In history 6 June 1944, a Tuesday, is known as D-Day. This was the day when the Allied forces landed on the Normandy beach in France during World War II. Normandy beach faces UK coastline across the English Channel. The invasion of Normandy is the largest amphibious invasion of all time. More than 160,000 troops landed on the Normandy beach on D-Day. With them the assault material, air support, naval support, supplies and other stuff was also transported from UK to Normandy beach across the English Channel.
For the organization of invasion the 80 km stretch of Normandy beach was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. Today’s iconic photograph was taken by Robert Capa on Omaha beach when he swam to the shore along with the second wave of assault from Allied Forces. The troopers were landing in the sea and then swimming to the beach. Capa was a Hungarian war photographer and a photojournalist —he covered five big wars in his life time. Capa has taken many famous photographs during these wars but his most famous work came on the D-Day.
After reaching the shore on Omaha beach Capa began to take pictures of the on-going landing and assault. In first two hours he took 106 photographs. However, a staff member at the Life magazine’s London office made a mistake in the darkroom while developing the photos; he set the dryer too high and melted the emulsion in the negatives in three complete rolls and over half of a fourth roll. Only eight frames in total were recovered. Capa never said a word to the London bureau chief about the loss of three and a half rolls of his D-Day landing film. These eight photos could also not be developed well as they come out to be blurry.
The Life magazine published these remaining photographs in its June 19, 1944 issue and captioned the photograph shown here as “slightly out of focus because Capa’s hands were shaking due to excitement of the moment”. However, this very surrealistic out of focus image brought Capa a huge accolade from around the world.
Did you know?
- Robert Capa coined the term Generation X (or Gen X as we know it). He used this term as the title of one of his photo-essay about baby-boom that happened after the end of World War II. After the war birth rates began to climb rapidly in four countries: United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
- Capa used Life magazine’s phrase for his photos as the title of his autobiography Slightly out of Focus
- The 1998 Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan is based on the events occurred during landing on Omaha beach on D-Day
- A 1962 movie The Longest Day was also based on this subject. It covered events on all the five beaches on Normandy shore.
- Both Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day won Oscar awards.
- Normandy landings were code named Operation Overlord
- Capa was famous for saying, “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He really got into trenches to take photos during wars instead of keeping safe distance from the war scenes.
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