1500: Omaha – the battle continues

Some of the casualties on Omaha beach, vehicles still burning , although it is quite late in the day after barrage gallons went up.

Some of the casualties on Omaha beach, vehicles still burning , although it is quite late in the day after barrage gallons went up.

Utah beach and the British and Canadian beaches had now been firmly established. The first confident reports were reaching the commanders offshore that there had been a breakthrough on Omaha. Nevertheless for many of those on the beach it remained very unclear that they were breaking through.

Sergeant Thomas Valance, age 23, A Company, 116th Infantry had come in with one of the early waves that had been shot to pieces on the waterline. He was a lucky survivor:

I remember floundering in the water with my hand up in the air, I guess trying to get my balance, when I was first shot through the palm of my left hand. I remember feeling nothing but a little sting at the time, although I was aware I was shot.

Next to me in the water a fellow called Hank Witt was rolling toward me and I remember very clearly him saying: “Sergeant, they’re leaving us here to die like rats, just to die like rats.”

I made my way forward as best I could, but I was hit several other times, once in the left thigh, which broke a hipbone, although I didn’t know it at the time. I remember being hit in the back a couple of times and feeling a tug as the chinstrap of my helmet was severed by a bullet.

I worked my way up onto the beach and staggered up against a wall and sort of collapsed there. I spent the whole day in the same position. Eventually the bodies of the other guys washed ashore and I was the only live one among so many of my friends, all of whom were dead and in many cases severely blown to pieces. It was not a very pleasant way to spend a day.

Some men came to assist him in the afternoon but it was not until dusk, which would have been around 8pm, that stretcher bearers arrived for him.

These were the notes made by Major Stanley Bach, British liaison officer to HQ US First Army, attached to advanced headquarters of 29th Infantry Division on Omaha:

1200 Beach high tide, bodies floating … Many dead Americans on beach at HWM [high-water mark].

1215 Heavy mortar and 88 fire started on beach from E. end to W. end – series of five shells in spots – direct hit on Sherman tank, men out like rats — those alive.

1230 LCT hit two mines came on in – hit third disintegrated and rear end sunk – at burst of shell two navy men went flying through the air into water – never came up.

l250 Saw a captain, INF, pull five men to shore out of water.

1300 – Tide going out – now rhino ferry in but bursting shells forced it to go back out to sea after unloading two vehicles.

1320 Saw direct hit on beached LCM, flames everywhere, men burning alive. Beach can now be seen by aid of glasses entire distance about two miles east and two miles west – with tide slowly going out—long runnels appear in beach, also obstacles with deadly Teller mines on top of beach.

1400 Fire on beach increasing – aidman go to help man that was MG [machine-gunned] but hit by bullet himself, another aidman pulled him back to foxhole.

1430 Just heard from above that Capt. T. Ernest of 115th Inf is above us in field hit by bullet – four aidmen go get him—he comes back smiling despite shoulder wounds. Says get two jerries for him.

1440 More mortar fire and more men hit – LCVP unload five loads of men, they lie down on beach, mortar fire kills five of them – rest up and run for foxholes we left couple of hours ago.

1500 Snipers in large brick house on beach only fifty yards from HWM keep men in holes.

1520 Direct hit on 2-ton truck gasoline load — canvas flames – another catches fire — then entire load goes up. Area 100 yards square — men’s clothes on fire — attempt to roll in sand to put out flames — some successful — others die in flames.

1540 Infantry moving by us up path over crest and moving for- ward — we endeavor to move on — MG holds us for a few minutes, then lifts, we get to open field – follow path — see one man that had stepped on mine, no body from waist down — just entrails and chest organs.

1600 We reach wood through field 500 yards from top of cliff we just came up. See man on knees. We think he is praying or scared, roll him over and he is dead, died on his knees praying.

1630 Barbed wire, mines, mortars, MG rifle and 88 fire everywhere it seems — prayed several times — “Why do these things have to be forced upon men?”

1650 Reach town of St. Laurent 3/4 mile from beach, snipers holding up our advance – established CP and saw first time the 1st Div friends who were quiet, fighting mad — gave me heart, too.

This account appears in Russell Miller(ed): Nothing Less Than Victory: Oral History of D-Day

A good view of the high ground at the rear of Omaha beach, known to the Americans as 'bluffs', that made such a natural defensive position. The Naval gunfire had set fire to the grass, which provided a certain amount of unintentional cover.

A good view of the high ground at the rear of Omaha beach, known to the Americans as ‘bluffs’, that made such a natural defensive position. The Naval gunfire had set fire to the grass, which provided a certain amount of unintentional cover.

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ccg June 7, 2014 at 3:17 am

“Eventually the bodies of the other guys washed ashore and I was the only live one among so many of my friends, all of whom were dead and in many cases severely blown to pieces. It was not a very pleasant way to spend a day.”

If this isn’t an understatement, I don’t know one

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