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A Letter From The Publisher: May 28, 1984

3 minute read

Frederick Painton, the Paris-based senior writer who worked on this week’s cover stories marking the 40th anniversary of Dday, got his first glimpse of France in June 1945. Painton, then an 18-year-old private first class, eventually wound up in Germany as part of an intelligence unit, where he edited rambling interrogation reports on high-ranking German prisoners. “I found my year of occupation duty unpleasant,” says Painton. “I still retain a sense of shock at the spectacle of a broken, defeated nation.”

For his story on the Normandy battlefield, Painton crisscrossed the 60-mile stretch of landing beaches. At Pointe du Hoc, he explored the 100-ft. cliffs that U.S. Rangers had scaled in the face of enemy fire. “The remains of German bunkers are the only evidence that a war had been fought there,” he reports. “Those bunkers were blasted into chunks of concrete that now resemble tilting Celtic dolmens.”

Arthur White, a correspondent in TIME’s London bureau, reported on the state of Britain during the days just before the Normandy invasion. He found his assignment “one of bittersweet nostalgia,” since he was then stationed in London as a 20-year-old soldier-reporter for Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper of the U.S. armed forces.

Senior Writer Otto Friedrich, who wrote the main cover story with the assistance of Reporter-Researcher Anne Hopkins, was also a newsman at the time of Dday, but on a small Vermont paper; at 15, a recent high school graduate, he was too young to fight. “But I followed the war closely,” he says. “I remember how excited we all got on Dday. We knew it was the beginning of the end.”

During the course of his cover labors, Friedrich discovered a little-known story about the D-day photograph that appears across pages 10 and 11 in this issue. Legendary Photojournalist Robert Capa snapped a series of pictures of the Normandy landing while under heavy fire, and then sent the film to the London office of LIFE. In releasing the dramatic photos, the magazine explained their blurry quality by noting that Capa’s hands had moved. In fact, a 17-year-old darkroom assistant in London had applied too much heat as he dried Capa’s negatives, destroying 98 of the 106 images and blurring the others, including Capa’s now famous shot. In 1954, Capa was killed on assignment in Indochina when he stepped on a mine. The fumbling young darkroom assistant in London, Larry Burrows, went on to become a famous photojournalist himself, winning the Robert Capa award for his heroic 1960s coverage of the Viet Nam War. In 1971, Burrows was killed in a helicopter crash in Laos.

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