Operation Overlord 76 began 76 years ago on June 6, 1944. D commonly known as D-Day – a military term for the first day of a war – was the largest beach attack in history and it started the war in Kick Normandy, in Nazi-occupied Europe. Successfully launched the second, Western Front.
Aware that the Normandy campaign would be an important step in the war, the Allies were ready to document it extensively through film and still photography.
A column of landing craft leads to Utah beach on D-Day. Credit: IWM (HU102348)
“Everything in terms of resources, manpower and planning for the previous year was encouraging for it, so the Allies knew it was going to be a huge deal … or a breach of contract,” said Anthony Richards, head of documentation and sound at the Imperial War Museum (IWM). Said in a phone interview.
“Keeping this in mind, it was a historical event for them, but it was very important to document it in photography and film because of the publicity.”
“They were on the front end with the army. They were capturing this when it happened. They would have been on fire, so they must have been very brave people who weren’t behind,” Richards said.
At 8.40 am on June 8, 1944, commandos of the First Special Services Brigade landed at Queen Red Beach in the Sword sector. Credit: IWM (B5103)
June June morning. Around 1am, about 100,000 troops crossed the English Channel overnight. The beaches were heavily fortified and full of obstacles.
A few images like the one above show the exact moment the individual units landed.
“You can see right in front that the soldier in the front is carrying a bagpipe. Because he’s the piper of that particular unit and he started playing when they were going through the water to maintain morale. In a way, it’s the perfect picture. It shows the dangers and everything they face Richards said.
In May 1944, members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) repaired and packed the packets. Credit: IWM (TR 1783)
After all, the cameras that the photographers worked with were very heavy.
The real risk was that they would drop their equipment, especially when they were in the water, perhaps the film was ruined.
“We know for a fact that a lot of the movies were damaged by seawater, where you can put the camera on the bottom of the ocean today, and they probably will,” Richards said.
After the war, the image was returned to England with a dope sheet – a form describing each image of the roll And the unit came from it.
Although most of the campaign photographs were in black and white, thousands of images were taken using the newly developed color film towards the end of the war, revealing details that were otherwise lost.
German prisoners were taken to a beach in the Gold Area on the occasion of D-Day. Credit: IWM (B5257)
These images give a rare insight into this decisive victory. “This visual record brings it back to all life and it really puts it in perspective,” Richards said.
“The ultimate value of images like these: they help us get involved in our history and put ourselves in the place of those soldiers.”
Top image: General Montgomery shows Winston Churchill the war situation in Normandy on July 22, 1944.