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Omens in the sky before D-Day

The Story

They don't know where and they don't know when, but Britons know something big is coming. The Second World War has been raging across Europe for almost five years as the Allied forces battle to repel Adolf Hitler's invading German troops. Now, in early June of 1944, rumours in England hint that a concentrated Allied attack is looming. The "mind-filling roar" of warplanes overhead is such that CBC war reporter A.E. Powley wonders: has it started? In his dispatch from London, Powley notes the "acute sense of imminence" about the coming operations in western Europe. Nobody seems keen to talk about the impending invasion, and it's not clear whether that's due to nervousness or nonchalance. But everyone is aware they're on the "extreme edge of tremendous events," and the only question is just when "it" is going to happen.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC War Recordings
Broadcast Date: June 4, 1944
Reporter: A.E. Powley
Duration: 3:40
This clip has poor audio.

Did You know?

• Many of the bombers Powley reported seeing and hearing in the skies of southern England were Allied airplanes departing on pre-invasion missions. They were charged with knocking out transport links in northern France, Belgium and Germany to prevent German reinforcements from easily reaching the invasion point.
•In March, April and May of 1944, the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command flew 24,600 such sorties, dropping 78,000 tonnes of bombs. They lost 523 aircraft during that time.
• A.E. Powley began working for the CBC in 1940. In 1943 he went overseas as head of CBC war reporting in Europe and the United Kingdom.
• Well before D-Day, the British Ministry of Information devised elaborate plans to help reporters cover the invasion. A radio transmitter would be installed once the beachhead was secure, and soldiers in south English ports were assigned to dispatch newspaper copy arriving from France. Correspondents knew of the arrangements by May 15, 1944.
• All military camps in southern England were sealed on May 26, 1944. Nobody could enter or exit without a pass.
• In his book Broadcast from the Front, Powley wrote about the secrecy that surrounded D-Day. In the weeks leading up to the event, British intelligence officers escorted London-based war reporters to secret places in the country several times. This was to keep German spies from noticing a sudden, unexplained absence when the correspondents departed to cover the invasion.
• Allied agents were also alert to any sign that details about the operation had leaked. They were alarmed when certain D-Day code words began appearing in a newspaper crossword puzzle. When "Neptune" - code for the naval attack - showed up, they arrested the puzzle's creator, a schoolteacher. The words were chalked up to coincidence, but in 1984 the truth emerged: students had suggested the words after hanging around military camps, eavesdropping on soldiers' conversations.
• The "D" in D-Day didn't stand for any word - not destiny, decision, designated or doom. It was simple alliteration with "day," and referred to the day Operation Overlord launched. Similarly, the "H" in H-Hour, the hour of the land invasion, simply stood for "hour."
• "Operation Overlord" was the code name for the overall Allied invasion of Europe. "Neptune" referred to the initial assault phase of the operation.
• Before June 6, 1944, "D-Day" was a military term used to signify the launch day of any significant operation. It was only after the Normandy invasion that the term became synonymous with the launch date for Operation Overlord.
• The days before and after D-Day were referred to by military planners and historians with a number. "D minus three" was three days before D-Day, "D plus one" was the day after, and so on.



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