Robert Capa

What you see, is that what you think,…?

Robert Capa made it to the beach, and took several pictures, of which frame 35 was the best form the strips of negatives. This picture was used and still being used in publications on the landings during D-Day. Mostly the caption under this picture is the same,… four men hiding behind an obstacle on Omaha Beach. On the left we see a man with a white half circle on his helmet. This is an Engineer which came to Omaha Beach in one of the first waves. In stead of sheltering behind the hedgehog, he should be blowing these things sky high, so with high tide, the landingcraft can reach the beach unharmed.

Not one Engineer, but at least two are laying behind the hedgehog.

But is it true what the caption always say on this picture? When the picture is blown up, some details are evident. There is not one, but at least two Engineers at this hedgehog (see the half ‘white circles’ on the helmets, in the yellow squares). Of the other two are no marks on the helmets visible. The body pasture of the man next to the most left Engineer seems to me a killed man (see the red square below), his head leans forward, and his shoulders are pretty low in the surf (see more on this, lower on this page)

What are those lines that are visible in the wet sand? …
(below and above in the blue squares,… Primacord?)

Two men lay behind the other hedgehog
(in the long blue squares, also Primacord is visible)

As is visible in the picture above, there are lines to be seen in the wet sand. These seem to be connected with the hedgehogs in this picture. I think, that those lines are ‘Primacord’. These lines were used to connect explosives, and to detonate these in one go. These men are not sheltering, but are doing what they are trained for, to clear the beach of obstacles.

In the red squares are inflatable supporters visible,
to carry larger objects for the Engineers.
In the blue squares it is evident how high the coxswain sat in his LCVP.
In the purple squares are the LCVP’s who are returning for a new load of men.
In the white square men can be seen who are wading towards the beach

On the picture above are some interesting details visible. In the foreground are inflatable supporters floating which carried instruments’for the Engineers. They held, for instance, pole charges, longs stakes with a explosive charge, or other weapons. The inflatable supporters are empty, so the things’they were carring are in use. As mentioned above (as caption under the picture), the men in the white square, are these men who are wading through the surf to reach the beach, or are these also Engineers who are working on a pole with a mine attached, to clear this obstacle?

What is also evident in the picture of Capa, is the high position the coxswain is sitting in the LCVP. The men he is driving towards the beach, are sheltering behind the wooden walls of the boat, be he has to steer his LCVP to the coarse he has been given, not to hit obstacles, and to try not to hit men who are already in the water.

Now,… return to the picture, frame 35, and with the above in mind, look at this picture again,… Is this the panic and chaos that was always said about Omaha Beach? The LCVP’s are neatly in line towards the coast, and back. And the Engineers are ‘relaxed’ doing their job. These pictures were made in the first 45 minutes during the landing of the 1st Infantry Division on Omaha Beach.

Huston Riley?

As mentioned before, there is something strange with the numbering of the negatives. The saved pieces of film has numbers on them running from frame 29 until 38. But one frame is missing, frame 37. The opinion is, that this must be the ‘Man in the Surf’. But, this negative seems to be lost, so, there is no evidence this is really frame 37. Best proof that this frame stands alone and does not fit between frame 36 and frame 38 in the sequence of the other pictures, first the wooden obstacles, then two of the working Engineers, and again the wooden obstacles. The ‘Man in the Surf’ is obvious in deeper water, and close to Capa, who shoots his other pictures in relative shallow water. For some reason, frame 37 has been removed from the original strip of film, and from other strips, the ‘Man in the Surf’ could be saved.

The eight photo (frame 37?) with Huston Riley

Who is this ‘Man in the Surf’? Lowell L. Getz made the claim that he discovered the person. It had to be Huston 'Hu' Riley, from 1st Infantry Division, 16th Regiment, Company F, who was struggling to save himself. Company F came to Omaha Beach around 06.40 hours. In the half hour that Riley is in the water, bullets are seeking him and lodge in his body and neck. Suddenly he notices a Sergeant and a photographer who grab him and drag him to safety beneath the bluff. Riley was treated for his wounds, but six months later was wounded again during the Battle of the Bulge, and sent home. Some claim it is a wild guess that this is Riley, because there are more claims, such as by a man called Edward J. Regan, but he landed to far west to have been photographed by Capa. And Riley is the only one who says to have seen a man with camera’s ‘around his neck’, that is an impression one would not slightly forget in such a hectic environment. Some say that Riley mentioned that Capa was wearing a ‘correspondent’ badge (he was not). But if a reporter asks Riley, was he wearing a ‘correspondent’ badge, and Riley replies ‘I suppose he was,…’. Then the words are placed in his mouth,…

If the above is correct,… Then we can retrace the timescale. Riley went off the ramp around 06.40 hours. He stated that he was approximately a half an hour in the water, before he was rescued, around 07.10 hours. We can assume that Capa had already taken some pictures, from the ramp of ‘his’ LCVP, the Engineers etc. My thoughts are that Capa arrived with the last wave of E Company, followed directly by F Company at 07.00 hours.

According to some sources, Capa was picked up after some 90 minutes on the Beach. But he was not 90 minutes ON the beach, he was IN the sector EASY-Red, Omaha Beach. At 07.47 hours LCI(L) 94 landed in EASY-Red.

According to this source, *LCI(L) 94 landed much further to the east; 'so he turned east to between Saint Laurent and Colleville sur Mer on the boarder of Dog Red and Easy Green where the Colleville Cemetery currently is located. ... At 7:45 the crew of 94 were called to their beaching stations and at 7:47 they crunched on the beach (end quote)'.
But the American Cemetery is located oposite EASY-Red, and this is far more convincing in our story.

After the troops left the Landing Craft Infantry (Large) 94, and some wounded were taken on, Capa showed up and asked to be taken on board. The men who just went to shore were 36 men of the 29th MP's, 101 men of 112th Combat Engineers and 42 men from B company, 104th Medical Battalion, 29th Division, a total of 179 men. Every men took 15 seconds at least to swagger from the LCI into the surf, wich reached chest high. Around eight men took a minute to leave the LCI, so it took at least 20 to 25 minutes to let the men disembark the vessel. So, if the #94 landed at 07.47, and it took a couple of minutes to secure the LCI before the first men stept onto the two gangways located on both sides of the LCI, it was at least 07.50 hours. If that was the case, and the men took 20 minutes to disembark, and a couple of minutes to bring back a couple of wounded, than the time would have been around 08.15 hours.
Conclusion: Robert Capa landed somewhere between 06.45 hours and 07.00 hours on Omaha Beach, and stept onto LCI(L) 94 around 08.15 hours,... he was at least 1 hour and 15 minutes on Bloody Omaha itself.

A picture taken by Robert Capa on board of the LCI(L) 94

Just after taking Capa on board of #94, skipper Lt. Gene 'Popeye' Gislason was trying to return to sea, but the craft could not loosen itself from the beach. Only one screw was working because a rope was tangled into the other one. But after some hectic minutes of struggling, and because the tide was further rising, *LCI(L) 94 was drifting backwards at 08.37 hours. In the hectic of the chaos on Omaha Beach, time is relative, there was no time to check every minute your watch. When looking at the pictures taken by Capa, and compare the stretches of sand and compare this during the rising of the water in real life, then one can only conclude that Capa was early on the beach. How early its any once guess now (and far from easy after more than 70 years).

* In this report is no mentioning of taken Capa on board of LCI(L) 94, but that is mentioned in other reports. Important is the time of arrival and departure of LCI(L) 94. (In this article is mentioned that Capa was on board of LCI(L) 94).

Above, a typical helmet of an Engineer that landed on Omaha Beach
(This one belonged to 1st Sgt. Windel W. Byers, Company B, 149th Engineer Com.Bat.)
(Pictures: Ed Hicks)

These time slots are all coming together. According to Chief Bill Freeman of an Engineers unit, which landed on 06.33 hours, the first obstacles that were blown on FOX-Green, were at 06.55 hours. They ‘blew’ a lane of 50 to 90 meters wide. But they had to stop around 07.00 hours because of the incoming tide. The Navy Engineers stopped earlier then the Army Engineers (because they worked on the ’dry’ part of the beach, and worked on until 07.10 hours). So, the working on the hedgehogs which were captured by Capa was around 07.00 hours. Also Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski speaks of the same time slot that he and his team had to stop working on the obstacles just after 07.10 hours.

Once more on the man in the red square. We know that two pictures (at least)
were taken of the Engineers at the hedgehogs. On both pictures we see the
movement of the men, most obvious at the left hedgehog. But one person is not,
he is laying motionless, even after hit by wave(s).

In August 2015 retired Lt.Colonel Chuck Herrick, contacted me. Unknown of my research (which was at a minimum at that time), he also had started a research of his own on the pictures of Capa. Chuck had the same conclusions as I had, what was on the pictures. During this mail contact, we had some thoughts of our own that were not the same. Chuck thinks he has the evidence that Capa landed after 07.40 hours. Another point in Chuck his view, is that the man behind the hedgehog (in the red square, above) is placing the detonator on the charges. Personally, I have my doubts, as he takes a long time to prime it (because of the timelaps between the two almost identical photos. But I give Chuck room for doubt.

Another point Chuck mentioned, was the time of disembarking by Capa and his time on Omaha Beach. He proofs this by tables of ships and ‘eyewitnesses’ of people who claim to been on board with Capa (or not). The problem is the landing time Capa tells us, and the tables by Chuck. In my opinion (and is certainly not watertight), is a great deal of this leading back to the French time and the English Greenwich time. The first reports from reporters/journals were written in the English Greenwich time (an hour difference with the French time). If your watch says 06.30 hours (English time), than it was in Normandy, at the landing beaches, 07.30 hours. This mistake was pretty common made during D-Day. Such times were published in early papers and began a life of their own. Even after years, they were wrong quoted in books. In my opinion, here lay some of the controversy, and the doubts by people that almost ridicule the exploits of Capa during the first hours on Omaha Beach. I don’t think Robert Capa was expecting hell and horror when he embarked with those thousands of troops for France. So, to question Capa on some points, if he was telling the truth, or shifted somewhat in his story? What Robert Capa went through on Bloody Omaha, I do not feel that comfortable to speak up to him,... or other heroes that brought freedom to Western Europe.

Where were the pictures taken?

Finaly I like to point out where the famous pictures were taken. The exact spot is almost opposite the Normandy American National Cemetery & Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer. Easy Company, of the 16th Infantry Regiment, had a landing spot more to the right, but the current drifted them to the left, just in the sector EASY-Red, just a few hundred meters from Wn 62 (left, just out of the picture).

In the yellow square are the trees visible of the American Cemetery

On the original prints, a distinctive oval shape against the hill, on the left, is visible. At the present, this spot is completely overgrown, and one has to take this in the in mind when making or searching a comparison. But this spot gives the most evidence and you may notice the lines which runs from this point, which are still visible to this day. In the black rectangle, the ground is a little tilted on the right (bushes?), but that could been adjusted during the time when the American Cemetery was built.

Pictures by Robert Capa © MAGNUM PHOTO'S

In 2014 a comicbook was published by © Dupuis, in France. The idea after this project was from Clément Saccomani and Jean-David Morvain, and the last wrote, together with Séverine Tréfouël a scenario for this story. Dominique Bertail was invited to make the drawings.

The comicbook in hardback cover, © Dupuis, © Morvain-Bertail

The hardback coverd book has 55 pages in them, black and white drawings in them, and a 45 pages with the original famous pictures by Robert Capa, extra information and more picture of Capa. The first print of this book was only published in the France language, in my opinion an arrogant omission not to show this to the whole world, because it is of a great beauty. But it's now also available in Spanish and Italian, and English.

Two pages of the book,...

For more on these pictures by Robert Capa, taken at Omaha Beach
I like to show some more details,
and then especially the DD-tanks on these picture;




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