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Troops storming Omaha beach on June 6, 1944, remembered as D–Day. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

Troops storming Omaha beach on June 6, 1944, remembered as D–Day. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

KUOW News

This NOT Just In: D-Day On The West Coast

Feliks Banel
06/03/2011

On June 6, 1944 more than 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. While the East Coast slept, people on the West Coast listened to live updates on the radio throughout the night.

TRANSCRIPT

Bob Hope was home in Los Angeles that late spring night in 1944, when World War II took a dramatic turn.

Hope: "What's happened these past few hours not one of us will ever forget. How could you forget?"

In California and all along the West Coast that June 5 evening, it wasn't quite bedtime yet. In many homes, the radio was on. In Seattle, there was melodrama from San Francisco on KOMO. On KIRO, a dance band played live from Hollywood.

CBS Audio: "Now CBS presents the music of Lennie Conn and His Orchestra from the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of the nation's film capital."

In the air — and on the airwaves — it felt and sounded like a typical night. But all that changed just after 9:30 Seattle time.

CBS Radio (Erwin Darlington): "The news to this moment is all supplied by the enemy. The Germans, through the Berlin Radio, tell us that the invasion, that's the enemy's word for it, has started. There is no Allied confirmation."

It was the news Americans had been waiting for, and one of the greatest nights in broadcasting history: radio coverage of D–Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi–occupied France, with more than 160,000 troops landing on the beaches of Normandy. It was the first time that history in the making came right into American living rooms in real time. The only thing was, east of the Rockies, most of the country missed it. They were asleep.

But the Pacific Time Zone was wide awake, and people stayed up to follow the action throughout the night. It was not quite 1:00 a.m. Seattle time when KOMO and KIRO carried the official announcement live from Allied Headquarters in London.

Colonel R. Ernest Dupuy: "Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France."

West Coast D–Day radio listeners became the first Americans to experience wall–to–wall coverage; a media practice that would become increasingly common as the 20th century progressed, especially as TV became the dominant medium.

But on that momentous June night in 1944 radio was still king, and listeners clung to the familiar, comforting voice of Bob Hope.

Hope: "You sat up all night by the radio and heard the bulletins, the flashes, the voices coming across from England, the commentators, the pilots returning from their greatest of all missions."

In the East, America slept on in darkness. In the West, lamps burned bright, kettles whistled and radio dials glowed long into the night.

Hope: "You sat there, and dawn began to sneak in, and you thought of the hundreds of thousands of kids you'd seen in the camps the past two or three years."

As daybreak spread west, radios came on and newspapers began to land on front porches along the eastern seaboard and across Middle America. The nervous celebration of D–Day was finally a coast–to–coast affair.

Hope: "The sun came up and you sat there looking at that huge black headline, that one great black word with the exclamation point: 'Invasion.' The one word that the whole world has waited for."

Hope: "Folks, we'll be seeing you again next year, and the best of the best to you and your boys across the sea. Goodnight!"

I'm Feliks Banel for This NOT Just In.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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