'The Cause Is Good'

June 06, 1994

News was as instantaneous then as now, only the means were short-wave radio and telegraph wires. The Sun's 7 a.m. Extra edition of June 6, 1944 -- on the street as people came to work -- had the story they had been waiting for:

ALLIES INVADING FRANCE

TROOPS LAND IN NORMANDY

In Cumberland, whistles blew and bells rang. In Hagerstown, fire alarms sounded. But in Baltimore, "Rejoicing quickly was tempered by anxiety for friends and loved ones." Bars were closed by order of the governor. Churches and synagogues opened doors to streams of worshipers. A record 751 donors gave blood at the Red Cross center.

The Sun's editorial, "The Cause Is Good," June 7, summed up feelings: "Four years of anxiety and preparation have been brought to bear on a short section of the French coast. Now the first great surge of excitement and release has worn away. And there is no disposition to cheer, nor any occasion to. The awful magnitude of these plans now going into execution, the mounting fury of the fighting, and the simple bravery of the men who have the task in hand, deny us that satisfaction."

Editor John W. Owens wrote in an adjoining column: "We are a great people, ladies and gentlemen; and great not alone in our numbers and our resources. We are great in the core of character that has preserved us a nation for a century and a half and, after many doubts, misgivings and hesitations, has made us fit for this hour of trial."

The home front was fully engaged. The Sun reported that more than 50 Martin Marauders made in Baltimore had swept the beaches delivering close air support to the men slogging forward.

D-Day may be seen by students today as just another event, two days after Rome fell to the Allies, a week before the first German pilotless planes hit London. But, emotionally, it was the central moment of the war in Europe, up to which everything led, from which everything flowed.

All the industrial mobilization prepared for it, building planes and landing craft that first saw action that day. All the diplomacy between London and Washington and Moscow anticipated it. The harsh war across North Africa and up Italy pointed to it. And everything after, from the liberation of Paris to the collapse of Germany, followed logically.

Which explains why the first Sun story, quoting verbatim the Allied communique stating that landings had begun, added an anonymous military translation: "This is it!"

By the 1940s, war was motorized. The daunting task was not merely to land men with guns but also one vehicle for every 4.7 men and gasoline distribution and maintenance systems, so they could move out. It was weeks before the world understood how successfully this had been done.

The landing, and battle on Omaha Beach, were for millions of Americans what would now be called the defining moment, crystallizing the national purpose, of their war.

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