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The Long Suppressed Truths About The Myth Regarding Robert Capa's D-Day Photos

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The article below is a meticulous dissection and analysis of what turns out to be the myth presented as fact of what happened to Robert Capa's D-Day pics and the purported disaster that destroyed most of them. The piece is long and meticulously provides the best available factual information, considering that highly vested parties control most of the primary source material and allow access only to those who serve their individual and organizational agendas. Among other things, it refutes the commonly held belief (depicted in Saving Private Ryan) that GIs near and behind the German hedgehogs were pinned down and being ripped to pieces. Turns out they were combat engineers there specifically to demolish hedgehogs in their sector and clear the ways for waves of landing craft to come.



John Kettler

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2 hours ago, John Kettler said:

Among other things, it refutes the commonly held belief (depicted in Saving Private Ryan) that GIs near and behind the German hedgehogs were pinned down and being ripped to pieces. Turns out they were combat engineers there specifically to demolish hedgehogs in their sector and clear the ways for waves of landing craft to come.

Interesting link you posted, but it doesn't refute that GIs in some places were being ripped to shreds and trying to hide behind hedgehogs. Just that it was not happening at the place where Capa landed, and not what is happening on his photo.

"Fortuitously, that stretch of Easy Red represented a seam in the German defenses, a weak point at the far end of the effective range of two widely separated German blockhouses. Both cannon fire and small-arms fire there proved relatively light — one reason for the success of Gap Assault Team 10 in clearing obstacles in that area. This explains why, contrary to Life’s captions and Capa’s later narrative, his images show no carnage, no floating bodies and body parts, no discarded equipment, and no bullet or shell splashes. This also explains why the Allies broke through early at that very point".

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Interesting, but it doesn't explain the motivations behind any such claimed "cover-up" or why it's even important whether Capa tool a dozen or over a hundred pics.  Maybe am missing something as I skimmed over it quickly.  But, it seemed like the whole thing is a storm in a teacup for no reason.

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The point was that what people think was happening in Capa's famous pic wasn't happening, and the same mistake was cinematically depicted in SPR. It's absolutely true that elsewhere on Bloody Omaha troops did get ripped apart by MG fire. My paternal uncle George was on an M Boat (LCM) and had to help clean up the floating charnel house resulting from the German defenses: shot up floating corpses, shot up and blown up landing craft. Later, he was part of "Patton's Navy", Boat Two on LCMs hauled across Europe on Dragon Wagon armored tank retrievers hauling Low Boy trailers.


Recommend you read the whole thing, carefully, for the answers you seek. For a short answer, though, I believe you could say that the myth initially greatly increased the sizzle factor regarding the pics, which were now depicted as rare. They were rare, not because his cameras were damaged, or the film largely ruined in processing, but because he took only a few and went rushing back to England to file them so he could get them into the next LIFE magazine. Most of his pics weren't combat pics at all, but showed the embarkation of. troops, transit and such prior to the lands. Later, multiple interests got involved, some quite active today, to hype the story, hype Robert Capa and, through control of most of the primary source material, continue to keep his work high profile, for ego stroking, family sense of self and profit. One historian characterized a biography of Robert Capa as being not biography but hagiography, a seldom seen word used to describe the story of the life of a saint. Capa himself lied about what really happened in his own autobiography, too.


John. Kettler

Edited by John Kettler
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Not sure where this story of the "myth" of Omaha Beach came from. I read Balkoski's "Beyond the Beachhead" which deals with the experiences of the U.S. 29th infantry division in Normandy:

Beyond The Beachhead: Balkoski, Joseph: 9780811732376: Books - Amazon.ca

The 29th is the one that landed on "Dog Green Beach", the one portrayed in SPR. As in SPR, the beach was right in front of several German bunkers/MG nests with an open field of fire on the beach. The first two assault waves on the beach, consisting of two companies were wiped out, suffering 90-95% casualties within seconds of hitting the beach. Several Landing crafts suffered 100% casualties. All the officers were killed or wounded.

1st wave, company A, 1st battalion, 116th regiment:


At 03:10 on 6 June (the invasion had been postponed for 24 hours due to inclement weather), Companies F and G began climbing into their LCVPs. All first wave landing craft had left the ships by 04:30. At 05:00, a naval and aerial bombardment commenced pounding the German defenses, but the aerial bombardment was ineffective and the naval bombardment failed to destroy most of the German gun emplacements, manned by the 352nd Infantry Division. The landing craft approached Vierville at 06:00, and at 06:36 the ramps of Company A's five surviving boats out of seven were dropped after reaching the assigned sector. There were no shell holes for cover at Dog Green, and within seven minutes Company A was virtually wiped out by either the heavy German fire or from drowning in the surf – by the end of the day, only 18 of 230 members of the company had avoided becoming casualties.[51]

2nd wave, company B, 1st battalion, 116th regiment:


The second wave began at 07:00, landing in a period of forty minutes. Company B waded ashore around 07:26 and suffered heavy casualties, although one of its boat teams took Vierville. By the end of the day Company B had been reduced to 28 men.

116th Infantry Regiment (United States) - Wikipedia

So if anything, SPR actually minimises the actual conditions of Dog Green beach.

Note that conditions on Omaha were hit or miss that day. Some of the first assault waves on Omaha which landed 1 mile east of Dog Green were partially obscured by smoke and managed to land with zero casualties, So like everything else in war, luck can play a big role.

Note that Omaha was also not the only place where the fighting was tough, some of the Canadian companies landing in the 1st wave on Juno suffered up to 50% casualties when landing.

Edited by Sgt Joch
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