Monday, June 06, 2011

Forgotten Horrors of Omaha

Today is the anniversary of Operation Overlord, the great crusade to liberate Europe from the jack-boot tyranny of Nazi Germany. Soldiers of Britain, Canada, and the United States would storm ashore on five beaches in Normandy France. Omaha Beach, an American only beach, would become the definition of Hell for many. Below is an excert from S.L.A. Marshall's riveting account of landing on that beach that was published in 1960.

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!"

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.

This harrowing and riveting incident happened 67 years ago. Like Verdun, lets ensure the bravery along with the horror of that day is never forgotten or sugar-coated into benign politcal-correctness.

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