Omaha Beach D-Day My Visit and Thoughts
on June 5th, 2016 I visited Omaha Beach D-Day, where 72 years earlier on June 6, 1944 many people died for the cause of freedom. Another term for the Americans that lived in this time period is the Greatest Generation. As I reflect upon this visit and the events of that time the Greatest Generation is a well deserved name for the people who lived during World War II. A lot Americans died on that day. The first wave of 1450 american soldiers landed on Omaha Beach at 6:00 am. Over 1/3 of these men were casualties within the first hour of battle.
(Picture Shown: Les Braves is a war memorial that is located on the shores of Omaha Beach in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France and commemorates the fallen American soldiers, of World War ll who have lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy, June 6th 1944.)
How many Allied troops were involved in D-Day?
According to the D-Day Museum On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops. My article will focus on the Americans actions on Omaha Beach D-Day, but a lot of other nations participated in this cause for freedom and their efforts should not be forgotten.
On the way to Omaha beach a number of homes were flying American flags along side the other nations who participated in D-Day. You could see by how weather worn these flags were, that they have been flying over these homes each and every day for a number of years as a way to remember the many people who died so the french could be free again. After 72 years, the french people in their own way were saying thank you for the efforts of the many brave men and woman who helped secure their freedom again. America would not exist today, of not for the help we received in the Revolutionary war from the French. In some ways it is only fitting we came to their call for freedom.
(Picture today of the shores of Omaha Beach in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France)
Imagine its 1944, Omaha Beach D-Day.
The first wave of 1450 american soldiers landed on Omaha Beach at 6:00 am. Over 1/3 of these men were casualties within the first hour of battle. Many of these men drowned by jumping over the side of their landing craft into 10 ft of water with 60-100 pound field pack on their back. They jumped because German gun fire was coming straight at them from fortified positions on the cliffs and dunes overlooking the beaches. The Germans had created the perfect kill zone. Their were 1200 germans sitting in fortified positions, the first 600 feet of beach had over 3700 obstacles such as hedgehogs and stake. At the 800 foot range there was a sea wall and at least 2 rows of barbed wire. Then, 17,000 land mines buried in the sand up to the dunes at the back of the beach, all this before the American GI’s could begin to attack the Germans.
(Picture today of Batterie de Longues sur Mer Normandie France)
As you can see from this picture I took, the Germans were well prepared to defend against any attempt by the Allies to invade.
The best laid plans are some times for naught
To protect the infantry the Americans had planned to have 29 Sherman Tanks, one every 50 yards on the beach. The tanks were to be launched from cargo ships 3 miles out to sea from Omaha Beach D-Day. The Americans had designed a canvas shroud that surrounded the Sherman tanks, except for the top of the tank. This shroud was held in place by pneumatic cylinders. With this shroud in place a floating or amphibious tank was created. This all worked when tested in calm waters. The tanks were called DD Tanks. The DD tanks were launched from the ships 3 miles off shore that day.
On June 6, 1944 the seas had 6 foot waves. The shrouds began to link because of the high seas and the distance they had to travel before reaching the beach. 27 of the 29 Sherman DD tanks sank killing all the soldiers inside the tank except those soldiers on the top who were able to escape.
In addition to all the obstacles and 17,000 land mines the Germans had 30 anti-tank guns, 17 heavy mortars and more than 20 field guns trained on Omaha beach. The Americans had also planned a heaving bombing strike using 466 planes armed with 13,000 bombs to take out the heavy german response. The cloud cover on June 6, 1944 forced bombers to use radar that day. Radar was a newly developed and not a very accurate weapon. Because of the need to use radar the American fleet commanders were concerned the planes would drop their bombs too early and hit some of the american ships. The commanders ordered the bombers to wait 5-30 seconds after radar sighted the German targets before dropping the bombs. The 5 second delay resulted in the bombs missing target by 1/4 miles. As a result not one of the 13,000 bombs dropped hit any of the german defenses.
Without the DD Sherman tanks, The heaving Bombing cover and still facing the heavy barrage of exploding cannon and mortar shells, the American infantry on Omaha Beach D-Day where on their own. By 9:30 am the tide was coming in and the remaining troops were forced to hold up on a narrow strip of beach about 10 feet wide. During the initial day of the invasion 34,000 American soldiers landed on Omaha Beach. it is estimated 1/3 of those men became casualties. The actual number of casualties has never been determined. (My write up is based on information provided to me at Omaha Beach, not sure who to credit for this information)
A Special Moment at a Special Place
Being there the day before the actual landing at Omaha Beach D-Day was quite special. To help remember the many people who died for their freedom the French put on Military period outfits of the time and flock to the area. This is done out of respect and to remember the sacrifices that were made. Here are a few picture I took.
(Picture: American Jeep Omaha Beach in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France)
(Picture: British Amphibious Jeep Omaha Beach in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France)
(Picture American Jeep near Omaha Beach in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France)
What I like about this photo is the woman in military period outfits. The woman played such a critical role in this war and so many others.
(Picture period tents near Batterie de Longues sur Mer Normandie France)
Normandy American Cemetery
Anyone who has ever visited the Tomb of the Unknown soldier or any other part of Arlington Cemetery knows first hand how how emotional the visit can be. Visiting the Normandy American Cemetery impacts you in much the same way.
(Picture: Robert J Niland NY American Cemetery Normandy France)
The Niland Brothers are featured in Saving Private Ryan and HBO series Band of Brothers.
Being at the Normandy American Cemetery really drives home the sacrifice that was made for the cause of freedom. When the cause of freedom needed them most without hesitation they came, from small farms to large cities all across the United States. Many gave their lives here never to return home.
Here are a few more photos I took:
(Picture: Normandy American Cemetery)
(Picture Normandy American Cemetery)
(Picture Normandy American Cemetery Reflection Pool)
(Picture Normandy American Cemetery with Period Military period outfits)
Being there 72 years later the day before D-Day was a unique experience I will never forget seeing the period Military outfits and vehicles everywhere helped give you a better sense of the time. The sacrifice of these men is clearly not forgotten. Lets hope future generations will never have to make the sacrifices that the Greatest Generation made. When the call to protect freedom was made, they came and did what needed to be done. So the rest of us can live free today.
To every veteran and soldier who serves today. God Bless you and your families for the sacrifices that were made or are made each and every day you serve.
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