Over the years, many people have collected postcards. Some like them for the scenic views, and some collect postcards that have been sent to them, saving them as mementos of family members who won’t always be with us. I have picked up lots of postcards for my sister, Cheryl Masterson, who has a collection. While this is a cool way to get great pictures of amazing places, postcards were once used as…intel.
Starting in 1942, as the BBC, as part of their planning of the D-Day attack, issued a public appeal for postcards and photographs of mainland Europe’s coast, from Norway to the Pyrenees. The British people were eager to help and began sending in postcards and pictures from their trips to France. Other families began searching through boxes of family photos, searching for anything that might show the beaches. Photos of kids building sandcastles, and people lounging on the beach flooded the BBC offices. While it all seemed like a fun project, the people had no idea that their family photographs would prove very instrumental in the D-Day landings. Within 36 hours, over 30,000 packs of pictures of the French coast arrived at the BBC offices. Even more incredible was the fact that by 1944, 10 million holiday snaps and postcards, hotel brochures, letters and guidebooks had arrived by post. Once there, the postcards and photographs were sorted, and the best ones were pinned to a board in a top-secret planning room. Then the army bosses began to study every inch of the beaches and landing areas where the Normandy invasion would go on to take on June 6, 1944.
The families who sent in their family photographs and postcards, had no idea what would come of their contribution. They weren’t told why their pictures were needed, just that it was an important project. Looking at the photographs now, the innocent snaps almost bring a feeling of deep sadness. Nevertheless, the photographs and postcards were instrumental and extremely important to the war effort. After looking at all the pictures, it was decided that the best place to carry out their plan was on the beaches at Normandy, France. Many of these postcards were used in briefings with officers, land craft operators and other infantry soldier to study and orient themselves based on their drop locations of the building and landmarks in these photos. Of course, the rest is history, and the operation to storm the beaches at Normandy was a great success.
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