It is easy to imagine the excitement that Americans felt on the morning of June 6, 1944, rising as they did to news that the Allied Expeditionary Force had landed on the Normandy beaches. It was a quiet excitement, however; more satisfaction that the moment for which the entire country had prepared and sacrificed for two years had finally arrived. Even that satisfaction was mixed with anxiety, for there was no guarantee that the landings would be successful. Folks stayed tuned to their radios and exchanged what news they had over lunch counters and back yard fences.
By 10:00 p.m., Eastern War Time, Americans could breathe a cautious sigh of relief. The Allied troops had a toe-hold on the beaches, and they were moving inland.
Ten o’clock on Tuesday also meant, as it had since its debut in 1938, that it was time for the Pepsodent Show, hosted by Bob Hope. The writers had had to scramble to cut much of the comedy and rewrite the show to fit the mood of the day. And they did it perfectly. You can listen to Hope’s opening dialogue here. Please do so. It’s one of the most moving descriptions of not just D-Day, but what the effort and sacrifice was all about. And Hope managed to do so in just under three minutes.
“God bless those kids across the English Channel,” Hope concludes, and without further introduction, Frances Langford, a Hope regular, sang “Ave Maria.” Halfway through the 14 minute program, she sings “Goodnight, Wherever You Are.”
Bob Hope pronounced the benediction for the day.
The broadcasts of June 6, and Hope’s program have a startling immediacy for events that took place 75 years ago. The emotion of the time was so intense, it seems to have escaped the hearts of those who felt it then, and survives on the ether, waiting to enter the hearts of those who understand what the sacrifice was all about.
We will commemorate that sacrifice two weeks from today.