Tag Archive | "Omaha Beach"

D-Day the Sixth of June

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With a relatively short window of opportunity in the midst of adverse conditions and against long odds, a decision is made that changes the course of history.  If you are thinking that this could be the plot of an excellent movie, you might be right.  In actuality, however, this is the storyline of what would come to be known as the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in World War II.


Sixty-eight years ago today, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the Invasion of Normandy, France.  Dubbed Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion opened a second Allied front in the European theater that overextended and drained Nazi resources. The timing of the Invasion was critical, requiring a day proximate to a full moon providing nighttime illumination and the deepest possible water via a spring tide enabling safe navigation around defensive obstacles placed in the surf by the Germans.


Originally planned for June 5th, the Invasion was delayed by bad weather and very nearly had to be scuttled until the next full moon.  General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, agonized over the decision.  When his chief meteorologist forecast a brief improvement in the weather for the 6th of June, Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the largest amphibious invasion transported by the greatest armada assembled in the history of the world.


By dawn on June 6th, more than 18,000 parachutists – members of U.S. and Allied Airborne Divisions were already on the ground, having been dropped behind the beaches to thwart any potential reinforcement of German troops defending the beaches.  The land invasion began at 6:30 AM.  British and Canadian forces overcame light opposition in the capture of the beaches code-named Juno, Sword, and Gold.  Likewise, American forces captured Utah Beach with relative ease.  Omaha Beach was also wrested from the Germans, but at a cost of 2,000 American lives.


By day’s end, more than 155,000 allied troops had stormed Normandy’s beaches.  By month’s end, the Allies had 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy and were poised for the quest to recapture Europe.  All, however, did not go according to plan.  One of the keys to the invasion’s success was the taking of the French city Caen by British General Bernard Montgomery.  When this was not accomplished promptly, the Allied advance in the hedgerow country of southern France was stalled but ultimately succeeded.


Within less than a year, victory in Europe was achieved.  The costs were high, but the price of freedom has always been dear throughout the history of mankind on this planet.  And, the landscape of Normandy remains to this day a testament to the heroism of those who paid the ultimate price in defense of freedom.


The beaches still retain their code names and cemeteries containing the remains of the fallen dot the landscape.  Many veterans and family members return to remember and honor the many who served and those who lost their lives that fateful day.  The French people, particularly those of the Normandy region, will never forget the men and women who liberated their country at the cost of their lives.


Over time, memories fade as do the numbers of living World War II veterans,  One can envision a day in the not too distant future when there may be no living veterans of World War II.  With no direct participants to keep the memories alive, perhaps the D-Day Invasion will be buried in history books and largely overlooked by the general public.


Yet, to the living World War II veterans, the War is indelibly etched in their minds and hearts – never to be forgotten.  They were boys who, after 15 weeks of training, were doing a man’s job.  And, their heroism saved the world from Nazi tyranny.



D-Day Remembered

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For some of us, June 6, 1944 is nothing more than a random date in history. But for others, that date will never be forgotten. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (a.k.a., The Desert Fox) of the Axis forces had predicted that June 6, 1944 would prove to be the longest day in history. Rommel was right. Known now as D-Day, June 6, 1944 was the day on which one of the most epic battles of the Second World War was waged. The outcome of what occurred that day would determine ultimate victory, or ultimate defeat, in that long, bloody conflict.

They say that time heals all wounds. But there are some survivors of that battle who cannot speak of it — for the things that they witnessed and the things in which they participated were unspeakable. Those who can verbally relate the scene at Normandy that day describe it tersely as ranging from “sheer hell” to “pandemonium.” But words are inadequate to describe the feelings of the men on the beach that day, the sands that would later bear the name “Bloody Omaha.”

Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, was more than a strategic territory in the war; it was vital, for it linked the Allied Forces in their efforts against their Axis foes. For Rommel, it did turn out to be the longest day. The Allies’ victory at Omaha enabled them to secure a stronghold upon Fortress Europe; in less than a year, they would achieve victory in Europe.

But it was a victory that came with enormous sacrifice.

Most who landed on the beach that day were young, green soldiers with little or no combat experience. Many of them were Americans, joined by their fellow British soldiers-in-arms. There was nothing to prepare these young men for the horror into which they were about to step, a merciless attack from their enemies.

From the deck of the American battleship Augusta, General Omar Bradley watched the nightmare unfold. After witnessing the initial carnage, he made preparations to abandon the assault. But as fate would have it, a company of Rangers arrived as critical fortification.

Today, the beaches of Normandy are silent, but the memories linger on. Each year on the anniversary of D-Day, French locals, families of the deceased, and veterans of that war gather to honor and respect their fallen heroes and loved ones.

To the veterans who survived the war, and who fought on the beaches, in the jungles, and in the deep waters of the oceans, D-Day serves as a reminder of their contributions to World War II. With the sobering memories of June 6, 1944 also comes a sense of pride, for having worn the uniform of the United States military. And with that pride come prayers for our casualties of war.

The old refrain of the song “The Way We Were” tells us that, “what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” And, yet, we will never forget D-Day and those who made amazing sacrifices to the cause of freedom.

This article is dedicated to Corporal Carmine S. Farnolo, who was there at Omaha Beach. Carmine was attached to the 9th Army Air Corps, 409th Flight Group, 512th Squad. Now 86 years old and fast approaching his 87th birthday, Carmine remembers D-Day with utter clarity. But those memories live in his heart, for he is among those who will not speak of that day.

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