Start of the Reconquest of Europe
|American paratroopers about to drop on Normandy early on June 6, 1944. They were the first ones back in France, while it was still dark.|
|The start of D-Day - paratroopers at night.|
|German soldiers in Normandy. Probably SS - they were required to wear full camouflage.|
Pre-Invasion StrategyItaly was proving extremely tough to reclaim and, quite frankly, more trouble than it was worth in military terms.
|German soldiers in Normandy. 1944 (Federal archive).|
|US Army M4 Sherman tanks and other equipment loaded in an LCT, ready for the invasion of France, circa late May or early Jun 1944. This is how wars are won.|
|The famous shot of the D-Day landings, with barrage balloons and endless convoys of tanks and supplies|
|Another German coastal gun in Normandy. Many of the German emplacement remain, though the guns themselves are long gone.|
|Troops and crewmen aboard a Coast Guard-manned LCVP as it approaches a Normandy beach on “D-Day.” (June 6, 1944). Note the nice, big flag.|
The Grand Deception CampaignThe deception campaign by the Allies surrounding D-Day is part of the lore of the operation and fun for some patriotic people to reflect in self-satisfied fashion on how the Allies "pulled a fast one" on the "dumb Germans." This fits into a general framework that the Germans were decadent from four years of occupation duty in France and too stupid to make realistic appreciations of the developing situation, that they were confused and bewildered by all intricate Allied feints.
|A soldier writing the names of the deceased on canvas body bags following the D-Day invasion, which took place on June 6, 1944. This would have been censored.|
Operation Taxable - simulated an invasion force (using small boats, towed barrage balloons, etc.) approaching Cap d'Antifer;
Operation Glimmer - simulated an invasion force approaching Pas de Calais;
Operation Big Drum - operated radar-jamming equipment off the French coast;
Operation Titanic - an airborne deception strategy.
Have you ever heard these names? Unless you are a top historian of the invasion, probably not. That's because they were almost all completely ineffective and unnecessary, thus not worth emphasizing by the victors. That's how official history works. Nice efforts, good concepts - and useless.
|German prisoners of war captured after the D-Day landings in Normandy are guarded by U.S. troops at a camp in Nonant-le-Pin, France, on August 21, 1944.|
|A German 40.6cm (16-inch) coastal gun. The emplacement is still there and looks the same. The gun and German sentry - gone.|
Pre-Invasion German PreparationPreparation is everything in war, as it is in life. While semi-obsessed with the Pas de Calais route, the Germans hadn't neglected Normandy. Far from it. Hitler half-expected the invasion to take place there, saying that his "intuition" told him it was the destination (his "intuition" may have been aided by spy reports he did not wish to discuss). General Erwin Rommel was convinced that he had done everything possible to defend Normandy, and perhaps he was correct given the resources available to him. However, Hitler kept the Normandy coast relatively weakly defended, counting on a Panzer riposte to take care of matters if the time came. Rommel also appears to have been strangely over-confident about the strength of his fairly useless efforts there.
|Rommel with his chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dr. Hans Speidel.|
|Canadians disembarking on Juno Beach. They landed in between the two British sectors.|
The Invasion: Lodgement PhaseThe invasion began on June 5, when ships from distant ports left their harbors with the intention of being at the Normandy beaches at first light. Paratroopers from both the US and British armies embarked on gliders and transports and prepared to be flown inland to targets behind the beaches.
|One of the Horsa Gliders that landed near the Pegasus Bridge. This picture makes it look isolated, but the photographer was standing next to another glider.|
|Pegasus Bridge over the Orne River.|
|This shows nicely that the immediate objective was not east, but west - Cherbourg, a badly needed, isolated deep-water port that had to be taken as quickly as possible.|
British and Canadians disembarked on the eastern beaches near Caen while the Americans took the western ones near Cherbourg. The British had promising early success but were stopped cold, well short of their primary objective a few miles inland, the strategically important city of Caen. Relatively speaking, the British and Canadians had less difficulty getting ashore and then more problems inland. Over the next week, General Montgomery tried repeatedly to capture Caen in Operation Perch and the aborted Operation Wild Oats.
|A German telegram on 7 June 1944 setting forth the state of play. It is curiously general for the second day of an invasion: "Since early yesterday morning, there has been an enemy attack...."|
- Panzer Lehr;
|Canadians study a German model of the beaches after capturing a German command post. Rommel was probably looking at this only days before.|
|General Omar Bradley was known as a "soldier's general." This picture illustrates why. He is going ashore with Admiral Alan Kirk on D-Day evening.|
|A dead US soldier in the sand as other troops and tanks move off the beach, Utah Beach - 6 June 1944. He has been identified and labelled, his next of kin will get a telegram soon and a knock on the door.|
|A German soldier, probably SS and perhaps Hitlerjugend, in Normandy in June or July 1944 (Reich, Federal Archive, colorized).|
|A member of the 12th SS Div. Hitlerjugend. Maybe no longer boys, but not yet men.|
|Officers of 12th SS-HJ. Left to right - SS-Untersturmführer Komodina, SS-Untersturmführer Porsch (KIA), SS-Untersturmführer Herbert Walther and SS-Obersturmführer Freitag. Freitag would be captured alongside Max Wünsche in Normandy|
|PzKpfw. V “Panther” of 12.SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” in Normandy, 1944. While the Panther was considered a medium tank, in fact, it was heavier than anything the Allies had in France.|
|Among Hitler's priorities were protecting the V-1 launching sites a little further north along the French coast.|
Everything indicates that the enemy will launch an offensive against the Western Forces of Europe, at the latest in the spring, perhaps even earlier. I can therefore no longer take responsibility for further weakening the west, in favor of other theaters of war. I have therefore decided to reinforce its defenses, particularly those places from which long-range bombardment of England will begin.Directive 51 led directly to the appointment of Erwin Rommel, who was famous but ultimately had very impact against the invasion, and that is what everybody mentions. The part most people miss in the directive is the very last clause in the quoted selection: "particularly those places from which long-range bombardment of England will begin." Hitler knew something very few other people knew: that the V-1 launching sites were being built around the Pas de Calais area and could not be moved elsewhere due to range limitations. He had bet his chips on those advanced weapons winning the war or at least serving as a tool to keep demoralized troops fighting. Huge expenditures had been made, V-1s were just becoming ready to use, and they were terrifying new weapons with incalculable effects on enemy morale. Losing those sites was unthinkable. That was why he kept his forces to the north, not because of any Allied deceptions.
Allied Command of the AirGerman troop movement was severely constrained by Allied air attacks, so troop movement proximity to their destination was all-important. They lost a fraction of their troops for every mile they traveled. They would have lost a large fraction of their forces from air attack if they tried to skirt the British who were nearby and traveled much further over open roads to confront the Americans. The Americans had complete command of the French air that Spring. Besides, the Germans had enough problems just containing the British. In a way, the situation was quite similar to the roles that the British and the Americans played during the invasion of Sicily when the British took the quick route to Messina and the Germans frantically and fanatically blocked them, while the Americans had a free hand in the western half of the island and occupied huge swathes of territory while the British were stalled on the east coast.
|American P-38s attacking a German FLAK tower guarding an airfield in preparation for Overlord.|
|These prisoners from the 12th SS Hitlerjugend Division were captured during the early portion of the battle for Caen.|
|Airborne troops landing on D-Day, note all the gliders scattered across the field.|
|Luftwaffe FLAK crew in France, just outside Paris between there and Rouen. They were in a position to protect vital and vulnerable supply lines across France|
Post-Lodgement StrategyOnce the lodgement area had been secured by nightfall of June 6, the battle was won. Naval guns from the battleships and cruisers parked offshore could take care of any determined counter-attacks - the Allied had a lot of experience with this from Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. Given a secure perimeter, the Allies could re-supply faster by sea than the Germans could by land, given the Allied air forces' overwhelming superiority over the Luftwaffe. The beachheads linked up within days, forming one huge invasion bridgehead. That took a lot of the strain off the defenders.
|Waffen SS near Utah Beach. The SS fought determinedly and managed to seal off the bridgehead, but they did not have nearly enough numbers to throw the invaders back into the sea.|
|6th June 1944: Allied troops exiting a landing craft in trucks on a beachhead during the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.|
Below are additional photographs from all phases of the Invasion.
|6th June 1944: Allied troops ride in an open truck while a landing craft sits on the shore in the background on a beachhead in Normandy, France, World War II, D-Day.|
- Saving Private Ryan (1998) Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore
- The Big Red One (1980) Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill
- D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) Robert Taylor, Edmond O'Brien
|"The Longest Day": epic scale, and there were some Germans involved, too, you know.|
|Tom Sizemore adds a real human dimension to "Saving Private Ryan"|
|Lee Marvin was a very real WWII hero in the PTO|
|Edmond O'Brien may be the most underrated actor in Hollywood history. He did an outstanding job as a victim of battle fatigue, a very sensitive topic at the time, in "D-Day The Sixth of June."|
|"Band of Brothers" gets you up close and personal.|
|Aerial view of the invasion of Normandy. The Americans and British had complete domination of the sky, with some 11,000 aircraft to barely any at all of the Luftwaffe.|
|Troops landing on the Normandy beaches during the D Day invasion. Rear-view image of a British Commando soldier ready to leave the landing craft and wade ashore to the beach. Note all the tanks already on the beach.|
|General Eisenhower giving an inspirational talk to paratroopers the day before the Invasion.|
|Soldiers wading ashore on D-Day.|
|A sign outside Trinity Church, New York City, inviting worshippers to 'Come in and pray for Allied victory' in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944.|
|A '2nd Invasion Extra' edition of the Worcester Telegram newspaper, published in Worcester, Massachusetts, reporting the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944.|
|A newspaper seller in London on D Day - the start of the Allied invasion of Europe.|
|An anxious crowd formed in Times Square, NYC, watching the zipper news feed for any news about the success of the invasion.|
|Ten weeks of operations compressed into one map.|