Bloody Omaha, « Omaha la sanglante »
Hell on the sand of Normandy for Americans
With a 24-hour delay due to bad weather conditions, General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, nicknamed Ike by his men, finally approved the launch of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. These men, spearheads of the 1st and 29th infantry divisions, squeezed into these too narrow barges and weighed down with substantial equipment, were about to set foot against this Norman gate. They have been on board for 4h30 and cover the ten kilometres that separate them from the Atlantic wall. This landing in Normandy must be a success, because after landing, going straight east and Berlin, kicking Hitler’s ass, they will be able to stamp their return ticket and finally see their families there, so far away. Among these brave men were brothers Bedford and Raymond Hoback and Lieutenant Elijah Nance, all three from Virginia and members of A Company of the 116th Regiment, whose target is Vierville, facing dog green. Further offshore, on the battleship Augusta, General Bradley, commander of the first US Army, waited anxiously for the fighting to begin.
The beach is bordered to the east and west by abrupt cliffs about sixty meters high. With a length of 300 m at low tide, it disappeared at high tide, leaving only a dike to the west and a lift of pebbles to the east. There is a dunary cord in front of the cove, made of villas and filled by swamps.
After the dunary cord, steep slopes, between 30 and 50 m high, overlook the plateau. Five dry valleys perpendicular to the beach provide access to the plateau. These are the only way out of the beach for the vehicles. To secure this island, the Germans had set up two artillery batteries, one on the Pointe du Hoc, the other in Longues-sur-Mer, barriers on the shore (Belgian door, Czech heroes, mined piles and other dragon teeth), minefields, but above all a dozen protected support points named Widerstandnest (WN). Each WN made up of tobrouks, bunkers, trenches, barbed tablecloths and walls or antichar fosses was armed with several cannons, mortars and several machine guns. Everyone was served by some forty soldiers. From east to west, range outputs were controlled by WN60 and WN61 for output F1 (American designation), WN61 and WN62 for output E3, WN64 and WN65 for output E1, WN66, WN67 and WN68 for output D3 and WN71, WN72 and WN73 for output D1.
In June 1944, the area was occupied by the 2000 men of General Kraiss ‘ 352nd Infantry Division (PC in St-Lô) and General Richter’s 716th Infantry Division (PC in Caen). The presence of the 352nd Infantry Division, arrived on the Russian front in March 1944, was not known to the allies.
On the evening of June 6, 1944, 34,000 American soldiers, 2800 trucks and 100 tons of equipment (out of the expected 2,400 tons) had disembarked at Omaha Beach. Although there is no formal balance sheet, the Americans deplored 4780 losses, 852 of which were dead, 2176 wounded, 721 lost, and 971 unspecified casualties, comprising 8 percent of the population. Less than what had been planned.
Those casualties, though, compensated for 90 percent of the first surge and 30 percent of the DDay allies ‘ defeats. The Nazis murdered around 400 civilians in the WN and settlements near the beaches. The German Infantry Division 352e lost 1,200 men on June 6, 1944.
The battle in the Omaha Beach area has inspired many film and series directors such as Stephen Ambrose’s and the film Band of Brothers.