PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Breakthrough: THE INVASION OF NORMANDY

 

  Description of  Trucks of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army are loaded into a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in Dorset, United Kingdom, on June 5th, 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. It secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead. D-Day is still one of the world's most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II.  (AFP PHOTO/Getty Images) Description of  German Prisoners of War captured during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)    
       

Original color photographs of the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. From British and American soldiers preparing for the invasion in England to German prisoners being marched through the streets after France’s liberation, these images are some of the only color photographs taken during the war. This set of photographs is primarily from the German Galerie Bilderwelt, part of Getty Image’s exclusive Hulton Archive collection.

See more historic images from The Captured Blog:
Photos: America in Color from 1939-1943
Photos: The Pacific and Adjacent Theaters in WWII

Description of  Some of the first American soldiers to attack the German defenses in Higgins Boats (LCVPs) approach Omaha Beach near Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. Plastic covers protect the soldier's weapons against from the water.  (Photo by Robert F. Sargent, U.S. Coast Guard/Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Some of the first American soldiers to attack the German defenses in Higgins Boats (LCVPs) approach Omaha Beach near Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. Plastic covers protect the soldier's weapons against from the water. (Photo by Robert F. Sargent, U.S. Coast Guard/Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Allied ships, boats and barrage balloons off Omaha Beach after the successful D-Day invasion, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France on June 9, 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Allied ships, boats and barrage balloons off Omaha Beach after the successful D-Day invasion, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France on June 9, 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  British Navy Landing Crafts (LCA-1377) carry United States Army Rangers to a ship near Weymouth in Southern England on June 1, 1944. British soldiers can be seen in the conning station. For safety measures, U.S. Rangers remained consigned on board English ships for five days prior to the invasion of Normandy, France.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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British Navy Landing Crafts (LCA-1377) carry United States Army Rangers to a ship near Weymouth in Southern England on June 1, 1944. British soldiers can be seen in the conning station. For safety measures, U.S. Rangers remained consigned on board English ships for five days prior to the invasion of Normandy, France. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  A U.S. Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) filled with invasion troops approaches the French coast from the sea in June of 1944. The GIs wear life vests in preparation for the landing.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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A U.S. Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) filled with invasion troops approaches the French coast from the sea in June of 1944. The GIs wear life vests in preparation for the landing. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Private Clyde Peacock, 1st Military Police (MP) Platoon of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army in June 1944 in Dorset, United Kingdom. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day suffering high casualties. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Private Clyde Peacock, 1st Military Police (MP) Platoon of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army in June 1944 in Dorset, United Kingdom. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day suffering high casualties. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Troops from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landing at Juno Beach on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer on D-Day, June 6, 1944. 14,000 Canadian soldiers were put ashore and 340 lost their lives in the battles for the beachhead.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Troops from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landing at Juno Beach on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer on D-Day, June 6, 1944. 14,000 Canadian soldiers were put ashore and 340 lost their lives in the battles for the beachhead. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

 

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A general view of the scene on D-Day, WWII, at Normandy Beach, France on June 6, 1944. (Photo by Camerique/Getty Images) #

Description of  An Allied plane crash burns during the fighting in Normandy, France in June of 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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An Allied plane crash burns during the fighting in Normandy, France in June of 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  German Prisoners of War are kept behind barbed wire on Omaha Beach on June 10, 1944. Landing Ship, Tanks can be seen on the beach and barrage balloons in the air for protection.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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German Prisoners of War are kept behind barbed wire on Omaha Beach on June 10, 1944. Landing Ship, Tanks can be seen on the beach and barrage balloons in the air for protection. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  From left, Chief of the Imperial General Staff Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in Normandy on June 12, 1944, six days after the D-Day landings during Operation Overlord Normandy in World War II.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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From left, Chief of the Imperial General Staff Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in Normandy on June 12, 1944, six days after the D-Day landings during Operation Overlord Normandy in World War II. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Trucks of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army are loaded into a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in Dorset, United Kingdom, on June 5th, 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. It secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead. D-Day is still one of the world's most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II.  (AFP PHOTO/Getty Images)

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Trucks of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army are loaded into a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in Dorset, United Kingdom, on June 5th, 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. It secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead. D-Day is still one of the world's most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II. (AFP PHOTO/Getty Images) #

Description of  Two American soldiers watch U. S. Army jeeps driving through the ruins in Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Two American soldiers watch U. S. Army jeeps driving through the ruins in Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Jeeps and other U. S. Army vehicles drive through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Jeeps and other U. S. Army vehicles drive through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)#

Description of  German Prisoners of War are kept behind barbed wire in Normandy, France in June of 1944. More than 200,000 German soldiers were captured during the Battle of Normandy.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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German Prisoners of War are kept behind barbed wire in Normandy, France in June of 1944. More than 200,000 German soldiers were captured during the Battle of Normandy. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  A farmer and his son in front of their damaged house during the Allied invasion of France in July of 1944. Bombing of German positions caused damage throughout the area.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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A farmer and his son in front of their damaged house during the Allied invasion of France in July of 1944. Bombing of German positions caused damage throughout the area. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Signal Corps photographer Sergeant Fred Bornet films a town in Normandy, France in June of 1944. Fred 'Freddy' Bornet was born in Scheveningen, Holland. Fluent in French, English and German, he migrated to the United States in 1939 as a 24 year old primarily to escape Hitler. He then became a member of the 163rd Signal Corps Company.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Signal Corps photographer Sergeant Fred Bornet films a town in Normandy, France in June of 1944. Fred 'Freddy' Bornet was born in Scheveningen, Holland. Fluent in French, English and German, he migrated to the United States in 1939 as a 24 year old primarily to escape Hitler. He then became a member of the 163rd Signal Corps Company. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  American troops with German prisoners of war on board a Landing Craft Transport (LCT) in June of 1944. The prisoners will be taken to a Liberty Ship in the English Channel during the Allied invasion of Normandy. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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American troops with German prisoners of war on board a Landing Craft Transport (LCT) in June of 1944. The prisoners will be taken to a Liberty Ship in the English Channel during the Allied invasion of Normandy. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  United States Rangers from E Company, 5th Ranger Battalion, on board a landing craft assault vessel (LCA) in Weymouth harbor, Dorset, on June 4, 1944. The ship is bound for the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Clockwise, from far left: First Sergeant Sandy Martin, who was killed during the landing, Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Markovich, Corporal John Loshiavo and Private First Class Frank E. Lockwood. They are holding a 60mm mortar, a Bazooka, a Garand rifle and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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United States Rangers from E Company, 5th Ranger Battalion, on board a landing craft assault vessel (LCA) in Weymouth harbor, Dorset, on June 4, 1944. The ship is bound for the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Clockwise, from far left: First Sergeant Sandy Martin, who was killed during the landing, Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Markovich, Corporal John Loshiavo and Private First Class Frank E. Lockwood. They are holding a 60mm mortar, a Bazooka, a Garand rifle and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  The 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army (The 'Big Red One') in Dorset, United Kingdom on June 5, 1944 before departing for Omaha Beach.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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The 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army (The 'Big Red One') in Dorset, United Kingdom on June 5, 1944 before departing for Omaha Beach. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  U.S. Army Medics treating two GIs at a first aid post in southern England in 1944. The soldiers are among the troops due to embark for the invasion of Normandy.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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U.S. Army Medics treating two GIs at a first aid post in southern England in 1944. The soldiers are among the troops due to embark for the invasion of Normandy. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  A truck from the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army is loaded into the Landing Ship Tank in Dorset, United Kingdom in June of 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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A truck from the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army is loaded into the Landing Ship Tank in Dorset, United Kingdom in June of 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  U. S. Army trucks and jeeps from the invasion against the German troops enter a town in Normandy, France in June of 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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U. S. Army trucks and jeeps from the invasion against the German troops enter a town in Normandy, France in June of 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  U.S. troops on the Esplanade at Weymouth, Dorset, on their way to ships bound for Omaha Beach for the D-Day landings in Normandy in June of 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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U.S. troops on the Esplanade at Weymouth, Dorset, on their way to ships bound for Omaha Beach for the D-Day landings in Normandy in June of 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  German Prisoners of War captured during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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German Prisoners of War captured during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  German Prisoners of War who have arrived on HM Landing Ship Tank (LST-165) at Gosport, Hampshire, in June of 1944. This is the first transport with prisoners from the Allied invasion of Normandy. They will be interrogated and distributed to various camps according to their classification.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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German Prisoners of War who have arrived on HM Landing Ship Tank (LST-165) at Gosport, Hampshire, in June of 1944. This is the first transport with prisoners from the Allied invasion of Normandy. They will be interrogated and distributed to various camps according to their classification. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  1,096 German Prisoners of War are marched through the town of Gosport, Hampshire, guarded by British soldiers, in June of 1944. The prisoners arrived on HM Landing Ship Tank (LST-165), the first transport with prisoners from the Allied invasion of Normandy. They will be interrogated and distributed to various camps according to their classification.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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1,096 German Prisoners of War are marched through the town of Gosport, Hampshire, guarded by British soldiers, in June of 1944. The prisoners arrived on HM Landing Ship Tank (LST-165), the first transport with prisoners from the Allied invasion of Normandy. They will be interrogated and distributed to various camps according to their classification. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  U. S. Army trucks and jeeps are driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in July of 1944. A group of American soldiers walks along the street. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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U. S. Army trucks and jeeps are driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in July of 1944. A group of American soldiers walks along the street. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Two U. S. Army trucks and two American jeeps are driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Two U. S. Army trucks and two American jeeps are driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #

Description of  Two children watch an American Army jeep driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

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Two children watch an American Army jeep driving through the ruins of Saint-Lo in August of 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there during Operation Overlord Normandy in June. (Photo













 

Then and now: This unique set of photographs shows D-Day locations as you have never seen them before

  • One photographer armed with a handful of D-Day photographs went out to find the original locations
  • Then, using the exact spot used 70 years ago, a new photograph of the same scene was taken
  • From troops loading in Weymouth, Dorset, to the aftermath of the battle for Caen there is a striking similarity

As thousands of veterans remember the sacrifice of their fallen comrades who gave their lives during the opening days of Operation Overlord, life at many of the locations that saw the heaviest fighting continues as normal.

In a fitting tribute to the fight against Nazi tyranny, young children are enjoying the freedom secured by those brave men and women on those dark days 70 years ago as the allies struggled for a foot-hold on mainland Europe.

By the end of the first day, in the region of 160,00 allied troops had made it ashore along a 50 mile stretch of the Normandy coastline at a cost of 4,000 lives.
Scroll down for video

US Army Rangers marching to their landing craft on June 5, 1944 in Weymouth, Dorset on their way to capture a coastal defence battery protecting Omaha Beach

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US Army Rangers marching to their landing craft on June 5, 1944 in Weymouth, Dorset on their way to capture a coastal defence battery protecting Omaha Beach

The barbed wire has long since been removed from the Dorset holiday town of Weymouth, which one of the launchpads for the invasion of Europe

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The barbed wire has long since been removed from the Dorset holiday town of Weymouth, which one of the launchpads for the invasion of Europe

In the middle of the chaos of Omaha beach, US troops struggle ashore after their landing craft is sunk by murderous German fire from the cliffs above

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In the middle of the chaos of Omaha beach, US troops struggle ashore after their landing craft is sunk by murderous German fire from the cliffs above

Today, tourists enjoy the sunshine on the beach near Colleville sur Mer although a bucket and spade has replaced the M1 Garand rifle as the tool of choice

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Today, tourists enjoy the sunshine on the beach near Colleville sur Mer although a bucket and spade has replaced the M1 Garand rifle as the tool of choice

Omaha Beach, which was protected by overhanging cliffs had some of the most intense fighting of D-Day. Yesterday President Barack Obama visited the area as a 'powerful manifestation of America's commitment to human freedom'.

President Obama said that 'by daybreak, blood soaked the water' and 'thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand'.

He also spent time at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial where almost 10,000 white marble tombstones overlook the battle site.

After the success of the initial assault, US troops flooded Omaha to reinforce the beach head and break out into the French countryside before a counter attack

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After the success of the initial assault, US troops flooded Omaha to reinforce the beach head and break out into the French countryside before a counter attack

Today the only threat of counter-attack comes during a game of beach football on the sands where the second front in Europe against Adolf Hitler was opened

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Today the only threat of counter-attack comes during a game of beach football on the sands where the second front in Europe against Adolf Hitler was opened

At the time of D-Day, supreme commander of the Allied invasion forces was smoking four packets of camel cigarettes a day. During the preparations for the invasion, cartographers printed 17 million maps.

The invasion was a logistical nightmare, with industry spending months preparing seven million jerry cans to carry fuel as troops advanced from the beach head.

Special tanks were deployed on D-Day to destroy some of the four million mines which had been deployed to kill and maim soldiers and disable armour.

Elements of the US 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division are dug in behind a concrete wall on Utah beach preparing to advance towards La Madeleine

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Elements of the US 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division are dug in behind a concrete wall on Utah beach preparing to advance towards La Madeleine

Over the past 70 years the concrete wall has crumbled allowing easier access for families going home after an enjoyable day in the surf

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Over the past 70 years the concrete wall has crumbled allowing easier access for families going home after an enjoyable day in the surf

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US paratroops who dropped into Normandy carried almost 55 kg of equipment, including two morphine syringes, 'one for pain, two for eternity'. They also carried 24 sheets of toilet paper in their emergency ration packs, as well as four chocolate bars and some tobacco.

 

 

In the aftermath of D-Day a lone soldier stands guard beside the remains of US fighter aircraft which has crash landed on Juno Beach during the assault

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In the aftermath of D-Day a lone soldier stands guard beside the remains of US fighter aircraft which has crash landed on Juno Beach during the assault

Two rubbish bins mark the spot where a US fighter aircraft crashed on D-Day, while changing huts have replaced the broken ammunition crates strewn across the sand

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Two rubbish bins mark the spot where a US fighter aircraft crashed on D-Day, while changing huts have replaced the broken ammunition crates strewn across the sand

On Juno Beach, British and Canadian reinforcements are faced with wading past the bodies of hundreds of dead soldiers, killed during the opening attacks.

Soldiers are warned they must clear the beach without stopping, leaving behind injured comrades because of the intense fire from the defending Germans.

US troops march up a hill overlooking Omaha Beach passing concrete bunker which had been earlier raking machine gun fire across the first troops to hit the sand

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US troops march up a hill overlooking Omaha Beach passing concrete bunker which had been earlier raking machine gun fire across the first troops to hit the sand

The concrete bunker remains as a reminder of the occupation while visitors to the beach today arrive in family saloons rather than amphibious tanks and landing craft

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The concrete bunker remains as a reminder of the occupation while visitors to the beach today arrive in family saloons rather than amphibious tanks and landing craft

By the end of D-Day, the allies had landed 156,000 troops in Normandy suffering 10,000 casualties. Of the casualties, an estimated 4,000 lost their lives.

Within five days, almost 330,000 troops had crossed the English Channel supported by 54,186 vehicles carrying 104,428 tonnes of supplies.

 

     
   

The carnage after D-Day: Last week Britain celebrated the epic heroism. But few remember the blood-soaked battles that came next - brought to life in a gripping book by one of our greatest historians

Enemy artillery shells were crashing above the heads of Lieutenant Alastair Bannerman and his men of the Royal  Warwickshire Regiment as they sped in a troop carrier through the Normandy countryside.

It was June 7, 1944, the day after D-Day, and they had fought their way inland from the beachhead eight miles away to the village of Lebisey, on the outskirts of the strategically vital city of Caen.

They drove almost blind along a typical Normandy sunken road with high banks and hedges before emerging suddenly into the sunlight and the middle of a formation of enemy tanks.

Turning into a wheat field, they deployed their anti-tank guns, the men swearing volubly as they fired. But then a shell knocked out the carrier, and as the survivors tried to slip back to their own lines, they were captured.

Slow progress: Allied troops in the fight for Caen fire on the dogged German soldiers holding the town

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Slow progress: Allied troops in the fight for Caen fire on the dogged German soldiers holding the town

The Germans were friendly enough, offering their prisoners wine even as shells came whistling over from the armada of Allied ships out in the Channel. ‘I think we’d better dig a hole, don’t you?’ a German soldier suggested to Bannerman, and the two of them began scraping furiously.

Sitting side by side in the trench they’d made, showing each other photographs of their wives in between cowering from the bombardment, the German insisted: ‘You British will be back in the sea in a few days.’

‘No, I’m sorry,’ Bannerman replied just as forcefully. ‘We will be in Paris in a week.’

Both were spectacularly wrong in their predictions. The Allies would cling on to their foothold in France; in that sense, the invasion was a success. But equally, any hopes of a swift advance and a German rout were dashed. In the three months ahead, a desperate war would be fought in Normandy, with close to half a million casualties on all sides.

In last weekend’s 70th anniversary D-Day celebrations, there was understandably a focus on the beaches and what it must have been like for Allied soldiers coming ashore in their landing craft under heavy fire, sick with fear and thrown around by  the waves.

But the truth often overlooked is that casualties on D-Day were far fewer than expected. The real carnage came later, and further inland, during the battle for Normandy. The German threat to throw what one general contemptuously described as ‘the little fishes’ back into the Channel was a ridiculous boast that was soon overtaken by events. But Paris would remain out of reach of the Allies until the end of August. In between, all hell broke out.

The problem for the Allies was that, though they established a firm beachhead on D-Day, they failed in their further objective. The plan for General Bernard Montgomery’s Second Army was to take Caen by midnight on June 6, leaving the door wide open into the country beyond.

But, as Lt Bannerman was discovering in the makeshift shelter he shared with his German captor, Caen was heavily defended and out of reach, for now at least.

The German commanders, Rundstedt and Rommel, had second-guessed Montgomery. They did not have the men or tanks for a full-on counter-attack, but realised that if Caen fell, so might the town of Falaise 30 miles further on, and then there would be the real possibility not only of an Allied dash for Paris but that all German forces in Normandy and Brittany would be cut off.

So they positioned a panzer division on the high ground in front of Caen, from which it inflicted heavy losses on advancing forces. The pattern for the Normandy battle was set in which slow and painful Allied attacks were met by German forces rushing like a fire brigade to plug the gaps.

In these circumstances, the Germans could never hope to win a major victory. But they retained an extraordinary ability to thwart their opponents and inflict heavy casualties. British commanders soon began to fear they might even run out of manpower if they could not find a way to break out of this battle of attrition.

It didn’t help that the failure to expand the beachhead as planned was leaving far too little room to bring in urgently needed reinforcements and supplies. Almost every orchard and field in the rear area was crammed with fuel depots, supply dumps, repair workshops, base camps, field hospitals and vehicle parks.

Easier than had been expected: After the initial landings on Sword Beach, round the port of Ouistreham, British troops prepare to move off the beach and push inland towards Caen - but then they ran into trouble

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Easier than had been expected: After the initial landings on Sword Beach, round the port of Ouistreham, British troops prepare to move off the beach and push inland towards Caen - but then they ran into trouble

Meanwhile, the RAF was furious that its operations harassing the enemy were being hampered because there were no forward airfields for Spitfires and Typhoons that were not within the range of German artillery.

As the bloody stalemate in front of Caen became clear, Montgomery, his master plan scuppered, spread out a map on the bonnet of his Humber staff car and devised a new one — a pincer movement to encircle the city.

He decided to send his two ‘best batsmen’ into play on June 11. On the left flank he placed the 51st Highland Division and on the right the 7th Armoured Division, the famed Desert Rats. Both had distinguished themselves under his command in North Africa — but they were to receive a rude shock in Normandy.

Going into battle, the 51st could not make headway and were completely disorientated by the small, sharp actions of the Germans as they blocked the way with sudden deadly mortar ‘stonks’ and artillery barrages.

‘The fury of artillery is a cold, mechanical fury,’ wrote a Highlander, ‘but its intent is personal. When  you are under its fire you are the sole  target. All of that shrieking, whining venom is directed at you and at  no one else.

‘You hunch in your hole in the ground, reduce yourself into as small a thing as you can become, and you harden your muscles in a pitiful attempt at defying the jagged, burning teeth of the shrapnel. Involuntarily you curl up into the foetal position, except that your hands go down to protect your genitalia.’

The same soldier graphically described the psychological collapse of the most warlike member of his company under this barrage. In the cellar of a farmhouse, he curled up on the floor, howling and sobbing, ‘his face smeared with tears and snot as he bleated for his mother in a shameless surrender’.

He was far from alone. A battalion commander of the Black Watch broke down and had to be relieved of his command after losing 200 men in a single attack.

Meanwhile, the Desert Rats were  faring no better as they advanced through bocage country along sunken lanes and high hedges between the woods and fields. Despite all the months of training for the invasion, the Allies were totally unprepared for this beautiful but claustrophobic terrain. Hedgerows were at least three times the height of English ones,  heavily banked and far too dense for even a tank to smash through.

Attacking through the leafy green tunnels ‘gives you the bloody creeps’, said one trooper. ‘In the desert, we could see them, and they could see us. Here they can see us, but I’ll be buggered if we can see them.’

The Desert Rats’ immediate goal was the town of Villers-Bocage, which they entered in their Cromwell tanks on the morning of June 13 to an ecstatic reception. Gendarmes in their best uniforms held back the crowds, who threw flowers on to the tanks and offered presents of cider and butter. The only enemy presence was a German eight-wheeled armoured car which was sighted but quickly disappeared. So the triumphant Desert Rats rolled on somewhat nonchalantly towards their next objective, without bothering to send scouts up ahead.

In a small wood close to the road up which they were advancing, five German Tiger tanks lay hidden. They had just reached the front after a long haul from north of Paris. Their commander was a panzer ace credited with 137 tank ‘kills’ on the Russian front.

He watched as the first squadron of British tanks halted as the crews got out to stretch their legs. They were behaving, one of his gunners thought, as if they had won the war. Suddenly the panzer commander, Michael Wittman, swung out of the wood, took aim and fired at the Cromwells, destroying each one in turn.

The British tanks did not stand a chance. Badly designed, under-armoured and under-gunned, they even found it hard to back out of danger, since their reverse speed was little more than 2mph.

Hard fought: A wounded eighteen-year-old German sniper taken prisoner in the Caen-Tilly sector.

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Hard fought: A wounded eighteen-year-old German sniper taken prisoner in the Caen-Tilly sector.

The German Tigers then lumbered into the main street of the town, where more British tanks were lined up with many of their crews dismounted. Once more Wittman took aim. Even those Cromwells that were manned and capable of replying had little effect. Some managed to score direct hits  on the Tiger but their low-velocity 75mm guns made no impression.

With Villers-Bocage lost so soon after being won, the advance came to a halt. British forces withdrew into defensive positions as their attempt to break the deadlock in Normandy failed humiliatingly. It was a devastating blow to morale.

But the most unsettling aspect of the lost battle was the inability of the Cromwell to knock out a Tiger tank, even at point-blank range. The British tank was fast going forwards and had a low profile, but its flat front left it vulnerable and it had an ineffective gun. The 88mm gun on the German Tigers could pick off Allied tanks before they were able to get within range.

British generals were well aware of its ‘design fault’, though Montgomery tried to stamp out any idea of tank inferiority for fear of his men developing ‘a Tiger complex’.

Yet he himself had criticised the Cromwell the previous August, when he complained: ‘We are outshot by the German tanks.’ To try to suppress the problem nearly a year later was flying in the face of reality.

The diary of a British officer found in a shot-up Cromwell posed the pertinent question. Its penultimate entry on June 11 read: ‘After four years of preparation for the invasion, why are our machines inferior?’

On June 12, Churchill boarded a destroyer at Portsmouth to pay a prime-ministerial visit to Normandy. He came ashore in an amphibious craft, right up onto the beach, and was then driven to Army headquarters in the Chateau de Creully.

His trip took him through countryside which had escaped destruction. ‘We are surrounded by fat cattle lying in luscious pastures with their paws crossed,’ he purred. His companion, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke,  noted, however, that ‘the French population did not seem in any way pleased to see us.’

Which was hardly surprising, given the terrible destruction being meted out to large swathes of Normandy. Caen continued to suffer abominably from bombs and shelling. Rats grew fat on the corpses buried underground and stray dogs searched for an arm or leg sticking out of the rubble.

‘I simply cannot look at any more blood,’ a surgeon in the hospital was heard to say, so weary he had no idea what day it was.

Even for those French now behind Allied lines, life was hard. The invading soldiers had distributed chocolate, sweets and cigarettes, but there was no electricity or water, except from wells. For food, most survived off their market gardens.

Often the sweets and cigarettes were not given but bartered for milk, eggs and meat from fallen livestock. This trading extended to other commodities with astonishing rapidity. Allied military police raided a brothel set up on a beach in a wrecked landing craft by three ladies on the evening of  D-Day and confiscated the army-issue chocolate, sweets and cigarettes they had amassed in ‘currency’.

Meanwhile, the very worst was happening for the Allies in terms of getting the job done. Everywhere, instead of pushing forward, the front line was coagulating as troops who should have been aggressively on the move dug in. ‘Musical chairs with gunfire and slit trenches’ was how one lieutenant described his life at this point.

Trench warfare and the quite arbitrary chance of death which went with it led to numerous superstitions. Few dared fate by saying that they would do this or that ‘when I get home’.

A medal was all very well, but they preferred somebody else to play the role of hero, ‘winning the war single-handed’. Most just wanted to return home alive.

Here was a telling point. It was primarily a conscript army that was thrown into the battle for Normandy, against a German military that was far more professional, mainly as a result of their training system, their experience on the Russian front and their doctrine of Auftragstaktik. This was a commander’s obligation to achieve an objective on his own initiative rather than stick blindly to orders, and it gave them a much greater flexibility.

The Germans were also deeply influenced by the idea promoted through propaganda that they were fighting to defend their country from annihilation, while the Americans and British just wanted to get the war over with and go home.

‘The Germans are staying in there just by the guts of their soldiers,’ an American general observed. ‘We outnumber them ten to 1 in infantry, 50  to 1 in artillery and an infinite number in the air.’

He wanted his officers to convince their men ‘that we have got to fight for our country just as hard as the Germans are fighting for theirs’. But he was fighting an uphill battle.

American troops injured while storming Omaha Beach: American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British expectation of regular tea and smoke breaks - even just after reaching the beaches on D-Day

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American troops injured while storming Omaha Beach: American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British expectation of regular tea and smoke breaks - even just after reaching the beaches on D-Day

In conscript armies such as the British and American, it was not possible to exert the same sort of pitiless discipline to overcome fear as the Nazi regime used. The average citizen from a western democracy could not be expected to fight in the same way as a member of the Wehrmacht or the Red Army, let alone an SS officer or a member of the Hitler Youth.

But the difference this made was crucial. Americans, Britons and Canadians did not regard it as shameful to give up after a certain level of suffering or hopelessness was reached. Phrases like ‘Fight to the last man!’ were seen as rhetorical, not literal.

And we should be thankful that was the case. We would be most uneasy today if they had fought in Normandy in the same way as the brutal and feared Waffen-SS.

But there were also systemic flaws in the British Army that affected how it performed in that immediate post- D-Day period. Many private soldiers and NCOs had been marked by social and political tensions of the inter-war years and become far more politicised than their fathers, the generation that fought World War I.

Sometimes a trade-union mentality influenced attitudes of what could be expected of them. American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British soldier’s expectation of regular tea and smoke breaks.

Sometimes a trade-union mentality influenced attitudes of what could be expected of them. American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British soldier’s expectation of regular tea and smoke breaks.

On D-Day itself, an astonishing number felt tired after wading ashore and believed there was time for a cigarette and even a brew up instead of getting on with the task of  knocking out the enemy defences and pushing inland.

Another British failing came from a demarcation mentality, of not doing anything that was not strictly your job. A Canadian observed that  sappers did not believe it was their task to fire at the enemy when not engaged on an engineering task, and infantry refused to help fill a crater or get a vehicle out of difficulties. There was little of that attitude in either the German or the American army.

The Germans also believed that the British were very brave in defence, but often over-cautious in attack. One reason may be that British military myths always focused on heroic defence — at Corunna, Waterloo, Lucknow and Rorke’s Drift. Glorification of attack was much rarer.

Then again, it must also be remembered that in 1944 Britain had been at war for nearly five years, so there was considerable war-weariness. And, as the end came in sight, men wanted to survive. They became reluctant to take risks, especially those who had fought in North Africa and Italy.

All this contributed to the situation the Allied armies found themselves in after fighting their way ashore in Normandy 70 years ago and facing an enemy dug in and determined to try to stop them in their tracks.

Now, with two weeks gone since the first landings and progress flagging, even the weather — that had relented like a godsend to make D-Day possible — turned against Allies. On June 19, the most violent storm for 40 years blew up in the Channel.

Gale force winds along the coast were, in the Norman saying, enough ‘to take the horns off a cow’, while temperatures felt like a cold November. Locals had never seen anything like it. Landing craft were hurled by the waves high on to the beaches, smashing against each other. One Mulberry artificial port was destroyed beyond repair.

When the storm subsided on June  22, the destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and material had been lost than during the invasion itself. It badly affected reinforcements and supplies. Many Allied divisions ready to cross to France were delayed by a week, as were shipments of artillery ammunition.

It also forced the cancellation of Allied air operations, which allowed the Germans to accelerate their own reinforcement of the Normandy front.

Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead on June 6. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been a possibility at the time, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history.

Fortune had been on the Allies’ side then — and it was about to be again when, from a distance, Hitler decided he knew better than his generals how to eject the Allies from Normandy.

   
         

 

   

Skies above Normandy filled with 1,000 paratroopers in culmination of 70th anniversary D-day commemorations

  • Thousands gather at Sainte-Mere-Eglise to observe aerial drop of 1,000 paratroopers - reenacting their assault on the French town hours before D-Day armada launched
  • Veterans of the attack flew in restored C-47 US military transport plane that dropped American, British and Canadian troops over Normandy
  • Final commemoration of 70th anniversary of D-Day which launched on June 6, 1944 to liberate Western Europe

Nearly 1,000 paratroopers dropped out of the sky in Normandy on Sunday - but this time they did so in peace, instead of to wrest western France from the Nazis as they did during World War II.

Drawing huge crowds who braved hot weather and lined the historic landing area at La Fiere, the aerial spectacle re-enacted the drama of the Normandy landings and served to cap commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Among the planes ferrying paratroopers for the event was a restored C-47 US military transport plane that dropped Allied troops on the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise - a stone's throw from La Fiere - on June 6, 1944.

Skies filled: Paratroopers are dropped near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, on Sunday June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70 anniversary of the D-Day landing

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Skies filled: Paratroopers are dropped near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, on Sunday June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70 anniversary of the D-Day landing

And the pilots who originally flew it took the controls again last week, 70 years later, remembering their experiences. Sunday saw dozens of veterans escorted down a sandy path to a special section to watch the show alongside thousands of spectators - most of whom lined two sides of the field. Others took shelter in the shade as the lack of wind caused the sun to beat down hard.

Reenactment: A paratrooper parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration event marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

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Reenactment: A paratrooper parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration event marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

Historic: A French soldier walks in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration with paratroopers to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

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Historic: A French soldier walks in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration with paratroopers to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

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Historic: A French soldier walks in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration with paratroopers to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

Musical: An US orchestra conductor is seen on June 8, 2014 as paratroopers parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration event marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

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Musical: An US orchestra conductor is seen on June 8, 2014 as paratroopers parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France, during a D-Day commemoration event marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy

Away: AParatroopers parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France on Sunday at the culmination of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day celebrations

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Away: AParatroopers parachuting from a plane in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, northern France on Sunday at the culmination of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day celebrations

Mark of respect: The paratroopers float towards the ground after leaping out of the American plane over the French town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise in Normandy on Sunday

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Mark of respect: The paratroopers float towards the ground after leaping out of the American plane over the French town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise in Normandy on Sunday

Safe jump: Paratroopers prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, Sunday June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70 anniversary of the D-Day landing

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Safe jump: Paratroopers prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, Sunday June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70 anniversary of the D-Day landing

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Safe jump: Paratroopers prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, Sunday June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70 anniversary of the D-Day landing

Display: Paratroopers watched by the crowd, prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France

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Display: Paratroopers watched by the crowd, prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France

Planes including the C-47 aircraft flew by loudly overhead several times, with two dozen military paratroopers - from countries including the U.S., Britain, France and Germany - jumping with each passage.

They were scenes reminiscent of the pivotal event, when around 15,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped in and around the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on D-Day.

It became the first to be liberated by the Allies and remains one of the enduring symbols of the Normandy invasion.

Veteran Julian 'Bud' Rice, a C-47 pilot who participated in the airdrops of Normandy on D-Day, watched the show.

'It's good to see 800 paratroopers jump here today, but the night that we came in, we had 800 airplanes with 10,000 paratroopers that we dropped that night, so it was a little more,' he said.

Drawing huge crowds who braved hot weather and lined the historic landing area at La Fiere, the aerial spectacle re-enacted the drama of the Normandy landings and served to cap commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day

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Drawing huge crowds who braved hot weather and lined the historic landing area at La Fiere, the aerial spectacle re-enacted the drama of the Normandy landings and served to cap commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day

Reconciliation: World War II German veteran Kurt Keller, right, of Homburg, Germany, 89, who fought against the Allied landing on Omaha Beach on the 6 June 1944, speaks with World War II Dutch resistance and veteran Adriaan de Winter, 87, of Milsbeek, from the Netherlands, who fought the Nazis, in Belgium and Netherlands, during a remembrance ceremony at the German cemetery of La Cambe, France, Sunday, June 8, 2014, as part of D-Day commemorations

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Reconciliation: World War II German veteran Kurt Keller, right, of Homburg, Germany, 89, who fought against the Allied landing on Omaha Beach on the 6 June 1944, speaks with World War II Dutch resistance and veteran Adriaan de Winter, 87, of Milsbeek, from the Netherlands, who fought the Nazis, in Belgium and Netherlands, during a remembrance ceremony at the German cemetery of La Cambe, France, Sunday, June 8, 2014, as part of D-Day commemorations

Remarkable: World War II German veteran Kurt Keller, right, of Homburg, Germany, 89, who fought against the Allied landing on Omaha Beach on the 6 June 1944, holds the hand of World War II Dutch resistance and veteran Adriaan de Winter, 87, of Milsbeek, the Netherlands

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Remarkable: World War II German veteran Kurt Keller, right, of Homburg, Germany, 89, who fought against the Allied landing on Omaha Beach on the 6 June 1944, holds the hand of World War II Dutch resistance and veteran Adriaan de Winter, 87, of Milsbeek, the Netherlands

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Remarkable: World War II German veteran Kurt Keller, right, of Homburg, Germany, 89, who fought against the Allied landing on Omaha Beach on the 6 June 1944, holds the hand of World War II Dutch resistance and veteran Adriaan de Winter, 87, of Milsbeek, the Netherlands

Rice flew in a C-47 aircraft earlier in the week, similar to the one he flew on D-Day. With him was veteran pilot Bill Prindible, with whom he watched the show.

'Very impressive,' Prindible said. 'You just have to imagine there'd be a squadron of 72 aircraft, 36 aircraft going by every time one of those guys went by.'

At the invitation of the French government, this restored Douglas C-47 - known as Whiskey 7 - flew for the festivities and released paratroopers as it did when it dropped troops behind enemy lines under German fire.

The plane has almost as a rich a story to tell as the pilots who flew it.

Although the twin-prop Whiskey 7, so named because of its W-7 squadron marking, looks much the same today as it did on June 6, 1944.

It looked very different when it arrived at the National Warplane Museum in western New York as a donation eight years ago. It had been converted to a corporate passenger plane.

The museum's president said that for its restoration they had to take out the interior because it then had a dry bar, lounge seats and a table with a map of the Bahamas.

And it has moved with the times - now sporting two GPS systems to keep the aircraft on course.