Tag Archives: Omaha beach

D-Day at 75: An Epilogue

P-47 with invasion stripes knocked out Sherman M4 Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, France, 1944

As The Greatest Generation ages and increasingly drifts from the present and into memory with each passing day, their footprints on those hallowed beaches on Normandy are washed away. With that, I find tributes tying today’s active military units, to their historical forebearers very important, a sign that those heroic deeds will continue forward.

At Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the almost vertical cliff face to take out (what they were told) was a battery of strategically placed 155mm guns which could control the entire beach.

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. NARA # 80-G-45716

Of the 225 men with the 2nd Rangers at the dawn of D-Day, just 90 were still standing on D+1 when they were relieved.

To salute the Pointe Du Hoc Rangers, active duty Rangers of 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers, some in period dress, reenacted the climb yesterday.

The 101st Airborne and 1st Infantry, meanwhile, had their own representatives on hand to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors that landed on the Cotentin (Cherbourg) Peninsula and on Omaha Beach.

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa (CNE-A), dedicated a Lone Sailor statue on the seawall over Utah Beach, in honor of the bluejackets who cleared the beaches.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

“The Lone Sailor statue stands on a plaza at the Utah Beach Museum overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from where the U.S. invasion force appeared on that historic morning. Although people come and go from this statue, the Lone Sailor will continue to serve as a universal sign of respect towards all Sea Service personnel for generations to come.”

At the same time, down the beach, CNE-A Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters and U.S. Navy SEALS assigned to Special Warfare Unit 2 re-enacted the D-Day mission that Navy Combat Demolition Unit Sailors conducted in the cover of darkness to clear the beaches for the main invading force on Utah Beach, to include blowing up a recreated Czech Hedgehog beach obstacle with a bit of C4, as one does.

Meanwhile, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV-69), read Ike’s famous D-Day Message

Make no mistake, a few precious Veterans of that Longest Day were able to be on hand in Normandy this week, such as 97-year-old 101st Airborne trooper Tom Price who came in just how he did back in 1944– jumping from a C-47.

As men like Mr. Price rejoin their units in the halls of Valhalla, memory is everything. It echos through eternity.

D-Day through the brush of a GI who was there, 75 years ago today

D-Day, as seen below in eight, often haunting, paintings from U.S. Army combat artist Mitchell Jamieson, who landed in Normandy on Utah Beach with an M1 Garand and a sketchbook on 6 June before making his way to Omaha, where he remained with Navy Beach Battalions for a week living in a foxhole on the beach before eventually moving inland to continue his war.

Dawn of D-Day Off The Coast of France:

Mitchell Jamieson Dawn of D-Day Off The Coast of France 88-193-hm

88-193-HM

“At this moment, the first assault waves and demolition parties are on their way and these men, who are to go in later can only wonder what awaits them and stare at the distant coastline, barely discernable. The boats suspended on davits above their heads with their dark shapes oddly express the taut, waiting threat of this dawn off the Normandy coast.

The far off rumble of explosions could be heard and mysterious processions of small invasion craft crossed the ship’s bow. Each ship with its barrage balloon, gleaming above it in the faint light, seeming to be symbols designed to ward off evil spirits rather than objects of modern war. Now and then flashes appear fitfully on the horizon and, in the sky above, our fighter planes sweep by to support the invasion.”

Morning of D-Day from LST:

Mitchell Jameison Morning of D-Day from LST 88-193-hi

88-193-HI

“Coordination is an important part of the invasion. As the LCTs move in formation to execute a turn to head towards the coast with their assault troops, the transports and LSTs are seen in the distance. Overhead a P-38 Lightning used as a fighter and bomber aircraft during the invasion has just been hit, trailing a stream of white smoke and flame with a cruiser and destroyer to right, bombing objectives ashore.”

Burnt Out LCT on American Beach

Mitchell Jamieson Burnt Out LCT on American Beach 88-193-ie

88-193-IE

“This is typical of some of the gutted wrecks along this most tragic of beaches. It had mobile anti-aircraft vehicles aboard and had been so completely ravaged by flame after being hit that its agonies had left it with a look somehow permanent and fixed in rigidity, as though suffering rigor mortis, in a way like a human corpse. A smashed LCIL is in the surf beyond the pontoon barge and an LCVP, or the remains of it, is in left foreground”

[Of note, the Gleaves-class destroyer USS Corry, nine LCILs, 21 LCTs, USS LST-715, and USS PC-1261 along with the Royal Norwegian Navy destroyer Svenner and RN destroyer HMS Wrestler were all lost off Normandy on 6 June 1944.]

The Dragon – Wrecked M4 Tank

Mitchell Jamieson The Dragon - Wrecked M4 Tank Dday 88-193-hs

88-193-HS

“This burnt-out General Sherman tank was evidently hit by a German “88” [a high-velocity 88mm anti-aircraft artillery gun which was also used as an effective anti-tank weapon] and set afire. It was then partly covered with sand, probably by our bulldozers clearing an exit from the beach. A little further back from the water, a tank ditch extended for a considerable length. Part of the tank’s amphibious air-intake duct, which allowed the tank to be driven through shallow water from ship to shore, was broken off. To the right, a group of African-American troops, amphibious “duck” [DUKW – a type of wheeled land and water vehicle] drivers, gathered around a fire.”

The Sea Wall At the Eastern American Beach (Utah Beach)

Mitchell Jameison The Sea Wall At the Eastern American Beach (Utah Beach) 88-193-IC

88-193-IC

“This was the scene at the easternmost of the two American beaches (Utah Beach) at about 3 p.m. on D-Day. The fighting had moved inland, but all along the seawall, which extends a considerable length of the beach, men dug themselves in – hospital corpsmen, beach battalion members, Sea Bees, and anyone whose work was on the beach itself. The beach first aid station was a short way down from here, and the wounded and dead are in the sand in front of the sea wall. The tide was out at this time, and the wounded could not be evacuated back to the ships because of the difficulty in getting landing craft in and out. An enemy artillery battery, located some distance inland from the beach but still in range, sent shells steadily over the Americans, impeding work. An ammunition truck was hit and burned at the beach’s far end. A lone LCI unloaded her troops and the men filed across the beach and started inland. In this section, beach obstacles were not as formidable as in other areas, and the demolition parties were able to clear the way for landing craft with few losses.”

First Aid Station on the Beach

First Aid Station on the Beach DDay Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-HT

88-193-HT

“These wounded were awaiting evacuation to the ships, but the difficulty was in getting craft to the landing beaches to take them. It was low tide when many landing craft were stranded in the shallows by the swiftly subsiding water. In the meanwhile, the medics did what they could for the wounded and tried to get them out of the line of fire. A trawler was set afire just behind the sea wall and exploded spasmodically with a shower of steel fragments whining overhead. One man died, and a corpsman covered him with a blanket. Wounded were being brought back from the fighting inland, but at this stage of the invasion the wounded did not receive anything like prompt care and evacuation, although the medics and corpsmen did everything in their power.”

[Note: Of the 156,000 Allied personnel who hit the beaches on 6 June, over 10,000 became casualties, half of those killed in action. One unit, A Company of the 116th Regiment, part of the 29th Infantry Division, lost 96 percent of its 197-strong complement to death or wounds on the morning of D-Day in the surf line at Omaha Beach. “Within 20 minutes if striking the beach, A Company ceased to be an assault company and had become a forlorn little rescue party bent upon survival and the saving of lives,” noted one contemporary Army report. ]

Burial Ground Above the Beach

Burial Ground Above the Beach Omaha Dday Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-II

88-193-II

In the center of Omaha or Western American beach sector, the ground is fairly flat for perhaps two hundred yards, then rises sharply in a series of hills which command both the beach and the valley exits from it. Here the land levels off and fields, bordered with hedgerows, stretch back inland towards the little town of Colleville-sur-Mer and the Cherbourg road. In June 1944, if you followed the slender white tape through the mined areas up one of these hills, it was not long before you found yourself in a different world.

This was because it really belonged to the dead and because the transition from the active clatter and dust of the beach was so abrupt. This field, high over the Western American beach, became the first U.S. national cemetery on French soil of World War II. Up here the beach sounds were faint and the German prisoners digging graves seemed to be unaware of them. Over the field, there was the sound of pick and shovel and the oppressive, sickening stench of corpses, brought in for burial in truckloads, each wrapped in a mattress cover with his I.D. tag and a little bag of personal belongings to be sent to his next of kin. In the center of the field, the diggers worked in a new section while a guard with a Tommy gun looked on with expressionless features. One soldier who spoke German went around with a long stick for measuring the depth of graves and gave instructions with a great concern for details.

The work had a steady, slow and appalling rhythm. At intervals a corpse was borne on a stretcher by four Germans to a freshly dug grave and lowered without ceremony, then the earth was shoveled in again. Some of the prisoners stopped work for a moment and watched as this was going on. Others mechanically went on with digging.

In this picture a truck has come back from the front, the vehicle brutally and grimly called the “meat wagon,” and prisoners take off the corpses, laying them side by side, row on row while darkness set in over the field.

As a footnote, Maryland-born Jamieson studied at the Abbott School of Art and the Corcoran School of Art and in the 1930s was hired by the Treasury Department’s Art Project to paint murals in public buildings across the country. Volunteering for the Army as an infantryman in 1942, the 27-year old artist was soon reassigned as a combat correspondent. After the war, he continued painting and died in 1976. He has a number of works in the Smithsonian as well as in other museums.

On the eve, 48 before Overlord

“LST in Channel Convoy June 4 1944” Drawing, Ink and Wash on Paper; by Mitchell Jamieson; 1944; Framed Dimensions 30H X 25W Accession #: 88-193-HK

“A view on board an LST, looking forward from the bridge, with the main deck below fully loaded with trucks, anti-aircraft half-tracks, jeeps, and trailers. Ahead and on both sides were other LSTs in the group, each towing its “rhino” ferry which was manned by skeleton crews of Sea Bees, the rest of the crews were on board the ships themselves. With the LSTs prevented by German artillery fire from coming to the landing beaches to unload, it was the job of the “rhinos” to unload the tank deck of each LST and go to the beach. Then, since the “rhinos” could only make a couple of knots an hour, the LSTs had to be unloaded offshore by LCTs. Later, when the beach was secured and the ships could come in closer, these “rhinos” operated a continuous shuttle service, unloading all types of ships. This LST, with its mobile anti-aircraft vehicles on deck in addition to the ship’s own anti-aircraft batteries, could put up a formidable screen of anti-aircraft fire. The anti-aircraft half-tracks were of two types: one carrying four quad-mounted 50-caliber machine guns, and the other with one 37mm anti-aircraft gun and two 50-caliber machine guns. The rear part of the half-track was where the gun turret was mounted. A soldier who sat with the gunners operated the turret electronically. Trucks carrying supplies and ammunition, with plenty of camouflage netting, are depicted on the main deck below in the foreground. There was about the same number of vehicles on the tank deck below, unseen. This was the evening of D-day minus two (June 4, 1944).”

Mosquito Boat flag and log from Normandy hits the auction block

A 48-star 34″x52″ flag, log and pictures from “Coral Queen/Coral Princess,” officially known as PT-520, a PTRon 35 80′ Elco that served in Europe during WWII is up for auction next week at Cowans.

The flag was used by PT-520 until August 25 1944 when the radio mast it was affixed to was shot away by a German shell and was preserved by a coxswain. According to Navsource, PT-50 was transferred to the Russkis in April 1945 and later scuttled in the Barents in 1956– but the flag and log remain.

From Cowans:

Serving in the European Theater of World War Two from June to November 1944, PT-520 participated in numerous actions against German sea and air forces in the English Channel and coast of France. This flag was present during its participation in Operation Overlord, where it was assigned to the “Mason Line”, a net of defensive measures on the western flank of the invasion preventing the attack of German ships. PT-520 was stationed two to three miles from Omaha and Utah areas, sweeping for mines and performing search and rescue operations. After the success of the invasion, PT-520 continued to operate along the French coast, rescuing downed pilots, fending off aerial raids and engaging German minesweepers and fast attack craft. The log states that during its operational career, the vessel sunk two R-Boats, two E-Boats, and one “T.L.C.”