D-day soldier in the water

Behind the camera: Robert Capa
Where: ‘Easy Red’ beach on the American Omaha beach of Normandy
Photo Summary: Edward Regan or Huston “Hu” Riley lying in the surf while trying to make it to Normany’s ‘Easy Red’ beach
Picture Taken: June 6, 1944 (D-Day)

Es una cosa muy seria (This is a very serious business)
-Robert Capa during D-day

Robert Capa had made a name for himself as a war photographer that had covered the Spanish civil war and the Second Sino-Japanese War. To escape the Nazi’s he moved to New York where he became a photographer for the Allies. On D-Day June 6, 1944, the Allies started their much-anticipated invasion of mainland Europe. Hitting the beaches with American troops Capa, while dodging intense German fire, was able to take 106 pictures before returning to London to develop his photos. Unfortunately, an incident in the London photo development labs caused all but 11 of his 106 pictures to be destroyed. This shot of a soldier in the water is considered the best and shows the true nature of the Normandy invasion. Steven Spielberg was so inspired by this shot that for the Saving Private Ryan movie he tried to duplicate the conditions shown in the photo.

Taking the photo

Life magazine published the surviving 11 pictures with a caption that explained that the “immense excitement of [the] moment made photographer Capa move his camera and blur [his] picture.” Capa always resented the implication but it probably influenced the naming of his 1947 memoir, Slightly Out of Focus. In his memoir he remembers that day:

The flat bottom of our barge hit the earth of France … The boatswain lowered the steel-covered barge front, and there, between the grotesque designs of steel obstacles sticking out of the water, was a thin line of land covered with smoke — our Europe, the ‘Easy Red’ beach.
My beautiful France looked sordid and uninviting, and a German machine gun, spitting bullets around the barge, fully spoiled my return. The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion. The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away. The bullets tore holes in the water around me, and I made for the nearest steel obstacle. A soldier got there at the same time, and for a few minutes, we shared its cover. He took the waterproofing off his rifle and began to shoot without much aiming at the smoke-hidden beach. The sound of his rifle gave him enough courage to move forward, and he left the obstacle to me. It was a foot larger now, and I felt safe enough to take pictures of the other guys hiding just like I was.
I felt a new kind of fear shaking my body from toe to hair, and twisting my face. [seeing a landing craft] I did not think and I didn’t decide it, I just stood up and ran toward the boat. I knew that I was running away. I tried to turn but couldn’t face the beach and told myself, ‘I am just going to dry my hands on that boat.’

Inside the landing craft, he returned to the ships further offshore and promptly fell asleep with the undeveloped 106 pictures that he had taken with his two Contax cameras. Upon arriving back in the UK he quickly sent his four rolls of film off to London and with his pictures off and his courage restored he tried to make it back to the beaches.
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Lab disaster


Capa The Magnificent Eleven

Of all the photographers sent out with the Allied invasion, only Capa had taken any sort of photos that showed what looked like the invasion that was being broadcast over the radio. Other photographers were either foiled by weather from taking any decent shots or landed on beaches that faced little German opposition. When Capa’s images came in Life editors were desperate for any type of action shots and when the package finally arrived in London orders were to rush the development.
The pressure got to the LIFE staff and John Morris remembers that a young boy, Dennis Banks, was given the task to develop the film. As LIFE staff started ringing asking where the images were Morris remembers that the young Dennis came running up the stairs and into his office, crying. “They’re ruined! Ruined! Capa’s films are all ruined!” Dennis then proceeded to choke out an explanation that he had hung the film to dry but in order to speed up the process he had closed the doors to the drying room. Without ventilation, the emulsion had melted most of the exposures. However, on further inspection, it was revealed that not all were ruined as on the end of the fourth roll 11 images were salvageable. It was these images that were the only record of fierce German resistance the Americans suffered during the Normandy invasion.

Robert Capa


Some of the Capa 11 used by LIFE
Robert Capa was born on October 22, 1913. He was born with the name Endre Ernő Friedmann in Budapest, Hungary. When he was 18 he left Hungary for Germany but when the Nazis took power he emigrated again to Paris. It was from Paris that he went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. After Franco defeated the Republic Capa returned to France until the Nazi invasion upon where he left for America. He went on to become a celebrated war photographer covering five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe (He was the only “enemy alien” photographer for the Allies), the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. His two most famous pictures are the, Falling Soldier and this image of the 1944 D-Day Normandy invasion. In 1947, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos with, among others, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Magnum Photos was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers. In 1947 Capa travelled to the Soviet Union with his friend, John Steinbeck. When he was leaving the country Soviet officials wanted to look through his undeveloped images. Capa refused to give them access unless Yevgeny Khaldei developed them. Capa had befriended the photographer while the two covered the Potsdam Conference and the Nuremberg Trials together. Both men were hard-drinkers and recognized as playboy lady killers.
On May 25, 1954, at 2:55 p.m. Capa was with a French regiment in Vietnam when he left his jeep to take some photos. While walking up the road he stepped on a land-mine and lost his leg. He was quickly rushed to a small field hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival due to massive trauma and loss of blood.

Who is in the picture

The man lying in the surf was identified as Edward Regan. Regan remembers that he, “was in the second wave and landed at H-hour plus forty minutes … there were so much chaos and mass confusion that one was reduced to a state of almost complete immobilization” Regan was in Company K of the 116th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion. However, the daughter of another soldier, Alphonse Joseph Arsenault, claims that the person in Capa’s photo is in fact her father that is lying in the surf and historian Lowell Getz claims that his research shows that the man is Huston Riley. Riley claims that Capa actually helped him out of the water, “I was surprised to see him there. I saw the press badge and I thought, ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ ” he said. “He helped me out of the water and then he took off down the beach for some more photos.”

Copyright info


Copyright to this photo is managed by Magnum D-Day soldier by Robert Capa

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Greatest Generation D-day Landing

Behind the camera: Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHOM) Robert F. Sargent of the United States Coast Guard (USCG)NAIL Control Number: NLR-PHOCO-A-7298
Where: Omaha Beach which was the military name for the a stretch of beach approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long, from Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer.
Photo Summary: Assault landing. One of the first waves at Omaha Beach. The U.S. Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. The ship is a LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase.
Picture Taken: Early morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day)
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a naval photographer

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade. … The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and progress of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

–Eisenhower’s message on the eve of D-day

D-day

Uncropped version click for full size

On June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history occurred when the Allies stormed ashore the beaches of Normandy. Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHOM), Robert F. Sargent, on one of the LCVPs snapped this photo while the American soldiers of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) waded onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach. Also known as “Into the jaws of death ” the picture is one of the most famous images of D-day, although it is often confused as one of the 11 famous Capa D-day pictures.

D-day

D-day or the Normandy Landings were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of occupied France. The operation started on June 6, 1944, and was the biggest amphibious invasion of all time, with over 175,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944. Time Cover Dday 1984The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The Americans were responsible for two of the landing beaches, Utah and Omaha.
The LCVP in the image was part of the landing group that was supported by the attack transport, USS Samuel Chase (APA-26). The Chase launched 15 waves of troops of the American 1st Division (The Big Red One) from its supported landing crafts. By 11 a.m. it unloaded the entire Division’s troops that it had aboard onto what was supposed to be the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach. While the landing craft brought troops to the beach it also returned the wounded who were cared for on the Chase by its U.S. Navy and Public Health Service doctors and corpsmen. Chase returned to Weymouth, England, on 7 June.
The American’s of 1st Division were faced off against the newly formed German 352nd division. Nothing went to plan as the landing crafts were swept off course by the rough seas. A high causality rate of officers left a lot of low ranked soldiers leaderless on the beaches. Eventually, small penetrations were achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points.
The men photographed by Robert F. Sargent were from Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company were immediate casualties. Yet the survivors were instrumental through their, skill and sheer luck, in finding and exploiting the weaknesses of Omaha Beach. These breaches were expanded until a number footholds were secured that allowed easier access to German positions. Over the next few days, their D-day objectives would be taken.
Time Cover DDay 2004

Usage

The photo is actually a cropped version of a larger photo that has been cut for artistic reasons. Probably because as a product of the US government and as such is in the public domain this image gets a lot of use. TIME magazine has used it for their D-day anniversary issues. In the USCG and American archive it is titled, The Jaws of Death or Taxi to Hell – and Back with the caption, “Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat.” Many posters have been made including a popular one sold by Amazon that is entitled, “The Greatest Generation”.

Coast Guard Records

The photographer, Coast Guard Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent, was a veteran of the Allied invasions of Sicily and Salerno. The Coast Guard records department were able to track down a copy of the press release issued with the publication of Sargent’s photograph. The decades-old mimeograph paper was brittle but still readable. In addition to the original caption (below), there is a write up by Coast Guard Combat Correspondent Thomas Winship who quotes Sargent extensively.

Original caption: Into the Jaws of Death: Down the ramp of a Coast Guard landing barge Yankee soldiers storm toward the beach-sweeping fire of Nazi defenders in the D-Day invasion of the French coast. Troops ahead may be seen lying flat under the deadly machinegun resistance of the Germans. Soon the Nazis were driven back under the overwhelming invasion forces thrown in from Coast Guard and Navy amphibious craft.

The Coast Guard records also list the crew of the landing craft.

The coxswain of the boat was William E. Harville of Petersburg, Va. — it was his landing craft and he was at the helm. The boat engineer, the crewman who kept the boat’s engine running smoothly, was Seaman 1st Class Anthony J. Helwich of Pittsburgh, Pa. Seaman 1st Class Patsy J. Papandrea was the bowman — the crewman who operated the front bow ramp and is visible as the helmeted head in the right foreground of the photo. Sargent also mentions among their passengers was the “First Wave Commander Lieut. (j.g.) James V. Forrestal, USCGR,” of Beacon, N.Y.

Sargent mentions that the first waves got underway at 5:36 AM. and that the picture was taken around 7:40 AM.

Colorization by Brazilian digital artist Marina Amaral

Colorization by Brazilian digital artist Marina Amaral

Possible identification

Men running towards the beach

William H. Caruthers Jr. claims that this is him in the photo

Each LCVP that landed that day carried around 30 men. Five LCVPs landed 183 men of E Company at 6:30 AM, of those that landed 100 were killed. In this picture, the men are all facing forward toward the beaches so we can’t identify them or their unit, except for one man with his face turned so that the camera captured his left profile. Major William H. Caruthers Jr. claims to be that man.

Major William H. Caruthers Jr. was in the 56th Signal Battalion and records show that elements of the 56th Signal Battalion were sent in with the first wave to hit the beaches so that they could report back what was going on at the front line. Caruthers didn’t actually land with the Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division but waded ashore from another ship. Volume 23 the 1968 issue of Signal Magazine does show that two DUKW’s with 15 members of the 56th Signal Battalion were on the beach around that time and that their vehicles became stuck on a sandbar causing them to wade ashore. Major William H. Caruthers Jr. himself recounts that:

Our job was to get ashore and see what was going on, particularly to report back whether we could get a foothold there. Things were very touch and go for a while and it was far from certain we could get onto the beach. [when he saw a wounded man floating in the water] The sergeant had some highly classified papers on him and some of them were spilling into the water. I got hold of him and pulled him behind me, hoping to get him to shore.

The picture does to appear to show another landing craft to the right of this one and it is conceivable that the two units mixed while wading ashore and Caruthers does appear to be dragging a man through the water. All evidence points to the man in the picture being Major William H. Caruthers Jr. except for the time difference. As told in the gripping accounts of E company storming the beaches and clearing Exit 1 out of Omaha beach, they came ashore at 6:30. By Caruthers’ own statement he claims to have come ashore at “around 8:30.” So maybe Caruthers is confused about the time or the Coast Guard photographer was confused about what unit he dropped off but it is possible that the man with his face captured in one of the most famous pictures of World War II is Major William H. Caruthers Jr.

Not Easy Company

Although coast guard records say that Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHOM) Robert F. Sargent of the United States Coast Guard dropped off Easy Company in this photo records also show that Sargent’s boat was unloading men from USS Samuel Chase. This information seemingly rules out Easy Company as they unloaded from the USS Henrico. As such based on the time and the visual clues from the picture the men who are in the photo are probably from Company A.

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