Discussion in 'The Bar' started by DrSublux, Jun 6, 2016.
Thank You is not enough for what these men did.
Interesting Responses on this site:
Especially what this guy had to say:
First, there were no actual movies/moving pictures shot at Omaha beach that day. I believe what you're referencing is some film footage shot at one of the other beaches b/c I've seen that film as well. Check the helmets--I've seen movie clips from Utah and one of the UK beaches--the helmets will tell you if it was Gold/Sword/Juno (the UK-Canadian beaches) or Utah (American).
The ONLY pictures from Omaha were from still photography. They were taken by the noted photographer Bob Capa. Here are some of the few pictures from Omaha and you'll note that they show many of the things you didn't see in your film clip from Utah Beach....tank traps with soldiers clustered behind them seeking cover, dead in the surf, soldiers trying to hide in the surf, desperate movement:
D-Day, Omaha Beach, 1944, Robert Capa picture | LIFE | TIME.com
The D-Day Photographs of Robert Capa
Here's what you need to know that probably tells you anecdotally how bad Omaha actually was: Bob Capa is probably the most celebrated war correspondent ever. The man covered dozens of wars before he was killed in French Indochina, saw combat closeup starting with the Spanish Civil War. His most famous saying as a photographer was "If your pictures aren't any good, you aren't close enough." He was regarded as insanely brave, even foolhardy. At the time he landed at Omaha he had seen more combat in WW-II than anyone else on that beach, American or German (and the German unit there had come out of the horror of the Eastern Front). Capa landed with the first wave at Omaha, made it to a tank trap/beach obstacle in the surf, shot 3 rolls of film, never actually made out of the water, and turned around telling himself that he just needed to dry his hands off and grabbed a departing landing craft. The man was scared out of his wits (and admitted so afterwards). That's how bad it was on Omaha that morning....
Second, realistically, a movie or even film NEVER captures what combat is really like. War is an assault on your senses. It is loud, it is shocking, things happen suddenly (especially if you're new to combat), everything seems confused, you can't see very well, you can't tell what is going on, as you seek cover your perspective and vision is limited even further. The water is freezing, you're shaking like crazy (from cold and fear...so badly you don't have a chance of accurately aiming...except you can't see any targets), you're probably seasick from the tossing waves on the ride in to the beach, you're trying to stay low to avoid being a target but you can't see anything, you're weighed down by heavy wet gear and you're so, so, incredibly tired. That's not a criticism of "Saving Private Ryan", that's an acknowledgement that there is only so much that any film or picture can capture of an event as stressful as combat.
Third, Omaha Beach varied from sector to sector--terrain varies, defenses are not uniform. So some sectors were deathtraps with others only somewhat dangerous. For instance, at the end of Dog Beach, grass had caught fire from Naval shelling and this created a smokescreen so most units who landed in this sector stayed relatively intact and managed to reach the shingle in the first wave where they were then pinned down by German fire. On the other hand, Dog Green Beach was immediately across from a stronghold plus flanking fire from gun emplacements to the East and West. Company A of the 116th (the unit assigned to this sector) lost 2/3rds of their unit and all of their leaders within 20 minutes. Two landing craft of Rangers who were assigned to the same sector lost 50% of their personnel before they reached the shingle. Some boats were lost or blown off-course and landed troops at Dog Red where smoke allowed troops to advance inland with few casualties. Fox Beach was a clusterf*ck where everything that could go wrong did--all units suffered heavy casualties before they even got out of the water, obstacles weren't cleared, boats were mixed up and units landed in the wrong locations and dispersed, boats floundered in the surf or were hit by artillery before they could even let off troops. There were at least two accounts where over half of the troops within a boat were killed or wounded by MG fire without ever leaving the boat and getting their boots wet. Even when they landed at Fox Beach, there was a deep funnel so troops wading ashore suddenly found themselves in water over their heads with heavy gear they couldn't remove and couldn't swim with. 96 tanks (Sherman DDs) landed at Omaha. Many sank in the rough surf but a number of them made it to firm land. None survived the landing and made it to the shingle--none of the 96. Think of how accurate and devastating the artillery fire must have been to produce a result like that. So in that regard, "Saving Private Ryan" probably doesn't accurately depict the intensity of the incoming fire from artillery...it greatly underestimates it.
Just a few other comments--you couldn't run in. You were waterlogged, you were weighed down by gear, your boots were full of water and sand, you were confused, the landmarks you were told to look for weren't visible, and the beach looked nothing like you expected it to. None of the obstacles that were supposed to be blown up had been eliminated, you can't see your company commander and the troops you did see were unfamiliar. And the fire was so intense, it was nothing like training, nothing like previous combat for the veterans on that beach. For the units that landed under heavy fire, most of them stayed in the water, seeking cover behind obstacles or playing dead. At one sector, the only members of the first wave that made it to the beach stayed in the water and crawled forward with the advancing tide (so you can image how slow the advance was, how cold they must have been in the freezing water). There are even instances where the fire was so intense that troops who had made it ashore returned to the surf for cover. There are also numerous accounts of dozens of soldiers on Omaha who were so tired with their water-logged gear that they had to stop to rest when they hit the beach (even under fire). People forget that some of these troops were brand new--their adrenaline didn't hit when they came under the Higgins Boat ramps went down and they came under fire. Instead they were jacked up before they ever got in to their landing craft. You can can only sustain adrenaline for so long before you become incredibly tired, sleepy even. Survivors talk about seeing lots of individual soldier pause on the beach even while under fire b/c they were so fatigued--that combination of dragging water logged gear for 100 yards and an adrenaline crash and sensory overload had some soldiers pausing in open beach despite the intense fire.
The OP asked if there are specific details about casualties and activities on Omaha--there are to a limited extent. If a landing craft was hit with total casualties on the way in to the beach, it is assumed everyone died. We don't know if some actually made it out of the craft and then drowned. Or made it in to the surf and were then killed. Some bodies were never recovered--were they killed in the water and carried out by the tide or their bodies badly destroyed on the shingle by artillery fire? So actual details of "this man died at this time on this spot" are rare when it comes to official Omaha accounts and are anecdotal at best. Here is one of the War Department's official accounts of the initial landings on Omaha. It reads remarkably like the first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan." The First Hours of D-Day on Omaha Beach
So the quick summary of this post in answering the OP is: the actual experience on Omaha Beach that morning varied somewhat with the wave you were in and the beach sector you landed in but for the vast majority of US troops, it was far worse than what was depicted in "Saving Private Ryan." Far worse.
Updated Aug 30, 2015 • View Upvotes
This one is a long read:
@Jim J Jiblets
My Fil rode/flew a hang glider into Normandy D day.
Love to go to Normandy one day. The opening scene in Saving Private Ryan in the cemetery always gets me .
A neat Normandy then and now picture site: http://acidcow.com/pics/3772-normandy_1944_then_and_now_204_pics.html
I like it.
I want to hang my flag pole in your nether regions
Your staff is at attention?
Is there anal?
and your anus is at ease for teh penetrations
see post above