By Tom Dare
RARE COLOUR FOOTAGE of British and American troops making their final preparations in Plymouth ahead of the D-Day invasion of France in 1944 has resurfaced this week, giving an insight into the mindsets of the men who gave their lives for our freedom.
The video, taken in 1944 by news cameraman Jack Lieb as he accompanied troops in the allied invasion of Normandy, shows soldiers laughing and joking as they prepare to board the ship that will take them across the channel and toward the enemy.
Further footage from the film shows troops climbing on board their ships and attempting to entertain themselves on the journey across to France. This included one man, who is said to have been subsequently killed while in France, attempting his best Adolf Hitler impression, while another man does his best to get a life jacket on the ship’s mascot, a small puppy.
The incredible film is one of just a few to have been produced in colour, and helps us understand what was going through the minds of the men before they set off on June 6 1944.
Speaking about the footage over 25 years later, Jack Lieb said that more than anything the men, most of whom were American, were eager to get on with the job given to them.
“We stayed aboard this ship for nearly five days. I remember Lieutenant Patten’s name [captain of the ship] quite well, because we were with him for so long,” he said.
“There were units of the 101st airborne division on board our landing craft amusing themselves, and I don’t need to tell you who one of the fellas was imitating. He was a Notre Dame football player at one time, and I was told later that he was killed in the action.
“Of course every ship had a mascot, and ours was no different, but the boys provided for their mascot’s welfare with the making of a life preserver, just like the ones they wore themselves.
“And then, Lt Patten briefed the crew and told them that we would be sailing that afternoon. And they let out a cheer because this was the mission that they had been waiting for. They wanted to get it done and go home.
“It was a tremendous site to see ships from one side of the horizon to another. Ship’s of all kinds. They tell me there were well over a thousand ships. But even so we thought this was just another exercise, as we continued on, we felt that we’d be turned around, go back, and try again another day. But when we continued on into the night we knew it was the real thing.”
The D-day invasion of Normandy by the allied forces remains the largest seaborne invasion in military history, with an astonishing 326,547 troops landing on French soil between June 6 and June 11 1944. 54,186 military vehicles and 104,428 tons of equipment were also transported across the channel during this period.
It came at a cross, however, with approximately 2,499 American fatalities reported over the five day invasion and 1,914 from other allied nations.