I write a lot about soldiers and veterans and war. I’m the child of a wounded veteran, the stepchild of a mariner, the mother of a veteran. There’s been a lot of time to think about what happened and what didn’t and why. I’ve been lucky enough to have two fathers: one was a Merchant Marine and the other one of the first radar operators in the Army Air Force. They’ve given me perspective on World War II and battles on land and sea. The Merchant Marine was on a ship that beat the Germans and the Arctic cold on a suicide run to Murmansk. The Army guy was left on an atoll in the South Pacific calling in coordinates for the Battle of the Coral Sea. My heroes aren’t large, except maybe to me.
I believe that more than one generation of Americans has no idea what D Day was either as a historic event or as a waypost on our journey toward a national definition of patriotism. And I’m fairly certain that most Americans who were not alive during that era think of World War II as a series of black and white images. A war devoid of color. Not Iraq and Afghanistan where the landscape dictates images in beige but without color because of an absence of battlefield color photography.
But it exists.
Today LIFE released some of the color photographs of one of their own, Frank Scherschel. There are only 26 and as a group they may be among the few surviving color images of a war where blood and death and victory and GIs have always been thought of as shadows in shades of grey and black.
“There were flowers blooming everywhere, and everywhere the people waited for the news from England. It was as though the whole nation stood on tiptoe, straining to hear the thunder of guns.”
— LIFE magazine on the mood in America in the run-up to Operation Overlord, codename for the historic assault.