The Allied Invasion of Normandy was one of the single most logistically and strategically complex manoeuvres ever concocted. With a strike force numbering in the hundreds of thousands and the momentum of the entire counter-offensive hanging in the balance, there was simply no room for failure.
In The Americans on D-Day, author Martin K.A. Morgan guides readers from the run up to the invasion through to its horrific aftermath with the help of hundreds of gorgeous sepia-toned archival images.
US Army soldiers use a Jeep to move a Very Low Altitude (VLA) anti-aircraft balloon during a training exercise in the south of England before D-Day. The VLA balloon could be moored to the ground or to a ship by a heavy mooring cable, but its lift was not particularly strong, so it could be moved using the method depicted here. The VLA balloon provided a simple yet effective means of preventing enemy aircraft from conducting strafing or dive bombing attacks. National Archives and Records Administration/US Army SignalCorps 111-SC-179839d
This view of the engineer depot at Thatcham, Berkshire, shows some of the different types of construction vehicles being amassed in England prior to the invasion. Here, Allis-Chalmers HD10W tractors, Caterpillar D4 tractors, and Caterpillar D7 bulldozers can be seen parked together in anticipation of the journey toward Germany. National Archives and Records Administration/US Army Signal Corps 111-SC-189366
Perhaps the best-remembered aspect of the Operation Fortitude deception effort that preceded D-Day was the inflatable Sherman tank. By populating false marshalling areas with these decoys, the Allies could trick German photoreconnaissance interpreters into believing they were assembling armoured forces in areas of England where they were not actually doing so. The overall objective of this subterfuge was to "induce the enemy to make faulty strategic dispositions of forces."
(This quote comes from the Plan BODYGUARD Deception Policy operational order dated December 25, 1943. It is available through numerous sources, including a complete reprint in Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign by Roger Hesket.)
A Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber from the US Ninth Air Force departing its target area near the French city of Caen on the afternoon of D-Day. The aircraft is in flight above the Queen sector of Sword Beach near the beachside community of Riva Bella with the traffic circle at the intersection of Avenue de Verdun and Boulevard de France visible at the bottom left.
The Northampton-class heavy cruiser USS Augusta (CL-31) dominates the background of this photograph while LCVPs from the Elizabeth C. Stanton–class transport USS Anne Arundel (AP-76) pass in the foreground on their way to Omaha Beach carrying men of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, commanding the US First Army, and his staff embarked aboard Augusta for the landings in Normandy. Official US Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives 80-G-45720
LCVPs from the Coast Guard attack transport USS Samuel Chase (APA-26) land assault troops from the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division on the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach on D-Day morning. The area in the background is the stretch of bluff between Exit E-1/ Widerstandsnest 64 and Exit E-3/Widerstandsnest 62. After the war, the Normandy American Cemetery would ultimately be established on top of the plateau seen here. US Coast Guard Collection in the US National Archives 26-G-2337
US Coast Guard–manned LST-21 transfers supplies onto the Rhino that would ferry the load to the beach. This landing ship would support the initial British landings off of Gold Beach on June 6, 1944, and thereafter continue to supply Allied forces along the Normandy coast. US Coast Guard Collection in the US National Archives26-G-2366
LST-325 (right) and LST-388 (left) unload on Utah Beach at low tide on June 12, 1944, with barrage balloons deployed overhead. This method of delivering cargo was critical during the opening days of the invasion while the two Mulberry temporary harbours were being assembled. Note the sand ramp that has been built to facilitate unloading through the bow doors at low tide. Official US Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives 80-G-252796
A view from the top of the bluff above Widerstandsnest 65 looking down on the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach. L'Abri Côtier, the house in the centre of the photograph, was used as an observation position by the Germans before the landings. Note the Dodge WC54 1/2-tonne 4x4 Field Ambulance at the left and the wide variety of landing craft on the beach (including an LCI, an LCT, three LCMs, and three LCVPs). Six "corncob" blockships of "Gooseberry 2" for the American Mulberry Harbour can be seen in the background.
A view of the Fox Green sector of Omaha Beach overlooking the E-3 beach exit as seen from Widerstandsnest 61 on (probably) June 9. In this photograph, ten LSTs are taking advantage of the low tide to land vehicles directly on the beach, as they would continue doing for several months to come. Among identifiable ships present are LST-532 (in the centre of the view); LST-262 (the third LST from the right); LST-310 (the second LST from the right); LST-533 (partially visible on the far right); and LST-524. Note the abundance of barrage balloons overhead and the "half-track" convoy forming up on the beach. LST-262 was one of ten Coast Guard–manned LSTs that participated in the invasion. US CoastGuard Collection in the US NationalArchives 26-G-2517
With a DUKW in the background, a member of the US Navy's 2nd Beach Battalion tinkers with a captured German Goliath tracked mine, or "beetle," on Utah Beach on June 11, 1944. The Goliath was a radio controlled mini tank that let the user remain under cover while sending explosives into enemy lines to detonate them. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the US National Archives 80-G-252752
Dodge WC-54 3/4-tonne ambulances from the 546th Medical Ambulance Company land on the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach from LCT-550 on Monday, June 12, 1944. The lead ambulance is equipped with an extended air intake/snorkel for fording deep water. The 546th was one of the most important companies supporting the US Army's XIX Corps during combat operations in Normandy. National Archives and Records Administration/US Army Signal Corps 111-SC-191168
Excerpted with permission from The Americans on D-Day: A Photographic History of the Normandy Invasion by Martin K. A. Morgan.