It’s no mystery why images of unremitting violence spring to mind when one hears the deceptively simple term, “D-Day.” We’ve all seen — in photos, movies and old news reels, most of them routinely presented in suitably grim black-and-white — what happened on the beaches of Normandy (codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword) as the Allies unleashed their historic assault against German defenses on June 6, 1944. The fury of the monumental attack was matched only by the ferocity of the sustained, withering counterstrike.
But in color photos taken before and after the invasion, LIFE magazine’s Frank Scherschel captured countless other, lesser-known scenes from the run-up to the onslaught and the heady weeks after: American troops training in small English towns; the French countryside, implausibly lush after the spectral landscape of the beachheads; the reception GIs enjoyed en route to the capital; the jubilant liberation of Paris itself.
As presented here, in masterfully restored color, Scherschel’s pictures — most of which were never published in LIFE — feel at-once profoundly familiar and somehow utterly, vividly new.
Finally: Information on specific locations or people in these photographs is not always available; Scherschel and his colleagues did not always provide that data for every one of the many thousands of pictures they made throughout the war. When a locale or person depicted is known, that is noted in the caption.
[WATCH: 'Behind the Picture: Robert Capa's D-Day']