Thursday, April 9, 2009

Allies Invade France on D-Day

Taylor KennedyJour 300D-Day, or the Allied invasion France, was a campaign that became altered by many unforeseen complexities, many of which resulted in much confusion and loss. The brutal events that took place on the beaches in France on June 6th, 1944 have since been foreclosed, written about, and made into movies and documentaries, but reading newspapers at the time might have left you with a completely different notion.

“Churchill Says Losses Less than Anticipated” were the letters emblazoned across the Los Angeles times on June 7th, 1944, the day following the D-Day invasion. The article quotes and summarizes a press release given by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in which he declares the invasion of the beaches in France had taken place in “a thoroughly satisfactory manner.” Afterwards, Churchill outlines the major points of the operation and claims each had gone off without a hitch. He claims the beach and air landings of troops were on point and successful, aerial bombings had been on target, and “that tactical surprise had been achieved over the Germans.” Churchill’s statement ends with a gratuitous salute to American Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery and an ode to the “ardor and spirit of the troops… when they were embarking.” Had you been reading the L.A. Times on June 7th, 1944 you would have been lead to believe that perhaps nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the D-Day invasion.

Soon enough, however, articles began to surface that painted the true grotesque picture of the D-Day invasion. An article that appeared in the L.A. Times on October 21, 1945 features the first-hand account of Lt. Col. Randolph Leigh who says that “almost nothing went according to schedule” on D-Day. Leigh tells of how foggy weather caused Allied ships to miss their landmarks, letting the troops ashore directly into German fire. Air Force bombing plans were altered at the last second causing the bombs to be dropped half a mile inland, away from hostile forces and onto civilian territory. Naval bombardment also did nothing for the troops in taking out hillside guns, as most of nine thousand rockets missed their marks. All this confusion led to “large losses” before the Allies finally took the beach fronts. At the end of the day “1127 American Army and Navy officers and men lie dead, 3671 are wounded or injured, 24 are captured, and 2674 are missing.” Not exactly the perfect operation that Churchill had described.The coverage of Churchill’s press release was typical of journalism in America in 1944. Franklin D. Roosevelt had long since established the trend of government agencies feeding the “official” story to the press, and in a hurry to get to print first, reporters would print the releases almost word for word. This led to purely objective articles but when considering the source, it is not a far out allegation that government manipulation of reporters occurred. Henry Luce, publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, claimed the freedom of the press “was no longer self-evident” as it was controlled by “big government” through publicity activities. Later, Joseph McCarthy would build a career on this exact technique of rushing official stories into newspapers. In most cases, there would be no time for a reporter to do a more investigative article on the subject, and it makes sense that more in-depth coverage of D-Day did not occur until about a year later, after the end of the war. SOURCES:

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