D-Day: My Grandma and The Michigan Daily

Photography, Portraits, Travel

According to my grandma, Claire Thomas, D-Day June 6, 1944, was a day everyone knew was coming. The question was, when? At the time Thomas was the editor of her school newspaper, the AP syndicate and still operating Michigan Daily. I am incredibly impressed by the ability of my grandma not only to rise to the position of editor, but to do so through what must have been very limiting sexual discrimination. Her hard work and attention to detail surely played a role. That attention to detail often finds typos in my writings, for which I thank you grandma.

When I was visiting a few years ago she had recently found a copy of the very issue printed on D-Day. Listening to her anecdotes of waiting by the phone, rushing to the office late at night to put the paper together, and the tension felt by Americans from every upbringing was fascinating. In retrospect it would have been a great conversation to record.

Here she is holding the June 6, 1944 issue on the porch of her house, Lake Washington in the background.

Claire Thomas holds a copy of The Michigan Daily from June 6, 1944. She was editor of the paper during the D-Day invasion of Europe.

Claire Thomas holds a copy of The Michigan Daily from June 6, 1944. She was editor of the paper during the D-Day invasion of Europe.

One thought on “D-Day: My Grandma and The Michigan Daily

  1. What a pleasant surprise in this morning’s June 6 inbox! Thanks, Robin. Yes, June 6 , 1944 was an exciting day for those of us working on the University of Michigan Daily. It is not surprising most of us were women, given that more than 16,000,000 U.S. men were in service during the four years of World War !!. The preceding evening, June 5, was memorable, too. My roommate, Jane Farrant Friis, Daily managing editor, celebrated her 21st birthday with many of the Daily staff. Along with the rest of the world, we were anxiously awaiting news of the invasion which was expected to occur soon. The next few days marked a rare window when tide and moon phase cooperated to enhance invasion tactics. But clear skies were also essential for air support, and heavy cloud cover over the English channel seemed to dictate that invasion was unlikely this night. June 5th turned into June 6th, and Jane and I, the editorial director, stayed on, vainly willing the teletype to announce the invasion. Press time was 2:30 a.m. We stayed past press time. Finally, sometime after 3, looking despondently at the silent teletype, we concluded this was not the night, and left for home. As we opened the door, we were startled by a ringing phone (no cell phones in those days to catch us en-route). “The invasion’s started! I’ve held the press!” It was Ken, the press room manager. Minutes after we left the Daily, the teletype had clattered to life, announcing D day. We dashed back, and quickly dislodged whatever had been the lead story. Ken had already ripped the invasion news from the teletype and the linotype operator cast the lead type in record time.:

    By WES GALLAGHER, Associated Press Correspondent

    SUPREME HEADQUARTERS, ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE, June 6.—-American, British and Canadian troops landed in northern France this morning launching the greatest overseas military operation in history with word from their supreme commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that “we will accept nothing except full victory” over the German masters of the continent. The invasion, which Eisenhower called “a great crusade,” was announced at 7:32 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (3:32 a.m. Eastern War Time).

    We quickly proofed the copy from the galley type rather than from a galley proof, and our EXTRA EXTRA was soon on the streets.

    It is little remembered that 5 June l944 marked the entry of Allied Troops into Rome. The back page of the D-DAY Daily headlines an AP story from another of the many battlefronts of this truly world-wide war:

    ROME, June 5—Allied armor and motorized infantry roared through the Eternal City today–not pausing to sight-see–crossed the Tiber, and proceeded with the grim task of destroying two battered German armies fleeing to the north. … The enemy was tired, disorganized and bewildered by the slashing character of the Allied assault, which in 25 days had inflicted a major catastrophe on German forces in Italy and liberated Rome almost without damage to the historic city.

    This same day, June 5, King VIttorio Emanuele stepped aside as monarch of Italy as he had promised to do on the liberation of Rome, and handed all “Royal Prerogatives” to his 39 year old son, Crown Prince Umberto.

    And in the Pacific Theater, June 5 marked destruction of 16 Japanese ships by American submarine torpedoes, and two more ships sunk by American bombers.

    Yes, your 21st birthday was memorable, Jane!

    Writing this little memoir of 5- 6 June 1944 gives me an opportunity to send to you in far away South Carolina an on-line greeting. Thanks for the many happy moments we shared during our years as college roommates, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE, with love from Claire.

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