Above: The front pages of three Pittsburgh newspapers on June 6, 1944. The Post-Gazette was a morning paper; the Press and Sun-Telegraph were published in the afternoon.
It was just after midnight in Pittsburgh on June 6, 1944, when editors at the Post-Gazette would’ve heard the news.
Allied forces had launched an amphibious invasion of Northern France, one of the largest military operations in history and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi control.
On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, The Digs takes a look at how the invasion was covered in Pittsburgh’s newspapers. As the maps on the June 6 front pages indicate, news coverage didn’t look anything like the 24-hour news cycle we live with today.
When the Post-Gazette landed on newsstands that morning, details were scarce. An Associated Press story, written from Allied headquarters, quotes German radio broadcasts and statements from General Dwight Eisenhower’s forces, which had yet to confirm the exact location of the attack by the time of publication. The Pittsburgh Press and Sun-Telegraph, both afternoon papers, had more detailed depictions of the historic invasion, but it took days for Pittsburgh readers to get a real understanding of the front lines.
Photos of D-Day appeared in all three papers the following day, showing preparations for the invasion and some calm photos from the Normandy beaches.
It was in the Sun-Telegraph on June 8 that readers got an idea of the horrors troops faced upon landing. A bleak photo page features two wounded soldiers, a picture of dead bodies and a cropped version of photojournalist Robert Capa’s iconic photo of Private First Class Huston Riley.
Each day that followed saw more updates of the Allies progress into France, but the stories were written based on military statements, not witnesses of the fighting.
Only 28 reporters joined troops on June 6 and Allied commanders forbade them from publishing details until several days later for security concerns, as famed war reporter Ernie Pyle explained in a story published in the Sun-Telegraph on June 10. A recent New York Times story dubbed Pyle “The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day” for his vivid reporting on the beach landings, which stood in stark contrast to the headlines 10 days earlier mentioning the “very small” losses.
“It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore,” Pyle wrote in a column published in the Press on June 16. “Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.”
He continued to describe the aftermath on the beaches in his column the following day. “It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach. This is the strewn personal gear, gear that never will be needed again.”
Only a few of the original photos received on the news wires in Pittsburgh have survived in the Post-Gazette photo archive 75 years later. But the ones we can still see provide a glimpse of how Pittsburghers perceived a historic struggle raging an ocean away.