The Invasion of Normandy
“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, D-Day Message (June 6, 1944)
Seventy-five years ago today, allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, on the northwestern coast of France, sparking the beginning of the end of World War II. D-Day, code-named “Operation Overlord,” remains one of the most significant military campaigns in history; not only because of its nature as a tremendous militaristic feat, but also for its impact on the future of the free world.
In what would be a deadly assault, American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches, stretching across a 50-mile span. The coming battle would be long; allied troops met massive resistance from an entrenched and heavily fortified German army. Casualty reports listed 10,000 killed, missing, or wounded along Normandy’s beaches that day. It was pure luck, tenacity, and grit that carried allied troops to victory, through indescribable chaos and violence.
By nightfall, the beaches were in allied hands, but the victory was not yet won. In the coming year, allied troops would push inland across Europe, liberating France, and fighting through Belgium and the Rhine. Less than a year after D-Day invasion, on May 7, 1945, Germany signed its unconditional surrender.
We honor and commemorate the heroism and bravery exhibited by those who risked everything for the freedom of all.
A Sinfonian Perspective
Central Illinois World War II Stories
Oral History Interview: Alexander Samaras of Danville
Brother Alexander Samaras was the commanding officer of a Landing Craft Tank (LCT) in the Navy and fought at Utah Beach on D-Day. He and his men worked to ferry in troops and equipment, and then, later on, to ferry out the dead and prisoners. His LCT also carried in crucial equipment used to set up communications for both Omaha and Utah Beach. He joined his LCT in New Orleans, and the LCT was taken across the Atlantic on a larger ship called a Landing Ship Transport (LST). As a junior officer, he had to take his turn standing watch on the LST. During rough weather one night while he was on watch, three of the ships in his convoy were struck by torpedoes and blown up. That same night, his LST was hit by a torpedo, but it was dud. The entire hold of his LST, the length of a football field, was filled with ammunition. The torpedo put a dent in the stern. “It made me a fatalist,” he says.
Phi Mu Alpha in World War II
The second World War called upon all people to do their part to support the allied war effort as the fate of the world depended on its success. In the United States, men and women alike took up a responsibility to support those in the military, at home and overseas.
Phi Mu Alpha sought to continue to foster universal brotherhood within those serving abroad and stationed throughout the country during the war. Sinfonian Brothers could be found forming musical groups at military installations, performing in military bands, flying aircraft, fighting in the infantry, and serving in various capacities in the armed forces. Regardless of their location, Brotherhood in Music was a driving force that they utilized to not only encourage one another but to unite their fellow soldiers around them. To the right, you can read letters from these men, written to the Fraternity from abroad.
“I’ve just completed eight weeks of my basic training from I.R.T.C. which is a far cry from music, but you know how it is – we’ve all got to pitch in with Sinfonian zeal and get this job done.”
– Pvt. Sanford L. Davis (Gamma Delta, 1938)
“Naturally, now there is nothing I am doing musically, but one thing I got from Sinfonia – an appreciation of music and musicians that will die with me. I used to think when I first came into the army that all those years I spent studying music were just wasted, but now I realize what a love I have for music and how my appreciation and understanding have grown. We in this army want to know that in spite of this war things like fine music will be able to continue, and lads from the plains of Kansas will be able to go to the cities and make a place for themselves.”
– Lt. W.B. Malcolm (Alpha Phi, 1932)
Sinfonian Leadership in the European & Pacific Theaters
During the years that followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, college enrollment plummeted as virtually all able-bodied young men joined the military effort. Many Sinfonians defended America in WWII, and some returned home to continue with their college education and to continue living their lives.
Two veteran Sinfonians, Dr. Lavan R. Robinson (Beta Omega, ‘48) (1918-2012) and Dr. Olin G. Parker (Gamma Mu, ’41), recently shared their experiences in World War II. Incidentally, both men went on to serve the Fraternity as Province Governors for many years, and both men are now the namesakes of annual chapter-sponsored music scholarships given in their honor (Dr. Robinson – Zeta Gamma, Valdosta State University; Dr. Parker – Epsilon Lambda, University of Georgia).
Learn the story of Brother First Lieutenant Lavan R. Robinson and First Lieutenant Olin G. Parker HERE.
Honoring Sinfonian Veterans
Phi Mu Alpha honors all of our nation’s veterans and features those who are Sinfonians on our
Sinfonia in the Military page.
Many of our veterans from World War II have passed on, and their stories have been lost to time, we want to honor their memory. If you know of a Sinfonian who served in World War II or beyond, we encourage you to share their story.
For more information and additional questions, you may contact the Phi Mu Alpha’s National Headquarters at (812) 867-2433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.