By Aaron Tansey
During World War II, an Allied invasion of western Europe, was launched on June 6, 1944. It involved the landing of U.S., British, and Canadian forces on five separate beachheads in Normandy, France. By the end of August 1944 all of northern France was free, and the invading forces were on the move to get into Germany, where they would meet with Soviet forces advancing from the east to bring an end to the Nazi Reich.
June 1944 was a turning point in World War 2, especially in Europe. At the Teheran conference in Nov 1943 it was decided to open another front against the Germans in 1944. The battle began months before the invasion, when Allied bombers began to bomb the Normandy coast to destroy transportation links, and disrupt the German army. The planning which went on before the invasion and some mistakes by Germans meant it would be a success.
Allied equipment was top of the range and supplies there were plenty of Tanks were invented including new types that could move through sand and water. Two artificial harbours called Mulberries were carried across the channel. Under-ocean lines carried oil supplies to the attacking armies while ten thousand air crafts supported the invading fleet. Deception plans encouraged the Germans to think that the attack would come in the Pas de Calais region rather than Normandy They also though the weather would prevent the attack. The French rail and road system was badly damaged by allied bombing.
By dawn on June 6, eighteen thousand British and American parachutists were on the ground in Normandy taking over important bridges and disrupting German communications lines. At 06:30 early that morning the first troops landed at Utah beach with troops and tanks that could float on water. About an hour later at about 07:30 the British soldiers first started to land at ‘Gold’ and ‘Sword’ beaches and not far from behind them were two 2,400 Canadians supported by 76 floating tanks
Omaha beach was the code name for the beach second from the right of five landing areas of the Normandy invasion. This was the biggest assault area. It was over 6 miles between Port-en-bessin on the east and the mouth of the River Vire on the west. The western part of the beach had a 3 metre high seawall and the whole beach was looked over by one hundred foot high cliffs. There where about five exits from the beach. The best paved road was in a gap that lead to the village of Vierville-sur-mer. Two were only dirt paths leading to the villages of Colleville-sur-mer and Saint-laurent-sur-mer.
The Germans under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had built formidable defences to protect this battlefield. The beaches were like minefields and even the water was heavily mined.There were twelve strong points called ‘widerstandsnester which means resistance nests and numerous other fighting positions covered the area supported by an extensive trench system. The defending forces consisted of three battalions of the veteran 352nd infantry divisions. The weapons used were fixed to cover the beach with crossing fire turning Omaha into a killing zone.
Omaha was part of the invasion area assigned to the U.S first army, lead by lieutenant General Omar Bradley. The beach was going to be attached at 06:30 hours by the U.S first infantry division.The objectives of the first division were huge. First of all it was to capture the villages of Vierville, Saint-Laurent and Colleville. Then it was to continue on and cut the Bayeux-isigny road, and then it was to attack south towards Trevieres and west towards the Pointe du hoc. paets of the part of the 16th regiment were to link up at Port-en Bessin with British units from Gold Beach to the east.
At the beginning not much went right at Omaha. Special “DD” tanks (ambitious floating tanks) that were suppose to support the 116th regiment sank in the choppy sea.Only 2 of 29 launched landed on the beach. With the exception of company A, no unit of the 116th regiment landed where it was planned. Bad weather, strong winds and tidal currents carried the landing craft right to left. The 16th regiment on the east half of the beach fared little better, landed in a state of confusion with units badly mixed up.