I’ve been looking for good video of the D-Day landings. There isn’t much to choose from. I mean, there’s tons of clips, but most of the footage is the same. So I said what the heck- to give a more visceral impression of just how rough it was on Omaha Beach, go with the dramatic interpretation.
For the most part, the Army was confident it would get ashore in Normandy. They’d had the experience of four major landings in the war- North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. They knew what they were doing. The real challenge would be to build up troops in the beachhead faster than the Germans could be reinforced.
But of the troops originally scheduled to land, none had seen combat. Gen. Bradley, the American ground force commander, decided to use the 1st Infantry Division, to ensure that at least some combat-blooded troops were on hand. The 1st, The Big Red One, wasn’t very happy about it. But they understood why it had to be.
Of the two major beaches the US troops landed on, Utah was a fairly simple matter. Only a little over 200 casualties were inflicted on the 4th Infantry division.
It was over at Omaha beach, where elements of the 1st and the 29th Infantry Divisions landed, that the Army expected trouble. And did they ever get it. It wasn’t till well after noon that the first troops on Omaha even made it to the top of the bluffs. Omaha was critical because it was the beach between the British/Canadian landing on Gold, Sword and Juno beaches, and Utah beach. If the landings at Omaha failed, the Germans could attack down that seam and turn the flank of the British and defeat them in detail, then turn and defeat the Americans at Utah.
In the end, the great leaders of the war, the Generals and the Admirals could exert no influence on the battle at Omaha. It was up to small unit leaders, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals, and the individual initiative of Private soldiers to overcome the fierce German resistance on Omaha. Men had to make the decision to flee the false safety of the seawall and assault into the teeth of the guns. They did. And they overcame. And we owe them a debt that can never be repaid.
Cross posted at The Hostages