Bloody Omaha Beach

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re:

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Mar 2010 18:12

Benoit Douville wrote:Chris,

Your Grandfather was on the first wave on Omaha beach and survived, that's quite an astonishing feat! I wonder how many survived on that first wave?

Regards
Several historians have tried to count this. The largest problem is most companies did not take a muster until the morning of the 8th. So while the battalion clerks collected a fairly accurate count of those present on the 8th it is not at all clear when many of the men lost actually fell. Estimates for individual companies vary from 10% to over 95%. Some were lucky enough to land where smoke from the naval gunfire and brush or grass fires concealed them. Others stumbled into 'thin' spots in the defending fires.
Panzermahn wrote:I remembered watching the classic D-Day movie, The Longest Day and the scene where General 'Dutch" Cota promoted an engineer sergeant to a lieutenant and asked the lieutenant whether he can blew up the German bunker with bangalores. The lieutenant died before he can setup the explosion but another engineer pushed the trigger. The German bunker exploded which were the main turning point of the battle at Omaha..
The action depicted in the movie had to do with getting one of roads through a Draw or gully opened near mid day. Earlier Cota had caused a faster movement from behind the Shingle or seawall through the Dunes to the bluffs, something that was badly needed. From the first hour small groups of riflemen and others had been infiltrating thin areas in the defense on the bluffs. As the morning passed that infiltration reached a critical mass which broke the defense. The roads exiting the beach via the draws were the primary objective of the assualt, but was also where the German defense was focused. The failure of the initial preperatory fires meant the defenses at the draws were amoung the last points to fall rather than the first. Once those were cleared the vehicals could leave the beach and the intact infantry could march straight off rather than scramble over wire, mines, hillsides, trenches, farm fences, brush, ect...

Aber
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Re: Re:

Post by Aber » 29 Mar 2010 18:26

Carl Schwamberger wrote: The failure of the initial preperatory fires meant the defenses at the draws were amoung the last points to fall rather than the first. Once those were cleared the vehicals could leave the beach and the intact infantry could march straight off rather than scramble over wire, mines, hillsides, trenches, farm fences, brush, ect...
One of the things that I am unsure of, is whether the assault plan at Omaha was relying completely on the navy and airforce to destroy the defences at the draws, or whether there was a plan B.

RichTO90
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Re: Re:

Post by RichTO90 » 29 Mar 2010 18:50

Carl Schwamberger wrote:I was fortunate enough to accquire a copy with four color maps still in the back. Two of Omaha & two of Utah. These appear to be reproductions of some the actual maps used in the assualt and are gems of the map making art. I am wondering: if have a complete set, if these are accurate reproductions, and if they were thee most common tactical map issued?
The faded duplicate UTAH map is copied from Sid Berger's original that he carried into the assault. The others are copies from the originals held by the National Archives. The were put together from a combination of resources including existing GSGS maps, commercial maps, postcards, hi-and low-oblique aerial photography, and direct observations by COPPs. Similar beach assault maps were prepared for all the invasion beaches and were issued to the assault units.
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Re:

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Mar 2010 19:50

The maps are true gems then.
Aber wrote:
Carl Schwamberger wrote: The failure of the initial preperatory fires meant the defenses at the draws were amoung the last points to fall rather than the first. Once those were cleared the vehicals could leave the beach and the intact infantry could march straight off rather than scramble over wire, mines, hillsides, trenches, farm fences, brush, ect...
One of the things that I am unsure of, is whether the assault plan at Omaha was relying completely on the navy and airforce to destroy the defences at the draws, or whether there was a plan B.
There were the rocket barges, and the DD tanks, the howitzers mounted on the DUKWS, NGF spotting teams in the first wave... whats the odds of five or six spererate fire support methods all failing in the same hour?

Aber
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Aber » 29 Mar 2010 19:58

But how many of them were expected to be effective against concrete emplacements?

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 30 Mar 2010 00:46

Aber wrote:But how many of them were expected to be effective against concrete emplacements?
Specifcally the NGF. Some of the aircraft are suposed to have carried 500 lb bombs for a few targets. The DD were suposed to suppress or nuetralize most of those remaining. I dont have a list of the emplacements or descriptions of their structures so cant say what may or may not have adaquate in that respect. Judging from my own training and reading of the other assualts my take is the NGF preperation was grossly inadaquate in duration. The 14" & 8" projectiles were satisfactory for most structures, but very near direct hits were required. Thirty, fourty or sixty minutes is not nearly enough to achieve the hits to damage the structures. This should have been understood from the through studies of the NGF on two dozen previous amphibious assualts since November 1942. Perhaps it was.

We all know what happened to the DD tanks & howitzer carrying DUKWs. The rockets would have been useless against the heavier bunkers. Otherwise they had some utility for stunning the defenders, what we called nuetralized in our fire planning. Those were widely dispersed by the rough sea & thus wasted. My take is the air strike was the best hope for the assualt infantry. Tho mostly 250 lb bombs the abrupt concentration would have stunned large batches of defending riflemen, MG teams, and others in the lighter emplacements. The dust and smoke would have helped conceal the beach as well. The heavier gun positions would have resisted the 250 lb lightweights, but those were a small minority. Suppresing the MG nests for twenty precious minutes would have made a difference to the first wave. Generally a airstrike on that scale suppresses entrenched infantry for thirty to fourty minutes. On Utah beach the medium bombers attacked from around 10,000 feet & were low enough they could aim visually vs the clock or radar. They also had a flight path more or less paralle to the beach so a portion of the misses hit the next enemy position along the beach. The few eyewitness accounts from the German side of Utah Beach make clear their morale was trashed by the airstrike, & not recovered when VanFleets regiment waded ashore.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Mar 2010 18:53

Carl,
The 14" & 8" projectiles were satisfactory for most structures, but very near direct hits were required.
I would need to check but IIRC the bombardment plan was for the 14" battleship targets to be some of the major shore batteries rather than anything that could deliver direct fire into the draws. Again, off the top of my head, I think the intention was for the beach front defences to be "neutralized" by the destroyers - so about 4" I would guess.

Of course, one thing to remember is that not all the defences were concrete emplacements by any stretch of the imagination. At some point I would imagine we could have a look at what was and what wasn't concreted.

Regards

Tom

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 31 Mar 2010 01:09

Tom from Cornwall wrote:Carl,
The 14" & 8" projectiles were satisfactory for most structures, but very near direct hits were required.
I would need to check but IIRC the bombardment plan was for the 14" battleship targets to be some of the major shore batteries rather than anything that could deliver direct fire into the draws. Again, off the top of my head, I think the intention was for the beach front defences to be "neutralized" by the destroyers - so about 4" I would guess.

Of course, one thing to remember is that not all the defences were concrete emplacements by any stretch of the imagination. At some point I would imagine we could have a look at what was and what wasn't concreted.

Regards

Tom
I dont have the exact target list at hand. From my notes & Berger's book Rich & I discussed two days ago a partial description is available. The BB Texas intially concentrated the main battery (14" guns) on the Pont du Hoc fortified artillery position, then shifted to suspected artillery positions inland as the assult approached. The secondary battery fired on Exit D-1 @ Vierville. The BB Arkansas had Exit D-3 @ les Moulins in its preperatory program. HMS Glasgow was assigned targets in that Exit as well. Also the crusiers Bellona, Montcalm, Georges Leygues fired on Exit defense postions. I think there were 12 USN destroyers and several Brit destroyers. The BB both shifted fires to suspected artillery positions beyond the bluffs as the asuallt ground went in. Exactly what the crusiers and DD fired on between 06:30 & 08:30 is not clear. Some of the books make vague remarks about the NGF ships shifting fires "inland", or "to the bluff as scheduled" but those are not first hand sources. Post battle inspections judged many of the hardened or concrete emplacements as destroyed by NGF. But, I dont have any info on which were damaged in the preperatory fires before 06:30 and which were damaged after the assualt crossed the beach. The former were fired on suspected positions according to a schedule and hindered by observation through haze from ranges of 3,000 to 8,000+ meters. The latter were directed by men who could spot the targets from ranges of less than 500 meters. Or, by destroyers spotting at ranges less than 3,000 meters.

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Re: Re:

Post by Cannonade » 01 Apr 2010 00:52

Carl Schwamberger wrote: Several historians have tried to count this. The largest problem is most companies did not take a muster until the morning of the 8th. So while the battalion clerks collected a fairly accurate count of those present on the 8th it is not at all clear when many of the men lost actually fell.
The information is contained within the company Morning Reports. These were updated and corrected over time to account for company strengths and the whereabouts of men absent on any given day. Calculating the casualties on Omaha Beach by assault wave is possible, but would be a daunting task to say the least considering that the MRs are stored on microfilm and are not organized by company/day. This means a search of multiple rolls of microfilm are required just to check the relevant MRs for a single company. Now multiply that by the number of companies of all types in each wave, and you get some idea of the complexity involved.

Cannonade

RichTO90
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Re: Re:

Post by RichTO90 » 01 Apr 2010 01:12

Cannonade wrote:The information is contained within the company Morning Reports. These were updated and corrected over time to account for company strengths and the whereabouts of men absent on any given day. Calculating the casualties on Omaha Beach by assault wave is possible, but would be a daunting task to say the least considering that the MRs are stored on microfilm and are not organized by company/day. This means a search of multiple rolls of microfilm are required just to check the relevant MRs for a single company. Now multiply that by the number of companies of all types in each wave, and you get some idea of the complexity involved.

Cannonade
The losses of the 16th Infantry and some other units are fairly well known...it is the 116th Infantry that is really problematic. A friend has collected the MR for the 29th Division. The company reports are generally serialized for a division, but given the number of companies in a division, each day (front and back) can consume close to 200 frames, they tend to spread over a large number of rolls. Finding Seperate Battalions can be a pain.

But dividing them by waves can be even more complex and problematic. A single infantry company was divided into its assault teams assigned to a single wave, but also was at assault scales, and a significant number were residuals that remained in England or came in as part of FORCE B. Then there were various liaison detachments and so forth. It is possible to get a pretty good idea of the losses in the assualt, but an exact count probably isn't really practical.
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 01 Apr 2010 01:31

If I recall correctly Balikowski wrote in his book on Omaha Beach that he looked at the records of both the 1st & 29th Div. He observed that MR for the 6th reflected full or overstrength companies & he found nothing dated to the 7th. Those dated to the 8th had a count for men "present" but had little for the status of the number not present. As the week progressed the entries for wounded or killed in the company MR & the consolidated battalion & regimental reports became more coherent. I'll see if I can locate his complete remarks on this.

Cannonade
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Cannonade » 01 Apr 2010 02:47

Carl Schwamberger wrote:If I recall correctly Balikowski wrote in his book on Omaha Beach that he looked at the records of both the 1st & 29th Div. He observed that MR for the 6th reflected full or overstrength companies & he found nothing dated to the 7th. Those dated to the 8th had a count for men "present" but had little for the status of the number not present. As the week progressed the entries for wounded or killed in the company MR & the consolidated battalion & regimental reports became more coherent. I'll see if I can locate his complete remarks on this.

There is a serious problem with Balikowski's statement that the MRs ""dated to the 8th had a count for men "present" but had little for the status of the number not present.""

MRs are exception reports. They list individually by name the officers and men absent from the company, and give the reasons for those absences. Once the exceptions are noted, the report goes on to provide the total number of officers and men authorized for the unit, plus those attached, minus the numbers mentioned in the exception report. If Balikowski found MRs that did not list individually, by name the officers and men absent from the company, along with the reasons for those absences, he should have kept looking. What is described as more coherence as the week progressed is in reality the updates and corrections to the earlier MRs that had been submitted. In other words, this soldier was also absent as of a certain date, and here are the reasons why. Depending on the combat situation MRs might take as long as two or three weeks to account for everyone, and that is why they have to be examined in depth in order to obtain meaningful numbers of casualites, etc. Based on your description, Balikowski misinterpreted this updating and correction of the MRs as reflecting more coherence. Thus, the casualties were there, but he had to look at them line by line and date by date to understand what is actually going on. Perhaps he explains this at some point.

Cannonade

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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Apr 2010 22:36

I have not had time to locate & check what I thought I read from Balikowski. What I do recall is the company and battalion clerks, 1st Sgts, & officers were having difficulty accounting for for the missing and what happened to them. Indeed the clerks and others were amoung the 'missing' particularly in the 116th Regiment. That is it was not clear if Private Smith or Lt Jones had been killed, or wounded, & if it happened on the 6th or 7th. Or if he were simply with a different 'company'. I really need to locate this before commenting further on what was wrote.

From somewhere else I read the graves registration unit provided the date they identified a corpse & where they disposed of it, but the location it was recovered from was not always recorded, and items like date of death or other details seldom were. So, most of the graves registration data from the Omaha Beach area shows the dead as recorded after the 6th and only the thinnest data on when or where they died.

Similarly written records of the wounded seem to only be reliable on the 6th and into the 7th from when the wounded individual was taken aboard a boat or arrived in England. Documentation from medics, field hospitals, and evacuation points ashore are suposed to be very haphazard for the 6th & to a still considerable extent for the 7th. That is a wounded individual taken off a boat on the 7th, 8th, or even 9th often had no usefull documentation concerning when he was first treated or when he might have been wounded. Many of the medical records contained guesses or estimates but the accuracy is judged poor.

If I recall correctly Walter Lord commented on the same thing when he did his research in the 1950s. In a explination of his estimates he commented on the difficulty in reconcilling numbers for the first 72 hours by the company/battalion personnel he interviewed.

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IvanSR
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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by IvanSR » 04 Apr 2010 11:42

Benoit Douville wrote:I have read a lot of litterature about D-Day and the invasion of Normandy and particularly about the assault on Omaha beach and now I am looking if it exist a list of soldiers who survived that day both on the German and American side who received awards for their courage. Of course all the men who died that day should be remember forever and that's why a lot of monuments are in Normandy.
I'm currently reading The Germans in Normandy and it mentions Heinrich Severloh, the German machine-gunner, who from his Widerstandsnest 62 was responsible for over 1500 American casualties. He was referred to as the “Beast of Omaha Beach” and was one of the luckier ones to survive.

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Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Delta Tank » 07 Apr 2010 18:05

I don't know if anyone mentioned Franz Gockel, but he was also a machine-gunner at WN62 along with Severloh.

Mike

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