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’]