"Omaha" was the code
name for the second beach
from the right of the five
landing areas of the
Normandy Invasion. It
was 6 miles (10 kilometres) long.The largest of the
assault areas. Between
Port-en-Bessin on the east and the mouth of the Vire River on the west.
The western third of the beach was backed by a 10-foot- (3-metre-)
high seawall, and the whole beach was overlooked by cliffs 100 feet
high. There were five exits from the sand and shingle beach; the best
was a paved road in a ravine leading to the village of Vierville-sur-Mer,
two were only dirt paths, and two were dirt roads leading to the villages
of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and Colleville-sur-Mer.
The Germans under Field Marshal Erwin
Rommel had built formidable defenses to
protect this enclosed battlefield. The waters
and beach were heavily mined, and there
were 12 strong points called
Widerstandsnester ("resistance nests").
Supported by an extensive trerench system.
Numerous other fighting positions dotted the
Area. The defending forces consisted of
three battalions of the veteran 352nd Infantry
Division. Their weapons were fixed to cover the beach with grazing
enfilade fire as well as plunging fire from the cliffs. Omaha was a killing
Omaha Beach was part of the invasion area assigned to the U.S. 1st
Army, under Lieutenant General Omar Bradley. The assault sectors at
Omaha were code-named (from west to east) Charlie, Dog (consisting
of Green, White, and Red sections), Fox (Green and Red sections),
and Easy (Green and Red sections). The beach was to be assaulted at
0630 hours (6:30 A.M.) by the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, with the 116th Regiment
of the 29th Division attached for D-Day only. Omaha was wide enough
to land two regiments side by side with armour in front, and so the 116th
Regiment was to land at Dog (Green, White, and Red) and Easy Green,
while the 16th Regiment, 1st Division, was to land at Easy Red and Fox
Green. Smoke streams from a landing craft hit by machine-gun fire as it approaches
Omaha Beach, D-DayU.S. Coast Guard/National Archives
The objectives of the 1st Division were ambitious. First, it was to
capture the villages of Vierville, Saint-Laurent, and Colleville; then it was
to push through and cut the Bayeux-Isigny road, and then it was to
attack south toward Trévières and west toward the Pointe du Hoc.
Elements of the 16th Regiment were to link up at Port-en-Bessin with
British units from Gold Beach to the east.
A member of the 16th Infantry Regiment kicks through the water in the first
assault wave, Easy Red sector
© Robert Capa/Magnum Photos
From the beginning everything went wrong at Omaha. Special "DD"
tanks (amphibious Sherman tanks fitted with flotation screens) that were
supposed to support the 116th Regiment sank in the choppy waters of
the Channel. Only 2 of the 29 launched made it to the beach. With the
exception of Company A, no unit of the 116th landed where it was
planned. Strong winds and tidal currents carried the landing craft from
right to left. The 16th Regiment on the east half of the beach fared little
better, landing in a state of confusion with units badly intermingled.
Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment seek shelter from German machine-gun fire in
shallow water behind "Czech hedgehog" beach obstacles, Easy Red sector
© Robert Capa/Magnum Photos
Throughout the landing, German gunners poured deadly fire into the
ranks of the invading Americans. Bodies lay on the beach or floated in
the water. Men sought refuge behind beach obstacles, pondering the
deadly sprint across the beach to the seawall, which offered some safety
at the base of the cliff. Destroyed craft and vehicles littered the water's
edge and beach, and at 0830 hours (8:30 A.M.) all landing ceased at Omaha.
The troops on the beach were left on their own and realized that the exits
were not the way off. Slowly, and in small groups, they scaled the cliffs.
Meanwhile, navy destroyers steamed in and, scraping their bottoms in
the shallow water, blasted the German fortifications at point-blank
range. By 1200 hours (12:00 noon) German fire was noticeably decreased as the
defensive positions were taken from the rear. Then one by one the exits
By nightfall the 1st and 29th divisions held
positions around Vierville, Saint-Laurent, and
Colleville—nowhere near the planned
objectives, but they had a toe-hold. The
Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at
Omaha on June 6, but by the end of the day
they had landed 34,000 troops. The German
352nd Division lost 20 percent of its strength,
with 1,200 casualties, but it had no reserves
coming to continue the fight.
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