Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (2024)

Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (1)

American troops storm the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

Published 5:53 PM EDT, Wed June 5, 2024

It was just after dawn on June 6, 1944.

Robert F. Sargent, a chief photographer's mate in the US Coast Guard, was aboard one of the many Higgins boats heading toward the shores of Normandy, France, at the start of the D-Day invasion. With him were soldiers from the US Army's 1st Infantry Division, cold and soaked from the choppy waters.

"Smoke hung over everything," Sargent later told Coast Guard Combat Correspondent Thomas Winship, "and as the coxswain opened his throttle to drive into the beach we saw the enemy-placed obstacles, a tangled mess of timbers, barbed wire and hidden mines."

From afar, the beach ahead of Sargent's boat looked lifeless and deserted. Then he glanced over at another nearby boat and saw the water between them being pelted by German bullets "like a mud-puddle in a hailstorm. It seemed impossible that we would make it without being riddled."

When the boats reached sandbars, their bow doors dropped and their ramps went down, releasing the soldiers into shallow water that they would have to wade through while being fired at by German machine guns. Many would not make it to shore.

This is the scene that Sargent captured with his famous photo "Into the Jaws of Death." It is one of the most widely reproduced photos from the Normandy landings, which laid the foundation for the Allied defeat of Germany in World War II.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in history. There were many Allied casualties that day — around 4,440 Allied troops were confirmed dead, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, with more than 5,800 troops wounded or missing. But by midnight, the Allies had secured their beachheads and moved further inland.

Sargent stayed on the boat, which returned to the USS Samuel Chase to bring more waves of troops to the shore. He carried his film in a metal milk can to keep it safe.

"The coast of France this morning was certainly no photographer's party," he told Winship. Sargent died in 2012.

Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (2)

The British Army's 50th Infantry Division lands on beaches in Normandy. Allied troops landed on five stretches of the Normandy coastline that were code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

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Commandos with the British Royal Navy advance on the beach. Planning for D-Day began more than a year in advance, and the Allies carried out substantial military deception to confuse the Germans as to when and where the invasion would take place.

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US Coast Guard boats are seen off Omaha Beach on the morning of D-Day. Troops left the USS Samuel Chase early that day to head to Normandy. "When the order 'Lower Away' came, everything was quiet," Sargent recalled. "Just the squeaking of the davits and the whispered comments of the men were heard. The soldiers were silent."

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Medics start an IV as they assist a wounded soldier on shore. Heavy fire from German positions caused many casualties.

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A squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, under the command of US Air Force Lt. Col. Clarence Shoop, fly across the English countryside on their way to France on D-Day.

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Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces, gives the order of the day to paratroopers in England. "Full victory — nothing else" was the command just before they boarded their planes to participate in the first wave.

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Reinforcements disembark from boats at Normandy.

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US paratroopers fix their static lines before a jump over Normandy. The Allied invasion — codenamed Operation Overlord — was coordinated across air, land and sea.

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Landing craft and a fleet of protection vessels approach Omaha Beach. By midnight, the troops had secured their beachheads and moved further inland.

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British troops reach the shore in the early morning. According to the Royal British Legion, the phrase D-Day was used fairly often before the Normandy landings. After them, however, the two became synonymous, and now D-Day is commonly understood to refer to the beginning of Operation Overlord.

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British troops use radios during the move inland.

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French soldiers are transported on the Normandy beaches. Most troops on D-Day were American, British and Canadian, according to the Imperial War Museums, but troops also came from Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Poland.

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A B-26 from the US Air Force flies over one of the beaches during the invasion.

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These US soldiers reached Omaha Beach aboard a life raft.

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British tanks are seen on an American landing barge crossing the English Channel.

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US troops huddle behind the protective front of their landing craft as it nears a beachhead in France. Smoke in the background is naval gunfire giving cover to troops on land. Germans rained mortars and artillery down on Allied troops, killing many before they could even get out of their boats. Fighting was especially fierce at Omaha Beach, where Nazi fighters nearly wiped out the first wave of invading forces and left the survivors struggling for cover.

Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (19)

Injured American soldiers wait to be moved to a field hospital after storming Omaha Beach.

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US troops wait to disembark a landing craft on D-Day. The Allies went to elaborate lengths to maintain secrecy and mislead Adolf Hitler. They employed double agents and used decoy tanks and phony bases in England to hide actual troop movements.

Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (21)

American troops help their injured comrades after their landing craft was fired upon.

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The crew on the British frigate HMS Holmes keep watch as gliders pass overhead with reinforcements from the 6th Airborne Division.

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Bodies of American soldiers lie on the ground in Normandy as graves are dug.

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British troops escort German prisoners in Normandy.

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A makeshift monument pays tribute to a fallen American soldier at Normandy.

Photos: The D-Day landings | CNN (2024)


Are there any real photos of D-Day? ›

The Magnificent Eleven are a group of photos of D-Day (6 June 1944) taken by war photographer Robert Capa. Capa was with one of the earliest waves of troops landing on the American invasion beach, Omaha Beach.

Who was the only photographer to get photos of the D-Day landings? ›

Robert Capa's photographs of US forces' assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, are an invaluable historic record of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France, which contributed to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control a year later.

How many soldiers died on D-Day in total? ›

That day, 24,000 allied soldiers landed on five beaches along 80 kilometres of heavily fortified Normandy coastline, or parachuted into German-occupied France behind enemy lines. More than 4,400 of them were killed, including 381 Canadians. The total number of allied casualties was over 10,000.

What happened to the bodies on D-Day? ›

Unlike later wars, where combat fatalities were airlifted back to the United States for burial in family or national military cemeteries, the Allied dead of the Normandy invasion were buried close to where they fell.

Is there any real footage of D-Day? ›

Some of the films were not even edited but were simply reels of raw footage from the field. Many reels of D-Day footage shot by the Coast Guard with OSS slates can be found in the National Archives, including some color footage.

Are any D-Day soldiers still alive? ›

MORE: Reporter's notebook: A Black WWII hero is finally honored, 80 years after lifesaving D-Day courage. Out of the 16.4 million Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII, less than 1% of them were still alive at the end of 2023, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Who was the only woman to land on D-Day? ›

Women being ineligible for combat in 1944, no women landed on D-Day; although war correspondent Martha Gellhorn reportedly snuck onto a troop transport to cover the invasion.

How many images of the Omaha Beach landing survived? ›

Robert Capa took 106 photos in the first minutes of the Omaha Landings. He sent his film to the Life photolab in London where an overeager dark-room assistant accidentally ruined all but 11 of the photos. The 11 that survive are known as the "Magnificent Eleven."

Who jumped into D-Day? ›


To facilitate the Utah landing force's movement into the Cotentin Peninsula, the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions descended on the peninsula by parachute and glider in the early hours of D-Day.

What does the D in D-Day stand for? ›

The term D-Day is used by the Armed Forces to refer to the beginning of an operation. The 'D' stands for 'Day', meaning it's actually short for 'Day-Day' (which is nowhere near as catchy).

What were the odds of surviving D-Day? ›

Overall, about 5%, but it really depended a lot on what your job was in the army. The US 1st Army landed 73,000 . Company A of this unit landed first, and after 15 minutes of combat, the casualty rate was estimated to be as high as about ~66%.

What was the largest loss of life in one day? ›

The day with the most deaths in human history was 23 January 1556. That was the day of the Shaanxi earthquake in China, which killed about 830,000 people.

Can you still find bullets on Normandy beaches? ›

The barbed wire and beach obstacles are long since removed, the defense ditches and trenches all filled in, but the bunkers built by the Germans are too big to get rid of and the bullet pock marks and shell holes made in them on D-Day by the assaulting American forces are still there to be seen.

Who cleaned up all the bodies after WWII? ›

The job fell to the American Graves Registration Service, the Transportation Corps, and thousands of civilian employees. Moving from country to country, they located graves, disinterred and formally identified remains, prepared bodies for permanent burials, and sent them home by ships and trains.

Did anyone survive the first wave of D-Day? ›

He served in the battalion's Company A and landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach. Nance was one of the few in his company to survive the landings – only a few dozen Soldiers of the 200-plus company made it, and many of those who survived were wounded.

Was there cameras on D-Day? ›

The official film and photographic record of the D-Day landings was taken by No. 5 AFPU under the command of Major Hugh Stewart. On the 6th June seven cameramen landed on Sword, Juno, and Gold beaches (these men volunteered due to the dangers involved) and two more, a little later in the morning.

Who took the famous D-Day photo? ›

Robert Capa's iconic photograph of a soldier in the sea captures one of the defining battles of World War II on a human scale. On June 6, 1944—80 years ago this year—the war reached a turning point when 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in what would become the largest sea invasion in history.

Has D-Day been memorialized? ›

The 80th anniversary of D-Day was marked with a poignant ceremony at the British Normandy Memorial today, Their Majesties The King and Queen, veterans, servicemen and women, and the public gathered to honour the sacrifices made during the historic landings.

Is D-Day Based on a true story? ›

While history recognizes D-Day as beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion truly started the previous night, as thousands of C-47 Dakota plane engines roared to life, ready to carry 13,348 paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions over Normandy shortly after midnight.

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