Omaha Beach at Noon, 6 June 1944
Omaha Beach at noon showing the four American footholds off the beach. At this state the only German strongpoint to be directly threatened was WN60 at the eastern end of the beach, and the Germans believed that the landing had been effectively repulsed.
Omaha Beach at Noon, 6 June 1944 - History
|7,201,195 visitors |
|"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: |
those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here."
Colonel George A. Taylor - 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division
|June 19, 2021 |
|BREDA ITALO J|
29TH INFANTRY DIVISION
Honored by Wayne J Breda MD,DSc.
|GOLDSTEIN MORRIS M|
1ST INFANTRY DIVISION
Honored by Lesley Sterling
THEY DIED ON OMAHA BEACH 6 JUNE 1944.
Let us remember those young soldiers who changed the history with their sacrifice. Let us commit ourselves to remembering their sacrifice by cherishing the freedom they bought for new generations.
To remember those heroes.
THEY WERE ON OMAHA BEACH.
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NORMANDY AMERICAN CEMETERY.
The Normandy American Cemetery is located on the site of the temporary American St.-Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944.
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ORDER OF BATTLE.
2nd Bombardment Division, 8th Air Force
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The 16th Infantry Regiment, United States Army
In the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, Omaha Beach at Normandy, Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq and a host of deadly places in between, the 16 th Infantry Regiment has established a record of service and sacrifice matched by few units of the U.S. Army.
For six or more generations, the foot soldiers of the 16 th Infantry have distinguished themselves in the hard service of the common infantryman, fighting for ground often yard by yard while enduring the most punishing hardships conceived by man and nature.
The regiment came into being in the shock of the Confederate bombardment and occupation of Fort Sumter. On May 3, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the creation of eight Federal regiments of infantry, one which became the 11 th U.S. Infantry – today’s 16 th Infantry Regiment.
The 11 th U.S. Infantry fought at most of the war’s major Eastern Theater battles, including Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg.
The unit was one of the first to enter action at Chancellorsville. On May 1, 1863, the men of the 11 th U.S. Infantry engaged Confederate forces along the Orange Turnpike. The short, but fierce battle, cost the unit 28 officers and men. On the 150 th anniversary of the battle, a monument to the unit was dedicated by the 16th Infantry Regiment Association, on land at Chancellorsville that was preserved by the Civil War Trust, as a lasting tribute to their fallen comrades.
At Gettysburg, the regiment marched out from the north face of Little Round Top on the battle’s second day to clash with Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s attacking forces between Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield. The unit lost about half its men in the process. One witness lamented, “For two years the U.S. Regulars taught us how to be soldiers. In the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, they taught us how to die like soldiers.”
A young private of the 16th Infantry circa 1876. He sports the new crossed rifle infantry insignia on his kepi.
The first three of 11 Medals of Honor awarded to the regiment’s soldiers were from Civil War battles. Among the awardees was 1 st Lt. John H. Patterson, cited for his bravery in the Wilderness on May 5, 1864, when he darted out under heavy fire to drag to safety a wounded officer who was in danger of being burned alive by the forest fire that consumed many other helplessly wounded men.
During the Army reorganization of 1869, a portion of the 11th United States Infantry was redesignated the 16th United States Infantry.
The "new" regiment’s service during the Indian Wars in the West included both chasing Geronimo in Arizona and after he was captured, providing the guards to escort him into captivity in Florida.
The unit saw extensive action during the Spanish-American War—fighting in 27 different engagements, including the capture of the famed San Juan Hill.
During the Philippines insurrection in 1900, Sgt. Henry F. Schroeder was awarded the regiment’s fourth Medal of Honor when he led a detachment of 24 men who defeated an attacking force of more than 300 insurgents.
In 1916, under the command of Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, the regiment chased Pancho Villa on a hot and dusty deployment in Mexico. Pershing was so impressed by the regiment he personally decided that the 16 th Infantry Regiment would be one of the four infantry regiments in the Army’s new 1 st Division, the “Big Red One.”
The 16 th was one of the first U.S. Army regiments to arrive in Europe in June 1917 to fight in World War I, with Pershing and other Americans paying homage on July 4, 1917, at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, declaring, “Lafayette, we are here!”
The 16 th Infantry became one of the first U.S. regiments bloodied in World War I when it repelled a German night raid in the trenches near Bathlemont on Nov. 3, 1917. A monument erected by the French government in Meurthe-et-Moselle honors the first three 16 th Infantry soldiers killed in that battle.
The regiment went on to fight at Ansauville, Cantigny, Coullemelle, Soissons, and other battles. In the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, the 16 th Infantry was the only regiment in the army to take its main objective on Oct. 4, 1918, the first day of its campaign. But the sacrifice was staggering. In 12 months of combat, the regiment lost 1,037 soldiers killed in action or mortally wounded, and 3,389 wounded. It came home with seven new campaign streamers and a new motto: “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great—Duty First!”
During World War II, the regiment lit the “Torch” in North Africa in 1942 and was part of “Operation Husky,” the Allied invasion of Sicily. On June 6, 1944, the 16 th Infantry was one of the regiments ordered to take Omaha Beach during “Operation Overlord,” better known as D-Day. Of the five D-Day landing beaches, Omaha Beach was the deadliest—survivors dubbed it “Bloody Omaha.” Hundreds of the regiment’s young infantrymen were mowed down, but by noon, the 16 th had established a beachhead and seized the town of Colleville-sur-Mer.
Troops of the 16th infantry wade through the surf headed for Omaha beach, 6 June 1944. (USCG)
At a ceremony on July 2, Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower told the regiment:
“I’m not going to make a long speech, but this simple little ceremony gives me an opportunity to come over here, and through you, say thanks. You are the finest regiment in our army. I know your record from the day you landed in North Africa, and through Sicily. I am beginning to think that your regiment is a sort of Praetorian Guard, which goes along with me and gives me luck.”
The 16 th fought in the Battle of the Bulge and other battles during the liberation of Europe. In World War II, the unit lost 1,250 killed in action and 6,278 wounded or missing. Five soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, including two who fought and died on D-Day—John J. Pinder, Jr. and Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr.
In Vietnam, the regiment was at the forefront of the Big Red One’s service. The unit saw extended service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970, at places such as the Michelin Rubber Plantation, the Iron Triangle, the Trapezoid and Hobo Woods became well known to young infantrymen of a new generation. They too served in one of the largest campaigns of the war, the 1968 Tet Offensive. Two of the regiment’s bravest were awarded Medals of Honor—James W. Robinson, Jr. and Matthew Leonard—both medals were awarded posthumously. Platoon Sergeant Leonard was the first African-American soldier awarded the Medal of Honor from the 16 th U.S. Infantry.
In Operation Desert Storm, the 16 th played a major role in the fight to retake Kuwait and joined a massive armored assault into Iraq on Feb. 24, 1991, which included a huge battle two days later against Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard that destroyed more than 40 Iraqi tanks. In recent years, the regiment has been deployed several times to Iraq, including the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, and in 2011 was deployed to Afghanistan.
The venerable 16 th Infantry Regiment is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. The 16 th Infantry Regiment Association, formed in 1990, manages an array of services and activities that include an annual reunion, this year on July 26-30 in Kansas City, Mo.
2nd Vice President of the 16th Infantry Regiment Association Robert B. Humphries and American Battlefield Trust Land Stewardship Manager Matt George stand at the newly dedicated monument to the 11th US Infantry at the Chancellorsville Battlefield in 2013. The 11th US Infantry is the ancestor unit of the 16th US Infantry.
D-Day 1944: Navy battleship 16-inch guns bombarded Nazis at Omaha Beach
Struggling to withstand dangerous Nazi attacks on U.S. supply boats, three famous U.S. Navy battleships faced heavy resistance as they closed-in on the German-held Cotentin Peninsula as part of the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach.
As entrenched Nazi forces mounted attacks, three U.S. battleships -- the USS Texas, the USS Nevada and the USS Arkansas -- pounded German coastal defenses with their 16-inch guns. In return, German fast boat and torpedo boat attacks, fortified by Luftwaffe air support, brought heavy casualties upon U.S. forces.
Nazi resistance to the U.S. attack on the Cotentin Peninsula, called the Battle of Cherbourg, forced the U.S. to move more naval resources to the well-defended peninsula.
“The Germans did destroy most of the ports and the piers to make it much more difficult to move supplies. Guys going into the battle in the Fall and Winter were still fighting in Summer clothes,” Naval History and Heritage Command historian, Guy Nasuti told Warrior in an interview last year.
Naval History and Heritage Command’s formal assessment reinforces this point. While citing German strategy, the assessment writes “the invader was to be denied access to all ports.”
The German destruction of ports greatly delayed and complicated the Allied approach, allowing German forces to regroup.
While recalling the naval portion of the assault, called Operation Neptune, Nasuti made a point to emphasize naval forces were supporting U.S. Army troops fighting ashore.
Troops crouch inside a LCVP landing craft, just before landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives. (U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives.)
“Omaha was a much tougher fight than Utah. When things got bogged down in Omaha, the USS Texas and USS Arkansas got up close to shore to blast the German emplacements,” Nasuti said.
While approaching closer to the shoreline, U.S. Navy ships fought off heavy German attacks from mortars, artillery and machine guns.
“Hitler wanted the German Army to defend to the death, but a German general eventually surrendered,” according to Nasuti.
The Germans did not have a large U-boat presence because Hitler held many U-boats and Panzer tanks back even though they had been requested by German commanders, Nasuti added.
The German Omaha Beach defense plan, as cataloged by Naval History and Heritage Command, intended to destroy approaching forces at the coastline using supportive artillery and beach defenses, fortified by concrete or armor.
The Germans also constructed heavy lines of field defenses on the first suitable high ground inland from the coast.
“These field defenses were unable to give direct support to the coastal crust, except in few cases where the high ground came close to the coast,” states Naval History and Heritage Command’s “Neptune Operations Plans” write-up.
The Germans also used barbed wire, anti-tank obstacles, sea walls and mines.
Prior to reaching the coastline, attacking U.S. Navy forces contended with five German destroyers, nine to 11 torpedo boats and 50-60 E-boats.
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At Omaha Beach, V Corps honors WWII vets ahead of D-Day anniversary
U.S. Army V Corps soldiers faced the daunting task of taking Omaha Beach 77 years ago during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, where the unit’s current commander paid homage Friday to the troops who carried out one of World War II’s most daring missions.
“Omaha Beach was the most heavily defended of the landing areas,” Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski said during a ceremony overlooking the WWII battleground. “V Corps troops encountered the worst conditions on D-Day and suffered the highest number of casualties.”
The observance, two days ahead of the June 6 anniversary of D-Day, was held in special honor of one of the soldiers who was part of the first wave to hit Omaha Beach: retired Master Sgt. Charles Shay.
As a 19-year-old medic, Shay saved more than 20 soldiers under “the most grueling of conditions,” Kolasheski said.
Shay, 96, who now resides in Normandy, received the Silver Star for his actions.
Ceremonies in Normandy surrounding the D-Day anniversary are normally major international events, with thousands of people arriving from around the world to mark the occasion. This year, the events were scaled back again because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kolasheski spoke before a small gathering of people about the sacrifices made during Operation Overlord. V Corps was responsible for 50,000 troops that were part of the Omaha Beach assault force, mostly drawn from the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions.
In the first 15 hours of combat, V Corps suffered 2,500 casualties, but still managed to fight through the German defenses to secure the beachhead.
“Soldiers laden with equipment were dropped off in water anywhere from waist-high to depths over their head,” Kolasheski said. “Many of these men drowned and those who didn’t were caught in a barrage of machine gun fire with no cover to be had. The first wave suffered almost 50% casualties.”
The landings at Normandy helped turn the tide of the war and paved the way for Allied victory over Nazi Germany a year later.
“When you think through what the people that participated back in June of 44 went through — holy smokes,” Kolasheski said in a phone interview.
For V Corps, honoring the contributions soldiers made during WWII ago takes on added significance this year given the command’s recent return to Europe. The Army expects the headquarters to be fully operational by fall, having been reconstituted nearly eight years after being inactivated.
The corps gives the Army an organization poised to take on command and control responsibilities of the service’s ground forces on the Continent. The move is part of a broader increase of capabilities in Europe, where concerns about a more aggressive Russia in recent years have prompted Pentagon planners to add forces after decades of drawing down.
Details are still getting worked out, but Kolasheski said he anticipates that V Corps will be the operational-level Army headquarters in Europe, with oversight over its brigades and rotational units. The corps also will focus on linking together with other allied land forces, he said.
With its main headquarters at Fort Knox, Ky., the 600-strong V Corps also has a forward base in Poznan, Poland that will eventually have about 200 troops.
V Corps history in Europe goes back all the way to World War I, when it earned the title “Victory Corps.”
Today’s V Corps draws inspiration from the command’s storied lineage, perhaps most notably the role it played on D-Day, Kolasheski said.
“America and her allies have always been stronger together,” he said. “We were with you then. We are with you now.”
D-Day: U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division’s Desperate Hours on Omaha Beach
As soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division leaped from their landing craft into the choppy waters off Omaha Beach, many cursed the landing-craft pilots who had deposited them too far away from the invasion beach. German small-arms fire from the bluffs overlooking the approaches raked the surface of the water, while indirect artillery fire splashed amid the landing craft in the English Channel.
On the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, the soldiers who headed for Omaha’s 4-mile-wide, crescent-shaped beach faced a 300-yard dash to the base of the bluffs. First the landing craft and soldiers had to make their way through a mixture of German obstacles, some of which protruded above the low tide. Halfway to the bluffs at the end of the tidal flat was a raised shingle ledge of sand and smooth stones. There the Germans had placed thick belts of barbed wire. That shingle was the first spot on the otherwise open beach to offer the troops any cover from the machine-gun fire. There was still another 100 yards to go before they reached the base of the bluffs, however, where more wire and mines awaited. As the GIs struggled across the sand, the Germans poured down a steady stream of fire from their elevated positions.
The bulk of the American infantry was held up at the shingle. Some soldiers dashed back to the water to seek shelter behind the German beach obstacles. Company A of the 29th Division’s 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, hit the beach and drew such heavy fire that within 10 minutes it ceased to be an effective fighting force. Much of the unit’s equipment was lost in the Channel.
The ferocity of the enemy response was due primarily to the 352nd Infantry Division, one of the few full-strength German divisions in France. Whether the Allied leadership knew of its location along the coast is the subject of debate. Some sources say that its presence was a complete surprise. Others state that Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the U.S. First Army and all U.S. ground troops during the landings, was informed of the 352nd’s relocation to Normandy, but the information came too late to alter Allied planning.
On December 14, 1941, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces High Command), had given orders for the construction of defensive positions along the European coastline. Keitel directed, ‘The coastal regions of the Arctic Ocean, North Sea, and Atlantic Ocean controlled by us are ultimately to be built into a new West Wall in order that we can repel with certainty any landing attempts, even if by the strongest enemy forces, with the smallest possible number of permanently assigned field troops.’ Essentially, he was calling for a formidable outer rampart to replace the original West Wall (or Siegfried Line) bordering the German hinterland, but until the latter part of 1943 the Atlantic Wall was not much of an invasion obstacle. Bunkers and observation posts were scattered along 2,400 miles of coastline, with the heaviest emplacements around key ports and installations. Even the August 1942 raid on the French port city of Dieppe did little to increase the construction efforts of the German defenders. But by 1943, with a stalemate in Russia and the collapse of Axis dominance around the Mediterranean, German attention was finally focused on the French shores.
The coastal defensive works resembled the West Wall fortifications along the German frontier, except that Atlantic Wall casemates had wider firing embrasures to accommodate heavier guns. Responsibility for construction of the coastal forts fell to Organization Todt–a construction group that was a paramilitary arm of the Nazi regime–along with additional voluntary and forced labor. At one point, 260,000 laborers were employed in the effort. Despite the construction resources pegged for the Atlantic Wall, there were shortages of materiel–thousands of tons of concrete were diverted for building U-boat pens, static V-1 ‘buzz bomb’ launching sites and a V-2 rocket bunker. Because concrete was scarce, many Atlantic Wall emplacements were constructed without all-important reinforced roofs.
The defenders, of necessity, were thinly stretched. General Erich Marcks, the one-legged commander of the German LXXXIV Corps, believed that the east coast of the Cotentin Peninsula was all too accessible to landings. Marcks’ corps occupied a sector 400 kilometers wide with five divisions. The 716th Infantry covered 90 kilometers of coast and was backed by the 243rd and 352nd Infantry divisions. The 716th’s coastal strongpoints were 600 to 1,000 meters apart, with gaps of up to 3 1/2 kilometers. To the west, the 709th Division covered 220 kilometers of shoreline, while the 319th Division sat isolated on the Channel Islands.
Major General Wilhelm Richter’s 716th Infantry Division, made up of replacement units, was designated a static division whose primary purpose was to build and occupy fixed defensive positions in its assigned sector. Its soldiers were mostly non-Germans or older men from the Rhineland and Westphalia. Remarkably, the division managed to complete and man 50 fortified works spread thinly across its front. The 716th’s weakest link was the 1,000-man 441st Ost Battalion, made up almost entirely of Eastern European volunteers, deployed in front of Bayeux.
The 352nd, which deployed on the coast northwest of Bayeux alongside the 716th Division on March 19, 1944, was commanded by Maj. Gen. Dietrich Kraiss, who had served as a company commander during World War I and led the 169th Infantry Division during the June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union.
A battalion from the 716th and the 352nd’s entire 915th Infantry Regiment were held in reserve at Bayeux. Kraiss did not like the idea of his troops spending too much time in prepared defenses, and he rotated his regiments from coastal to reserve duty. Those regiments stationed on the coast were run through regular battle drills, the last of which was staged on the eve of the invasion.
During the last months of the Allied preparations to invade Normandy, the 352nd Division was not listed on any British or American rosters of the German order of battle. According to one story, their location stayed secret thanks to an isolated case of marksmanship rather than any elaborate deception. In May, a German soldier had supposedly shot down a carrier pigeon carrying a French Resistance message to London, with the information that the 352nd occupied coastal positions. Other sources say that German soldiers in Normandy shot no less than 27 carrier pigeons during the two months prior to D-Day, but that none of them carried information on the 352nd.
Organizationally, the 352nd was better off than most German divisions in 1944. At that time, as a result of severe personnel losses, German infantry divisions were generally reduced by one infantry battalion per regiment. The 352nd, however, retained its full complement of nine battalions.
The 352nd began its coastal duty by improving the beach obstacles, emplacing mined stakes and timber structures. This involved not only cutting and hauling timber from miles inland but also driving stakes and piles deep in the sand. To fully cover the sector, they needed 10 million mines, but a scant 10,000 were available.
The first band of obstacles–about 250 yards out from the waterline at high tide–consisted of ‘Belgian Gates,’ reinforced iron frames with iron supports that were built atop rollers. Next came a band of mined stakes and log ramps, meant to tear the bottoms out of landing craft or tip them over. Finally, there was a row of metal obstacles, including hedgehogs, made of iron rails. Although the Germans had attached mines to many of the obstacles, few of them were waterproofed, and corrosion had long since taken a toll on many of the explosive devices.
The soldiers of the 916th and 726th regiments occupied slit trenches, eight concrete bunkers, 35 pillboxes, six mortar pits, 35 Nebelwerfer (multi-barrel rocket launcher) sites and 85 machine-gun nests. The defenses were clustered in strongpoints.
The Allied invasion of Normandy’s coast was the result of lengthy and exhaustive planning. Although Pas de Calais was closer both to Britain and the excellent Belgian port of Antwerp, it was more strongly defended than Normandy, which had fewer extensive coastal fortifications and more defensible inland terrain–and required more German troops to reinforce effectively. Furthermore, Normandy could be isolated from the Reich by air interdiction and by destroying the Seine bridges.
Since the Allies clearly held the initiative in selecting the invasion site, the Germans decided to spread their forces thinly along the entire coast, from Scandinavia to the Spanish frontier. The Allies took advantage of the situation, employing a series of raids and expensive deception measures to contribute to the Germans’ confusion, most notably the stationing of an entire bogus invasion force, backed by inflatable tanks and trucks, ostensibly poised to invade Calais.
U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower was made the Allied supreme commander on December 24, 1943. Shortly thereafter, June 1, 1944, was targeted as the invasion date, but the schedule depended on tide and weather conditions. It had already been decided that the assault would be in daylight, to better control the monumental landings and fire support associated with the invasion.
Extensive effort went into the construction of Allied landing craft and training of troops. Soldiers practiced breaching meticulously reproduced obstacles during rehearsals on British shores. The Ninth Air Force intensively photographed German coastal defenses beginning in May 1944. Divers even went ashore on Omaha Beach to secure sand samples and inspect obstacles.
Between February and May 1944, the number of German offshore obstacles increased dramatically, and the Allies decided to schedule the invasion for one hour after low tide to allow the landing craft to maneuver around some of the beach obstacles. The decision to land at low tide proved a surprise to the Germans. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was among many who had predicted that the landings would occur at high tide, in an attempt to pass over the obstacles and land troops closer to the bluffs.
Dependable weather forecasts were crucial to a successful invasion. The Americans and British had superior access to the North Atlantic and were able to identify high-pressure zones sandwiched between barometric lows. If the attack was properly timed, Eisenhower would be able to cloak his forces in obscuring meteorological conditions during their approach to the beaches but have the actual landings take place in clear weather.
During the first week in June the Germans, whose weather predictions were based on sparse information from U-boats and harassed weather teams on Greenland, were apprised of what appeared to be an obvious forecast–bad weather that would make an invasion unlikely. In view of that information, Rommel returned to Germany for his wife’s birthday.
Selected for the assault on Omaha Beach were the U.S. 29th and 1st Infantry divisions. The 1st, known as the ‘Big Red One,’ was a Regular Army division whose distinguished history included combat in World War I. The unit had participated in the Allied landings at Oran, Algeria, and Salerno, Sicily, and also fought in Tunisia. Major General Clarence R. Huebner took command of the division in August 1943. For the D-Day landings, the 1st was reinforced with elements of the 29th Division and supplemented by two Ranger battalions. The 1st Division’s 16th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the 29th’s 116th RCT would lead the first wave of the attack. Later waves would consist of the 115th RCT (29th Division) and 18th RCT (1st Division). Huebner had overall command of the landing force, while the 29th Infantry’s deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Norman D. Cota, would coordinate the battle on the western edge of the beachhead.
The 29th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt, was originally a National Guard unit, with soldiers from Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It had fought in the Meuse-Argonne campaign during World War I and was one of the first U.S. divisions shipped to Europe in 1942. The 29th was part of Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow’s V Corps. The division consisted of the 115th, 116th and 175th infantry regiments. The 116th RCT was reinforced by an additional 500 men in expectation of high casualties.
German Major Werner Pluskat, the 352nd’s artillery officer, awoke on June 6 to the drone of Allied aircraft passing overhead. At about 1 a.m., he called his regimental commander, a Lt. Col. Ocker, and a Major Block, the division Intelligence officer, to find out what was happening. Told that it was probably just an air raid, Pluskat had gone back to sleep when Ocker called back and reported that paratroops were landing.
Pluskat and two of his officers jumped into a Kübelwagen and sped four miles to their command bunker at Ste.-Honorine. Pluskat’s cliff-side bunker, as it turned out, was perched on the eastern edge of the sector the Allies had designated as Omaha Beach.
At 2 a.m. General Marcks put his corps and the 21st Panzer Division on alert. Less than 24 hours earlier, Marcks had attended a war game where, as the ‘enemy’ commander, he played out a seemingly unlikely scenario in which the Allies landed in Normandy. At the corps level, Marcks found himself in a situation much like that of his division commanders–he had no appreciable reserves to press into the coming fight. Allied parachutists were reportedly landing all over Normandy, and many of Marcks’ subordinate headquarters reported the sound of machine-gun fire. Lance Corporal Hein Severloh, a forward artillery observer, moved into his position above the dunes of Colleville-sur-Mer when the alarm sounded. Scanning the skies, neither Severloh nor his sergeant could detect anything other than the hum of bombers in the clouds above.
As dawn approached, the inky black sky turned a murky gray. Pluskat scanned the English Channel for the next few hours without receiving a single report from his higher headquarters. Tired from his early vigil, he wondered whether the reported landing of paratroops might have been a false alarm. At about 5 a.m., the Allied invasion fleet suddenly came into view.
Inclement weather had caused Eisenhower to recall the invasion fleet after it sailed on June 4. Twenty-four hours later the fleet steamed into the Channel for a planned landing on June 6. Minesweepers had been clearing the approaches to the beaches since 9:30 on the evening of the 5th. The fleet began to drop anchor some 12 miles off Normandy’s coast around 2:30 a.m. on the 6th. So far, none of this activity had been detected by the Germans, whose Luftwaffe was grounded by the weather. Motor torpedo boats and other patrol vessels, which usually kept watch in the Channel, had been recalled by Admiral Theodor Krancke, commander in chief of Naval Group Command West. German radar finally picked up the invasion fleet at 3:09 a.m., and Krancke belatedly dispatched his boats from Le Havre to investigate.
Allied landing craft began to depart from the transports at about 3:30 a.m. for the 12-mile run to shore. Life aboard ship had been miserable for the GIs, some of whom had been at sea since early June 4 and many of whom suffered from seasickness. By 5:30, a good portion of the first wave’s 3,000 men had clambered into landing craft in the choppy seas and were on their way to the beaches. The 1st Division’s 16th RCT would assault the eastern half of Omaha Beach, divided into Easy Red, Fox Green and Fox Red beaches. The 29th Division’s 116th RCT would land at Charlie, Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red and Easy Green beaches.
General Bradley observed the landings from the heavy cruiser USS Augusta. At 5:30 a.m., Allied Bombarding Force C, including the U.S. battleships Texas and Arkansas, British cruiser Glasgow and Free French cruisers Montcalm and Georges Leygues, began blasting the beaches. Meanwhile, Martin B-26 Marauders, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators began bombing the coastline. The GIs in landing craft cheered them on.
The bomber crews were concerned about hitting incoming waves of Allied troops, and were hindered by the heavy cloud cover. As General Bradley later recalled in his autobiography, ‘the 2.5 million pounds of bombs fell inland…killing some French civilians and many cattle, but few Germans.’ Moreover, the naval gunfire proved largely ineffective thanks to the dust thrown up by the bombardment and the low clouds.
Major Pluskat’s bunker above Omaha Beach survived repeated near misses during the naval and air bombardment. His eardrums throbbing from the din, he somehow managed to find the telephone in the dust and debris. Amazingly, the phone lines were undamaged, and he was able to report the situation to division headquarters. More surprising was that none of Pluskat’s guns or their crews were put out of action. Most of the artillery struck positions on the bluffs and petered out before reaching the German batteries three miles inland, but the impact of so many shells set off several concentrations of German land mines on Omaha Beach.
The landing craft were tossed about in the heavy swells, 10 of the boats sinking during their dash to the shore. Worse, 27 out of 32 canvas-enclosed DD (duplex drive) Sherman tanks, which had been specially modified to swim to the beach, foundered before reaching the shore. Three others were unable to get off their barge and had to be landed much later. The Big Red One would have to make do with only two tanks–both of which were waterlogged.
When the assault craft were 400 yards from the beach, German shells began exploding around them. At 6:36 a.m. Company A, 116th RCT, was the first to land. Three landing craft slammed into offshore sandbars. One boat took a direct hit and sank, and another simply disappeared. The water was waist-deep or deeper, and the soldiers came under a murderous cross-fire. Within 10 minutes, Company A lost all its officers and NCOs, and its overall casualties exceeded 75 percent. Company E suffered almost the same fate, largely because the German defenses were concentrated on the area where the first troops landed–above two draws, or ravines, leading inland toward Colleville-sur-Mer and Vierville.
Allied planners were aware that there were a total of five ravines, which they labeled ‘exits,’ leading from Omaha inland. It seemed likely that these exits–dotted with summer houses and roads or trails that led farther inland–would provide the easiest access to the interior of the Cotentin Peninsula. The Germans had evacuated civilians from the buildings along those routes and used the structures to house troops and create defenses. The exits were further fortified with sea walls and in some cases boasted anti-tank ditches as well.
While troops that landed near the Colleville-sur-Mer and Vierville exits drew heavy fire, the soldiers who landed in front of the St. Laurent exit suffered only two casualties and faced an unoccupied German strongpoint. Smoke from burning buildings and grass along the shore helped screen the invading troops. That weak spot in the German defenses, however, was not immediately exploited by the drenched and exhausted Americans.
Fire from alert German troops compounded the chaos reigning just offshore. Most of the landing craft had dropped their ramps too early, and the equipment-laden troops disappeared in the water as soon as they leaped from the boats. Some bobbed back to the surface, but many others did not. Rifles, helmets, packs and other heavy equipment–as well as the bodies of dead soldiers–settled on the sandy bottom as the Big Red One doggedly continued its assault. Countless pieces of engineering equipment and explosives, meant for use in clearing beach obstacles, sank or scattered.
Units of the 16th RCT crisscrossed each other and landed on beaches assigned to other units because of heavy currents that pushed the entire flotilla eastward. The first wave suffered close to 50 percent casualties. By midmorning, more than 1,000 Americans lay dead or wounded on the sands of Omaha. On Augusta, General Bradley agonized over the chaotic situation: ‘Our communications with the forces assaulting Omaha Beach were thin to nonexistent. From the few radio messages that we overheard and the firsthand reports of observers in small craft reconnoitering close to shore, I gained the impression that our forces had suffered an irreversible catastrophe, that there was little hope we could force the beach. Privately, I considered evacuating the beachhead and directing the follow-up troops to Utah Beach or the British beaches.’
German fortifications consisted of numerous small concrete bunkers beneath the sandy bluffs. The steel-reinforced casemates were designed to house field guns, normally 50 or 75mm, and were relatively open but angled to fire across the beach, and thus their crews were not directly exposed to naval gunfire from the Channel.
Farther up the bluffs the Germans had positioned concrete machine-gun pits and infantry emplacements. The undulating terrain on the slopes provided ready-made shallow trenches. In addition, there were trenches and timber-and-earthen bombproofs on top of the bluffs.
Despite slow progress in attaining the bluffs, by 7 a.m. the invasion force had opened six gaps through the German obstacles. General Cota landed at 7:30 a.m. and joined the 116th Regiment. His biggest challenge was to get his men off the beaches. The one clear path was straddled by sand dunes, rocky shingle, a stone and wooden sea wall and rolls of concertina wire. Urged on by Cota, soldiers from Company C and the 5th Ranger Battalion blew gaps in the wire and moved into a draw and on to the base of the bluffs, where they were protected from German fire. By 8:30 a.m. they had captured the German rifle pits at the crest of the cliffs. Their advance inland was then stopped by German flanking fire.
Meanwhile, the 116th’s 3rd Battalion worked its way up the Les Moulins exit and moved toward St. Laurent. To the east, the 16th Infantry forced its way up the St. Laurent and Colleville-sur-Mer exits. German strongpoints were positioned on either side of the exits, but they had been built on the lower slopes of the bluffs, so their fire was limited to the beaches. At the intersection of the Les Moulins and St. Laurent exits, soldiers of the 1st and 29th Infantry divisions met just north of the village of St. Laurent. There, the Americans who reached the plateau above the beach faced much less resistance. The Germans in the bunkers and slit trenches found themselves surrounded and fought a confused two-hour battle until their commander and 20 men surrendered.
Near Colleville-sur-Mer, the 16th Infantry inched forward. When the 16th’s commander, Colonel George A. Taylor, landed at 8:15 a.m. and found a group of soldiers bunched up on the beach, hesitant to go forward, he announced, ‘Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die–now let’s get the hell out of here.’ Taylor also sent a message to General Huebner that there were too many vehicles on the beach and requested that only infantrymen be landed. Huebner immediately responded by sending the 18th RCT ashore. Upon landing, they crossed the shingle and barbed wire to the Colleville-sur-Mer exit, where the 16th RCT was in the midst of a fierce battle.
Reassured by V Corps reports that forces on Omaha were moving inland, General Bradley approved the landing of additional regiments on Omaha instead of diverting them to some other beach. The U.S. 115th and 18th Infantry regiments came ashore and assumed the follow-up missions of the 116th and 16th RCTs, moving inland toward Colleville-sur-Mer and Vierville.
As the Americans pushed forward, Hein Severloh blasted away at the 16th Infantry from his machine-gun pit. Since the landing started, he had expended 12,000 rounds. Allied gunfire had prevented reinforcement of the positions, and the Germans were running out of men and ammunition. Severloh and others held their ground until noon, when additional Sherman tanks landed on the beach below them.
At 10:30 a.m., engineers from the 37th and 146th Combat Engineer battalions landed, filled the anti-tank ditch at the St. Laurent exit, cleared minefields and bulldozed gaps through the sea wall and dunes. Naval gunfire pounded German fortifications west of the gap. By 11:30 a.m., the Germans in St. Laurent had surrendered.
General Kraiss scanned accounts of the battle from his division headquarters. Initial reports were promising, with the only bad news coming from the 716th Infantry Division, on the right. The hard-pressed 916th Regiment was standing its ground even though its own right flank was exposed. The British 50th Division had broken through the coastal defenses of Arromanches and pushed inland toward Bayeux. The 916th’s 1st Battalion held out for the better part of the day, but when the 441st Ost Battalion collapsed, Bayeux was as good as lost. The 352nd’s only battalion in the British zone retained the fortified Meuvaines ridge east of Arromanches until after midday.
By noon the U.S. 1st Division had cleared the Germans from the beaches and bluffs in its area, but in the 29th Division’s area fire was still coming from German slit trenches and bunkers that had been bypassed or otherwise overlooked by the advancing troops.
By that time the 352nd Division was in desperate need of reinforcement. Most of its coastal positions had been lost, but some secondary positions, along with fortified command bunkers and artillery positions, were still intact. By midnight Kraiss reported to Marcks that he could hold the enemy until the next day at best. Upon learning that the only help he could hope to receive was a so-called mobile brigade equipped with bicycles, Kraiss cannibalized some of his artillery units and deployed them as infantry along the coastal road.
The Germans made one more effort to destroy the Allied beachhead. The 1st Battalion of the 914th Regiment hit the Rangers at St.-Pierre-du-Mont, just southeast of Pointe-du-Hoc. Although the Rangers suffered heavy casualties, they were able to keep the Germans at bay with mortars, and they also directed artillery fire at the attackers from a destroyer offshore. The following day Kraiss finally ordered the withdrawal of his battered division, which had suffered about 1,200 casualties.
Sixty percent of the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion had become casualties in its two days of fierce fighting within a 200-yard perimeter. Overall, 1st Division losses for D-Day were estimated at 1,036, 29th Division losses at 743 and corps troops at 441.
Omaha Beach was secure, but the Americans still faced six weeks of fighting in the hedgerow country before they could escape the Cotentin Peninsula. Throughout that time, the GIs of the 1st and 29th divisions would repeatedly be in conflict with the same nemesis that first met them on Bloody Omaha–the 352nd Infantry Division.
This article was written by Kevin R. Austra and originally appeared in the July 1999 issue of World War II magazine.
June 6, 1944: D-Day spirit of remembrance lives on, despite pandemic
Published June 06. 2021 12:05AM
By SYLVIE CORBET
CARENTAN, France (AP) — In a small Normandy town where paratroopers landed in the early hours of D-Day, applause broke the silence to honor Charles Shay. He was the only veteran attending a ceremony in Carentan commemorating the 77th anniversary of the assault that helped bring an end to World War II.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year's D-Day commemorations are taking place with travel restrictions that have prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain and other allied countries from making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.
Shay, who now lives in Normandy, was a 19-year-old U.S. Army medic when he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Today, he recalls the “many good friends” he lost on the battlefield.
Under a bright sun, the 96-year-old Penobscot Native American from Indian Island, Maine, stood steadily while the hymns of the Allied countries were played Friday in front of the monument commemorating the assault in Carentan that allowed the Allies to establish a continuous front joining nearby Utah Beach to Omaha Beach.
Shay regretted that the pandemic “is interrupting everything.” He is expected to be the only veteran at Sunday’s anniversary day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer.
“We have no visitors coming to France this year for two years now. And I hope it will be over soon,” he told The Associated Press in Carentan.
Shay’s lone presence is all the more poignant as the number of survivors of the epochal battle dwindles. Only one veteran now remains from the French commando unit that joined U.S, British, Canadian and other allied troops in storming Normandy’s code-named beaches.
While France is planning to open up to vaccinated visitors starting next week, that comes too late for the D-Day anniversary. So for the second year in a row, most public commemoration events have been cancelled. A few solemn ceremonies have been maintained, with dignitaries and a few guests only.
Local residents, however, are coming in greater numbers than last year, as France started lifting its internal virus restrictions last month.
Some French and a few other World War II history enthusiasts from neighboring European countries gathered in Normandy.
Driving restored jeeps, dressed in old uniforms or joyfully eating at the newly reopened terraces of restaurants, they're contributing to revive the commemorations' special atmosphere — and keeping alive the memory of June 6, 1944.
“In France, people who remember these men, they kept them close to their heart,” Shay said. 𠇊nd they remember what they did for them. And I don’t think the French people will ever forget.”
On Saturday morning, people in dozens of World War II vehicles, from motorcycles to jeeps and trucks, gathered in a field in Colleville-Montgomery to parade down the nearby roads along Sword Beach to the sounds of a pipe band. Residents, some waving French and American flags, came to watch.
Sitting in an old sidecar, Audrey Ergas, dressed in a vintage uniform including an aviator hat and glasses, said she used to come every year from the southern city of Marseille, except for last year due to virus travel restrictions.
“We absolutely wanted to come . it’s great pleasure, we needed it!” she said. “We were afraid that we might feel a bit alone, but in the end we were happy to do even small gatherings.”
Pascal Leclerc, a member of the Remember Omaha Beach 44 group, shared the same joy.
“We missed it a lot. That's just fun, happiness, and also being able to pay tribute to all the veterans. That’s the main goal,” he said.
Henri-Jean Renaud, 86, remembers D-Day like it was yesterday. He was a young boy and was hidden in his family home in Sainte-Mere-Eglise when more than 800 planes bringing U.S. paratroopers flew over the town while German soldiers fired at them with machine guns.
Describing an “incredible noise” followed by silence, he remembers crossing the town's central square in the morning of June 6. He especially recalls seeing one dead U.S. paratrooper stuck in a big tree that is still standing by the town’s church.
“I came here hundreds of times. The first thing I do is look at that tree,” he said. “That’s always to that young guy that I’m thinking of. He was told: ‘You’re going to jump in the middle of the night in a country you don’t know’. He died and his feet never touched (French) soil, and that is very moving to me.”
More than 12,000 soldiers were buried temporarily in Sainte-Mere-Eglise during and after the Battle of Normandy, before being moved to their final resting place.
In the years following the war, local people were allowed to go to the cemeteries. “Often, people had adopted a grave because they had seen a name they liked . They were a bit like friends,” Renaud said.
“Some, especially at the beginning when there were no coffins yet, had been buried in the ground. They had become the Normandy soil,” he added, in a voice filled by emotion.
On D-Day itself, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. The Battle of Normandy hastened Germany’s defeat, which came less than a year later.
Still, that single day cost the lives of 4,414 Allied troops, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
"Laurent-sur-Mer must have been at one time a drab, cheap resort for vacationing French school teachers. Now, on June 6th, 1944, it was the ugliest beach in the whole world . I took out my second Contax camera and began to shoot without raising my head."
-- Robert Capa
Under heavy fire, photographer Robert Capa swam ashore along with American soldiers on D-Day in World War II, making images of their successful yet deadly attempt to establish a beachhead in France. While troops around him aimed their guns at enemy forces above the beach, Capa aimed his camera at them, capturing the soldiers' bravery and the battle's intensity. Because Capa was standing in the water with them, the camera angle provides a sense of the chaos of war that soldiers surely felt on that day.
Although Capa shot 72 images that day, all but eleven were ruined when the negatives were placed in an overheated film drying cabinet in a London lab. The images that survived appear grainy and blurry, partly due to this error, and partly due to Capa's nerves. Despite the damage, the effect appears almost intentional--as a visual metaphor for the confusing experience of combat. As with many of his war photographs, this image exemplifies Capa's oft-quoted philosophy, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."
Pictures for the Press (September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006)
Capa, Robert. Slightly Out of Focus (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1947), p. 158.
Robert Capa, War Photographs, exh. cat. (New York: Magnum Photos, with LIFE Magazine, 1960), unpaginated.
Menschen im Krieg, text by Jozefa Stuart, exh. cat. (Zürich: Das Kunstgewerbemuseum, 1961), unpaginated. Published title: Normandie 1944, Die Invasion.
Mensen in de oorlog, text by Jozefa Stuart, exh. cat. (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1962), unpaginated. Published title: Normandië 1944 - De Invasie.
Capa, Robert. Images of War (New York: Grossman Publishers, Inc. 1964), pp. 106-07.
Capa, Cornell, ed. The Concerned Photographer: The Photographs of Werner Bischof, Robert Capa, David Seymour ("Chim"), André Kertész, Leonard Freed, Dan Weiner. (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1968), unpaginated. Published title: D-Day, Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.
Capa, Cornell and Bhupendra Karia, eds. Robert Capa (New York: Grossman Publishers, with International Fund for Concerned Photography, Inc., 1974), pp. 72-73.
Capa, Cornell. Robert Capa: War and Peace, Photo Exhibition Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of His Death, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Pacific Press Service, with International Center of Photography, 1984), p. 77, cover ill.
Capa, Cornell and Richard Whelan, eds. Robert Capa: Photographs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1985), pp. 148-149. Published title: Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. American troops landing on D-Day.
Capa, Cornell and Richard Whelan, eds. Robert Capa: Photographs (New York: Aperture, 1996), p. 100. Published title: U.S. trops landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944.
Whelan, Richard. Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection (London and New York: Phaidon, 2001), p. 361, cover ill.
Beaumont-Maillet, Laure. Capa connu et inconnu, exh. cat. (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2004), pl. 216. Published title: Débarquement.
Whelan, Richard. This is War! Robert Capa at Work, exh. cat. (New York: International Center of Photography, with Steidl, 2007), fig. 292. Published title: [American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France].
By Brian Williams
The US 1st Army, V Corps had the mission of securing the beachhead between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River and to advance towards St. Lo. The Corps was to arrive in 4 stages with the 1st Division (with the 29th attached) leading the landings with about 34,000 men in the morning, followed by another 25,000 men after noon. The 1st Division was a veteran unit which had served through the campaigns of North Africa and Sicily. While for the most part, Normandy would be the 29th Division's first experience in combat. Two American Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs) of four rifle companies each, were tasked with the initial landing (the US 29th 116th RCT and the US 1st 16th RCT), followed by the remainder of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. Fire support included naval gunfire from the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers offshore, heavy bombing by B-24 Liberators, the 741st and 743rd DD (dual-drive amphibious) tank battalions, several battalions of engineers and naval demolition personnel, and several howitzer battalions.
The beach at Omaha Beach sector was about 7,000 yards long with a gentle slope that forms a crescent with bluffs located at each end. The tidal range averaged about 300 yards between the low and high water mark. At the high water mark, the ocean ends at a shingle that reaches up to several feet high. On the western part of the sector, the shingle had piled against a seawall which ranged in height anywhere between 4 to 12 feet. Behind the sea wall was a paved beach road from Exit D-1 to Exit D-3. At the middle of the beach, approximately 200 yards stands between the seawall and the bluffs. Near Exit D-1 stood a small number of villas and at Exit D-3 stood the small village of les Moulins. At four points along the beach were small draws (or valleys) which were thought to offer protected exits off the beach (these were actually heavily defended). At Exit D-1 (the exit to Vierville), the draw had a paved road. The draws offered the only way for armor to reach the high ground. Inland from the beach stood the three farming villages of St. Laurent, Colleville, and Vierville with the hedgerow country beginning immediately behind the beaches.
The immediate objective of the Omaha landings was to secure a beachhead between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire river and then to advance southwards towards St. Lo. Another objective of the V Corps was link with the VII Corps to the east (via the small town of Isigny). Isigny was a small town where the highway from Paris to Cherbourg crossed the Aure river. This highway, as did most that were located near the beach, ran east to west. The Corps was also to advance beyond the Aure river and towards the Cerisy Forest area to the south.
The gentle crescent curve of the shoreline allowed for excellent fields of fire against any landing troops. Since the Germans had prepared their defenses for quite some time, they were able to train their guns accurately onto the beach. Most of the strong points protecting Omaha beach were located near the entrance of the draws and contained machine guns as the main armament as well as light artillery pieces. In addition, in this sector, there were 8 concrete casements and 35 pillboxes which contained gun sizes up to 88mm guns.
No coastal batteries or heavy guns were present in the Omaha sector, although 6 155-mm howitzers were believed to be located at Point du Hoc. The defenses in this sector were designed to be almost entirely on the beach or just behind it with almost no defensive positions beyond this point. For the German defenders, it was expected that defensive reserves would be rushed to counter any landings.
The 716th Infantry Division occupied a 50-mile sector between the Orne River and the Vire Estuary. It was considered a static unit and thought to be composed of over 50% foreign troops (Russians and Poles). Reinforcements were expected to come from the 352nd Infantry Division which was thought to be stationed in and around St. Lo. The 352nd was a veteran unit of the Russian front and was expected to provide the main opposition to the V Corps. The Allies had expected the German Air Force to mount an all-out offensive against the D-Day landings and they were believed to be able to mount 1,500 sorties that day. The German navy was not expected to conduct any appreciable attempts at hampering the invasion force.
Omaha Beach was to be bombarded by air and naval guns one half-hour before landings. As part of the entire program, so as not to give away the true locations of the landings, the entire coast had consistently been bombed.
The USS Texas and Arkansas 14-inch and 12-inch guns were to fire from 18,000 yards off shore at pillboxes, casements, and the battery at Pointe du Hoc. 3 cruisers and 8 destroyers also would be able to approach nearer and support the landings. After the landings, the bombardment would move inland or be directed by naval shore fire control parties who accompanied the landings.
Enemy guns had been sited to cover every part of the beach nevertheless, there were sectors where units landed which met very little opposition. Furthermore, of the nearly 200 craft carrying the assault infantry to shore in the first 2 hours, only about 10 are known to have been hit by artillery before debarking their troops, none were sunk by this fire, and in only a few cases were the casualties serious. Larger craft, particularly LCI's, appear to have been a favored target by the Germans and appear to have incurred more damage. More startling to the assaulting troops was the fact that the beach had not been hit by the air bombardment. The reason for this turned out to be due to overcast -- the pilots did not want to endanger the landing troops by releasing their bombs too close.
The sectors of Omaha beach were given the codenames of Charlie, Dog, Easy, and Fox (west to east). The first wave of landings, scheduled for 0630 at dawn, was to consist of 96 tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry.
The Special Engineer Task Force was comprised of both Army and Navy demolition specialists whose mission was to clear paths through the obstacles in preparation for the remainder of the landing force. The accompanying tanks and assault infantry were to provide covering fire.
Along the beach, a strong current flowed parallel to the coast from west to east at speeds as strong as 5 miles per hour. This caused nearly every team to land further to the east than anticipated. In some cases, in addition to landing in the wrong areas, the teams of engineers landed where no tanks or infantry were able to provide protective fire. The teams, of course, were laden with equipment and explosives. They were often dropped in deep water and weighted down which made them especially dangerous targets. And, since the landings were launched at the beginning of low tide, they found that the tide was already beginning to cover some of the obstacles. But, despite so much lost equipment and a 41 percent casualty rate, the engineers were able to blow six gaps in the obstacles, although many of these could not be properly marked and thus, became useless during high tide.
The infantry landed at the same time and most ran aground well before their intended landing points. As they approached, they could hear the bullets hitting the ramps that had yet to be lowered. Many were weakened from seasickness and once reaching shore, had to cover another 200 yards of open beach until reaching the seawall.
29th Infantry Division (116th RCT)
Dog Green was located directly in front of enemy positions guarding the Vierville draw. Company A of the 116th was due to land on this sector with Company C of the 2nd Rangers on its right flank. Several LCAs were hit and others had devastating fire brought upon them. Some reached the beach only to find there was no cover for them to hide behind and many returned to the water and the nearest obstacles. The enemy positions on the bluffs above were able to inflict heavy casualties. Fifteen minutes after landing, Company A was out of action for the day. Estimates of its casualties range as high as 66%. A Ranger company of 64 men (in two LCA's) landed shortly after near the Vierville draw. An antitank gun hit one LCA and a dozen men were killed while a machine gun opened up on the second LCA as the men debarked. When the Rangers reached the base of the cliff, they had lost 35 men.
To the east of the Les Moulins draw, small grass fires had been started and obscured the landings in this area. The units landing in this area met relatively less resistance. Company G of the 116th RCT landed east of Dog Red instead of Dog White and was able to reach the shingle with little loss due to the smoke. But, they were significantly off their intended landing areas and were unsure of what to do next.
At Easy Green, another section of Company G encountered heavier fire and one team lost 14 men before they reached the shingle, but overall were intact. Company F landed according to plan astride the Les Moulins (D-3) draw and ran directly into the heavily fortified position. But, because they were downwind of the grass fires, they escaped the disastrous fate that befell Company A. But, some sections encountered heavy fire from the Germans and encountered over 50% casualties.
Only two boats managed to land on Easy Red (between E-1 and E-3). These men encountered very light resistance. Further to the east, only about ½ reached the shingle. After the first ½ hour, only about a hundred men and only 4 DD tanks were on Easy Red Beach.
Company E was supposed to land at Easy Green, but drifted nearly a mile to the east and found itself 3/4 of a mile east from the nearest 29th Division unit. To make matters worse, men were scattered over two sectors. Two LCVPs were able to make land without any incidences and deliver their men right on the beach, while the other four boats took heavy fire.
The 29th Infantry had sustained heavy casualties and the first-wave seemed to have failed from onlookers who were able to witness it. Also, only two gaps had been made through the obstacles and the tide was rising quickly. This meant that reinforcements would that much more difficult.
1st Infantry Division (16th RCT)
Only 2 boats of out of 12 landed where they were supposed to. At Fox Green, all units that were supposed to land on this sector landed to the east. Instead, sections of Company E and Company F (who were supposed to land in Easy Red), along with sections from 116th Company E (who had drifted from the west) landed in this sector. Unfortunately, they landed astride a heavily defended area with almost no cover available (there was no sea wall available).
A large section of the landing sector at Easy Red was situated between two stongpoints (WN 64 and WN 62). The Engineers here were able to open 4 gaps through the approach. This was important because on all of Omaha Beach, only 6 gaps total would be opened. The 37th and 149th Engineer Combat Battalions worked furiously to get these obstacles cleared, while Company E, 16th RCT was able to take WN 64 from the rear. Two destroyers had been instrumental in neutralizing strongpoints between Les Moulins to Fox Red and at least 5 destroyers had moved in to support the landing troops. The USS Frankford was especially effective against the strongpoints covering the E-1 and by 1000 hours, it was secured. Following the first landings, the 18th RCT was to land at 0930, but was delayed due to congestion on the beach and strong currents. They lost 28 landing craft to underwater obstacles, but overall landed in much better condition than the 16th RCT. The 18th RCT found pillbox west of the E-1 draw still active, but with the continuation cooperation of the destroyers, they were able to neutralize it. The Engineers were also to move to clearing the inland obstacles. This later became the main route off Omaha beach on D-Day.
Fox Beach on the other hand fared much worse. Company E of the 16th RCT and company E of the 116th RCT landed on the western section of Fox Green and most were caught in the machine gun crossfire as the ramps lowered. Company F of 16th RCT was scattered from E-3 to over a thousand yards to the east. About 1/3 were casualties before the could make it to the shingle.
Nearly all units drifted east of their intended targets. Others that did not land on time, were delayed. Dog White and Easy Red had almost no troops on its beaches.
The 2nd wave started landing at 0700 and found much of the same situation. Very little progress had been made since the first landings and very little had been done to silence the enemy defenses. Companies had landed so far from their intended targets and were so intermixed, that organization was very poor. In the cases where the landings took place directly in front of the enemy strongpoints, casualties were extremely high - especially among officers and NCO's.
As subsequent personnel and equipment landed, they found the beach more and more crowded. The shingle was nearly completely occupied and those coming in had to remain on the open beach. In most cases, the different units on the beaches were on their own to make their way off the beaches. Despite the chaotic situation and the large casualties, the units managed to slowly make their way off the beach and up to the bluffs. Nearly every unit had landed at the wrong areas and was forced to adapt to the current situation. Groups of men of 20 or 30 slowly worked their way through the beach defenses. Notably, the teams bypassed the draws and assaulted directly over the bluffs. This was probably due to landing in the wrong areas and the forced improvisation that was needed to penetrate inland, and the well-placed enemy positions guarding the draws. Unfortunately, this meant that the routes to be used by the armor and vehicles were not open.
By 0730, General Cota of the 116th command group had landed at Dog White along with Colonel Canham. They found most of the 29ers huddled behind the seawall - unable to move. Knowing that the position was vulnerable to German artillery, they split up to gather men and find a way off the beach.
The landings at Omaha Beach had incurred significant casualties and in fact, the enemy defenses were stronger than expected. Very little progress had been made in the push to the interior and this caused significant backups on the beach. Of the 2,400 tons that were planned to arrive on the beach on D-Day, only 100 tons were delivered. Operations on the 7th and 8th of June would be spent deepening the bridgehead.
Understandingly, casualties were high among those first units, which landed on Omaha Beach. Casualties for V Corps that day were about 3,000 (killed, wounded, and missing) with the 16th and 116th sustaining about 1,000 casualties each.
The Germans were found to be unable to launch any significant counterattacks. The 352nd itself was so stretched that the best it could hope for was to hold onto the ground it held. In many places, if the Germans had been able to put together a coordinated counterattack, the Americans would've been in a serious predicament. But, it appears the unit was intent on stubborn defense, in anticipation of reinforcements from the rear. It had significantly delayed the schedule at Omaha, but unless the delay was followed up with a swift counterattack, it would be meaningless.
By evening on D-Day, General Gerhardt landed, set up his command post near the Vierville exit, and waited to take over command of the 29th Division. Pointe du Hoc was still isolated and known to have sustained heavy casualties. 1st Battalion of the 116th, along with the 5th Ranger battalion, companies A, B, and C of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and several tanks moved west along the Grandcamp highway towards Pointe du Hoc. It just failed to reach the Rangers at Point du Hoc by the end of June 7th due to stiff enemy resistance.