
together so that they have become one horrible nightmare.
There are those who will argue that the heaviest burden of
all was borne by the mothers and the wives of fighting men upon
that historic day. For, while a soldier may die but once, his
mother or his wife suffers untold miseries of foreboding in her
every waking moment. There is no glamor in all-out battle for
line soldiers or the mothers and wives they leave behind.
D-Day may not be easily forgotten, even by those who were
far from the flaming battlefront of Normandy. Here in Worcester,
the Evening Gazette of June 6 reported that: Worcester,
with 22,000 of its best in uniform, was taking Invasion Day soberly.
It was eager for news, for word of progress of the Allied forces,
for names of places, but there was "no cheering, no hoop-la
It was a warm, sunny day, a typical June day in New England.
There was no hint of war anywhere unless you looked in on the
bustling manufacturers of the city, where, at 2 p.m., workers
observed three minutes of silence.
The churches were suddenly crowded with folk who sought the
solace of prayer. Everywhere there was a sense of suspended emotions,
of sober reflection on the portent of that momentous news which
kept crackling in from the other side of the Atlantic.
It was common knowledge that Worcester's sons were in Normandy.
Ed Dulmaine, one-time Golden Gloves welterweight, was with the
cocky paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division who jumped
into the dark jaws of fortress Europe long before dawn on that
historic day. As a matter of fact, Dulmaine bailed out over St.
Martin, France, with the first stick of paratroopers dropped
into Normandy. He was a pathfinder and his mission was to guide
the others in by lights and radio.
Sport fans who remember Ed Dulmaine in the ring will agree
that he must have been one of the roughest wildcats ever dropped
on a surprised Jerry. Eddie was famed for his two-fisted attack
in the ring, his murderous right hand and for a spirit which
continually rallied to win against odds. He was a tough bird,
and no mistake.
Yet, the other day, Ed told us about that jump in Normandy
and he wasn't at all heroic. He told how they went across the
Channel in three C-47's, low so that enemy radar might not pick
them up so easily.
It was an eerily bright night, the patchwork of France gleaming
beneath the big transport planes as they hedgehopped toward the
release zone. Small-arms fire pattered through the wings and
tracers cut the sky like hot knives.
The paratroopers, with soot-blackened faces, burdened with
equipment, heavy with the tools of their trade, trench knives,
grenades, land mines, still found time to make jokes about their
chances of survival. They were all tough, nearly fearless men
- no one was ever assigned to an airborne outfit unless he requested
the duty - and yet the gnawing prescience of the combat soldier
was plaguing them all. Was this the end? Was this the prelude
to sudden death?
Behind the grim wisecrack and the laughing curse, they knew
only a fraction would return from this mission. Hard men, brave
men, and yet many, like Ed Dulmaine, probably found themselves
murmuring the Lord's Prayer over and over again as the great
planes droned on to the jump zone. A few moments later, Dulmaine
went swinging down through the warm darkness to hit hard on a
Back in Worcester, the populace went on living everyday lives,
albeit sobered by the radio reports of fighting in France. While
the greatest battle in history raged back and forth along a narrow
strip of sand in Normandy, Pvt. and Mrs. Anthony D'Andrea exchanged
wedding vows in Worcester. Pvt. D'Andrea was on furlough from
the Marine Corps.
The invasion meant so much to so many people all over the
world. Peter Kenzior, now of Shrewsbury, was with the Royal Canadian
Air Force at Brantford, Ontario, on June 6. It was bright and
sunny there too, when a mess sergeant named Greene heard the
first reports and broadcast them to squadron mates.
Later, there was a formation at which Brantford's commanding
officer verified the existence of a second front and immediately
launched into a pep talk. Chaplains held services for all religious
groups, as they did everywhere in the United Kingdom and the
Kenzior, an armament instructor, recalls feeling that the
invasion was what everyone had been waiting for, and that he
was anxious to get overseas as quickly as possible. Four months
later he had his wish.
When Ed Dulmaine was cutting himself out of his chute in Normandy,
slashing at the shroud lines and trying at the same time to locate
those machine gunners who were peppering his arms with hot steel,
another Worcester County man was peering into the pre-dawn darkness
as his LCI lumbered in toward "Utah" Beach. He was
Dick Stone, of Northboro, a pharmacist's mate who got into the
second wave of the big show carrying infantrymen of the 4th Division.
Dick says that he'll never forget those GI's of the 4th. With
the Channel choppier than it had ever been in his memory, with
sea sickness claiming many, and the certain conclusion of an
all-out battle at the end of the run, those D-Day soldiers wise-cracked
and sang their way across the water barrier to fortress Europe.
The LCI got ashore without a casualty although it was strafed
by a Jerry fighter plane and spattered by shrapnel from shore
batteries. There was plenty of fireworks that morning, beautiful,
if you didn't know that they were deadly.
It was a windy dawn, rough, with scud and low mist hanging
over the coast before the sun came up. Stone's boat put 209 men
ashore, then completed its mission by waiting to remove casualties.
This was first blood in Normandy. Famous names - Utah, and
Omaha Beach where the Big Red One, the 1st U.S. Infantry, went
ashore and found the German 352nd Division waiting for them.
The Jerries happened to be on maneuvers in that area and, for
a terrible moment in history, threatened to throw our troops
back into the sea from whence they came.
And, back in Worcester, though radios were blaring the news
and teletype messages came clattering in from the raging battle
area, the change was something less than revolutionary.
People went right on about their business. A 1940 automobile
was offered for sale at $785, less than it would bring four years
later. There was rationing and some discomfort, but no one complained.
In Worcester hospitals and private homes, on June 6, sons
were born to Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Service, Mr. and Mrs. William
Hollis, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Griswold, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Huchowski,
and to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Leone.
On the same day, daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. John
O'Malley, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ekengren, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Clay,
Mr. and Mrs. William Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. George Thebeault,
Mr. and Mrs. Roland Birtz, and to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Peterson.
Theirs were the D-Day babies.
To German defenders of the Atlantic wall, the area chosen
for invasion proved to be a complete surprise. Unfortunately,
for us, Hitler's army had one complete infantry division maneuvering
close to the spot where our 1st Infantry went ashore.
Their enemy troops inflicted heavy casualties on invasion
forces before they were finally beaten back into the interior.
German propagandists made the most of this and, for several days,
Europe was misinformed on the course of the battle by Hitler's
radio and press.
At Stalag Luft II, which was located in eastern Germany, an
American prisoner of war, Leo Turgeon, of Westboro, a B-17 pilot
who had been shot down over Holland nearly a year before, doubted
the official German announcement that the Allies had landed in
northern France but had been thrown back into the sea. Casualties,
the Germans reported, had been extremely high on the American
and British side, but low on theirs.
Turgeon and his buddies felt that if the Allies had indeed
landed, they'd stick. Therefore, they were elated when Jerry
continued to report mopping up operations for several days following
June 6, and then finally admitted that the invaders had secured
Although the majority of Stalag Luft II prison guards believed
the garbled official report, Turgeon said, a few were frankly
pessimistic, especially the older men who were not confirmed
Leo will never forget that day because it meant that the end
of his long incarceration as a prisoner of war was in sight.
Today he's a co-owner of the Westboro auto racing stadium and,
in the relatively peaceful atmosphere of hurtling midgets, the
outrages of war have faded into a rather confused, but very bad
And that's the way most Americans look back on the great invasion
on June 6, 1944. It was a highly successful operation, but it
was a gamble just as all massive attacks are gambles. The alternatives
were complete victory or miserable defeat.
The plan was as near perfect as such plans may be, barring
the inevitable vagaries of weather. Our forces went ashore in
a wild hail of shells, bombs and small arms fire. The situation
was often confused but there is a reason to believe that Hitler's
legions were outguessed from the very beginning.
This was undoubtedly the key battle of the western conflict
insofar as America was concerned. Indeed, June 6 has come to
be the most famous date of the war in the West. That was the
day. That was the beginning of the end for Hitler.
And, for the GI's who fought across France and Belgium, into
the very heart of Germany, it was the epitome of heroism and
sacrifice. They'll never forget the day called "D."