The postcard read: “Your boy is alive!”

James MacMannis and his wife listen to their ham radio

James ‘Dad Mac’ MacMannis is believed to have sent as many as 33,000 postcards during World War II.

WEST PALM BEACH — Dad Mac sat in his living room and furiously scribbled the names the German propaganda machine rattled off. Names of GIs whose moms and dads and siblings and sweethearts in Florida and Iowa and Oregon. Loved ones who for weeks or months had wondered and worried and wrung their hands. Mac would fill out and address a postcard. It would say: Your boy is alive.

As World War II raged, and before and after D-Day, James L. MacMannis wrote as many as 33,000 postcards to families across America. After a while, people called him Dad.

At first, he said, he sent out just a few cards, and he got few responses.

“I was discouraged,” he told Palm Beach Evening Times Editor Tom Penick for a June 1944 column. “It was weeks before I heard from any of the folks I had written. Then they started.”

One parent wrote, “You are doing marvelous work. May God bless you.”

The date of Penick’s column was June 2, 1944. Neither he nor most of the country knew at the time that in four days, on June 6, the world would change

‘Keeping faith’

James L. MacMannis was a veteran of both the Army and Navy and both world wars. He’d been a barnstorming pilot in those first days of flight — a relative claimed he got America’s fourth-ever pilot’s license, something that couldn’t be independently verified — and taught pilots in World War I, when military aviation was in its infancy

He was a parachute jumper who later became an airplane inspector. He joined World War II via the Coast Guard in the Baltimore area.  Around 1943, he moved to West Palm Beach, believed to be about a block south of what’s now the Norton Museum of Art.

MacMannis did have a hobby: shortwave radio.

In August 1943, he tuned in to a Berlin station. Naturally, it was a propaganda broadcast by the Third Reich. Night after night, the feminine voice would rattle off each soldier’s name and serial number, along with messages the GI hoped would get back to their families in the U.S. The Berlin fräulein even gave the GI’s home address so that anyone listening could drop a line to the family that he was OK, at least relatively.

Whether the idea was to show how humane the Germans were or was a ploy to get parents to pressure the U.S. government to push for peace, only the Nazis could say.

But for Dad Mac, a light went on.

Ray Sherman

Every night at 7, Dad would settle into his rocking chair. He listened even when the static made broadcasts pretty much undecipherable. Some nights he would listen until dawn.

“He doesn’t dare leave because he fears he may miss some of the broadcast with the prisoners’ list,” Mary MacMannis said, “And he tries to get all.”

Some nights it was 20 names, some nights 60 or 80. One night he heard 157 names. Some nights, there was no list.

Dad Mac didn’t tell families everything. Sometimes the broadcast would impart that a boy had had both legs blown off or had bullets still lodged in his body.

“It’s enough to let them know that Berlin says they (soldiers) are alive and a POW,” MacMannis said.

He also worried at times if he was a dupe, forwarding details to desperate families about which the Nazi propaganda machine might be lying. He said he felt better when the War Department began verifying to him what he was hearing.

Once word got out about “Dad’s Listening Post,” others stepped up to help; fellow radio enthusiasts, the West Palm Beach fire chief, an assistant chief and a printing firm donated everything from radio parts to postcards. Dad Mac graduated from a small radio to a big receiver.

By January 1945, MacMannis estimated he’d heard 20,000 messages about American POWs and mailed out about 15,000 cards.

Life magazine got wind of him and ran a photo of Dad and Mary in their living room in front of a giant radio. That story quoted a total of 33,000 messages from POWs, including Canadians.

“War Prisoner Information,” Dad Mac’s cards said. “A free humanitarian service given by ‘Dad MacMannis’ Listening Post.′ ” And, “A veteran of both wars keeping faith with his buddies.”

“Howdy, folks,” one postcard quoted G.I. Ray Sherman. “I won’t be long. These Germans treat us mighty well. I will write you soon. Don’t worry. Love Ray.” The form was dated July 22; no year.

A search of databases shows a Ray J. Sherman, born in 1923, had enlisted in Milwaukee and served in the infantry in both the North African and Italian theaters before the Germans captured him at Anzio on Feb. 16, 1944.

Article located in the Palm Beach Post.

We spoke once before about the ham radio operators during WWII and the great job they did, read HERE!

Click on images to enlarge.

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Home Front Ham Radio Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anne Bertola – Rockland County, NY; US Army WAC, WWII

Arnold Fleischmann – Brn: GER/ MD; US Army, WWII, ETO, Eisenhower’s interpreter, POW, Col. (Ret.)

Roy Harsh – Lancaster, PA; US Navy, WWII, USS St. Paul

Joseph Murphy – Dedham, MA; US Navy, WWII, ETO

James Newmark – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII, Carrier pilot

Robert Parks – New Smyrna, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./2/187/11th Airborne Division

Louis Reeg – Galveston, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 82nd Airborne Division

Peter Shymske – Seville, OH; US Army, WWII & Korea, 43/103 Infantry Division

Albert Vnencak – Whippany, NJ; USMC, WWII

Ernest Webb – Neodesha, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, medic

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Personal Note –  This is my 1000th post.  Yikes, I never would have believed it!!

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 11, 2019, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 186 Comments.

  1. Funny how our hearts can lead us to believe almost anything .❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is an awesome article!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. What a fantastic story. All credit to your dear Dad! I should imagine the worst thing about having your loved ones fighting in a war is the not knowing… (Although our family lost a dear member: my dad’s youngest brother, aged 22, my own father was spared.) All wars are evil. x

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can understand why they begin, but I don’t understand why we no longer go in to win. 18-year long wars and having men go back for 5 or more deployments? NO, I can’t comprehend.
      Thank you for stopping in here and I hope you will find more posts to hold your interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on making it to 1000! Here’s to 1000 more! ❤ 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is an inspirational story, GP! What a wonderful service for families this man provided.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Amazing what just one person can do… This is truly an inspirational story!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. What a great man and such a happy outcome for him.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Absolutely amazing story, would love to think he was recognized in a big way later on in life, his story and efforts must have been commended by the government after the war.
    Great post gp, you certainly find those bits of history that seem to be overlooked.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Wow. The things I learn here. Never heard of this guy, but I hope when he hit heaven that a bunch of people gathered round, hugged him or slapped him on the back, and thanked him for caring!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Reblogged this on Janet's Thread 2 and commented:
    The power of a postcard.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. jorgekafkazar

    Congratulations on your 1000 posts.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Hard, yet at the same time beautiful story of inspiration.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Congrats on your 1,000 post, GP! I’m so glad you are here! 🙂

    Also, I just received a comment from Brian…LordBeariOfBow. He said,
    “Carolyn I’m in hospital ticker trouble don’t know how long will you can you let those that read my stuff know and I hope to be back soon.”

    so I wanted to share it with you here.
    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Great story. I learned a lot

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Congrats on your 1,000th post, GP! That’s quite an achievement, too, especially when every one of those posts is far more than a number; you’ve provided a good bit of entertainment and history along the way.

    As for MacMannis, his story is one of those that proves beyond any doubt that one person can make a difference — and a big one!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I can’t imagine getting to it, what a mighty effort. Motivation!! And a great encouragement.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. God has blessed you, Dad Mac.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. You always find fascinating historical bits

    Liked by 5 people

  19. By writing these postcards, Mr. MacMannis made a valuable contribution to the lives of so many families. What a great story to post for such a milestone.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. I love this story, GP, about Dad Mac and his radio. What an incredible gesture…well, 33,000 incredible gestures. Great post…and a tip of the hat on your 1000th post. I appreciate how you always bring a new and warm thought into my head, thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I thank you very much for your lovely comment and compliments! I apologize for taking so long responding – somehow you went to spam and I hadn’t checked it in a couple of days.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. What a fabulous service he performed. I’m sure every one of those recipients were grateful for that postcard. Congratulations too on your 1000 post!

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Amazing man – so much work and so much effort, driven by nothing but all-encompassing kindness to fellow human being!
    Honestly, I don’t think the Nazi’s broadcasted POW names out of any other motivation, but propaganda, i.e. bragging about the numbers. After all, the entire Paulus army surrendered and close to 100,000 German soldiers were taken prisoners by the Russians a few months earlier.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. What a story. What a man. During war times its always diffficult to decide between truth and propaganda. Sometimes the actual situation remembers me on this. Suddenly we are speaking about “Fake News”, and all news have to be controlled. 😉 Best wishes for the weenend, GP! Michael

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fake news and controlled news is all too much like the WWII era and that’s what makes me nervous. Japan started controlling all media – years before we entered the war. You would know Germany’s record on that during WWII better than I.
      Thanks, you have a great weekend yourself, Michael!!

      Liked by 3 people

  24. I have goosebumps reading this GP! What a gift to family desperately waiting thousands of miles away for word.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Dear G.P. Cox,
    what an amazing job MacMannis did. Thank you very much for blogging about him. He was quite a hero and should have got a medal for his important work.
    Great that you made us aware of him 🙂 🙂
    We wish our dear friend all the best and have a happy weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  26. What a wonderful effort – making thrilling reading

    Liked by 4 people

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