Omaha Beach and the Beast of Omaha
What does the average person really know about the details of the day? I suspect most folks do not have a clue.
Preface to D – Day June 6 1944
D _ Day Planning -
The Allied forces would need an element of surprise, to improve chances of a successful invasion. Any thinking person would know the invasion was coming somewhere along the French coastline. The only elements of surprise left would be the timing and exact location. The Allies developed a massive deception campaign to trick the Nazis into thinking that the invasion would occur logically at Pas-de-Calais, the closest French coastline to England.
The allies would choose the sandy beaches of Normandy on northern French coastline.
Each gap was named for the nearest town behind it. There was Colleville (E-3), Les Moulins (D-3), Vierville (D-1), and St Laurent (Ruquet Valley) (E-1).
The Germans had more land to cover than They had men. Consequently they did not spread out their forces evenly, but rather concentrated them in strongholds named "WiderstandsNester".
These "Resistance Nests" were designed mainly to protect the gaps that would allow Allied tanks inland. Studying the picture above, you will see red areas marked with WN62, WN71, etc. Those "WN"s were the German strong points.
The Horrors of Omaha Beach - The toughest fighting was on Omaha Beach.
At Omaha Beach, the fortifications behind the beach obstacles consisted of 15 “resistance nests” or Widerstandsnestern (WN), numbered 60 through 74… WN-60 in the east to WN-74 in the west.
Of the five landing zones, Omaha Beach was the hardest and quickly devolved into utter chaos. Tragically, Allied intelligence had miscalculated the level of German coastal defenses there.
These "WiderstandsNester" consisted of 8 concrete bunkers containing 75 mm or greater artillery, 35 pillboxes, 18 anti-tank guns, six mortar pits, 35 Nebelwerfer (multi-barrel rocket launchers), 85 machine gun nests, 6 tank turrets and supporting infantry.
Germany’s 352nd Infantry Division, controlled the high ground with the help of an extensive system of trenches, were well-positioned to blanket the beach with bullets and could move troops and ammunition out of site upon an invasion.
Bombardments to destroy fortifications were totally ineffective in wiping out several German positions located above Omaha Beach. Cloudy skies made it hard for them to hit their targets.
The first wave of troops reached the beach at about 6:30 A.M. Troops coming ashore were decimated by German fire due to an absence of cover.
Most of the first wave of soldiers who landed on Omaha beach were shot dead or drowned before they could even fire a shot.
Survivor Sergeant Ray Lambert
“When we got within a thousand yards of the beach, you could hear the machine-gun bullets hitting off the front ramp of the boat,” recalled Lambert, a medic who was in the first wave to hit Omaha Beach.
Survivor Sergeant John TripponTrippon had to shed his ammunition, grenades, and weapons in order to swim to shore. “All the time the German machine-gunner was mowing people down. Why the hell I didn’t die there I can’t say. I guess he was too busy killing other guys.
German gunners successfully rained deadly crossfire into the ranks of the invading troops. Thousands of injured and dead troops littered the beach and floated in the water. Destroyed landing crafts and tanks were strewn about the beach and water’s edge, and by about 8:30 a.m. troop landings ceased.
“It is reported that there were so many bodies lying in the water they stopped bringing any more troops ashore because it was freaking people out to see all these guys dead.
Later, bulldozers were used to push the bodies into a trench so they couldn’t be seen.”
“Epic Human tragedy.”
In short, Omaha turned out to be an “epic human tragedy.”While there are no exact figures for the number of casualties suffered at Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach became a slaughter of the worst magnitude. Over 2,000 Americans died at Omaha Beach on D-Day out of 7,800 who participated in the initial assault. That rounds out to a 26%. casuality rate” — far more than at any other beach.The movie, Saving Private Ryan‘s opening sequence (the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach) while taking some liberties with actual accounts is overwhelming, but according historians and eye witnesses is said to be closest portrayal of the scene.
Allies Plan of attack
As you can see from the picture above. WN62 had a completely unobstructed view of the beach. The hill was not very steep.
Historical account of the First Wave at Omaha Beach
WN-62 & Heinrich Severloh, the Infamous 'Beast of Omaha'.
Consequently, wounded GI’s had a chance to survive if they could just keep from attracting fire from the German defenders - and many soldiers did this - playing “possum” on the edge of the surf.