Before the D-Day invasion, there was massive preparation on both sides of the conflict. Pulling together footage from around the globe, including from behind enemy lines, this United News newsreel gives us a glimpse of how massive the defensive and offensive effort was in Europe. Railroads were built. Germany constructed a continent-spanning wall, fortified with guns and pill boxes, hoping to protect the western edge of their conquered territory. Thousands of soldiers prepared equipment and ran through drills, with no idea when or where they’d eventually be deployed.
Newsreel journalists gathered extensive historical footage of WWII, but one photographer also brought home reels of color footage from his personal 16mm camera. The National Archives profiles Jack Lieb, a Hearst newsreel cameraman who first landed in Europe in 1943 and landed with troops on Omaha Beach. Lieb’s behind-the-scenes footage caputured the human side of the massive armies in Europe, the moments between long marches and mobilized destruction. Audrey Amidon, of the Archives describes a special film, showcasing Lieb’s rare footage set to his own narration.
In the film below, donated by the Lieb family to the National Archives in 1984, you’ll see D-Day from a perspective different than the official military film or commercial newsreel. With his personal footage, Lieb takes the viewer through the preparations in England, where he spent time with war correspondents Ernie Pyle, Jack Thompson, and Larry LaSueur, to the liberation of Paris and finally into Germany. Along the way, Lieb captured his experience on 16mm Kodachrome, filming everyday people in France and the occasional celebrity, such as Edward G. Robinson or Ernest Hemingway.