The year was 1944, and the United States had now been an active participant in the war against Nazi Germany for almost three and a half years. During this time, numerous battles had occurred which were fought with determination and intensity on both sides. Amongst the many invasions of World War II, there is one day which stands out more in the minds of many American soldiers than the others. That day was June 6, 1944, more commonly known as D Day, part of the invasion of Normandy, known as "Operation Overlord." This operation was the largest amphibious assault in history. It was a day in which thousands of young Americans, who poured onto the beaches of France, matured faster than they would have ever imagined. They were not prepared for the chaos and torment that awaited them on their beach arrivals. The attacks on the Utah and Omaha beaches were strategically made, and carried out in careful preciseness. The Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France began on June 6, 1944, and the American assault on the Utah and Omaha on this day played a critical role in the overall success of the Normandy operation.
An extensive plan was established for the American attack on Utah and Omaha Beaches, in addition to all of the other Normandy beaches. (See Appendix A) The plan was so in-depth and complex, its descriptions detailed the exact arrivals of troops, armour, and other equipment needed for the invasion, and where exactly on the beach they were to land.1
Before the landings were to begin, the coastal German defences had to be broken down by a combination of a massive battering by United States Naval ships, and by bombing from the United States Air Force. Between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on the morning of June 6, over 1,000 aircraft dropped more than 5,000 tons of bombs on the German coastal defences. As soon as the preliminary bombing was over, the American and British naval guns opened fire on the Normandy coastline.2 A British naval officer described the incredible spectacle he witnessed that day: "Never has any coast suffered what a tortured strip of French coast suffered that morning."3 Along the fifty-mile front the land was shaken by successive explosions as the shells from the ships' guns tore holes in fortifications and tons of bombs poured down on them from the skies. Through smoke and falling debris German defenders crouching in their trenches would soon faintly see the hundreds of ships and assault craft closing in on the shore.
There were initial problems with the invasion. Numerous American bombers missed their targets up to as much as five miles inland due to the thick cloud cover. Rockets which were fired from offshore destroyers landed short killing thousands of fish, but not any Germans. Artillery from American battleships crashed against the tops of the bluffs of Omaha, and sailed into the adjacent towns, but not did not successfully accomplish their goals of destroying targets on the beachhead such as enemy artillery and machine gun positions.4
Contrary to Omaha, Utah Beach was less strengthened against an attack. Erwin Rommel was the commander of the German forces in northern France and he predicted an Allied invasion in another part of the region. Subsequently, the Utah beach was not as well equipped as that of Omaha. The Germans had not been able to fully construct defensive barriers by the time of the invasion and also had not completely laid the number of land mines Rommel had in mind. Aiding to the Allied success at Utah were the underwater demolition teams who were able to knock off many of the coastal defences awaiting the Americans. As American soldiers moved toward Utah Beach in their conveyances, the pounding the beachhead fortifications had taken from US naval artillery and rockets was clearly evident. Large gun stations, machine gun posts, and infantry positions were among many of the targets weakened or destroyed. The artillery not only aided the soon to be arriving troops in that...
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