June 6, 1944 , D-Day
D-Day at Normandy, June 6, 1944
By 1943, the Germans had overrun most of Europe, imposing their hateful philosophy on much of humanity. The armies of the democracies were either crushed or barely hanging on to survival. The Russians were fighting valiantly against Hitler’s troops but were seriously out-matched by superior German weapons. They were losing men by the hundreds of thousands. If Russia fell, then England would be standing alone against one of the truly evil men in history. The Russians needed to have German troops diverted from the Russian front and Stalin begged, demanded, implored for the western allies to open another front in France.
On December 7, 1941, Japan made the most critical blunder of the Second World War; they picked a fight with the United States of America. Hitler had signed an agreement with the Japanese and when the United Sates declared war on Japan, Hitler was forced to declare war against the Americans. Now, the fight was really on!
America’s entry into the War brought an abundance of resources, ingenuity and man power the likes of which the world had never seen. At the start of the War, the United States was considered the 12th ranked army in the world but within nine months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States industrial machine produced more war ships than had been produced in all of modern history. Armadas of airplanes were built each month and millions of small and heavy arms poured out of American factories built mostly by the women whose sons, husbands, and fathers would use them in battle. Hundreds of tanks a month rolled off of assembly lines and more then fifteen million men and women joined the armed services fully intent on using all that equipment against those who had dare make war on a free people.
By mid 1944, trillions of tons of material along with two million men had been moved to England and were preparing to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
The Americans, working side by side with their English, Canadian, Polish, Dutch and Australian allies, assiduously attended to every detail in order to guarantee their success when the invasion would finally come.
The English people warmly opened their hearts and homes to the Americans but soon, English soldiers were becoming jealous of the American men who so easily seduced the young women of England. The Americans were brash and dashing and said one English girl, “They were all so handsome and confident”. “It was as though we were invaded by millions of wonderful looking movie stars.” “How could we resist them?” The English soldiers said the trouble with the Americans was that they were overpaid, overfed and over here. The Americans answered them by saying the English soldier was under fed, under paid and under Eisenhower.
The day of invasion came June 6, 1944. More then 150,000 men and women, over 5000 ships and close to 12,000 planes would now be hurled at the Germans on the beaches of France.
The Allies would not cross at Calais but instead would follow the path taken by William the Conqueror a thousand years before and land a little further south along the French coast of Normandy. The beaches were divided into five sections named Gold, Sword, and Juno which were assigned to the English and Canadians. The Americans would take the harder, more heavily defended beaches of Omaha and Utah.
The Germans had been in France for three years, preparing for the invasion and were under the command of the competent General Rommel. They knew the Allies were coming. They were dug in and waiting for the Allied invasion. They wanted the Allies to try an invasion. They were ready! They were veterans of the Eastern front; they knew what war was. They were burrowed in to their concrete fortifications. Every gun was placed to cover the beaches and leave no spot were heavy and light arms would miss their targets. Barbed wire was strewn everywhere along with steel re-enforced tank obstacles and land mines by the tens of thousands carpeted the beaches. Enough concrete had been used by the Germans to have built thirty Hoover Dams. Hitler called it his Atlantic Wall.
Hitler said that his troops would annihilate those Americans. He bet that his Hitler Youth, trained to follow orders under all circumstances, would maul the free thinking, undisciplined children of the democracies. He said the Americans were weak, soft and spoiled and no match for his hard trained soldiers who were raised in accordance with his own totalitarian system of complete obedience and subservience.
The Troops landed at 0600 hours, 6th June 1944. The Liberation of Europe had commenced.
The Wall held back the British for about an hour, the Canadians for about 20 minutes and the Americans at Utah for about two hours. The Atlantic Wall was a joke! That is everywhere but for the Americans assaulting Omaha. As soon as the gates of the landing craft fell, the Germans on the hill began firing and Americans began dying in wholesale numbers. Yet on they charged. “Loading and firing back with a demoniacal fury”, said one man. Men were shot and spun around like tops by the impact of the bullets. Heads, arms and backpacks flew into the clear air from the German shells that were landing everywhere on the beach. The German defenders were pouring a terrible fire down upon the Americans. “We couldn’t help but hit them with every shot”, said one German. Soldiers began sliding and slipping on the muddy beach caused by the blood and insides of their fallen comrades. Human body parts lay everywhere. The incoming German shells destroyed entire units. Men prayed out loud, cried out loud and died on the beaches of a foreign county. They fell like when snow lands on warm ground; they simple were no more. Yet through the smoke and bursting enemy shells, through the screams of their wounded comrades, through the confusion and indistinguishable orders of commanding officers, through this universe of man made hell came the American infantry fighting viciously for every step forward and for every step closer to the Germans who held the high ground. The Germans soon found out that this was a different kind of army. This was an army out to make other men free. This was an army that would not turn and run.
The Navy saw what was happening and some brave American naval commanders moved their ships so close to the shore that the bottoms scrapped along the ocean floor. They turned their ships sideways, parallel to the beach and ordered their own big guns to start firing back at the German batteries that were slaughtering the American infantry on the beach. Several large naval guns fired off at once and their great shells blasted into the German defenses. Some sailors manning the guns on the ships got into one on one duels with the German artillery and exchange after exchange ensued. In his excitement, one naval gunner started crying, laughing and screaming back at the Germans, tears flowing from his eyes all the while firing his gun at the beach until the barrel actually began to glow red from the heat. “Come on you Nazi, son-of-a-bitches, come on!” The roaring thunder from the massive guns and booming explosions from the crashing shells shook the ground.
Watching through his long range glasses, the Captain of the ship began yelling, ”That’s it boys, that’s it." "God damn it, they’re moving up that hill over on the left." “Can ya see em?" "Take that damn hill!" "Take it you guys!”
Slowly, tediously and at great cost, the Americans began inching their way up the slopes. After six hours, the first Americans reached the top of the crest. Then the fighting turned to hand-to-hand and the Americans fought like maddened demons and threw themselves on the German defenders with a viciousness. The Germans fought back, broke…then ran. The beach had been taken!
It was sheer courage and the basic survival instincts on the part of individuals that prevailed that day and it was small groups of men who saved the day. Colonel Taylor, the commander of the US 16th Infantry Regiment is reported to have said: 'Two kinds of men are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die - now let's get the hell out of here.” By early afternoon, more tanks had been landed on the beach but the exits were still only open to men on foot who had to pick their way through the extensive minefields in single file. By nightfall the US 1st Infantry Division had gained a tenuous hold on the road that ran inland behind the beach and vehicles were starting to move through the exits.
The fact that the Big Red One (the nickname for the US 1st Infantry Division) was not defeated is a testament to the great bravery of American troops who fought that day in Normandy. Hitler was wrong. The children of democracy were not weak and soft. They were brave, determined, steadfast and would not be denied that day. They had grown up in a society that taught them to be confident and independent and they were not about to allow anyone to change their world.
Later that evening, looking down from the high ground so desperately defended and so desperately fought for, beneath darkening, cloudy skies, one could see thousands of Allied ships unloading hundreds of jeeps, tanks and armored vehicles. Thousands of men poured onto the beach and the American flag flew above it all.
There was victory for the American army that day but at great cost. Thousands of the dead still lay stretched along the beach while some bodies floated silently face down in the water, bobbing up and down to the motion of the incoming tide. Pictures of loved ones which some soldiers had been clutching in their hands either floated at the sides of the dead or were lifted upward by the breeze then drifted downward again to rest on the, blood soaked sand. Wounded men limped about or rested on the beach waiting for medical attention while other soldiers just walked around in a daze like nature contemplating the days mighty struggle; tears in their eyes. Night was falling and they had experienced the devil’s own day but when it ended, it was an American day. One American soldier looking at the beach where his unit landed said “I don’t know what other men did this day but every man from my unit who died on this beach today died facing Germany.” “We stood our ground and never ran.” "The Germans tried but they couldn't make us run."
Ernie Pyle, a famous newsman for the Stars and Stripes Newspaper, walked along the beach with a companion surveying the carnage. “It was a miracle they ever took this beach,” he said. A soldier who had fought all day on the beach was passing by and heard the comment. “Hey buddy”, he said. “That wasn’t any miracle.” “That was the God dammed, American Infantry that took this beach.”
From that day on Hitler and his lunatic sidekicks were finished. Nine months later, the American Army marched down the streets of Paris. Months later…Hitler killed himself.
By, Robert A. Guisepi, “A Time of Glory” May, 2002