In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, the people of Pennsylvania’s Coal Region learned the momentous news that Allied forces had begun the invasion of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.” Thoughts and prayers turned to the local boys who were participating in one of the largest military operations in human history.
The following are dispatches and stories demonstrating how communities across the Coal Region responded on D-Day.
In Carbondale, Mayor William L. Monahan issued a proclamation urging stores in that city to close at 3:15 p. m. He also recommended that industries and factories not on war work take time out at the same hour to allow employees to silently wish our servicemen Godspeed in their attack of the Nazi forces.
Special services were held in Carbondale churches last night. A special D-Day service was held yesterday afternoon following the sounding of the whistles and tolling of bells in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
– The Tribune, Scranton, June 7, 1944
D-Day in Freeland dawned bright and clear at 5:46 a. m, as an orange-yellow sun, which six hours earlier had sent its beams over American troops pushing up beaches of Northern France, peek over the rooftops of a sleeping and quiet town. Ten minutes later it had moved up in the sky and hid its bright face behind a gloomy blue overcast.
Only early risers and nightshift men going home to bed knew about the invasion. Whistles did not blow and church bells did toll.
Men going to work at nearby collieries stopped at Fairchild’s News Agency for first copies of the Standard-Sentinel. Only a few were on hand for morning paper employees had stopped the shipment of the first papers, without D-Day news, in order to bring out a special edition with last-minute flashes. By 6:30, the latest editions with new details had arrived and were being snatched, up quickly.
The invasion, besides proving a surprise to the tense Germans, put the quietus on many North Side residents who had been setting invasion dates since the first of May. As far as could be learned, no one had guessed June 6th.
The false alarms in recent weeks, the steady pounding of Germany from the air without any outward evidence of the invasion to come, made some North Siders feel that there would be no invasion from the West, that the Allied main effort would be in Italy and the Balkans. Today’s news ended these beliefs.
As the United Nations armies, fed by mighty U. S. factories and the combined intelligence and work of U. S. labor and management, moved into the historic pathway of invasion armies in Northern France on the shortest route to Berlin. Freeland and North Side residents knew that hundreds of their boys were taking part in the air and on the ground in smashing down the ramparts of Nazi and Fascist intolerance and tyranny.
– The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, June 7, 1944
Interest in the news of the invasion of the French coast by the Allies was shown in Hazleton today in many forms.
Many person brought their portable radios to their places of employment to listen in once in a while, and some miners took their sets into the mines where they kept tabs on the news from the Normandy beachhead.
The miners turned out for work as usual and all collieries were operated except Evans at Beaver Meadows, where work on construction of new coal pockets made suspension necessary.
– The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, June 6, 1944
A survey made today of the church services yesterday when news came that the Allied push into Europe had started revealed that a large percentage of Hazleton’s population went to church to pray for victory and safety for the boys who were storming the channel beachheads.
Ministers reported that a steady stream of persons went to the churches at all hours of the day and that the attendance at many formal services last night was very large, matching Sunday worship turnouts.
In one church the minister found the janitor had not learned of “D-Day” and donned his bathrobe to open the edifice. As he did so the stream of persons coming to pray or meditate started. Ministers commented on the many strangers who came to the churches.
One edifice had so large a turnout of those who went to church in the morning that the minister called for formal services which were welcomed by those who had come for private prayer and meditation.
Last night some of the congregations were given regular services with the full choir in service.
Hazleton met Invasion Day in a sober frame of mind. Radios were in operation in many homes all day and portables were used in many offices and business places…
– The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, June 7, 1944
Residents of the community observed with prayer the momentous announcement that American, English and Canadian forces crossed the Channel and landed on the Normandy coast of France. The invasion was begun between the hours of midnight and 1:30 a. m. The official announcement came over the radio at 3:32 a. m., (our time.)
In countless homes throughout the community the mothers and fathers, who have sons “over there,” were on their knees, praying for their loved ones and for success of the invasion.
Many went to work this morning with heavy hearts and troubled minds, their thoughts on that Channel far away. Strange silence gripped them as they wended their weary way. They exchanged few words, if any, except “did you hear, the Invasion has begun?”
Three hundred employees of the Pre-Vue Sport Wear, Inc., 31 North Spruce, and 150 employees of the Sunbury Manufacturing ‘ Company, Sixth and Locust, reported, and after hearing of the invasion, decided to go to church and then go home…
– Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, June 6, 1944
News of the long awaited Allied invasion of Europe was received with calm in the Lackawanna Valley yesterday and was marked by solemn services in churches throughout the region during the day and last night.
Coming at an early hour yesterday morning, the news that the Allies had landed in France found few persons in the Scranton area on the streets and it was not until The Tribune reached the public in the morning that the majority of regional residents received the information…
Practically all of the more than 150 churches and their congregations totaling more than 50,000 persons conducted special D-Day service last night…
The sounding of factory whistles and tolling of church bells yesterday at 3:15 p.m. officially signified the day of prayer and was meant to call persons to reverent meditation, the Rev. Mr. Woods explained…
Mayor Howard J. Snowdon:
“Now that the hour of invasion of Nazi-controlled Europe has come, it is fitting and proper that we should pause and meditate on the important event at hand.
Let us all, therefore go to our respective houses of worship and pray to Almighty God for help and guidance in this crucial hour. Let us all firmly resolve to continue our efforts with greater vigor in the purchase of bonds, in the war plants and in every activity that will help the war.
Let us display our flags as a symbol that we are united on this great day.”
While regional residents were following the war news with the greatest anxiety, hundreds of mothers, fathers, wives, and sweethearts of area men who have been known to be based in England shed many a tear during worried moments. Many were observed kneeling in meditation in local churches during last night’s services.
Homes in residential sections throughout the city were bedecked with American Flags and the Stars and Stripes later in the day were unfurled in front of business places in Central City…
Joint services were held by the congregations of Madison Avenue Temple and Temple Israel in the latter temple last night. Rabbi Arthur T. Buch and Cantor William S. Horn officiated. A special service also was held in Linden Street Temple and was attended by members of Sandy Weisburger Post, No. 165, Jewish War Veterans. Rabbi Henry Guterman conducted the services…
– The Tribune, Scranton, June 7, 1944
Simultaneously with the announcement of the invasion, churches in Pottsville and most towns throughout the county were thrown open today for prayers to be offered for its success.
Bells of many churches were rung announcing that the long awaited hour had arrived and as soon as the public began to stream there in ones and twos to offer pleas on bended knee. There was intense but suppressed excitement which was gradually replaced by calmness as radio and news reports brought encouraging reports, lending hope that the prayers were being answered…
– Pottsville Republican, Pottsville, June 6, 1944
Tears, cheers, excitement and complacency – but above all, prayer – mingled together in Shenandoah and vicinity today when news of the long-awaited invasion of Hitler’s “unconquerable” fortress in Europe broke with resounding echo over the entire world.
Men, women and children received the first flash messages when they arose from their beds at various intervals; and hundreds turned first to prayer and church, where the only answer to Victory and Peace can be found.
It was noticeable that the residents of this area were silent as they went to worship, work and school. There was no noisy celebration, for mothers, sisters and wives were thinking only of their sons, brothers and husband and sweethearts who at this very moment are in the thick of battle on foreign soil. “Isn’t it wonderful?” was heard spoken by many, only to be crossed with “Isn’t it terrible?”
There were varied expressions of surprise, happiness, anxiety and fear as the word “invasion” rocked the foundations of the universe. Most of the people were reticent, according to reports, knowing full well the seriousness of the occasion, realizing that anything can happen now, yet hoping against hope that all would go well, “according to plan…”
– Evening Herald, Shenandoah, June 6, 1944
Wyoming Valley residents awoke today to hear in definite terms, the news that has been whispered and hinted at for months in every family circle where fighting men are overseas.
As in a great wave, symbolic of the wave of men, munitions and material of war now sweeping across the channel to France, thousands of persons of the home front, representative of every creed, race, and religion poured into Wyoming Valley’s churches to offer prayer for the fighting forces…
Here are some of the most important highlights summing up the effects of the invasion news since dawn this morning:
Wilkes-Barre City schools were dismissed following morning sessions at 11 a.m. today in order to permit children to join their parents at places of worship, Superintendent A.E. Bacon announced.
All central city stores under jurisdiction of Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Merchants’ Association remained closed until noon today under a pre-arranged schedule so that employees could attend services…
The baseball game between Wilkes-Barre and Albany scheduled for Artillery Park, was postponed…
Other glimpses of the effect of the latest war development on the home front indicated: Heavy trading on local stock market exchanges; pick-up in the purchases of United States War Bonds at banks and post-offices; be-decking of central city streets with the Stars and Stripes, and raising of the colors over Honor Roll plaques; flood of telephone calls to the offices of the daily newspaper as to confirmation of the invasion news.
– The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, June 6, 1944
Featured Image: Young women praying in Scranton, Pennsylvania on June 6, 1944