A Commemoration of D-Day

Today we honor the anniversary of D-Day. On June 6th, 1944 (76 years ago today) the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in Axis occupied France. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum has created this video to commerorate this day and dedicates the video to the men and women (past and present) of our armed forces and their families for their sacrifice in preserving our freedom. In the video, you will listen to a letter written from Joyce Murphy, to her mother, Deborah (Detta) Murphy. Joyce recounts her thoughts and feelings of the significant impact that June 6th, 1944 would have on her fellow Americans. The letter was originally published in the The St. Augustine Record on June 10, 1944. Joyce Murphy continued to live in Jacksonville, marrying Fred C. Drawert on December 30, 1944. By 1945, she moved back to St. Augustine and lived with her mother at 22 Central Avenue (now Martin Luther King Avenue) and worked as a stenographer for R. Aubrey Davis & Associates whose offices were in the St. Augustine Exchange Bank Building (today known as Treasury on the Plaza). TRANSCRIPT OF LETTER: June 6, 1944 5 A.M. Well, Moma: I guess the above date will go down in history as one of the greatest days in the history of the United States. I can’t express my feelings at the moment. Here I am a small part of a great defense plant, doing my part to help get the supplies over seas. I am an American defense plant worker, listening to varied reports about the progress of the Allied forces in the battle to decide whether my little bit and the thousands of other contributions to this war effort was enough. I am sitting here looking out at a shipyard that is entirely void of any activity, and I wonder what it will be like the next night, here and on the battle front. We have all been waiting and expecting news of the invasion any day, and now that it is here we are going around in a daze, trying to act nonchalant and carefree about something that means the end of our present, or the beginning of our future. There is no bell ringing, horn blowing, etc., as planned, just an unearthly silence about everybody, everyone thinking of that someone who will be freed from imprisonment and that someone who has to die. In a few minutes the men and women who so gayly left here the other day will be streaming in the gates, not thinking about that paycheck or that night’s entertainment, but they will be thinking of the times they cut up when they should have been riveting, laughed and told jokes when they should have welded that extra part, and as they come in they will be figuring out how they can make up for that lost time, what they will say if their son, husband, sweetheart, father, or brother asks them what happened to that extra cargo boat that would have saved John Smith’s life; why wasn’t it there with that extra bullet when that German threw that hand grenade and killed our boys. Where was that extra bullet that would have saved three men’s lives? Was it worth that extra joke, that extra prank, or that date? These are the questions that we all have to answer tomorrow while many boys will die today still wondering. I have a feeling that there will be a lot more work going on in this yard and in every shipyard, plane factory, munitions dump, and training camp than there ever has been before. This is no longer a soldier’s war, it is every living soul’s war. Every bullet that strikes home on the battlefront will hit someone here in the United States. There will not be a man alive after this war who will dare say, “I took June 6th off for a fishing trip, what did you do, soldier?” He will know the answer too well by then. The dawn is just breaking now and the men and women are hurrying to jobs that wait them now with a new meaning. That hot rivet is no longer just a rivet, but a speeding bullet aimed at Berlin; the welders torch, a flame-thrower; the steel press machine, a panzer movement and the anchor when pulled up high out of the water, letting the boat go off on its trial run, a million bombs over Tokyo; and even then we will be like the nurses, we only hand the instruments in his hands at the right time, before our patient dies. I pray to whatever God there may be that we do not fail our test. He, the greatest Doctor of all, will understand the young novitiate, and will guide us to those instruments, for only He knows the cure for our patient’s disease. I know that you will understand how I feel, Mother. All my love, Joyce

Posted by St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum on Saturday, 6 June 2020

On June 6, 1944, Joyce Murphy, an 18-year old defense worker from St. Augustine, wrote her mother expressing her concerns about the upcoming D-Day invasion of France during World War II.  Her letter captures the fear and anticipation of the country as the nation awaited news of perhaps the greatest event to take place during World War II.