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D-Day In Color

Rare Color Footage of D-Day Invasion
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Rare Color Footage of D-Day Invasion

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Most of the films made of the D-Day invasion are in black and white. A group of Army cinematographers -- people who shoot movies -- filmed the invasion from a British ship. The group was led by 37-year-old Hollywood director George Stevens. But Mr. Stevens was also making personal movies, using his own 16-millimeter camera and what at that time was still-rare Kodachrome color film.

Mr. Stevens developed the color films, but never used them. Many years later his son -- George Stevens Jr., also a film director -- found the films and repaired them. In 1994, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he released a documentary film using the color movies. For the first time, we can see the color of the sky, the sea, the soldiers’ clothing, smoke from the big ships’ guns -- even the color of the ships’ paint.

“I had this feeling that my eyes were the first eyes that hadn’t been there who were seeing this day in color, and I watched this film unfold and on this ship -- and all of these men with their flak jackets and anticipation of this day.”

The color film also shows destroyed French towns and French citizens welcoming Allied soldiers. And it has rare scenes of the liberation of Paris, along with images of French resistance leader and later French president Charles De Gaulle.

There are also images of the famous U.S. General George Patton and British forces commander General Bernard Montgomery. German prisoners of war are also shown, perhaps happy they have survived the attack.

Mr. Stevens entered Germany with Allied forces. He filmed the Nazi concentration camps, showing many dead bodies lying next to still-burning ovens, where the Nazis sent people to die. He must have believed that those colors should be saved and shown to the world, as well.

“It is the greatest body of color film, and World War II was a black-and-white war. That’s how we see it. That’s how we saw it.”

I’m Christopher Cruise.