Ruins, northwestern France, summer 1944, after D-Day.
Ruins, northwestern France, summer 1944, after D-Day.Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Ruins, northwestern France, summer 1944, after D-Day.
American troops clear wreckage in Saint-Lô, Normandy, 1944.
Saint-Lô, Normandy, summer 1944.
Destroyed town in northwest France, summer 1944.
Armored vehicles on the move past civic buildings in Avranches, summer 1944.
American troops in courtyard of ruined building, northwestern France, summer 1944.
Post-D-Day destruction, northern France, 1944.
Jeeps (including a press vehicle) in the town square, Marigny (Manche), Normandy, 1944.
Ruined tank near St. Gilles (or perhaps Hambye), France, 1944.
American troops, northwestern France, summer 1944.
Ruins of a town in northwestern France, summer 1944.
Ruined tank near St. Gilles (or perhaps Hambye), France, 1944.
Unloading vehicles and supplies from an LST (landing ship, tank) at Normandy beachhead, summer 1944.
An amphibious "duck" comes ashore from its landing craft, Normandy, summer 1944.
Beached shipping, Allied beachhead, Normandy, summer 1944.
Ruined building and sign in French and German, northwestern France, summer 1944.
Ruins, northwestern France, summer 1944, after D-Day.
Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Ruins of Normandy: Portraits From a Post-Invasion Wasteland

May 19, 2014

The ruins left behind after warfare speak a language of their own. Even more strikingly, perhaps, no matter where the conflict has taken place —northern Europe or the Pacific, the Middle East or Central Africa — the vernacular of destruction is often the same. Buildings reduced to rubble and dust. A scarred, tortured landscape nearly devoid of life, aside from small human forms trying to piece it back together. Twisted, rusting steel. Burned, abandoned vehicles. And always, above it all, the indifferent sky.

These color photographs made in northwest France by LIFE photographer Frank Scherschel -- most of which never ran in LIFE -- detail the devastating impact of the Normandy invasion and its aftermath. The impulse behind building this gallery, meanwhile, is really no more complicated than this: to commemorate the Allied troops who fought and died; to honor those who fought and lived; and to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day by remembering what happened to countless towns — and townspeople — in France and around the globe when a world war unleashed hell in the midst of their lives.

[WATCH: 'Behind the Picture: Robert Capa's D-Day']

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