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The Story Behind Robert Capa’s Pictures of the D-Day Invasion that Almost Never Were

TIME’s Behind the Picture recently dove into the fascinating story behind how some of the most iconic photographs of World War II almost never were. Narrated by John Morris, Editor of LIFE magazine during WWII, Morris tells the story behind the photographs captured by Robert Capa on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion.

One of only 18 American photographers given credentials by the US Armed Forces to cover the preparation and execution of the invasion, Capa captured frame after frame, putting himself in the middle of the gruesome action. When all was said and done, Capa sent back four rolls of 35mm film to Morris in London to be developed and printed.

DDayCapas

As soon as Morris received the film, he sent all four rolls to the labs to be developed and have contact prints made; however, after just a few minutes in the lab, a technician came running to Morris to tell him that the first three rolls came out completely blank.

Fingers and toes crossed, they developed the last roll… and to Morris’ relief, 11 frames survived the invasion.

As the video shows, a number of those frames (including the iconic shot of the soldier in the surf) will forever be embedded in photographic history and our minds — a critical chronicle of a pivotal moment in the second World War that very nearly didn’t make it.

Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf [TIME via ISO 1200]