Preparing for the Invasion

Rare color glimpses taken prior to D-Day
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The National Archives holds thousands of photographs that document the June 6, 1944, invasion of Northern France. While nearly all are black-and-white, there is a small collection of original color images that were taken during the pre-assault phase. These rare shots provide historians and collectors a unique perspective of the people who made the invasion and the equipment they used.

You are about to embark on the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.  – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

The mastermind behind the Normandy invasion was General Dwight Eisenhower. This photo was taken when Eisenhower was SCAEF (Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force) and head of (SHAEF) Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces. He wears the SHAEF patch on his left shoulder.

The mastermind behind the Normandy invasion was General Dwight Eisenhower. This photo was taken when Eisenhower was SCAEF (Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force) and head of (SHAEF) Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces. He wears the SHAEF patch on his left shoulder.

Don’t believe all that you see — while this is a great depiction of the invasion force, it is really a still from the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” Actual color photographs taken during the opening hours of the D-Day invasion are near non-existent.

Don’t believe all that you see — while this is a great depiction of the invasion force, it is really a still from the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” Actual color photographs taken during the opening hours of the D-Day invasion are near non-existent.

Jeeps driving into the open doors of an LCT (Landing Craft Tank) at a port in Britain in preparation for D-Day.

Jeeps driving into the open doors of an LCT (Landing Craft Tank) at a port in Britain in preparation for D-Day.

These American troops are marching through the streets of a British port town on their way to the docks where they will be loaded into landing craft for the big assault.

These American troops are marching through the streets of a British port town on their way to the docks where they will be loaded into landing craft for the big assault.

Two children use a the vantage point of St Lo château (or rather the ruins of) to look on at a US Jeep following a French Citroen as they drive down rue des Noyers.

Two children use a the vantage point of St Lo château (or rather the ruins of) to look on at a US Jeep following a French Citroen as they drive down rue des Noyers.

This rare photo was taken on Juno Beach by Ardean Miller and Steve Stevens of the US Signal Corps. They were the only official US photographers in the ETO using color film. Unfortunately, the bulk of their images were lost after the war in a plane crash that killed Stevens.

This rare photo was taken on Juno Beach by Ardean Miller and Steve Stevens of the US Signal Corps. They were the only official US photographers in the ETO using color film. Unfortunately, the bulk of their images were lost after the war in a plane crash that killed Stevens.

Trucks which will carry supplies to front line troops when the assault against Hitler’s Europe begins, are being loaded on an LST in a British port.

Trucks which will carry supplies to front line troops when the assault against Hitler’s Europe begins, are being loaded on an LST in a British port.

These 1st Division troops have loaded their equipment onto an LCT and are waiting the signal for the assault against the Continent.

These 1st Division troops have loaded their equipment onto an LCT and are waiting the signal for the assault against the Continent.

Men and equipment are massed together in landing craft in preparation for the big assault on the European continent.

Men and equipment are massed together in landing craft in preparation for the big assault on the European continent.

US convoy passes down rue des Noyers in August 1944. The lake on the right was formed when the Dollée river flooded its banks when it became blocked by the rubble of destroyed buildings.

US convoy passes down rue des Noyers in August 1944. The lake on the right was formed when the Dollée river flooded its banks when it became blocked by the rubble of destroyed buildings.

US 101st Airborne Division paratrooper Corporal Louis E. Laird boarding a C-47 transport during dress rehearsals for the Normandy invasion, spring 1944

US 101st Airborne Division paratrooper Corporal Louis E. Laird boarding a C-47 transport during dress rehearsals for the Normandy invasion, spring 1944

American troops load onto LSIs (Landing Ship Infantry) at a port in Britain where barrage balloons have been anchored for protection against strafing and low level bombings.

American troops load onto LSIs (Landing Ship Infantry) at a port in Britain where barrage balloons have been anchored for protection against strafing and low level bombings.

View of an LCT with American troops and equipment loaded aboard awaiting the signal for the assault against the continent.

View of an LCT with American troops and equipment loaded aboard awaiting the signal for the assault against the continent.

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