The Beginning of the End

US Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944

US Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War Two, also known more familiarly as D-Day. In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a fifty-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” (I have included General Eisenhower’s messages to the troops on D-Day and to the peoples of Western Europe.)

General Eisenhower’s message to the troops
General Eisenhower’s message to the peoples of Western Europe

The assault was conducted in two phases: first, an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and second, an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France, commencing at 6:30 AM. There were also decoy operations mounted under the codenames “Operation Glimmer” and “Operation Taxable” to distract the German forces from the real landing areas. The landings took place along a fifty-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high, however. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded – but more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Adolph Hitler and the war machine of Germany. Though the outcome was by no means a certainty on 6 June 1944, the invasion on D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

Since this is a music blog and not a history blog, I began a search to see if there were any songs written about this fateful day. I was able to find a single song written about the event, aptly named D-Day and it was sung by Nat “King” Cole, with the Cole Trio backing him.

Somehow, Cole not only finds a way to make D-Day sound like some hep-cat singing “dee-day,” but also gets across the message of being circumspect and patriotic. In fact, if one strips out the lyrics or ignores the message, what is left is a snappy little swinging jazz number that is both tidy and economic.

It is difficult to believe that this song was about something as brutal as the counterstrike into Europe, seen so graphically portrayed in the opening sequences of Saving Private Ryan.

THE LYRICS
D-DAY
Nat King Cole with the Nat King Cole Trio

You better grab a chair and sit down, Gate, you’re
Gonna hear some news of a military nature.
Relax, while I give you the latest report, sport.

There never was a finer sight
When all our boys were fixed to fight
On D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

We hope they’ll soon be comin’ back;
For now, they’re on a silent track
Till D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

It’ll take more than a weekend,
So let’s be patient and calm.
Cut out that public speakin’,
Or we’ll be the victim of a false alarm.

We got to help – we’re in it, too,
So buy those bonds, and I do mean you,
For D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.
D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

It’ll take more than a weekend,
So let’s be patient and calm.
Cut out that public speakin’,
Or we’ll be the victim of a false alarm.

We got to help – we’re in it, too,
So buy those bonds, and I do mean you,
For D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

THE RECORDING

Nat “King” Cole

OTHER RELATED D-DAY RECORDINGS

Theme from The Longest Day (The D-Day events are told both from the Allied and the German side.)
Theme from Band of Brothers (The film traces a fictional Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in World War Two Europe from Operation Overlord (Normandy Landing) through V-J Day.)
Theme from Saving Private Ryan (Soon after the D-day, a small unit of US soldiers are sent on a mission to retrieve Pvt. James Ryan whose four brothers were killed in action.)
Theme from The Big Red One (From North Africa, Sicily, and then on to Omaha Beach at the start of the Battle of Normandy, a sergeant and his men are sent from one battle to another over and over.)
Red Ball Express (The Red Ball Express convoys supply Allied forces after the Normandy Landings on D-Day.)
Theme from Where Eagles Dare (An American general is captured by the Nazis before the Normandy invasion. Fearing he will spill the beans, the British lead a mission to rescue the general before he is forced to reveal the D-Day plans.)

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