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D-Day

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The year was 1944 and Hitler’s Nazi Germany controlled all of Europe except for the British Islands and the neutral countries of Spain Switzerland, and parts of Italy. The British had held out long enough for the United States to enter the war and now things were starting to look up. Everyone, including Hitler, knew that an invasion of Europe was imminent, what they did not know was when or where the invasion would take place. The Allied supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff had decided on a plan code named Operation Overlord. The invasion was scheduled to take place on June 5th 1944; weather would push the date back to June 6th 1944, on the beaches of Normandy. The British and Canadian forces would hit Juno, Sword, and Gold while the American forces hit Utah and Omaha. Of all the beaches one would stand out among the rest as the bloodiest, hardest, and most remembered of them all, Omaha beach also know as “bloody Omaha”(Visions from A T.C. abroad pg online). Omaha beach was the beach second from the right in the proposed landing places. (Omaha beach June 6th 1944 pg online) Omaha was the only place to land in a 20 mile stretch of land between Utah and British beaches”(The Second Front WWII ). It was a 6 miles stretch of beach that had an inward curve making it even easier to defend as positions on either end could cover more of the beach and concentrate fire towards the center. Overlooking the entire beach was a cliff one hundred feet high (Visions from A T.C. abroad pg online). On top of these cliffs where concert bunkers that had been concealed from view but could still cover the entire beach (A General’s life pg250). The beach was made up of sand and a type shingle like rocks that made parts of it in passable for any type of vehicles. “It was 200 yards wide at low tide [the time of the invasion] with no cover for advancing troops” (A General’s Life pg 250). To make matters even worse in the entire six mile stretch of beach there was only five exits. Of these five exits one was a paved road leading to the village of Vierville-sur-Mer, two were dirt roads to the villages of Colleville-sur-Mer and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, and the other two were dirt footpaths. (Omaha beach June 6th 1944 pg online) The Nazi’s did not leave the beach to defend itself though; they took full advantage of the terrain to defend the beach as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Fortress Europe was the nickname given to Europe by the allies and axis powers, as Hitler had turned as much of Europe as possible in to just that a fortress. Hitler’s main defenses were along the coast of Europe along the English Channel. This defensive perimeter became to be known as Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and was thought to be all but impenetrable with defenses set up to stop the invasion in the water or at worst hold out until reinforcements could arrive (Omaha Beach head pg 20). Unfortunately for the Allies there was no way around this wall and the only option they had was to punch through it.
Field Marshall Rommel was put in charge of preparing the beaches for the invasion. Rommel’s plan for defense was to stop the invasion before it got off the beach (The German generals Talk pg 52-53). In order to do this he had thousands of mines placed along the coast and thousands more anti-tank barriers, such as ten foot deep rows of wooden stakes and iron hedgerows. Another steel structure used to stop the landing craft and tanks was an upright iron frame known as Belgian gates (The Second Front WWII) “There were 12 strong points called Widerstandsnester ("resistance nests"). Numerous other fighting positions dotted the area, supported by an extensive trench system. The defending forces consisted of three battalions of the veteran 352nd Infantry Division. Their weapons were fixed to cover the beach with grazing enfilade fire as well as plunging fire from the cliffs. Omaha was a killing zone.” (Omaha Beach June 6th 1944 pg online)
Historian Morison would write, “Altogether the Germans had provided the best imitation of hell for an invading force that American troops encountered anywhere. Even the Japanese defenses of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and Peleliu are not compared to these” (A Generals’ life pg 250). The fact that there were veteran troops there was also somewhat surprising to the allies as they though that al of Hitler’s experienced troops were fighting Russia one the eastern front. The only break the Allies got was that the Germans thought that invasion would be at Pas de Calais. For that reason the Germans concentrated there build up along the coast at that point and the coast of the actual invasion was not as heavily defended as it could have been had the Germans put more resources into it. Rommel was even said to have said that he was happy with the defenses at Pas de Calais but not at Normandy. (The German Generals Talk pg55) Also he was suspicious of an invasion at Normandy because he knew it was one of the few places that had a coastline that was good enough to invade but the lack of a good port kept him convinced that the invasion would take place some where else. The Germans would soon be proven wrong.
Just before dawn the invasion began and the battleships off shore opened fire on the German in placements on the coast in hopes of softening the coastal defenses (Omaha Beach head pg online) and 269 Marauder medium bombers of the 8th Air Force would drop 4,404 250Lb bombs on the coastline (The Second Front WWII). Gen. Omar Bradley was put in Charge of the Omaha beachhead and at 0630 lead by the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, with the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division attached for D-Day only the invasion began. (Omaha Beach June 6th 1944 pg online) “Omaha was wide enough to land two regiments side by side with Armour in front, and so the 116th Regiment was to land at Dog and Easy Green, while the 16th Regiment, 1st Division, was to land at Easy Red and Fox Green. (Omaha Beach June 6th 1944 pg online)” The problem as the first waves would quickly discover was that the off shore barrage had not been successful as hoped and “German defenses at Omaha were among the worst encounter by the Americans in the entire war” (The Second Front WWII) There was some success in the bombardment of the coast as “German strong point W5 took such a pounding from bombs and off-shore ships that only two machine guns, one mortar, and the other remaining soldiers with their rifles remained to fight off the invaders” (The Second Front WWII) The other problem the Allies faced was that “The German 716th Coastal Defense Division happened to be joined by the 352nd Infantry Division, there on an exercise, on the day of the invasion. Unknown to the Allies, the amount of German resistance expected on Omaha Beach would be doubled.”(Visions from A.T.C Abroad pg online) This of course made things harder than anticipated and gave the Germans more manpower to help fight the invasion. Up down the Beach there where bodies, of dead and wounded soldiers, and the wreckages of destroyed vehicles. Behind the wreckages and the German obstacles where soldiers of the first wave, most of them had never seen combat and they were doing what ever it took to find cover from the intense German fire. The problem with this was that staying behind cover does nothing to stop the enemy or help you get off the beach and reach your objectives. Fortunately Brigadier General Norman D. Cota of the 29th managed to walk up down the beach rallying the men to leave their protective cover and move off the beach. Along with Gen. Cota Col. George A. Taylor rallied men even one time saying “two kinds of people are staying on this beach the dead and those who are going to die”(The Longest Day pg228) Another Colonel with 116th, Col. Charles P. Canham told soldier around him “They are murdering us here, lets move inland and get murdered there”(The Longest Day pg 228). With the encouraging words from officers such as these men found the will to face the fire from the German defenders and get off the beach. “As men found it possible to move forward fear and frustration gave way to an overpowering anger” (The Longest Day pg229) this quote helps describe what soldiers where feeling as they made their way up the beach and watched their friends and fellow soldiers fall besides them. The only cover the soldier could hope to find was the pebble banks which beyond was a thick line of coiled barbwire (The Second Front WWII) Some troops managed to get right up next to the cliff wall and after realizing that there was no other way the began to climb the cliffs. PFC Harry Robert has his rope cut twice times as tried to scale the cliffs. ( The Longest Day pg183) Staff Sgt. William Corshing and PFC. William Braker of A Company, I platoon where the first to the top of the cliffs at 8:30 A.M. (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 98) At other parts of the beaches soldiers started finding their way up paths first in small groups and then increasing in numbers as time went on.
“Like a trickling stream slipping between pebbles a handful of man found their way around the German strong points covering the beach exit, and forced a path for American army off the beach” (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 97)
That quote describes how the majority of progress was made on the beach as the original plans had failed and only the bravery and determination of the men on the beach overcame the over whelming odds against them. The following quote is from The Longest Day by Ryan Connelius and describes some of the courage and luck that happened on the beach.
“Captain Edward Wozenski meet Sgt. Streczyk who had gotten tired of being pinned down on the beach and gathered up some men and breached the bard wire perimeter. Later on a trail running down the bluffs a horrified Capt Wozenski meet Sgt. Streczyk step on a teller mine. Sgt. Streczyk said coolly “it didn’t go off when I stepped on it on the way up either.”(pg 228)
There were similar tells of valor up and down the beach all day long as the Americans finally started to make progress on the beach. One thing that the helped the American soldiers make progress was the continual bombardment from off shore ships. “Navy destroyers steamed in and, scraping their bottoms in the shallow water, and blasted the German fortifications at point-blank range” (Omaha beach June 6th 1944 pg online) Gen Omar Bradley even praised the gallantry of the 12 destroyers for their willingness to face mines, enemy fire and other obstacles to become the sole artillery for the soldiers on the beach. (A General’s life pg 251) Other Soldiers such as, Huebner’s Chief of staff Stanhope B. Mason would say things like “ I am now firmly convinced that our supporting naval fire got us in; that without that gunfire we positively could not have crossed the beaches” and Gee Gerow’s first message to Gen. Bradley was “Thank God for the U.S. Navy!”(A General’s life pg 251). Even with this support however things did not look good on Omaha. Six hours after the invasion had started only ten yards of beach had been gained and held. (A general’s life pg251) Gen Bradley was out on the Augusta and he had very little communication with the forces on the beach. The only reports he did get where those from the occasional radio message and from people that were doing recognizance close to the beach (A General’s Life pg251). From theses reports Gen. Bradley considered strongly about withdrawing forces from Omaha and sending them to Utah. He was even quoted saying to Gen. Monty “someday I’ll tell General Eisenhower just how close it was those first few hours”. (A General’s Life pg251). Finally at 1330 Gen. Bradley would receive word from Gerow that “troops formerly pinned down one the beaches…advancing up heights behind beaches”(A General’s Life pg 251). Gen. Bradley would send his Chief of Staff Bill Kean and Chet Hansen to get a first hand look and report back to him as to what the situation was really like. (A General’s Life 251). When the reports came back Gen Bradley quickly forgo all thought of withdrawal as in the reports it showed that the soldiers on the beach were slowly inching their way forward (A General’s Life pg251-252). As things started to look up Gen Bradley would give credit to the U.S. Navy and to individual Heroism for gaining and holding the beach. He would specifically mention the battle hardened 1st division, as they were the only experienced troops and had to once again dive into the enemy’s teeth. (A General’s Life pg 252) The 1st division or as it was more commonly known The Big Red one was some of the most experienced troops at Omaha beach. The 1st had experience with invasions, as they had been involved in Sicily and Saleno. ( The longest Day pg228) All around on the beach soldiers where in a state of shock at the horror around them. The 1st would be the first to recover from this state of shock and start to advance off the beach. The 1st was forced to take over heavily defend outpost with only light weight weapons (The Second Front)
“The objectives of the 1st Division were very aggressive. Their first objective was to capture the villages of Vierville, Saint-Laurent, and Colleville; then once they took over the city they had to push through and cut the Bayeux-Isigny road, and then they had to attack south toward Trévières and west toward the Pointe du Hoc.”(Omaha beach June 6th 1944 pg online)
However by nightfall the 1st would only reach Vierville, Saint-Laurent, and Colleville—nowhere near the planned objectives, but they had a toehold. (Omaha beach June 6th 1944 pg online) Also by days end most of the soldiers on the beach would agree that with out The Big Red One the battle would have been lost. (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 98) The 1st division had helped win the battle and had done even more to make its self into a legend. Even now when one hears the name The Big Red One it is almost instantly associated with thoughts of heroism and courage of the 1st division.
Unfortunately, the fame gained by the 1st Division came at a coast. The 1st and several other units suffered extremely high casualties in the assaults. The first casualties would come before the landing even took place as bad weather would sink some of the landing craft and more where hit by German guns firing from coastal batteries. For the soldiers in the landing craft that made it to the coast things would not be much better. As soon as the front door dropped the Germans fired into the landing craft with machine guns plowing down men before they could set foot off of the craft desperately some soldiers went over the sides of the craft. This however was not much better as the weight of the equipment drowned several soldiers. Once again bravery of the solider on the shore would show as human chains where formed to pull ashore those soldiers that could not swim (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 95) One town with a total population of only 3,800 would lose twenty men from a total of thirty –five that where in the invasion. (The Second Front WWII) The first wave suffered such heavy casualties, and mislandings, and disorganization that the second wave suffered almost the same fate as the first. (Omaha Beach head pg 49-51)
The worst place to land on the beach was a sector known as (Omaha Beach head pg 45). A Company of the 116th was to land there, and with in 15 minutes of landing the Company had suffered two-thirds casualties. (Omaha Beach head pp 45-47) A company had had around a total of 197 men ninety-six percent where killed by the time it was over. (The Second Front WWII) Another problem was that the Special "DD" tanks (amphibious Sherman tanks fitted with flotation screens) that were supposed to support the 116th Regiment sank in the choppy waters of the Channel. Only 2 of the 29 launched made it to the beach (Omaha Beach June 6th 1944 pg online) Any Military unit that suffers that high of a casualty rate becomes virtually ineffective as a fighting unit, and A company was not the only one. The 29th division would lose most of its officers and suffer such heavy casualties that it became disorganized. The 29th would become dangerously paralyzed on the beach with out any leadership remaining to get them up and off the beach. (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 98) Once again only the leadership and bravery of individuals would save the unit from total destruction as small group of men gather up the courage to move forward off he beach.
The Soldiers did a have few things going for them however such as the lack of the Luftwaffe to do anything against the attackers. The Luftwaffe in Normandy had been destroyed and forced to retreat to bases farther back from the coastline (A General’s Life pg 250). The German Navy also made no appearance on D-day that greatly helped the attackers as the full power of the invasion armada got to be put towards the coast defenses. The other thing that turned out good for the attackers was that Germans could not get any of the V-1 or V-2 rockets ready to fire in time to make use of them. (A General’s Life pg 250) Another factor that was starting to come into play was the fact that the German defense posts where starting to run low on ammunition and the reserves where out on a wild goose chase. “Specifically they were out chasing what was thought to be an Air born drop but in reality was nothing more than a bunch of dummies dropped from a plan”(Visions from A T.C. abroad pg online). By 1200 hours German fire was noticeably decreased as the defensive positions were taken from the rear. Then one by one the exits were opened. (Omaha Beach June 6th 1944 pg online) As the exits opened up larger numbers or soldiers could get off the beach and as more soldiers got off the beach the more progress they could make and soon things were looking better for soldiers and worse for the German defenders.
Perhaps the most successful thing that the planning staff did to aid the landing forces was keep the location of the invasions a secret and keep the Germans thinking the invasion would be at Pas de Calais and not at Normandy. There was so much secrecy surrounding the planning that the office of the Colonel in charge of Supply and Logistics had armed guards by the door at all times, and the MP’s would check the waste baskets for scraps of information that may give away the location of the invasion (The Critical Error of WWII pp2-3). Also the Allies put Gen. Patton in charge of a fake army that appeared to be getting ready to invade Pas de Calais. This deception went on even after the invasion of Normandy had taken place as the German high command feared another invasion not because they thought Normandy invasion was a fake invasion, but because of First Army group commanded by General Patton, only the Germans did not know that the First army groups was not real.(A General’s Life pg255). This also kept the German High Command from allowing reserve SS and panzer divisions to be brought up to help defend Normandy. This Decision is probably one of the most crucial things that occurred especially for the forces at Omaha because if the Germans could have put together a strong counter attack the Americans would have probably been pushed back into the sea or destroyed. (Omaha Beach Head pg116)
By then end of the assault on the beach some 2,500 men would be killed or wounded. (A General’s Life pg 252). However “by day's end V Corps had a tenuous toehold on the Normandy Coast, and the force consolidated to protect its gains and prepare for the next step on the road to Germany” (Omaha Beach pg online) As determined German resistance held back the Americans from getting as far inland as they had hoped, and as a result the beaches became congested with landing craft, wrecked vehicles and the bodies of fallen soldiers (Visions From A T.C. Abroad pg online) The Americans did manage to push some 1,500-2,000 yards deep, but there were still enemy forces that were holding out on the beach and every part of the beach that the Americans held was still in range of German artillery(Omaha Beach Head pg116). With the failure to reach the planned the goals on D-day the goals of the next few days became to both achieve those goals and to push inland enough to get the beach head out of range of German artillery (Omaha Beach Head pg116). Another failure of the Allies was in the landing of supplies, which fell far short of the planned goals. (Omaha Beach Head pg116) However the German resistance only had the power to disorganization and delay the American advance not stop it all together. (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 97) With the success of the Invasion at Omaha and the other beaches the Allies had opened up a western front of the war, and the tide of the war took a major turn in favor of the allies. Hitler had even been quoted saying, “that if they attack on the west that will decide the war” (Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy pg 58). This would be proven true with Hitler’s suicide and the fall of Nazi Germany.

WORKS CITED

Mark Harold L. The Critical Error of WWII Feb 1981 D5.409/2181-1

Hart, B.H. Lidiell “The German Generals Talk” William and Co. New York , 1948

The Second front, WWII, Time Life Inc. 1978

Ryan Connelius, The Longest Day June 6th 1944. Simon and Schuster N.Y. 1959

Omaha Beach Head. Historical Division, War Department Reprint 1984 D114.9:Omh

Hastings, Max, Overlord: D-day and the battle for Normandy. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York, 1984.

Bradley Omar N. and Clay Blair. A General’s Life. Simon and Schuster New York 1983

Omaha Beach June 6,1944, online at: http://www.californiacentralcoast.com/commun/map/omaha_beach.html

VISIONS FROM A T.C. ABROAD, online at: http://www2.hawaii.edu/hga/KathyT/france4.htm Omaha Beach, online at:
http://redbud.lbjlib.utexas.edu/eisenhower/omaha.htm

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...D Day: The Battle of Normandy The Battle of Normandy or “D-Day” was the beginning of the end World War II. With over 20,000 American lives lost in a span of one single day, it was the bloodiest battle to date that the Americans have ever been involved in. The allied forces were made up of American, British, Polish, Canadian, and Free French Armies all under the command of General Eisenhower. General Eisenhower was named the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces by President Roosevelt in December 1943. At which point he dedicated all his available time to planning the invasion of France. (Williams, 2000) Several years of meticulous planning went into every detail of the climactic battle of World War II. (Ambrose, 1995) Operation Overlord was the code name used by allied forces when referring to the invasion of Normandy. This invasion involved more than 150,000 men and 5,000 ships. Alongside General Eisenhower were the Deputy Supreme Commander; British Air Chief Marshal Arthur W. Tedder, British Admiral Bertram H. Ramsay who was appointed naval commander, and Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory who was appointed commander of the air forces. Part of the successful outcome of the invasion came from elaborate plans to deceive the German Army. Operation Fortitude was the name of the plan that had Germans thinking that massive Allied forces were concentrated in Kent. A fake army led by General George S. Patton was put in place to keep the German High Command......

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The Importance Of D-Day Invasion

...World War II was the biggest war in the modern world. An estimated 3% of the population was decimated during the war, equating to about 50-80 million. It also supported the most amount of countries involved in a single war. This included the United States. When the United States was dragged into the war, we had to turn the tides to allied favor, and we helped contribute to the largest amphibious invasion ever. This was the invasion of Normandy, or the common name, D-Day. D-Day was one of the most important invasions because it paved the way for the Allies to push the Nazi regime back to their original borders. Japan’s expansionist ideas is the main reason for the United States’ getting into the war. In 1941, the United States had imposed...

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The D-Day: The Invasion Of Normandy

...Before the start of the Normandy Beach landings or better known as “D-Day” the U.S. and their allies were well at work preparing for a massive attack. With so much preparation and thoughtout plans the allies felt confident. Yet with so much confidence and such a big attack something is bound to go bad. Going into D-Day the allied forces underestimated the German forces and their defense. To their knowing the germans had no clue of their attack. But even if they may of not known of their attack they were just as well prepared as the allies. February 12,1844 the US and allied forces began their extensive preparation for their long aim of defeating the German forces. After a long period of time of no cooperation due to different ideologies of how to proceed with the invasion of Europe. The United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to intervene to ensure that the invasion was a unified effort. Due to the leaders interference the allied forces set their efforts high and created a strategic plan to attack the German forces at five different beachheads along with one massive airborne assault....

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Essay On D-Day Research Paper

...in preparation for the invasion of Normandy—D-Day. The day of the invasion of occupied France had been postponed repeatedly since May, mostly because of bad weather and the enormous tactical obstacles involved. Finally, despite less than ideal weather conditions—or perhaps because of them—General Eisenhower decided on June 5 to set the next day as D-Day, the launch of the largest amphibious operation in history. Ike knew that the Germans would be expecting postponements beyond the sixth, precisely because weather conditions were still poor. Among those Germans confident...

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