Friday, June 6, 2014
Hazel McCulloch was a remarkable woman. A history instructor at Minot State Teachers College for over four decades, she was noted by her students as an intelligent, caring, and inspiring instructor. Her unique brilliance wowed students, including the hundreds of navy cadets training at Minot State Teachers College as part of the V-12 program, a program created to train naval officers for America’s fleet during WWII.
Jim Rabideau – a former V-12 naval cadet – remembered her with great admiration. Stated Rabideau: Hazel McCulloch “did a splendid job broadening the intellectual horizons of several hundred young Navy men,” but she could “on occasion be distracted when a student raised a question out of context.”
It was in one such “distraction” that Hazel McCulloch revealed a remarkable astuteness. During the spring of 1944, the American public began speculating on the timing and location of the upcoming invasion of Western Europe. As interest in the invasion mounted, a student asked Miss McCulloch if she had an idea of when and where the operation would occur. “Quite possibly,” she responded. “I’ve been reading the tide tables for western France and learned the tides will be optimum for the Brittany area June 5 and 6. June 6at 5:00am will have the lowest tide to avoid beach obstructions. It might be later if weather is a problem;” she continued, ”otherwise the tides won’t be low enough again until September, and further to the north.” McCulloch’s speculation on the date and even the time was spot on. Seventy years ago on this date, June 6, 1944, Allied planes dropped the first bombs on German targets at 5:20am. Allied landing craft approached Normandy beaches one hour later.
Thankfully Germany’s military advisors were not as insightful as Hazel McCulloch – and as a result were ill-prepared for the invasion. While the Allied force landed further east, in Normandy rather than Brittany, her guess was closer than that of the German leadership – who believed the invasion would land even farther east, near Calais.
“D-Day” proved to be a crucial turning point in the war. Allied forces, after bitter, bloody, and costly fighting, secured a landing zone in Western Europe, forcing Hitler to once again fight a two-front war – a war Germany could not win. Had the German High Command paid as much attention to tide charts as a history teacher living on the Dakota prairies, World War Two may just have had a different ending.
Dakota Datebook written by Christina Sunwall
“Hazel McCulloch,” (May 2013), Minot State University Connections, Special Edition-No. 1: 13.
“MSTC answers wartime call,” (May 2013), Minot State University Connections, Special Edition-No. 1:8-9.
“Military.com Remembers D-Day : D-Day Timeline,” accessed May 27, 2004, http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent1/?file=dday_timeline.
Rabideau, Jim, “MSU Profiles: Former Sailor Jim Rabideau remembers McCulloch with fondness,” Minot State University, accessed July 22, 2014, https://www.minotstateu.edu/profiles/profile_143.shtml
Schwartz, Bob, “Minot State Teachers College: The U.S. Navy V-12 Program,” Digital Minot: An On-Line Museum of Local History, accessed May 27, 2014, http://digitalminot.minotstateu.edu/omeka/items/show/1830.