Sunday 16 June 2019

Imperial War Museums - "The scene was one from hell..."


Robert Capa, [American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France], June 6 1944.
Until 29 September 2019
‘I could finally see the shoreline, about 07:00. We could see the bluff, we could see some smoke, we could see the haze, we could see the waves. But it looked pretty good, it looked like we were doing well. There was no noise that we could hear at that moment, I guess because of the storm and the waves and the distance from the shore. But then we got about 500 yards from the shore I said “uh oh, this is bad.” And it was bad.’ Captain Albert H Smith Jr
On 6 June 1944, Robert Capa landed on the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach with the 16th Infantry Regiment of the US Army.

As one of four press photographers permitted to cover the American beaches on D-Day, he bore witness to the largest amphibious assault in history.

Omaha was the most heavily defended of the assault areas, casualties were higher than on any other beach.

Preliminary Allied air and naval bombardments failed to knock out strong defence points along the coast. The Americans had difficulties clearing the beach obstacles as shells and mortars landed around them.

The experienced German 352nd Infantry Division was taking part in anti-invasion training in the area and was able to reinforce coastal defence units.

The men of the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions - many of whom had never seen combat before - were met with fierce resistance from battle-hardened German troops.

Captain John C Raaen Jr. described the scene as ' from hell: smoke from the fires on the face of the bluff, fires from burning vessels and equipment, black ugly puffs from artillery bursting, dust and flying debris everywhere.'

Capa took photos from the ramp of the landing craft to the shingle on the beach. The photographer captured men as they waded into battle, and lying in the surf among obstacles, pinned down by enemy fire.