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October 13, 2017

20 Historic Photographs From the AP Images Archive Show the Scene of the WWII Dunkirk's Evacuation in 1940

Operation Dynamo, as the rescue operation was called, began on May 27, 1940, after a German pincer advance forced the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) into retreat and cut off all ports except for Dunkirk. Under heavy shelling and air attack from the German Luftwaffe, the British soldiers, known as Tommies, as well as French and Belgian troops were evacuated. British destroyers sent to perform the rescue couldn’t get close enough to shore due to the shallow waters, so smaller vessels had to act as ferries to bring men off the beach.

Photographs from the AP Images archive show the scene of the evacuation often in blurry images of the beaches and with more clarity when depicting the rescued men aboard ship: Soldiers wade out into the surf to what became known collectively as the Little Ships; scores of smiling faces appear under the steel helmets of the Tommies as they arrive in England; men wait in long, curving queues on the beach of Dunkirk; black smoke billows from nearby burning oil tanks; the beach is dotted with greatcoats abandoned by departing troops; a fleet of ships large and small, seen in grainy black and white, make the journey back to the English coast.

Called “the greatest rescue in military history” by the AP in 1940, the rescue at Dunkirk was pivotal in shaping the course of the war. Without the bravery of soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians alike the evacuation would not have succeeded:

The coxswain said the first words they heard when they reached the Flanders coast was the exclamation of an infantry officer: “Thank God, there are such men as you!”

Soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force wade out to some of the little ships that are attempting to evacuate them from Dunkirk, France, on June 1, 1940.

Troops of the British Expeditionary Force landed from a destroyer at a British Port on June 1, 1940 after being evacuated following heroic fighting from Flanders.Troops of the British Expeditionary Force landed from a destroyer at a British Port on June 1, 1940 after being evacuated following heroic fighting from Flanders.

Hundreds of men of the British Expeditionary Force withdrawn from Dunkirk and Northern France are arriving back in England in a continuous stream on May 31, 1940.

Two of the many small boats which helped to bring the Allied troops in the emergency evacuation across the English Channel from Dunkirk, France, are shown on June 4, 1940 in World War II. Private crafts of all sizes, trawlers, paddle steamers, yachts and motor boats were used to evacuate more than 300,000 Allied troops who were cutoff from retreat on land by the Nazi invasion to the French Channel ports.

On the North Sea front the French Navy taking members of the allied north army before Dunkirk on June 18, 1940.

Troops of the British Expeditionary Force view the Nazi bombardment of Dunkirk from a transport after their evacuation from the French coast during World War II. The emergency evacuation of Allied forces, known as Operation Dynamo, took place between May 29 and June 3, 1940.

Thousands of British and French troops massed on the beach of Channel port in Dunkirk, France on June 4, 1940 awaiting ships to return them to England. British reports estimated 335,000 allied troops were evacuated from the German held pocket in Flanders in what was described as the greatest retreat in military history.

Men of the B.E.F. safely home after their gallant fight in Flanders seen on transport ships at the Quayside on June 6, 1940.

A group of British soldiers arrive in England after the evacuation of Flanders, France on June 6, 1940 in World War II.

Soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force wade through shallow water to a rescue vessel that will take them back to England from Nazi-occupied Dunkirk, France, on June 13, 1940.

Troops of the British Expeditionary Force landing at an English port on May 31, 1940.

A British Spitfire fighter lays with its cockpit blasted out, after it crashed to the beach at Dunkirk, France on June 6, 1940.

British troops arriving in England on June 6, 1940 after fleeing Flanders received all kinds of fruit and food from women who passed it out to them as they halted in railroad stations.

Smoke and debris in a street of Dunkirk, France, showing the effects of bombardment, June 1940.

Defeated by German troops in the Flanders region, these soldiers of the British Expeditionary Forces arrive safely at an unknown British harbor, in the early days of June 1940, after a heroic emergency sealift from a beachhead around Dunkirk, France.

A seething, but surprisingly orderly mass of steel hats, as more and still more thousands more of the B.E.F. return to England, June 1, 1940.

German soldier, prisoner of French, is guarded by French sailors who defended Dunkirk on June 12, 1940.

A sailor assisting a wounded soldier, followed by French Troops on return to England, on June 1, 1940.

Captured British soldiers are led away by German troops at Dunkirk, France, in June 1940.

Men of the British Expeditionary Force arriving at a British port on June 6, 1940 after their escape from the German sweep through Flanders. One soldier assists a wounded comrade who walks with the aid of a stick.

(via AP Images Spotlight blog)

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