Anvil Publishers, Inc.
Anvil Publishers, Inc.

D-Day Anniversary June 6: Putting the Invasion Force in a Fighting State of Mind

June 6 will mark the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, the World War II Allied invasion of Normandy. To prepare fighting men for that action, U.S. Secretary of War Stimson ordered his head of the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation to Britain to oversee troop information.

Atlanta, GA, June 02, 2007 --( In the spring of 1944, three and a half million men in arms were being prepared in the south of England for Operation Overlord, the planned Allied invasion of the European mainland. Shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944, 20,000 men of the U.S. 82nd and 101st and British 6th Airborne divisions dropped by parachute behind Axis lines. At 6:31 a.m., an invasion armada of 5,000 ships began unloading the first contingent of 170,000 men on the beaches of Normandy. Some 2,400 Americans died in the initial invasion, and thousands more were injured.

According to Atlanta author Noel Griese, one of the key elements in the successful operation was getting the U.S. troops into a fighting state of mind.

In advance of the landing, U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered one of his most trusted advisors to Europe to oversee the troop information to prepare U.S. armed forces.

Arthur W. Page, the man chosen for the job, had headed the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation (JANC) from the beginning of World War II. JANC had oversight responsibility for all troop morale activities – USO shows, the Red Cross, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, Yank magazine, radio broadcasting, film distribution and other activities designed to keep up troop morale.

On April 5, 1944, Page departed for England on a secret 100-day mission for Stimson. His main assignment, according to Griese, the author of Arthur W. Page: Publisher, Public Relations Pioneer, Patriot, was to oversee indoctrination of American forces.

In remarks to AT&T's Information Department after returning from England, Page explained what he had done: "We spend considerable time and effort (at AT&T) trying to persuade the people in the Bell System—in print and otherwise—to be courteous and polite… This was the same process in the Army in exactly the opposite direction. The job there was to persuade the men in the Army to be anything but polite to the (enemy)," he said.

"Now, the method was to have a pamphlet for discussion by the officers with all the men once a week, an inset in the daily paper once a week, a radio program which gave the same picture over the radio once a week, plus plugs all through the week and occasionally Yank, the Army weekly magazine, would help out when it could. All of that was directed so that if the fellows missed it at one count they got it on the rebound somewhere else.

Today, Page, who died in 1960, is regarded as one of the two most influential American public relations practitioners of the 20th century. "Arthur Page, an in-house public relations adviser to AT&T from the 1920's through the 1940's, embraced the concept of good corporate citizenship and pushed AT&T to be open and honest in its press dealings. The tension between proponents of Bernays-like manipulation and Page-style transparency has existed in the business ever since," said Timothy L. O'Brien in a New York Times story about the importance of the two.

Griese, who has written more than a dozen nonfiction books, became interested in Page while teaching at the University of Wisconsin journalism school. His biography of Page (Anvil Publishers, ISBN 0970497604), available at bookstores and online, has been named to the short list of the best books ever written on public relations.

Anvil Publishers, Inc.
Noel Griese