Column – D-Day and the war’s end

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In the height of the war, 1944-1945, news of battles, losses and gains dominated the front page of Suffolk News-Herald as they did in most newspapers across the country. 

Rations and shortages of just about every material were part of daily life. Some of those who hoped to escape from their hardship via a bottle would be disappointed — shortly after the new year, it was announced there would be no whiskey distilled in the United States in ’44. For a country not long out of Prohibition, the stores of whiskey were not many. 

As spring broke in ’44, whispers and vague news stories were published telling of a hopeful future.  

Email newsletter signup

A story on April 6, 1944, announced D-Day was set. The where, when and all other details were held secret, reportedly known by very few. But the plan was announced as what can be assumed was a promise of hope. 

Other hints of an end to the war, or at least the hardship caused in the U.S. as a result of the war, came in the form of ration changes. In mid-May 1944, ration limits began to be increased, and items such as typewriters were removed from the rationed goods. Others, such as dairy food and fresh foods, were increased.

Suffolk’s own claim to fame, however, was still a bit difficult to get. Half of the Virginia peanut supply was earmarked for only the Army. Peanuts were included in the meal rations for soldiers. Three reasons were given for peanuts being so important to GIs: they are liked by everyone, they are rich in B-complex vitamins and they require little space per the nutritional value. There was a story shared of a food ration warehouse on the war front that was left unattended, and a group of soldiers helped themselves to the rations. However, what was discovered was the only thing taken from the rations were the peanuts. 

On June 6, 1944, D-Day had arrived. The headlines broadcast the news: “Allies establish beachhead,” “11,000 planes thrown into invasion” and “4,000 ships transport troops, Churchill says.” 

The Suffolk News-Herald editor was among the first to get news of the invasion.

“The News-Herald editor, Lyman G. Barrett, was the first in Suffolk and Nansemond County to receive the news of the liberation landings In France this morning. The Associated Press In Richmond called him at about 3:45 a.m., and within a few minutes he had reached the newspaper office, had turned on the teletype machines and was watching the developments. The official communication from General Dwight D. Eisenhower had reached America at 3:32 a.m. So the News-Herald knew of the momentous event within 13 minutes of the original news flash.” That was lightning speed for 1944.

Not all citizens were in favor of the United States’ involvement in the war. The FBI arrested a 35-year-old naturalized American citizen of German descent on charges of espionage. Arrested in Tennessee, the man had lived in Suffolk during the time of the suspected crimes. The man admitted to being trained in espionage and having sent multiple messages and pieces of information between 1940-1941. 

As the heat of summer broke, the first news stories of concentration camps confirmed what was long known. At first, they received only a brief mention in a story of the advances of the Russian army: “Scene of Horror: Lublin was the scene of some of the most shocking incidents of the German anti-semetic terror programs and formerly had a population of 115,000, 30% Jewish.”

1945 brought headline after headline of battles won and cities liberated. On Jan. 17:  “Warsaw has been liberated”’ on Feb. 22: “Room to room fight waged in Manila hotel.”

On April 12, 1945, a special edition was published declaring “Roosevelt dead: Truman sworn in as president.” 

Less than a month later, Adolf Hitler is reported to be dead. Within days, German armies in Italy surrendered. News turned to the Pacific as war there waged on. 

An Aug. 7 headline declared the historic atom bomb dropping: “Hiroshima is believed wiped out, most terrible force ever loosed on world,” and two days later on Aug. 9, “Atomic bomb falls on Nagasaki.” 

1945 ended as most rations ended and men were discharged from the Army to return home. 

Jen Jaqua is the creative director for the Suffolk News-Herald. She can be contacted at