Poignant Photos That Show D-Day Scenes In 1944 Versus Now

In 2014 a British photographer called Peter Macdiarmid hit upon a fascinating project to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces invaded German-occupied France. The scale of the assault, Operation Overlord, was —and still remains — unprecedented in military history. Researching archive photos from D-Day, Macdiarmid pinpointed their locations and took photos of the same sites in 2014. Scroll on to see the intriguing results of his work.

1. Omaha Beach

The 1944 invasion of occupied France hit five different beaches on the Normandy coast. These are the sands that lie before the town of Vierville-sur-Mer and this beach was codenamed Omaha for the purposes of the invasion. Men from two U.S. infantry divisions took part in this assault, as well as soldiers from the U.S. Army Rangers who had to climb a sheer cliff to attack German defenses.

Summer resort

Today Vierville-sur-Mer’s position by a sandy beach overlooking the English Channel makes it a popular summer resort town. It’s also a place of pilgrimage for those who want to study one of WWII’s most significant battlefields. The Omaha Beach assault area actually extended for six miles along the coast. It was the scene of heavy American casualties, some 2,400 on day one of the assault.

2. Caen

It’s July 10, 1944, some five weeks after the Allies had landed on the Normandy coast. By now, the fighting had spread inland, and this photo shows devastation in the city of Caen, about nine miles inland from the landing point at Sword Beach. The Germans fought hard to retain Caen and it took the Allies six weeks to completely take it. About 3,000 civilians lost their lives in the fierce fighting.

Spires survived

In this image we see the same street in Caen, 70 years after it was so badly mauled during WWII. The destruction of war has entirely disappeared. The Romanesque Abbey Church Of St. Stephen with its two spires survived the war but the rest of the street seen here was badly damaged and was rebuilt. Today, many visit Caen and use it as a base to explore the nearby historic WWII battle sites.