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The D-Day and the Crowd Project

This web site has been established to support the D-Day and the Crowd project, which is working to "excavate" and exploit some of the millions of photographs and post cards collected from British citizens by the UK Admiralty during World War II, and used in the planning of the D-Day invasion.

In 1943 the British Admiralty broadcast an appeal to citizens in the UK, requesting that they send post cards and photographs depicting the French coast, acquired or taken before the war. The collection - some 9 million items - was used in the planning for Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944.

What the Admiralty collected would have been of considerable value. It represented unique access, given the Atlantic Wall's wartime inaccessibility. While commandos might collect photographs of beach approaches from the sea, a tourist's portfolio shot in 1938 might provide views outward, from what were to become defensive positions, etc. And the collection would provide snapshots, so to speak, across time, e.g., revealing features later obscured by construction, etc.

The collection might also be contrasted with another effort to evaluate the defenses of the French coast, the August 1942 Dieppe raid (Operation Jubilee), a disastrous reconnaissance in force that resulted in over 3,600 men killed, wounded or captured.

The Admiralty appeal was possible because of several technological tipping points, specifically the pervasiveness of radio as a mass medium, and privately-owned cameras. Arguably the pace of modern warfare in WW II also made such intelligence collection more valuable: unlike the trench warfare of WW I, the operations against the Normandy beaches and other strategic targets (transportation hubs, ports, etc.) involved seaborne landings, parachute and glider assaults, and rapid advances by armor and mechanized forces.