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

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP 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. Another person to add to my list of “The Real People who deserve to have statues put up to them”. What a wonderful man, who helped the war effort so much. And I wonder what the German motivation was?
    Incidentally, I haven’t been with you for a while because of my problems with WordPress. For some reason, it turned off the automatic “email for a new post”! button, but didn’t tell me about it. And of course, as it was the holiday season I thought you were away. Still, “All’s well that ends well”, as somebody once said

    Liked by 4 people

    • I can understand the WP glitches, I’ve had plenty of them myself. I thought you were just busy.
      I can’t explain what the German motivation was, sorry. Guess they were just trying to prove how humanitarian they were. haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fantastic man.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. What a blessing that information would have been to so many families. Is this what you call service after the service?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great story GP. Many of those who stayed at home contributed a great deal. This one is out of the box.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. What a wonderful thing to do! Giving families hope about their loved ones was a huge gift to them. And congrats on the 1,000th post! That is also huge….

    Liked by 4 people

  6. What a fantastic service to provide for those families- that’s another tremendous story you’ve found!
    Congrats on your 1,000th post!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Stories like this sure are heart warming 🙂 How wonderful that he brought hope to so many just by turning on the radio. And congrats on 1000! That’s amazing!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. What a great, compassionate, service he provided.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks, GP. What a wonderful story and service he provided, for family desperately longing for word of loved ones.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. “They also serve …”

    But I must save a special Squeak of Honour for your cartoonist — “mouse code” indeed … boom boom!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. What an extraordinary man to do all that. And it’s not as if he had nothing else to do. Thanks for the bit of “good news” no matter when it happened, GP. Hugs.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. A thousand posts! Well done! Although one posting per year doesn’t seem that much!!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. What a kind and generous man.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Sorry GP! I called you Pete and had been leaving a comment for Beetley and mis-typed! Old fingers!

    :-)!

    Liked by 5 people

  15. He was quite a guy, quietly giving hope to so many. I learned something today. And congrats on 1,000!

    Best regards.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Congratulations on 1000 great posts! Keep posting – We’re reading 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  17. This post reminds me of a story my mother told about my Uncle Frank , who returned from Europe after being shot down over France and eventually rescued with help of the French underground. . He was a B 17 pilot. One crew member was killed that day and one was captured but he thought the others had escaped . He came back to the US at Bremerton , Washington , and took the train down to San Francisco with my mother to see his parents . At Portland Frank went to see the parents of one of his crew to tell them that their son had survived. He came back in tears , though , having learned from the parents that the man had later been killed in France. The danger of possibly spreading false hope seems a tough decision to make . I’m sure that Mac must have gone through his worries .

    Liked by 4 people

  18. I’m not crying; there’s just something stuck in my eye. 😉 Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. What a story! What a wonderful man! Thank you for sharing with us!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. A very interesting story, GP. My dad was a HAM operator before and after the war so this was especially intriguing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • If you remember any stories he told you – feel free to add them here, John! This blog is definitely a group effort!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I still recall his call sign W8VZZ. I used to listen to him putting out CQ’s trying to reach some of the other HAMs around the world. “He would say CQ, CQ, CQ W8VZZ (double u eight victor zed zed) Do you read?” Then magic would happen. Someone in South Africa or a hundred other places would respond. Once they connected they would trade cards with call signs. I was nine when he made his last broadcast, but can still remember sitting on the basement floor entranced.

        Liked by 4 people

  21. Another American hero. My hat’s off to Mac Dad.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. This is so interesting! I can truly see a great movie out about this man and his mission. I’m going to dig in further. Thanks for always sharing such relevant info. I appreciate it.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Reposted w/ attribution. Re last cartoon – “OM” “QRP”?

    Liked by 4 people

  24. This brought tears to my eyes, GP. God’s work, on earth. What a wonderful thing he did.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Oh wow, GP, the goosebumps started almost as soon as I started reading and then the tears started…. What a wonderful service Mr. MacManus provided to these families. Thank you for sharing this story. On another note, congratulations on your 1000th post! What an accomplishment!

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Unbelievable human beings… Unbelievable. God bless them…

    Liked by 4 people

  27. Having been a ham radio operator (VE7CRM), I found your post on the humanitarian work of James L. MacMannis especially interesting. He brought hope to many American parents and families, who were wondering about the fate of their sons. Great story, GP!

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Great story, GP!
    Congratulations on your 1,000th post of this fine blog!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I’m still amazed at how many people chipped in in such interesting ways to make the conditions better. Great story, GP/

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Congratulations on your 1,000th post, G.P.! Keep ’em coming!

    Liked by 4 people

  31. What a wonderful thing he did for all those POWs and their families. I wonder if at first people thought it was a hoax and so didn’t respond.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. What a wonderful man giving hope to 33,000 families! Great story and congratulations for reaching a great milestone!! 1000 posts – Impressive!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  33. What an incredible and heartening gift for those families! Great post. More stuff I never knew.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Love this post GP. Mouse code cartoon is a hoot. I clicked on your Here above and from there bounced over to Garrulous Gwendoline’s post. Good reads all around.

    Liked by 4 people

  35. Love this post as I am into Ham radio myself. Keen shortwave listeners can be a lifeline in many situations. Radio was vital communications back then.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Once in awhile, our enemy’s propaganda machine can be useful to us. This man’s work is proof of that truism.

    Liked by 6 people

  37. What a wonderful man he was, thinking of others in such a time!

    Liked by 5 people

  38. The Wilson family received three notes from people telling that they’d heard a shortwave broadcast that Dale Wilson had been reported a POW by the Japanese. He was never heard from again. https://joynealkidney.com/2019/03/22/radio-tokyo-named-dale-wilson-a-pow/

    Liked by 5 people

  39. Sometimes it’s these little stories that are truly so big. Thank you for sharing:) 0ne Thousand Posts ? When is the book being released?

    Liked by 4 people

  40. What an amazing thing to do. He sounds like a lovely guy. Strange kind of propaganda though!

    Liked by 4 people

  41. What a great man. Thanks for sharing his story with us, GP.

    Liked by 4 people

  42. The stories you share of everyday heroes are amazing. 👏

    Liked by 8 people

  43. MacMannis was in true ministry to those 33,000+ families🙏🏻. His was a meaningful life. Congratulations on your 1000th post!!!🎉 What an impressive milestone!!🇺🇸

    Liked by 7 people

  44. What a great positive story about a dedicated man who gave hope to so many, during those darkest days.
    Thanks, GP. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 7 people

  45. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: The postcard read: “Your boy is alive!” | PROFILES IN COURAGE

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