This is what it sounds like when more than 156,000 enormous pairs of balls roll up on a French beach ready to kick some Nazi ass.
During the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944, radio correspondent George Hicks recorded 13 minutes of audio on a Recordgraph tape recording system that viscerally captured the unbridled death and destruction of the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare.
And while Hicks's recording went down as one of the most “iconic and frightening” to emerge from the devastation of World War II, as the Washington Post put it, the raw audio of the Allied landings went unheard in its original recorded form for more than 75 years — until now.
On Sept. 30, 63-year-old Florida man Bruce Campbell personally delivered the original tape Hick's famous broadcast from the log cabin in which he discovered it to officials at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia., the Washington Post reports.
“They freaked out,” Campbell told the Washington Post in an Oct. 1 email. “Imagine if someone found recordings of the Battle of Yorktown or Gettysburg … “I'm listening to this, and I feel like I'm standing on the battleship with this guy. It made my hair stand up.”
The Hicks recording was one of among 16 audio recordings from famous World War II journalists like Hicks and Edward R. Murrow that Campbell discovered in his cabin basement, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Campbell also recovered components of a Recordgraph machine owned by Albert Stern, the late former vice president at Recordgraph manufacturer Fredrick Hart & Co. and, as the Washington Post reports, the previous owner of Campbell's home.
“We are absolutely overwhelmed and delighted,” April Cheek-Messier, president of the D-Day memorial's foundation, told the Post in statement. “It's truly a window into not only one of the most important events of the last century, but also in real time hear what … to me, it's one of the most important broadcasts anyone has ever heard.”
Campbell and Cheek-Messier's assessment of the audio may seem like hyperbole, but they're not wrong. In an audio excerpt published by the Washington Post, Hicks's voice rings out over the din of anti-aircraft fire.
“Here we go again … another plane's come over! Right over our port side. Tracers are making an arc right over our bow now,” Hicks yells. “Looks like we're going to have a night tonight … Give it to them, boys!”
Hicks's excitement builds as the Allied anti-aircraft guns find their targets. “Something is burning and falling down through the sky,” he says, per the Washington Post. “They got one! … A great blotch of fire came down and is smoldering now just off our port side in the sea. Smoke and flame there.”
But at one point, it's as though Hicks himself recognizes the world-historical weight of what he's witnessing, a preview to Campbell and Cheek-Messier's awe more than 75 years later.
“If you'll excuse me,” he says. “I'll just take a deep breath for a moment and stop speaking.”