d day 70th anniversary

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Normandy Beaches in 1944 & 70 Years Later

On June 6, 1944, Allied soldiers descended on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day, an operation that turned the tide of the Second World War against the Nazis, marking the beginning of the end of the conflict. Reuters photographer Chris Helgren compiled archive pictures taken during the invasion and went back to the same places to photograph them as they appear today.

More pictures here

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70 years ago today, on June 6th, 1944 the Western Allies’ armies landed in the Normandy region of France, beginning their push through Europe for Germany that would, combined with the Soviet onslaught from the east, result in the fall of Nazi Germany within the next year. 

In 2014, as we approach the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Peter Macdiarmid returned to the invasion grounds to photograph the locations of some iconic - and lessor known - images from the Allied invasion. Presented here are some of the “Then” and “Now” photographs.

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6 June 1944 - 1000 hours

At Omaha Beach, troops begin to regroup in small units, searching for exits off the beach. The beach is littered with dead and wounded troops, and the tide brings in dead men.

Private Harry Schiraldi, a medic in Headquarters, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, is killed that morning by enemy machine gun fire. His remains are initially buried in Normandy before his family requests his remains to be returned to the United States, where he is now buried at Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.

His last letter home and the telegram his parents received are now part of the collection at The National WII Museum.

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D-Day Then and Now II

70 years ago today, on June 6th, 1944 the Western Allies’ armies landed in the Normandy region of France, beginning their push through Europe for Germany that would, combined with the Soviet onslaught from the east, result in the fall of Nazi Germany within the next year. 

In 2014, as we approach the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Peter Macdiarmid returned to the invasion grounds to photograph the locations of some iconic - and lessor known - images from the Allied invasion. Presented here are some of the “Then” and “Now” photographs.

(Canadian troops on their way to Juno Beach on D-Day.)

D-Day 70: June 6, 1944 - June 6, 2014

As with World War 1, Canadians were not only considered expert and professional soldiers, they were feared by the Germans as an omen of impending attack. The Canadian forces were relied upon to provide defence on the high seas and over Britain, and to spearhead assaults for major battles. Once again Canadians had proved themselves on the battlefield and fought ferociously to win every battle they were engaged in.

Around 1.1 million Canadians served in WWII, including 106,000 in the Royal Canadian Navy and 200,000 in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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The first Canadian infantryman to die in World War II was Private John Gray. He was captured and executed by the Japanese on December 13, 1941 in Hong Kong.

Canada was the first Commonwealth country to send troops to Britain in 1939.

During 1939-45 hundreds of thousands of Canadians - more than 40 per cent of the male population between the ages of 18 and 45, and virtually all of them volunteers - enlisted.

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(General Montgomery addresses men of the 11th Canadian Tank Regiment (Ontario Regiment) near Lentini, Sicily, 25 July 1943.)

On 6 June 1944, the 3rd Canadian Division landed on Juno Beach in the Battle of Normandy and sustained heavy casualties in their first hour of attack. By the end of D-Day, the Canadians had penetrated deeper into France than either the British or the American troops at their landing sites, overcoming stronger resistance than any of the other beachheads except Omaha Beach.

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(Canadians on Juno Beach, 1944)

By the war’s end, over 1 million citizens would serve in military uniform (out of a prewar population of 11 million) and Canada would possess the fourth-largest air force and third-largest naval surface fleet in the world.

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(Aboriginal Canadians Sergeant Tommy Prince ® with his brother Private Morris Prince of the Ojibway Nation at Buckingham Palace to receive military medals. Photo: Christopher J. Woods - Canada. Dept. of National Defence)

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Spielberg’s opening sequence in Saving Private Ryan captures the graphic, visceral horror of war like few other films:

Shot over four weeks on a $12 million budget, more than 750 extras and fantastic Art Direction from Tom Sanders, helped to recreate the Allies’ initial massacre and victory on Omaha Beach, Normandy, at Curracloe Strand on the east coast of Ireland.

Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski shot most of the sequence using handheld cameras to give the scene a realistic documentary feel.   Spielberg has said he captured the sequence as he went along, one step at a time, because that’s the way the Rangers took the beach.  The camera is unblinking. It doesn’t shy away from the hell of the situation.  Many shots were improvised, on the spur of the moment and not storyboarded or planned a month ahead, making the results more chaotic and unpredictable. Speilberg initially wanted to tell the entire story from the Ranger’s point of view but decided to include brief viewpoints from the German machine gun positions to show the audience how easy it was for them to hit their targets.   Inspired by Robert Capa’s photographs of Omaha Beach, Speilberg wanted the camera to vibrate and initially tested a Black & Decker drill taped to a Panaflex before finding kit that could give the same result without the long power cable!   The standard frame rate and shutter angle since the introduction of sound in the 1920s has been 24fps/180 degree shutter, giving us a 48th of a second’s worth of light on each frame. Digital cameras may mimic the spinning shutter effect, but the amount of motion blur captured in a 48th of second is what we as an audience have come to expect from motion pictures.  Kaminski came up with the idea of shooting with the shutter open to 45 degrees for explosion shots, or 90 degrees for running shots, which completely negated any blurring. This intensified the experience so you could see each individual particle flying through the air. Kaminski also peeled the protective coating from the lenses, making them closer to the way they were manufactured in the 1940s, resulting in harsh images that are far from glamorous.   Tests prior to principal photography convinced them to desaturate and drain the colour from the scene, to create that gritty ‘earthy’ grade. But what makes the stunning cinematography work for me, is the phenominal, unrelenting sound design by Gary Rydstrom which pins you down.   I don’t think there is a more gripping, stomach-twisting 25 minutes in cinema.
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The distinct maroon beret has been an international symbol of elite airborne forces since it was chosen for British Parachute regiments in World War II. 

Officially introduced in 1942, at the direction of General Frederick Browning, commander of the British 1st Airborne Division, the colour of the beret was reportedly chosen by his wife, Lady Browning, the novelist Daphne du Maurier.  

It was first worn by the men of the 1st Parachute Brigade in action in North Africa during Operation Torch, November 1942. 

In February 1943, the brigade fought notable actions at Bou Arada and Tamerza, Tunisia against their German counterparts, the Fallschirmjäger, where they earned the nickname “Die Roten Teufel” - the Red Devils.

The Paras saw action in Sicily, Italy and in Normandy 1944 with the 6th Airborne Division on D-Day, where their mission was to destroy the Merville Gun Battery and capture and hold bridges to prevent the enemy reaching the landing beaches.