Thanks to the old time radio collections at the Internet Archive here are two versions of what June 6, 1944, sounded like to the World War II era listening audience.
The first presents 45 minutes of selections from the actual all-night CBS radio news broadcast, starting after midnight with the CBS and Associated Press translations of reports of an “invasion” overheard from German radio, cautions about possibly deceptive announcements, and eventually the allies’ confirmation, with reports from Edward R. Murrow and Gen. Eisenhower.
The second item is more in keeping with my podcast theme of radio drama. During the war years, the United Press, which competed with Associated Press for newspaper and broadcast affiliates, created a dramatic series portraying the work of its foreign correspondents, titled “Soldiers of the Press.”
This Soldiers of the Press D-Day Invasion episode was broadcast several weeks after the events depicted, and presents behind the scenes stories of the day’s coverage as a whole, from reporters starting their secret assignments to UP editors back in the United States waiting for the official dispatches — quite similar to Robert Trout’s situation at CBS.
Most episodes of the series focused on a single United Press war correspondent on the front lines, in a “how I got the story” format, complete with “live” interviews, first-person narration and battlefield sound effects. As a result, many oldtime-radio collections incorrectly identify the speakers as United Press reporters, rather than actors back in a New York studio.
Virgil Pinkley, European general manager of UP, and correspondents including Collie Small and Richard MacMillan are named in the D-Day Invasion episode. As usual, the actors voicing their “roles” aren’t identified.
Former United Press correspondent Walter Cronkite, on an NPR program, commented years later on the strangeness of hearing an unidentified New York actor saying “This is Walter Cronkite…” and reading one of his UP dispatches in what Cronkite characterized as an “action-adventure show” promoting the wire service.
Ironically, Cronkite’s own voice became more familiar than most of those 1940s radio stars — as reporter and anchor on CBS radio and television, reporting two more wars, the Civil Rights movement and the Apollo moon landings. Cronkite also returned to D-Day’s Omaha Beach in 1963 with Eisenhower for a 20-years-after feature, and reminisced about that trip and D-Day for NPR.
Cronkite’s role in D-Day coverage is not headlined in the “Invasion” episode, but other stories of his were given the full Soldiers of the Press treatment in programs that are part of the Old Time Radio Researchers Group collection at Archive.org.
Here are a Cronkite episode from 1943 and two from 1945.
Symbol of Caduceus
(Alas, the archive’s program file names and notes have numerous typographical errors, including references to Walter “Cronkike” and Virgil “Pinkney.” For a more clearly “sourced” report on the program see The Definitive Soldiers of the Press Radio Log with Walter Cronkite at DigitalDeli.)
While Cronkite is not mentioned, the June 1944 Soldiers of the Press broadcast is fascinating, if understandably short on details. Check out history.com’s D-Day page or The Library of Congress for some perspective — including statistics that couldn’t be told back then: 18,000 paratroopers leading the way for 176,000 troops who arrived on history’s largest invasion fleet, some 6,000 vessels, supported by 13,000 aircraft. For more personal accounts, see the veterans’ stories in the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project: D-Day 60th anniversary.
Also from the Library of Congress: By dawn in America, The New York Times had an extra on the street…
Research note: If you are searching The New York Times website for that “extra,” the big page-one “Allied Armies Land…” banner headline may not be the best search tool, since it covers several stories. It does get you to the full page using the Times archive in a library’s Proquest Historical Newspapers subscription, such as the one at the end of this link for RU students only. (Your tuition dollars at work.)
Otherwise, try one of the individual column headlines, such as, “EISENHOWER ACTS; U.S., British, Canadian Troops Backed by Sea, Air Forces” in the nyTimes.com archive search.
For more about the series, see the JHeroes.com “Soldiers of the Press” page and links on that page.