On this day, September 2, 1944, Navy pilot George Bush is shot down into enemy waters during World War II.
George Bush joined the Navy on June 12, 1942, on his 18th birthday. He received his commission on June 9, 1943, becoming the youngest naval aviator of the time. During World War II, Bush flew torpedo bombers, completing 58 missions.
On a run over Chichi Jima in 1944, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Bush bailed out and was rescued by a Navy submarine, but tragically, his two crew members were killed. For his service during WWII, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.
Photos: Downed pilot George Bush is rescued by the Navy submarine, USS Finback. 9/2/44; Navy Pilot portrait, WWII; USS Finback.
Dropping of the Second Atomic Bomb
On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, this time on the city of Nagasaki. In this letter to Senator Richard Russell, President Truman acknowledges that it is an awful weapon, but in the end, he is responsible for saving as many American lives as possible.
-from the Truman Library
Smells Like Potsdam
On this day in 1945, President Truman arrived in Potsdam for conferences with Allied leaders. After a particularly trying day of negotiations, President Truman went into the bathroom in his suite. He came out with this bottle of German 4711 cologne.
He said to one of the members of his security detail, “Is some Russian trying to make a stinker out of me with this German stuff?” This member of his security detail “souvenired” this bottle after the conference, and years later donated it to the Library.
-from the Truman Library and Museum
Day 47 - Yalta Conference
“I didn’t say the result was good. I said it was the best I could do.”
-Franklin Roosevelt to diplomat Adolf Berle, Jr.
In the winter of 1945, Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin for the last time. The setting was the Ukrainian town of Yalta.
The Big Three gathered to chart a course for final victory in World War II. But during the Yalta Conference, they also struggled to create the basis for post-war cooperation.
FDR received Stalin’s firm commitment to enter the increasingly bloody war against Japan three months after Germany’s defeat. With American casualties rising in the Pacific war— and the atomic bomb yet untested— this was a significant achievement for the President. The Big Three also formally agreed to another of FDR’s priorities—the establishment of the United Nations organization. But there were serious disagreements about the future of Germany and the fate of areas occupied by Soviet armies, especially Poland.
While at the Yalta Conference, Joseph Stalin presented President Roosevelt with this set of bear fur gloves and Dukat papirosa (unfiltered) cigarettes. Inside the box are 13 unused cigarettes.
As a memento of the trip, this short snorter was created using a one chervonitz Soviet bill. A short snorter was a bill, typically from the destination country, signed by fellow travelers of a transoceanic flight. While Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Steve Early’s names are handwritten on the edges of the bill, they did not sign the bill. The bill was signed by Edwin M. Watson (just days before he died), Ross T. McIntire, Edward Flynn, Harry L. Hopkins, James F. Byrnes, William Leahy, an unidentifiable signature, and Anna Roosevelt Boettiger.
Day 19: Visits by Winston Churchill
“It is fun to be in the same decade with you.”
-Franklin Roosevelt to Winston Churchill, January 1942
The friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill formed the core of the Anglo-American alliance during World War II.
On September 11, 1939—ten days after Germany invaded Poland— FDR wrote a confidential letter to Churchill, who had just entered the British cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. Roosevelt wanted to open a direct line of communication with him. He encouraged Churchill to “keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about.”
FDR’s note was the start of an extraordinary six-year correspondence between the two men that totaled almost 2000 messages.
Between 1941 and 1945, they would also spend 113 days together, beginning with an August 1941 meeting in the North Atlantic and ending at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Churchill made visits to the United States in 1941, 1942, 1943 & 1944, including a trip to Washington, D.C. shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Day 15: D-Day
On the night of June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt went on national radio to address the nation for the first time about the Normandy invasion. His speech took the form of a prayer.
The date and timing of the Normandy invasion had been top secret. During a national radio broadcast on June 5 about the Allied liberation of Rome, President Roosevelt made no mention of the Normandy operation, already underway at that time.
When he spoke to the country on June 6, the President felt the need to explain his earlier silence. Shortly before he went on the air, he added several handwritten lines to the opening of his speech that addressed that point. They read: “Last night, when I spoke to you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.”
D-Day and the Normandy Landings
The massive armada included over 7,000 ships and landing craft manned by over 195,000 naval personnel from eight Allied countries. The troops consisted mainly of Americans, Britons, and Canadians, but members of the free French and many other nations also participated.
The D-Day invasion opened up the long-awaited Second Front against Hitler. According to the D-Day Museum, over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the invasion.
These color photographs show the troops getting ready for the D-Day assault at an British port. Most of the color stills in the National Archives show the preparations rather than the invasion.
You can see more color photographs on the Media Matters blog.
Image: 111-C-1258, “These American troops have loaded their equipment onto an LCT and are waiting the signal for the assault against the Continent.”
Image: 111-SC-1237, “American troops at a British port descend into barges which will take them to troop ships from which they will launch the attack against Hitler’s Fortress Europe.”
Image: 111-SC-1248, “Medics and litter bearers going up the ramp of an LCT which will take them to France for the assault against Hitler’s Europe.”
Image: 111-SC-1232, “American troops at a British port descend into barges which will take them to troop ships from which they will launch the attack against Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Note Barrage balloons in the background.”
The Boat That Won the War
The invention of small “Higgins” boats that could transport military equipment to the beaches without the use of wharves or docks was crucial to the strategy of D-Day.
In a 1964 interview, former President and Supreme Allied Commander of D-Day Dwight D. Eisenhower frankly said:
"Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us."
"Lighter for Mechanized Equipment" by Andrew Jackson Higgins, Feb. 15, 1944. United States Patent 2,341,866.
Higgins Boat, Camp Edwards, Massachusetts.
More on the Higgins boat in the new immersive D-Day exhibit from the National Archives on the Google Cultural Institute.
Seventy years ago, as dawn broke on June 6, 1944, German soldiers defending the French coast at Normandy beheld an awe-inspiring sight—the largest amphibious invasion force in history massed in the waters of the English Channel. The long-awaited invasion of northwest Europe was underway.