The supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, crossing the English Channel en route to Normandy from southern England on June 7, 1944.
An artillery unit bound for Normandy loads equipment into landing vessels in Brixham on the southwest coast of England, June 1, 1944.
The Allied military high command for Operation OVERLORD, during a meeting in London. Seated from left to right: Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder; Eisenhower; General Bernard L. Montgomery. Standing from left to right: Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley; Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay; Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory; Lieutenant General Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff.
Eisenhower with paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division at Greenham Common in the Berkshire Downs, June 5, 1944. “The idea, the perfect idea,” Eisenhower advised, “is to keep moving.” The tall officer in the dark uniform is Commander Harry C. Butcher, Eisenhower’s naval aide.
American soldiers wade from a landing craft toward Omaha Beach and the bluffs beyond on the morning of June 6, 1944.
American and German dead await burial in a makeshift morgue behind Omaha Beach. The 4,700 U.S. casualties at Omaha, including wounded and missing, accounted for more than one-third of the Allied total on D-Day.
Reinforcements and artillery press inland from Omaha Beach two days after the initial invasion. Within a week of D-Day, more than 300,000 Allied troops and 2,000 tanks had arrived in France, but the beachhead remained pinched and crowded.
Montgomery, commander of Allied ground forces in Normandy, confers with war correspondents on June 15. Eisenhower considered him “a good man to serve under, a difficult man to serve with, and an impossible man to serve over.”
The remnants of Mulberry A off Omaha Beach after one of the worst June gales in eighty years. A senior American admiral denounced the artificial harbors emplaced off Normandy as “the greatest waste of manpower and steel and equipment…for any operation in World War II.”
Adolf Hitler examines wreckage in an undated German photo captured by the U.S. Army on the Western front. For the first and only time since the Germans overran Paris four years earlier, the Führer in mid-June of 1944 would return to France to confer with his commanders in Margival about the Allied invasion.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of Army Group B in France, seen in a 1940 photo that foreshadows his subsequent wounding four years later during a strafing attack by Allied fighter planes.
A German V-1 flying bomb plummets to earth above a London rooftop. More than ten thousand of the crude weapons were fired at Britain, killing or badly injuring 24,000 people; thousands more V-1s fell on Antwerp.
GIs from the 79th Infantry Division fighting in bocage terrain south of the Cotentin Peninsula in mid-July. Of these bitterly defended hedgerows, a soldier wrote, “Each one of them was a wall of fire, and the open fields between were plains of fire.”
Eisenhower and Bradley listen to Major General J. Lawton Collins, right, commander of the U.S. VII Corps, shortly after the capture of Cherbourg. Among the few officers in France with combat experience in the South Pacific, Collins was described by one admirer as “runty, cocky, confident, almost to the point of being a bore.”
General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, commander of the German garrison at Cherbourg, shortly after his surrender on June 26. In his pocket was found a menu from a dinner honoring him a few weeks earlier, featuring lobster and champagne.
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., seen in Ste. Mere-Eglise on July 12, hours before he died of a coronary thrombosis. The 4th Infantry Division commander described him as “the most gallant soldier and finest gentleman I have ever known.”
Honorary pallbearers at Roosevelt’s funeral include Bradley and Lieutenant General George S. Patton at the head of the column on the left, and, on the right, Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges and Collins. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Field Marshal Walter Model took command of the retreating German armies in France in mid-August 1944. “Did you see those eyes?” Hitler once said of Model. “I wouldn’t want to serve under him.” (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
“A warring, roaring comet,” as one reporter described George Patton, the U.S. Third Army commander, seen here after his promotion to four-star in 1945. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Photographer Robert Capa, left, and Ernest Hemingway, right, accredited as a correspondent for Collier’s magazine, with their Army driver in France shortly before the liberation of Paris.
Major General Jacques Philippe Leclerc, commander of the French 2nd Armored Division, on the Boulevard du Montparnasse in Paris on the day of liberation, August 25, 1944.
General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of German forces in Paris, seen shortly after he formally surrendered the city late on the afternoon of August 25.
Sniper fire sends French citizens sprawling or fleeing in the Place de la Concorde on August 26, 1944. “It was like a field of wheat suddenly struck by a strong gust of wind,” wrote one witness.
General Charles de Gaulle continues singing a hymn in Notre Dame cathedral on August 26 despite gunfire reverberating through the nave during a thanksgiving service. “The most extraodinary example of courage I’ve ever seen,” a BBC reporter declared.
A French woman accused of collaboration with German occupiers is barbered on August 29. Others like her had swastikas painted on their breasts or placards hung around their necks that read, “I whored with the Boches.”
Parisians line the Champs Elysees on August 29 to cheer the U.S. 28th Infantry Division, marching through Paris before taking up pursuit of the German army to the east.
Assault forces from the U.S. VI Corps file ashore near St. Tropez in southern France during Operation DRAGOON on August 15, 1944.
Major General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., shown here after his promotion to three-star in October, commanded the U.S. VI Corps during the invasion of southern France and the subsequent pursuit up the Rhône river. This was Truscott’s third amphibious invasion of the war.
Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch, Jr., commander of the U.S. Seventh Army in southern France, and his son, Captain Alexander M. “Mac” Patch III, shortly before the young officer’s death. (U.S. Military Academy)
Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee, the chief American logistician as commander of the Communications Zone. “Heavy on ceremony, somewhat forbidding in manner and appearance, and occasionally tactless,” as the Army’s official history described him, “General Lee often aroused suspicions and created opposition.”
British paratroopers in a C-47 transport plane, bound for Holland in Operation MARKET GARDEN.
More than twenty thousand parachutists and glider troops descended behind German lines on September 17, 1944, in the biggest, boldest airborne operation of the war.
By late September 1944, the once-handsome Dutch town of Nijmegen had been reduced to ruins, although the road bridge leading toward Arnhem, ten miles north, still spanned the Waal river.
GIs from the 1st Infantry Division battle through central Aachen on October 17, 1944, a day before German defenders finally capitulated.
Captain Joseph T. Dawson helped stave off German counterattacks at Aachen. “These bitter tragic months of terrible war leave one morally as well as physically exhausted,” he told his family. Here Dawson receives the Distinguished Service Cross from Eisenhower for heroics at Omaha Beach. (McCormick Research Center, First Division Museum)
Riflemen from the 110th Infantry of the 28th Division creep through the Huertgen Forest near Vossenack in early November. “The days were so terrible that I would pray for darkness,” one soldier recalled, “and the nights were so bad that I would pray for daylight.”
Eisenhower quizzes Major General Norman D. Cota about the Hürtgen battle at the 28th Division command post in Rott. “Well, Dutch,” the supreme commander told him, “it looks like you got a bloody nose.”
Sherman tanks push eastward on November 16 as part of Operation QUEEN. After more than three weeks the attack sputtered and stalled, reaching the west bank of the Roer river but not the Rhine, as U.S. commanders had hoped.
The high command contemplates a winter campaign in northern Europe. Conferring in mid-November at the supreme commander’s forward headquarters in Reims are, left to right, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff; Eisenhower; Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill; Tedder.
A boy’s body burns after a V-2 rocket explosion in central Antwerp in late November 1944. German launch crews would fire more than 1,700 V-2s at Antwerp during a six-month period, in addition to some 4,200 V-1 flying bombs.
A French woman welcomes an American soldier on November 25, two days after French and U.S. troops liberated Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
Two GIs from the 9th Infantry Division shelter beneath a Sherman tank on December 11 in the smashed German town of Geich, near Dueren.
At a Belgian crossroads in the early hours of the battle of the Bulge, German soldiers strip boots and other equipment from three dead GIs. After U.S. troops captured this film, an Army censor redacted the road sign to Büllingen and other landmarks.
German soldiers smoke captured American cigarettes in front of a U.S. Army armored car on December 17, the second day of Operation HERBSTNEBEL, the attack through Belgium and Luxembourg.
General Hasso von Manteuffel commanded the Fifth Panzer Army in the battle of the Bulge. An elfin veteran of campaigns in both Russia and Africa, Manteuffel was described by one superior as “a daredevil, a bold and dashing leader.”
General Sepp Dietrich, the one-time butcher’s apprentice and beer-hall brawler, commanded the Sixth Panzer Army. He is seen here in a Nuremberg jail cell, awaiting trial for war crimes in late 1945.
Lieutenant Colonel Joachim Peiper led a vanguard of six thousand SS troops across Belgium in a vain effort to seize crossings on the Meuse river. Convicted of mass murder, he would be condemned to death but his sentence was commuted.
Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, left, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, confers during the battle of the Bulge with Major General James M. Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Command of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne fell to Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, a short, genial artilleryman.
GIs from the 347th Infantry Regiment in a mess line north of Bastogne on January 13, 1945, shortly before the convergence of the U.S. First and Third Armies in the Ardennes.
A young SS soldier captured by the U.S. 3rd Armored Division in Belgium on January 15.
A German saboteur, captured while wearing a U.S. Army uniform during the battle of the Bulge, is lashed to a stake moments before his execution by a firing squad in Belgium. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill aboard the U.S.S. Quincy in Grand Harbour, Malta, on February 2. Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, left, and Sarah Churchill Oliver accompanied their fathers on the long journey to the Crimea.
The Big Three at Yalta: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin on the terrace of the Villa Livadia. The president had but two months to live.
A self-propelled 155mm “Long Tom” pounds enemy targets to the east. After overcoming ammunition shortages early in the summer and fall of 1944, American gunners by early 1945 often fired ten shells or more for every one fired by the enemy.
German mortar fire causes GIs to shelter among concrete dragon’s teeth along the Siegfried Line. Known to Germans as the Westwall and begun in 1936, the fortifications, which included three thousand bunkers and pillboxes, stretched from the Dutch border to Switzerland.
Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, left, commander of the 6th Army Group, with Patch, his Seventh Army commander. Capable and decisive, with a talent for handling his prickly French subordinates, Devers also had a knack for provoking his American peers.
Lieutenant Audie Murphy, right, is congratulated by Major General John W. “Iron Mike” O’Daniel, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. Murphy, a fifth-grade dropout from Texas, earned both a battlefield commission and the Medal of Honor for his valor in France. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
U.S. Seventh Army 155mm howitzers hammer a German observation post across the Rhine in Brisach in mid-February, shortly after the last enemy troops were expelled from the Colmar Pocket in Alsace.
The Ludendorff railroad bridge, seen from the east on the morning of March 17, with the German town of Remagen visible across the Rhine. Four hours after this photo was taken, the “Ludy” abruptly collapsed into the river, killing twenty-eight U.S. soldiers who were making repairs on the captured span.
Soldiers of the 89th Division, part of Patton’s Third Army, crossing the Rhine at St. Goar on March 26. One battalion came under fire even before launching its assault boats, and German defenses included a gasoline-soaked barge set ablaze in midstream. The division suffered almost three hundred casualties in reaching the east bank.
“In Cologne life is no longer possible,” wrote a German diarist, and the poet Stephen Spender compared the shattered city to “the open mouth of a charred corpse.” Although the Rhine bridges and thousands of buildings were destroyed, the great cathedral survived.
The wreckage of a B-24 Liberator in a German field. Of 240 low-flying Liberators that dropped supplies to Allied troops in the Rhine crossing operation called VARSITY PLUNDER, fifteen were lost and 104 damaged.
Churchill stands on a demolished Rhine rail bridge on March 25 during VARSITY PLUNDER. When U.S. officers demanded that he return to a safer position, the prime minister “put both his arms round one of the twisted girders of the bridge and looked over his shoulder…with pouting mouth and angry eyes.” (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Major General Maurice Rose, commander of the 3rd Armored Division, receives the Croix de Guerre and an embrace from a French general in mid-March 1945. Less than three weeks later, Rose, considered among the U.S. Army’s finest armored commanders, would be shot dead. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, captured in Tunisia in 1943, survived two years of German captivity and efforts to free him in a failed raid on the Hammelburg prison camp, concocted by his father-in-law, George Patton. Seen here in a hospital bed after his eventual liberation, Waters went on to attain four-star rank. (Courtesy of George Patton “Pat” Waters)
The booty discovered by Third Army troops in an old potassium mine below the German town of Merkers included gold bars, gold coins, art works, and valuables stolen from concentration camp victims. “If these were the old free-booting days when a soldier kept his loot,” Omar Bradley told Patton, “you’d be the richest man in the world.”
Canadian infantrymen march through a Dutch town on April 9. The starving Dutch had been reduced to eating nettle soup, laundry starch, the occasional cat or dog, and 140 million tulip bulbs.
The Pegnitz river in Nuremberg on April 20, Hitler’s fifty-sixth birthday and the day this shattered city—reduced to “alluvial fans of rubble”—fell to the U.S. XV Corps.
Dead inmates discovered in the concentration camp at Buchenwald after its liberation on April 11 by the U.S. 6th Armored Division. An estimated 56,000 victims had been murdered at Buchenwald and its subcamps.
Soldiers from the U.S. 45th and 42nd Divisions arrived at Dachau camp, near Munich, on April 29. Investigators later concluded that vengeful GIs gunned down at least twenty-eight SS guards after they had surrendered.
Prisoners by the acre: an aerial photograph taken on April 25 shows some of the 160,000 Germans herded into a temporary encampment near Remagen. American stockades alone held more than 1.3 million enemy soldiers by mid-April, even before the haul from the Ruhr was complete.
Perched above Hitler’s vacation home in the remote Bavarian village of Berchtesgaden, a lavish mountaintop chalet known as the Eagle’s Nest had been built by the Nazi regime as a fiftieth birthday present for the Führer. American troops seized the area in early May, shortly after Hitler’s suicide in Berlin.
Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt following his capture by American troops south of Munich on May 2. The former OB West commander is accompanied by a medic wearing a brassard, and his son, a German lieutenant.
The victorious American commanders, on May 11, 1945. Seated from left to right: Simpson; Patton; General Carl A. Spaatz, U.S. Strategic Air Forces Europe; Eisenhower; Bradley; Hodges, Lieutenant General Leonard T. Gerow, Fifteenth Army. Standing from left to right: Brigadier General Ralph F. Stearley, IX Tactical Air Command; Lieutenant General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Ninth Air Force; Beetle Smith; Major General Otto P. Weyland, XIX Tactical Air Command; Brigadier General Richard E. Nugent, XXIX Tactical Air Command.
On the night of May 7, hours before the official end of the war in Europe, jubilant Americans celebrate with the British at Piccadilly in central London.
A bugler blows Taps at the close of Memorial Day ceremonies in May 1945 at the U.S. military cemetery at Margraten, Holland.