The Radio News Coverage of D-Day: June 6, 1944
The sixth of June, 1944 marked the day (designated by the army as “D-Day”) that Allied forces would storm the beaches of Axis-controlled Normandy, France in a massive invasion, from both the sea and the air. That day, one hundred and sixty thousand troops commanded by General (and later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived on a 50-mile stretch of beach. They were supported by more than five thousand ships and thirteen thousand aircraft. Though this attack cost the lives of over nine thousand Allied soldiers, the invasion resulted in the establishment of a foothold on Nazi-controlled mainland Europe and thus began the march across the continent (United States of America).
It was well known in the days leading up to the invasion that such an event was coming, but it was not known when or where by anyone outside of high-ranking Allied officials and military strategists. People around the world waited on edge for the imminent coming of such a momentous event (Widner).
Among those waiting were broadcasters and reporters around the world. Multiple times, German propaganda stations broadcast false reports of the invasion having already taken place in an effort to beguile the Allies into divulging the real plans for the time and location of the attack. Thus, when the attack really began, early broadcasts were made with some reservations as to the validity of the reports (Widner).
Reporters from both NBC and CBS (the two primary stations at the time) were waiting to broadcast this historical event. In fact, because the attack was known to be on the near horizon, many of the reporters’ remarks had been previously written before the invasion had even taken place. Though this was to be a major turning point in World War II, and therefore had the potential to be a major “scoop,” the stations had agreed to pool the majority of their reports in order to provide the public with the most comprehensive coverage (Widner). In pooled reports, individual reports and bulletins are shared amongst reporters of both stations as opposed to the standard practice of each station keeping their reports private in an effort to provide the most exclusive coverage of an event.
|Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower talking to his troops|
prior to the D-Day invasion.
This was an important event in the history of radio because shortly after, the medium was succeeded by the television as the main mode of information for most of the country. At this time, however, this was one of the final major events to be broadcast exclusively on the radio. Though this event was not a major turning point in that it significantly changed radio, it was significant in the sense that it was one of the final times that radio was the nation’s and in fact the world’s primary means for communication before the advent of television and other means of mass communication. The next time America was involved in a major conflict, it was televised and this drastically changed the nation’s outlook on the United States’ involvement. But at this time, with nation united around their family radio sets, national support was near unanimous as the nation fought against the Nazis and the Japanese. This illustrates the difference that differing methods of mass communication can have on the viewpoints of the people getting the information. Though World War II was equally as vicious and violent as later wars such as Vietnam, the media through which the public was informed greatly impacted the public’s perception of the conflict.
Though radio now reaches a smaller audience with a more limited variety of programming, such broadcasts as the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, the announcement of D-Day, and the breaking news of V-J Day which marked the complete end of World War II will always be important landmarks in the history of the medium and also in the history of mass communication as a whole.
"BBC News Summary Announces D-Day." BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2011. Web. 24 Mar 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/
"D-Day, As It Happened." CBS: 06 JUN 1944. Radio. 24 Mar 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vSpvFLpS7I>.
Widner, James. "D-Day: A Radio Perspective." Radio Days: Old Time Radio. N.p., 2009. Web. 24 Mar 2011. <http://www.otr.com/dday.shtml>.