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Bloody Omaha

Discussion in 'Omaha Beach' started by Jim, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Omaha Beach was the only landing area where the outcome was ever in doubt. The fighting raged for 18 hours, concentrated around the "draws," the gullies that cut through the bluffs allowing access off the beach. The draws had been fortified with bunkers on either side to provide overlapping fields of fire, and the draw entrances were blocked by anti-tank walls, seawalls, anti-tank ditches and other obstructions making the passage of tanks difficult. The assault began badly when US Army Air Force bombers missed their targets by several miles due to cloud cover, leaving the bunkers below unscathed. Although a naval bombardment preceded the landing, its duration was shorter than at other beaches since the timing of the landings was dependent on the tides and the Omaha landings were the earliest. To further undermine the attack, one of the two tank battalions landing to support the infantry, the 741st, launched their two companies of DD amphibious tanks in rough water and all but five sank. Of the five that made it to shore, three were knocked out in quick succession by guns in strongpoint’s WN61 and WN62. Around 0630hrs, a company of M4 tanks with wading trunks came ashore, providing the only tank support for the 16th Infantry Regiment on the eastern side of Omaha Beach Machine-gun fire, mortars, artillery and Nebelwelfer rockets decimated the first wave of assault troops.

    Taken mid-morning on D-Day, this photo shows WN62 in combat. The strongpoint is on the hill to the right of the photo and the smoke is rising from the Colleville draw from the resort villa that the strongpoint troops used as a canteen. The LCI in the foreground was one of those involved in the late morning attempts to reinforce the beleaguered Cos. E and F of the 16th Infantry on the beach in front of WN62

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    The tanks were one of the few means to deal with the numerous bunkers. The many tobruks proved to be very difficult targets for the tanks, since they were flush to the ground and difficult to spot amidst the smoke and confusion. The intense fire against the first wave prevented the engineer gap-breaching teams from breaching an adequate number of paths through the offshore obstacles. This would cause problems later in the morning during attempts to land additional reinforcements since the rising tide concealed the remaining obstacles, making it impossible for the landing craft to approach safely.
    The experience of strongpoint WN62 is typical of those on D-Day. This sector of the beach defences from W 59 to WN64 was manned by the 3rd Company, Grenadier Regiment 726, 716th Infantry Division, along with some reinforcements from the 352nd Infantry Division, and commanded by Lt. Edmond Bauch. Strongpoint WN62 was situated on Easy Red Beach on the western shoulder of the E-3 Colleville draw. The naval bombardment at dawn did not kill any of the 31 troops in the strongpoint, but left one lightly wounded and disabled two stationary flamethrowers. As the off-course LCVP landing craft from Co. E and Co. F, 16th Infantry Regiment, approached, they were brought under fire by several machine guns, two 76mm field guns in casemates, three 50mm mortars and a pedestal-mounted 50mm gun. One of the German gun crew later recalled, "We watched the landing craft under the direct fire of our guns and could see precisely what happened to the Americans, it was terrible."

    This is the 50mm anti-landing gun commanded by Corp. Siegfried Kuska in strongpoint WN62 that covered the entrance to the Colleville draw. It was emplaced in an ordinary field entrenchment as there was not enough time to construct the usual reinforced gun pit.

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    Most of the casualties occurred after the ramps were dropped when machine-gun fire from the trench line above cut a swath through the disembarking troops. On one LCVP, only seven Gls reached the beach of the original 32. It was only slightly better in the other 13 landing craft that landed in this sector in the first wave. One LCVP lucky enough to land away from the most intense fire got all 32 men to the shore, but only 20 Gls survived the run across the beach. Within moments, Co. F had lost six officers and half its troops. Some of the infantry tried to use the beach obstructions for cover, but this could have tragic consequences. In several instances, machine-gun fire from WN62 set off the mines on the obstacles, killing the infantry below.
    The strongpoint included an observation team from the divisional artillery of the 3S2nd Infantry Division led by Lt. Bernhard Frerking, and these officers directed 105mm artillery fire against the beach, taking an especially heavy toll on the engineer gap-breaching teams. The LCM carrying Team 16 was hit moments after the engineers had gotten out, but so many were wounded that they could not carry out their mission. Further east, Team 14 got most of the army engineers off their LCM before an artillery round hit while the navy team was disembarking, detonating their explosives. Several landing craft were hit by 50mm and 76mm gunfire, and numerous craft were damaged after running into stakes, detonating the mines on top. Most assault teams suffered even heavier losses to the machine guns in WN62; gap-breaching Team 11 lost half its engineers within minutes.

    One of the rarer defensive features at Omaha Beach was this VK.3001 tank turret on an H246 bunker, part ofWN68. There were only six of these prototype tanks, and their turrets were later released for fortification purposes. A further six new-production T.3001 turrets were built later, four ending up on the Atlantic Wall and two on the Westwall.

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    The 76mm gun in the casemate closest to shore fired only a few rounds before one exploded inside, forcing the crew to temporarily abandon it. German survivors recall the casemate being bracketed by naval gunfire and attributed its loss to US destroyers. However, it was shielded from the sea and more likely the gun was hit by fire from one of the tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion. The casemate was reoccupied and put back into action. Several M4 tanks were knocked out or damaged by WN62's pedestal-mounted 50mm gun that covered access to the road to Colleville.
    The Normandy strongpoints were designed to be mutually supporting, and the neighbouring WN61 strongpoint to the east of WN62 had an 88mm gun in a heavy H677 casemate. This gun was particularly effective against both US tanks and landing craft, and when the third wave of US troops landed, the 88mm scored a direct hit on one of the LCVPs. One of the four M4 tank dozers that were clearing obstructions at this time was also hit, probably from this gun. In the event, this was its last success, as around 0710hrs an M4Al tank of the 741st Tank Battalion managed to position itself to fire directly into the embrasure of the bunker, knocking out the gun. Strongpoint WN60 to the east was one of the first to fall in this sector around 0900hrs, and WN61 was largely silenced by tank and naval gunfire within a few hours of the landing.
    The obstacles continued to take their toll. The most serious problem emerged around 0800hrs as the tide came in. Since so few obstacles had been cleared in this sector, at 0830hrs the beach-master ordered that no other landing craft attempt to land. So for nearly two hours the units already ashore received no reinforcements.
    The weaknesses in the German defences were not immediately evident, but they were already failing. A platoon from Company E under Lt. John Spalding had landed to the west of WN62, found a gap in the German defences between the strongpoint’s, and climbed over the bluff around 0730hrs. The gap between the strongpoint’s was laced by mines, and guarded by two machine guns in field entrenchments, grandly designated as WN62a, near where today's famous US cemetery is located. Spalding's platoon overwhelmed the two machine-gun nests and continued to move nests and continued to move inland toward Col1eville-sur-Mer. The platoon drew fire from both WN62 on its left and WN64 to its right, but the steady trickle of GIs through this gap started the first major penetration of the Omaha Beach defences on D-Day. The commander of GR.726 in this sector radioed back to 352nd Infantry Division headquarters asking for a counterattack to throw back the American penetration.

    This is one of the 76.5mm FK M17 field guns of strongpoint WN62 knocked out during the fighting by a direct hit against the gun shield by a 75mm high explosive round from an M4 tank of the 741st Tank Battalion. It was pulled out of the casemate after the fighting and is seen here resting on the hill over the Colleville draw.


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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A battalion was scheduled to arrive around 0930hrs, but never did as it was trapped on the roads by persistent Allied fighter-bomber attacks. The WN62 detachment would have to hold out with no reinforcements. By 0900hrs, much of Co. E and Co. F was still trapped on the beach in front of strongpoint WN62 and casualties had been appallingly high, at least half the troops who had landed. The US troops called for naval gunfire and, around 0920hrs, W 62 was hit by a 25 minute bombardment by the USS Arkansas. At 1012hrs, the forward command post at WN62 radioed back to GR.726 headquarters that "WN60 is holding, WN62 is firing with one machine gun, but the situation is critical. The rest of the 1st and 4th companies are counterattacking." In fact, W 60 had already fallen and there were no counterattacks. WN62's two 76mm gun casemates were both silenced by 1015hrs. Although both bunkers were hit numerous times by naval gunfire, it was tank fire that finally silenced the field guns. The upper case mate had been hit on the outside 27 times, mainly by naval gunfire, and nine times inside, mainly by tank fire. The lower casemate had been hit 18 times on the outside and seven times inside. Around 1l00hrs, the 741st Tank Battalion rallied its remaining three tanks near the E3 exit. They proceeded to attack the remaining positions in WN62, though two of the three tanks were disabled in the action.


    Another example of one of the VK 3001 Panzerstellung, located at the WN68 strongpoint covering the Saint Laurent draw.

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    By late morning, the intensity of the fighting around WN62 had subsided as US infantry bypassed the strongpoint. The German positions were starting to run low on ammunition, and one surviving MG42 machine gunner, Hein Severloh, recalled firing off all 12,000 rounds of ammunition available. By this time, the US infantry was beginning to use 60mm mortars against the defences in WN62, which proved much more effective than direct-fire weapons. By late morning, the Gls were beginning to probe into the defences of WN62, and few of the crew-served weapons were still functioning. The infantry penetration to the west had expanded after 1030hrs when LCIs crashed through the beach obstacles and began disgorging reinforcements in the relatively secure area between WN62 and WN64. When the WN62 artillery forward observer called in fire against landing craft on the beaches from the battery near Houteville around noon, he was told that the battery was now out of ammunition and no further fire support would be coming that day. Fewer than half the original troops in WN62 remained as many of the wounded had been sent to the rear during interludes between artillery attacks. By noon, the 741st Tank Battalion could no longer find targets worth engaging. In the early afternoon, two US destroyers began pounding the remaining bunkers on either side of the Colleville exit, including WN62. The last remaining machine-gun post was finally put out of action in the early afternoon when it was hit by tank fire. Strongpoint WN62 was largely abandoned by mid-afternoon after the few surviving troops in the command bunker pulled back to Colleville.

    This 50mm anti-tank gun in an H667 casemate proved to be one of the most effective elements of the WN6S strongpoint covering the E-1 St. Laurent draw. It was finally silenced by 37mm automatic cannon fire from a pair of M ISA I multiple gun motor carriage half-tracks of the 467th AAA Battalion.

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    The fighting around WN62 on D-Day was a clear example of how effectively a modestly fortified position could resist an infantry attack. The German detachment of 31 men held out for about nine hours, and inflicted several hundred American casualties. Of the 11 US tanks to make it ashore in the assault waves near WN62, seven were knocked out and two damaged by anti-tank guns, while one was lost to mines. The beaches in front of WN62 were littered by over a dozen smashed and burning landing craft, some destroyed or damaged by obstacles, others by direct gunfire from W 62, and the rest by artillery fire called in by the WN62 observation post. WN62 enjoyed the advantage of its elevated position over the beach, giving its numerous weapons clear fields of fire. The steep hill also prevented US tanks from manoeuvring around the position, and the tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion were trapped on the narrow confines of the beach until late in the day when the Colleville draw was finally cleared. This situation contrasts sharply with the situation on the neigh boring beaches where the flat terrain permitted the tanks to rapidly escape the killing zones on the beach and manoeuvre around the German strongpoint’s from the landward side.

    This shows the effect of the 37mm fire on the 50mm pedestal gun inside the H667 case mate of WN65 with the gun-shield collapsed on the right side. This casemate and gun are still preserved.

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    On the other hand, the fighting for WN62 also illustrates why the German defences failed on D-Day. In spite of the horrific casualties inflicted on the 16th Regimental Combat Team, there were significant penetrations past W 62 less than an hour after the landings, and the strongpoint had been rendered ineffective and bypassed within four hours. The gaps between the strongpoints were vulnerable, and even with infantry from the 352nd Infantry Division on hand behind the beach, there was no real defense in depth. Once the thin crust of beach fortifications had been overcome, the defences had been effectively breached.

    This view shows the same H667 casemate from WN65 from the rear. As can be seen, a wall protects the rear armoured door, but evidently the wall was breached and the door caved in, probably by tank fire. These bunkers were sometimes knocked out, reoccupied by other German troops and knocked out again during the course of the D-Day fighting.

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  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Strongpoint WN62

    Strongpoint WN62 was located on the bluffs on the western shoulder of the E-3 Colleville draw. The combat actions by this strongpoint are covered in more detail in the text. The strongpoint was typical of those on Omaha beach. The position was roughly 250m (800ft) in diameter and 12 to 50m (40 to 165ft) in elevation over the beach below. The initial defences (A) featured a sequence of beach obstructions including Belgian gates, ramps with Teller mines, Czech hedgehogs, stakes and scattered anti-personnel mines. There was little cover for US assault troops until they reached the seawall (B), which was about 1.5m (5ft) high. The next defensive barrier was an anti-tank ditch (C) 1.5m (5ft) deep and 2m (7ft) wide, filled with water and covered by two static remotely operated flamethrowers (D) at the eastern corner. The perimeter of the strongpoint was ringed by a barbed-wire fence (E). There were four main concentrations of structures and bunkers in the strongpoint. At the north-eastern corner (F) was a cluster of field entrenchments intended to cover the anti-tank trap and the access into the Colleville draw. The main weapon here was a pedestal-mounted 50mm gun and it was covered by two Polish 7.92mm water-cooled machine guns in trenches. Slightly to the east of the position was an old resort villa (G) that the strongpoint used as a canteen for preparing meals. In the northwest corner of the strongpoint there was a tobruk (H) with an MG34 machine gun guarding the access to the strongpoint and, further up the hill, were the two H669 enfilade gun bunkers (I) with 7Smm field guns that fired along Omaha Beach to the northwest. Midway up the bluff was the command center of the strongpoint including the artillery observation bunker and its associated radio bunker. This area was protected by three MG34 machine guns in trenches, one on an anti-aircraft mount. There was a pair of 50mm mortar tobruks (K) up the bluff from the upper field gun casemate, to provide fire support for the forward positions. The final concentration of emplacements in the strongpoint were on the crest of the bluff (L) and included a 20-man bunker for the garrison, another 50mm mortar tobruk and a bunker containing the signalling equipment used to communicate with neighbouring WN61 on the other side of the draw. On the south-eastern side of the position was a single 50mm pedestal gun in a field entrenchment (M) to cover the rear of the position.

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    Osprey
     
  4. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    Did anyone see the documentary called "Bloody Omaha" on BBC 2 the other day ? It was a Time Watch programme. Some very interesting facts have come to light. It seems the Allies totally underestimated the German strength in the area at the time of the Normandy landings. Add to that the ineffectual bombing of the area before the landing itself and it was little wonder that the Americans suffered horrendous casualties. The estimate now ranges from 4500 to 5000 casualties actually suffered on the day... Sobering.
     
  5. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Ah yes I saw it and have posted on it HERE. It seems I also stole Jim's title "Bloody Omaha":red: - as did the programme makers !:eek:i:
    The main point that seemed new to me was the 500 Rangers diverted from the Pointe Du Hoc to Omaha, which they are now saying was the turning point in getting off the beach....
     
  6. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    lol Dave "Bloody Omaha" was stolen many years ago, nearly 64 to be precise .. :silly:
     
  7. GliderPilot

    GliderPilot New Member

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    Bloody Omaha details wanted

    Hey, this is a great deal of info on the WN61 area. Does this exist for the western end of the beach, too?
     
  8. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    Not sure what to answer as i dont understand what it is your asking. :wtf:
     
  9. -Spitfire-

    -Spitfire- New Member

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    I guess he asks or there is detailed information of this kind available about the west side of Omaha Beach too.

    Best Regards,

    Sebastiaan
     
  10. guy melton

    guy melton New Member

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    My relative, Carl Proffitt, landed in first hour,King Co,116th Inf Reg
    He got all his men off the landing craft. He survived the war.moved back to Virginia.died about 2016?
     

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