The Vault

Photo: Snipers on the Streets of Paris, 1944

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This striking photo, taken on Aug. 26, 1944, during the liberation of Paris and held in the National Archives’ collection of Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, shows Parisians running for cover on the Place de la Concorde as snipers fired on the city’s ongoing celebration. The image shows civilians caught in the crossfire, transitioning quickly from party to self-preservation mode.

While the Germans had officially surrendered the city to Allied forces the day before and citizens were out in the streets in force, pockets of French collaborators and German soldiers remained. French Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who paraded through the streets to the Champs-Élysées on the same day this picture was taken, took fire from snipers several times. Later in the day, de Gaulle famously came under sniper fire inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

You can see one such attack captured on tape in this newsreel, “de Gaulle in Paris”; start watching at 2:19. Or check out Life’s previously unpublished photographs of the liberation of Paris, one of which depicts two French soldiers returning fire on the snipers menacing the de Gaulle parade, while another shows a French family taking cover during the same event.

Snipers in Paris

“Crowds of Parisians celebrating the entry of Allied troops into Paris scatter for cover as a sniper fires from a building on the Place de la Concorde. Although the Germans surrendered the city, small bands of snipers still remained. 08/26/1944.” National Archives Identifier 531206. Series: Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, compiled 1754 - 1954; Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860-1985.