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   One must acknowledge, the Normandy Invasion has caught up to us, at least the 75th Anniversary.  It really hit the news worldwide big time. 


   Summer of 2018 is ended.  It would be a great idea to see what happened about 79 summers ago, deep in the middle of 1943.  

    Some Tuesdays ago, July 10, 2018 none of the major news networks here in the United States said a peep on what happened three quarter of a century ago, namely the invasion of Sicily, known as Operation Husky.  The author was watching them all, but nada.  Seven Allied divisions were involved; initially 80,000 men and about 600 tanks.  Awaiting them were 230,000 Italian troops and 30,000 German soldiers.  Germany still had a powerful air force of about 800 aircraft, but they were scattered all over Sicily, Sardinia and Italy. 

   Overseas, the Germans were basically fighting a war on 2 fronts.  When the invasion of Sicily got hot, Hitler was forced to redeploy armored units out of the Russian Front.  His major offensive at Kursk quickly curtailed after a week and it meant his strength on the Eastern Front was reduced.  

Introduction to 1943

Operation Husky and Popular Culture

   In  1943, Hitler was still running the show in much of Europe, and that meant millions of people were under his police state.

 Author Mr. Valentine has composed seven books, three are published.   Titles: A Toast For You And Me, America’s Participation, Sacrifice and Victory.  The following is an arrangement from his research of 1943.  

   First is a sample of what dominated popular culture, Hollywood  (which is discussed in the Hollywood section, see menu) was tops but we also have Swing music (yes, again) and the art of its dance.  War or no war, it never disappeared.  Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing goes back to 1937, and his orchestra was still hot.  What is Swing Music?  Jazz and Swing are interrelated and, here is an introduction to Swing for young people.  The band of Tommy Dorsey.  It was the Swing dance craze. Those who formed the bands were composed of many instruments, and Swing music was also called the Big Bands.  

    It began mid 1930s where even in Nazi Germany it was hip.  Swing Kids portrays the era inside Nazi Germany, when the Nazis tried to stamp it out. This is from the 1942 movie Orchestra Wives.  Dance variations.  Dance variations were many, a little Shag, Boogie, a little Balboa, a little Lindy Hop and more dance steps.  This is from the 1943 movie Kid Dynamite with the Dead End Kids who are in a dance contest, advance to 36.32 min mark.

    The dancing in this movie is out of sight, dance contest.  We see here steps from Boardwalk Boogie.    Nothing slow and basic here, explosive from They All Kissed the Bride.   In this sample of dancing from Hellzapoppin, it is more explosive.  Thank you all you who provided videos to let us know what was what during those times.  And before  we end, the famous Glenn Miller did this recording called Bugle Call Rag.  Everybody is in uniform in Swing Fever.  By 1943-1944, they were all in uniform; no more cool suits. 

   Second, is a sample of what the American public saw at the Home Front.  This is  a United News newsreel on Sicily.  Too bad the video does not convey how it really was--unless you look closely because there was a huge storm on July 9th.  Near the end, however, it does show the dead. In those times, the news were shown in local theaters via newsreels  [This was the era of radio, and that is where the news were more timely.]  Newsreels were informative clips made by Movietone News, United News, Paramount News, RKO Pathe and Universal News.  The March of Time films were not newsreels, they approximated screen journalism reports, made by Time Magazine.  None are in color. History need not always be crummy and boring. 


   About 80 years ago, in America there were some 200 foods rationed—like veggies, meat, butter, all canned and frozen foods, fish and cheese— there was rationing of gas and tires and paper drives, food drives, people flattened toothpaste tubes for the supply of tin with 289,903 pounds collected throughout the nation from Jan-Sept.   Women donated 50,000,000 pairs of stockings in 1943 and there were also riots, not food riots but race riots. There were race riots in 47 cities in 1943.


   Partially from the author's research, let us peak into 1943 with this short PDF; and see how the war really looked with both the familiar and other items.  This PDF timeline helps see popular culture along with some super secrets, an extraordinary timeline of 1943, especially compiled for you from the author Mr. Valentine.  An Anniversary of WW II, from Valentine's Day to Labor Day. 

   Note April 30, 1943.  Operation Mincemeat. It is quite educational involving a daring plan actually inspired by Ian Fleming, of 007 fame.  Real espionage in WW II. 

     On your left is another Hollywood star Veronica Lake. Everyone knew Veronica.  Many connected to the Entertainment field gave performances on varying stages.


    Touring the States, the performers went by what they nicknamed “Circuits”--the “Hospital”, the “Blue” (of 15-1,500 people), the “Victory” Circuits (of 1,500 plus).   The Number One Star was the great comedian Bob Hope, who covered over 200,000 miles worldwide in World War II; at this link you can also find info on the Hollywood Canteen.  All throughout the war, the Big Bands of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, along with numerous others, joined in.

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    By 1943, there were also 27,600 Hollywood personalities and craftsman in uniform. Hollywood personalities toured the individual bases and camps abroad and at home.  The black and white photo is of Hollywood star Lana Turner left interviewed by Virginia Grey.



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People read Life     

    The public read more magazines and newspapers than watched movies to get their news.   One such magazine was the popular Life Magazine.

    Life circulated 4 million copies a week, and was read by 13.5 million people—10 percent of the population.  Believe it or not, the largest weekly magazine today is People.  But, it has a smaller circulation than Life even though the U.S. population is 2.5 times as large as it was then; of course their are other avenues of news that didn’t exist then, like TV and the web.  But, in a way society was less disjointed then.

    On a serious note, it was in summer of 1943 that 2,760 naval vessels from different points were converging on the island of Sicily.

    Naval ships from Great Britain, the United States, Holland, Polish, Greek, and Indian navies formed this armada, and within 3 days over 150,000 ground troops had landed.  The ships actually began sailing on July 9; courtesy of The Armchair Historian.  The weather was wicked and awful, as a storm hit.  The storm slowly died down around midnight.  The Italian radar system detected the oncoming fleet but when they saw the radar blimps coming they said no way, they thought it was malfunctioning.  They blamed it on the lousy storm.  A full radar alert was not sounded till the Allied ships started bombarding them. 

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   The capture of Sicily was a strategic success, not only liberating a people, but it opened the Mediterranean Sea lanes for the first time since 1941.  On July 25, 1943, the Italian dictator Mussolini was toppled from power.  Above, peering across the Strait of Messina through binoculars are Generals. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bernard L. Montgomery.   In America on August 17, it was announced on radio that Sicily was liberated with 135,000 Axis taken. There are many more websites explaining Operation Husky, and this one is pretty good.  Success came at a high cost, however.  The taking of Sicily had cost the United States 2,811 killed in action and some 6,000 wounded.  United Kingdom forces had 2,727 killed and 2,900 wounded.  Some had died when Allied gunners on the invasion ships fired on the second wave of transport gliders due to a mistaken belief they were German aircraft; and shot down 23 C-47s.  Pictured is a terrifying explosion caught on camera of the Liberty ship explosion after being hit by a German Hs 293 rocket. 

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    The combined Axis forces lost about 8,900 men with some 46,000 wounded.  Over 140,000 Axis troops had been captured. But, the worst news of all was that they were able to evacuate tens of thousands to Italy.  The Germans evacuated some 52,000 troops, 14,105 vehicles and 47 tanks.  The Italians still loyal to Mussolini evacuated some 62,000 troops and 227 vehicles.  All across the Strait of Messina, where the so-called arsenal of democracy Allied ships, subs and planes could have been set to trap the foe--the Allies enjoyed air superiority, as they had some 3,700 aircraft as opposed to 1,600 for the Axis force--however, they blew it.   History books tell us the Strait of Messina was protected by 120 heavy and 112 light anti-aircraft guns and those Axis guns and their crews did the trick. If you are visiting New Orleans, check out the big national museum of WW II. It used to be called the Normandy Museum but not anymore as it encompasses the entire Second World War.  Mr. Valentine has been a member since 1994.

    The Invasion of Italy and end of 1943 including some songs.

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