Omaha Beach
Overview
 
Omaha Beach is the code name
Code name
A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Code names are often used for military purposes, or in espionage...

 for one of the five sectors of the Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The beach is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, and is 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes
Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes
Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northewestrn France.-World War II:Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes is located at the eastern end of Omaha Beach, one of the landings sites on D-Day, at the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, during World...

 to west of Vierville-sur-Mer
Vierville-sur-Mer
-External links:* *...

 on the right bank of the Douve River estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

 with the American landing to the west at Utah Beach
Utah Beach
Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944...

, thus providing a continuous lodgement
Lodgement
A lodgement is an enclave taken by and defended by force of arms against determined opposition made by increasing the size of a bridgehead, beachhead or airheadOxford English Dictionary lodgement, lodgment "3. The action of establishing oneself or making good a position on an enemy's ground, or...

 on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine.
Encyclopedia
Omaha Beach is the code name
Code name
A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Code names are often used for military purposes, or in espionage...

 for one of the five sectors of the Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The beach is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, and is 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes
Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes
Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northewestrn France.-World War II:Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes is located at the eastern end of Omaha Beach, one of the landings sites on D-Day, at the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, during World...

 to west of Vierville-sur-Mer
Vierville-sur-Mer
-External links:* *...

 on the right bank of the Douve River estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

 with the American landing to the west at Utah Beach
Utah Beach
Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944...

, thus providing a continuous lodgement
Lodgement
A lodgement is an enclave taken by and defended by force of arms against determined opposition made by increasing the size of a bridgehead, beachhead or airheadOxford English Dictionary lodgement, lodgment "3. The action of establishing oneself or making good a position on an enemy's ground, or...

 on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

.

On D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, the untested 29th Infantry Division, joined by nine companies
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

 of U.S. Army Rangers redirected from Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It lies 4 miles west of Omaha Beach, and stands on 100 ft tall cliffs overlooking the sea...

, 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
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, and combat engineer forces, were carefully planned to reduce the coastal defenses and allow the larger ships of the follow-up waves to land.

The primary objective at Omaha was to secure a beachhead
Beachhead
Beachhead is a military term used to describe the line created when a unit reaches a beach, and begins to defend that area of beach, while other reinforcements help out, until a unit large enough to begin advancing has arrived. It is sometimes used interchangeably with Bridgehead and Lodgement...

 of some five miles (eight kilometres) depth, between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River
Vire River
The Vire is a river in Normandy, France whose 128 km course crosses the départements of Calvados and Manche, flowing through the towns of Vire, Saint-Lô and Isigny-sur-Mer, finally flowing out into the English Channel....

, linking with the British landings at Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

 to the east, and reaching the area of Isigny
Isigny-sur-Mer
Isigny-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Geography:Positioned at the bottom of the baie des Veys, Isigny is an important milk production area, known for its AOC butter and cream, as well as its cheeses made by the Isigny Sainte...

 to the west to link up with VII Corps landing at Utah Beach
Utah Beach
Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944...

. Opposing the landings was the German 352nd Infantry Division
German 352nd Infantry Division
The 352nd Infantry Division was a formation of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. A western front unit, the 352nd became notable for its tenacious defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944.-Formation and strengths:...

, a large portion of whom were teenagers, though they were supplemented by veterans who had fought on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

. 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 53 km 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
Battle of Kwajalein
The Battle of Kwajalein was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought from 31 January-3 February 1944, on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Employing the hard-learned lessons of the battle of Tarawa, the United States launched a successful twin assault on the main islands of...

 and its defenders were four times as many.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft
Landing craft
Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

 to miss their targets throughout the day. 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.

Terrain and defenses

Bound at either end by rocky cliffs, the Omaha Beach crescent presented a gently sloping tidal area averaging 300 yards (275 m) between low and highwater marks. Above the tide line was a bank of shingle
Shingle beach
A shingle beach is a beach which is armoured with pebbles or small- to medium-sized cobbles. Typically, the stone composition may grade from characteristic sizes ranging from two to 200 mm diameter....

 8 feet (2.4 m) high and up to 15 yards (14 m) wide in some places. At the western end the shingle bank rested against a stone ( further east becoming wood) sea wall which ranged from 4–12 feet (1.5–4 m) in height. For the remaining two thirds of the beach after the seawall ended the shingle lay against a low sand embankment. Behind the sand embankment and sea wall lay a level shelf of sand, narrow at either end and extending up to 200 yards (180 m) inland in the center. Steep escarpments or bluffs then rose 100–170 feet (30–50 m), dominating the whole beach and cut into by small wooded valleys or draws at five points along the beach, codenamed west to east D-1, D-3, E-1, E-3 and F-1.
The German defensive preparations and the lack of any defense in depth indicated that their plan was to stop the invasion at the beaches. Four lines of obstacles were constructed in the water. The first, a non-contiguous line with a small gap in the middle of Dog White sector and a larger gap across the whole of Easy Red sector, was 270 yards (250 m) out from the highwater line and consisted of 200 Belgian Gates
Cointet-element
The Cointet-element, also known as a Belgian Gate or C-element, was a heavy steel fence of about three metres wide and two metres high, typically mounted on rollers, was found on D-Day used to keep incoming tanks from getting by, and used as an anti-tank obstacle.The Cointet-element was the main...

 with mines
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 lashed to the uprights. Some 32 yards (30 m) behind these was a continuous line of logs driven into the sand pointing seaward, every third one capped with an anti-tank mine
Anti-tank mine
An anti-tank mine, , is a type of land mine designed to damage or destroy vehicles including tanks and armored fighting vehicles....

. This method was not as effective as the Germans would have wished. Another 32 yards (30 m) shoreward of this line was a continuous line of 450 ramps sloping towards the shore, also with mines attached and designed to force flat-bottomed landing craft to ride up and either flip or detonate the mine. The final line of obstacles was a continuous line of hedgehogs
Czech hedgehog
The Czech hedgehog or ježek, was a static anti-tank obstacle defence made of angled iron deployed during World War II by various combatants....

 165 yards (150 m) from the shoreline. The area between the shingle bank and the bluffs was both wired and mined, and mines were also scattered on the bluff slopes. German barricades set up to prevent tanks advancing on the shores became useful to the allies, seeing that they provided cover from the hail of bullets.

Coastal troop deployments, comprising five companies of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, were concentrated mostly at 15 strongpoints called Widerstandsnester ("resistance nests"), numbered WN-60 in the east to WN-74 near Vierville
Vierville-sur-Mer
-External links:* *...

 in the west, located primarily around the entrances to the draws and protected by minefields and wire. Positions within each strongpoint were interconnected by trenches and tunnels. As well as the basic weaponry of rifles and machine guns, a total of over 60 light artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 pieces were deployed at these strongpoints. The heaviest pieces were located in eight gun casemates and four open positions while the lighter guns were housed in 35 pillboxes. A further 18 anti-tank guns completed the disposition of artillery targeting the beach. Areas between the strongpoints were lightly manned with occasional trenches, rifle pits, and a further 85 machine gun emplacements. No area of the beach was left uncovered, and the disposition of weapons meant that flanking fire
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 could be brought to bear anywhere along the beach.

Allied intelligence identified the coastal defenses as being manned by a reinforced battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 (800–1000 men) of the 716th Infantry Division
German 716th Static Infantry Division
The 716th Static Infantry Division was a World War II, German Army Division. It was raised on May 2 1941 and sent to German-occupied France in June 1941. Many of the Division's troops were elderly Germans and conscripts from other German occupied countries, especially Russians...

. This was a static defensive division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 estimated to contain up to 50% of non-Germanic troops, mostly Russian volunteers and German Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

. The recently activated, but capable 352nd Infantry Division
German 352nd Infantry Division
The 352nd Infantry Division was a formation of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. A western front unit, the 352nd became notable for its tenacious defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944.-Formation and strengths:...

 was identified as being located 20 miles (30 km) inland at Saint-Lô
Saint-Lô
Saint-Lô is a commune in north-western France, the capital of the Manche department in Normandy.-History:Originally called Briovère , the town is built on and around ramparts. Originally it was a Gaul fortified settlement...

 and was regarded as the most likely force to be committed to a counter attack. However, as part of Rommel's
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 strategy to concentrate defenses at the water's edge the 352nd was ordered forward in March, taking over responsibility for the defense of the Normandy coast in which Omaha Beach was located. As part of this reorganization the 352nd also took under command the two battalions of the 726th Grenadier Regiment as well as the 439th Ost-Battalion that had been attached to the 726th. Omaha Beach fell mostly within 'Coast Defense Sector 2', stretching westwards from Colleville and allocated to the 916th Grenadier Regiment
German 916th Grenadier Regiment
Grenadier Regiment 916 was an infantry regiment of the Wehrmacht from 1943 until 1945.It was set up in the area around Saint-Lô and then sent to Omaha Beach in December 1943.Oberst i.G...

 with the third battalion 726th Grenadier Regiment attached. Two companies of the 726th manned strongpoints in the Vierville area while two companies of the 916th occupied the St. Laurent
Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Population:-References:*...

 area strongpoints in the center of Omaha. These positions were supported by the artillery of the first and fourth battalions of the 352nd Artillery Regiment (twelve 105 mm and four 150 mm howitzers respectively). The two remaining companies of the 916th formed a reserve at Formigny
Formigny
-External links:*...

 two miles (4 km) inland. East of Colleville, 'Coast Defense Sector 3' was the responsibility of the remainder of the 726th Grenadier Regiment. Two companies were deployed at the coast, one in the most easterly series of strongpoints, with artillery support provided by the third battalion of the 352nd Artillery Regiment. The area reserve, comprising the two battalions of the 915th Grenadier Regiment and known as 'Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 Meyer', was located south east of Bayeux
Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

 outside of the immediate Omaha area.

The failure to identify the reorganization of the defenses was a rare intelligence breakdown for the allies. Post-action reports still documented the original estimate and assumed that the 352nd had been deployed to the coastal defenses by chance only a few days previously as part of an anti-invasion exercise. The source of this inaccurate information came from German prisoners of war from the 352nd Infantry Division captured on D-Day as reported by the 16th Infantry S-3 D-Day Action Report. In fact, Allied intelligence had already become aware of the relocation of the 352nd Infantry Division on June 4. This information was passed on to V Infantry Corps and 1st Infantry Division HQ through 1st Army; however, at this late stage in the operations no plans were changed.

Plan of attack

Omaha was divided into ten sectors, codenamed (from west to east): Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy Red, Fox Green and Fox Red. The initial assault was to be made by two Regimental Combat Team
Regimental combat team
A regimental combat team was a provisional major infantry unit of the United States Army during the World War II and the Korean War, and of the U.S. Marine Corps to the present day...

s (RCT), supported by two tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

 battalions, with two battalions of Rangers
United States Army Rangers
United States Army Rangers are elite members of the United States Army. Rangers have served in recognized U.S. Army Ranger units or have graduated from the U.S. Army's Ranger School...

 also attached. The infantry regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s were organized into three battalions each of around 1,000 men. Each battalion was organized as three rifle companies each of up to 240 men, and a support company of up to 190 men. Infantry companies A through D belonged to the 1st battalion of a regiment, E through H to the 2nd, I through M to the 3rd; the letter ‘J’ was not used. (Individual companies will be referred to in this article by company and regiment, e.g. Company A of the 116th RCT will be A/116). In addition, each battalion had a headquarters company of up to 180 men. The tank battalions consisted of three companies, A through C, each of 16 tanks, while the Ranger battalions were organized into six companies, A through F, of around 65 men per company.

The 116th RCT
116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (United States)
The 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was formerly known as the 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division. It is currently assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard. The Brigade is headquartered in Staunton, Virginia, at the Thomas Howie Memorial Armory....

 of the 29th Infantry Division was to land two battalions in the western four sectors, to be followed 30 minutes later by the third battalion. Their landings were to be supported by the tanks of the 743rd Tank Battalion; two companies swimming ashore in amphibious DD tank
DD tank
DD tanks , were a type of amphibious swimming tank developed by the British during the Second World War...

s and the remaining company landing directly onto the beach from assault craft. To the left of the 116th RCT the 16th RCT
16th Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 16th Infantry Regiment is a regiment in the United States Army.-Formation:The 34th Infantry Regiment and 11th Infantry Regiment consolidated into the 16th Infantry Regiment on 3 March 1869. The 11th Infantry's history prior to the consolidation is normally included with the 16th's.-U.S...

 of the 1st Infantry Division was also to land two battalions with the third following 30 minutes after, on Easy Red and Fox Green at the eastern end of Omaha. Their tank support was to be provided by the 741st Tank Battalion, again two companies swimming ashore and the third landed conventionally. Three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion were to take a fortified battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 at Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It lies 4 miles west of Omaha Beach, and stands on 100 ft tall cliffs overlooking the sea...

, three miles (5 km) to the west of Omaha. Meanwhile C company 2nd Rangers was to land on the right of the 116th RCT and take the positions at Pointe de la Percée. The remaining companies of 2nd Rangers and the 5th Ranger Battalion were to follow up at Pointe du Hoc if that action proved to be successful, otherwise they were to follow the 116th into Dog Green and proceed to Pointe du Hoc overland.

The landings were scheduled to start at 06:30, "H-Hour", on a flooding tide, preceded by a 40-minute naval and 30-minute aerial bombardment
Bombardment
A bombardment is an attack by artillery fire directed against fortifications, troops or towns and buildings.Prior to World War I the term term was only applied to the bombardment of defenceless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, it was only loosely employed to describe artillery...

 of the beach defenses, with the DD tanks arriving five minutes before H-Hour. The infantry were organized into specially equipped assault sections, 32 men strong, one section to a landing craft, with each section assigned specific objectives in reducing the beach defenses. Immediately behind the first landings the Special Engineer Task Force was to land with the mission of clearing and marking lanes through the beach obstacles. This would allow the larger ships of the follow-up landings to get through safely at high tide. The landing of artillery support was scheduled to start at H+90 minutes while the main build up of vehicles was to start at H+180 minutes. At H+195 minutes two further Regimental Combat Teams, the 115th RCT of the 29th Infantry Division and the 18th RCT of the 1st Infantry Division were to land, with the 26th RCT of the 1st Infantry Division to be landed on the orders of the V Corps commander.

The objective was for the beach defenses to be cleared by H+2 hours, whereupon the assault sections were to reorganize, continuing the battle in battalion formations. The draws were to be opened to allow traffic to exit the beach by H+3 hours. By the end of the day, the forces at Omaha were to have established a bridgehead
Bridgehead
A bridgehead is a High Middle Ages military term, which antedating the invention of cannons was in the original meaning expressly a referent term to the military fortification that protects the end of a bridge...

 five miles (8 km) deep, linked up with the British 50th Division landed at Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

 to the east, and be in position to move on Isigny
Isigny-sur-Mer
Isigny-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Geography:Positioned at the bottom of the baie des Veys, Isigny is an important milk production area, known for its AOC butter and cream, as well as its cheeses made by the Isigny Sainte...

 the next day, linking up with the American VII Corps at Utah Beach
Utah Beach
Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944...

 to the west.

The assault force expected to execute this plan totaled over 34,000 men and 3,300 vehicles, with naval support provided by two battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s, three cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s, 12 destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s, and 105 other ships. These were provided predominantly by the US Navy, but also included British and Free French warships. The 16th RCT (swollen by 3,502 men and 295 vehicles attached only for the beach landing) numbered 9,828 troops, 919 vehicles and 48 tanks. To move this force required 2 transport ships, 6 Landing Ships, Tank (LSTs), 53 LCTs
Landing craft tank
The Landing Craft, Tank was an amphibious assault ship for landing tanks on beachheads. They were initially developed by the British Royal Navy and later by the United States Navy during World War II in a series of versions. Initially known as the "Tank Landing Craft" by the British, they later...

, 5 Landing Craft Infantry (Large)
Landing Craft Infantry
The Landing craft, Infantry or LCI were several classes of sea-going amphibious assault ships of the Second World War utilized to land large numbers of infantry directly onto beaches. They were developed in response to a British request for a vessel capable of carrying and landing substantially...

 (LCI/(L)s), 81 LCVP
LCVP
The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. The craft was designed by Andrew Higgins of Louisiana, United States, based on boats made for operating in swamps and marshes...

s, 18 LCAs
Landing Craft Assault
The Landing Craft Assault was a British landing craft used extensively in World War II. Its primary purpose was to ferry troops from transport ships to attack enemy-held shores. The craft derived from a prototype designed by John I. Thornycroft Ltd. During the war it was manufactured throughout...

, 13 other landing craft, and about 64 DUKW
DUKW
The DUKW is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by a partnership under military auspices of Sparkman & Stephens and General Motors Corporation during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious...

s. Assault craft were crewed by the US Navy, US Coast Guard and the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

.

Initial assault

Despite these preparations, very little went according to plan. Ten landing craft were lost before they even reached the beach, swamped by the rough seas. Several other craft stayed afloat only because their passengers quickly bailed water with their helmets. Seasickness was also prevalent among the troops waiting offshore. On the 16th RCT front, the landing boats found themselves passing struggling men in life preservers, and on rafts, survivors of the DD tanks which had sunk. Navigation of the assault craft was made more difficult by the smoke and mist obscuring the landmarks they were to use in guiding themselves in, while a heavy current pushed them continually eastward.

As the boats approached within a few hundred yards of the shore, they came under increasingly heavy fire from automatic weapons and artillery. The force discovered only then the ineffectiveness of the pre-landing bombardment. Delayed by the weather, and attempting to avoid the landing craft as they ran in, the bombers had laid their ordnance too far inland, having no real effect on the coastal defenses.

Tank landings

Because sea conditions were too rough, the decision was made for the 116th RCT to carry the DD tanks of the 743rd Tank Battalion all the way to the beach. Coming in opposite the heavily defended Vierville draw, Company B of the 743rd Tank Battalion lost all but one of its officers, and half of its DD tanks. However, the other two companies landed to the left of B/743 without initial loss. On the 16th RCT front, the two DD tanks that had survived the swim ashore were joined by three others that were landed directly onto the beach because of their LCT's damaged ramp. The remaining tank company managed to land 14 of its 16 tanks (although three of these were quickly knocked out).

Infantry landings

Of the nine companies landing in the first wave, only Company A of the 116th RCT at Dog Green and the Rangers to their right landed where intended. E/116, aiming for Easy Green, ended up scattered across the two sectors of the 16th RCT beach. G/116, aiming for Dog White, opened up a 1,000-yard (900 m) gap between themselves and A/116 to their right when they landed at Easy Green instead. I/16 drifted so far east it did not land for another hour and a half.

As infantry disembarked from the landing craft, they found themselves almost everywhere on sandbars 50 to 100 yards (45 to 90 m) out. Before they could even reach the beach they would have to wade through water sometimes neck deep, and they still had 200 yards (180 m) or more to go when they did reach shore. Those that made it to the shingle did so at a walking pace, because they were so heavily laden. Most sections had to brave the full weight of fire from small arms, mortars
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

, artillery, and the heavy interlocking fields of machine gun fire. Where the naval bombardment had set grass fires burning, as it had at Dog Red opposite the Les Moulins strongpoint, the resulting smoke obscured the landing troops and prevented effective fire from being laid down by the defenders. Some sections of G/116 and F/116 were able to reach the shingle bank relatively unscathed, though the latter became disorganized after the loss of their officers. G/116 was able to retain some cohesion, but this was soon lost as they made their way westwards under fire along the shingle, in an attempt to reach their assigned objectives. The scattering of the boats was most evident on the 16th RCT front, where parts of E/16, F/16 and E/116 had intermingled, making it difficult for sections to come together to improvise company assaults that might have retrieved the situation caused by the mis-landings. Those scattered sections of E/116 landing at Easy Red were able to escape heavy casualties, although, having encountered a deep runnel after being landed on a sandbank, they were forced to discard most of their weapons to make the swim ashore.

Casualties were heaviest amongst the troops landing at either end of Omaha. In the east at Fox Green and the adjacent stretch of Easy Red, scattered elements of three companies were reduced to half strength by the time they gained the relative safety of the shingle, many of them having crawled the 300 yards (270 m) of beach just ahead of the incoming tide. Within 15 minutes of landing at Dog Green on the western end of the beach, A/116 had been cut to pieces, the leaders among the 120 or so casualties, the survivors reduced to seeking cover at the water's edge or behind obstacles. The smaller Ranger company to their right had fared a little better, having made the shelter of the bluffs, but were also down to half strength.

L/16 eventually landed, 30 minutes late, to the left of Fox Green, taking casualties as the boats ran in and more as they crossed the 200 yards (180 m) of beach. The terrain at the very eastern end of Omaha, however, gave them enough protection to allow the 125 survivors to organize and begin an assault of the bluffs. They were the only company in the first wave able to operate as a unit. All the other companies were, at best, disorganized, mostly leaderless and pinned down behind the shingle with no hope of carrying out their assault missions. At worst, they had simply ceased to exist as fighting units. Nearly all had landed at least a few hundred yards off target, and in an intricately planned operation where each section on each boat had been assigned a specific task, this was enough to throw the whole plan off.

Engineer landings

Like the infantry, the engineers had been pushed off their targets, and only five of the 16 teams arrived at their assigned locations. Three teams came in where there were no infantry or armor to cover them. Working under heavy fire, the engineers set about their task of clearing gaps through the beach obstacles—work made more difficult by loss of equipment, and by infantry passing through or taking cover behind the obstacles they were trying to blow. They also suffered heavy casualties as enemy fire set off the explosives they were working with. Eight men of one team were dragging their pre-loaded rubber boat off the LCM when artillery hit; only one survived the resulting detonation of their supplies. Another team had just finished laying their explosives when the area was struck by mortar fire. The premature explosion of the charges killed or wounded 19 engineers, as well as some nearby infantry. Nevertheless, the engineers succeeded in clearing six gaps, one each at Dog White and Easy Green on the 116th RCT front, the other four at Easy Red on the 16th RCT front. However, they had suffered casualties of over 40%.

Second assault wave

With the initial targets unaccomplished, the second and larger wave of assault landings started bringing in reinforcements, support weapons and headquarter elements at 07:00, only to face nearly the same difficult situation as had the first. The only real relief for the second wave was that there were more of them, so the defender's fire was less concentrated. The survivors of the first wave were mostly unable to provide effective covering fire, and, in places, the fresh landing troops suffered casualty rates as high as those of the first wave. Failure to clear sufficient paths through the beach obstacles also added greatly to the difficulties of the second wave; now, the incoming tide was beginning to hide the remaining obstacles from them. There was high attrition among the landing craft as they hit these defenses, before they had even reached the shore. As in the initial landings, difficult navigation caused very disruptive mis-landings, scattering the infantry and separating vital headquarters elements from their units.

On the 116th RCT front, the remainder of the 1st battalion, B/116, C/116 and D/116, were due to land in support of A/116 at Dog Green. Three boats, including their headquarters and beach-master groups, landed too far west, under the cliffs. Their exact casualties in getting across the beach are unknown, but the one-third to one-half that made it spent the rest of the day pinned down by sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

s, Dog Green remaining a lethal sector. Not all sections of the badly scattered B/116 landed there, but those that did were quickly forced to join those survivors of A/116 fighting for survival at the water's edge. Two companies of 2nd Rangers, coming in later on the edge of Dog Green, did manage to reach the seawall, but at the cost of half their strength.

To the left of Dog Green sat the Dog White sector, between the Vierville and Les Moulins strongpoints (defending draws D-1 and D-3); and here was a different story. As a result of earlier mis-landings, and now because of their own mis-landing, the troops of C/116 found themselves alone at Dog White, with only a handful of tanks from the first wave in sight. The smoke from the grass fires covering their advance up the beach, they gained the seawall with few casualties, and were in better shape than any unit on the 116th RCT front so far. Although the 1st battalion was effectively disarmed of its heavy weapons when D/116 suffered a disastrous landing, the build up at Dog White continued. C/116 was joined by the 5th Ranger battalion almost in its entirety. The Ranger commander, recognizing the situation at Dog Green on the run-in, ordered the assault craft to divert into Dog White. Like the C/116, the smoke covered their advance, although the 2nd Rangers were caught out on the right flank of the Ranger's landing. This was the sector where the 116th RCT regimental command group, including the 29th Division assistant commander Brigadier General Norman Cota
Norman Cota
Norman Daniel "Dutch" Cota, Sr. was a United States Army general during World War II. Cota was heavily involved in the planning and execution of the invasion of France, codenamed Operation Neptune, and the subsequent Battle of Normandy.-Early life:Cota was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the son...

, was able to land relatively unscathed.

Further east, the strongpoint defenses were effective. On the Dog Red / Easy Green boundary, the defenses around the Les Moulins strongpoint took a heavy toll on the remaining 2nd battalion, H/116 and headquarters elements struggling ashore there. The survivors joined the remnants of F/116 behind the shingle, and here the battalion commander was able to organize 50 men for an improvised advance across the shingle. However, a further advance up the bluffs just east of Les Moulins was too weak to have any effect and was forced back down. To their left, mainly between the draws on the Easy Green / Easy Red boundary, the 116th RCT support battalion landed without too much loss, although they did become scattered, and were too disorganized to play any immediate part in an assault on the bluffs.

On the 16th RCT front, at the eastern end of Easy Red, was another area between strongpoints. This allowed G/16 and the support battalion to escape complete destruction in their advance up the beach. Nevertheless, most of G/16's 63 casualties for the day came before they had reached the shingle. The other 2nd battalion company landed in the second wave; H/16 came in a few hundred yards to the left, opposite the E-3 draw, and suffered for it - they were put out of action for several hours.

On the eastern-most beach, Fox Green, elements of five different companies had become entangled, and the situation was little improved by the equally disorganized landings of the second wave. Two more companies of the 3rd battalion joined the melee, and, having drifted east in the first wave, I/16 finally made their traumatic landing on Fox Green, at 08:00. Two of their six boats were swamped on their detour to the east, and as they came in under fire, three of the four remaining boats were damaged by artillery or mines, and the fourth was hung up on an obstacle. A captain from this company found himself senior officer, and in charge of the badly out of shape 3rd battalion.

American situation

Along with the infantry landing in the second wave, supporting arms began to arrive, meeting the same chaos and destruction as had the rifle companies. Combat engineers, tasked with clearing the exits and marking beaches, landed off-target and without their equipment. Many half tracks, jeeps and trucks floundered in deep water; those that made it ashore soon became jammed up on the narrowing beach, making easy targets for the German defenders. Most of the radios were lost, making the task of organizing the scattered and dispirited troops even more difficult, and those command groups that did make the shore found their effectiveness limited to their immediate vicinity. Except for a few surviving tanks and a heavy weapons squad here or there, the assault troops had only their personal weapons, which, having been dragged through surf and sand, invariably needed cleaning before they could be used.

The survivors at the shingle, many facing combat for the first time, found themselves relatively well-protected from small arms fire, but still exposed to artillery and mortars. In front of them lay heavily mined flats exposed to active fire from the bluffs above. Morale naturally became a problem. Many groups were leaderless and witness to the fate of neighboring troops and landings coming in around them. Wounded men on the beach were drowning in the incoming tide, and, out at sea, landing craft were being pounded and set ablaze.

German situation

As late as 13:35 the German 352nd division was reporting that the assault had been hurled back into the sea. From their vantage point at Pointe de la Percée, overlooking the whole beach from the western end, the German perception was that the assault had been stopped at the beach. An officer there noted that troops were seeking cover behind obstacles, and counted ten tanks burning. However, as early as 07:35, the third battalion 726th Grenadier Regiment, defending Draw F-1 on Fox Green beach, was reporting that 100–200 American troops had penetrated the front, with troops inside the wire at WN-62 and WN-61 attacking the Germans from the rear. Casualties among the defenders were mounting. While the 916th regiment, defending the center of the 352nd zone, was reporting that the landings had been frustrated, it was also requesting reinforcement. The request could not be met, because the situation elsewhere in Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 was becoming more urgent for the defenders. The reserve regiment, the 915th of the 352nd division, which had earlier been ordered against the American airborne landings
American airborne landings in Normandy
The American airborne landings in Normandy were the first United States combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944. Around 13,100 paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on...

 to the west of Omaha, was diverted to the Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

 zone east of Omaha, the defenses there having crumbled.

Breakthrough

The key geographical features that had influenced the landings also influenced the next phase of the battle: the draws, the natural exits off the beaches, were the main targets in the initial assault plan. However, the strongly concentrated defenses around these draws meant that the troops landing near them quickly wound up in no shape to carry a further assault. Only in the areas between the draws, at the bluffs, were units able to land in greater strength. Defenses were also weaker away from the draws, thus, most advances were made there.

The other key aspect of the next few hours was leadership. The original plan was in tatters, with so many units mis-landed, disorganized and scattered. Most commanders had fallen or were absent, and there were few ways to communicate, other than shouted commands. In places, small groups of men, sometimes scratched together from different companies, in some cases from different divisions, were "...inspired, encouraged or bullied..." out of the relative safety of the shingle, starting the grueling task of reducing the defenses atop the bluffs.

Assaulting the bluffs

Survivors of C company 2nd Rangers in the first wave landed on Dog Green around 06:45; by 07:30, they had scaled the cliffs near Dog White and the Vierville draw. They were joined later by a mis-landed section from B/116, and this group spent the better part of the day tying up and eventually taking WN-73, which defended draw D-1 at Vierville.

At 07:50, C/116 led the charge off of Dog White, between WN-68 and WN-70, by forcing gaps in the wire with a Bangalore torpedo
Bangalore torpedo
A Bangalore torpedo is an explosive charge placed on the end of a long, extendible tube. It is used by combat engineers to clear obstacles that would otherwise require them to approach directly, possibly under fire...

 and wire cutters. 20 minutes later, the 5th Rangers joined the advance, and blew more openings. The command party established themselves at the top of the bluff, and elements of G/116 and H/116 joined them, having earlier moved laterally along the beach, and now the narrow front had widened to the east. Before 09:00, small parties from F/116 and B/116 reached the crests just east of Dog White. The right flank of this penetration was covered by the survivors of the 2nd Rangers’ A and B companies, who had independently fought their way to the top between 08:00 and 08:30. They took WN-70 (already heavily damaged by naval shells), and joined the 5th Rangers for the move inland. By 09:00 more than 600 American troops, in groups ranging from company sized to just a few men, had reached the top of the bluff opposite Dog White and were advancing inland.

The 3rd battalion 116th RCT forced its way across the flats and up the bluff between WN-66 (which defended the D-3 draw at Les Moulins), and WN-65 (defending the E-1 draw). They advanced in small groups, supported by the heavy weapons of M/116, who were held at the base of the bluff. Progress was slowed by mines on the slopes of the bluff, but elements of all three rifle companies, as well as a stray section of G/116, had gained the top by 09:00, causing the defenders at WN-62 to mistakenly report that both WN-65 and WN-66 had been taken.

Between 07:30 and 08:30 elements of G/16, E/16, and E/116 came together and climbed the bluffs at Easy Red, between WN-64 (defending the E-1 draw) and WN-62 (the E-3 draw). At 09:05, German observers reported that WN-61 was lost, and that only one machine gun was still firing from WN-62. 150 men, mostly from G/16, having reached the top hampered more by minefields than by enemy fire, continued south to attack the WN-63 command post on the edge of Colleville. Meanwhile E/16, led by Second Lieutenant John M. Spalding
John M. Spalding
John M. Spalding was an officer in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division during World War II....

, turned westward along the top of the bluffs, engaging in a two hour battle for WN-64. His small group of just three men had effectively neutralized this point by mid-morning, taking 21 prisoners—just in time to prevent them from attacking freshly landing troops. On the beach below, the 16th RCT commander, Colonel George Taylor
George A. Taylor
George A. Taylor was an officer in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division during World War II. Graduate of the United States Military Academy, class of 1922.His famous quote from Omaha Beach:...

 had landed at 08:15. With the words "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die - now let's get the hell out of here!" he organized groups of men regardless of their unit, putting them under the command of the nearest non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 and sending them through the area opened up by G/16. By 09:30, the regimental command post was set up just below the bluff crest, and the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 16th RCT were being sent inland as they reached the crest.

On Fox Green, at the eastern end of Omaha, four sections of L/16 had survived their landing intact and were now leading elements of I/16, K/16 and E/116 up the slopes. With supporting fire from the heavy weapons of M/16, tanks and destroyers, this force eliminated WN-60, which defended the draw at F-1; by 09:00, the 3rd battalion 16th RCT was moving inland.

Naval support

The only artillery support for the troops making these tentative advances was from the navy. Finding targets difficult to spot, and in fear of hitting their own troops, the big guns of the battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s and cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s concentrated fire on the flanks of the beaches. The destroyers, however, were able to get in closer, and from 08:00 began engaging their own targets. At 09:50, two minutes after the destroyed a 75 mm gun position in WN-74, the destroyers were ordered to get as close in as possible. Some approached within 1,000 yards (900 m) several times, scraping bottom and risking running aground. An engineer who had landed in the first wave at Fox Red, watching the Frankford steaming in towards shore, thought she had been badly hit and was being beached. Instead, she turned parallel to the beach and cruised westwards, guns blazing at targets of opportunity. Thinking she would turn back out to sea, the engineer soon saw that she had instead begun backing up, guns still firing. At one point, gunners aboard the Frankford saw an immobilized tank at the water's edge, still firing. Watching the fall of its shot, they followed up with a salvo of their own. In this manner, the tank acted as the ship's fire control party for several minutes.

Pre-invasion naval bombardment

General Bradley reviewing Allied troops in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 training for D-Day, promised the soldiers that the Germans on the beach would be blasted with naval gunfire prior to the landing and that: “You men should consider yourself lucky. You are going to have ringside seats for the greatest show on earth (naval gunfire).”

Rear Admiral John L. Hall, (Commander Task Force 124, the "Omaha" Beach Assault Force), strongly disapproved of the amount of air and naval bombardment used. Hall was recorded saying “It's a crime to send me on the biggest amphibious attack in history with such inadequate naval gunfire support”

Later analysis of naval support during the pre-landing phase concluded that the navy had provided inadequate bombardment, given the size and extent of the planned assault. Kenneth P. Lord, a U.S. Army planner for the D-Day invasion, says that, upon hearing the naval gunfire support plan for Omaha Beach, which limited support to one battleship, two cruisers and six destroyers, he and other planners were very upset—especially in light of the tremendous naval gunfire support given to landings in the Pacific.

Historian Adrian R. Lewis postulates that American casualties would have been greatly reduced if a longer barrage had been implemented.

German defenses inland

While the coastal defenses had not turned back the invasion at the beach, they had broken up and weakened the assault formations struggling through them. The German emphasis on this Main Line of Resistance
Main Line of Resistance
Main Line of Resistance, or MLR is a military term describing the most important defensive position of an army facing an opposing force over an extended front...

 (MLR) meant that defenses further inland were significantly weaker, and based on small pockets of prepared positions smaller than company sized in strength. This tactic was enough to disrupt American advances inland, making it difficult even to reach the assembly areas, let alone achieve their D-Day objectives. As an example of the effectiveness of German defenses despite weakness in numbers, the 5th Ranger battalion was halted in its advance inland by a single machine gun position hidden in a hedgerow. One platoon
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

 attempted to outflank the position, only to run into another machine gun position to the left of the first. A second platoon dispatched to take this new position ran into a third, and attempts to deal with this met with fire from a fourth position. The success of the MLR in blocking the movement of heavy weapons off the beach meant that, after four hours, the Rangers were forced to give up on attempts to move them any further inland.

Beachhead

Despite penetrations inland, the key beach objectives had not been achieved. The draws necessary for the movement of vehicles off the beach had not been opened, and the strongpoints defending these were still putting up a spirited resistance. The failure to significantly clear the beach obstacles tended to force subsequent landings to concentrate in the Easy Green and Easy Red sectors.

Where vehicles were landing, they found only a narrow strip of beach with no shelter from enemy fire and around 08:30 the decision was taken to suspend all such landings. The closure of the beach to vehicles resulted in a jam of landing craft out to sea. The DUKW's had a particularly hard time of it in the rough conditions. The experiences of the 111th Field Artillery battalion of the 116th RCT are indicative of the general situation these craft faced. Of the 13 DUKW's being used to carry this unit in, five were swamped soon after disembarking from the LCT, four were lost as they circled in the rendezvous area waiting to land and one capsized as they turned for the beach. Two were destroyed by enemy fire as they approached the beach and the lone survivor managed to offload its howitzer to a passing craft before it also succumbed to the sea. This one gun eventually landed in the afternoon.
The official record of Omaha reports that "...the tanks were leading a hard life...". According to the commander of the 2nd battalion 116th RCT the tanks "...saved the day. They shot the hell out of the Germans, and got the hell shot out of them." As the morning progressed the beach defenses were gradually being reduced, often by tanks. Scattered along the length of the beach, trapped between the sea and the impassable shingle embankment and with no operating radios amongst the commanders, tanks had to be controlled individually. This was perilous work. The commanding officer of the 111th Field Artillery, who had landed ahead of his unit, was killed as he tried to direct the fire of one tank. The command group of the 741st tank battalion lost three out their group of five in their efforts. Additionally, the commander of the 743rd tank battalion became a casualty as he approached one of his tanks with orders. When naval gunfire was brought to bear against the strong-points defending the E-3 draw, a decision was made to try to force this exit with tanks. Colonel Taylor ordered all available tanks into action against this point at 11:00. Only three were able to reach the rallying point, and two were knocked out as they attempted to go up the draw, forcing the remaining tank to back off.

Reinforcement regiments were due to land by battalion, beginning with the 18th RCT at 09:30 on Easy Red. The first battalion to land, 2/18, arrived at the E-1 draw 30 minutes late after a difficult passage through the congestion off shore. Casualties were light, though. Despite the existence of a narrow channel through the beach obstacles, the ramps and mines there accounted for the loss 22 LCVPs, 2 LCI(L)s and 4 LCTs. Supported by tank and subsequent naval fire, the newly arrived troops took the surrender at 11:30 of the last strong-point defending the entrance to the E-1 draw. Although a usable exit was finally opened, congestion prevented an early exploitation inland. The three battalions of the 115th RCT, scheduled to land from 10:30 on Dog Red and Easy Green, came in together and on top of the 18th RCT landings at Easy Red. The confusion prevented the remaining two battalions of the 18th RCT from landing until 13:00, and delayed the move off the beach of all but 2/18, which had exited the beach further east before noon, until 14:00. Even then, this movement was hampered by mines and enemy positions still in action further up the draw.

By early afternoon, the strong-point guarding the D-1 draw at Vierville was silenced by the navy. But without enough force on the ground to mop up the remaining defenders, the exit could not be opened. Traffic was eventually able to use this route by nightfall, and the surviving tanks of the 743rd tank battalion spent the night near Vierville.

The advance of the 18th RCT cleared away the last remnants of the force defending the E-1 draw. When engineers cut a road up the western side of this draw, it became the main route inland off the beaches. With the congestion on the beaches thus relieved, they were re-opened for the landing of vehicles by 14:00. Further congestion on this route, caused by continued resistance just inland at St. Laurent, was bypassed with a new route, and at 17:00, the surviving tanks of the 741st tank battalion were ordered inland via the E-1 draw.

The F-1 draw, initially considered too steep for use, was also eventually opened when engineers laid down a new road. In the absence of any real progress opening the D-3 and E-3 draws, landing schedules were revised to take advantage of this route, and a company of tanks from the 745th tank battalion were able to reach the high ground by 20:00.

Approaches to the exits were also cleared, with minefields lifted and holes blown in the embankment to permit the passage of vehicles. As the tide receded, engineers were also able to resume their work of clearing the beach obstacles, and by the end of the evening, 13 gaps were opened and marked.

German reactions

Observing the build up of shipping off the beach, and in an attempt to contain what were regarded as minor penetrations at Omaha, a battalion was detached from the 915th regiment being deployed against the British to the east. Along with an anti-tank company, this force was attached to the 916th regiment and committed to a counter attack in the Colleville area in the early afternoon. It was stopped by "firm American resistance" and reported heavy losses. The strategic situation in Normandy precluded the reinforcement of the weakened 352nd division. The main threat was perceived by the Germans to be the British beachheads to the east of Omaha, and these received the most attention from the German mobile reserves in the immediate area of Normandy. Preparations were made to bring up units stationed for the defense of Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, southwest of Normandy, but these would not arrive quickly and would be subject to losses inflicted in transit by overwhelming Allied air superiority. The last reserve of the 352nd division, an engineer battalion, was attached to the 916th regiment in the evening. It was deployed to defend against the expected attempt to breakout of the Colleville-St. Laurent beachhead established on the 16th RCT front. At midnight General Dietrich Kraiss
Dietrich Kraiss
Dietrich Kraiss was a German Generalleutnant during World War II, awarded the German Cross in Gold and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.Kraiss was born in Stuttgart...

, commander of the 352nd division, reporting the total loss of men and equipment in the coastal positions, advised that he had sufficient forces to contain the Americans on D+1 but that he would need reinforcements thereafter, only to be told that there were no more reserves available.

End of the day

Following the penetrations inland, confused hard-fought individual actions pushed the foothold out barely a mile and a half (2.5 km) deep in the Colleville area to the east, less than that west of St. Laurent, and an isolated penetration in the Vierville area. Pockets of enemy resistance still fought on behind the American front line, and the whole beachhead remained under artillery fire. At 21:00 the landing of the 26th RCT completed the planned landing of infantry, but losses in equipment were high, including 26 artillery pieces, over 50 tanks, about 50 landing craft and 10 larger vessels. Of the 2,400 tons of supplies scheduled to be landed on D-Day, only 100 tons actually landed. Casualties for V Corps were estimated at 3,000 killed, wounded and missing. The heaviest casualties were taken by the infantry, tanks and engineers in the first landings. The 16th and 116th RCT's lost about 1,000 men each. Only five tanks of the 741st tank battalion were ready for action the next day. The German 352nd division suffered 1,200 killed, wounded and missing; about 20% of its strength. Its deployment at the beach caused such problems that Lieutenant General Omar Bradley
Omar Bradley
Omar Nelson Bradley was a senior U.S. Army field commander in North Africa and Europe during World War II, and a General of the Army in the United States Army...

, commander of the U.S. First Army, at one stage considered evacuating Omaha, while Field Marshal
Field Marshal (UK)
Field Marshal is the highest military rank of the British Army. It ranks immediately above the rank of General and is the Army equivalent of an Admiral of the Fleet and a Marshal of the Royal Air Force....

 Bernard Montgomery considered the possibility of diverting V Corps forces through Gold Beach
Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

.

Aftermath

The foothold gained on D-Day at Omaha Beach, itself two isolated pockets, was the most tenuous across all the D-Day beaches. With the original objective yet to be achieved, the priority for the allies was to link up all the Normandy beachheads. During the course of June 7, while still under random shellfire, the beach was prepared as a supply area. Surplus cargo ships were deliberately sunk to form an artificial breakwater and, while still less than planned, 1,429 tons of stores were landed that day.

With the beach assault phase completed the RCTs reorganized into infantry regiments and battalions and over the course of the next two days achieved the original D-Day objectives. On the 1st divisional front the 18th Infantry Regiment blocked an attempt by two companies from the 916th and 726th Grenadiers to break out of WN-63 and Colleville, both of which were subsequently taken by the 16th Infantry Regiment which also moved on Port-en-Bessin. The main advance was made by the 18th Infantry Regiment, with the 3rd battalion of the 26th Infantry Regiment attached, south and south eastwards. The heaviest opposition was encountered at Formigny where troops of the 2nd battalion 915th Grenadiers had reinforced the headquarters troops of 2nd battalion 916th Grenadiers. Attempts by 3/26 and B/18 with support from the tanks of B/745 were held off and the town did not fall until the morning of June 8. The threat of an armored counter attack kept the 18th Infantry Regiment on the defensive for the rest of June 8. The 26th Infantry Regiment's three battalions, having been attached to the 16th, 18th and 115th Regiments the previous day, spent June 8 reassembling before pushing eastwards, forcing the 1st battalion of the German 726th Grenadiers to spend the night extricating itself from the pocket thus forming between Bayeux
Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

 and Port-en-Bessin. By the morning of June 9 the 1st Division had established contact with the British XXX Corps, thus linking Omaha with Gold Beach.

On the 29th divisional front two battalions of the 116th Infantry Regiment cleared the last defenders from the bluffs while the remaining 116th battalion joined the Rangers in their move west along the coast. This force relieved the 2nd Ranger companies who were holding Pointe du Hoc on June 8 and subsequently forced the German 914th Grenadiers and the 439th Ost-Battalion to withdraw from the Grandcamp
Grandcamp-Maisy
Grandcamp-Maisy is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Geography:Grandcamp-Maisy is located on the coast, north east of Isigny-sur-Mer and west of Pointe du Hoc...

 area which lay further to the west. Early on June 7 WN-69 defending St. Laurent was abandoned and the 115th Infantry Regiment was therefore able to push inland to the south west, reaching the Formigny
Formigny
-External links:*...

 area on the June 7 and the original D-Day phase line
Phase line (cartography)
In cartography, a phase line is a line to show some positional dependency or relation to the passage of time, most often changing phases of a military operation, or changing borders in histogeographic maps.-Military usage:...

 the following day. The third regiment of 29th Division; the 175th, started landing on June 7. By the morning of June 9 this regiment had taken Isigny
Isigny-sur-Mer
Isigny-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-Geography:Positioned at the bottom of the baie des Veys, Isigny is an important milk production area, known for its AOC butter and cream, as well as its cheeses made by the Isigny Sainte...

 and on the evening of the following day forward patrols established contact with the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

, thus linking Omaha with Utah Beach.

In the meantime, the original defender at Omaha, the 352nd Division, was being steadily reduced. By the morning of June 9 the division was reported as having been "...reduced to 'small groups'..." while the 726th Grenadier Regiment had "...practically disappeared." By June 11 the effectiveness of the 352nd was regarded as "very slight", and by June 14 the German corps command was reporting the 352nd as completely used up and needing to be removed from the line.

Once the beachhead had been secured Omaha Beach became the location of one of the two Mulberry harbors
Mulberry harbour
A Mulberry harbour was a British type of temporary harbour developed in World War II to offload cargo on the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy....

, prefabricated artificial harbors towed in pieces across the English Channel and assembled just off shore. Construction of 'Mulberry A' at Omaha began the day after D-Day with the scuttling of ships to form a breakwater. By D+10 the harbor became operational when the first pier was completed; LST 342 docking and unloading 78 vehicles in 38 minutes. Three days later the worst storm to hit Normandy in 40 years began to blow, raging for three days and not abating until the night of June 22. The harbor was so completely wrecked that the decision was taken not to repair it; supplies being subsequently landed directly on the beach until fixed port facilities were captured. In the few days that the harbor was operational 11,000 troops, 2,000 vehicles and 9,000 tons of equipment and supplies were brought ashore. Over the 100 days following D-Day more than 1,000,000 tons of supplies, 100,000 vehicles and 600,000 men were landed, and 93,000 casualties were evacuated, via Omaha Beach.

Today at Omaha jagged remains of the harbor can be seen at low tide. The shingle bank is no longer there, cleared by engineers in the days following D-Day to facilitate the landing of supplies. The beachfront is more built up and the beach road extended, villages have grown and merged, but the geography of the beach remains as it was and the remains of the coastal defenses can still be visited. At the top of the bluff overlooking Omaha near Colleville
Colleville-sur-Mer
Colleville-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.The beach next to the coastal village was one of the principal beachheads during the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, designated Omaha beach....

 is the American cemetery.

See also

  • Heinrich Severloh
    Heinrich Severloh
    Heinrich Severloh was a soldier in the German 352nd Infantry Division, which was stationed in Normandy in 1944. He has been referred to as the “Beast of Omaha Beach” by the media of English speaking countries. He rose to notoriety as a gunner in a machine gun emplacement known as WN 62...

     also known as 'The Beast of Omaha Beach'

Further reading

  • Omaha Beachhead, a reprint of a 1945 Historical survey by the United States Army Center of Military History

External links

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