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80 years of D-Day: Reflections of the English-speaking press in Chile

The South Pacific Mail in 1944

By Roberto Pérez Castro

 

It's been 80 years since Operation Overlord, more commonly known as D-Day. On 6th August 1944, a combined effort of British, American, and Canadian forces, with the help of members of the French resistance and other many volunteers from all over the world began the invasion of Europe along the coasts of Normandy. 

 

Far across the corners of the world, public opinion would soon follow in listening through the radio watching through the newsreels and reading through the newspapers the advanced efforts of the allied troops through France Belgian fallen in Germany.

 

In remote places like South America, in countries like Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, English-speaking societies, descendants of Britons, Americans, and Irish would root for the patriotic cause and mobilise for the patriotic effort of their second country.

 

Ethnic communities who wrote in foreign language newspapers such as the Buenos Aires Herald and The South Pacific Mail continued with its initiative throughout the Second World War. They would report of that combined action in France and add words of praise, pride, and support for an effort they called their own. British and American communities raised funds and paid for bonds, knitted clothes, and bandages, paid for planes an ambulance is, and shipped off their loved ones to harm’s way, chipping in for the trip across the Atlantic.

 

At the time of the invasion, Valparaíso's weekly English newspaper, The South Pacific Mail had already wrapped up its editorial page.  Pending an imminent invasion of it praised the underground resistance he Allied broadcast to the occupied continent, raising hope in Western Europe, and adding up to a war of nerves to raise the anxiety of the enemy. 

 

After the invasion, its owner and publisher, Thomas C. Peddar, and editor, Margaret Compton, rushed to put some thoughts on the pages of its upcoming 8 June edition:

 

 

The long period of waiting, with its growing tension is over. Now the days of anguish for many, of anxiety for all, have come up on us, and it would be idle to say that they will not be terrible. The flower of the youth of the Great Britain and the United States, with the pick of the youth of their Allies are now at hand grips with a foe who will fight with a fury of desperation. For Germany this is the last phase of the battle of Europe. For the peoples of the occupied countries, it is a dawn (sic) of the day of hope, but red drawn seen dimly as yet through tempest and thick darkness.

 

What, at such a moment, when the news of the invasion has only just been received, can we, or anyone else, say? Nothing but the expression of confidence in victory and of the hope that the very intensity of a struggle on a scale never before witnessed in the world will make it a short one. The road is hard, but there is a light at the end of it.

 

The Allied forces have had to travel many a trackless waste with nothing but faith to guide them.

 

 

Once the dust of the initial days of the invasion settled, the newspaper would describe the quick succession of events, such as the fight for Cherbourg, the welcome of Allied troops in Bayeux and the Army's beachheads. By June 15, they would describe the moral effect of the invasion.

 

Prudence carried to the verge of pessimism has been replaced by frank optimism and the belief that the moral effect of defeat in Russia, in Italy and so far on the continent would be so great as to warrant the hope that the internal collapse of Germany is near at hand.

 

 

D-Day in Chile

Aside from a neutral Argentina, Chile was one of the last countries to break relations with the Axis powers at the beginning of 1943. In Santiago and Valparaiso, the days surrounding Operation Overlord were filled by the expectant and distinct visit of a representative from the British Ministry of Information. 

 

Oliver Bonham -Carter, the Director of the Latin American department, had lived for over 12 years in Chile. Regarded by the Chilean ambassador in London, Manuel Bianchi as a splendid co-operator in the work of his mission's propaganda information, the diplomat had started in March 1944 a tour through the American continent. 

 

 

 

In Santiago and Valparaiso, he held conferences and meetings with representatives of the British communities.

At a time when the allied forces had engaged in a strict interruption of diplomatic communication, the direct presence of the British representative was conspicuously appropriate. It was the most appropriate time for a face-to-face, frank and direct personal communication with the social and political leaders Latin American countries and settle inquiries and questions that would not be possible to address in letters or wireless communications.

 

On 1 June, in a fluent Spanish, he explained The South Pacific Mail that it would have been quite impossible for his ministry to succeed if not for “the untainted support and goodwill displayed by the British communities abroad”.

 

It would be easy to accuse the Ministry of Information of offering British thoughts, British opinions, and British ideas to peoples overseas without taking anything in return (...) we are anxious to obtain reactions from others as we feel it is important to be able to inform the people of Great Britain of the reactions of those in other countries.

The war would carry on for over a year. Nevertheless, the events that began in Normandy 80 years ago turned the tide of the conflict. The tone of the English speaking and Chilean press would no longer be the same. They no longer ask whether Europe was going to be liberated, but when.

 

The pages of this ethnic newspaper reflected the commitment of the English-speaking communities in the South American continent, as well as their effort being acknowledged by the authorities and public opinion in Britain. The press was an irreplaceable bond to unite this commitment geographically an extensive network of English-speaking peoples across Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and beyond.

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