By Doc Vega
Let us not forget the bravery and losses that it took to defend freedom.
Our society today seems pre-occupied with frivolous things that fail to acknowledge the more grim aspects of sacrifice. The sacrifice I speak of comes from the lives of American soldiers who have fallen not only in defense of our freedom, but for the liberty of other nations too all over the world. However, in today’s age of political correctness little do we ever hear of such milestones in history achieved at the price of so many lives as was June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy in France under Operation Overlord beneath the Supreme Command of General Dwight Eisenhower.
Less than 4 short years before, German Panzer divisions using the much vaunted tactics of Blitzkrieg, the “Lightning War” as it was called by General Irwin Rommel, who developed it, had conquered France. The German Army, outnumbered, and facing the superior technology of French tanks, used Rommel’s strategy to out maneuver British and French combined forces and quickly overwhelm opposition to drive the Allies into the ocean and conquer what was left of Europe.
Using a synergism of combined air attack, concentrated artillery assault, rapid mechanized battalions, and superbly trained shock troops, the Germans expertly melted resistance and defeated the will of their enemies. This would present Allied forces with a formidable defense mounted against the coming retaliatory invasion to come years later. However, D-Day would not come to fruition until years later. France and Europe were doomed to German occupation and Allied bombing raids.
Preparation for D-Day
After American troops had been massively transported to Great Britain and material had been accumulated for the much awaited assault years later, Allied intelligence services used a number of different forms of deception to keep the Germans guessing at possible landing sites to defend against the coming invasion from. General Eisenhower had used fake divisions of rubber jeeps, trucks, and tanks parked in plain sight of German air reconnaissance crews to confuse the Germans over which point on the French coast the landings would occur. General Patton’s army was moved to a different location to throw off German leadership. Even astrologists were used in a paranormal form of anticipating future tactical responses by both the Allies and Axis forces in a deadly global chess game.
Adverse weather conditions
Originally planned days earlier, but hindered by storms on the English channel, finally the Allied invasion armada was launched in the wee hours of June 6, 1944 as squadrons of transport aircraft and trailing gliders airlifted thousands of US paratroopers behind occupied Normandy beaches as the US Navy made its way across the English channel. The key to the success of operation Overlord would be to delay the response of German Panzer tank units commanded by Field Marshall Rommel. The deception utilized by US intelligence had worked as the “Desert Fox” a nickname the British gave Rommel during their North Africa campaigns was on leave celebrating his anniversary with his wife. This played a crucial part in the Allied forces gaining a foothold on the Normandy beaches in the first desperate hours.
Amphibious landing craft had a difficult time in rough seas with the beaches being washed out from recent storms. As GI’s offloaded hundreds of yards off the beach some soldiers drowned to death loaded down with gear and encountering deeper than expected waters. That wasn’t the only detriment to the troops who encountered murderous interlocking fields of fire as they neared the beach. From concrete reinforced “Pill Boxes” artillery and heavy machine guns poured deadly fire at the advancing foot soldiers. From cliffs and elevated points additional automatic weapons and rifles rained down more ordnance that decimated struggling companies of Army personnel trying to capture the beach head.
Battle lines are drawn
Along a 50 mile stretch of French coastline the Allies conducted the most massive amphibious fleet action in history. The planned assault was divided into 5 different operations “Sword” beach by the British, “Juno” beach by Canadian forces, “Gold” beach by the British, “Omaha” Beach by the Americans, and “Utah” beach under US command. Of all these, Omaha beach became the blood bath of landing operations met with the most concentrated German resistance.
Tragedy and heroism all at once
At Omaha hapless troops under heavy fire took shelter behind steel barriers constructed long the beaches. The first waves of American troops to hit the beaches were wiped out by German machine guns, shore guns, and sniper fire from the overlooking bluffs that had to be captured by Army Ranger units. As murderous fire took its toll upon the American Army, individual acts of heroism made the difference between life and death, those who failed to attain their objectives, and those whose bodies floated in the blood stained waters of the English Channel.
Staggering losses pay off
While Army Rangers scaled hundred foot cliffs to knock out German guns, the enemy poured down small arms fire upon them. Slowly infantry units began to penetrate inland using satchel charges and Bangalore Torpedoes to blow up German installations and to break through barbed wire fences. Although Omaha beach met the most fearsome resistance, Army units did manage to fight inland, span canal bridges, and establish more effective forward positions.
Despite losses incurred while climbing the cliffs overlooking Omaha beach, Army Rangers attained their objectives and began wiping out German machine guns that overlooked the landing zones. The tide of battle finally began to turn as fierce hand to hand combat and fire fights pushed German defenders back and Allied forward units moved as deep as 4 miles inland approaching the first cities.
Operation Overlord succeeds
By the end of the day more than 150,000 Allied troops had been landed, 6,000 vehicles, 600 tanks, 4,000 tons of supplies, and 900 firearms had been transported ashore. British and American Air Borne Divisions had fought behind the lines all night long and were linking up in occupied territory which further confused the Germans and prevented coordination of counter attacks. Miraculously Eisenhower’s D-Day landing had attained the element of surprise, had gained a stronghold on Normandy beach, and had successfully offloaded significant quantities of supplies to support the advance inland.
The cost of freedom
On that fateful day 9,000 American soldiers gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy. In doing so, the beginning of the end of German occupation in Europe had been spearheaded by brave GI’s and their heroic efforts. Four years earlier at Dunkirk, a failed British and French invasion effort, 340,000 men had to be rescued after being repulsed by German forces. It marked one of the most desperate moments of World War II. Yet, with half that number of troops, General Eisenhower’s Allied command had attained the unthinkable, retaking the blood soaked foothold of the French coastline as a prelude to the liberation of France and the long road to Berlin to end World War II.