AJC Deja News: No D-Day crowing from injured vets in Atlanta (1944)

A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

Today's AJC Deja News comes to you from the Wednesday, June 7, 1944, edition of The Atlanta Constitution.


Their Army comrades invaded France the day before, but the boys on Ward B-15 weren’t crowing.

“No shouting. No back-slapping. No loud laughing,” Constitution reporter Paul Warwick wrote on June 7, 1944. “Just a few quick and grim smiles of quiet satisfaction that the big push finally was on were in evidence at Lawson General Hospital.”

The June 7, 1944, Constitution gave readers all the details of D-Day.


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What’s now known as D-Day has a proper code name: Operation Neptune. The U.S. would hit the beaches to help the allies -- France, the U.K. and the Soviet Union (Russia) -- free Europe from Hitler's Nazi menace. But in military slang, any day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated is termed a D-Day. And for the past 75 years, “D-Day” brings to mind one specific date: June 6, 1944 — the beginning of the end of World War II.

» MORE DEJA NEWS: Check out what we’ve covered before (and again)

Each year, communities across metro Atlanta and Georgia honor those who braved the beaches of Normandy. In Gwinnett, the city of Sugar Hill hosts groundbreaking ceremonies for its new Veterans Memorial Plaza this June 6.

"Sugar Hill's new memorial will include monuments for the six branches of military service, a water feature and an eternal flame within a 'walkable hardscape plaza space' at the intersection of W. Broad Street and Church Street," the AJC's Amanda C. Coyne reports.

“The Veterans Memorial Plaza testifies of the City of Sugar Hill’s endless gratitude for the armed forces and for the freedoms that their sacrifices have provided us,” the city said in a release.

» RELATED: Many Georgians made the ultimate sacrifice during the Allied invasion

Recuperating from severe combat injuries, the young Army soldiers healing at Lawson General in Chamblee understood the sacrifices ahead for the Allied troops.

Army veterans of the World War II Italian Campaign, recuperating from serious injuries at Chamblee's Lawson General Hospital, cheered D-Day but understood the sacrifices ahead for the Allied invaders.


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“Most of the boys in the ward had gotten theirs on the Anzio beachhead, at Cassino or elsewhere on the boot of Italy where the fighting had been tough and deadly,” Warwick wrote.

From January to June in 1944, Allied troops battled Axis forces in the Italian Campaign, working to enable an attack on Rome. On June 4, two days prior to D-Day, the Allies took control of the Italian capital. The U.S., British and Canadian forces suffered mightily; 7,000 men were killed and 36,000 were wounded or listed as missing. The Ward B-15 boys were among the Italian Campaign’s casualties.

» RELATED: Our coverage from the 70th D-Day commemoration

“Near Cassino one of them had left a good right arm... another had sacrificed a leg for his country near Monte Rotundo,” Warwick wrote. “All of them — some 40-odd in that ward — had been permanently disabled in the terrific fighting that helped to pave the way for the triumphant entry into Rome and thereby brought on the prelude to the wholesale invasion of continental Europe.”

The Lawson General wounded helped set the scene for the D-Day forces. But they received the news of the June 6 invasion with mixed emotions.

“‘They’ve got a long way to go yet — it’s gonna be plenty tough,’ — that was the consensus,” Warwick told AJC readers.

The Atlanta Journal’s June 6, 1944, D-Day coverage.

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» RELATED: Torpy at Large: 75 years after D-Day, finding WWII vets is the battle

In 2013, AJC Editor Kevin Riley introduced the paper's readers to decorated WWII vet Eddie Sessions, one of the boys Warwick wrote of — a 'replacement soldier' for those wounded or killed during the D-Day invasion and fighting afterward.

When Sessions and 11 other WWII veterans were awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, “France’s most prestigious medal decorating, among others, those who liberated France from the Nazis,” Riley wrote, “[the honorees] each had something to say, except one. Over on the right, Sessions stayed rooted to his chair, stoic and silent.

“In the din of the room after the ceremony, the 87-year-old was reticent, subdued and hard to hear. He shared a couple of combat experiences, but it was clear I needed more time to learn his story,” Riley wrote. And he did; the AJC editor retraced Sessions’ journey across France, writing in June 2013 about the experience while sharing Sessions’ wartime story.

Old photographs of Eddie Sessions, including the photograph when he received his purple heart, (lower right), are shown at his home in Carrollton.

Credit: Jason Getz

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Credit: Jason Getz

» RELATED: Eddie Sessions’ story: ‘The replacement soldier’

Eddie Sessions’ reticence upon being termed one of the nation’s “true heroes” by the Atlanta-based Consul General of France wouldn’t have seemed the least bit odd to the boys of Ward B-15. Though “just as interested as any of us in seeing the victorious sweep continue,” Paul Warwick wrote, “they know, too, that beachheads and invasions aren’t things to cheer loudly about.”

“Before many weeks, they know, better than we do,” Warwick continued, “that boys will be coming back from Cherbourg and Le Havre and the embattled field of Normandy to take their places in Ward B-15 and other wards up and down the land.”

» RELATED: Former AJC editor Jim Minter recalls Journal’s D-Day scoop


In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

If you have a story you'd like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know. Email: malbright@ajc.com. Use the subject line "AJC Deja News."

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