Into the Jaws of Death

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Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death, by Robert F. Sargent, CPhoM, USCG
original caption: "American invaders spring from the ramp of a Coast Guard-manned landing barge to wade those last perilous yards to the beach of Normandy. Enemy fire will cut some of them down. Their 'taxi' will pull itself off the sands and dash back to a Coast Guard manned transport for more passengers."

Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death is a historic photograph taken on June 6, 1944, by Robert F. Sargent, a chief photographer's mate in the United States Coast Guard. It depicts U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division soldiers disembarking from a LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase at Omaha Beach during the Normandy Landings in World War II.[1]


The photograph was taken during Operation Neptune, the naval phase of Operation Overlord. Neptune was the largest combat operation performed by the United States Coast Guard in American history.[2]

The Higgins Boat depicted in the photograph had departed from the USS Samuel Chase about 10 miles (8.7 nmi; 16 km) from the coast of Normandy at around 5:30 AM. Waves continuously broke over the boat's square bow, and the soldiers inside were drenched in cold ocean water. When the boat neared Normandy beach, a German shell hit a grenade of one of the soldiers in the port side of the Higgins Boat, causing it to ignite. No one was seriously injured. However, the soldiers grouped around the starboard side of the boat to avoid the small fire causing a tilt in the boat that is visible in the photograph.[2]

The actual photograph was taken by Chief Photographer's Mate Robert Sargent at 7:40 AM local time. It depicts the soldiers departing their Higgins boat and wading through waist-deep water towards "Easy Red" sector of Omaha Beach.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The image was one of the most widely reproduced photographs of the D-Day landings. The original photograph is stored by the United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.[2]

The iconic image was evoked in the 1998 Hollywood film Saving Private Ryan,[3] and appears on the cover of Stanley Lombardo's 1997 English translation of the Iliad as a symbol of the universality of war.[4]

Origin of the phrase[edit]

The phrase "into the jaws of Death" in the photograph's title comes from a refrain in The Charge of the Light Brigade, an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War.[5]


  1. ^ Price, Scott T. "U.S. Coast Guard at Normandy". U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Young, Stephanie. "Into the jaws of death: U.S. Coast Guard-manned landing craft at Normandy". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Shields, Mark (August 3, 1998). "'Ryan' recalls a war that was 'good' because it was democratic". The Free Lance–Star. Creators Syndicate. 
  4. ^ Mendelsohn, Daniel (July 20, 1997). "Yo, Achilles". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ "The Charge Of The Light Brigade". Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Into the Jaws of Death at Wikimedia Commons