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Omaha Beach (#1)

History and pictures of the beach

 

Omaha Beach is the second of the two American landing sectors. This beach is 5,9 kilometers long and is located 12 kilometers east of Utah Beach.

Image :  Mass in England before the boarding on the ships which will route to Omaha Beach
Mass in England before the boarding on the ships which will route to Omaha Beach.

American forces

The 16th regiment of the 1st infantry division of and the 116th regiment of the 29th infantry division are chosen to attack this beach, divided into four landing sectors. They are named (from west to east): “Charlie”, “Dog”, “Easy” and “Fox”. According to the attack plan of the Pointe du Hoc these units can be reinforced by elements of the 2nd and 5th Rangers battalions.

Image :  L'USS Augusta voit les péniches de débarquement faire route vers Omaha Beach
USS Augusta secures the landing crafts which go to Omaha Beach.

These military units are led by general Leonard T. Gerow, chief of the 5th army corps, and by Omar N. Bradley, commanding the 1st american army.

Bombardments

All the night preceding the attack, thousand of bombers drop hundreds of tons of bombs over the German beach defenses. But at Omaha, the precision of the bombardments is uneffective: handicapped by a massive fog and many clouds, the bombers drop their bombs a few seconds too early or too late. The result is catastrophic for the Allies: the 13.000  bombs miss their objectives and explode inside the grounds, a few kilometers away from the beaches.

Image :  The landing crafts move towards the beach
The landing crafts move towards the beach.

In the early morning, a thick smoke due to the bombardments of the night hides the coast to the allied ships. The shootings of the naval artillery directed towards the Atlantic Wall are not precise. The Germans are terrified by these bombardments, but their losses are very weak and their armaments are still in fonction.

The Allies see the Norman coast blazing up and being illuminated by thousand of fires, and they think that the Germans are crushed under tons of rocks.

Image :  These American soldiers, squatted in their landing craft at the time of the approach phase
These American soldiers, squatted in their landing craft at the time of the approach phase.

The attack

The first assault wave lands at 06:36 a.m.: it is composed of 1,450 soldiers who are transported by 36 landing crafts. The tide is low and it uncovers mined piles installed a few months before D-Day. On the other hand, the Americans have to cross a nearly 400 meters long beach without cover before being able to find a minor shelter.

Image: Anxious, the occupants of the landing craft observe the fightings on the beach Anxious, the occupants of the landing craft observe the fightings on the beach.

The Germans, ready to defend their positions, wait for the last moment to open fire in order to reveal their positions as late as possible. Once the first landing craft touches the ground, a rain of shells and machine-gun bullets falls down on the Americans. The first assault wave is immediately decimated: 90% of the assault wave is out of fight in the first five minutes of the attack. All officers and warrant officers are wounded or killed and the survivors organize themselves by small groups.

 

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Image :  The ramp has been dropped, the G.I.s land to fight
The ramp has been dropped, the G.I.s land to fight.

The tragedy of the tanks

Unlike what is going on Utah and the other allied beaches, he American troops landing at Omaha are not supported by the amphibious tanks, as it is the case on Utah or on the English and Canadians beaches. On June 6 at 3 o'clock in the morning, 29 amphibious tanks Duplex Drive are launched at nearly 18 kilometers of the beach. These tanks belong to the two armoured tanks battalions supposed to land at 06:30 a.m. at Omaha.

Image :  Photograph of the landing on Omaha taken by the american coastguards
Photograph of the landing on Omaha taken by the american coastguards.

The chief of one of the two battalions decides not to lands his tanks, because he estimates that the swell at sea is too dangerous and that the Duplex Drive tanks will not resist. He is not wrong: on the 29 tanks launched, only 3 manage to reach the shore by their own means. The others will sink in the English Channel.

Image :  In front of the Ruquet strongpoint, the Americans, supported by three D.D. tanks, progress
In front of the Ruquet strongpoint, the Americans, supported by three D.D. tanks, progress.

But on the beach, the 270 sappers who must open, in 27 minutes, 16 ways to allow the vehicles and in particular the tanks to cross the 500 meters which separate the sea from the German positions, as fast as possible, do a desperate work. They destroy beaches defenses, used by the landed soldiers as a protection, to open ways which will not be useful in the immediate future. While remaining on the beach in order to carry out their mission, they remain out of cover and are easy targets for the German snipers. At the end of the 27 minutes established by the HQ, only one way had been opened and most of the sappers had been killed.

Image :  For private Reagan, trying to extirpate himself from the frozen water, Hell has just started
For private Reagan, trying to extirpate himself from the frozen water, Hell has just began.

The American landing waves continue to arrive and the German shootings remain extremely important. They have 17 defenses points including 8 strongpoints: anti-tank walls, minefields, machinegun nests, flame throwers, mortars, various types of guns… Moreover, the German defenders are not belonging to the infantry division which was envisaged on the plans. This last was replaced in May 1944 by the 352nd infantry division, coming from the Russian front. A message from the French Resistance had been sent before D-Day by carrier pigeon in London, but not early enough.

Image :  The shootings of German stop the American soldiers on the beach
The German shoutings fix the American soldiers on the beach.

The landed troops find some shelter behind the anti-tank wall located in front of an edge (which can measure up to 185 meters in some places), itself located at the foot of the heights which dominate the beach. This anti-tank wall high enough so that a man is held squatted without being located by the Germans in their casemates. In the extreme west sector of the beach , in front of Vierville-sur-Mer, “Charlie” sector, the anti-tank wall is replaced by a natural rampart formed by rollers. The American soldiers are obliged to remain lying at this place if they do not want to be targets. But the German mortar shells manage all the same to kill behind this thin protection.

Image :  Slept behind the “Rommel's asparaguses” and the “Czech hedgehogs”, the soldiers try to protect themselves from the enemy shootings Slept behind the “Rommel's asparaguses” and the “Czech hedgehogs”, the soldiers try to protect themselves from the enemy shootings.

 

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