It was 1944, and the United States had now been an active participant in the war against Nazi Germany for almost three and a half years, nearly six years for the British. During that period occurred a string of engagements fought with ferocious determination and intensity on both sides. There is however, one day which stands out in the minds of many American servicemen more often than others. June 6, 1944, D-Day, was a day in which thousands of young American boys, who poured onto the beaches of Utah and Omaha, became men faster than they would have ever imagined possible.
Little did they know of the chaos and the hell which awaited them on their arrival. Over the course of a few hours, the visions of Omaha and Utah Beaches, and the death and destruction accompanied with them formed a permanent fixation in the minds of the American Invaders. The Allied invasion of Europe began on the 6th of June 1944, and the American assault on Utah and Omaha beaches on this day played a critical role in the overall success of the operation. (Astor 352)An extensive plan was established for the American attack on Utah and Omaha Beaches.
The plan was so in-depth, and complex, its descriptions detailed the exact arrivals of troops, armor, and other equipment needed for the invasion, and where exactly on the beach they were to land. Before the landings were to begin, the coastal German defenses had to be adequately prepped, and softened by a combination of a massive battering by United States ships, and bombing by the United States Air Force. Between the hours of 0300 and 0500 hours on the morning of June 6, over 1,000 aircraft dropped more than 5,000 tons of bombs on the German coastal defenses.
As soon as the preliminary bombing was over, the American and British naval guns opened fire on the Normandy coastline (D’ Este 112). A British naval officer described the incredible spectacle he witnessed that day: “Never has any coast suffered what a tortured strip of French coast suffered that morning; both the naval and air bombardments were unparalleled. Along the fifty-mile front the land was rocked by successive explosions as the shells of ships’ guns tore holes in fortifications and tons of bombs rained on them from the skies.
Through billowing smoke and falling debris defenders crouching in this scene of devastations would soon discern faintly hundreds of ships and assault craft ominously closing the shore. If the sight dismayed them, the soldiers borne forward to attack were thrilled by the spectacle of Allied power that was displayed around them on every hand,” (D’ Este 112). The scene witnessed by the British officer off of the British sectors, was also witnessed by American commanders off of Utah and Omaha, however not to the same extent.
Many American bombers missed their targets up to as much as five miles inland due to the thick cloud cover. Rockets which were fired from offshore destroyers landed short killing thousands of fish, but not any Germans. Artillery from US battleships slammed the tops of the bluffs of Omaha, and sailed into the adjacent towns, but not did not successfully accomplish their goals of destroying targets on the beachhead such as enemy pillboxes, artillery, and machine gun positions. (D’ Este 117)Contrary to Omaha, Utah Beach was much less fortified.
Over looking the beachhead were two large concrete casemated positions to hold large guns. Due to neglect, and Rommel’s (who was in charge of fortifying the coast of France) deflected attention to other possible invasion sights, resulting in only one of the casemated positions to install a large gun. The Germans had also not been able to fully construct defensive barriers yet by the time of the invasion and also had not completely laid the number of land mines Rommel had in mind. Aiding to the success at Utah were the underwater demolition teams who were able to knock off many of the coastal defenses awaiting the Americans.