On June 5, 1944, one day before D-Day, Jim “Pee Wee” Martin parachuted into Europe with the U.S. 101st Airborne Division to take France back from the Nazis.
Exactly 70 years later, a spry Martin took a trans-Atlantic journey to recreate his jump.
“It didn’t [compare to before],” Martin, 93, told CNN Thursday, “because there wasn’t anybody shooting at me today.”
From the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest, to World Environment Day and the NBA Finals, TIME presents the best photos of the week.
Updated Friday at 9:56 a.m.
President Barack Obama called for recognition of the allied forces who turned the tide of history during a stirring speech in Normandy, France, on Friday morning at a ceremony to honor the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe.
“It was here on these shores that the tide was turned in the common struggle for freedom,” Obama said. “Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men.”
The Commander-in-Chief cited the sacrifices of the fallen and the 70 years of democratic movement that spawned in the wake of World War II as aging veterans paid their respects to the tens of thousands of young soldiers who were killed during the opening days of Operation Overlord.
More than 150,000 troops participated in the invasion by land, sea and air in the early hours of June 6, 1944. Tens of thousands of British and North American troops stormed the beachheads of the German-occupied Norman coastline amid the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare.
Allied forces suffered an estimated 10,000 casualties during the first 24 hours of the bloody 77-day campaign. The invasion succeeded in punching a massive hole into the Nazi war machine’s western defenses and marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s reign.
“More than 20,000 Americans paid with their lives here in Normandy,” French President François Hollande said during the ceremony’s opening remarks. “They were your parents, your brothers, your friends. They were our liberators.”
After their speeches, Obama and Hollande placed a wreath at a memorial in the cemetery honoring those who died fighting to fascist’s forces in northern France.
Europe was primarily carved into two ideological camps in wake of the collapse of Nazi Germany, pitting Washington against Moscow. More than 20 years since the end of the Cold War, tensions between East and West have again burst to the surface.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea this past March upped hostilities in Europe to one of the highest levels in decades. Despite the tension, Obama attended a post-speech lunch hosted by Hollande at the American cemetery with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Obama and Putin had an informal conversation “on the margins” of the lunch for 10 to 15 minutes, according to pool reports.
Past and present are joined together in photographs that combine scenes from D-Day 70 years ago with the very same locations in Normandy today
The scale of destruction unleashed in Normandy on and after D-Day beggars the imagination. On the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, TIME commemorates that epic invasion through a series of images that combine photographs taken seven decades ago along with contemporary pictures made by Getty photographer Peter Macdiarmid. As leaders throughout the world gather in Normandy Friday, the result is an uncanny mixture of past and present.
Listen to the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to mark Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944+ READ ARTICLE
One of his sons once referred to Franklin Roosevelt as a “frustrated clergyman.” The president, an Episcopalian, loved liturgy and found the cadences of the Book of Common Prayer and of the King James Bible at once stirring and reassuring. And so the time came for Overlord—what his friend and colleague Winston Churchill called “the most difficult and complicated operation that has ever taken place”—FDR decided to commemorate the moment and address the nation not with a Fireside Chat or a grand speech but with a prayer of his own composition.
The White House distributed the text on the morning of June 6, 1944, so that the afternoon newspapers could publish it and listeners could pray along with Roosevelt when he broadcast that evening. With an estimated audience of 100 million, FDR was to lead what must rank as one of the largest mass prayers in human history. Here are his words, spoken in an hour of peril and of promise.
The prayer in the video above is an abridged version. The complete text appears below.
My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now—from the editors of TIME+ READ ARTICLE
Here are the stories TIME is watching this Tuesday, June 3.
President Obama heads to Europe 70 years after D-Day to confront a continent once again divided by fighting.
An American hero or a deserter whose actions left six rescuers dead and five terrorists free? Bowe Bergdahl is free from the Taliban, but not from accusation.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference didn’t reveal any groundbreaking products, but did show Apple’s new relaxed demeanor.
And finally, marijuana doesn’t just keep you high, it keeps you up. A study shows that pot smoking can cause sleepless nights and unwanted drowsiness.
The Brief is published daily on weekdays.
FDR’s patient diplomacy in 1942 and 1943 made Operation Overlord possible in 1944
It was, Winston Churchill noted at the time, “a strange Christmas Eve.” Only weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent German declaration of war on the U.S., Churchill crossed the Atlantic aboard the H.M.S. Duke of York for conversations with Franklin D. Roosevelt in December 1941. Eleanor Roosevelt was asked to lay in stocks of brandy, champagne and whiskey (Churchill brought his own cigars); the work at hand was to be all-consuming. “Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle,” Churchill said during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, “and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other.” The issue before Churchill and FDR was the most fundamental of all: how best to wage a world war against the Axis powers.
During the discussions, British and American officials affirmed the earlier product of joint staff talks. Code-named ABC-1, the military conferences, held in Washington in the first months of 1941, had asserted the primacy of defeating Germany first. The other potential global foe, Japan, would be taken on only secondarily. With his industrial might and Continental base, Adolf Hitler was viewed as the predominating opponent whose defeat the Anglo-American alliance would come to see as the common cause.
On the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the amphibious assault on Nazi-occupied Europe, we understandably celebrate the Normandy landings as the central act of the 20th century; what Churchill called “the most difficult and complicated operation that has ever taken place” is one of the great hinges of history. Yet the road to the opening of the Second Front in northwest Europe was by no means a simple one. The story of D-Day is as much about years of diplomatic skirmishing among Churchill, Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin as it is about the landings themselves on the beaches where President Obama and other world leaders will gather this week. And in that convoluted tale lies a lesson in leadership, for FDR’s patient maneuvering in 1941, ’42 and ’43 was that of a President at once constrained and determined as he sought the right answer in the calamitous times. What seems straightforward in retrospect was, in real time, highly improvisational—and at moments, dare we say it, Franklin Roosevelt led from behind.
As 1942 began, several key American figures—notably Army Chief of Staff George Marshall and General Dwight Eisenhower—argued for a predictably American strategy. If the target were Germany first, they argued, then hit Germany first, hard and quickly. The fastest way to relieve the immense pressure on Stalin was to cross the English Channel in 1942. There was a problem, though: Winston Churchill.
The Prime Minister was averse to a large-scale strike against Germany for at least two reasons. The first was biographical. As First Lord of the Admiralty during World War I, Churchill had presided over the disastrous Gallipoli strategy that killed 28,000 British soldiers in the ill-considered invasion of Turkey. The experience crushed him. (Afterward he resigned from the government and led an infantry battalion at the front in France.) As scholars have long noted, the second reason was his tendency to prefer secondary operations on the periphery of Hitler’s empire, in the hopes of weakening the enemy at less cost and—though this was and is much disputed—placing British troops in position to protect colonial and postwar interests.
Stalin, for his part, wanted a Second Front in Europe not today, not tomorrow, but yesterday. And so Roosevelt found himself in the midst of a push-and-pull between London and Moscow. Churchill carried the day for 1942 and ’43, arguing for other operations and suggesting that there were not yet sufficient resources to mount a successful attack on the French coast. As much as FDR wanted to take the direct route across the Channel, he at first sided with Churchill against Stalin, approving a Mediterranean strategy.
For Roosevelt the hour of decision came at Tehran in November 1943. Stalin pressed and pressed for a cross-Channel operation, and Churchill, while always agreeing in principle, managed to raise a seemingly infinite number of reasons to delay. Stalin spoke starkly: Were his Western allies truly with him or not? Roosevelt then made his choice, insisting on Overlord and overruling Churchill. The industrial might of America had by now built a huge war machine; the men were trained; and in that moment in the Tehran autumn, the new world of competing superpowers, with Britain in a subsidiary role, came into being.
Roosevelt was right to make the call he made at Tehran, which led to Overlord in June 1944; Churchill was also right early on in resisting a hasty cross-Channel operation. “It is fun to be in the same decade with you,” Roosevelt once told Churchill. For the rest of us, it was more than fun. As the triumph of Overlord proved beyond doubt, it was providential.
Photos of scantily clad women (and men) performing for battle-weary American troops capture a small, memorable reprieve in Normandy in '44
In late July 1944, LIFE magazine photographer Ralph Morse was on hand for what he called, in his typed notes from the scene, the “first organized entertainment in Normandy” after D-Day. In his photos of scantily clad women (and men) performing for hundreds of battle-weary troops, Morse chronicled a small, memorable reprieve in the midst of the Allied push south, toward Paris.
A handful of Morse’s photos were published in the Aug. 14, 1944, issue of LIFE. Most of the pictures featured in this gallery, meanwhile, never appeared in the magazine.
In that Aug. ’44 issue, LIFE described the scene Morse witnessed at a “rest camp” for the troops:
“While the great breakthrough boiled southward [from Normandy toward Paris] a few U.S. soldiers were taking it easy at rest camps behind the lines. At one of the camps the men were entertained by an eager troupe of French vaudevillians called Les Grandes Tournées d’André Fleury.”
Les Grandes Tournées, it seems, had been organized in Paris three years before, while the capital was under German control. In late May of 1944 they set out from Paris for Cherbourg; on June 5, the day before the invasion, they set up in the ancient town of Carteret. When the Germans pulled in the face of the Allied onslaught, the troupe was stranded, with no food or money.
So when a U.S. Army Special Service officer asked them to put on a show for American troops, they were happy to comply. “They were charging the Germans and French 30 to 60 francs,” Morse wrote in his notes. “Now they get 25 francs a head from the Special Service funds for each soldier at the showings.”
The money, by all accounts, was well-spent.
“The show is old-type vaudeville and plenty of legs,” Morse went on. “A perfect show for the battle-tired troops resting a few days. The girls not understanding English and the troops not understanding French . . . the remarks and wisecracks are terrific. Its value as medicine for the boys is tops. They are completely relaxed . . . and yell and scream to their hearts’ content.”
[WATCH: 'Behind the Picture: Robert Capa's D-Day']
Watch the video that shows how the famed photojournalist's negatives were almost lost+ READ ARTICLE
The story behind Robert Capa’s iconic shot of a soldier in the surf at Normandy, one of the most celebrated pictures of the Second World War, is nearly as complex as it is incredible. In 1944, Capa, later a co-founder of the photography collective Magnum, was assigned to cover the Allied invasion of Normandy by LIFE picture editor John G. Morris. Capa, then 30 years old, was one of only 18 American photographers given credentials from the U.S. Armed Forces to cover the preparation for the invasion, and one of only four credentialed to land on the beaches of Normandy alongside American troops.
Dropped nearly 100 yards from the beach during the first wave of the invasion, Capa waded through waist-deep water dodging heavy fire and carrying three cameras. He managed through careful maneuvering to make it to land, where he alternated between taking cover and making pictures as troops made the same deadly journey to shore. In the 90 minutes that he spent on the beach, Capa witnessed men shot, blown up and set on fire all around him.
At nearly the same time, a young GI, now known to be Huston Riley, disembarked from his landing craft into water over his head — and sank straight to the bottom, weighed down by his gear. Riley activated his flotation device and quickly became a sitting duck for German machine gun fire as he bobbed on the surface. Over the course of 30 minutes, Riley made his way to shore while bullets ricocheted off his shoes and pack. Just as he hit land and began to run, Riley caught four bullets in his right shoulder, two of which stayed lodged in his body. Two men quickly came and helped him reach cover, one of whom, Riley later recalled, had a camera around his neck. The photographer was Capa, and somewhere between the moment when Riley reached the surf and when he was being lifted, wounded, out of the water, Capa made the photo that for generations has defined the chaos and the courage witnessed on D-Day.
The journey of Capa’s film that followed, explained in detail in the video above by Capa’s editor and longtime friend, John G. Morris, was almost equally as perilous. Capa’s film survived only because he carried it off the beach himself. His colleague Bob Landry’s film, along with the film of nine other photographers and cinematographers, was lost, having been handed off to a colonel who dropped the whole pack in the ocean while boarding a transport ship. And although Capa shot approximately 106 frames on the beach, only a handful have survived. Though the exact number of surviving frames is uncertain, the actual negative of the picture known as The Face in the Surf, along with another from the set, was lost sometime after the photo’s publication in the June 19, 1944 issue of LIFE. It is, in a sense, a testament to the incalculable hardship and violence of the Longest Day that the only surviving photographic record of the Omaha Beach landing from the beach itself are nine hard-won, fragile, immensely powerful negatives.
Editor’s note: This video has been updated to include a photo illustration credit.