The Germans without machine guns were eager to participate in the
turkey shoot. Many Germans climbed down closer to the beach and
picked off the men who had reached the sea wall at close range
Others formed sniper nests to pick off the few men who made it past
the beach and were attempting to climb the steep hills.
Very few Americans had the pleasure of shooting back. Private First
Class Nelson Noyes was the rare exception. Staggering under the
weight of his bazooka, he was forced to crawl forward. The bazooka
turned out to be a friend; several bullets bounced off the weapon as
Noyes staggered onward. Noyes made it one hundred yards inland and
then collapsed from exhaustion.
After gathering his strength, Noyes got back up and lurched
forward. This time he was hit by small arms fire in the leg. As he
lay on the sand, Noyes saw the two Germans who had fired on him
peering down from above to see if he was still alive. He was
annoyed by their seeming disregard for their own safety. Why should
they worry? No one had shot at them at day.
Placing the bazooka between himself and the Germans for protection,
Noyes was able to free up his other weapon. He propped himself on
his elbows and fired his Tommy gun at them. He brought
down both Germans
on the spot.
Noyes was one of very few who were able to fight back. Many were
too wounded to mount a counter-attack. Those who weren’t hurt too
badly were either pinned down by machine gun fire or too paralyzed
with fear to look up. They were just sitting there shaking like
scared children. Many men did not even bother to clean their
water-soaked weapons. Now their guns
probably didn't even work. Had the Germans begun hand to hand combat,
these pinned-down men were
As the bleeding bodies piled up one on the top of the other, the
carnage was difficult for the living to bear. As they buried their
faces in the sand, many men wept openly in fear and in pain.
Frequently as they lay there sobbing, someone's arm or leg or blood
spatter would land on top of them. No one was safe. A man two feet
away might be shot or a dead body would be ripped to pieces by a
mortar shell hit, spraying blood and body parts in the air. The
sea was red, the sand was red, even the air seemed red.
This was Bloody Omaha.
One of the saddest elements of the day was the
complete lack of protection for the men. There was nowhere
safe to hide on the beach. Why not?
aerial bombardment sent
in far ahead of the armada to take out the huge gun emplacements
was ineffective. Rommel had protected his
defenses too well. Hidden deep in thick steel-reinforced
bunkers, even a direct hit could be withstood.
The secondary benefit
of the bombardment was to create instant foxholes on the beach to
use as cover.
No such luck here either. The bombs dropped from the air were supposed to
create holes in the beach for protection. Thanks to the
stormy weather, the bombs were dropped blindly. They all missed
their target. There wasn't a
single hole created on the entire beach.
People have asked why
Allies roll out tanks
and armored vehicles first instead of
releasing waves of vulnerable human targets from their LSTs,
many of whom were killed immediately. Good question.
They did try, but they failed miserably.
It was never part of
the plan to send the assault forces in without cover.
After the bombing
campaign, the next part of the
plan was to send in the tanks.
tanks would not only
fire on German positions, they would serve as
a perfect armored
shield against even the heaviest spray of machine gun fire.
Even if the Germans disabled every single tank the Allies put on the
beach, these massive steel structures would still provide precious
cover. This would help the men disembark from their landing boats and gather
behind these steel barriers on the beach for safety before making a charge.
part of the plan failed miserably.
There were 64 amphibious tanks that were
supposed to land on the beach ahead of the men. The plan was for
these DD (Duplex Drive) tanks to be launched two or three
miles offshore. From there the floating tanks were supposed to
“swim” their way up to the beach.
The big question, however,
was how well these weird amphibious tanks would perform in the rough
seas. No one knew for sure, but there was a lot of
Previously these tanks had been tested in calm waters, but never in
the kind of stormy seas they encountered today at Omaha Beach.
Could these tanks function in these rough conditions?
It didn't take long to find out. Sad
to say, but these floating tanks became immediate casualties thanks to Eisenhower's
risky decision to attack in bad weather. Just three days
earlier, gale force winds had churned the waters into a frenzy.
This was said to be the worst June weather the always uncertain
English Channel had seen in the past twenty years.
That is not to
criticize Eisenhower, mind you. As they say, you have to play
the hand that's dealt you. The next window of opportunity
based on the tides was more than two weeks away. Reports
showed there was no significant build-up in the Normandy defenses at
this moment. The fear that the Nazis would learn the secret of the
landing location was nerve-wracking to say the least. The
thought of delaying the attack and giving the frantic German spies
more time was a chance no one wanted to take.
After it was over, many say Eisenhower's decision
to attack despite the weather was actually very effective because the Germans
were definitely caught off guard. They never expected
the attack to come in weather this bad!
However, the decision to attack in bad weather
came with a price. Without those tanks for cover, many of the
landing parties were sitting ducks. At Omaha Beach almost all
members of one 197 man company were killed or wounded within ten
minutes of landing on the beach. The first wave of assault troops
went to shore on landing crafts at 6:30 am. By nine am, the
water was crammed thick with floating human bodies.
What went wrong? 32 amphibious tanks had been allotted for the assault on Omaha with the other 32 kept in
reserve. The landing barges carrying the tanks
managed to reach their
position, the ramps were dropped and the 32 tanks were launched into
the heaving swells whipped up by the recent storms.
Everyone held their breath.
These weird-looking amphibious vehicles were supported in the water
by great balloon-like canvas water wings. Instantly tragedy overtook
the men guiding the tanks to shore. Under the pounding of the
heavy waves, the canvas water wings ripped, supports broke, and the
engines were flooded.
floating tank initiative was a total
unmitigated disaster. One after another, 27 tanks foundered and
sank. They never came close to the beach.
Three other tanks had the good fortune of never getting off the
landing barge because the ramp jammed.
it turned out,
only two tanks actually functioned properly and made it to shore.
Back on the ship, the officers in charge saw the calamity and wisely
decided not to send the remaining 32 tanks in at all. Long after they were needed, these tanks were dropped on shore.
It was the
right decision for the tanks, but it also meant the fighting men would be left
completely out in the open.
Only 2 tanks out of 64 made it to shore ...
that's the reason the men had no cover. The
failure to get proper protection was calamitous.
Now the men were doomed. The moment the
ramps opened, the men were met by a murderous hail of bullets with
nowhere to hide.
First the bombing campaign had failed, now the tank tactic failed as well.
How were these men supposed
to cross 300 yards of beach without protection? Totally defenseless,
one man after another was ripped to ribbons by murderous German crossfire from the
Amazingly, a few men did survive the onslaught.
but surely, one inch at a time,
the men crawled
their way onto Bloody Omaha Beach.
Unfortunately, these men didn't have much fight
left in them. They just huddled at the wall in shock.
the sea, the beach presented an incredible picture of waste and
destruction. Dead bodies laid everywhere.
The gruesome failure of the attack was horrifying to
the onlookers out on the ships.
The situation was so critical that General Omar Bradley aboard the
Augusta began to contemplate the possible
evacuation of this troops. The defenses at Omaha were so daunting
that the attack had turned into a suicide mission.
Perhaps he should divert the men over to Utah Beach
or the British
beaches where the fighting didn’t seem quite as ferocious. The only
reason Bradley hesitated was retreat would be very difficult. He
feared that many more men would die in the retreat.
For better or worse, they were trapped on that beach.
They had two choices - stay there and die for sure or move forward
and probably die. Which would it be?