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Omaha Beach



Omaha Beach was the code name for one of the main landing points of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6 1944, during World War II. The beach was located on the northern coast of France, facing the English Channel, and was 5 miles (8 km) long, from (coming from the sea) east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve river estuary. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east with the American landing to the west at Utah beach, thus providing a continuous lodgement on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy.

On D-Day, the untested 29th Infantry Division, joined by eight companies of U.S. Army Rangers redirected from Pointe du Hoc, were to assault the western half of the beach. The battle-hardened 1st Infantry Division was given the eastern half. The initial assault waves, consisting of tanks, infantry and combat engineer forces, were carefully planned to reduce the coastal defences and allow the larger ships of the follow-up waves to land. The primary objective at Omaha was to secure a beachhead of some five miles (eight kilometers) depth, between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River, linking with the British landings at Gold Beach to the east, and reaching the area of Isigny to the west to link up with VII Corps landing at Utah Beach. Opposing the landings was the German 352nd Infantry Division, largely deployed in strongpoints along the coast — the German strategy was based on defeating any seaborne assault at the water line.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles; later landings bunched up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits off the beach. This caused further problems and consequent delays for later landings. Small penetrations were eventually achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points. By the end of the day, two small isolated footholds had been won which were subsequently exploited against weaker defenses further inland, achieving the original D-Day objectives over the following days.

"Omaha Beach"

===Terrain and defenses===

Bound at either end by rocky cliffs, the Omaha Beach crescent presented a gently sloping tidal area averaging 300 yards (275 m) between low and highwater marks. Above the tide line was a bank of shingle 8 feet (2.4 m) high and up to 15 yards (14 m) wide in some places. At the western end the shingle bank rested against a stone (further east becoming wood) constructed sea wall which ranged from 4–12 feet (1.5–4 m) in height. For the remaining two thirds of the beach after the seawall ended the shingle lay against a low sand embankment. Behind the sand embankment and sea wall lay a level shelf of sand, narrow at either end and extending up to 200 yards (180 m) inland in the center. Steep escarpments or bluffs then rose 100–170 feet (30–50 m), dominating the whole beach and cut into by small wooded valleys or draws at five points along the beach, codenamed west to east D-1, D-3, E-1, E-3 and F-1.
The German defensive preparations and the lack of any defense in depth indicated that their plan was to stop the invasion at the beaches.

Infantry landings

{{Quote box |align=left |width=20% |quote=I was the first one out. The seventh man was the next one to get across the beach without being hit. All the ones in-between were hit. Two were killed; three were injured. That’s how lucky you had to be. |source=Captain Richard Merrill, 2nd Ranger Battalion.

Breakthrough

One key feature of the landings was to influence the next phase of the battle: the draws, as natural conduits off the beaches, were the main targets in the initial assault plan. The strong defenses concentrated around these however meant that the troops landing near them quickly ended up in no shape to carry the assault against them. It was only in the intervals between the draws, at the bluffs, where units were able to land in greater strength and defenses were weaker, that advances could be made. whilst Field Marshal Montgomery considered the possibility of diverting V Corps forces through Gold beach.

Aftermath

The foothold gained on D-Day at Omaha Beach, itself two isolated pockets, was the most tenuous across all the D-Day beaches. With the original objective yet to be achieved, the priority for the allies was to link up all the Normandy beachheads. At the top of the bluff overlooking Omaha near Colleville is the American cemetery.

Footnotes

External links




[Overlord] [Neptune] [history of Normandy] [War II operations and battles of Europe] [and operations of World War II] [involving Germany] [involving the United States]

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