The Normandy landings - June 6, 1944

The Normandy landings - June 6, 1944

  • General Eisenhower giving the final directives before the D-Day landings.

  • In front of the French coast.

  • Arrival of the first American infantrymen on June 6, 1944.

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Title: General Eisenhower giving the final directives before the D-Day landings.

Author :

Creation date : 1944

Date shown: June 06, 1944

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Original title: U.S General Eisenhower bids good luck to paratroops leaving for France

Storage location: Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt (Blérancourt) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 08-529050 / Dsb2.1.2.31.2

General Eisenhower giving the final directives before the D-Day landings.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: In front of the French coast.

Author :

Creation date : 1944

Date shown: June 06, 1944

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Original title: Bound for the French coast Photographic print

Storage location: Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt (Blérancourt) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 08-529045 / Dsb2.1.2.28

In front of the French coast.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Arrival of the first American infantrymen on June 6, 1944.

Author :

Creation date : 1944

Date shown: June 06, 1944

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Original title: First pictures of landings in France Photographic print

Storage location: Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt (Blérancourt) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 08-529103 / Dsb2.1.2.92

Arrival of the first American infantrymen on June 6, 1944.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: June 2014

CNRS Researcher Center for Research on Arts and Language

Historical context

Operation "Overlord"

It was during the year 1943 that the English, Americans and Canadians decided to launch a large-scale operation against the German army from the French coast. The Allies therefore prepared, in the first months of 1943, the plan Overlord ("Overlord"), which was adopted in the fall of the Tehran Conference (November 28-December 1, 1943).

After hesitating between Normandy and Pas-de-Calais, the British and Americans, knowing the important fortifications built by the Nazis in front of the English city of Dover, and scalded by the bitter failure of the attack on Dieppe in 1942, finally opted for for a military landing on the coasts of Calvados and the Channel. Divided into five sectors divided between the Canadians and the British (to the east) and the Americans (to the west), these coasts were less well defended by the Wehrmacht: the “Atlantic wall” was more vulnerable there. . Under the supreme command of American General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allies launched an assault on the Normandy coast from June 5, 1944: operations were carried out by paratroopers in the interior, before infantry and armored vehicles were transported on multiple boats created for the occasion, do not attack the German army from the beaches in the morning of June 6, from 6.30 am.

Numerous photographs, most often published for propaganda purposes, bear witness to the preparation and progress of the fighting. Aerial views, snapshots taken by soldiers on board the barges and portraits of Allied leaders are widely broadcast and show the course of the "longest day". The three images, which emanate from the Office of War Information (created in 1942 by the American government to disseminate images and messages of patriotic propaganda in the various media), perfectly illustrate the three essential phases of the Normandy landings: sending of the airborne troops on the night of June 5 to 6 in the Normandy hinterland, crossing of the Channel by the Allied armada, assaulting the coast in the early morning.

Image Analysis

The course of D-day

The first photograph shows General Eisenhower giving his final instructions to the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division, who will jump a few hours later over the Cotentin, behind the fortifications of Utah Beach. Their mission is to take in rear the German forces massed on the coasts and to facilitate the progress of the troops unloaded in the morning. The composition of this photograph is very studied: its aim is to show the close relationship between the general and the soldiers. "Ike" Eisenhower, who had already led the campaigns in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy in 1942-1943, was known for his modesty, and the infantrymen readily trusted this friendly and close officer. This is what emerges from this cliché: dressed in a simple uniform, General Eisenhower appears surrounded by paratroopers in combat gear, his face sometimes blackened with shoe polish. All have their eyes fixed on him and listen with respect to this high-ranking officer who has come to speak to his men to galvanize them in the last moments preceding the battle.

The second image is an aerial view which indicates the immensity of the means engaged by the Allies to land in Normandy and suggests the power of the Anglo-American troops: the sea is literally covered with boats waiting for the signal to begin operations. The Anglo-American forces in fact consist of 1,200 warships and 5,700 transport ships, preceded by twenty-five flotillas of minesweepers who open passages for them in the Channel, to which are added fifteen hospital ships. and two man-made harbors (made up of concrete caissons and old ships that must be submerged to form a jetty). The landing of 130,000 men and 20,000 vehicles required the construction of multiple boats of various sizes, as shown in the picture: fruits of the war effort, the Landing Ships and Landing Crafts were therefore manufactured throughout 1943 and early 1944, in the United States as well as in Great Britain, to meet the needs of the military. Finally, this photograph reminds us that fifty-two squadrons of fighter planes are patrolling the sky at the same time in order to protect the ships against a possible attack by the Luftwaffe.

The third photo was taken when the first American infantrymen arrived on the morning of June 6, 1944. To the right is the bow of a landing craft from which soldiers are launching. The name of the beach is not specified (is it Omaha, the scene of bloody clashes, or Utah, where it was easier to disembark?). The progress of the infantry towards the beach is made difficult by the weight of their equipment (around 30 kg) and by the fact that they are half submerged. The Allied General Staff had calculated with precision the best time to land the troops: at dawn, in the middle of the rising tide (to avoid the submarine defenses placed on the coast by the Germans). The beach is therefore far away for the infantry, who will then have to protect themselves as best they can on the sand and then storm the German defenses. The smoke seen on the beach and beyond is no doubt due to the intensive shelling of the coast by artillery (cuirassiers and destroyers). By choosing a very wide frame, the photographer therefore wanted to give a “panoramic” view of the battle, which also allowed him to avoid any overly violent representation of reality (dead, wounded, soldiers who drowned as soon as they left, German response…).

Interpretation

The inevitable victory of the Allies

The three photographs illustrate the scale of the operation Overlord, which marks, on the Western Front, a decisive turning point in the war: after the victory of the Soviets at Stalingrad and the successful landings in the Mediterranean, the Normandy landings opened a new front against Germany. On the evening of June 6, a large number of Allied soldiers had already gained a foothold on French soil. A total of 156,000 soldiers were landed on the first day: 17,000 men from the 101st and 82nd divisions were parachuted, while 139,000 Americans, British and Canadians took up positions on the Normandy beaches and in the surrounding area, to fairly low losses (10,000 dead, wounded and missing). The first phase was therefore a success and allowed the Allies to form solid bases in France. This is evidenced by the three photographs: the strength of the armada heading for Normandy, the determination of Eisenhower and his troops against the Germans, the victorious advance of the infantry on the beaches.

  • Normandy landing
  • War of 39-45
  • boat
  • soldiers

Bibliography

WIEVORKA, Olivier, History of the Normandy landings; from the origins to the Liberation of Paris (1941-1944), Paris, Seuil, Points-Histoire, 2007 MAN, John, Atlas of the landing and the Battle of Normandy June 6-August 24, 1944, Paris, Autrement editions, 1994

To cite this article

Christophe CORBIER, "The Normandy landings - June 6, 1944"


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