Listening to the War News......
in Reilly Springs, Texas
by: Bobby McDonald
As the stones are being prepared for engraving on the Hopkins County Veterans' Memorial and we observe
the 68th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, it only seems proper that we reflect on the great sacrifices
that have been made for our freedoms.
Yesterday (June 6, 2012), we marked the 68th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, D-Day, June 6, 1944. And, I was impelled to do a little bit of research, knowing that my grandmother and grandfather, Dan and Charlotte "Lottie" McDonald, would have been on the farm, at the "homeplace" in Reilly Springs, Texas. They had three sons and a son-in-law....Neal McDonald, David McDonald, Eugene "June" McDonald, and Billie Temples all in the war. I can remember my grandmother telling me in later life, it was the hardest thing she ever did, sending her sons off to World War II, to places she only heard about on the radio. And, how she and my granddad "hung on every word" they received from them via mail, while they were serving our country, and that throughout the time that she kept a keen eye on the old dirt road that traversed the two miles south of Reilly Springs, fearful that at some time they'd come and tell her that one of her kin had been killed in the war. Meanwhile, my grandmother had two younger brothers and a number of cousins serving in the war, and my grandfather had a younger brother serving, as well.
They told of sitting by the family radio and listening to the war news, every day, and how my grandfather would trace the war reports on a map, where his sons were located, hoping to get word of the latest news. He'd get up of a morning and turn the radio on, before daylight, and listen as he ate his bacon and eggs, come in at noon, and listen to the farm report, while he thumbed through a Dr. Legear's Livestock Manual, looking up the latest treatment for the "mites" in his chickens, and listen to what the price of cotton was doing, on the market. Then, no one could utter a word, while the news correspondent gave the latest war updates. The same scenario would be "played-out" at supper time and before they went to bed.
We can only imagine them sitting "glued" to every word, sitting in a hot kitchen, with no air conditioning, she stirring up a "batch" of biscuits or cornbread, to go with the summer squash, fresh tomatoes, and purple-hull peas she'd cooked from the garden, as sweat poured down their faces, and their knitted brows, fearful of the news that they might receive.
Eldest son, Cpl. Neal F. McDonald, was serving in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Okinawa. Sgt. David Dan McDonald was serving in Normandy, New Guinea, Mindenao, and Australia, and Pfc Eugene R. McDonald was serving in England, France, and Belgium. Son-in-law, Pfc Billie K. Temples, was serving in the Army Medical Corps in New Caledonia, Pelieu, and Leyte.
Lowell Thomas, one of the most respected correspondents would have been bringing the war news. The following are excerpts from what he delivered on June 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1944:
June 6, 1944 - Tonight's communique just in from D-Day invasion headquarters summarizes the news. "Allied forces, it says, "have succeeded in their initial landings in France; and fighting continues." The vaunted Atlantic wall was not so formidable as had been anticipated. Allied troops are battling in the streets of the Norman city of Caen. That place is nine and a half miles inland. The events of today were studded with records. The greatest fleet of ships ever to set sail---four thousand ships and thousands of lesser craft. The greatest army ever to strike at a hostile shore---that vast force of men and machines, tens of thousand of men increasing to hundreds of thousands, millions before it is over. And the greatest air assault ever delivered.
President Roosevelt says that the decision to launch today's blow was made last December, at the Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin conference in Teheran. In Soviet Russia the D-Day invasion news was announced with all the military fanfare that attends the proclamation of a great Red Army victory.
June 7, 1944 - General Eisenhower paid his first visit to the embattled Norman Coast, making the trip aborad a British warship. He made a tour of all the beachheads, without, however, going ashore. The news emphasizes heavy fighting---increasingly heavy. The Allied troops have cleared the Norman beaches which they seized, and have linked up the beachheads. In Italy the Allied advance is continuing at lightning speed. The Japs in invaded India appear to be in a state of collapse tonight!
June 8, 1944 - We know definitely that the first phase of the great invasion is a success. This is stated at supreme invasion headquarters, and the reports from there are consistently conservative. The people of the old Norman town of Bayeux almost went wild with joy today as Allied troops poured into their town. All indications are that the Germans are bringing up forces from many directions for concentrations against the Allied beachheads. Today the Allies captured the important railroad town of Viterbo-on the main line from Rome to Florence.
As you can see, the news in June 1944 was good news for my grandparents in Reilly Springs, although they had no confirmation that their boys were O.K.!
You can feel the worry and anticipation, as they went about their daily chores or milking the Jersey cows, tending to the garden, laying-by the cotton, washing on a rub board, and canning food for the winter months. It's hard for us to even fathom the great sacrifices that were made to keep us free and for us to enjoy the life that we live, because of these great sacrifices!
I have copies of their ration books, where they had to use "stamps" to purchase sugar and other rationed items, at the Reilly Springs General Store, and stretch the sugar while making preserves, and to purchase tires for the old truck they had for transportation. It was truly a "waiting game" for them as they attempted to "make it through the war!"
Fortunately for my family, all four uncles came home, and my grandmother never had to face the officers in the black vehicle, coming up the lane to her home, delivering the news that a son, brother, or son-in-law had perished. Many others weren't so fortunate!
Now you know why D-Day and its celebration is so important! It was the major effort that began to reduce the German siege on the world and would bring an end to WWII.
"Mama Mac" might have been "stirring up" one of these cakes in celebration of the good
news, to serve at supper, 68 years ago!