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Vive la France!

AP’s combat reporters capture the liberation of Paris — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

Red Prompt

Vive la France!

AP’s combat reporters capture the liberation of Paris — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

Red Prompt

Vive la France!

Red Prompt
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Launched on June 6 at 6:30 a.m., D-Day had been years in the making. The greatest armada ever assembled included more than 4,400 ships and landing craft, 1,500 tanks and 11,000 planes.

On D-Day itself, 70,000 soldiers would land across an 80-mile front stretching from Cherbourg to Le Havre at beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The American 1st Infantry, known as “the Big Red One,” would spearhead the attack at Omaha.

On invasion morning, AP had reporters, artists, and photographers in the air, on the Channel, in London, and at English departure ports and airfields. Wes Gallagher, a veteran of the North Africa campaign, directed the hand-picked team from the Portsmouth headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The long anticipated assault would, if successful, drive across France and into Germany, liberating Western Europe from German occupation and ending the Second World War.

TOP IMAGE:
Eighty-nine-year-old Roland Chaisson, who stormed Normandy on D-Day when Germans killed half his squad before they could reach shore, poses for photographs in his home in Metairie, La., Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Chaisson is among D-Day veterans who will describe that day Friday and Saturday at the National World War II Museum.

AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

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D-Day map

Soldiers of the press

A new style of war reporting emerged during World War II. Unlike the remote interviews with World War I generals, who talked about military strategies far from the front line, the foxhole journalists of the ’40s accompanied soldiers into combat zones. The new approach focused on the individual servicemen on the battlefronts. These first-person accounts would often include soldier’s names, hometowns and sometimes, home addresses. AP General Manager Kent Cooper was a strong advocate of this shift to celebrate the common soldier.

Don Whitehead, known by his colleagues as “Beachhead Don,” was one of 20 AP war correspondents and photographers who covered the Allied movements in France. The combat reporter landed at Omaha beach at Normandy on D-Day along with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. After more than three months of fighting German resistance while heading east, French and U.S. forces finally entered Paris. Whitehead was the first correspondent to file copy about the capital’s liberation, and his story was the only eyewitness account in the newspapers that day.

WWII timeline
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Paratroopers prepare to land near the Normandy village of Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, during a mass air drop, Sunday, June 8, 2014, as part of commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing. Visible at the foreground is bronze sculpture Iron Mike, a monument dedicated to the American airborne soldiers who fought on D-Day.

AP Photo / Remy de la Mauviniere

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“Wielding sheath knives and tommy-guns, thousands of American and British paratroops and glider troops swept down on sleeping Cherbourg Peninsula out of the pre-dawn blackness and immediately set about the task of disrupting Nazi rear lines by destroying key bridges, rail yards and enemy strong points.”

— Pugh Moore, AP reporter, 1944

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