Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

more of the same

Option 2:

My choice on the bucket list is Normandy, France; to be specific, I choose Omaha Beach, one of the beaches where the Allies landed on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

For various reasons, I chose this site.  First of all, my father-in-law, now deceased, landed in the seventeenth wave of the invasion there.  Secondly, of all five invasion beaches, that one was the bloodiest.  Thirdly, being that I'm of Jewish descent, and because family members of ancestors, teachers and friends were slain by the Nazi regime, I view this event as a turning point in the history of Europe.

Let us first look at the maps used by the US Army forces landing there:

This was produced to give the soldiers an idea of the terrain ahead of them, as well as to give them the best intelligence possible of the positions that they expected the enemy forces to hold.

Some photographs of the invasion follow:

It's not hard to see how difficult the terrain would be to attack.  There's a long open beach with little cover and beyond the smoke lies a headland from which the Germans could perform plunging fire on the men and equipment approaching.  Although I don't know this for certain, I suspect that the smoke is due to the naval bombardment in advance of the arrival of the landing craft wave.

Furthermore, we have this photo:

I don't think that the reason this shot is poorly focused is because of bad camera work, but because the platoon was under fire from the defending forces.  In the left upper corner you can see one of the defensive emplacements, an X-shaped sharpened steel construction intended to impale boats and landing craft.  I think in the distance in the upper right you can see a wrecked landing craft.

Here's a bit more:

Once actually ashore, and past the barbed wire that can be seen in the foreground of the photograph, the surviving soldiers had to race uphill into enemy fire to drive the Wehrmacht troops out of their positions, and throw them back so that further waves of men and equipment could land on the beach.  The casualty rate for the first several waves was very high, high enough that General Eisenhower considered the possibility of pulling them back to the ships, but in the end men of the landing force were able to clear the heights of their tormentors and move inland.

There are memorials in the area, and tour groups that go there often.  One such tour group offered this map of the region on their website:

Utah and Omaha beaches were American landing sites, while Gold, Juno and Sword were British and Canadian.  As it turned out, the British forces were stymied by Caen, but in time the US Army broke out at Saint Lo, taking Cherbourg and starting the race to Paris, and thereby leading to the fall of the Germans.  This was a major change in the course of history, and colored the rest of the Twentieth Century.

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