Courage Under Fire in 1944
On the 6th of June in 1944, D-Day, thousands upon thousands of American, English, and Canadian soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy France and parachuted behind enemy lines. The majority of them at the time were just boys. Their mission was to liberate Europe from the lethal grip of Nazi Germany. The beaches and villages these boy soldiers landed in and on were closely guarded by many thousands of opposing, determined German soldiers. Their mission was to stop the much anticipated Allied invasion. The young soldiers that stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought their way inland quickly became men in the face of immense danger, unimaginable fear, savage fighting, and incredible personal sacrifice. They fought for each other, they died for us, and they persevered for the betterment of the world. I don't know how they did it.
I have always been fascinated with American military history. As a kid I read a lot of books about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War Two. Later in life, sadly, my reading had been reduced to primarily magazine and internet articles. As a kid, like so many other kids, I also enjoyed playing with various plastic army men and military models that I had built. Using the toy soldiers and models tanks I constructed scenes that simulated battles I had read about. During this Covid-19 virus crisis I rediscovered the joy of reading and have enjoyed several great books about D-Day, Operation Market Garden (the invasion of Holland), and the Battle of the Bulge (the German counterattack to divide Allied forces in Europe). With each chapter I find myself more in awe of what these young soldiers accomplished. With each book I find myself more appreciative of their many sacrifices. I often imagine being alongside them in Cherbourg, Eindhoven, or Bastogne, but with a camera in hand instead of a rifle. Photographers such as Robert Capa, Lee Miller, Margaret Bourke-White, Joe Rosenthal, and Eugene Smith were there, in the midst of things, armed with only cameras and a boatload of their own courage. I am in awe of them too. I don't know how they did it either.
In the spirit of combat photographers everywhere, and fueled by incredible stories of the soldiers that fought their way across Europe in 1944, I have been reliving my youth and photographing some of my remaining childhood army men, and some new ones, in various set ups that represent Europe in World War Two. I will never fight in such a war because of the commitment, bravery, and sacrifice of so many that did and still do. I will never photograph in such a conflict, but those that have and do command as much respect as the soldiers themselves. Today we fight a different kind of war against an unseen enemy, a virus, that is killing many, many thousands of us across the globe. It IS a world war.
Just as they did in 1944 we too must rally our strength and courage for each other and the betterment of the world. We have a lot to lose if we don't.
Photograph What You Feel