Oil painting “View from Command Post in Normandy” (MO 1945.83.1)

On June 6, 1944, the United States and its allies launched the greatest amphibious invasion in history on the shores of France. Over 150,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen stormed the beaches of Normandy beginning a campaign that would end with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945. The Allied invasion of Normandy, code-named Overlord, was a complex endeavor involving armed forces from many nations, with Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander.

The fortified German stronghold at Pointe du Hoc – situated between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach – was among the most important Allied targets on D-Day. The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion was given the daunting task of scaling the 100 foot cliff at Pointe du Hoc and destroying the five German 155 mm guns believed to be there. After scaling the cliff under heavy fire, the Rangers discovered that the guns had been moved inland. The Rangers sent out patrols, discovered the guns unattended, and disabled them.

Lieutenant Frederick S. Wight of the U.S. Navy was appointed to make drawings of the Normandy beaches during the Overlord operation. Lieutenant Wight made sketches from Pointe du Hoc while the Allied beachhead was still under fire, completing the drawings aboard ship in the English Channel.

This oil painting is one result of Wight’s work during the invasion. The painting shows a view from the Pointe du Hoc command post through a narrow horizontal slit in a reinforced concrete wall. The observer looks out towards the English Channel at the U.S. battleship Texas firing at Pointe du Hoc and the U.S. destroyer Harding coming inshore to bombard from close range. The painting was presented to President Roosevelt by Lieutenant George M. Elsey in the White House Map Room on behalf of the artist on September 7, 1944.