Omaha Beach Part Two

2nd Infantry Mon   View East            88mm Gun in Situ

The guns at Point du Hoc had been moved further inland some two months earlier, and, had the Allied Planners known this, the attack would most certainly been different. The Germans had the beach well covered with fire power and there were only five exits and steep cliffs along the length of the beach. The first wave of Americans came ashore and were immediately cut down with machine gun fire. In the first wave 80% of the American Infantry perished and by 09:30 not a shot had been fired by troops on the beach. Over 1,000 Americans lost their lives in the first eight hours, taking this beach, but the beach was taken, not by an army, but by strong minded individuals who led groups of their colleagues with great courage. In the early afternoon General Bradley considered abandoning the beach assault and landing his forces with the British at Gold beach, because reports from the beach indicated that it might not be taken. Naval destroyers came in so close to the beach to give covering fire that some scraped the bottom with their hulls. By the end of the day a small bridgehead had been established, but was vulnerable to German attack, but fortunately none came. If the Germans had been able to use tanks, the American force might have been thrown back into the sea. Hitler had kept command of the tanks and only he could order them into battle. He often went to bed in the early morning and slept until midday, and June 6th was no exception. None of his aides would dare wake him and so the tanks remained silent, and Hitler was not informed of the landings for over six hours. General Rommel was on his way back to France from Berlin and could not be contacted. Had the Americans used Major Hobartís funnies the story might have been a little different. Flame throwing tanks might have neutralised the German machine gun posts earlier in the day. The American High Command had refused the offer of these specially modified tanks, and they had no special equipment to clear the mines, destroy bunkers or to help them cross the sea wall. By the end of the second day 3,000 soldiers were dead and a further 3,000 injured or taken prisoner. The 116th Regiment took the highest casualties of all the units deployed on D-day. It is strangely ironic that of all the D-day beaches Omaha is now the most tranquil.

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