Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death – The Story Behind the Photograph

Graham Land

2 mins

07 Aug 2018

Taxis to Hell – and Back – Into the Jaws of Death was taken on June 6 1944 by Robert F. Sargent, a chief photographer’s mate in the US Coast Guard. It depicts US Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers disembarking from a LCVP at Omaha Beach.

The photograph’s title derives from a refrain in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’ Written in 1854, the poem describes the last doomed charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava, a centrepiece battle of the Crimean War. It strikes a delicate balance between nobility, brutality and tragedy, one that resonates with events on the five Normandy beaches.

Sargent’s iconic piece has been evoked in films such as Saving Private Ryan (1988), and is the most widely recognised symbol of the Normandy Landings.

The German MG42s inflicted severe casualties during the D-Day landings. Yet many allied soldiers would never even reach the beaches. Learn more in the documentary D Day the Untold Story: Journeys to the Bottom of the Sea on HistoryHit.TV.Watch Now

The Charge of the Light Brigade full poem:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.