On Monday, June 6, 2005, aging allied veterans gathered on the rain-whipped beaches of northwestern France and quietly honored friends who had fallen 61 years earlier in the battle that changed the course of World War II.
In Michigan, the anniversary received little notice. But in 1944, the invasion of German-occupied Western Europe was a time for apprehension and prayer.
Michigan’s night owls were the first to hear of the invasion. The news, though fragmentary, went over the airwaves around 1:00 A.M. (Detroit time) and was heard mostly by patrons of all-night theaters, where it was announced over the speaker system. Most Michiganians awoke to learn of the much-anticipated invasion. Newspapers across the state blared the news with banner headlines, like The (Lansing) State Journal’s “INVASION” and the Marquette Daily Mining Journal’s “EUROPE INVADED!”
Governor Frank Kelly designated June 6 as “D-Day in Michigan” and set aside a minute of statewide meditation and prayer to mark the moment that “has arrived to test our hearts.” In schools, factories and homes, Michiganians paused at whatever they were doing, bowed their heads and paid tribute to the men fighting on the bloody beaches in distant France.
Throughout the day, many churches kept their doors open all day for those who wanted to pray. Some churches also held a special invasion prayer service later that evening, reporting “a marked increase in attendance” for a weekday service. Factories and schools provided prayer services for their employees or students.
The invasion of Europe gave Americans a renewed realization of the importance of the work they were doing√Ø¬ø¬Ωthe making of war materiel, the harvesting of essential food supplies or the collection of scrap and other war-essential materials√Ø¬ø¬Ωto help win the war. Michiganians responded appropriately. In one part of the state, striking industrial workers returned to work after they heard of the invasion.
According to the director of the Office of Civilian Defense, the statewide observance was “very, very successful.” He concluded, “it [was] the first time in [Michigan's] history when so great a body of people [had] been brought together for a single moment of prayer.”
PHOTO CAPTION: In one of the most famous photos of World War II, Allied commander General Dwight Eisenhower (left) pauses to talk with Lt. Wallace C. Strobel of the 101st Airborne Division on the day before the D-Day invasion. After the war, Strobel wrote, “Once he learned I was from Michigan [he talked] to me about fishing in Michigan.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Library of Congress
For more great stories on Michigan√Ø¬ø¬Ωs past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/.