Operation Overlord was launched more than 76 years ago on June 6, 1944. Generally known as D-Day – a military term for the first day of a combat operation – it was the largest naval invasion in history and the Battle of Normandy, which successfully opened a second Western front in occupied Europe from Before the Nazis.
Realizing that the Normandy campaign would be a decisive step in the war, the Allies prepared to document it extensively through film and photography.
A column of drop-off boat heads to Utah Beach on D. credit: © IWM (HU 102348)
“Everything for the previous year was a boost to that, in terms of resources, manpower and planning, so the Allies knew it would be a huge deal … or a failed deal,” said Anthony Richards, head of the documentation and sound division at the Imperial War Museum (IWM), in Phone interview.
“With that in mind, it was very important for them to document it in photos and film, as a historical event but also for propaganda reasons.”
“They were largely on the front line as the forces entered,” Richards said. “They controlled the work as it was. They could have come under fire, so obviously they were very brave individuals who did not retreat.”
Commandos landed the first brigade of the special service on Queen Red Beach, Seef District, at about 8.40 am on June 6, 1944. credit: © IWM (B 5103)
At approximately 6:30 in the morning of June 6, the 160,000 troops that crossed the English Channel overnight began to come ashore. Beaches were heavily fortified and full of obstacles.
Some photos, like the one above, show the exact moment when the individual units landed.
“You can almost see that the soldier in front of him carries a bagpipe. This is because he was the one who played that particular unit and was about to start playing while they were passing through the waters to preserve their spirits. And somehow, that’s perfect. Richards said: It shows the dangers and everything they face.” .
Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) repaired and parachuted umbrellas in May 1944. credit: © IWM (TR 1783)
Moreover, the cameras that the photographers worked with were very huge.
There was a real risk that they would drop their equipment, especially when they were in the water, which would potentially destroy the film.
“We know the fact that a lot of movies have been hit by the sea, while today you can shoot cameras at the bottom of the ocean, and you might be fine,” said Richards.
After the battle, the film was returned to England with an anesthetic sheet – a model describing each image on the roll And the unit that came from it.
Although most of the photos from the campaign are black and white, at the end of the war a few thousand photos were taken with a newly developed color film, revealing details that would otherwise be lost.
German prisoners are escorted along one of the beaches of the Gold Zone on Victory Day. credit: © IWM (B 5257)
These photos provide a rare insight into this decisive victory. “This visual recording brings life back to everything and really puts it in perspective,” said Richards.
“This is the ultimate value of pictures like this: They help us to engage in history and put ourselves in the shoes of these soldiers.”
Top image: General Montgomery Winston Churchill shows the battle situation in Normandy on July 22, 1944.