75 years later, D-Day memories still resonate

In today’s world, where communication is king, we plan our lives around the constant information of smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, and the 24 hour news cycle. Sometimes we forget what the world was like when news was much slower arriving.

Seventy five years ago today on June 5, 1944, the world was holding its breath.

Something was going to happen. Everyone knew our invasion of Nazi-held Europe was coming.

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But no one knew how our military and allies were going to do it, or where, or when. They waited.

The Springfield Daily News on June 5 reported allied bombings around Calais, France. Everyone expected the anticipated invasion of Europe to take place there. The fighting was fierce in Italy, and Rome was finally in the hands of the Allies.

That night families huddled around the household radio. President Roosevelt addressed the nation about the taking of Rome. The newspaper would have the full text of the speech the next day.

But the headlines of June 6 would not be about Rome.

The Allied landings at Normandy had begun after midnight while Ohioans slept. That was just in time for the early newspapers to have the breaking news.

New Carlisle resident Bill Berry remembers D-Day well.

He was 10 years old then and living with his family in Sugar Grove Hill, just across the National Road from the Masonic Home.

Although he was young, Bill had an important job on D-Day. He was to help deliver the breaking news to the waiting community.

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The Berry kids knew all about newspaper delivery. Oldest brother Don had given up the route when he was drafted. He was somewhere in Europe on D-Day, but the family did not know where. Second brother Jim was now the newspaper boy for Sugar Grove Hill and the Masonic Home. Bill was his erstwhile assistant.

There were a lot of papers to deliver and their delivery area was big because it included the Masonic Home. At that time there were morning, afternoon, and Sunday editions, which had the boys delivering 50 to 150 newspapers for each.

The invasion had begun and these newspapers were the way that folks learned of the landings in Normandy. Bill remembers people were anxious to get hold of a newspaper.

According to Berry, important breaking news arrived all day and there had to be an extra edition that they also had to deliver.

The headline of the Springfield Daily News Final Edition that day was ALLIED INVASION ARMY ADVANCING IN FRANCE. The paper was full of the timeline of events of the big day so far. There was a map showing that the invasion hadn’t happened at Calais after all. There was an informative timeline of war events starting with the German invasion of Poland in 1939. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia had been rung to celebrate the landing. There were notices of special prayer services being held in area churches.

Berry said that he wished he had a copy of that paper today so he could read it.

After the war Bill would take over the paper route from his brother. To keep the route in the family, his sister Nancy took over after him. The Berry siblings delivered the Springfield newspapers from 1942 to 1955.

Berry did other work for the war effort. He would pull his wagon to collect used paper for paper drives. He and his mother would take long walks in the fields and wetlands collecting milkweed pods. The silk in milkweed pods was buoyant and was used as a stuffing for life jackets at a time before the synthetics that we use now were invented.

When letters would arrive from his brother, his mother would read them to the children gathered around her. Bill remembers that she cried and worried, but the fact that his father who had been in WW I had a calming influence. Their prayers were answered when Don came home after the war.

Local families had many different links to D-Day. Linda Jenkins Maurer didn’t know until she graduated from high school that her father was at the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Rodger Jenkins was only 20 years old and fresh out of training at Great Lakes Naval Station. He manned the landing craft at Omaha Beach and provided cover for the soldiers with a machine gun mounted on the back of the boat. Later he would have the solemn duty of gathering up the fallen on the beach. She never heard him speak of the horror, but imagined he spoke to her brothers about it.

It had to be overwhelming for a 20 year old, she said.

Hustead resident Lois Pelekoudas was an elementary student in Springfield and remembers knitting squares to be sown together into knitted “quilts” or afghans, and sent overseas. She didn’t know if the blanket from her class even made it until years later at a Memorial Day observance a man who had been an aircraft mechanic at a base in England was telling about how much it meant to him to receive a hand knitted blanket from elementary students in Springfield. She was so pleased that it had encouraged him.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of that great victory tomorrow, we need to remember those brave heroes who gave their all to make it successful.

But don’t forget they were supported by families and communities, who knitted comforters, wrote letters, gathered paper, milkweed pods, and tin for the war effort, and delivered the newspapers.

All had a part in pushing back the great evil. All need to be remembered with gratitude.

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