WWII D-Day: Holbrook Bradley and the 29th Division
Sun research librarian Paul McCardell writes about photographer and foreign war correspondent Holbrook Bradley, who was embedded with the 29th Infantry Division during World War II. Bradley followed the 29th Division from its training days and across Europe until Germany’s surrender. Here’s a look at some of Bradley’s photographs from 1943-1945.
“We landed today on a war-torn stretch of the French Channel coast, which only a few hours back was a raging battle area. Although the frontal positions have advanced several miles inland, there is still a grim pall from the recent heavy fighting about the beach. Although we arrived off the beachhead at midafternoon of D-day, conditions ashore prevented our landing with other elements of our division, and it wasn’t until yesterday noon that our commander was given orders to proceed to within a mile of the sands preparatory to unloading…” detailed Baltimore Sun foreign correspondent Holbrook Bradley in a cabled dispatch that was delayed. Bradley was embedded in the 29th Infantry Division in June 1945.
June 6 marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces invaded German-occupied France to fend for their countries against the plight of Nazi Germany. A vast armada of more than 5,000 ships backed by thousands of planes and over 150,000 men ascended on the beaches of Normandy coast.
The Sun had several war correspondents covering the war. Mark Watson wrote about military affairs before embedding with the Army in France. Thomas M. O’Neill was chief of the London bureau, reporting on news there, while Lee McCardell covered the war from the air over beaches during the D-Day invasion, before joining troops in the foxholes.
While both Bradley and McCardell took photos during the war, Bradley snapped photos as 29th Division troops landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1. Bradley had covered the training of the 29th Division, composed mostly of men from Maryland and Virginia. In 1943, he went overseas with the division, covering their continued training in England, then followed them to Omaha Beach and throughout Europe until Germany surrendered.
In a 2005 interview with Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts, Bradley was asked “What comes to mind about D-Day?”
“What I remember most is the tremendous number of ships – battleships, cruisers, whatever-all firing at the shoreline,” Bradley said. “Then the first load of wounded that came back to my boat. … It didn’t become personal till I started to see guys I knew who’d been hit.”
Bradley arrived on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1, because his editor ordered him not to go the first day of the Allied invasion. When asked what it was like on the beach, he described the scene — the fighting had eased but bodies were floating around in the water.
“It was amazing we’d gotten through. … The Sun had given me a camera … when my boat ramp dropped, I fell to one knee to take a picture of the landing. The guy behind me booted me in the rear, thinking I wasn’t going to get off the ship! I took a flying leap in the water and wondered whether the camera would ever work. It did.”
I got to know Bradley, who was The Sun’s last living correspondent from World War II, when he wrote his memoir “War Correspondent From D-Day to The Elbe.” He had a very strong voice, very good memory and was very gracious. Bradley, died at the age of 93 in 2010.