The Normandy Invasion, otherwise known as “Operation Overlord,” was launched by the Allies on June 6, 1944. On that day — D-Day — American, British and Canadian troops landed on five separate beachheads in Normandy, on the western shores of France. By the end of August 1944, the Allies had liberated all of northern France and started marching towards Nazi Germany.
At the time, the filmmaker George Stevens (1904-1975) was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. Dwight D. Eisenhower, tasked with planning and carrying out the Allied invasion of Normandy, wanted film crews present at the invasion to provide footage for a documentary film. Stevens took charge of the Special Motion Pictures Unit and gathered a group of cameramen and writers dubbed the “Stevens Irregulars”. They used the standard Army motion picture stock, 35 mm black and white newsreel film. But they also brought along a hand-held camera and some 16 mm Kodachrome color film. Stevens shot several hours’ worth of color footage from France, Belgium and Germany. The scenes from the liberation of Dachau concentration camp are particularly shocking and left their mark on the lives of the cameramen. In 1994, Stevens’ son used this film footage to assemble the documentary George Stevens: D-Day to Berlin.
- Photos of Normandy in 1944 and today
- An excellent collection of photos from D-Day
- Eisenhower’s call-to-arms letter for the D-Day landings in Normandy
By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.