Chester Martin: Memories Of D-Day, 1944

Monday, June 3, 2019 - by Chester Martin

I was only 9 years old at the time and schools had just let out for the summer. I do not remember any particular increase in 'war-talk' among the adult population, and if there were any of that, it never reached us kids. True, the adult population seemed to have followed a thin line of information, available on newspaper and radio news, but NO ONE in the civilian world had any inkling of what was about to take place. Life for us kids was just repeating the same end-of-school joys that we already knew, though cognizant of the fact that this summer might bring yet another terrible polio epidemic with subsequent closures of our favorite swimming pools (at Warner Park, Lake Winnepesaukah, McCallie School, etc).

These were the only hardships we could visualize.

Fact is that when we kids assembled for Vacation Bible School that morning of June 6th, 1944, none of us had the faintest idea of what was happening in distant Normandy. We assembled near the Sunday School department area of Brainerd Methodist Church and we boys soon began a lot of noisy horseplay on the lawn outside - barely cognizant of the fervent prayer-service taking place inside the church sanctuary. The raucous we raised must have really gotten the ire of our minister (the Rev. Mr. Joe M. Hampton) up, for he personally came outside - his face red with anger - and gave us a very fast lesson on what was taking place at that very hour across the Atlantic, and on the coasts of northern France. We should be respectful and conform to the gravity of today's unique situation. We tried, and were basically successful. A small gathering of cars in the parking lot indicated support for his impromptu prayer meeting on a weekday morning.

The big war-scare was now "Public Domain", and all adult conversations eventually drifted toward the war and the "war effort". Our dear neighbors of the day, the Ray Moore's, knew some things not yet reported in newspapers:  Col. and Mrs. Moore had just come to Chattanooga from Orlando, Florida, still an insignificant little country town at that time. They had three children, Jimmy, Tots (Patricia) and Tyke (John). Mr. Moore had been a World War I flying ace and following his years as a pilot became a map-maker, working for one of the large Florida railroads. Son "Tyke" was my age. A very knowledgeable person, Col. Moore was able to follow threads of stories about the war which few other civilians were privy to. He would tell such things as how German U-boats had been spotted off the coast of Florida - a scary fact that only much later was made known publicly by Washington.

Following that Normandy Invasion the lid was off and the entire country had but one focus: to end the war successfully. Be forever grateful we "dood it", folks, (as entertainer Red Skelton used to say), or we would most likely have been "either turned into a lamp-shade, or be goose-stepping in  honor of Herr Hitler's Third Reich". (A quote I like, but whose source I do not remember).

It is hard for us to imagine here 75 years after those events that secrecy surrounding that invasion could have been kept so successfully. Today we are flooded with news of all kinds: the good, the bad, and the "fake". Leaks are everywhere, but for at least that one moment in our U.S. history we were blessed with a total blackout of fact that could forever have done us in had it fallen into the wrong hands.


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Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter, sculptor and artisan as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net.


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