“A Flawed Victory”
By: Eric Papesh
I. Omaha Beach: An Introduction
II. The Strategy for D-Day
III. D-Day: The Battle Begins
IV. Unexpected Opposition
V. The Battle for the Beach
VI. The End Result
Omaha Beach: An Introduction
Of the five beach assault landings that occurred on June 6, 1944, D-day, on the beaches of Normandy, Omaha Beach was the only one that was ever in doubt. Just minutes after the first U.S. beach landing over 1/3 of the troops assaulting the beach in the first wave were wiped out by German gun fire. The beach, termed “Bloody Omaha”, was considered the most difficult to take because of its rough coastal terrain and the unexpected resistance by top-rate German divisions and inadequate fire support from the allies. However, over the course of the day the American forces were able to breach the Atlantic wall and gain a foothold along the French coast.
While we were visiting Normandy, I was able to walk along Omaha Beach and see for myself what the battlefield looked like, though much has changed in the last 65 years. Just trying to imagine what the assault must have been like for any soldier who had to move along the beach under heavy German fire and no supporting fire is unthinkable in my mind. The shear casualty rates that were described on memorials around the beaches really put into perspective the violence that occurred on those beaches in the course of only a day of fighting.
This is a picture of Omaha Beach from the Normandy American Cemetery located just off the coast. The hillside clefts down into a steep Cliffside covered with trees and rocks. My own personal experience, the climb down and back up was difficult without anyone shooting; the men who made that climb were true soldiers. The Strategy for D-Day
The plans for D-day came about long before the assaults even took place. An attack on the “Fortress Europe” was planned in early 1942 after the failure of the Dieppe raid earlier that year. The D-day plan “Operation Overlord” began to take shape in 1943 after the allied forces came to realize the importance of an amphibious attack strategy on the French coastline. The initial planning phase was an argument between Winston Churchill wartime leader for Great Britain and the United States military commanders. The Americans argued for a direct assault on Germany, while Churchill wanted to attack Italy and move up into Germany. The major disagreement dealt with two water to land attacks, Operation Neptune and operation Anvil, the first in northwestern France and the other on the Mediterranean Coast. The British opposed the second as it would drain their forces from the Italian borders at the time. This meant that the majority of the forces that would take part in the attacks would be American soldiers; this would make them the leader in the Allied coalition.
One of the problems that the allies would come across when planning the D-day attacks was the increased German fortifications along the French Coastline. The British planners began to develop an artificial harbor that would provide a base for the leaders to strategize until some other ports were captured during the attacks. The first completed draft of Operation Overlord was approved by the Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff in August 1943. The initial plan proposed that Operation Neptune would take place in May 1944 closely followed by Operation Anvil, which would shift all amphibious forces across the English Channel to the Mediterranean.
Operation Overlord itself consisted of four main phases. The First, Operation Pointblank, had already been put into action. Its main purpose was to gain superiority in the skies over the future battlefield, by destroying any resistance from the German Luftwaffe, mainly airfields, production factories and fuel depots in the surrounding vicinity. This would also deceive the Germans as to where the American forces would be...