The "D Day"


Guarding the French beaches.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Blérancourt) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: June 2014

Historical context

The landing of June 6, 1944 in pictures

The landing of the Allied troops in Normandy began on June 6, 1944. During the night, more than 200,000 men were transported near the Normandy beaches, which they began to tread at dawn. For airborne units that land first, it is a matter of freeing and securing beachheads that should allow troops and motorized equipment following them to penetrate inland.

Militarily and strategically decisive for the future, the operation's beginnings are also highly symbolic. Office of War Information, filmed and photographed images of “D Day” will be widely distributed. Marking the consciences and representations, fueling hope, they show the courage and determination of the "liberator" soldiers, the relentless advance and the power of the Allied army, a corollary of the defeat of the Nazis.

The photograph "Guarding the French beaches", taken by Haynes Weston on this defining day, illustrates in its own way the extremely important stage that this episode constitutes.

Image Analysis


Quite striking cliché, “Guarding the French beaches” was probably taken the very day of the landing. From the beach landscape that occupies almost the entire frame, soldiers stand in the foreground in holes they have dug in the sand to protect themselves from enemy fire or bombardment. Rifle in hand, helmets and well-equipped, they seem both focused on their mission (several carefully watching the area they have just entered) and relatively relaxed, enjoying a semblance of well-deserved rest (a man, on the left, almost smiles).

In the background, Jeeps and armored vehicles park or maneuver on the beach, which stretches to the horizon and is lost in the mist. The photographer wonderfully uses the perspective effect (three quarters) to signify the newly invested space and the importance of the means implemented. He thereby suggests the long road that remains to be covered.


Hide and show

"Guarding the French beaches" is characterized first of all by the contrast between the immobility of the soldiers and the movement of motorized vehicles. At this stage of the operation, the camouflage technique is relatively rudimentary and primitive. Conversely, the vehicles that occupy the beach thanks to the preventive action of these men seem to impose a more modern, more mechanical, more mobile and more relentless method and logistics on the traveled landscape.

Likewise, one would readily oppose the almost modest and (voluntarily) discreet way in which the hidden soldiers play their strategic role to the demonstration of force and power evoked by the parade of Jeeps and armored vehicles.

A way of suggesting, perhaps, that beyond the importance of the technical means involved during the “D Day”, it is first and foremost unique living beings struggling with the elements which, at every moment, humanize , embody and heroically make possible the emerging success.

  • Normandy landing
  • War of 39-45
  • army
  • Liberation (war)
  • propaganda
  • beach


Jean-Pierre AZÉMA, New history of contemporary France, volume XIV “From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1979, new. ed. 2002.

John MAN, Atlas of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy, 6 June-24 August 1944, Paris, Éditions Autrement, 1994.

Olivier WIEVORKA, History of the Normandy landings. From the origins to the Liberation of Paris (1941-1944), Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 2007.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Le" D Day ""

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