Company G
Home Up DDay Crossword Mystery

Company G and the Breakthrough

Story Written by Rick Archer with help from Stan Karas
June 6, 2012

Company G of the First Infantry was the unit commanded by Captain Joseph Dawson on D-Day at Omaha Beach.  As you will read, Company G created the Breakthrough that completely turned the battle around.  Company G was part of a legendary fighting force during World War II known as the "Big Red One" and the "Fighting First". 

The picture below is titled Into the Jaws of Death. This is one of the most famous pictures taken at D-Day. It shows E Company of the First Infantry headed to shore at Omaha Beach. The 2nd Battalion of E Company was the unit that shared the credit with G Company for helping to create the big Breakthrough during the attack at Omaha Beach.  Led by John Spalding and Philip Streczyk, E Company would exploit the Breakthrough to become the first unit to take out one of the deadly German resistance nests that were killing Americans.

The 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army is the oldest division in the Army.  The First Infantry played a key role in many major WW II battles. Using Wikipedia as our reference, here is a brief look at the resume of the Fighting First during World War II. 

Shortly after the beginning of World War II in Europe, the 1st Division was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in November 1939 where it supported the Infantry School as part of American mobilization preparations. It then moved to the Sabine Parish, Louisiana, in May 1940 to participate in the Louisiana Maneuvers.

The division next relocated to Fort Hamilton in June 1940, where it spent over six months before moving to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, in February 1941. As part of its training that year, the division participated in the October and November Carolina Maneuvers  before returning to Ft Devens on 6 December 1941.

One day later, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and then the United States declared war. The division was ordered to Camp Blanding, Florida, as quickly as trains could be gathered and winter weather permitted, and arrived on 21 February 1942.

The division was reorganized and refurbished with new equipment, being re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division on 15 May 1942. Within a week, the division was returned to its former post at Fort Benning, from where it was expedited on 21 Jun 1942 to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation for wartime overseas deployment final preparation. The division departed New York Port of Embarkation on 1 August 1942, arrived in Beaminster in south-west England about a week later, and departed 22 October 1942 for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa.

As part of II Corps, the division landed in Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North-Africa.[13] The 1st Division commander was Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen and Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. as deputy division commander. Elements then took part in combat at Maktar, Tebourba, Medjez el Bab, the Battle of the Kasserine Pass (where American forces were pushed back), and Gafsa. It then led the allied assault in brutal fighting at El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur. The 1st Infantry Division was in combat in the North African Campaign from 21 January 1943 – 9 May 1943, helping secure Tunisia.

In July 1943, the division took part in Operation Husky invading Sicily still under the command of Major General Allen. Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. specifically requested the Big Red One as part of his forces for the invasion of Sicily. It was assigned to the II Corps. It was in Sicily that the 1st saw heavy action when making amphibious landings opposed by Italian and German tanks at the Amphibious Battle of Gela. The 1st then moved up through the center of Sicily, slogging it out through the mountains along with the 45th Infantry Division. In these mountains, the division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Sicilian campaign at the Battle of Troina; some units losing more than half their strength in assaulting the mountain town. On 7 August 1943, command was assumed by Major General Clarence R. Huebner.

When that campaign was over, the division returned to England 5 November 1943 to prepare for the eventual Normandy invasion. The First Infantry Division and one Regimental Combat Team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  Some of the division's units suffered 30 percent casualties in the first hour of the assault.  They secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead by the end of the day.

The division followed up the Saint-Lô break-through with an attack on Marigny, 27 July 1944, and then drove across France in a continuous offensive, reaching the German border at Aachen in September. The division laid siege to Aachen, taking the city after a a direct assault on 21 October 1944. 

The First then attacked east of Aachen through the Hurtgen Forest, driving to the Ruhr, and was moved to a rear area 7 December 1944 for refitting and rest following 6 months of combat. When the German Wacht Am Rhein offensive (commonly called the Battle of the Bulge) was launched on 16 December 1944, the division was quickly moved to the Ardennes front. Fighting continuously from 17 December 1944 to 28 January 1945, the division helped to blunt and reverse the German offensive.

Thereupon the division attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Ruhr, 23 February 1945, and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead, 15–16 March. The division broke out of the bridgehead, took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains.  The First was in Czechoslovakia, fighting at Kinsperk, Sangerberg, and Mnichov when the war in Europe ended.

Sixteen members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor.


Stanley Karas, War Hero

Rick Archer's Note
June 6, 2012

It has now been one year since I wrote my article on D-Day.  In the past year, I have received several kind words about the story.

Although I enjoy receiving a compliment as much as the next guy, in this situation I wish only to help preserve the memories of the men who risked their lives on D-Day.  Let us never forget the sacrifice.  That is the main purpose of my articles.

Among the letters I received, I was most touched by a letter sent by Stan Karas of Neptune, New Jersey.

As we exchanged correspondence, one day I suddenly realized I was writing to a man whose father was a war hero.

Here is what I wrote:

"Stan, I've been thinking about your letter. I just realized that "G Company" was Joe Dawson's command.

Your father must have fought right alongside Joe Dawson, yes?

If so, was your father one of the men wounded by the stupid Naval bombing of Colleville in the afternoon?"

Response from Stan Karas Jr

My father was with Dawson every step of the way. He was Dawson's 2nd in command. That's why your story has me so excited. I have a "G" Company Officer Roster for 6 Jun 44 that puts my Dad in Dawson's landing craft.  Dawson's book From Omaha Beach to Dawson's Ridge tells how the two of them had an emotional return to Easy Red beach a few weeks later when things were secure and my father had rejoined the Company after his wounds at Colleville.

No, my Dad was not hit by the Naval bombing, but a lot of his friends were hit. 

The Germans got Dad.  A machine pistol bullet shattered my dad's helmet visor.  He was knocked out with a concussion.  A fragment took out a small chuck of the white of his eye at Colleville.

He was blinded for a while, but his vision came back 100%. My father and a small group of five officers went AWOL from an English hospital and "hitchhiked" back to France because they were afraid they would get reassigned out of the 1st Division if they were on leave too long.  They could not bear the thought of being separated from their buddies.

Stan Karas Jr offered to send me some newspaper articles written about his father.

As I researched the World War II exploits of Lt Colonel Stanley Karas, my jaw dropped.  This man participated in eight different campaigns.  Karas was wounded on four separate occasions, but he refused to let that stop him.  Every time he came back to fight again.

Let me share some of the war accomplishments of Stanley A Karas.

Stan Karas was a highly decorated soldier during WW II.  Born in Newark, New Jersey, Karas joined the army in 1932.  The war started for him in 1942.  He was assigned to the First Division in Africa.  During the African campaign, Karas was promoted from Staff Sergeant to Second Lieutenant by Major General Terry Allen. 

In Sicily, Karas received the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) on 11 July 1943 for taking on five German tanks. His citation read:

"Lt. Karas' platoon was attacked on its left flank by five enemy tanks. Karas held his ground steadfastly until overrun by the tanks. Then under extremely heavy artillery and machine gun fire from the attacking tanks, Karas moved his platoon into position with the remainder of the company. After reorganizing his men and encouraging them to fight on, Karas rounded up a gun crew and manned an abandoned anti-tank gun.

When he had exhausted his ammunition, Karas fearlessly dashed to an earlier gun position to secure more ammunition. Returning under intense fire to his anti-tank gun, he resumed firing.

Karas' outstanding bravery and magnificent devotion to duty were of inestimable value in bolstering the spirit of the men fighting beside him. His brilliant organization and leadership ability were instrumental in the successful conclusion of this vital engagement with the enemy."

Stan Karas would go on to serve his country with great bravery throughout the war.  Karas suffered his first wound in Africa.  He suffered his second wound in Sicily. 

Karas suffered his third wound during the D-Day invasion.  He was badly hurt during an afternoon skirmish at Colleville on D-Day.  A German pistol bullet fragmented on his helmet visor and a shard hit him in the eye.  He was blind.  Fortunately it was only temporary.  Karas was out for only a month.

By coincidence, Joe Dawson, Karas' commanding officer, had also just returned to action.  Like Karas, Dawson was wounded at Colleville when he took a bullet fragment in his knee.

The two men were excited to be re-united. One morning in early July 1944 they decided to take an important trip.  Lt Karas and Captain Dawson revisited the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach together.  As they stood on the beach, neither man could speak.  It was almost impossible to comprehend how they had crossed that beach alive.  It was also painful to think of all the friends they had lost.

Rick Archer's Note:  The Red X in the picture shows the spot where Dawson took out the machine gun nest.  I estimate the distance from the beach to the crest to be 700 yards.

By a strange twist of fate, there is a viewing platform at practically the exact place where Dawson threw the grenade that opened up the entire ravine to the men on the beach.

Neither Stan Karas, Jr, the man who shared his father's story with me, nor I can understand why there is no plaque at the platform to commemorate this dramatic moment.

"On D-Day at this exact spot, Captain Joseph Dawson of G Company crept on hands and knees to within ten yards of a deadly machine gun nest.  Suddenly two Germans saw him. 

As they swung their machine gun around, Dawson threw a grenade to eliminate the threat. It was kill or be killed. 

This was the moment upon which the fate of the day turned.

This brave action cleared the way for the men pinned down on the beach to climb the hill. 

This Breakthrough Moment saved the day for the Americans." 

In Joe Dawson's book, From Omaha Beach to Dawson's Ridge, Dawson had this to say about revisiting Omaha Beach with Karas.

"Yesterday, I took a little trip to the rear - my first since my return from the hospital. With my Executive Officer Stanley Karas, we revisited the scene of our landing and walked over the ground where we had fought. Indeed my heart stood still as I placed myself in the enemy positions. How I came across that beach will ever remain the unshaken realism that God alone so will it.

From a purely abstract point of view and as a military problem, I would say that such a place could not be successfully taken by assault troops. It was just too perfect a defensive position.  Please don't ask me how it was done because that will ever remain an unsolved riddle."

As it turned out, that one moment of rest with Dawson would be the last peace Karas would enjoy till the end of the war.

Now that Karas was back in action, he was reassigned out of Dawson's company.  Karas was promoted to Captain of E Company.

E Company had suffered tremendous casualties at D-Day.  Since 140 of 200 of "E" Company had died or been wounded, the company was undergoing replacements and reorganization.  Karas received a lot of new people when he took over "E" but he also had Lt. Spaulding, as well as Colson, Streczyk, and Bieder who were great soldiers to build with. Ed Wozenski was Karas' immediate superior.

E Company immediately went into action.  During the infamous hedgerow nightmare of Normandy, Karas and his men fought every day.  Playing cat and mouse with the Germans in the hedgerows and in the small French towns, the men were constantly exposed to sniper fire.   All the men were at great risk every day.  One of the most famous battles of the Normandy campaign took place at the French town of St Lo in July 1944. Karas and his men were right there in thick of it.  The fighting was intense and dangerous while going door to door in this small town.  There were Germans hiding everywhere.  Many times life and death boiled down to who shot first or who shot the straightest. 

Just 23 days after taking command, Karas and E Company saw brutal combat at Aachen on the German border.  Captain Karas distinguished himself greatly during this action.  First he received the Silver Star as Commanding Officer of E Company.  Shortly thereafter he received the Bronze Star as well.  In addition, Karas was wounded for the fourth time here.  Engaging in vicious hand to hand combat with a German SS officer, Karas won the battle, but ended up in the hospital.

The wounds did not stop Karas.  Soon he was back at the head of E Company to finish out the war.  In March 1945, E Company got lost in the middle of Germany.  After heading down the wrong road, Karas and his men encountered unexpected resistance.  After fierce combat, his unit ended up capturing an entire town all by themselves.

After the war, Karas stayed on to help with the chaos in Europe.  He met an attractive young Polish lady named Kay who had been driven from her home during the war.  After a six month courtship, he finally received permission from the brass to marry her.  The ceremony took place in October 1945 at Wolfhagen, Germany, where Karas was stationed.

Two years later the Karas family moved to the USA  The couple had two children, Stanley Jr and Barbara. 

Now back in the States, Karas was committed to a career in the service. Not only was he appointed a Major, Karas became head of the army recruiting station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Karas would go on to serve as a liaison officer during the Korean War.  Stanley Karas would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring.  

Stanley Karas was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Unfortunately it never came through. 

Rick Archer's Note: 
There is much more to Stanley Karas' service record.  However, his son told me that his father probably would prefer to keep the details of his war exploits private.

It is only right to honor those sentiments.

"My Dad was such a normal guy, fun to be around. You would never guess there had been violence in his life. He was a modest guy. I'm sure he would approve the credit be focused on the group, not himself."  Stan Karas, Jr.

Stanley Karas and Breakthrough Alley at Omaha Beach

Stan Karas was heavily involved in the D-Day attack on Omaha Beach.  The problem is, it is difficult to find any mention of his role that day.  This is a bit strange because Stanley Karas was the second in command of Company G behind Joe Dawson.  In other words, Stan Karas was Joe Dawson's executive officer.  One would assume Karas was in thick of the action all day long.

However, despite his important position, there are only two brief references to Karas in Dawson's book about World War II From Omaha Beach to Dawson's Ridge.  Both references are very cordial, but have nothing to do with the fighting.

So why do you suppose Karas' son read my article?  Because Stan Karas Jr is always curious about any article that discussed the action his father was involved in at Omaha Beach. 

In the reports of G Company's movements during D-Day, the name 1st Lt Karas is not to be found.  There is a reason for that.

Karas was hurt during the D-Day offensive, so he wasn't around afterwards to give interviews.  When he returned to action a month later, Karas was immediately transferred to the command of another company. 

This meant Karas was too busy to be bothered with interviews.  This also explains why Karas was not part of the G Company Group Interview in August 1944 regarding their memories of D-Day (this interview is listed below). Consequently Stan Karas' name doesn't appear in the reports.

It is hard to believe that the Executive Officer was largely invisible that day.  On the other hand, let's be realistic.  Everyone was too busy ducking bullets to recall what Karas did.  Karas was undoubtedly ducking bullets and shooting back just like everyone else. 

I think we can infer that Karas participated heavily in the horror of Bloody Omaha.  However, it is unlikely we will ever know exactly what he did that day. More than likely, Karas was far too worried about staying alive than be concerned about his press clippings.

It was just his bad luck to get hurt.  Just three hours after opening the lane that broke the day open for the Americans, Karas lay unconscious and temporarily blinded from his eye injury at Colleville.  As his son pointed out, Karas took one in the side of the head at Colleville and woke up in a hospital in England.  He filled out no reports and was not interviewed. 

For that matter, the concussion might have erased his memory.  There is a chance Karas didn't even remember half of what happened.

Compounding the problem, after the war, Captain Karas preferred not to talk about his war experiences with his son.  Yes, he gave interviews all the time to newspaper reporters, but Karas always kept it superficial.

I have heard that many veterans have great difficulty talking about the experience. It is just too painful to think about… so many close calls with death, so much fear, so much guilt and regret, plus the helplessness and the pain of seeing so many friends die fighting. After the war, those guys had to be shell shocked out of their minds. I can imagine the only way they could cope with those horrible memories is to wall them off in some secret part of their mind and refuse to unlock the door ever again.

From what I gather, Captain Karas required no publicity of his war feats.  He was perfectly content to help send Hitler to his grave and leave it at that.  This sense of modesty in the face of so many accomplishments is typical of many American GIs.  They did their job and didn't expect any fuss made over them.

Since so little was documented about his role that day, Captain Karas joins the thousands of other men who will go down as the Unsung Heroes of D-Day. 

Karas risked his life and did his job without any need to receive personal glory. 

Because of men like Officer Karas, his son, his daughter and all the rest of us Baby Boomers are lucky enough to enjoy a life of peace and prosperity here in America. 

Men like Karas and his friends not only risked their lives so that the next generation could be safe from a monster like Hitler, many of them sacrificed their lives.

Thousands of men died that day so that you and I can be safe.

We can never forget that.


The Contribution of Captain Karas' Son

Captain Karas' son Stan Jr has long been curious about his father's career.  Understandably proud of his father and curious to learn more of what happened that day, Stan Jr has read every book he can get his hands on about Omaha Beach and World War II. 

Stan Jr liked my article in particular since my story concentrated directly on the Breakthrough led by Captain Joe Dawson at Omaha, the same historic moment that his father had participated in.

Stan Jr wrote this about my story:

From: Stan Karas
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 5:25 PM
Subject: D-Day story

Dear Mr. Archer,

I just have to thank you for such an incredible job on your Normandy story. So thorough!

Not only are the photos amazing, your story gave such clarity to someone who has more than a casual knowledge of this subject. Thank you for the insight.

The 1st Division Museum in Illinois I think would be very interested.

I recently retired and visiting the Normandy Beaches is high on my "Bucket List".

My Dad was a 1st Division soldier, in fact he is Lt. Stanley A. Karas 0885734, Executive Officer of "G" Co. 2nd Bn 16th Inf. on 6Jun44.

Sir, you have given me such a vivid picture of what this must have been like for them. Thank you so much. My father was wounded later in the afternoon at Colleville-sur-mer. It was his third of four wounds. Despite nearly losing his eye, my father returned to "G" Company in a few weeks.

In September 1944 Capt. Wozenski was promoted. At that point, my Dad became C.O. of "E" Company until the end of the war. "E" Company was thrown into action almost the moment Dad took over. In late September, my father earned the Silver Star at Aachen. Not long after that, he also received the Bronze Star at Aachen, a brutal fight indeed.

Dad retired from the army in 1957 as a Lt. Colonel. If you read Walter Bieder's interview in the War Chronicles, the Capt. "Caras" he refers to is actually my Dad.

As you can gather, I am very familiar with the soldiers of the "G" and "E" Companies.

In my opinion, your presentation of these events is the best I've ever read!

On a personal note, I was fairly young when my Dad died in 1970. Like many men who served during the war, my father never wanted to talk to me about the war.

As a result, I never really had many details about the war until Capt. Dawson's book came out. Since then, I've gathered a lot of details about Co's G and E. In fact, Rosalyn Dawson (Joe Dawson's daughter) and I have met. We thought how much our dads would have liked that we met and talked about our fathers who were heroes.

We both have pictures of my Dad in the same photo with Ike and another with Omar Bradley. I think everyone in my extended family has brought these to "Show and Tell" growing up.

Your story will have so much meaning for them. Only military buffs realize the amount of combat the 1st Division saw before (and after) D-Day.

You know how in sports they say good ball players make their teammates better, well, the 16th Infantry Regiment had to be the All Star of All Star teams for fighting ability.

I looked up the amount of DSC's awarded to the 2nd Battalion 16th Regiment in WW2 (my Dad has one for Sicily). I guess that's why Ike picked them for Colleville draw. Failure would have been catastrophic.

You said it was the most important site in US Military History. I have to agree. I've read that 6Jun1946 was the most important day of the 20th century.

The 16th Infantry Regiment are now Rangers. There is even a Video Game CALL OF DUTY-THE BIG RED ONE. I am proud that my father served in this legendary group of men.

Thank you again, sir, for your excellent story and for the respect you have shown for these men.

Yours truly,  Stan Karas

Stan Jr is particularly proud of one picture he has in his possession.  It is a picture of General Dwight Eisenhower at Balleroy, France, on  2 July 1944 giving the men of the First Infantry a pep talk.  That is 1st Lt Karas circled in the background.

General Dwight D Eisenhower was there to personally present the DSC medals to American soldiers.  You can see the picture of Captain Joe Dawson as he receives his medal for his heroic part in creating the American breakthrough that day.

Eisenhower gave a heartfelt salute to the men of the Fighting First.  He said, "I know your record from the day you landed in Africa, then Sicily.  You are a remarkable group of men.  I am beginning to think that the First Division is a sort of modern day Praetorian Guard."

The Praetorian Guard was the elite fighting force of the Roman Empire.  High praise indeed.

As Stan Karas Jr pointed out, "I guess that's why Ike picked these guys for the Colleville draw. Failure would have been catastrophic."


Testimony to Stan Karas

Rick Archer's Note: 

If you are reading this page first and you are unfamiliar with the long version of my story, here is a brief recap. On D-Day morning, two units landed in roughly the same spot about 15 minutes apart.

Working separately, Company G led by Joe Dawson and Company E led by John Spalding took the initiative to blow holes in the barbed wire and climb the hill in front of them through a steep gulley.

Essentially Dawson and his men wiped out the resistance on the "WN62" side of the gulley while Spalding and his ace Second in Command Streczyk wiped out the "WN64" side of the same gulley.

At the top the two units met.  Spalding decided to move west.  His unit would discover and destroy Resistance Nest 64, a major step in the victory.

After Dawson personally eliminated a dangerous machine gun position to clear the way, his orders were to take his company towards Colleville.

Thanks to my communication with Stan Karas Jr, he offered to send me the transcript of a group interview held with the men of Company G about their experiences at D-Day.  If you have read my long story, you will probably not learn anything new.  However the Interview will certainly drive home the valuable message that these men were brave and heroic in their actions on D-Day. 

As I read their story, I wondered if these men realized just how significant a role they played that day.  These were the men who punched the first gigantic hole in Hitler's Atlantic Fortress at Omaha.  We were losing the battle that morning at Omaha Beach.  Men were dying right and left and unable to move thanks to a rain of artillery and machine gun fire.  Suddenly, once Dawson's men opened the door, hundreds of men were able to pour through that opening and take control of the fight.  We won that day thanks largely to this amazing exploit.

Please note that the name of 1st Lt Stan Karas is nowhere to be seen in this interview.  Karas was not there to participate in this interview because he had just been assigned to take command of Company E.  As the new Captain, Karas was surely busy elsewhere that day. 

As a result, Stan Karas' exact role in the events of D-Day is likely to remain largely invisible for the rest of time.  This is a shame because as Dawson's right hand man, Karas undoubtedly played a major role in his own right on D-Day.

Stan Karas has been one of the Unsung Heroes of the D-Day Breakthrough for over half a century.  Now we all know who Stan Karas is.  He is a highly decorated war hero who once took on 5 German tanks all by himself.  Karas was an incredibly brave man who was wounded in action four times and yet risked his life to return to fight again four times.  This is a guy who deserves all the respect and gratitude his country can give him.

It has been a real pleasure to add the name of Stanley A. Karas to this amazing story. 


An Account of Breakthrough Alley

Rick Archer's Note (6 June 2012):

This is an eye-witness account given by the men of Company G that explains in their own words how they created the opening that saved the day.  Countless Americans were pinned down on the beach by deadly machine gun fire.  The Americans had been unable to disable the near-invincible German WN Resistance Nests using a frontal assault.  The countless dead bodies lining the beach was morbid proof of that.

No one was moving; the attack was in so much trouble General Omar Bradley assumed the Americans had failed at Omaha Beach. 

Then suddenly men began moving off the beach.

A safe route to the top had miraculously appeared.  The momentum of the battle pivoted instantly.  From there the troops fanned out and took down the Resistance Nests one by one from behind. 

I do not believe this report has been previously published on the Internet.

A Group Interview with Company 16-G

Interview conducted on August 22, 1944

Our Company hit the beach together except for the 5th Battalion.  They were taking in too much water and couldn’t bail fast enough so their boat was slowed well behind us.  G Company came in on 6 LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel).  There were no casualties coming in. Bullets were dropping around us like rain but the good Lord seemed to be with us. (Capt Joe Dawson).

Armor-piercing shells and high explosive shells were hitting in and around the Company.  These explosives were having a harassing effect on the men, but fortunately the nearest did not fall closer than 50-60 yards away. (T Sgt VJ Miceli)

Battalion 5, the one with the slower boat, found its ramp fouled and unworkable when it got to the beach.  The water inside was then up to the men’s knees and this blocked the mechanism.  So the men had to clamber over the sides.  This made them a broadside target and they lost 15 men to bullet fire.

The 2nd Section hit a sandbar 700 yards out.  The coxswain told the men to stand steady and he bumped his way on through.  The coxswain seemed absolutely fearless.  He kept assuring the men that he was going to get them in safely at the right place.  He paid for his courage with his life.  He tried to straighten the boat around after he dropped the men and a shell made a direct hit on him. (Lt. EA Day)

The water was still quite clear when Company G hit the beach.  The Company was supposed to land a H plus 30 and did so at the designated spot.  However the few men who had preceded “G” to this part of the beach had been delayed. Consequently they were only 5 minutes ahead of us. (Dawson)

The engineers were engaged in blowing the tetrahedral and trihedrals (Rommel’s ‘Belgian Gate’ defenses) when the company came ashore.  The men of ‘G’ saw some men trying to land behind them (116th Infantry and CWS troops).  They were trying to take cover behind the obstacles.  Unfortunately, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  They died when our own explosives took out the obstacles. (Dawson, Miceli).

The engineers had not yet completed the lanes for the tanks; it was about 15 minutes after ‘G’ landed the first lanes were cleared in this area.  However three tanks had arrived at this strip of beach. Where they came to shore is not known.  They had already been destroyed by direct artillery fire from the shore batteries when “G’ landed among them. These were the DD tanks that were supposed to have preceded the first wave by 5 minutes.  Out of the 60 DD tanks, only these three had made it to shore.  Ten tanks had drowned at once and other had foundered as they came in.  All the way in, the men of ‘G’ had passed tankers afloat on rafts and had mistakenly thought they were markers intended to guide the infantry. (Dawson, Miceli)

The height of the surf was so great that men in the ‘G’ boats were making to one another none of their own craft would be able to reach the shore. (S Sgt Vincent J Kachnik)

The scene along the shingle as ‘G’ landed was one of complete confusion.  The assault wave had become pinned down, mentally if not physically. (Dawson)

There was no coordinated fire from the Americans ashore. ‘G’ could see a line of men along the shingle, frozen to earth and taking no steps against the enemy.  They were bunched should to should and were huddling on patches of ground which gave them partial cover from the fire. (Dawson, Miceli)

These men were mostly remnants from ‘E-16’ under Spalding but principally 116-E who had been landed on the wrong beach and had become demoralized in part by that error. (Dawson)

The beaches were supposed to have been saturated with rocket fire from the 5 LCRs (landing craft rocket).  One LCR hit the target and got its rockets into the E-3 draw. However the other rocket clusters had gone off in the water quite far from the shore.  Our men passed thousands of dead fish killed by this fire. (Dawson)

Most of the ‘G’ casualties were suffered getting from the boats to the shingle.  We lost 63 men all told.  They fell mainly from mortar and bullet fire.  The enemy artillery was falling too far behind to be dangerous.  There was no way, however, to minimize these beach-crossing losses.  The men had to walk across the sands’ they could not sprint because the weight of the ammunition, demotions. (Dawson)

It was the feeling of the men that our losses would have been cut in half if the loads had been lighter. (Miceli)

When the ramps went down, some of the men couldn’t move ashore.  They stumbled and fell in the water.  They had become so cramped because crowding that their muscles would not respond.  They lay in the water for a few minutes, rubbing their legs.  Finally when the circulation was restored, then they crossed ashore. (Lt Marvin Stine)

It even seemed to some of the leaders that they were glad of the chance to assault, so miserable had they felt during the journey in. (T Sgt Peter Gorba)

Except for the wounded and perhaps a few stragglers, the men streamed on up to the shingle.  The light machine guns and the mortars were all with Dawson.  He put the machine guns up on the shingle and the mortars at the base of it.  Five minutes after hitting the shingle, these weapons were ready to fire.  At first the men could see no targets, so they put down a general zone fire.  At least 10 minutes passed in this way.  Then new boat waves came into the beach.  At that, the enemy fire shifted from the beach and shingle over to the oncoming boats. (Miceli)

These new boats caught all the unshielded hell that ‘G’ Company had been dealing with.  When that happened, our men at the mortars and machine guns had their first chance to see the targets clearly.  They spotted 8 or 10 different emplacements.  Some of them looked liked Tobruk pits.  We directed all our fire towards these points.  The BARs (Browning Automatic Rifle) and rifles added to the volume.  We tried to put rocket fire n the emplacements but the rockets were ineffective.  So was the mortar fire. (Day)

The open emplacements were directly to the front of ‘G’. The heavier guns were off to the flanks. ‘G’ Company profited by the fact that there was a small defilade directly ahead.  This was what helped must in getting the advance going. (Kachnik)

(Note: A defilade is protection from hostile observation and fire provided by an obstacle such as a hill, ridge, or bank.)

There was barbed wire everywhere.  Two double aprons and a concertina about 10 feet wide. The wire was 5 yards beyond the shingle.  While the offensive fire was being built up, 5 men form each section below the wire ahead of them with bangalores.  They had to use 4 bangalores to cut one lane.  These men accomplished this despite a hail of bullet fire. (Dawson)

Pfc Henry Peszek wiggled through and under the wire with Lt John Burbridge.  They got part way through and Burbridge got his pack hung up.  He shook himself loose.  Peszek yelled to him, ‘Keep going!  I’m going back for the bangalores.’  Peszek then exploded two of them.  Both men were lying within 6 feet of the torpedoes when they exploded, but were not hit.  Peszek got creased on the arm by bullet while laying the second torpedo, but was able to keep working. (Dawson)

Thanks to these men’s efforts, this route was the best placed and cut lane along the beach. Through it, most of the men of ‘G’ passed.  All the battalions that came after us took the same route. (Dawson)

A mine field lay beyond the wire. There were two dead Americans lying in the mine area.  They had stepped on mines and lost their lives. 

Those bodies were a grim reminder to be careful that we all took note of.

The men of ‘G’ went through the field by walking over the bodies of the two dead men.

Note: These are two pictures of the ravine or "draw" that Dawson and G Company climbed.  Those ropes in the picture on the left were placed shortly after D-Day to show the safe route to the top.  There were dangerous land mines on either side.

We figured that this was the safest route.  We then continued through the Roman Ruins and proceeded up the draw.   (Day) 

(Note: a draw is a small natural depression that water drains into; a shallow gully)

Dawson was out ahead of them.  Dawson had crawled through the wire and had gone on up the hill with Pfc Frank Baldridge to see if he could clear the way for his men. 

They got halfway up the draw, but were pinned down. 

Dawson found himself caught between the fire of his own men and fire from any enemy machine gun at the head of the draw. 

Having walked up to that point, they dived next to a fallen log for cover. 

Dawson told Baldridge, ‘Leave your equipment here.  Go back and get the rest of the company.’ (Pfc Frank Baldridge)

After Baldridge left, Dawson was on his own.  Dawson crawled forward up the draw another 75 yards. He moved to any cover he could find.  

The draw was V-shaped. The Roman ruins were behind him down at the wide bottom of the V. There was a promontory at the top near the left angle of the V.

As Dawson got closer, the steep promontory likely shielded Dawson from the sight of the machine gun nest.  He was now invisible.

Dawson crawled behind this outcropping and around. This move put the enemy emplacement a little behind him and to his right.

Dawson got within ten yards when the Germans spotted him. They swung their machine gun around and fired it wildly.

Dawson heaved a fragmentation grenade. It exploded between the two Germans and killed both men instantly. (Miceli)

Dawson then waited at the brow of the hill for the company to come up and join him.  As the platoons reached the top, Dawson deployed them.  Baldridge, the messenger, had met the 5th Section under Lt Kenneth Bleau already coming up the hill. 

Kachnik had gotten forward as far as the Roman ruins only to discover that most of the men weren’t following Bleau.  Kachnik went back to the beach and learned that in the interval the Assistant Section leader had been hit and there was no one to boot the men on.  Kachnik went to work on them and before long got the majority of the men moving up the hill.  Kachnik then followed along.  Coming towad the top of the hill, Kachnik saw ‘Achtung minen’ signs to his left.  Kachnik heard someone say ‘Try the right instead!’ (Miceli)

There were more signs in that direction too.  So Kachnik tried looking for a path.  He began to crawl on his belly through the field.  Four men followed him – S Sgt Joseph Gaetano, Pfc Richard Torrey, Pvt Leo Sheerer, and Pvt Louis Johns.  They encountered no mines and crawled all the way to a hedgerow beyond the field atop the hill 200 yards forward.  I (Kachnik) sent Sheerer back with the word ‘It’s safe. Tell the men to come ahead.’  (Kachnik)

The Company, however, was already coming forward, using the trail I (Kachnik) had marked.  Now that the men were on top of the hill, the enemy fire by now had almost ceased.  The men of ‘G’ continued forward for 1000 yards.  Then they saw a group of Germans milling around 150 yards to their left.  S Sgt Joesph Barr moved out along the hedge with an M-1 and took 8 prisoners, routing them from out of a dugout.  They were a mixture of Germans and Poles.  Earlier the Company had seen mortar fire coming from this position and had thus spotted the enemy group ahead of time. (Kachnik)

The other elements quit the shingle and came on up behind ‘G’.  Many of the men stayed in the draw Dawson had used because the cover was better. Except for the men lost in the water and crossing the beach, Dawson had brought every man off the beach and up the hill with no further casualties.  Dawson did not have a single malingerer.  To the eye of Kachnik, it seemed that the new men came along quite as determined as Dawson’s men, perhaps in some cases with even more dash.  In the journey across the mine field, part of the Company had been guided by a Russian POW that had been found at the top of the hill. (Miceli)

Back on the beach, the work of rescue proceeded with T-5 Ray Smith, Pvt Abraham Nearon and Pvt Philip Kalan, aid men whose help figured conspicuously in saving the lives of the wounded.  They worked back and forth dragged the wounded from the sands before the tide could overtake them.  Smith, an unusually large man, made three trips across the beach carrying men on his back or in his arms.  Smith was hit the leg and Kalan in the side for their efforts, but both men kept working until the next day when both were evacuated for wounds.  Also conspicuous for his work on the beach was Pvt James Stickles.  He worked for several hours away from the cover of the shingle patching up men.  A private named Meadows was hit by a bullet while crossing the mine strip just off the beat.  T-5 Smith crawled out, got him, and carried him to the shingle on his back.


Note: Now that Dawson and ‘G’ Company had cleared out all remaining resistance at the top of the hill, their next mission was to move inland and attack Colleville-sur-mur a mile away.  There were many German reinforcements stationed there.  Dawson’s responsibility was to limit their ability to counter-attack by attacking them first. 

The plan was for the 3rd and 4th Sections to attach the German bivouac area after which the whole Company would pivot against Colleville.  1st and 2nd Sections would then advance on Colleville while the others would remain behind as a reserve.  They proceeded to operate on the plan.  About 12 men were lost in clearing the enemy from the bivouac area in a close-up house-to-house action fought with rifles and grenades. After this job was complete and the company made the left turn, Dawson found the fire from the Colleville positions building up against him at such a rate that he realized he could not take the village.  The hour was 1300 and his men had penetrated the edges of the community. Burbridge’s 1st Section anchored the Company there, containing a few buildings along the outskirts. Bleau’s 5th Section tied into Durbridge and extended the company’s line to a group of building just short of the bivouac area. 

Lt Day’s 2nd Section closed the perimeter.  Dawson sent word to Lt Col Hicks at 1430 that he could not commit the Company to the attack on Colleville.  Dawson was partly influenced b the fact that the two other sections under Stine and Lt James Kruckas had became separated from the Company.  They had gone on to high ground about 1000 yards beyond.  They extended themselves to cover the exposed flank, this being done at an hour when it was still reckoned that the other three sections could take Colleville.  The enemy then filtered in behind the two sections.  They did meet organized resistance but riflemen coming in on the flanks picked off one officer and two men.

At about 1500, the 18th Infantry came through ‘G’ and on South of Collevillle, passing the Germans of Colleville.  ‘G’ continued to hang on to Colleville’s flank.  At 1630, the US Navy opened fire on Colleville and swept the town from end to end.  Dawson’s ‘G’ Company took 8 casualties thanks to this unfortunate fire which landed right on top of G Company’s position.  The cordite fumes became so intense that all of ‘G’, including the aid men attending to the wounded, had to carry on in gas masks.  Orange smoke was sent up by the fire continued.  It was lifted at last by a radio message put through to Battalion.  The enemy in Colleville did not waver during the fire.  POWs taken the next day by ‘G’ reported the German side did not lose a single man during the shelling.  (Dawson)

Dawson was getting small arms fire from all around his perimeter. Losses were occurring, but there was no place to withdraw the men.  The arrival of the 18th Infantry had caused a slackening of the fire for a few minutes, but when the larger group went on, the fire picked up again.  Dawson was hit in the knee but felt that he had o stay on.  Eighteen men in the three sections had been either killed or wounded by the American naval fire or enemy bullet fire while the Company clung to the flank of Colleville during the afternoon.

In the meantime, three things had happened. The 16-1 had started arriving at 1300 and had gone into position on ‘G’ Company’s rear.  Their later elements continued to build up throughout the mid afternoon.  ‘G’ was not in contact with them and did not even know they were there, but gradually the enemy fire from that art of the perimeter fell away to a whisper. The night was fairly quiet.

At about 0800 the following morning, Dawson put his first patrol through the town – Burbridge, Gaettano, Kruckas, Peszek, and 4 others.  They worked down the main road, moved carefully from house to house.  They shot a few enemy riflemen and captured eight prisoners.  AS they reached the edge of the town, the 20th Engineers and some MPs came along behind them.  The patrol was followed by exactly one block by an MP carrying “Off Limits” signs.  Gaettano cleaned out one house, went on a short distance, went back and tried to reenter the same house because he wasn’t certain whether he had completed the job.  An MP said ‘You can’t go in there!’  Gaettano replied ‘The hell I can’t!  Just try to stop me!”  So he went in.  (Burbridge)

At 1000 Dawson was ordered to displace the Company to the south side of the town.  They went 200 yards and drew fire.  Dawson got two sections up to high ground and built up a fire position.  18th Infantry was 500 yards behind.  In a 15 minute engagement, ‘G’ disposed of 17 Germans who had gone by an underground passage from the barracks in Colleville to prepared position outside the village.  They had gone out in the early morning.  One 60 mm shell that landed dead center took all the fight from this crew. ‘G’ killed 5 and captured 12 more, suffered tow wounded men in the skirmish.

It was Dawson's impression that the lanes cut by his Company in the wire were used by the 18th, 26th and elements.


Giving Credit for the Breakthrough

In the Group Interview, the concluding line said Dawson believed that the lanes cut by his Company in the wire were used by the 18th, 26th and elements.  Dawson was too modest to come out and say it, but this opening plus the elimination of all resistance up the draw allowed the Americans their first real chance to take the initiative.

Once I realized how thoroughly my friend Stan Karas Jr had studied Omaha thanks to his father's involvement, I decided to interview him about his thoughts.

Question 1. Do you ever wonder why Dawson didn't get the Medal of Honor? After all, he and his company created the first breakthrough of the day. Who did more to turn this battle around? What did your father think about that?

Karas Repy 1- Usually all DSC winners are given consideration for the CMH (Medal of Honor).  My Dad was told he was put in for it, but he didn't get it. The fact finding is very thorough and time consuming. Sometimes witnesses have since been killed. There are very few CMH's that are survivors. In the beginning, the Allies were not that ready to admit what a disaster Omaha almost was. Perhaps honoring Dawson might have revealed to reporters how close we had come to defeat. Credit had to be shared with all nations and branches of service.

I think Steven Ambrose was the first person to realize the magnitude of "G" Company many years later. Cornelius Ryan doesn't even mention them. My Dad took one in the side of the head at Colleville and woke up in a hospital in England, so he filled out no reports and was not interviewed. He probably only got all the details of how many troops came through the breakout after he returned to "G" Company. Dad or anyone else, probably didn't realize they were making the "only" hole at the time of the climb. They probably all were hoping the same thing was occurring all along the beach.

Question 2. There was a big controversy about who got to the top first… Dawson or Spalding. Did your father ever comment on that? It is still something of a mystery.

Karas Repy 2 - According to Stephen Ambrose, many units claimed to have people on the top but he credits "G" to be the first "company size" unit capable of doing damage.  Spaulding landed 15 minutes ahead, but Dawson's force was 8 times larger. They probably each gave each other credit. My Dad never told me one word about D-Day.

Question 3. Dawson seemed like a very modest man. Did your father ever comment on that famous incident where Dawson took out the machine gun nest? Did I tell the story of his sneaking up on the MG nest correctly?

Karas Repy 3 -  In his book, Dawson's jokes about "not knowing whether he was going to be shot from the front or the back" when they were crossing the channel. "G" Co had been through a lot of combat with Ed Wozenski and he was now the "New Guy". All he wanted to do was take care of his men and complete their mission. Because of Joe Dawson's action my father lived through the day. Dawson will always be a hero to me.  General Eisenhower speaks about the modesty of the US servicemen in WWII. They honor those who didn't come home.

In fact, Dawson was a real hero, a guy who recognized the situation for what it was and did not hesitate to take fast action.

His superior officer Wozenski landed in the wrong place. Dawson arrived on a near empty beach drawing much less fire and has the where-with-all to get off the beach immediately. He has a geology background and can see they need to climb STAT.  He also has the balls to take out a machine gun nest singlehanded, then has the cool to seize the opportunity.  Dawson gets serious manpower and weapons up to the top quickly.

The sad thing is that Dawson's men got inland faster than the Navy thought was possible.  So the Navy begins to bomb their own men at Colleville in the afternoon because no American could possibly be there yet.  What a horror!  Dawson lost 50-60 men to friendly fire.

Question 4. What did your father say about that important trip up the ravine? Did he ever share his experiences from that day with you?

Karas Repy 4 -  It's hard to believe it but I didn't know the details of any of this until a few years ago. I regret not finding some of these guys just to shake their hand and say thank you.

Question 5.   Streczyk and Spalding. Do you know anything extra about those guys? I can't help but wonder if Streczyk was the actual leader. Spalding keeps coming across as a college kid completely out of his element. I don't know what Streczyk told Wozenski and all the reporters, but to read some of the battlefield reports makes Spalding seem either invisible or inconsequential. Any comments?

Karas Repy 5 -  Streczyk was a legend.  He was such a good thing for the Company. The first-time guys in combat need a guy like this. The military is all about TEAMWORK. Every boat had a "Plan B' AND a "Plan C" guy. I thought Spaulding shined. Sometimes being a good commander means listening to your subordinates. The writer Joseph Balkoski gives everyone a lot of credit. Wozenski was a few 100 yards down the beach and saw what he wanted to. The men loved Streczyk.

I think you are pretty close about the Wozenski/Streczyk thoughts. Ed Wozenski was a soldier's soldier. He went on the become a General during the "Cold War" era.

My Dad, Dawson and Wozenski all entered the Army before the war started and were all about 30 years old on D-Day. They all had a deep commitment to the men in their care. They worked very closely with each other in England preparing for the invasion because E Co (1st wave) and G Co (2nd wave) were landing on the exact same sector of Easy Red beach, 15 min apart. Of E Co, only Spaulding's boat landed at the right place.

Ed Wozenski was a Lt. in "E" Co in 1941. In Africa Wozenski became C.O. of "G" Co. and met ANOTHER "Polish Sergeant from New Jersey" who spoke Polish and German - my Dad. At the beginning of WWII the 1st Div. was heavily comprised of men from the NYC area.

Who knows for sure but I think Ed Wozenski had very positive input on my father's Battlefield Commission, his DSC award in Sicily and his becoming the new C.O. of "E" when Wozenski was promoted in Sept44. After Sicily, the 1st Div. got a new Commanding General, Wozenski became CO of Co E and Dawson went from Division Staff to new CO of "G" Co.

In England Wozenski was back with his beloved E Co. Although Dawson had been in combat, this was his 1st time leading a group of men.  I think Wozenski felt better with my Dad as XO (Executive Officer) of "G".

My father and Streczyk had something in common.  Streczyk was "Plan B" for Spaulding's group and my Dad was "Plan B" for Dawson's group.  Both men were there to lead if either commander fell.  Not only did Wozenski have strong feeling for Co's E and G, he needed the support and protection from Spaulding's and later Dawson's groups.

I think Wozenski thought so much of Streczyk for what he had already done, that he made sure his name was prominent in his reports.

Question 6. Finally, do you agree with me that there should be a statue or at least a plaque at the observation platform explaining the deep military significance of that exact spot on the hill?

Karas Repy 6 - I would love it! You noticed how much of the original plan failed or was sloppy. Giving due credit to the Breakout would only accent how close to failure Omaha was!

Imagine the further loss of life if they didn't punch through!

So, I think they thought it might be bad publicity at the time. Now, let the world know what Dawson and Spalding did that day.  It's time those two companies got some long due credit.


Rick Archer's Note

Thank you for reading my story.  I consider it a great honor to have this opportunity to share the stories of men I admire so much.  I completely agree that these men were part of America's "Greatest Generation".

Yes, I definitely have another chapter coming, probably many more.  In this Chapter, we have shined a much-deserved light on the story of Stan Karas. 

There are so many other heroes that deserve credit too.  I cannot in all good conscience fail to share their stories as well.  I think every year around the anniversary of D-Day I will try to add new stories.

As you have read, the information for this chapter was inspired by the son of a man who fought at D-Day.  If others have information they would like to contribute, I can be contacted by email at

If you would like to read my complete story from the beginning, click D-Day

Rick Archer
June 6, 2012

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