Naval History and Heritage Command

The Invasion of Normandy
The Invasion of Normandy

The Invasion of Normandy

The invasion of Normandy in June 1944 was the culmination of three years of planning and preparation gathering by Allied forces in Britain. Landing in the face of determined German resistance, units of the British Commonwealth and U.S. armies established a beachhead, defeated German counter-attacks, and eventually broke out into a fast-moving campaign in France. By September 1944, Allied forces had liberated most of France and were poised to cross the Rhine river into Germany itself. In conjunction with Allied forces in northern Italy, and Soviet armies moving into Poland and the Balkans, the total defeat of Nazi Germany was in sight.

 

Instrumental to Allied success was the American, British, and Allied naval and amphibious contingents at Normandy. In the year before D-Day, U.S. and Commonwealth forces trained and prepared for amphibious operations out of ports in southern England. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, minesweepers cleared the channel of mines while escorts and patrol aircraft attacked any German submarines that tried to operate in the English Channel. Battleships, cruisers and destroyers provided crucial bombardment of enemy fortifications both on the Normandy shore and, with the aid of Navy spotter teams, further inland. During the actual invasion, navy-manned landing craft shuttled troops ashore in the face of fierce enemy resistance. Once there, Navy beach battalions served under fire to facilitate the orderly flow of men, vehicles, and supplies from cargo and amphibious ships offshore. Navy field hospitals also provided aid to the wounded and transported them to ships for the voyage to hospitals in England.

 

Through all phases of the operation Navy combat artists Dwight Shepler, Mitchell Jamieson and Alexander Russo observed and recorded different aspects of this vast and complicated campaign. Though it was also filmed and photographed, the artwork they created helps convey a sense of the feelings and emotions behind the events. This exhibit presents all the art work produced before, during, and after the invasion by these three men.