• Short Summary


    Forty years ago, on June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian troops commanded by General Eisenhower made the Allies' first toe-hold in Hitler's Europe.

  • Description

    1. SOUTHWICK HOUSE, NEAR PORTSMOUTH, HANTS, UK; APRIL 1984: GV ZOOM IN TO SV House. SVs INTERIOR Eisenhower's "D" Day room with map on wall showing invasion routes. SV Map showing weather chart on June 6, 1984. (4 SHOTS) 0.22
    2. VARIOUS LOCATIONS UK AND NORMANDY (MONO): Radio Station announcing "D" Day landing. SV PAN Trucks waiting in south of England. Troops embarking. Aircraft. Glider being towed. Churchill and Roosevelt meeting. Floating harbour. Landing craft with troops at Normandy Troops up beach. Troops carrying wounded soldier. Fighting inland. Allied troops take over farm building. Troops running. (30 SHOTS) 1.37
    3. UTAH BEACH, NORMANDY, FRANCE; (MONO): GVs & SVs Landing craft approaching. Troops in water. Troops on beach. (9 SHOTS) 1.57
    4. UTAH BEACH, NORMANDY, FRANCE, MAY 1984; (COLOUR): GV PAN Beaches SCU Sign "Utah Beach". Tanks in sand. Gun emplacements. Fishing boats in harbour against setting sun. (7 SHOTS) 2.37
    5. BANVILLE, FRANCE, JUNE 6, 1969: GV PAN FROM Graves TO Band. GVs & SVs Graves and monuments. CU Plaque. TRACKING SHOTS Graves SV Veterans stand by graves. GV Graves. (5 SHOTS) 3.14
    6. NORMANDY, MAY 1984: SCU PULL BACK TO SV & GVs Gun emplacements. SV Gun emplacement PULL BACK TO GV Cows browsing in front of guns. (4 SHOTS) 3.30

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved


    Forty years ago, on June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian troops commanded by General Eisenhower made the Allies' first toe-hold in Hitler's Europe. The invasion, on five beaches in Normandy in Northern France, ended German hopes for European military domination. Today, 40 years on, France's normally tranquil region of Normandy is busily preparing to welcome hundreds of thousands of modern-day invaders for the 40th anniversary of the landings. Britain's Queen Elizabeth, President Reagan of the US, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada and French leader Francois Mitterrand will be among the key figures commemorating the invasion. But most of the visitors will be veterans and ordinary tourists eager to re-live, or discover for the first time, how 100,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches to begin their liberation of Europe. There will also be those relatives and friends called together to mourn the 210,000 Americans, British and Canadians who were killed or wounded in the battle of Normandy.

    SYNOPSIS: Southwick House near Portsmouth was General Eisenhower's centre of operations. As Supreme Allied Commander he was responsible for the success of the invasion. His decisions, taken from this room, were responsible for the mobilisation of nearly three million men and 3,000 ships. The room is dominated by a wall map which was built by a Midlands toy firm. On it were the troop movements and the sea lanes which led to the French beaches. Eisenhower pondered for thirty minutes before deciding that the attack would go ahead on June 6 - when there was a lull in the weather.

    This is how Britain and the rest of the world heard about the invasion. For months before that Tuesday in June equipment to sustain the attack had been pouring out of American, British and Canadian factories. There was a long delay and the men camped in the south of England grew restless. Suddenly, on June 6, there was a lull in the weather and D-Day was on. Roosevelt had wanted the attack a year earlier but Churchill had argued for a postponement until the Allied war machine was properly geared up. This floating harbour -- the biggest ever built -- was installed at Arromanches between the United States assault beaches to the west and the British and Canadian landing areas to the east. It enabled 9,000 tonnes of war material to be landed each day. By the end of the battle in late August more than 600,000 tonnes had been landed and the Allies were ready for the final assault on the third Reich. Fierce fighting on land led to German surrenders but it took six weeks of hard fighting before the Allies achieved the first major break-through to the south.

    Utah Beach west of the bustling industrial city of Caen was one of the main American landing beaches, along with Omaha. The US Seventh Corps, spearheaded by the fourth infantry division, had to brave this German, heavy, artillery fire and tumultuous seas which sank amphibious tanks and drowned many men. But the Americans pressed successfully inland and linked up with their airborne troops. They fought a tough battle for the key market town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

    Today, the beaches are a picture of tranquility. Nowhere are the cows fatter, the grass greener and the apple blossom thicker than behind the American landing beaches. Utah beach will be the site of the biggest allied ceremonies with the presence of seven heads of state. The main stand is being erected near the Utah Beach Museum where a solitary Sherman tank faces inland, as if to symbolise the will-to-win of the Allied Armies. This year will probably be the last great D-Day ceremony; given that most veterans are now well over 60 years old.

    There have been numerous commemorations before. In 1969, thousands paid respects at war cemeteries int he area to mark the 25th anniversary of the landings. This cemetery is at Banville, the first village in France to be liberated by the British Sixth Airborne Division. Its cemetery bears witness to the fierce fighting in the area. It is in simple ceremonies like these, which have been attended by countless veterans and tourists since 1944, that the spirit of D-Day lives on.

    Today, along the Calvados coast with its solid stone farms, lush meadows and apple orchards preparations are under-day for the huge influx of visitors expected to top 300,000. The gun emplacements are overgrown and cows browse peacefully in the lush meadows -- it's difficult to equate these idyllic pastoral scenes with the fury of the fighting on June 6, 1944.


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