Green water splashes aboard the small wooden landing craft soaking the men inside with cold salt water. The nearing of exploding shells sends fright and adrenaline pumping through their veins. As the beach draws closer officers begin to bark out orders over the sound of gun fire. The landing craft stops with a jolt and the loading ramp slams down on the wet sand. Bullets come whizzing by cutting down the first three rows of soldiers. The remaining men jump over the sides and plummet into the murky water, hoping to get ashore alive.
The invasion of Normandy could be the turning point of the war in favor of the Allies or it could be the rise of Nazi Germany and the beginning of a fascist era. June 5, 1944: the Buildup Around 3:30 a. m. General Dwight D. Eisenhower walked into his headquarters in a mansion on the southern coast of England. In a few short moments he would have to make one of the most influential decisions of World War II. Should the Allied forces invade Nazi occupied France at Normandy or not? He consulted with his fellow officers on the matter, and after ten minutes of pacing around the room he gave the go ahead.
Within hours an armada of 5,000 Allied ships was making its way toward Normandy France. Along with this armada the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions were up in the air ready to be dropped behind enemy lines. Little did they know the two divisions would loose up to seventy percent of their men and be dropped as far as ten mile away from their drop zones. As was part of the plans U. S. and British bombers were to go ahead and drop bombs on key targets, but most of the bombs missed or did little damage to the concrete block houses.
After this the two airborne divisions would go and be dropped behind German lines to help out the forces on the beach, this help never came. Then Rangers and other troops would storm ashore and take the beaches. In the invasion of Normandy some 150,000 troops landed on the beaches. The objectives of these men was to take the five Normandy beach heads. The beaches Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juneau were all taken by the British and Canadian troops. The biggest and most heavily armed beach, Omaha, was invaded by U. S. troops.
More men and more equipment was lost on Omaha beach than at all the other beaches combined. June 6, 1944: The Beginning of the End Bomber fly overhead in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. Hundreds of airborne troop are inside ready to be dropped into enemy territory. As the drop zones grow closer last minute orders are called out to the anxicios men. Then the latch unlocks on the back of the looming figures in the sky and the doors slowly open to present the darkness of early dawn. The green light goes on above the door and one by one thousands of men fall from the bellowing aircraft.
Masses of small parachutes fill the sky as the men plummet to earth. Off the English coast hundreds of thousands of ships steam toward the French coast of Normandy. Sermons are given to the fearful and nervous men. In a few short hours they will begin, what is still today, one of the biggest invasions in military history. When the ships were three to four miles away from the coast the U. S. troops began to pile onto the small wooded landing craft. Around 2,606 small landing craft were used and out of those numbers almost one third of the m were used in the Omaha beach invasion.
It was said by some of the men that: Omaha was a natural killin zone. That beach was six miles long and in the shape of a cressant moon. To make it even worse for us it had 100 to 150 high bluffs we had to climb to get to the block houses at the top. The Germans wouldnt stop shootin at us, every time a guy would get half way up the beach those Germans kept gunnin them down. When weapons were gathered and collected at the end of the day it was said that the Germans had about sixty artillery pieces, eighty five machine guns, and forty mortars.
Omaha was also the most heavily fortified of all the Normandy beaches. To help the Germans odds 13,000 U. S. and British bombs missed their targets because of over cast skies earlier that morning. At 6:30 a. m. the first of the U. S. troops landed on Omaha. Omaha was divided into four assault sectors; Charlie, Dog, Easy, and Fox. To help distribute the men more evenly over a six mile beach Dog, Easy, and Fox had three smaller sectors called Red, Green, and White. Sixteen routs were planned to help get the troop onto shore.
By midday only five were open. The divisions and regiments all took different assault sectors. The 1st Infantry division, 16th Regiment, and the 116th Regiment were to take Charlie and Fox. The 29th Infantry division, 2nd Infantry, and the Special Forces Rangers all took Easy and Dog sectors. The objectives of these divisions and regiments was to open up the routs for beach landings, destroy the concrete block houses, and to drive the German forces deeper into he heart of France.
Right from the start things went wrong. First the Germans planted mines and put up beach obstacles to help slow the advancement of landing craft. Then the constant shelling from the bluffs caused the landing craft to either explode or sink before it even reached the shores. If the landing craft was lucky and made it to beach the men were instantly greeted by German machine gun fire from the bluffs. Most of the men didnt even touch the beach. The few that did were soon shot down by gun fire.
Also some landing raft lowered their ramps in deep water, causing the men to sink and drown because of their heavy equipment. The few men that did make it ashore ran for cover behind a ten foot high sea wall at the base of the bluffs. Behind them the entire beach was in chaos. After two hours men began to reorganize into their divisions and advance on the bluffs. Long metal pipes filled with explosives, called bangalors, were pushed under the barbed wire to clear a pathway. Any man caught in the sharp wire would be an easy target for German guns.
Soon men were climbing the bluffs with rope ladders and grappling hooks. The Germans saw the advancing troops on the bluffs and then turning their machine gun fire on them thus enabling the men on the beach to make it to safety. After a long battle between the two forces the U. S. finally began to gain a foot hold in the invasion. Soon enough the men were on the top of the bluffs completing their objectives and mourning the loss of their fallen comrades. By the end of the day almost all of the beach heads were secure. June 7, 1944: Crusade for France
On June 7, 1944 Omaha and all of the other Normandy beaches were under Allied control and advancing on the German forces. The victory on Omaha came with a high price. The U. S. alone lost 2,500 men and 20% of their jeeps, tanks, and landing craft. But because of these mens sacrifice 34,000 reinforcements were able to safely get ashore. Also three towns were along the coast were under Allied control. Along with that the troops were as far as five miles inland. The goal of taking Normandy was finally happening and the dream of one day liberating France was becoming a reality.
Soon after the victory at Normandy the tides turned in favor of the Allies and the collapse of Nazi Germany was at hand. In the middle of 1945, after five long years at war, the conflict in Europe was finally over, and the Normandy invasion would be remembered for generations to come. “They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America- men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement, and courage gave us the world we have today. “- Tom Brokaw The Greatest Generation.