The best picture of the attitudes in the beginning weeks of 1944 comes from the NBC news program, War Telescope. The program, broadcast from London, brought “a review of the War week and a forecast of possible developments to come”. Allied forces were advancing in all theaters of the War. However, in spite of Elmer Petersen's reports that the German High Command was assuming more responsibility for the prosecution of the War and preparing for the eventual peace, everyone seemed to understand that Hitler was far from beaten, and that there would be a lot of fighting yet to come.
News reports from all of the networks in January spoke of Russian success on the Eastern Front, and the success of the Allied bombing raids over the German industrial heart. Each bomb dropped would help to save lives during the upcoming advance into Western Europe. In January and February, there was growing feeling that Fortress Britain was becoming the staging area for the upcoming invasion, news that was welcomed with anticipation, but not impatience.
Hard fighting was happening in Italy at Monte Cassino and Anzio. On February 5, we hear General MacArthur raising the flag over liberated Manila and encouraging the Filipinos to join the community of free nations.
The V-Disc front featured some tunes especially for the boys going into battle, like Bing singing about “A Yank In A Tank” and “What Do You Do In the Infantry?”. Mostly, the acts cutting discs were interested in making great music for the boys overseas. Artists include Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Spike Jones and the City Slickers, Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys, Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, Harry James and his Orchestra, and Capt. Glenn Miller. Miller gave his last civilian performance in 1942, and at the peak of his popularity decided he had to contribute to the War effort. Told that the Navy “did not require his services”, Miller was commissioned a Captain in the Army Special Services and soon transferred to the Army Air Force. His efforts to “modernize” military music was met with some resistance, but no one could deny the morale boost he gave when our fighters saw him performing in the same uniform they were wearing. In the summer of 1944, Miller was transferred to England where he ran a non-stop performance schedule and was promoted to Major.
Back in February, Admiral Radio's CBS World News Today reports Admiral Nimitz taking the fight to the Japanese. Webley Edwards, reporting from Pearl Harbor, notes that when the Japanese foe comes against the unexpected he reacts one of two ways- he either sits, sullenly, or goes “all to pieces”. Both reactions are seen as American forces turn the tide.
In Hollywood, On March 2, the Oscar for Best Picture goes to Casablanca.
The Mar 8 edition of War Telescope talks of the different types of bombing missions against Germany and editorializes about Britain's attitude of looking toward the future. On Mar 24, Mutual presents a recording entitled “A Night in as Foxhole”, made by a pair of Marines under fire while storming an atoll in the Marshall Islands.
By the end of May, anticipation for the Invasion of Western Europe reaches a fevered pitch. The Battle for Rome drags on against stiff resistance, but Rome became the first Axis capital to be liberated on June 4. During the same time, increased reports of the build up and preparations in Fortress Britain are broadcast, including a profile of combat glider troops on War Telescope, british reports of conditions in Britain and addresses from Montgomery and Eisenhower on the eve of the invasion.
Bob Hope may do the best job of summing up the feelings at home on June 6, listening impatiently to the reports coming over the radio and staring at the big black word in the headlines “Invasion!”. The Normandy Landings took place in two distinct phases, the first being the assault of 24,000 American, British and Canadian airborne troops just after midnight of June 6, and the amphibious landing of Allied Infantry and Armored Divisions on the beaches of Normandy beginning at 6:30 in the morning. Surprise was achieved thanks to terrible weather in the days leading up to D-Day, and a disinformation campaign to convince the German High Command that the invasion would be at the Pas-de-Calais.
The radio networks were hardly caught off guard by the invasion. The need for secrecy was balanced with the desire of the folks back home to know what was going on. Reports came throughout the day and with almost no exceptions sponsors and producers were happy to sacrifice airtime to them. A typical reaction was on Fibber McGee and Molly, where the orchestra presented patriotic music while the cast stood by to deliver incoming bulletins.
On July 20, the second day of the Democratic National Convention, Hitler survives an assassination attempt. On August 12, Bob Hope broadcast from “somewhere in the South Pacific”. August 25th sees the end of Operation Overlord as Allied Troops liberate Paris.
From September 17 to the 25, The Allies attempted a swift advance towards Germany through the Netherlands in Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne assault to date, (we hear Edward R. Murrow counting parachutes as soldiers leave one aircraft). However, German resistance was heavier than anticipated, and the advance failed to meet its objectives.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet premiers on October 8 and the first German city to fall, Aachen is captured by American forces on the 21st. The Battle of Leyte Gulf is engaged from October 23 through the 26th.
The Christmas season in this year of many victories is marred by the disappearance of Major Glenn Miller over the English Channel. Miller had made numerous appearances on British broadcasting in morale boosting efforts as well as counter propaganda messages. On Dec 15, he boarded a UC-64 Norseman to cross the English Channel to arrange a tour for the Army Air Force Band. The airplane was lost over the Channel, and Miller's status is listed “Missing In Action”.