This photograph, one of the most famous taken during the Second World War, depicts a scene that would have been very familiar to many of the soldiers who participated in the “Operation Neptune” military landings on Normandy Beach, in northern France. On the 6th of June in 1944, this “Operation Neptune” (more commonly known as D-Day) was enacted by Allied forces as the first stage in the liberation of France from Nazi German control. The single largest invasion via sea in history, D-Day resulted in over 4000 Allied casualties by just the first day’s end – however, after much struggle, the strategic victories which were ultimately achieved by the end of the Normandy beach stormings laid the groundwork upon which France was finally liberated, and furthermore which resulted in the eventual Allied victory in the Western Front of the Second World War.
Taken at 7:40 in the morning, this photo depicts American soldiers from the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division disembarking from an LCVP vehicle (signifying “Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel”) on Omaha Beach, one of the five designated sectors of the Normandy Beach invasion. Of those five sectors, Omaha Beach was the most heavily fortified by German forces – over two thousand of the aforementioned first day’s casualties were Americans on Omaha Beach. Soldiers can be seen trudging through the water towards the beach, moments after the front gates of the LCVP would have opened. These vehicles were designed to carry 36 fully-armed soldiers, and also carried two heavy-duty machine guns to protect the boat as it traveled towards the shore under heavy enemy fire.
Soldiers who stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day were faced with a myriad of hellish and violent resistance from the Germans. The beaches were fortified with numerous installations of machine guns and artillery, and landmines also littered the shores – waiting silently for the first waves of brave soldiers to step overhead. Particularly bad weather on the 6th of June additionally led to some calls for postponing the invasion, but doing so would have required a postponement of nearly two more weeks – the invasions were actually timed to align with particular phases of the moon, in order to provide a low tide during the morning to carry the Allied boats inland to shore.