For the 70th Anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, better known as D-Day, our Passion For Innovation Institute created a tribute to the engineers of the Normandy landings. To learn more about the back-story of this project, I sat down with Marie-Pierre Aulas, who worked on the D-Day project as the producer.
Q: How did you manage to find archived drawings for modeling the Normandy landings?
This was probably the most challenging part of the project! Let me share an anecdote; when we worked with the Royal Engineers Museum in London to pull from the archives of the Mulberry-B Harbour, we found that the index of the archive was lost! Until then, no one had tried to explore them since the end of WWII. Dealing with thousands of archive pieces without an index was extremely difficult, especially given the time constraints we had. So we chose to focus on the engineering details of the Mulberry-B, such as the anchors and mobile binding system of its floating roadway.
In other instances, we only had scans to work with, and some of them were of very bad quality and could barely be read at all.
Q: It seems that you worked with a lot of stakeholders!
As you can imagine, pieces of content found their way to many different places after WWII, ending up in the hands of museums as well as individuals and associations. So we worked with various museums, libraries and associations across the US, UK and France. We actually found very valuable information from fan clubs thanks to very passionate people! Here are a couple examples:
We worked with the Challenge LCVP to model the Landing Craft, Vehicle & Personnel (LCVP):
For the Waco CG-4A Glider, we worked with the Silent Wings Museum:
And for modeling the Mulberry-B Harbour, we worked with the Royal Engineers Museum in London.
Here is the complete list of museums and associations we worked with:
- Musée d’Arromanches, Arromanches, France
- WW II History Round Table, Atlanta GA, USA
- American Aviation Heritage Foundation “Forensic Engineer”, USA
- Fagen Fighter WWII Museum, Granite Falls MN, USA
- Royal Engineers Museum, London, UK
- Silent Wings Museum, Lubbock TX, USA
- WWII Museum, New Orleans LA, USA
- Earl K.Long Library, New Orleans LA, USA
- Challenge LCVP, Rouen, France
- Musée Airborne, St Mère l’Eglise, France
Q: What has been the impact of this project so far? What are the next steps?
The TV documentaries we contributed to were broadcast in the past weeks in the US (PBS: 5M audience), France (France3 TV channel: 3.1M audience, trending topic on Twitter) and other countries. DVDs of these documentaries are also available, as well as a book in French, and an exhibition of 3D experiences in the Cité de la Mer museum in Cherbourg, France.
We’re also hosting an immersive virtual reality center on the Ouistreham beach with interactive 3D tables, a 3D cave, and Oculus Rift experiences.
Beyond education for the general public, uncovering the archives and bringing them to life with virtual reality has helped with the awareness of the Normandy landings site; the Mulberry-B Harbour is now an official UNESCO World Heritage candidate.
You can see more of the recreations and the project on the Dassault Systemes’ D-Day site.