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Wed Jun 5, 2019, 07:41 PM

First Wave at Omaha Beach

An account of the “epic human tragedy” that unfolded when Allied troops landed on the shores of Normandy on D-Day

S. L. A. Marshall
November 1960 Issue

Unlike what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.

This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.

How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.

This happened because the Army historians who wrote the first official book about Omaha Beach, basing it on the field notes, did a calculated job of sifting and weighting the material. So saying does not imply that their judgment was wrong. Normandy was an American victory; it was their duty to trace the twists and turns of fortune by which success was won. But to follow that rule slights the story of Omaha as an epic human tragedy which in the early hours bordered on total disaster. On this two-division front landing, only six rifle companies were relatively effective as units. They did better than others mainly because they had the luck to touch down on a less deadly section of the beach. Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could start to fight. Several contributed not a man or bullet to the battle for the high ground. But their ordeal has gone unmarked because its detail was largely ignored by history in the first place. The worst-fated companies were overlooked, the more wretched personal experiences were toned down, and disproportionate attention was paid to the little element of courageous success in a situation which was largely characterized by tragic failure.


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Reply First Wave at Omaha Beach (Original post)
turbinetree Jun 5 OP
MaryMagdaline Jun 5 #1
Duppers Jun 6 #2
GulfCoast66 Jun 6 #3
Achilleaze Jun 6 #5
onethatcares Jun 6 #4

Response to turbinetree (Original post)

Wed Jun 5, 2019, 08:04 PM

1. Painful. Thank you posting the truth. It was a slaughterhouse

More remarkable because of the slaughter

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Response to turbinetree (Original post)

Thu Jun 6, 2019, 04:31 PM

2. My dad came in the 2nd wave.

He spoke little about it, except to say when he had gotten a bit inland he found and stole a German jeep but had to remove bodies. I break down trying to watch film clips and movies portraying that fateful day.

The D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia is a most moving sight.


Yes, I cried.

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Response to turbinetree (Original post)

Thu Jun 6, 2019, 04:42 PM

3. I was a frontal assault against a defended position.

The beach had to be taken to prevent the right flank at Utah from being contained. Visiting the cemetery and museum at Omaha beach was one of the most emotional visits of my life.

But I guess it was no worse than the corn field at Antietam, still the bloodiest day in American military history. Nor many battles fought by our soldiers and marines in WW1.

I so hope we never have to send young Americans off to die wholesale like that again. Killing on that scale boggles my mind.

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Response to GulfCoast66 (Reply #3)

Thu Jun 6, 2019, 06:29 PM

5. I walked fields at Antietam, Gettysburg, and other sites

It's always profoundly moving. That's one of the reasons I get so angry when the republicans and their Draft-Dodger-in-Chief show such profound disrespect for our POWs, Navy, Marines, Gold Star Families, and veterans.

If the republicans cannot muster enough honor and courage to stand up and defend those who served, then they do not deserve to hold elected office in the USA.

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Response to turbinetree (Original post)

Thu Jun 6, 2019, 05:50 PM

4. there was no turning back

once the landing craft hit the beach it was either into the maw or drown.

Not much of a choice.

I believe the repukes and their enablers have waited until the men that did this are dieing off. They, the pukes, spout the great words of the Constitution but don't really believe in it.

These same men had faced a depression and loss of hope prior to going into the hell of war. They already knew what it was like to die.

I salute them.

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