On the evening of D-Day, musician and broadcaster Johnny Lombardi boosts morale on the edge of a Normandy beach. (1944)
On the evening of D-Day, musician and broadcaster Johnny Lombardi boosts morale on the edge of a Normandy beach by entertaining the troops with a rendition of a familiar Canadian song.
On 6 June 1944, British, American, Polish, and Canadian forces poured across the English Channel and landed at Normandy to oust German forces from France. The assault began under the cover of nightfall. The Channel crossing was rough, with waves some 2 metres high and many of the men were seasick. Above, the Royal Canadian Air Force and other Allied aircraft could be heard across the night skies. By dawn, as engines roared and bombs exploded, the landing craft were launched. In a matter of minutes, 130,000 men would be landing on French soil. The Canadians were given the responsibility of taking one of the beaches, code named Juno. The first wave ashore encountered fierce opposition, but the Canadians triumphed and captured the city of Caen on 9 July and Falaise on 16 August.
Johnny Lombardi was born in downtown Toronto to Italian parents in 1915. He was not a solider by trade but an entrepreneur and a musician, playing big band music in dance halls across Ontario. In 1942 he enlisted in the Canadian Army and soon found himself stationed in Europe as a Canadian Army Sergeant. Upon his return to Toronto, he realized there was a niche market for Canada's many immigrants. In 1966 he founded CHIN Radio, a station devoted to multicultural programming. The song mentioned in the Minute, "I'll Never Smile Again" was the work of Ruth Lowe a Toronto-born songwriter. This song captured the wartime sentiments of soldiers and their loved ones and soon became one of the most popular songs of the Second World War. The song was covered by Frank Sinatra and became his first great hit in 1940.
Over 10 000 Canadian sailors and 110 Canadian ships took place in the D-Day landings of 1944. And, in June 1994, Johnny was invited by the Prime Minister of Canada to attend the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Normandy Invasion. CHIN Radio continues to broadcast today in over 30 languages.
- Johnny Lombardi – Fabrizio Filippo
- Soldier – Sergio di Zio