The Daily Journal of Tupelo, in observance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, printed reproductions of four front pages from 1944 in a special section of this year’s June 6 edition.
From Tuesday, June 6, 1944 through Friday, June 10, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France dominated the front page of the Northeast Mississippi newspaper as no doubt it did every other daily in the country.
The biggest headlines were on articles about the invasion and its progress, but still finding their way on to the front pages were three familiar subjects that still resonate: politics, race and religion.
The only local story on the front page June 6 was a four-paragraph article announcing a “special D-Day service of prayer and intercession” at All Saints Episcopal Church.”
The next day, June 7, a longer article was headlined, “President Leads Nation In Prayer For Strength.”
Noting that the text of the prayer was on page 2, the article reported from Washington: “In reverent words that went out to a newly-hopeful world, President Roosevelt tonight beseeched almighty God to give strength and victory to Allied invasion forces now launched upon the greatest crusade of modern times — the emancipation of Europe’s suffering people.”
Roosevelt had composed the prayer the night before the invasion and it was broadcast on radio June 6.
It’s a moving prayer, well worth looking up on the internet if you haven’t seen it. Seems like there’s not a lot of opposition to public prayers in times of great national peril.
A one-column headline on that same front page — June 7 — said, “Invasion Cools Convention Heat.”
The first paragraph of the article, datelined Jackson, said: “The invasion cooled the anticipated heat of the scheduled Democratic caucuses of the seven districts held here tonight. However, the anti-New Dealers who claim a majority still hang on to their plan to fight for a state’s rights program to spur the national convention delegates with more strength in party affairs.”
The next day there was a follow-up article from Jackson on the state delegates to the National Democratic Convention and their instructions, which included fighting for states’ rights. In those days that meant maintaining racial segregation.
Then, on June 9, another front page headline proclaimed “Racial Equality Plank Unlikely, Democrats Say.”
The lead paragraph reported: “Informed sources said tonight there is little likelihood that a racial equality plank, which is vigorously opposed by southern Democrats, will be written into the 1944 Democratic platform, and they asserted that the New Deal has made no organized effort in that direction.”
It was four years later, in 1948, when national Democrats did adopt a civil rights plank which, along with President Truman’s advocacy of civil rights, caused delegates from Mississippi and Alabama to walk out of the convention and help form a States’ Rights party.
Thus began the end of years of the “Solid South” voting Democratic, dating back to Reconstruction.
Another interesting headline June 9 declared, “FDR’s Physical Condition Good.” The story said: “President Roosevelt’s physical condition was removed as a probable factor in his 1944 plans today when his personal physician, Vice Admiral Ross T. McIntire, reported unqualifiedly that the chief executive is in excellent health.”
Less than a year later, on April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
It seems likely Dr. McIntire exaggerated Roosevelt’s “excellent health” report, coming as it did five months before the presidential election.
But there weren’t as many questions raised about such things in those days as there would be now.
Back then newspapers and radio were the main sources of news, and few doubted the veracity of their reports. And reporters were not as prone to delve into the personal lives of the nation’s leaders as they are today.