A Guy Risked Death On D-Day To Get Combat Photos, And An Intern Ruined Them
Picture Post/Picture Post/Getty Images
Anyone who's seen the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan knows it's a miracle that we have any pictures of the D-Day invasion at all, because a beach full of trained soldiers getting straight-up blown away is not a safe place for unarmed photographers. But against all conceivable odds (and in direct opposition to the innate human will to survive), we do in fact have photos from right in the thick of that battle -- 11 of them, to be precise. And it's all thanks to preeminent wartime photographer Robert Capa, whose personal mantra was "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."
Also, we'd have way more than 11 D-Day photographs if it weren't for a single, bumbling intern.
To be fair, said intern was about as experienced as most of the boys being tossed at the beach that day.
Capa was among the second wave of troops to hit Omaha Beach. And he was in just as much danger as any of them, because German defenders didn't give a single loose Sauerbraten shit whether the thing you were pointing at them was a rifle or a telephoto lens. Covered in blood and bits of tattered troops, holding his cameras above water with shaking hands, and protecting his film canisters as if they were his life's blood, Capa managed to capture 106 insanely close-up images of the invasion. And unlike most of his colleagues, Capa actually managed to ensure his film survived the day, because he carried it off the beach his goddamned self.
Problem was, this was long before the Instagram era, when we can watch our images disseminate to the entire world with the flick of a finger. On his return to London, Capa handed his precious rolls of film over to staff members at Life magazine for developing. Said staff members then shrugged and handed the duty off to 15-year-old lab assistant Dennis Banks, who, in the time-honored tradition of 15-year-olds throughout history, fucked everything up instantly.