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FROM THE ARCHIVES

3 mighty words, 'This is it,' gave press the news

Three words — which didn't mention "invasion," "Second Front," "landing in Europe" or "beachhead" — revealed in London at 8 AM Tuesday the first news of the invasion of Western Europe by Allied forces.

"This is it," said a staff officer of Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force. opening the first SHAEF press conference behind locked and heavily-guarded doors at the Ministry of Information.

More than a hundred Allied correspondents, waiting tensely to learn and spread the news throughout the world, knew what he meant.

Then the fateful Communique No. 1 — first report to the world by Gen. Eisenhower on AEF operations in Western Europe — was handed out.

SHAEF officers spoke briefly, elaborating on the communique, outlining naval and air operations of the invasion, and giving general background information. Correspondents, during a half-hour interval, wrote their first invasion stories on typewriters provided by SHAEF, filed the stories and had them censored — all inside the locked conference room.

No one was allowed out of the room except in emergency, only then with an MP escort, who had been instructed that no correspondent be allowed to speak to anyone. MP guards lined the walls inside the conference room and kept close watch outside the entrance.

MP dispatch riders carried the first invasion stories to cable companies, where the stories were held until the communique was officially released.

Raising his arm at 9.31 AM. a SHAEF officer said, "In just l5 seconds the invasion flash will go out to the world" — and in 15 seconds his arm dropped. The doors were unlocked, correspondents from all the Allied nations raced to the exits, and the tremendous news went out to the world.

"The biggest news story since the deluge." as Brig. Gen. T.J. Davis and his public-relations division have called it, had started.

From then on the greatest military undertaking in history was reported by Allied correspondents attached to ground, air, and naval forces — and by exceptional SHAEF-prepared copy revealing the long pent-up details of invasion preparations — in a deluge of words that poured into the Ministry of Information press room all day Tuesday and were still coming steadily yesterday.

The man who released the flood of AEF information with the key words, "This is it," U.S. Col. R. Ernest Dupuy, acting chief of SHAEF PRO, told correspondents, "We've had to surrender before in the war of words."

But there was every indication at SHAEF headquarters that release of Allied words on the fighting in Western Europe will keep the world as well informed on AEF progress as possible, partly through Gen. Eisenhower's communiques at 11 AM and 11.30  PM and through explanatory SHAEF conferences twice daily.
 

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