WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

O

OMAHA BEACH
By Peter A. Thomas

When we went in, the beach had been taken
The living fought on, the dead forsaken
We were dropped into water up to our shoulders
We waded in – a group of green soldiers
Onto that thin strip of beach
So many had tried to reach.
They were the ones who went in first
Among the machine gun fire and shell burst
The went to watery graves
Sinking under the waves
The water was red
Red from the dead
Red from the dying
In agony crying
Those who made the land
Were not able to stand
They fell on the sand
Writhing in pain
Screaming for help in vain.

Every advantage was on the hill
They murdered our men at will
The rain of death from the cliffs never stopped
But we just kept coming in from the sea
Wave after wave, as far as you could see
Sheer courage and determination
Not believing they were done
Dictated the victory that day.
Others in the future will say
When they stand on that mighty height
And look down on that thin strip of beach
They’ll say, “I don’t see how they ever did it.”
They fought for every inch of it
Up the sides of that fortified wall
Over the tops of those cliffs so tall.

I’ll never forget that beach
I’ll never forget the men
In the ships
In the air and on the land
And those who died on the sand
And in the water.
They lie now beneath thousands of white crosses
And Stars of David
Above the beach
Those wonderful soldiers who died so young
They died so we
Could be free

How can we ever forget what they did
We honor them this day
We salute them
And we humbly beseech
Dear God, bless the men who died on
Omaha Beach.

Source of poem: http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org/omaha-beach-by-peter-thomas

Tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the break-out from Normandy

Tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the break-out from Normandy

Omaha Beach was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II. Omaha is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, and is 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary.

D-Day assault map of the Normandy region and the north-western coast of France. Utah and Omaha are separated by the Douve River, whose mouth is clear in the coastline notch (or "corner") of the map.

D-Day assault map of the Normandy region and the north-western coast of France. Utah and Omaha are separated by the Douve River, whose mouth is clear in the coastline notch (or “corner”) of the map.

Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah, thus providing a continuous lodgment on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine.

Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport and naval artillery support provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the British Royal Navy.

On D-Day, the untested 29th Infantry Division, along with nine companies of U.S. Army Rangers redirected from Pointe du Hoc, were to assault the western half of the beach. The battle-hardened 1st Infantry Division was given the eastern half. The initial assault waves, consisting of tanks, infantry, and combat engineer forces, were carefully planned to reduce the coastal defenses and allow the larger ships of the follow-up waves to land.

An officer observes Omaha as his landing craft approaches the Norman coast.

An officer observes Omaha as his landing craft approaches the Norman coast.

The primary objective at Omaha was to secure a beachhead of some five miles (eight kilometres) depth, between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River, linking with the British landings at Gold to the east, and reaching the area of Isigny to the west to link up with VII Corps landing at Utah. Opposing the landings was the German 352nd Infantry Division, a large portion of whom were teenagers, though they were supplemented by veterans who had fought on the Eastern Front. The 352nd had never had any battalion or regimental training. Of the 12,020 men of the division, only 6,800 were experienced combat troops, detailed to defend a 33-mile-long (53-kilometre) front. The Germans were largely deployed in strongpoints along the coast—the German strategy was based on defeating any seaborne assault at the water line. Nevertheless, Allied calculations indicated that Omaha’s defenses were three times as strong as those they had encountered during the Battle of Kwajalein, and its defenders were four times as many.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.

The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles; later landings bunched up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits off the beach. This caused further problems and consequent delays for later landings. Small penetrations were eventually achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points. By the end of the day, two small isolated footholds had been won, which were subsequently exploited against weaker defenses further inland, thus achieving the original D-Day objectives over the following days.

Advertisements

2 responses

  1. a gray says:

    They did a great job.

    Like

  2. Birgit says:

    The poem is beautiful and dark as it should be. The Canadians were, of course, at Juno. My ex, who has read extensively about WW2 told me that the Canadians learned the problems at Dieppe and devised tanks, landing craft and other things to deal with this landing. The higher ups told the U.S. higher ups who would not take the advice which cost their men heavy casualties. It is such a shame but thankfully, due to their heroism and bravery, they were winners on D-Day

    Liked by 1 person