Bloody Omaha Beach

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 08 Apr 2010 07:04

Got a hold of Balkoski's Omaha beach. In the section discussing casualties he quotes several historians on the subject with some discussion. Then he presents his own estimates in a chart. He claims a accurate count is possible, but referes to the problem of uncertaininty if wounded died later, and the problem of units not documenting losses until the 8th or later.

His total estimated losses to midnight of 6th June is 4,720 men. This includes the Ranger team at Pont d Hoc, and a ten man crew of a heavy bomber from the airgroups that attempted to attack early in the morning. In dont have a working scanner so I'll summarize the chart. A significant number of records showed only "men lost" & did not breakdown the numbers by killed, wounded, missing.

1st Div killed 108, wounded 740, total with missing 1,346

29th Div killed 321, wounded 710, total with missing 1,272

5th Corps/1st Army units killed 262, wounded 637, total with missing 1,568

Naval Pers. total 539

Of the four groups the landing craft units have the highest portion of records showing only total lost without details of killed or wounded. Next are the engineers & the two DD tank battalions. A total of 1013 men are counted as lost with no classification as dead, wounded or missing in the documents preserved. Taking the percentages from the total classifed I made a rough calculation.

Killed.........842 count....1,065 my estimate

Wounded..2,187 count....2,782

Missing......689 count.......873

Why so many missing? I dont know about Omaha Beach, but in the Pacific it was known those killed in the water could be found in the bottoms of the lagoons, on the reefs, in the channels between the reefs, or if holding gas the bobbing on the Pacific swells. After that a portion of the missing are misidentifications by the graves reigistration pers

nobodyofnote
Member
Posts: 388
Joined: 02 Jun 2011 13:39

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by nobodyofnote » 11 Jul 2011 11:05

Benoit Douville wrote:I have read a lot of literature 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.
http://www2.godanriver.com/lifestyles/2 ... r-1160790/ (Danville River, 11th July 2011)

This veteran William Milstead (29th Division) recounting his experience at Normandy, received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He claims 10,000 were killed on Omaha. YMMV.

Delta Tank
Member
Posts: 2340
Joined: 16 Aug 2004 01:51
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Delta Tank » 11 Jul 2011 13:34

nobodyofnote wrote:
Benoit Douville wrote:I have read a lot of literature 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.
http://www2.godanriver.com/lifestyles/2 ... r-1160790/ (Danville River, 11th July 2011)

This veteran William Milstead (29th Division) recounting his experience at Normandy, received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He claims 10,000 were killed on Omaha. YMMV.
I would be extremely skeptical of any veteran telling his story 67 years after the event. How would he know there were 10,000 dead?? Did he count? Wild ass guess from a 19 year old private, first day in combat, with 67 years in between that day and his story being told.

I would go with what the records state. The US Army and the US Government had no reason to lie. Hell, we told the truth on what happened on 7 December as soon as the information was available which was very good intel for the Japanese.

Mike

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Jul 2011 03:31

Delta Tank wrote:
I would be extremely skeptical of any veteran telling his story 67 years after the event. How would he know there were 10,000 dead?? Did he count? Wild ass guess from a 19 year old private, first day in combat, with 67 years in between that day and his story being told.

I would go with what the records state. The US Army and the US Government had no reason to lie. Hell, we told the truth on what happened on 7 December as soon as the information was available which was very good intel for the Japanese.

Mike
I'm not suprised. I've heard simillar numbers, some larger, some smaller, from WWII vets. None I met who were in a position to know what the actual casualties might have been. Its part of the mythos of the event, much like the myth that the Utah beach assualt was a "walk over" or really easy.

The battalion daily strength reports, the evacuation lists from the hospitals, and the division/corps/army casualty reports have been open source or publicly acessable since circa 1947. One would think that if the number of dead were '10,000' then historians like Walter Lord or Balikowski who did peruse these records would have come up with that number vs their much lower claims.

Delta Tank
Member
Posts: 2340
Joined: 16 Aug 2004 01:51
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Delta Tank » 13 Jul 2011 19:34

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
Delta Tank wrote:
I would be extremely skeptical of any veteran telling his story 67 years after the event. How would he know there were 10,000 dead?? Did he count? Wild ass guess from a 19 year old private, first day in combat, with 67 years in between that day and his story being told.

I would go with what the records state. The US Army and the US Government had no reason to lie. Hell, we told the truth on what happened on 7 December as soon as the information was available which was very good intel for the Japanese.

Mike
I'm not suprised. I've heard simillar numbers, some larger, some smaller, from WWII vets. None I met who were in a position to know what the actual casualties might have been. Its part of the mythos of the event, much like the myth that the Utah beach assualt was a "walk over" or really easy.

The battalion daily strength reports, the evacuation lists from the hospitals, and the division/corps/army casualty reports have been open source or publicly acessable since circa 1947. One would think that if the number of dead were '10,000' then historians like Walter Lord or Balikowski who did peruse these records would have come up with that number vs their much lower claims.
Carl,

I agree! I could tell everyone stories about veterans of World War II and "their" remembrance of events, but I will spare everyone to include myself.

what is the myth on Utah Beach? KIA on Utah was around 200?? Am I off a bit? No assault on an enemy position is "easy" and an amphibious assault, in my opinion is probably harder. I don't want to change the topic, but I would prefer to go in at night, but that is just my opinion. I would rather have the defenders blind, then able to see and shoot accurately at me. Yes, I understand all the different fires that could be used, and flares and searchlights and moon light and blah, blah, blah, but, maybe because of all my training, I like the night better. "We own the night!" (WOTN) :lol:

Mike

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 01:57

Delta Tank wrote: what is the myth on Utah Beach? KIA on Utah was around 200?? Am I off a bit? No assault on an enemy position is "easy" and an amphibious assault, in my opinion is probably harder. I don't want to change the topic, but I would prefer to go in at night, but that is just my opinion. I would rather have the defenders blind, then able to see and shoot accurately at me. Yes, I understand all the different fires that could be used, and flares and searchlights and moon light and blah, blah, blah, but, maybe because of all my training, I like the night better. "We own the night!" (WOTN) :lol:

Mike
I'll refer to Balikowski as he breaks down his calculations by unit

First he gives the total loss (KIA, WIA, Missing) for 6th June for Omaha Beach as 4,720. That includes naval personnel lost on the landing craft & the B17 crew of ten men. Utah Beach total is 3,510, which includes the Airbourne as well as the navy losses. (He also notes that dead & missing for Exercise Tiger was 750 & wounded 300)

Sorting out the losses crossing the beach through the day its comes to:

Omaha
1st Div 1346 total; 518 KIA, MIA

29 Div 1272 total; 552 KIA, MIA

Corps/Army battalions (mostly engineer & tank bn) 1568 total; 413 KIA, MIA

52 battalions are identified which gives per bn 80 total; 28.5 KIA, MIA

Utah
4th Div: 311 total; 95 dead

Corps/Army battalions: 278 total; 65 KIA, MIA

24 battalions are identified which gives per bn 24 KIA, WIA, MIA; 6.4 dead

So with 46% of the battalions Utah took 30% of the total casualties per bn; 35% of the KIA MIA per bn vs the bn on Omaha

Of the Omaha beach count 128 dead & 311 total were in the 2d & 5th Ranger bn, & 431 dead 1047 total were credited to the 116th Inf regiment, so roughly 30% of the losses were concentrated in five of the 52 bn.

A few caveats: *For some of the tank & engineer battalions Balikowski does not break down losses. He wrote that the unit records were incomplete in 12 of the 76 bn. I counted. Ten of those were from the Omaha Beach units.

*I grouped the Div HQ companies/platoons listed seperately into a single bn & counted the infantry regiments as three bn. each.

*Losses of naval & air crew are not included in the bn analysis

*I dont have the 'assualt' battalions seperated from those which walked across the beach in the afternoon & evening. A more accurate analysis might count it that way.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 02:12

Delta Tank wrote:.... I don't want to change the topic, but I would prefer to go in at night, but that is just my opinion. I would rather have the defenders blind, then able to see and shoot accurately at me. Yes, I understand all the different fires that could be used, and flares and searchlights and moon light and blah, blah, blah, but, maybe because of all my training, I like the night better. "We own the night!" (WOTN) :lol:

Mike
The Anzio assualt started around 01:00 hours. that was in January so dawn was still six to eight hours away.

IIRC the Salerno attack was kicked off a couple hours before dawn

However this is dictated by tides as much as anything. The usual prefrence is to assualt at high tide to minimize the beach to be crossed. In Normandy Rommel's inovative idea of placing the obstacles out to the low tide line caused the 21 Army Group to assualt at low tide.

This should not have affected the start of the preperatory fires. For some reason the prelimnary fires were started after dawn. In many previous beach assualts the prep fires were executed long before dawn, so thats not a excuse. Some folks claim it was for suprise. But, the airborne drop put paid to that. The Germans ordered the beach defenses to ready status by 03:00. Plus there were German picket boats, radar, & air reconissance to be expected. We were really lucky none of those were effective. Still every defending soldier was in place long before dawn. The company commanders had actually started rotating the soldiers to breakfast around 05:00 Initiating the preperatory fires three or four hours earlier would have hindered the movement of the Germans from their sleep to the trenches & bunkers. Instead they were safely under concrete

Aber
Member
Posts: 928
Joined: 05 Jan 2010 21:43

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Aber » 14 Jul 2011 12:17

Army will want to land at high tide to get close to its targets; Navy will want a rising tide to refloat landing craft, which could get stranded on the beach after high tide.

The problem with early bombardment is that you are marking out the exact assault area, without causing much damage if the defenders are in deep concrete shelters.

Of course tides are much less of an issue in the Mediterranean than on the Atlantic coast.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 13:18

Aber wrote: The problem with early bombardment is that you are marking out the exact assault area, without causing much damage if the defenders are in deep concrete shelters.
The 'marking' effect can be alleviated by deception attacks. In the case of Normandy 21 Army Group was attacking every meter of beach in the assault area, & there were deception ops aimed at other areas, such as the Pas de Calais which included a fleet deployed in that direction. German accounts make it clear they were suprised by the scale of assault & that interefered with their decisions on deployment of the tactical reserves that morning. This assault was not like landings such as Tinian island where the assault force demonstrated against one beach to drawn in the reserves, then switched to another poorly defended beach.

As I pointed out previously a earlier start to the preperatory fires would have interdicted the defenders while they were moving to their stations. The soldiers were mostly billeted in the farms & villages along the coast & not in the gun bunkers & it took some time for all to reach their stations. A second point is a 90 or 120 minute preperatory fire has a larger morale effect that the 45-60 minute attack that was made on Omaha beach & degrades communications more. Destruction of fortifications, even light works, is difficult & time consuming so the object must primarily be to psycologicaly unhinge the defending soldiers. From German accounts it is clear this had stated amoung the defenders on both Omaha & Utah beaches, but it had not progressed far enough to degrade the defense on Omaha beach.

The failure of the heavy bomber strike was in part responsible for the lack of effective suppresion on Omaha beach. Beyond that the relatively brief naval gun fires were not enough to suppress many of the defenders in the fortifications & interdict much of the defenders movement to their stations.

RichTO90
Member
Posts: 4238
Joined: 22 Dec 2003 18:03

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by RichTO90 » 14 Jul 2011 13:36

Carl Schwamberger wrote:I'll refer to Balikowski as he breaks down his calculations by unit.
Hi Carl,

Balkowski is pretty complete, but I think he may have double-counted in a few places. I have a complete analysis of the OMAHA casualty estimates that I have been working on over the years if you are interested.

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

RichTO90
Member
Posts: 4238
Joined: 22 Dec 2003 18:03

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by RichTO90 » 14 Jul 2011 13:52

Carl Schwamberger wrote:The Anzio assualt started around 01:00 hours. that was in January so dawn was still six to eight hours away.

IIRC the Salerno attack was kicked off a couple hours before dawn

However this is dictated by tides as much as anything. The usual prefrence is to assualt at high tide to minimize the beach to be crossed. In Normandy Rommel's inovative idea of placing the obstacles out to the low tide line caused the 21 Army Group to assualt at low tide.

This should not have affected the start of the preperatory fires. For some reason the prelimnary fires were started after dawn. In many previous beach assualts the prep fires were executed long before dawn, so thats not a excuse. Some folks claim it was for suprise. But, the airborne drop put paid to that. The Germans ordered the beach defenses to ready status by 03:00. Plus there were German picket boats, radar, & air reconissance to be expected. We were really lucky none of those were effective. Still every defending soldier was in place long before dawn. The company commanders had actually started rotating the soldiers to breakfast around 05:00 Initiating the preperatory fires three or four hours earlier would have hindered the movement of the Germans from their sleep to the trenches & bunkers. Instead they were safely under concrete
The final criteria for the NEPTUNE landings were pretty tight and required a precise combination of moon and tide. Adrian Lewis does a pretty good job of analyzing the whys and wherefores of the decisions on the bombardment (although his overall analysis of how flawed doctrine affected OMAHA misses that it was the exact same doctrine on all the beaches). I think part of it may have been due to the division of labor in the bombardment. The battleships and cruisers were to engage and suppress the coastal batteries, while the DD protected the landing area and then later closed the beach to take up gunfire positions supporting their BLOBs along with the BB and CA/CL that had completed their counterbattery program. But since the batteries were all point targets they required decent visibility to engage them, which required some daylight and they may have simply decided that poking the hornet's nest early was counterproductive. On top of that most of the BLOBs were wiped out, suppressed, or out of comms when they landed, which cut the observer link to the bombardment ships. That led directly to the decision to send in the DD early to engage the defenses with direct fire without depending on the beach observers.

To do a full suppression program on the defenses along with the counterbattery simply required many more ships than were available...the beaches were simply too dispersed for an efficient, Pacific-style bombardment program even ignoring the time factor. Thus the decision to develop the "beach drenching" program with the LCT (R), LCG, LCS, LCT with artillery embarked firing, and the LCT (A), (CB), and (HE). That worked, more or less, on the other beaches, but failed in the face of the greater obstacles at OMAHA.

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 13:57

Of course we are! Silly of you to ask :P

Even if double counting Balikowski's count is lower that most of the SWAGs one sees on this subject. The other books on my shelf lack the detail & completeness of Balikowski. When I tried to compare too many questions emerged. Plus they all seemed to be using secondary sources vs the unit reports.

RichTO90
Member
Posts: 4238
Joined: 22 Dec 2003 18:03

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by RichTO90 » 14 Jul 2011 14:14

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Of course we are! Silly of you to ask :P

Even if double counting Balikowski's count is lower that most of the SWAGs one sees on this subject. The other books on my shelf lack the detail & completeness of Balikowski. When I tried to compare too many questions emerged. Plus they all seemed to be using secondary sources vs the unit reports.
Well, I am moving and starting a new job, so for the next month or so my contributions may be limited, but I will try to post it later. :D

Fundamentally though, the casualties on OMAHA will always be less than complete, because most of the morning reports weren't completed until two to five days later. On top of that it is almost impossible now to access the morning reports since the microfilm rolls are only marginally indexed, expensive to buy, and almost impossible to access, so a full analysis has never been done. A friend has the 29th Division rolls and may have the 1st Division ones too (although the 16th Infantry AAR gives a pretty complete casualty picture) and I may try to cajol him into providing me copies for my analysis, but that covers only a fraction of the units actually involved in the assault (just look at the units for the ESBs alone). So at best we will only ever have an estimate. But even that estimate is considerably higher than the casualties for the other beaches, where they are more complete.

BTW, comparing casualties by "number of battalions" is pretty flawed methodology I'm afraid. I think you should look at casualties by total troops landed (see the goofy FORTUTIDE Failure thread where I posted them), which will give you the daily casualty rate by beach. I also did the calculations for the assault phase casualties in Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall, partly to correct some long-held and incorrect assumptions (they were based upon an initial flawed reading of a British ORO report that has been repeated ad infinitum by numerous historians who have never bothered to read the original report :roll: ) about how "easy" the Commonwealth beach assaults were.

Cheers!
Richard Anderson
Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: the 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day
Stackpole Books, 2009.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 14:16

I wonder if fragments from Lewis are what I've seen folks toss at me over the years. Not run across 'Flawed Victory' in the stores or librarys yet.

I used to get paid to plan fire support & the more I see the details of the fire plans for Neptune the less I like them. The shortage of NGF tubes relative to the size of the assualt is clear, but it looks like they tried to compromise & spread the ammo to thin across the target lists. The same sort of lack of focus or priority I used to see in many of our fire plans is visable here. I'd really need to see the ammo allotment/fired vs each target alongside the effects tables or estimates they were using to judge what was what here. Thats all probablly as difficult to get at as the casualty reports...

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8708
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Bloody Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Jul 2011 14:21

RichTO90 wrote: BTW, comparing casualties by "number of battalions" is pretty flawed methodology I'm afraid. I think you should look at casualties by total troops landed (see the goofy FORTUTIDE Failure thread where I posted them), which will give you the daily casualty rate by beach.
Thats what I could do in a few minutes from the way the appendix was formatted. Like I wrote a attempt to seperate the losses of the assualt units from those of following units in the afternoon would tell a different story, but who has the time :( Even as we write I'm losing money by not focusing on business. Guess I'd better close this window ...

Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”