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Part 7 - More Heroes of D-Day

Story written by Rick Archer


Captain Joe Dawson being awarded
the DSC by General Eisenhower


Sergeant Phillip Streczyk


 Streczyk being awarded the British DSO by General Montgomery


Lt John Spalding being awarded
 the DSC by General Eisenhower


One day I ran across a passage in a book titled Power Play that touched directly on my sensitive nerve about courage.

Power Play
Written by Joseph Finder

Russell:  “Jake, my man, the great tragedy of this century is that a man can live his entire life without knowing for sure if he is a coward or not.”

Jake:  “Huh.  Never thought about that before.”

Russell:  “You know what’s wrong with the world today?  Computers.  They are ruining the human race.”

Jake:  “Computers?”

Russell:  “You ever see elks mate?  

Jake:  “Never had the pleasure.”

Russell:  “Every fall the female elk releases this musk in her urine.  That tells the bull elks that she is ready to mate.

The bull elks can smell the musk and they start fighting each other over the female.   They charge at each other, butting heads, locking antlers, making this unbelievable racket, this loud bugling.  They fight until one of them gives up and the winner gets the girl.”

Jake:  “I’ve seen bar fights like that.”

Russell:  “That’s how the females can tell which bulls are the fittest. They mate with the winners.  Otherwise the weak genes get passed on and the elks are gonna die out.  This is how it works in nature.”

Jake:  “Or the corporate world.”

Russell:  “No, that’s where you are wrong.  It doesn’t work like that with humans anymore.  Used to be a human who was too slow got eaten by a Saber tooth tiger.  Natural selection, right?”

Jake:  “Didn’t the saber tooth tiger go extinct?”

Russell:   “These days everything is upside down. Women don’t mate with the better hunter anymore. They marry the rich guys.”

Jake:  “Maybe the rich guys are the better hunters now.”

Russell:   “Bullshit.  It’s like Darwin’s law got repealed.  Call it the Rule of Weak.”

Jake:  “Okay. Please explain.

Russell:  “Do you think women can tell which men are the fittest any more?  Hell no, they can’t!  The women don't even know where to start.

You see a guy who is really cut and buff.  He's wearing a muscle shirt to show his body off and you can figure he spends all his time in the gym.  But you know something?  Odds are he’s a faggot.  Girl sees him, thinks she’s in love and hasn’t got a clue this guy has no desire to reproduce.

I mean, look at the guys in this picture. This country was made by guys like Kit Carson fighting savage Indians with knives and six shooters.  Hand to hand combat.  Those were brave men. 

But that’s all gone now.  The world today is run by a bunch of fat-assed wimps who only know how to Double Click their way to power.  Some pencil-necked geek sitting at a computer can launch a thousand missiles with one finger. He kills a million defenseless people and somehow deludes himself into thinking he's a real tough guy.  Thinks he should get a Purple Heart for a paper cut.  His idea of Power is Powerpoint.

These jerks have headsets on their heads, fingers on their keyboards and think they are Macho men when they are really just half wimp-half machine. 

What a crock of shit.

They’re nothing more than sports drink gulping, Instant message sending, mouse clicking, ipod listening, web surfing pussies. I am positive that God didn’t mean for the likes of them to run this planet on the backs of real men. 

The problem is, most of the real men are gone. And why is that?  Because the goddamn natural selection process has been turned upside down.  The guys who run the country today think they are fighting men, but they would beg for their Mommies if you pulled a knife on them.  They go hunting on the weekend to prove they are men and kill unsuspecting animals from hundreds of yards away.  That isn't manhood.  Any coward could do the same thing.  Those sissies would run screaming in terror if a deer had a gun to shoot back with.

Here's the way I see it.  The people in power today are the sons of the wimps who were sucking their thumbs and puking their guts out at the back of the boats headed to Omaha Beach on D-Day.  After they staggered off the boat, those cowards spent the entire goddamn day hiding behind dead corpses on the beachTheir idea of courage was giving themselves a flesh wound in the leg.

Those pukes had a bird’s eye view of the last real men as they went down in agony fighting for their country. One by one, those brave men faced near-certain death as they ran straight into machine guns on that stinking Omaha beach.  They made the ultimate sacrifice so the world could get rid of Hitler and the people they loved back at home could be safe from that monster

Meanwhile the sniveling cowards never lifted a finger to fight the enemy.  Instead they dug holes in the sand, played dead and got up when no one was looking.  They went on to reproduce the same wimps who run our country today.

D-Day was the day that Darwin’s Law died.  From then on, it was Survival of the Weakest.”


Strong words, yes?

There is no doubt that many men my age have never been tested thanks to the brave soldiers of World War II.  Their sacrifice at D-Day meant that people like me would probably never see combat during our lives.  Thanks to the countless men who died in great pain with Nazi bullets ripping their bodies to shreds, I have been given the chance to sit here in the comfort of my home writing stories at my computer.  My mind has trouble accepting the full extent of the sacrifice.

"These jerks have headsets on their heads, fingers on their keyboards and think they are Macho men when they are really just half wimp-half machine.

Considering most of my free time is spent typing away on a keyboard, Mr. Finder's comments cut straight to the edge of my survivor's guilt.  I hope I am cut out of a stronger cloth than the double-clicking keyboard pussies of the tirade above, but I will probably never know.  I definitely think Mr. Finder raises an interesting question:  Would the men of today have the same courage as the group known as America's Greatest Generation?  Or have we grown too soft? 


The American Cemetery at Normandy is the final resting place for nearly 10,000 men who died fighting in Europe.  The vast majority of the graves belong to men who died fighting during the Normandy invasion and during the brutal fighting that took place throughout France in the month following the invasion.

It is a very humbling experience to see all those graves and understand these men gave their lives so the rest of us could enjoy freedom and prosperity.

I photographed the following 30 pictures during my visit.  Here you can see how the terrain rises. The Platform on the ridge of the hill is 200 feet above the beach and 700 yards from the water's edge. The Cemetery and the Platform are side by side.

Notice the woman walking down stairs.  There is a walkway directly in front of that Platform with a staircase on either side.  This curving walkway creates the white Semi-Circle that I used as a landmark in the Google Earth picture above.

As you stand on the Platform looking out to sea, this is the view to
the left of the Platform (due west). That is Omaha Beach below.


This is the view to the east of the Platform.  You can see the steps that begin one side of the curving walkway below, i.e. the semi-circle.

This is the view directly in front of the Platform.  That little dot on the beach is a man walking half a mile away. 

The mine fields and the barbed wire were down by the marsh area at the bottom of the hill.  The deadly machine gun nests were located about 100 yards from the shore.  On D-Day there was artillery mounted in the exact spot where the Platform is now positioned.

As you can see, this area is beautiful.  I don't know if any German or American ghosts still linger here, but it is definitely a quiet, peaceful place today.

he Platform had a very commanding view.  The slope on either side of the Platform is much steeper, creating a bowl of sorts. If you are standing on the beach, the easiest route to the top of the hill is the view in this picture.

There is a secret about the Platform and Cemetery that no one told me about. While researching this article, I got goose bumps when I realized this exact spot was the site of the initial breakthrough on Omaha Beach.  When I took this picture, I was standing right where Spalding, Dawson, and Streczyk made their heroic penetration. 


You are looking at two pictures of the same spot.  This is a picture of the exact trail that Spalding's men took on their way to the top.  As you can see, there isn't much up there to fear.  However, this picture was probably taken AFTER Spalding and Dawson's companies eliminated the German defense.

As I said earlier, I assumed there were massive fortifications atop the hill.  What I did not realize is that the Germans did not have the manpower to put guns everywhere.  They had to pick their spots.  So why was this area relatively undefended?








He [the gunner on the slope above Easy Red] is in a one-man foxhole and he’s shooting like hell. Finally, we get around behind him. He only threw up his hands when we got behind him and put a gun to his head. [Laughs] That’s when he finally found out he was Polish, started talking Polish.

He says, “I got captured, I don’t want to shoot!” One-man foxhole and shooting like crazy! Streczyk talked to him in Polish and he got so crazy with him he punched him. “What the hell are you doing?” Pow!

vinnie digaetano

Phil Streczyk

Everybody reacts different to combat. There are some people that can’t take it and some people just let it go, you know what I mean? It’s hard…How somebody’s mind works really. In a million years, you’d never think that Streczyk would be one of the guys who cracked up, but there you go, you never know.

He didn’t crack up until the Hürtgen forest. And when you see that… I think he was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the army. He had a lot of awards. He had everything but the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The war's long effects: Vinny and Chris DiGaetano in conversation

Vinny’s wife Chris joined the conversation and I’ve transcribed their words as faithfully as possible (and omitted my questions as it slowed down the text).

Chris: Vinny never really did spoke about the war. Maybe he’d joke. But he had nightmares, he really did.

Vinny: In the beginning, yeah…

Chris: He had a lot of nightmares. In the middle of the night, all of a sudden you’d find him sitting bolt upright, angry as all hell, and you think he’s awake but it’s in his subconscious. We were up in Times Square, and we were walking up in the theater district, by the Paramount, and a truck backfired. I was walking along and—where the hell is he? He had run behind a car, like we were being bombed. He was down on his hands and knees. I didn’t want to embarrass him. And I said, “It’s just a truck, Vinny.” You know, it’s sad. Because he’s like the strong one and to see him crumble was sad.

Vinny: My first job was in printing shop. They cut the paper, it goes zzzzooooowwhhh. Sounded just like when you’re getting artillery fire. I start diving underneath the table. So a guy says, “So you were in the infantry.” He said the first couple times he heard it, he was diving under the table too. He said it takes about a week and a half to get used to that sound.

Chris: Vinny’s cousin was with Special Services. They made recordings. And he came [to a family gathering] with this record of the Screaming Meemies and he wanted Vinny to hear. It was when we were first married. We didn’t even have children yet.

Vinny: Oh, yeah…

Chris: And Vinny’s sitting there. All of a sudden he was like, “You gotta stop it, you gotta stop it soon because I’ll kill him and I’ll break the machine.” I said, “What? What happened?” He said, “That’s the noise I heard!”

Vinny: I hate those Screaming Meemies. You could hear them for miles away. yooeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…then you don’t hear nothing.

Chris: And then there’s an explosion.

Vinny: It wasn’t like an artillery shell, you could hear them coming in [all the way]. But we called them Screaming Meemies because we’d hear them— yaaahhhoowwwweeeeerrr—

Chris: Then silence and then boom.

Vinny: Then it blows up, bowwwrrrrrmmm, because they were like bombs. I used to hate the noise.

Chris: And this cousin thought it was so, wow, look what I got. He got such a charge out bringing all those war sounds. “This is wonderful, you have to hear this.” What the hell is he doing? And then Vinny blew, “I’ll kill him!” You were really yelling that night. What was wrong with him? Why would he record something like that?

Vinny: The Screaming Meemie guy, he was married to my first cousin.

Chris: He didn’t want to see Vinny after that. He said, “If that nut is going to be there, I’m not going.”

Vinny: We never saw him after that. Once or twice maybe. Hardly ever.

Chris: I think your cousin divorced him eventually.

Vinny: Smartest thing she’s done probably.

Chris: That’s a shame, that one [Phil Streczyk] who committed suicide after the war? I wonder if he ever got help. Because Vinny went for treatment, for therapy, for eight or ten years, didn’t you, Vinny?

Vinny: Once a week. Kings County Hospital, I used to go. That’s a big hospital, like Bellevue.

Chris: Psychiatric ward.

Vinny: It was good…

Chris: I think it helped. When he came back from those sessions, he’d be laughing.

Vinny: The doctor would be like, “Did your father hit you?” “Yeah.” In those days, if your father hit you it was nothing.

Chris: It wasn’t his father hitting him, it was the Germans. He’d come back and say, “You should see all those crazy people hanging out the windows.” I said, “You’d better keep going or you’ll be joining them.” Maybe [Streczyk] didn’t go for treatment. Sometimes it does help when you can talk man-to-man, someone who’s professional. They can help you out. Vinny always used to give way to his outbursts. My mother used to say, “Don’t get him angry because he’ll get away with it. He’s crazy. He’s got it on the record that he’s nuts.”

Vinny: Her mother used to say, “Leave him alone, he’s crazy.”

[I asked Chris why she married Vinny despite the problems and her family’s misgivings. She shrugged and laughed and said, “I thought he looked like Robert Mitchum.”]

The citation for the British Military Medal states: “For gallantry in action against the enemy on 6 June 1944 near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. T/Sgt. Streczyk was one of the first men to enter the maze of trenches and dugouts, and in desperate hand to hand fighting cleared out compartment after compartment. In this fighting he captured an officer and 20 enemy soldiers. He then, with complete disregard for own safety and without assistance, assaulted and destroyed an enemy machine gun nest. The heroic and courageous actions of T/Sgt. Streczyk were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Stan Dzierga

The invasion, well, that was rough. There was a lot of noise….[Stan shuddered.]

One thing I remember. They told us, when we hit the top of the ridge, avoid the dry spots in the grass. That’s where the mines are. And that’s what we did. I guess the grass was starting to dry or they just dug it up and it didn’t take. And that’s what we tried to do. Avoid them dry spots when we were walking.

I remember I said to Wally, “Look at those guys running across the field. Those must be our guys.”

He says, “Hell, no,” he says, “They’re not our guys. That’s got to be Germans.”

We didn’t have any overcoats on. They had overcoats on and they were running across the field from the beach we were on. We just made the top of the ridge and some of them were going back. The Germans were falling back there.

And the hedgerows were tough. You didn’t know what to expect. And then you had snipers in the trees. That’s I think how Bisco got killed.

Poor guy, I’ll tell you. What a nice guy. Soft-spoken.

I just…he was right next to me….[Shudders, shakes it off]




walter bieder

We were ten miles out in the water when we left the ships. And it was really rough that day. We debarked from the ship by a rope ladder that came down the side. A couple of guys went down first to hold the ladder steady when we were coming down. And when you’re coming down, the boat would be coming way up in the water and then all of a sudden it would drop down. We finally got everybody aboard, but it was rough.

When we left the mother ship we went out a ways and the landing craft circled. You have a navy boat there, a navy officer to guide you, to give you the go to go in. We were all out there circling around waiting for everybody to get ready, bouncing around there getting soaked, and guys were puking left and right.

Finally the navy guy said okay and we started and we all spread out and went in a line until we hit the beach. H-Hour was 6:30. We left the ships about 3:30 in the morning. So it took about three hours to get in there.

When we hit the beach, we were the first wave in. The coxswain we had on our landing craft, he was good. He run the boat up as far as he could and hit a sandbar or something and said, “That’s as far as I can get it.” And Spalding said lower the ramp. So we lowered the ramp and jumped out. First thing, whoop, the water come way up. So we had to wade in and then crossed a long beach because the tide was out.

The 4th Section of our company, when they lowered the ramp, cross fire right in there. Four guys got out of that boat alive. They were at the rear of the landing craft. One of them was a buddy of mine, Cordell. He told me they jumped over the side, into the water. That’s how they got out of there.

Our platoon, Spalding’s platoon, we made our way up the hill and kept pushing. We were sort of spread out. There were a couple of other guys around me. One guy’s name was Piasecki.

I hit this machine gun nest. It was set not on top of the hill, but just a ways down and dug in. I had a grenade launcher on my rifle. It was an armor piercing grenade, but not like a hand grenade. See, the regular hand grenade we called a pineapple. It was smaller and you had to pull the pin on it. The grenades that I used, when you fired, it automatically set off the mechanism in the grenade to explode on contact.

Our first platoon got up there and I got that one machine gun nest. I fired at it twice and the second time I hit it.

Farther up, in a little ravine, was a small anti-tank gun and I aimed at that and I hit that. And then my rifle, I don’t know what the hell happened with it, the mechanism fell apart, and I had to grab a rifle I found laying from one of the guys that was hit.

We started taking German prisoners and took a bunch down to the beach. Then we went right back up and joined the rest of our section. That’s when Spalding said, “Let’s go.” And so we started pushing back further.

We thought we had elements on our left and our right. But we didn’t. We were out there alone. And we got caught in a hedgerow.

The hedgerows were square, and thick as hell. They pinned us down in a hedgerow and they caught us flat-footed. We were there firing back at them but we couldn’t move because they had us pinned with machine gun fire. And our forces down on the beachhead didn’t know we were out there. And the navy was shelling, and we were catching navy shells also.

We didn’t have no communication. From what I remember, our radio man was knocked or something, I can’t remember. Anyhow, we had no communication that we was out there. And for the whole day we was pinned down out there in this hedgerow. They had us really pinned because they had cross fire and you had to lay flat right up against the hedgerow or you got nailed.

And that’s where a good friend of mine, Fred Bisco got it so bad. One helluva guy. He caught it in his face. He had half of his face blown away. He must have raised up or something and they caught him. He was a good man.

We were there until it started getting dark and then Spalding and Streczyk and them decided we’ve got to see if we can find locate the rest of our company. And we were started pulling out. We kept ten-yard intervals between men going back and there wasn’t a shot fired at us. I could never figure that out. They had us there all day long. So we don’t know what the hell happened to the Germans.

We took off to the rear and finally found the rest of our company. Captain Wozenski and the rest of our outfit. Wozenski actually cried, “Where are my men? What did they promise us?”

They were supposed to have bombed the whole beach area and they didn’t do it. They were no craters at all there.

D-Day night, out of 200 men, there was 60 of us left. Wozenski broke down hollering, “Where’s my men?” Sixty of us left.

We held up there for five days. They sent the 18th Regiment through us because we were so battered we couldn’t get going anymore. After they went through, we moved up farther. And we held up there until they got replacements up to us. When Wozenski brought all the replacements up, he was saying, “We’re going to have trouble.” He said, “These guys were hollering ‘Mama’ when our own artillery was going off.”

So Streczyk and them put each new guy with a guy who’d been through it. “Take care of them, show ‘em what to do.”


Unfortunately, we saw a number of bombers get hit by anti-aircraft. I saw one of them get hit and blow up right in front of us. I’ll never forget that sight.

And at noon, when they lifted the last wave, we jumped off. It was a mess out there. St. Lô was just about leveled. I think they had to build a new St. Lô.

The Germans were always threatening a Blitzkreig. We had our own Blitzkreig right there.

The German Seventh Army was retreating and our people were divebombing them and strafing them, tearing them up to hell. At Mons, they were on one road and we were over here. And eventually we met.

Our platoon got up to a brick wall around a cemetery. The Germans were running around wild down there and the guys were picking them off. They were running. A couple of my men, “Fifty bucks I nail that son of a b—.”

We took a lot of prisoners there. Streczyk and somebody else went in a jeep into German lines and talked a bunch of Germans into surrendering. And they came in by the hundreds. We teased Streczyk and called him "Sgt. York" for capturing the whole German army by himself.

War of nerves

One time, I damn near one time lost it but I caught myself. I was sitting in a foxhole and we were getting shelled. I started just shaking and finally I just said, “STOP!” and got a hold of myself quick.

I don’t know how I did it but I did. I mean, I thought I was losing it for a minute. When you get shelled day after day, it kind of gets you. I can understand why Streczyk and some of those other guys broke down.

People don’t understand that. I’ve heard a lot of guys say [about someone who broke down], a coward or what? No.

Anybody that ever tells you that he wasn’t scared when he was in combat is a liar and I’ll tell him right to his face.



Normandy breakout

They were building up for the big push through France. They had the beach more secure and they had these piers that the engineers built out there where ships could come in and unload stuff. And then stack it all up. We had our tanks and so on and so forth.

The day it was to start we were told the Air Force was going to bomb from ten o’clock to noon. And they were going to bomb steady. You’ve never seen anything like it. The bombers come at ten o’clock. The sky was just black with bombers, coming over. Wave after wave, and just dropping their bombs out in front of us. And all you heard for two hours was bom-bom-bom-bom-bom....

Unfortunately, we saw a number of bombers get hit by anti-aircraft. I saw one of them get hit and blow up right in front of us. I’ll never forget that sight.

And at noon, when they lifted the last wave, we jumped off. It was a mess out there. St. Lô was just about leveled. I think they had to build a new St. Lô.

The Germans were always threatening a Blitzkreig. We had our own Blitzkreig right there.

The German Seventh Army was retreating and our people were divebombing them and strafing them, tearing them up to hell. At Mons, they were on one road and we were over here. And eventually we met.

Our platoon got up to a brick wall around a cemetery. The Germans were running around wild down there and the guys were picking them off. They were running. A couple of my men, “Fifty bucks I nail that son of a b—.”

We took a lot of prisoners there. Streczyk and somebody else went in a jeep into German lines and talked a bunch of Germans into surrendering. And they came in by the hundreds.

Ben Overstreet

Ben Overstreet was a guy who never should have been in the outfit. Not that he wasn’t a good man, but he was too old. We were fighting, taking the high ground outside of Aachen, Germany. Whoever commanded that high ground had the advantage and we used to get counterattacked every morning by the Germans who would try and knock us off there.

Ben Overstreet got a little excited and he was going to take a hand grenade and throw it down the hill as they were coming up. Instead, he pulled the pin and threw the pin and put the hand grenade in his pocket. All of a sudden he realized it. It was too late and he got away from the guys.

He was a good man.

Eddie Vaughn

Eddie Vaughn was our mess sergeant. All we had to eat were rations. K rations, and once in awhile some C rations.

Vaughn says to hell with this. So we were out, this was in France, and he goes out and nails a nice cow. He went out and slaughtered killed it.

And he brought it into camp and here it was a prize cow from one of these French farmers. And, boy, they come storming and slamming about it and Eddie Vaughn says, “Aw, go on, talk to Uncle Sam, they’ll pay you for it.”

That night we had some steaks, and then we had beef stew, and, boy, we had really had something good to eat then.

Ray Curley

Ray Curley was a hell of a nice kid who got hit bad on D-Day. And I didn’t think we see him anymore. Then he got patched up in England and went AWOL from the hospital. He traced us all the way to where we were at to come back and join us.

One day we were well into Germany, and I was coming back to my platoon area. I think it was Fred Reese who came running up to me and said, “Hey, Sarge, guess who’s back?”

And I said, “Who?”

He says, “Ray Curley.”

And I said, “What?” I said, “What the hell’s he doing back here?” So when I got back to my platoon area, and I talked to him. I said, “What the hell are you doing here, Ray? I thought you were home already.”

He went AWOL from the hospital and he hitched his way all the way up to where we was at. We were well into Germany. I said, “My God, kid, what’s the matter with you? You should be home by now.”

And he said, “Nah, I wanted to be up with you guys.” So then I had to go up to talk to our company commander, Captain Caras, and tell him Ray was back and that he was AWOL from the hospital.

And the old man said, “Well, if he’s AWOL from the hospital he’s going to have to be sent back.”

I said, “He don’t want to go back.” So I talked the old man into letting him stay with us and I should never have done that because it wasn’t too long after that that he got killed.

Fred got wounded and Ray got killed in the same town. (Fred was asking me if I could remember the name of the town and I’ll be doggone if I can remember it. He couldn’t remember it either; where he got wounded and Ray got killed.)

I felt so bad….We were in sort of a hornet’s nest in this town we were trying to take. The Germans cut loose on us good. Reese caught slugs in the rear. And Ray got machine gunned, I think it was in his back. He was running across an open alley when they got him. It was house-to-house fighting.

That’s the worst fighting: house-to-house, I’ll tell you that.

War of nerves

One time, I damn near one time lost it but I caught myself. I was sitting in a foxhole and we were getting shelled. I started just shaking and finally I just said, “STOP!” and got a hold of myself quick.

I don’t know how I did it but I did. I mean, I thought I was losing it for a minute. When you get shelled day after day, it kind of gets you. I can understand why Streczyk and some of those other guys broke down.

People don’t understand that. I’ve heard a lot of guys say [about someone who broke down], a coward or what? No.

Anybody that ever tells you that he wasn’t scared when he was in combat is a liar and I’ll tell him right to his face.

Thanksgiving in the Hürtgen forest

At Thanksgiving, we were in the Hürtgen forest. It was a cold rainy day. And they said all the troops were going to have turkey no matter what. We were sitting in our cold foxholes, water up over our legs and everything. Cold. But Eddie Vaughan, our mess sergeant, said us guys were going to get turkey no matter what.

So he made up a whole mess of turkey sandwiches. Then he sent up his kitchen help with the food on a jeep. They could only come so far we had to send guys to meet them to carry the coffee and the turkey sandwiches down to us.

By the time we got that, the turkey sandwiches were cold, coffee was ice cold, but, boy, it tasted good.

Every once in awhile I stop and I think about that day. Everybody was soaking wet and you’re sitting in your foxhole, water pouring all around you.

But those cold turkey sandwiches and coffee tasted good, believe me.

One day there we were pushing up and I was kneeling by a tree and I was motioning to my men on my right to move up and all of a sudden something went by my nose and zing hit right into the tree. Here was a sniper, he just missed me. It just went right across my nose and hit the tree and knocked out some bark from the tree. I always say the Good Lord guided that bullet.

The Bulge

The outfit went off the line [during the second week of December 1944] for a rest. We hadn’t had a rest since D-Day. We were in this town of Herve, Belgium for a break and that’s when I got a three-day pass to Paris.

A group of us went back there, even our company commander, Captain Caras. We were back there for three days. Then we headed back and the Bulge started.

We come back to our company area, and I wasn’t back even half an hour when all us noncoms got called to the CP. We were told the Germans broke through: “Get your men ready. We’re going up to meet ‘em.”

They brought trucks in and loaded us up and we went until we hit them.

The area where the Germans came through was held by the 106th Division and the 99th. Those guys were fresh from the States, they had no battle experience. They did an awful lot of damage to the 106th Division, I’ll tell you that. Just about wiped them out. That’s where we had to go back up to. To plug the gap.

Christmas in the Ardennes

During the Bulge we pushed up and took this town (we wore white sheets to blend in with the snow). We had Christmas dinner there in the dining room of this big house we had taken over there for the CP.

The mess sergeant brought up the meal. We set the table and we took turns. We had squads out on outpost and then we’d rotate and take turns so each guy could come in and sit down and have something to eat.

Lieutenant Cowplop

[NOTE: Cowplop was not the actual name of this officer.]

One day, I went to get replacements at the CP, and was walking along with Captain Caras. I seen this little guy barking orders at these recruits left and right. I looked at the captain and he looked at me and laughed, “Ha-ha, that’s your boy, Bieder.”

Lieutenant Cowplop. Stupid and a know-it-all. He didn’t know nothing. He was shanghaied out of the Army Air Force, and they put him in the infantry. To this day, if I ever see him, I think I’d walk right up to him and punch him right smack in the face.

So I got my replacements and took him with me down to where my platoon was. I had a parameter out, guys guarding on look out and everything and the rest of the guys were taking it easy. We needed a little break. Cowplop come into this house I had for the platoon CP and he looked around and said, “Sergeant! What are all these guys doing here playing around?”

I said, “They’re just taking it easy. We had a rough battle and they’re taking it easy.”

He said, “They should be out—”

I said, “I got the parameter all set up out here.”

And he said, “Well, got them up.” They got to be doing this and that.

The guys are just laying there, they looked at me, and I shook my head.

He said, “I gave an order, sergeant.”

And I said, “I know I heard you.”

“You better obey it.”

I said, “No. I’m not. I’m not going to have you coming in here telling me. You haven’t had no combat experience, you’re not going to come in here and tell me.”

“I’m going to have you court martialled.”

I said, “You know where the old man is. Go tell him.”

So he didn’t go back but he fussed around and gave me a hard time. And then we got called up to the CP for a briefing on our next push. So we went up there and the captain laid out the first platoon will do this, the second platoon do that.

When we get back to my platoon headquarters, I get all the squad leaders together and brief them on what we’re going to do. He start giving different orders.

I said, “Oh, no. You heard what the captain said.”

He said, “Well, we’re going to do it this way.”

I said, “No, we’re not.”

So we shoved off on the attack and I more or less led it. I didn’t pay any attention to him. Then we stopped and he went back and told the old man he wants to have me court martialled for disobeying orders on the field of combat. The old man calls me up there and says, “What’s the matter, Walt?”

I said, “You briefed us before we made this push. You told us what you wanted to do. The way the asshole wanted to go, he’d have got us all killed.”

So the captain looked at him and said, “Let me tell you something, Cowplop. From now on, till I tell you different, you take orders from Sgt. Bieder.”

And that set it up between him and me right there.

It was the first time I ever didn’t get along with an officer. When we went into combat I watched him. I watched him like a hawk. I wouldn’t turn my back on him.

Before we got to Czechoslovakia, I was asked if I would accept a battlefield commission and I said yes. Why not, you know?

First, I had an interview with General Taylor. He asked me all kinds of questions, asked me if I would take it. And I said, Yes, I would take it if it was offered to me. So he asked me about different battle situations and that, then he said, “Okay, sergeant, we’ll let you know.” So I left. Then I didn’t hear anymore about it.

In combat

One time we got pinned down out there in battle. Cowplop was 15 yards from me, hollering, “Sgt. Bieder! What do you do? What do we do?”

I said, “You’re the goddamn lieutenant, figure it out!” But eventually, I had to take over.

You really got to size up the whole situation, what you think is out in front of you there and getting the men to move up in spurts and firing at the same time.

If you stay there, they’re going to get you for sure. Same way if they’re dropping mortars down on you if you stay in that one spot you’re going to get nailed. You got to keep moving no matter if they’re dropping mortars or not. I had that a number of times with fresh guys that just come into the outfit. I can remember they were dropping mortars on us and they were trying to zero in on us and I kept hollering, “Get up, move!” Because if you stay here they’re going to zero in on us and they’re going to blast us to hell. I had to run around and make some of these guys, more or less kick them in the ass and say, get going! Otherwise, you’re not going to leave here.

The idea is to take the chance of getting up, running, and hitting the ground firing, and repeat that process until you got up to where you could get at them or make them run.

We were taking a town one time and we were out in the open and fortunately I hollered, “Everybody return fire!” We got up and run to a brick wall outside of this town and I said, “Okay, let’s go.” I told this one squad leader of mine, “Come on, get your men, get over that wall.”

He said to me, “There’s Germans on the other side.”

I said, “No s—.”

I went up over the wall and then they followed me. After we secured the town this squad leader of mine said, “You know, sarge, you wasn’t supposed to do that.”

I said, “Hell, what were you going to do? Just stand there and let everything go by, you’re not going to do nothing?”

Just one of the experiences, you know.

The last campaign

The roster would change so fast it was hard to keep up with it sometimes. My last platoon roster before I left the outfit down there in Czechoslovakia was altogether different when we first started out.

I have the last roster that I had and it’s altogether different really.

You always had to report the wounded and killed in action, and it would change all the time. The first sergeant would bring make up new rosters maybe every couple of weeks or so

When we were in Czechoslovakia we had a lot of new, young boys who hadn’t been through much at all. They were replacements. When we got the word to cease firing and all forward movement, the guys starting really carrying on.

And, boy, I really got mad. I went out there and screamed at them. "That’s enough! You don’t do this. You think of your fallen buddies!"

When the fighting was over, I got decorated by the Russians. I didn’t even know it was coming. I didn’t know a thing about it. But one day I was told I was going to Pilsen to receive a decoration from the Russians.

Lt. Cowplop heard that I was going to get a decoration and he couldn’t understand. He told the other sergeants, “What the hell did he do to deserve that? He don’t deserve it. I deserve it.”

The guys told me all this when I come back from the decoration the next morning and at chowline for breakfast. He was standing up with the other officers and I had that medal on my shirt.

I walked up to him and I took the medal, “I understand you deserve this medal more than me. Here, goddammit.” I stuck it on his shirt, and walked.

Hutch was standing up there trying to keep from laughing. Cowplop took the medal and he was so mad he threw it on the ground. Him and I, we just didn’t get along. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the man knew what he was doing. I mean, you get some arrogant guys but they know what they’re doing. This guy didn’t know nothing.

“Where're your bars, Bieder?”

When we were down in Czechoslovakia, the first sergeant called me up to the CP. He said, “Walt, get yourself a jeep and driver tomorrow morning, go to division headquarters, and get your bars.”

I said, “What? I don’t want them now.” I said, “I know I got high points in the company to go home first. I want to get the hell out of here. I’ve had my fill with fighting and I don’t want anymore.”

I knew I was going home and if I took this commission I had no idea where I’d wind up. They couldn’t guarantee me that I could stay with my outfit. And I knew they were taking getting men ready over to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. They were looking for experienced combat men and I just had my fill of combat and I didn’t want to chance it. And they wouldn’t guarantee me I could stay with the outfit.

Our company commander, Hutch, said, “Take the bars, Walt. What’s the matter, don’t you want to be one of us?”

I said, “That’s not the point”. I said “It’s not that I don’t want to be one,” I said, “the thing is can you guarantee me I’ll stay here with the outfit?”

He says, “You’re sure you don’t want them?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Okay, tomorrow morning go and talk to the battalion adjutant and see what he can do about you.”

So next morning I went up to battalion and talked to Captain Fish, he was the adjutant. He was another one I knew well. He said, “Go on, Walt, take the bars.”

I said, “Nope, I don’t want them.” I says, “If you can guarantee me I’ll stay here with my men, fine. But if you can’t, I don’t want them.” I said, “I know what they’re doing. The Pacific war is still going, and they’re starting to send guys over there.”

He said, “Sit tight and I’ll see what I can do.” So he called regiment and I sat there and waited and waited. And regiment called division. And I still sat there and waited. Finally they came down in the afternoon and said, “Tell Sergeant Bieder he can go back to his platoon, he doesn’t have to take the bars.”

When I was coming out of battalion, Wozenski drove up, spotted me, got out of his jeep, grabbed me and said, “Goddamn it, kid, we made it!”

Then I went back to my platoon and my men were already waiting for me to give me the business with the bars: “Where the hell are your bars, Bieder?”

“I didn’t get them.”

Then Hutch, the company commander said, “Re-up Walt, I’ll make you top kick [first sergeant] and I’ll give you 90 days home.”

That was a good deal I turned down, I should never have turned that down. But all I had in my mind was getting home. I said, “No, I got top points and I want to get the hell out of here.”

That evening, the first sergeant of the company then, Russ Harden, called me up to CP and said, “Walt, get your stuff together, you’re going home.”

Harden, joined us kind of a late, almost near the end of the war. He replaced Fitzsimmons who was our first sergeant. He took a second lieutenant battlefield commission. After he got the commission, I lost track. I don’t know what happened to him. Russ Harden come in as first sergeant, he was a hell of a nice fellow, I was pretty friendly with him. I often wonder what happened to him, I never got the chance to find out.

So Russ said, “Get your things together, Walt, you’re going home.”

That was June the first. The last day I was there I fell out with my platoon for retreat and bid goodbye to them all and turned my platoon over to my platoon guide and said, “I’ll see you.”


We took off from Czechoslovakia in a DC-3, like they used for the paratroopers. We flew to Metz, France. We were there a week in Metz for processing and everything. Then we took a 40/8 French boxcar down to Marseilles. Spent a week in Marseilles. More processing.

Then we got in a B-17 bomber (they had taken a lot of stuff out of the inside and put seats in there) and flew us to Casablanca. I had a seat in the nose of the bomber with the bombardier. That was really nice. That was a nice flight. We flew up the French coast and over the rock of Gibraltar. And coming into Casablanca it was really nice. We were sitting in that nose and you could see that runway coming up at you. Then we spent 48 hours getting briefed on how to handle yourself in case the plane had to go down and ditched.

The funniest part of it was the guys I was flying with were all Air Force. Some of them had been through all this stuff, the ditching and everything. And there was one other army sergeant there, same rank I was. Who did they put in charge of this plane to handle things? Us two army guys.

Then we flew out of Casablanca and then we stopped for fueling in a little island in the Azores called Santa Maria and they came out with a bus and loaded us and took us to the mess hall. They treated us top notch, they treated us like we were VIPs or something. Then we left the Azores and landed in an air base in Miami. Finished the processing, then took a train from Miami to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. And that’s where I got discharged. That was July 1st. It took me one month, all told, from the time I left the outfit till I got home.

Home again

I worked at a movie theater, learning management work. When the war ended in Japan in August, people went wild out in the streets and everything.

I was out there watching them and I just lost it. I started screaming and crying, ‘Goddamn fools! Get down on your knees and thank God!” The way they were carrying on, it was terrible. I just couldn’t take it. I had to go back in the place and sit down, I couldn’t take it.

People should be thankful. Thank the boys who did it and say a prayer for the boys that didn’t come back.

That’s the way I look at it anyway.

. . . .

I don’t talk too much about this stuff. If I feel somebody understands, I don’t mind talking about it. But I won’t with somebody who doesn’t really know what the hell it’s all about.

This is the most I’ve ever gotten into talking this way since the war. I know Colson said he put a lot out of his mind. I put a lot out of my mind too.

[The anniversary of D-Day had just passed. I told Walt his old buddy Fred Reese said he was going to call Bieder on the day and ask if he was hiding in his basement. Walt laughed.]

I belong to VFW here in Occoquan [Virginia]. Little town right down the road from us. I went to a meeting that night. I was just sitting there when they were starting the meeting. I was about the only World War II man there. One of the guys, the secretary who takes the minutes, he said, “Before we start this meeting, I want to remind all of you this is the 57th anniversary of D-Day. And we have one of our own brothers here that was there on D-Day.” And he said, “Walt Bieder, stand up.”

And they gave me one hell of an ovation. It really made me feel great. The veterans there where I belong are Vietnam veterans, and there’s a few Korea veterans. It made me feel good. I wasn’t expecting it.


D-Day  clarence colson dsc

The invasion itself, where we landed, they were supposed to bomb so there’d be a lot of craters, bomb craters, for us to get into to. But they missed it, I guess. And [the rocket craft] didn’t get in far enough. Most of them went in the water. They wasn’t in far enough. I can remember that part.

Now some of this on that [the Distinguished Service Cross citation] isn’t true. About cutting wire and stuff isn’t true.

[NOTE: See far right column, top. Another sergeant, and DSC winner, Curt Colwell cut the wire. The citations may have been mixed up as their names are similar.]

The assault boat hit a sandbar and dumped us. “Well, let’s get out.” We had these belts on and you’re in the water clear up to your neck trying to get in. One of my gunners from the mortar section, said, “I can’t make it.” And I said, “Dump the gun!” I said, “Come on! Get in alive! Come on!” So he dumped it. Guys couldn’t make it with the load, you know, that’s quite a load to carry.

So we got into shore, get everybody spread out as far as we could. You don’t bunch up you want to get them spread out. 'Course they were firing, but there was one pillbox way over and there was nothing coming from that.

There was a minefield in front of us where we landed, but there was an old house with a stone wall. Sims was one of my main gunners. He was a good man. We got behind this wall, two of us got there. A lot of them laying back there was wounded and we pulled some of them up behind the wall.

This Phelps [indicating the section roster] got wounded on the beach. We pulled him up behind that wall.

But then there was a path. When I looked and seen that path...there was this pillbox way over here wasn’t manned. They didn’t have nobody manning that pillbox. Enemy fire was all coming from this way. So when I seen that path and all these wires I knew there’s minefields there.

I told Sims. We got a BAR from a guy that was wounded. [I asked if this might have been Phelps. Colson said, “Yeah, I think, maybe it was. Because he got wounded, I know.”] And we got a few magazines. I brought the extra magazines and we got some bandoliers of ammunition that we carried. And I said, “I’ll head for the hill.” Quite a steep hill. So I went up the path.

There was no wires across the path, that’s what I was looking for, and running as fast as I could run. 'Course I was young then, I could move pretty good. And when I got over there then I motioned him to come. And Sims came up. And he had some more bandoliers. So we got top of the hill, and that’s where all the trenches were. And here this one guy was, running back and forth in that trench and I hollered at him and he threw a potato masher, a German hand grenade. I ducked down, put my hands up, my head down. It didn’t go off right quick and I kind of glanced and I see he hadn’t unscrewed the back and pulled the string. So I nailed him.

But the one that was holding the company up, the pillbox, down there. I could shoot right down the back end. The pillbox had a door that goes downstairs, then you have your gunner slots, see. So I got the BAR. It had a tripod on it and I got it set right up and started spraying that back door. I told Sims, I says, “Just as soon as I kick that magazine out, put another one in.” There was 20 rounds, I think, in those magazines. So we shot about three or four of them. Maybe more, maybe less. I know it was more than three. We shot quite a few rounds.

All of sudden a white flag came out and we quit firing and they came out. I motioned for them to come on up and they came up. I don’t know how more many was dead in there or anything.

That’s why we got all the troops up, pretty soon, on that part of the beach.

Ramundo got killed. In fact, he was the first guy. When they came up the same way we did up the hill. He came up right after we got the prisoners.

He said, “I’ll go back down to get the company.”

And I said, “Don’t go down there, there’s snipers and stuff around there, too.” I says, “Ramundo, stay here. They’ll come up through.”

But he said, “No, I’m going after them.” He went down, I heard one shot, I said, “Yeah, he’s had it.” Sniper got him.

The company got up. But out of the whole company we only had, oh, 20 men or so left. The boat next to me on the right, none of them got out of it. We was on the further left. As I say, that was a good thing for us because this pillbox up here wasn’t manned. They didn’t have nobody in it. Good thing for us.

From then on we just scattered out and moved forward. That was all we could do.























The American victory at Omaha was achieved against tremendous odds.  Omaha Beach will go down in history as one of the most incredible acts of bravery and determination in American military history.

Some people, however, call Omaha a hollow victory when viewed against the heartbreaking loss of so many young American lives.

Over the years since D-Day, the battle of Omaha has generated a tremendous amount of criticism.  The leaders’ tactics have been called into question and the military value of sending men into such clearly prepared defenses has also come under fire.

As remarkable as the victory was, no one can overlook just how close the Americans came to one of the most depressing defeats in American history.  Was it worth it?

Let’s review the tactics first.  It is fairly obvious to everyone that whatever could have possibly gone wrong at Omaha did indeed go wrong. 

Eisenhower was warned that the weather was bad and that the seas were rough.  His counterpart Rommel read the same weather reports and believed no one would be foolish enough to invade in this weather.  Maybe Rommel was right.

  • The weather was so bad that the assault teams lost the use of all their tanks till late in the day after the fighting over. 
  • The rough weather created the most havoc with the landing vessels.  Some of the LSTs sunk due to the high waves.
  • Other LSTs ran straight into the steel spiders based they were impossible to control. 
  • For that matter, the rough waters forced practically every landing vessel to go far off track.  All day long, no one had a clue where they were. 
  • The biggest disappointment of the day had to the complete failure of the aerial bombing and naval shelling to weaken the German defenses.  Again the weather was largely to blame.  Unable to see through the cloud layers, the pilots weren’t about to take a chance of dropping their bombs on their own men.  As a result, most of the bombs fell far behind the German defenses.

The truth of the matter is that the American victory that day can be chalked up to two things – amazing luck and amazing bravery.  No one incident illustrates this more clearly than the moment Sergeant Streczyk risked his life to blast a hole in the barbed wire with a hail of bullets.

No man epitomizes the combination of luck and bravery of the day more than Sergeant Streczyk.  A person has to ask, “What happens if Streczyk doesn’t blow a hole in the barbed wire?  What if he ran out of luck and got killed instead?”

Good question.  The answer is pretty simple – a lot more Americans would have died at Omaha Beach that day.   Yes, the men from the other four sectors would have eventually surrounded the bunkers and taken out the defenses above Omaha, but not before hundreds more men died needlessly on the kill zone beaches. 

Streczyk’s cold-blooded heroism at the barbed wire explains why his company commander later called him "the greatest unsung hero of World War II".  

Streczyk was also lucky.  Considering the number of bullets and mortar that barely missed hitting him, he was truly a charmed man.   His luck closely parallels all the other lucky breaks the Americans got that day.

Someone will surely ask, “How can anyone say the Americans were lucky when 2,500 men were slaughtered?”

Well, for one thing, they were slaughtered because someone sent them onto that beach without protection.  That’s not bad luck, that is highly questionable military tactics.

Or someone will ask, “What about all those tanks that sunk at the start of the battle?”

Again, that wasn’t bad luck, that was incompetence.  Curiously, those tanks operated fairly well at the other four beaches.  27 of 28 tanks landed at Utah Beach.  Unfortunately at Omaha, the place where they were needed the most, someone decided to launch the tanks much too far out at sea.  The men who designed them pleaded with the Americans to take them as close to shore as possible before releasing them, but someone didn’t listen.

In retrospect, the only real stroke of bad luck all day was running into the German 352nd at Omaha.  Other than that misfortune, the Americans had luck on their side all day long. 

They were lucky that Rommel had left to go to a birthday party.  They were lucky that the Panzer division wasn’t released until it was too late.  And why not?  It seems no one had the nerve to awaken Herr Hitler from his sleep to get permission to release the tanks.   The Americans were lucky that their LSTs were blown so badly off course at Utah Beach that most of the men accidentally came ashore at a place where there were no guns at all.  The Americans were also lucky that the great long-distance guns of Pointe du Hoc had not yet been installed.  Like the movie The Guns of Navarone, those massive guns would have ripped the destroyers to shreds when they moved closer to shore. 

Yes, the Americans were brave at Omaha Beach.  Incredibly brave. 

Unfortunately, after reading all the stories, it doesn’t seem out of the question that our military leaders should be held responsible for the heavy casualties.  Someone decided we could just bludgeon the Germans into submission at Omaha Beach.  Consequently a lot of defenseless men died needlessly.   In retrospect, considering Omaha Beach was clearly the strongest defensive position of the five beaches, a direct paratroop assault from the rear would have been just as effective

Fortunately the Americans soldiers were brave enough to overcome the questionable tactics of their superiors.  Leadership can make a difference.  Look what Rommel accomplished.  Isn’t it a shame the Americans used Patton as a decoy?  Interestingly, the German 352nd was no match for relief forces of General George Patton's Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge.

It almost makes you wonder if the Germans were right – Patton should have been leading the invasion at D-Day.  

The Big Red monument erected to the 1st Division, stands on top of a bunker used to house a
searchlight, possibly 50 cm.
Like most of the Atlantic wall this strong point was not completed by D-day.
WN62 and its sister strong point WN61, just to the east played an devastating roll on D-day causing many of the American casualties on this sector of the beach.
Because of the failure to get the swimming tanks ashore (Duplex Drive) there was no
armour to support the Infantry for several hours. The 75 mm guns could pick off the landing craft and cause devastation to the troops trying to get a foothold on the beach.
Around lunchtime a British Frigate sailed along the beach and managed to put 3 inch
shells into the two casemates. Several did not explode and in the lower of the casemates you can still see the shells imbedded in the internal walls of the bunker.
The guns were finally silenced by a Sherman tank supported by Infantry.

Rommel believed that the invasion needed to be stopped on the beaches, von Rundstedt, along with Heinz Guderian disagreed. Hitler vacillated and placed them in the middle, far enough to be useless to Rommel, not far enough for von Rundstedt. As a result of this 21st Panzer was placed near Caen, in the area of the British landings. The SS units that were supposed to support the division could not be released as they were under Hitler's direct command.


I was the first one out. The seventh man was the next one to get across the beach without being hit. All the ones in-between were hit. Two were killed; three were injured. That’s how lucky you had to be.
Captain Richard Merrill, 2nd Ranger Battalion.

courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to act in spite of fear

Captain Edward Wozenski
Commander, Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Division

In climbing the bluff later in the day, I met Sgt Streczyk coming down to me on the situation. He stepped directly on a teller mine righ in front of me nose. I asked what in the hell he was doing since we both saw the mine clearly.

Streczyk replied, "Well, it didn't go off when i stepped on it going up the bluff."

If Streczyk did not earn a Medal of Honor, no one ever did. Thousands of men were on the beach being killed like flies. To even lift your head over the shingle was to invite quick death. yet Streczyk led a small group up the bluffs, clearning out enemy pillboxes, released a flare indciating his breakthourgh, which and others followed.

by S. L. A. Marshall

First Wave at Omaha Beach

UNLIKE what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.

This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.

How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.

This happened because the Army historians who wrote the first official book about Omaha Beach, basing it on the field notes, did a calculated job of sifting and weighting the material. So saying does not imply that their judgment was wrong. Normandy was an American victory; it was their duty to trace the twists and turns of fortune by which success was won. But to follow that rule slights the story of Omaha as an epic human tragedy which in the early hours bordered on total disaster. On this two-division front landing, only six rifle companies were relatively effective as units. They did better than others mainly because they had the luck to touch down on a less deadly section of the beach. Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could start to fight. Several contributed not a man or bullet to the battle for the high ground. But their ordeal has gone unmarked because its detail was largely ignored by history in the first place. The worst-fated companies were overlooked, the more wretched personal experiences were toned down, and disproportionate attention was paid to the little element of courageous success in a situation which was largely characterized by tragic failure.

The official accounts which came later took their cue from this secondary source instead of searching the original documents. Even such an otherwise splendid and popular book on the great adventure as Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day misses the essence of the Omaha story.


strongpoint WN64 was cleared around 1000 hours, although a lone pillbox at the head of the draw remained in German control until the evening

Perhaps Joe Dawson himself had the best word on the subject. The former G Company captain wrote to popular historian Stephen Ambrose fifty years after D-Day: "I feel, Dr. Ambrose, that all honor and tribute should be given to Lt. Spalding and his small group of men and to the men of G Company 16th Infantry, for they formed the spearhead that through luck, courage, and proficiency opened the one breach in the enemy's defenses that led to the winning of the battle of Omaha Beach."


Comments on Spalding's Movements

Widerstandsnestern 60

The German forces suffered relative light casualties from the pre-invasion aerial and naval bombardment. Though somewhat shell-shocked, they sprang to action quickly, and even the volunteer units from Eastern Europe fought reasonably well. As the result, most of the strongpoints were fiercely defended, forcing the Allies to seize just about every single one by force. As soon as Gerd von Rundstedt realized that the attack was a major Allied invasion attempt, he contacted Adolf Hitler for permission to release all tanks for a counter attack, but permission was slow in the coming as Berlin still considered the possibility that the invasion was merely a diversionary attack. Therefore, the only tanks available were those of Feuchtinger's 21st Panzer Division located south of Caen. By the time those tanks moved, it was already mid-morning, and Allied fighters and fighter-bombers had already established tight patrols in the air, making vehicular movement very difficult for the Germans.




"Had I been able to move the armored divisions which I had behind the coast, I am convinced that the invasion would not have succeeded."

Lack of air power, and interference from higher levels, played major roles in the defeat of the German Army after the Normandy invasion, according to Field Marshal von Rundstedt. But the former German commander-in-chief in the West has admitted that the Allied commanders outsmarted him several times to make the situation even worse.

Caught in the position of a boxer up against an opponent with both a good left hook and a good right cross, Von Rundstedt guessed incorrectly that the right cross—the invasion of the Cotentin Peninsula—was merely a feint to the landing of the left hook—an invasion of the Belgian or French coast farther north. By the time he and his successors discovered that the right cross was really the knockout blow, it was too late to save anything but remnants of the German Army in France.

A great deal of the interference from higher levels developed later during the Battle of Germany, Von Rundstedt declared, the worst instance being the Ardennes counteroffensive of December 1944 and January 1945.

"The Ardennes offensive bore my name quite wrongly," the former West Front commander protested. "I had nothing to do with it. It was ordered from above down to the smallest detail."

He thought, too, that interference from above had wrecked his earlier plans for the defense of France against the invasion. In the first place, he did not have enough troops to cover the areas in which the invasion might come, and higher officers interfered with the distribution of what he had. When it finally became necessary to shift troops around, it was too late—by that time Allied planes had such overwhelming air superiority that they blasted his reinforcements to bits, or stopped their movement by cutting communications facilities.


The situation immediately prior to the invasion of June 1944 was not good, Von Rundstedt said. He and his former Chief of Staff, General Blumentritt, recognized at least three basic weaknesses: their inadequate number of troops had to cover enormous stretches of coast line, some divisions as much as 35 to 40 miles; the Atlantic Wall was "anything but a wall, just a bit of cheap bluff"; and there was no counterattack reserve or so-called "Armee centrale," a strategic army under central command to counterattack where the invasion came.

Von Rundstedt, like many other German generals, said he did not control Germany's best troops. He complained that many of his best units were sent to Italy, and he asserted vigorously that it was "madness to continue the war in Italy that way."

After the collapse of Italy, "that frightful 'boot' of a country should have been evacuated. Mussolini should have been left where he was, and we should have held a decent front with a few divisions on the Alpine frontier. They should not have taken away the best divisions front me in the West in order to send them to Italy. That's my private view."

Whether he could have gotten more troops for the West, Von Rundstedt did not know. He did know that the High Command was hard pressed for troops on all sides, but nothing was ever done about it.

"It was only decent to do something" after Mussolini was reinstated, Von Rundstedt admitted, but he added, "of course it was absolutely a matter of politics and nothing else. I assume, though I have no positive knowledge, that the High Command was in favor of it."

"I thought that was nonsense, too," Von Rundstedt said of the occupation of Norway. "What was the point of occupying it?"

He termed the Norwegian operation "purely a naval affair" in which he had no interest. In fact, his major interest all along was to accumulate the proper armored divisions, mobile forces which could be quickly sent where they were needed.


"Had I been able to move the armored divisions which I had behind the coast, I am convinced that the invasion would not have succeeded." Von Rundstedt made this emphatic statement as he told of continued interference from higher levels with the disposition of his inadequate forces. "If I had been able to move the troops, then my air force would also have been in a position to attack hostile ships."

If he had had his way, Von Rundstedt indicated that the Allies would first of all have sustained prohibitive losses during landing operations. In addition, they would not have been able, "with relative impunity," to bring up battleships close to the coast to act as floating gun batteries.

"That is all a question of air force, air force, and again air force," he commented.

The Normandy invasion would have been "like Dieppe on a big scale"—Von Rundstedt believes—if he had been able to move his armored divisions as he desired. He summarized the situation with the statement:

"We would certainly have been better off if a good many things had been different as regards the distribution of forces."

Von Rundstedt claims that the Atlantic Wall was a "mere bluff," but admitted that the French coast was more heavily fortified from the Scheldt to the Seine. Pictured are German fortifications of the more imposing type.


"The enemy probably knew more about it than we did ourselves," Von Rundstedt said in referring to the so-called Atlantic Wall as a "mere bluff." He confessed that such a wall did exist from the Scheldt to the Seine, "but further than that—one has only to look at it for one's self in Normandy to see what rubbish it was."

According to Von Rundstedt, the wall consisted of a few pillboxes in holes in the sand so far apart that "you needed field glasses to see the next one." The only good thing was the fortresses, such as Cherbourg and Brest, but they were all fortified only toward the sea. He described the wall as "a dreary situation" south of the Gironde toward the Spanish border because "there was really nothing at all there."

All the ballyhoo about the Atlantic Wall was simply propaganda, Von Rundstedt said, but he admitted that people believed it—"at least we believed it." He thinks, however, that it was no mystery to the Allies because their air photography probably revealed the bluff.

Although a lot of material went into the defenses, Von Rundstedt complained that the Navy got most of the concrete. He pictured the German Navy as building higher and thicker roofs on their U-boat shelters every time the Allies dropped a heavier bomb.

"It doesn't suffice to build a few pillboxes," Von Rundstedt pointed out. "One needs defense in depth. Moreover, the requisite forces were lacking—we couldn't have manned them, even if fortifications had been there."


The former German commander in the West really warmed up on the subject of coastal batteries and artillery. Admitting that he was not an artilleryman, Von Rundstedt nevertheless severely criticized the mounting of the coastal guns. They were mounted as on ships, and could fire only out to sea. They were of no use to land forces because they could not fire in all directions. To make things worse, the coastal batteries included many captured guns, thus hampering the supply situation.

As if things were not bad enough, Von Rundstedt complained, the last divisions he got were very weak in artillery, some of them having only three light batteries. A good division on land should have nine light batteries and at least three heavy batteries, in his view.


Von Rundstedt confessed that the Allies caught him flatfooted with their thrust out of the Cotentin Peninsula. If he had been in the position of his enemy, intent on taking Paris and the interior of France, Von Rundstedt explained, he would have landed to the left and right of the Seine and taken the shortest route.

The Atlantic Wall, said Von Rundstedt, consisted of a few pillboxes in the sand (above) so far apart that "you needed field glasses to see the next one." The only good thing was the fortresses, such as Cherbourg and Brest (below), he explained, but they were all fortified only toward the sea.

He admitted that he was puzzled because he believed a landing on the Cotentin was aimed at securing a harbor. At the same time, he could see no point in getting a harbor there because the route to the interior of France was three times as long.

Believing the most powerful thrust would come through Belgium toward the Ruhr, Von Rundstedt considered the area northeast from the Seine to be the most dangerous. For that reason, the division sectors on that coast were shorter, and the fortifications there were constructed as strongly as possible.

Adding to Von Rundstedt's belief that the landing would come further north was the fact that the Navy believed a landing could be made on the Cotentin only at high tide. Even then the rocks and reefs below the water would wreck the ships, thus making a landing extremely hazardous. Here, too, the Allies fooled him by landing at low tide and using the rocks as cover against the fire from land.

"We probably didn't know about the floating harbors." he commented in explaining that he had not considered the Cotentin a likely landing area. "I, at least, didn't. Whether the Navy knew of them I don't know."


Von Rundstedt said there were definite grounds for anticipating another invasion further north, primarily front tactical and strategic considerations. Projecting himself into the mind of the Allied high command, he reasoned: "I will land here, wait until the Germans have gathered all their forces to meet me, and then land at the other place."

An additional motive for a second landing was the fact that the launching ramps for the V-bombs were in the Belgian area—if the effect of these bombs was as unpleasant as German propagandists declared.

The German Navy believed an Allied landing would be made only at high tide, and would be extremely hazardous because of rocks and obstacles. Instead, the Allies landed at low tide and used the obstacles for cover.

"I can't believe it was." Von Rundstedt commented, "because so far I've seen no results of V-weapons here (in England). But it would have counted for something, perhaps, if they were as unpleasant for the English as they afterward were for us in the Eifel, when they all went back into our own lines.

"The V-weapons as such had nothing to do with us in the Army," he said. "The actual protection of them was undertaken by the Flak." He argued that he was afraid of an Allied thrust north from the Seine more because of the strategic importance of an attack toward the Ruhr and Lower Rhine than because of the V-bombs.

"A landing which for a long time we considered very likely before the invasion actually began was one to get rid of the U-boat bases—namely, Brest, St. Nazaire, and Lorient—from the rear," Von Rundstedt declared. "Then when the U-boat business collapsed so completely, we said that was no longer of interest and wouldn't come off. Attention was then concentrated more and more on the northern part."


Although Von Rundstedt could not remember his exact tank strength in France at the beginning of June 1944, he thinks he had approximately six or seven Panzer divisions, but they were spread out. Two were immediately available when the invasion came, and two others were able to come up on the first day. Another one came from Belgium, and then one came from southern France. He complained that one division never did make it from southern France because it had "some difficulties" with the Maquis.

"The defensive role played by the armored divisions near Caen during July and August was a great mistake." Von Rundstedt confessed, "but it was done on the orders of higher authority. We wanted to relieve the armored divisions by infantry, but it was impossible in the bulge in front of Caen where they were also under fire from ships' guns. You can't relieve any troops then."

Von Rundstedt's plan, which was turned down, was to withdraw the armored forces behind the Orne, form up the relieving infantry there, and then take away the tanks from in front and use them as mobile units to attack U.S. forces on the flanks. He was backed up by the senior tank commander, General Beyr von Schweppenburg, but to no avail. The armored divisions were left where they were "on the Führer's own orders."

"Whether similar orders were likewise responsible for the Avranches counterattack, I don't know," Von Rundstedt commented, "since I left on 1 July."

He said he had wanted to make a counterattack while German forces were still north of St. Lo. His plan was to thrust between the British and American landing troops, attacking the Americans and merely screening off the British, because the terrain was more favorable and the battle prospects were better.


Systematic preparations by the Allied air forces caused the general collapse of the German defense, Von Rundstedt said. He cited three important factors.

First, there was the smashing of the main lines of communication, particularly the railway junctions. Although Von Rundstedt had planned the defense so that reserves could be moved to the threatened areas, Allied planes knocked out railway lines and made the shifting of troops impossible.

The second factor was the attack on roads and on marching columns, individual vehicles, etc., so that it was impossible to move by day. This made it extremely difficult to bring up reserves, and it also created a supply problem because fuel and ammunition could not be brought up.

Carpet bombing constituted the third factor. In certain respects, Von Rundstedt said, it constituted an intensified artillery barrage and knocked out troops in pillboxes or dug in ahead of the front line. It also smashed reserves in the rear.

Although the GAF "did what it could," Von Rundstedt pointed out that he had practically no air reconnaissance. German planes which did take to the air were outnumbered 10 to 1, and any long-range reconnaissance was "absolutely nonexistent."

"Rommel's asparagus" (beach obstacles) was "well meant," according to Von Rundstedt, but it was not much of a success because in some places the sea simply turned the obstacles around and sanded them up or rolled them away.

In reinforcing German troops fighting in the Cotentin, men were immediately withdrawn from the southern front. Troops were held on the northern front, however, because the Germans were afraid of a landing on the Belgian or French coast. As explained by Von Rundstedt, the Germans believed that "Phase I is here, but Phase II will come there."

When it became apparent later on that the Normandy invasion was the real thing, the destruction of the Seine bridges "made itself felt very unpleasantly." The reserve troops had to be detoured around or brought over in ferry boats.


Turning to the Ardennes offensive, Von Rundstedt said that every protest on our part, including those from the late Field Marshal Model, was turned down."

"Rommel's asparagus" was "well meant" said Von Rundstedt, but it was not much of a success because in some places the sea simply turned the obstacles around and sanded them up or rolled them away.

When it became apparent later on that the Normandy invasion was the real thing, said Von Rundstedt, the destruction of the Seine bridges "made itself felt very unpleasantly." The reserve troops had to be detoured around or brought over in ferry boats.

According to Von Rundstedt, when it finally became necessary to shift troops around, it was too late—by that time Allied planes had such overwhelming air superiority that they blasted his reinforcements to bits.

If he had directed the attack, Von Rundstedt said, he would have confined himself to a smaller objective. His plan would have embraced an attack on the Aachen pocket from two sides in an attempt to destroy it.

"For a far-reaching operation such as the Ardennes offensive, aimed first at the Maas and possibly still further, the forces were much, much, much too weak. The possibility of driving inland with armored divisions, with no GAF, was purely visionary. Reinforcements and supplies, with their railheads back on the Rhine, took longer and longer to move, and it was impossible to get them up. That offensive was bound to fail. There was no other possibility."

Pointing to the German offensive in 1940 from Trier toward Luxembourg and Calais, Von Rundstedt explained that a vast number of troops were available simply to cover the flanks and protect the spearhead. The forces in the Ardennes offensive were far too weak for the exercise of a comparable function, he explained, using as examples the actions at Bastogne and near Stavelot-Malmedy.

"If I do anything like that, I must have large, very large forces." Von Rundstedt concluded, "but those suggestions were not heeded and things turned out as I'd expected. The root of the whole trouble was air power, air power!"



http://www.scribd.com/doc/38609039/Fortress-D-Day-Fortifications-in-Normandy  useful info on spalding movements.


The first wave of landers consisted of 1,450 men in eight infantry companies. They reached the beach at 0631 hours. As soon as the ramps dropped, the landing craft were under intense machine gun and rifle fire. This gave light to the second mistake the Allies committed for the Omaha Beach operations. American did not think highly of British General Hobart's "funnies", which were modified tanks used for some of the other beaches on this day to provide additional cover, which were now realized as badly needed. The American did deploy tanks, in the form of duplex-drive tanks (DD tanks), but most of them were released too far out to sea that most of them sank in the choppy waters; only 5 out of the 32 DD tanks made it to land. The American soldiers on the beach could only find refuge behind German beach obstructions such as concrete cones and welded steel rails; they were promised craters made by aerial bombs immediately before the landing, but the bomber crews, fearful that they would hit friendly ships, delayed the bomb release by 30 seconds, so their bombs fell far inland (hitting American paratroopers in few instances), leaving the beach crater-less and coverless.

As one gazes at photographs of Omaha today (like the one of the beach in front of Vierville above), one invariably looks at the wide, flat, and now serene and unobstructed beach, extending as far as the eyes can see, and perhaps cannot feel but awed by the mental vision of the satanic maelstrom those soldiers had traversed to reach the foot of the now quiet bluffs. The thought that men could perform such an incredible feat is mind boggling and profoundly humbling.

They came from the sea, in little steel boats through swarms of drowning men and floating dead bodies, through a nightmarish storm of destructive forces seeking their annihilation. No words can even begin to honor their grim determination.

The Americans Strike Back

About two hours after the disastrous beach landings, many soldiers decided the time had come to quit feeling sorry for themselves.  Part of their decision came from leadership, part from within.  One by one, various soldiers chose to leave the protective cover of the seawall and head up the hill.  They knew they were facing terrible danger.

No one's company still existed.  Most of their officers were dead or incapacitated.  Out of necessity, the man banded together with strangers and formed new teams.  The survivors of the morning began improvised penetrations designed to take out the German guns above.  So far, the German defense of Omaha Beach had been ruthlessly effective, but the men who began to scale the bluffs between the most heavily defended points were going to do something about that.

It wasn’t easy though.  There were all sorts of problems climbing the bluffs.  The ground was heavily mined.  There was barbed wire everywhere.  Plus hidden snipers posed a serious threat to anyone trying to climb.   

On the other hand, there were finally some advantages.  The machine gun nests above did not have a good angle or visibility to shoot down on the men.  As long as the men stayed in small groups, they were hard to detect from the ridge above.  Second, in some places there was shrubbery on the hillside that could be used to offer camouflage.  This allowed the men the time to move cautiously while looking for the mines.  In addition, there were grass fires everywhere that gave much-needed smoke concealment. 

Another major factor in the coming turnaround must be credited to the Navy.  At 0830 hours, a Navy beachmaster on Omaha signaled the fleet that no more landing craft were to come ashore.  There were so many ruined craft at the water’s edge that any further incoming vessels would be unable to get close enough to the beach to unload any men.  Furthermore, there appeared to be no safe landing points from gunfire.  Why put more men on the deadly beach until it was safe?

General Omar Bradley was commander of the U.S. First Army.  He was watching the battle from a battleship 11 miles off shore.  The information that reached him made him grimace.  The day had been a complete disaster. Now he had to make a decision.

The assault by U.S. troops over on Utah had landed against little enemy opposition. He quickly ordered all remaining soldiers bound for Omaha to be sent to Utah beach instead.   But what about the troops at Omaha?  They could not be evacuated.  There would be no reinforcements.  Unless there was a break in the deadlock, all of the troops already on Omaha would eventually be killed or taken prisoner. 

General Bradley had an idea.  He called on the big guns of the navy.  Seeing the infantry being subjected to continual pounding, Bradley ordered the Navy to bring their firepower as close as possible to shore for point blank shots against enemy targets.  To do so would risk making the ships vulnerable to the powerful German cannons on shore.  That was a risk he was willing to take.

Immediately a flotilla of destroyers moved close to shore and began hammering German positions at close range.  Soon German pillboxes and trenches were being swept away by the accuracy of the Navy’s guns.  That made a huge difference.  Many of the pinned-down American infantrymen were pinned down no longer.  The destroyers had made a big difference.  The tide of the battle began to turn.

The following assault on the bluffs above Normandy’s Omaha Beach sector led to some of the most amazing stories of heroism in American history.  Lieutenant William B. Williams was one of the remarkable men responsible for the comeback effort.

Williams led his men off the beach to the protection of the sea wall.  Pinned down by a machine gun and mortar fire, Williams realized that he and his men had to move or else be gunned down. The lieutenant ordered his ten men to give him cover fire while he charged the machine gun nest himself with live grenades in each hand.

Before barely advancing a few steps, Williams was hit.   As he fell, Williams tossed the grenades but they fell too far from the nest to do any damage.

While Williams was on the ground, he suffered yet another hit.  Determined not to fail, Williams was able to crawl forward a little closer, pull the pin out of another grenade and throw it.  This time he didn’t miss.  The grenade fell into the machine gun pit, killing the crew and silencing the gun.  

Williams had just managed to stagger to his feet when suddenly new mortar fire fell among the men located about twenty yards away.  Seeing them pinned down, Williams crawled to a flanking position to throw his grenade.  However the enemy spotted Williams and they attacked him with grenades of their own.

Williams was wounded by shrapnel and began to bleed profusely.  In great pain, these new wounds were not enough to keep him from inching close enough to wipe out the mortar station with two more grenades.  

Lieutenant Williams was hurt badly.  He knew he couldn’t go on.  Williams called his men forward and bequeathed his map and compass to his sergeant, admitting that he couldn't move.   He then ordered Sergeant Frank Price to take the men forward without him.  Price stared in horror at Williams' multitude of wounds and protested, but Williams shook him off. 

Williams said, "No, don’t stay with me.  You’ve got to get moving.  The men on the beach are depending on you.  I’ll be okay."

Williams then had the men move him into one of the craters created by the bombs earlier in the day.  Finding a convenient hole, Williams stayed there undiscovered all day.  Fortunately one of his men told a medic promise to look for him.  

Miraculously, Williams was still alive when they found him still in his holeHe had been wounded so badly he was unable to move.  For the past 14 hours, Williams had suffer terrible pain.  Williams finally received medical attention just before midnight.  

For his heroism, William Williams was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

There were many heroes at the D-Day.   One of the
most famous stories of the day belonged to Sergeant Frank Strojny. 

Landing early in the day, Strojny's assault boat went in as far as possible.  Like all the other LST landings, half the men were immediately killed or wounded upon disembarking.   Strojney was the first one out; miraculously nothing hit him.  The next five men were dropped on the spot.  Two were killed; three were injured.  The seventh man managed to make it out unharmed.  That's how tough it was.

Strojny was one of the few fortunate to still be living.  He crawled ashore through the shallow water and was pinned down on the beach by the same mortar and machine-gun fire which had wiped out hundreds of officers and men.  Seeing men die around him right and left, Strojney decided to stay in the water and play dead.  With his face turned up to breathe, he slowly inched forward on his back.  Strojny made sure to advance at the same rate as the tide so that his body always stayed under water.

Strojny eventually reached the side of a dead comrade and turned over on his belly to look around.  Strojney didn’t see any of his men.  But what he did see disgusted him.  Wherever he looked, he saw men who were dead and men who were in so much pain they wanted to be dead. 

Strojny noticed a group of men huddled at the sea wall about third yards away.  Strojny wondered to himself how those men had made it that far.  Should he make a run for it?

Just then another bullet whizzed by him. Strojny had gotten this far by being patient.  There were just too many people getting shot right now.  He had no choice but to continue to play dead.  He hoped anyone looking down from above would ignore him.  

Strojny did make one change.  Now that he was out of the water, he preferred to keep his nose in the sand.  If death was headed his way, he didn't want to see it coming.

About ten minutes passed before Strojny sensed his nemesis somewhere above had finally turned his gun somewhere else.  When he felt no bullets for a while, Strojny began to crawl again face down in the sand.  Strojny was certain it was just a matter of time before a stray bullet found him, so it took all his discipline not to panic and suddenly make a last ditch run to safety. 

Strojny was about ten yards when one of the men at the sea wall told him to make a run for it.  Strojny was startled by the voice.  Strojney was about to get up and sprint when he remembered he had no equipment; Strojny had thrown his equipment away in his haste to make it to shore.  At a point when the bullets seemed to be going elsewhere, Strojny stood up, grabbed a dead man's Browning automatic rifle off the beach and raced the final ten yards to the sea wall and safety.  He collapsed from exhaustion.

Completely separated from his outfit – most of them had been killed or wounded in the landing – Strojny decided to tag along with the outfit of the man who had told him to get up and run.  Using wire cutters, they snipped a hole through the heavy barbed wire.   This did not go unnoticed from above.  Suddenly men dropped on all sides as a German mortar team dropped a shell on them from the hillside.  The shell didn't miss by much.

Shells proceeded to rain down upon them.  The men were completely pinned down.  One of the men had a radio.  He called out some coordinates to a command post.  The men waited.  A warning came back over the radio... get down and stay down... a destroyer had been signaled to shell the hillside. 

"It was amazing.  That destroyer rode almost up on the beach to zero in on the hillside," said Strojny.  "That Captain had plenty of guts.  After the bombardment, one of the men rose cautiously to see if someone would shoot at him.  He immediately ducked back down.  When nothing happened, we got braver and went looking in the direction of the mortar fire. 

At this point, due to his rank, Strojny assumed command of the climb.  He led his men up the bluffs until they reached a marshy area.  One of the men, Private First Class Frank Jefferson, whispered this could be a mine field.  That comment froze everyone.  No one dared move.  All the men looked for another way.  Unfortunately, there wasn't an easy way around this mud patch. 

After several minutes of paralysis, Jefferson volunteered to test the mud patch.  He seemed to have some experience with mines.  Jefferson got down on his belly and began to inch his way through the mud.  Jefferson pulled out his hunting knife and began to probe carefully for mines.  What else could he do?   Almost immediately his knife struck the side of something metallic.  Sure enough, this area was mined.  

Someone handed  Jefferson a stick.  He stuck it in the mud to mark the location of the mine.  Then he poked in every other possible direction until he was sure there was no other hidden mine nearby.   Jefferson began to crawl in a new direction.  Meanwhile the other men flattened themselves out on the ground to avoid detection and for safety in case a mine blew.  The tension was unbearable.  They were almost certain  Jefferson was going to blow himself up and take them all with him.   

Progress was slow due to the danger.  Finally  Jefferson found a safe path through.  He had found four mines and marked each of them.  As long as the men were careful where they stepped.  One at a time, each man crossed the ditch while the others held their breath.   When they had all reached safety, Strojny told the men to stay back.  He picked up a rock and threw it at one of the sticks.  Nothing happened.  So he threw another rock, a big one, and hit the deck.  This time the mine exploded.  For the next five minutes, the men made a game out of blowing up the mines.  When they finished, Strojny crossed two large sticks in the mud to indicate danger for the next man up this path.

The men were very worried about sniper fire and more mines.  Crawling up through the hill single file, they took turns with the unnerving job of leading.  Every twenty yards, they rotated point man.  If one man made it through an area unharmed, the others would follow directly in his path.  It took forty-five minutes to make the climb, but finally they drew closer to some bunkers.  But they couldn't see any mortar gun.  

Strojny recalled, "Nearby the bunker, one of the men spotted a tunnel.  We had not seen any sign of German activity. They had to be somewhere.  After waiting for any kind of sound, we decided to go in.  We were scared out of our minds.  It was so damn dark in there if anything moved, I think every one of us would have started shooting.  After a walk of ten yards we saw some daylight and followed it. We discovered a German mortar crew on the other side.  We took them out for shooting our buddies.  Then we went back inside and followed a another tunnel going somewhere else.  It was rugged going."   

Strojny described the hillside as honeycombed with connecting tunnels.  These tunnels were well madeEvery one of them was reinforced with steel.  As they explored, they found invisible mortars that were dug into the hill.  Using stealth, they eliminated two more mortar positions. 

Strojny recalled marveling at the German ingenuity.  No one could see the mortar nest because only the end of the firing tube protruded.   No one could see a man go to the mortar station because he reached it through an underground tunnel.  Furthermore, beside each mortar station was a photograph of the section of the beach that each mortar was expected to cover.  The Germans had measured exactly where every shell would land.  Strojny let out a low whistle. They were very good at killing the enemy.

"Those Jerry's were damn smart," said Strojny. "They had a bomb or bullet for every spot on the beach.  To this day, I still don't know how any of us got off that beach and lived to tell about it."

Once his men discovered it was possible to move undetected through the tunnels, their fear gave way to an overpowering anger.  One tunnel reached the top.

Up top, the men spotted two pillboxes buried in the side of the bluff behind the beach.  The men watched in horror as the 88 mm guns poured deadly fire into the oncoming assault boats below.  Something had to be done – but quick – to remedy the slaughterhouse below. 

At that moment, the Germans spotted them and began shooting with small arms.  Several men were hit on the spot.  Sizing up the situation, Strojny picked up a Bazooka from a wounded soldier nearby.  Strojny knew the Bazooka had been pierced by shrapnel. In that condition it should not have been fired. 

Strojney decided to take a chance
With complete disregard for his safety, Strojny tucked the Bazooka under his arm, gathered some rockets and hunched across a series of craters formed by the earlier battleship bombardment to a vantage point closer to the pillboxes.   He had one more obstacle – a mine field strewn with American corpses.  Strojny was surprised other men had made it this far.

Ignoring the obvious danger, Strojny made a practical albeit gruesome decision.  He decided the safest and quickest route across the deadly mine field was to use the corpses as stepping stones.  To his grim satisfaction, this strategy worked.  This was certainly not the first time the dead had continued to contribute today nor would it be the last.

Now in position some 250 yards from the first pillbox, Strojny let fly with several rockets which ripped the big concrete emplacement wide open, but did not knock it out.  

Alarmed, the Germans concentrated heavy machine-gun fire on Strojny's position.  Only a miracle saved Strojney from being cut to ribbons. One bullet went through the front of his helmet, circled his head and tore out through the side near his left ear.  

Shocked to still be alive, Strojny retraced his way back across the bodies in the mine field to get more rockets for the bazooka, then crossed the mine field for a second try.  Once he was in position, Strojny finished off the first pillbox.  Then he used the cover of the first burning pillbox to get into position to blast the second pillbox into flames as well.

Strojny was screaming at the top of his lungs the entire time as he fired.  His men were wide-eyed at his fury.  After taking out the second pillbox, Strojny put down the bazooka and took a long deep breath.  When he turned to the men, he saw their looks of disbelief.  Strojny grinned sheepishly, “I guess I just got a little mad”.  

For his amazing accomplishments, Raymond Strojny was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Eisenhower.

creation of navy seals

Early in the war Allied planners realized the value of scouts for reconnoitering enemy-held beaches. From this need the Scouts and Raiders were born. Originally a joint Navy-Army unit, by 1944 the outfit was all Navy and all volunteer. Scouts and Raiders were trained in long-distance swimming, small-boat handling, and the use of weapons and explosives. They used rubber boats and a type of kayak-like craft called a Folboat to sneak onto the shore without being seen.
In the weeks just prior to D-Day, Scouts and Raiders visited many Normandy beaches, checking on such things as the type of sand—to see if it would hold up a tank—or the placement of steel obstacles and teller mines on wooden poles. They also verified water depths and the speed of currents, then slipped back to sea, sometimes swimming miles to their moored Folboats before paddling quietly and swiftly to waiting motorboats for return to their base in England.

The Scouts and Raiders trained closely with other special teams such as the naval combat demolition units (NCDUs), whose specialty was demolition of beach obstacles: welded-steel hedgehogs, Belgian gates, and other impediments to landing craft. The Navy recruited civilian experts from coal mines and quarries to train the NDCU teams in handling explosives.

As landing craft approached Omaha and Utah Beaches on June 6, 1944, they were guided by Scouts and Raiders in several LCC—Landing Craft, Control. One of the boat captains off Omaha Beach was Lt. Phil Bucklew, who saw that sea conditions were too dangerous for launching amphibious duplex drive (DD) tanks from landing craft several miles at sea. Unfortunately, his radio report was ignored. Most of the DD tanks that were launched toward Omaha Beach sank, some taking crewmen to the floor of the shallow but deadly Bay of the Seine.

Other Scouts and Raiders teams were close to the beaches in LCS—Landing Craft, Support—armed with twin .50-caliber machine guns, .30-caliber machine guns, and rockets mounted in racks. Their job was to give covering fire for landing craft as they approached the beaches.

In the water near the tide line on Omaha Beach, NCDUs worked with Army teams from the 146th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions, placing charges against steel obstacles and blasting eight clearings through to the beach. They had trained together before the invasion and were combined for this operation to form part of the Special Engineer Task Force, arriving on the beach five minutes after the first landing craft came to shore. The NCDUs accomplished their task at a heavy cost to themselves and were sometimes hampered by soldiers who tried to use the obstacles as shelter while under heavy fire from German machine guns. The NCDUs on Omaha Beach lost 31 men and suffered 60 wounded out of a total of 180 men. They later received a presidential unit citation.

On Utah Beach, where the firefight was much less intense than on Omaha Beach, the NCDUs lost only 6 men, and 11 were wounded. There, Navy teams worked with Army demolition men from the 237th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions and cleared the beach of all steel and concrete obstacles—by day's end they could claim 1,600 yards (1,463 meters) of cleared beach available for safe landings. It was an invaluable accomplishment, allowing the Navy to unload 20,000 troops and 1,700 vehicles onto Utah Beach by the end of the day.

The Navy's use of Scouts and Raiders, NCDUs, and other special operations groups including underwater demolition teams (UDTs) in World War II eventually led to the creation of a dedicated unit that handles many secret tasks that involve the sea and land. Called SEALs (for Sea, Air, Land), they are one of the elite forces in the United States military today. As their command historian, Don Crawford, says, they are "busier than ever answering '911 calls' from around the globe."


Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, "Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941--Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.

As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make or God was taking care of America . Which do you think it was?" Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?"

Nimitz explained. Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow everyone of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America . And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America .
I've never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg , Texas --he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it--Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.
President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.

fall of wn 62



When it comes to history lessons, nothing will ever top my visit to Cherbourg in France on the same 2010 trip. I got to see the famous Omaha Beach where the American GIs stormed the cliffs on D-Day.

While everyone else in my group politely stayed with the group to listen to the guide, I strayed off on my own down to the water's edge a mile away. I was all by myself standing on the same beach where the soldiers landed 66 years earlier. As I looked up, I realized the top of the overlooking bluffs were over a half mile away. The task seemed impossible. How did they ever do it?

I tried to imagine what raced through the minds of the men that day. I shuddered at the fear those men must have faced. They were exposed on the beach with Nazi machine guns up on the bluffs spitting out thousands of bullets per minute. The GIs wore no armor. There was little for them hide behind. They knew they could be dead or permanently maimed at any second. People were dying and screaming all around, yet somehow these men chose to crawl one inch a time to get to the top of the cliffs!

And once they finally got to the base of the steep hills, things didn't get any better. From where I was standing, it was still another four hundred yard climb at a 40 degree angle!!

I had to ask myself if I would have the courage to do the same thing those men did. It was a very solemn moment for me.

These men knew full well one of those bullets might have their name on it, but they continued to forge ahead for the sake of American Freedom. On that day, many young men gave up their lives so that their loved ones and unborn kids like me could live a life of safety from tyranny. For crying out loud, these men died so I could live a life of comfort and ease.

The realization of the true extent of their heroism and sacrifice overwhelmed me. I broke down and cried right there on the beach. I sat there sobbing for a good ten minutes. Hell, I am crying again just writing about it.

I was so overwhelmed by the moment that I completely forgot about the bus. I was almost 15 minutes late returning to the bus. At first when I got on the bus, I was embarrassed by all the angry stares. But when I explained what had happened, everyone got real silent. Slowly they began to nod their heads. Now they understood completely. Several people began to cry themselves. I was forgiven.


story of harley reynolds, another wire blaster, E-1 gap


Colonel S.B. Mason was Chief of Staff for the 1st Infantry Division during the Normandy invasion. Below is a letter he sent to the Eleventh Amphibious Force, which assisted the infantry in the landings at Omaha Beach.

Headquarters 1st US Infantry Division
APO #1, U.S. Army
8 July 1944
Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Commander
Eleventh Amphibious Force
United States Navy
Dear Admiral Hall,
Col. Gibb (G-3) and I made an inspection trip of the OMAHA beaches on the afternoon of July 6 with the intention of studying the defenses the Germans had there. Needless to say, on that date, it looked far different than it did on June 6. That was undoubtedly a strong defensive position. Manned as it was it should have been impregnable. But there was one element of the attack which they could not parry. Of course it is my own opinion, for what it is worth, but I am now firmly convinced that our supporting Naval fires got us in; that without that gun fire we positively would not have crossed those beaches.
In Oran we fortunately did not need Naval fires. In Gela we needed and received same, especially to keep us on position in the face of a counter-attack which came in prior to our assembling our fire power on shore. This Normandy beach was different in that we were met on the beach. I looked over the destruction of German pillboxes, fortified houses and gun positions, and in all cases it was apparent that Naval guns had worked on them.
I still think “One” and “One One” make a good team. More than ever I am in a position to appreciate your support, and if we ever have to do another of these jobs, we will all hope for the good fortune of being teamed with 11th Amphib for planning and execution.
General Huebner concurs in the above and joins me in best regards to you and your staff.
S.B. Mason
Chief of Staff


A Killing Machine

Severloh took 40 years to begin to process what happened to him on Omaha Beach. He had taken up a concealed position on the eastern side of the beach along with 30 other German soldiers, and he recalls watching the horizon turn black with dozens of ships and landing craft racing for the shore. His commanding officer, Lt. Bernhard Frerking, had told him not to open fire until the enemy reached knee-deep level, where he could get a full view.

"What came to mind was, 'Dear God, why have you abandoned me?' " he recalled. "I wasn't afraid. My only thought was, 'How can I get away from here?' "

But rather than run, Severloh slipped the first belt of ammunition into his MG-42 machine gun and opened fire. He could see men spinning, bleeding and crashing into the surf, while others ripped off their heavy packs, threw away their carbines and raced for the shore. But there was little shelter there. Severloh said he would occasionally put down the machine gun and use his carbine to pick off individual men huddled on the beach. He is still haunted by a soldier who was loading his rifle when Severloh took aim at his chest. The bullet went high and hit the man in the forehead.

"The helmet fell and rolled over in the sand," Severloh said. "Every time I close my eyes, I can see it."

Severloh said he was the last man firing from his position. By mid-afternoon, his right shoulder was swollen and his slender fingers were numb from constant firing. When a U.S. destroyer pinpointed his position and began to shell it, he fled to the nearby village of Colleville-Sur-Mer, where he was captured that evening.

In Severloh's telling of D-Day, there are few heroes and several surprises. The German occupiers had warm relations with their French farm hosts before the invasion, he contends. Lt. Frerking, who died on D-Day, was an honorable man who spoke fluent French and once gave one of his men 10 days' punishment for failing to help an elderly French woman with her shopping bags, Severloh said. The U.S. invaders slaughtered farm animals and soldiers, he said, yet that evening he and his ravenous U.S. captors shared a baguette.

Severloh said he first told his tale to an inquisitive correspondent for ABC News during the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984. But the real breakthrough came when an amateur war historian named Helmut Konrad von Keusgen tracked Severloh down. Von Keusgen, a former scuba diver and graphic artist, said he had heard from U.S. veterans about the machine gunner they called the "Beast of Omaha Beach" because he had mowed down hundreds of GIs that day. Severloh confessed he was that gunner. Von Keusgen ghost-wrote Severloh's memoirs, published in 2000, and still visits him regularly.

The two men contend that Severloh might have shot more than 2,000 GIs. That's an impossible figure, according to German and American historians, who say that although the numbers are far from exact, estimates are that about 2,500 Americans were killed or wounded by the 30 German soldiers on the beach.

"My guess is yes, he helped kill or wound hundreds, but how many hundreds would be hard to say," Roger Cirillo, a military historian at the Association of the U.S. Army in Arlington, wrote in an e-mail. He added: "Omaha is like Pickett's Charge. The story has gotten better with age, though no one doubts it was a horror show. Men on both sides were brave beyond reason, and this is the sole truth of the story."

Hein Severloh said he takes no pride in what he did, but telling his tale has given him a sense of relief.

"I have thought about it every single day that God gave to me," he said. Now, he said, "the pressure is gone."






There is another bit of interesting info to surface from Severloh's book. His description of talking to a GI in his native Platt Deutsch dialect and their subsequent surrender to captured Americans who then take a fairly sizable group of them as they were surrounded also checks out.

In 1993, I remember Al Smith, Exec of 3-16 Infantry and a Company CO in North Africa and Sicily related a story to me which I subsequently verified in the division archives.

Company L, 16th Infantry, 1st Division US, landed as one of the original 8 assault companies in the first wave. After heavy casualties and a stiff fight, a perimeter of sorts had been formed by 0900. CPT Armellino was seriously wounded and the company exec, 1LT Cutler, assumed command. Cutler ordered a three man patrol of Privates Milander, Butts and Odell ahead on a recon toward the bluff hamlet of Cabourg.

Later, the company was able to penetrate further east of WN 62 and up the F-1 draw through WN 60 when 1LT Jimmy Monteith led a tank up the draw exposing himself to murderous fire. The attack succeeded and Monteith was later killed when CPT Kim Richmond's Company I gained the field east of the draw and Monteith was consolidating his element. Monteith would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Meanwhile, the three man patrol never made it. They were captured. However, that night, they returned with a large group of German prisoners. Private Milander had talked them into surrendering after they realized the strength of the American landing and the penetrations already made beyond the beach.

I have often wondered if this is two parts of the same story. It may be possible that Milander was the individual who spoke Platt Deutsch. Anyway, I just find it amazing that Severloh would mention being talked into handing themselves over to a few Americans as they were already surrounded and then you have the Milander, Butts and Odell story. Seems to check out. Steve


http://www.worldwariihistory.info/Medal-of-Honor/D-Day.html   medal of honor winners on dday

The Spalding Interview

(Rick Archer's Note: Unfortunately, there were several contradictions on what happened with Spalding's group during the assault on the hill.  One contradiction involved who got to the top first.  Was it Spalding or Dawson?  Another contradiction involved the heroic effort to cut through the barbed wire, an act of bravery straight out of a WW II movie.  Did Phillip Streczyk cut the wire with snippers or did Curtis Colwell blow a hole in it with a bangalore torpedo?   I was unable to answer either question.

My point is simple - I have to rely on other people's report to tell the story as best I can.  However I cannot promise complete accuracy.  Plus I intend to paraphrase some of the details to make it easier to read.  If that is okay with the reader, then here comes a great story. 


by S. L. A. Marshall

First Wave at Omaha Beach

UNLIKE what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.

This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.

How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.

This happened because the Army historians who wrote the first official book about Omaha Beach, basing it on the field notes, did a calculated job of sifting and weighting the material. So saying does not imply that their judgment was wrong. Normandy was an American victory; it was their duty to trace the twists and turns of fortune by which success was won. But to follow that rule slights the story of Omaha as an epic human tragedy which in the early hours bordered on total disaster. On this two-division front landing, only six rifle companies were relatively effective as units. They did better than others mainly because they had the luck to touch down on a less deadly section of the beach. Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could start to fight. Several contributed not a man or bullet to the battle for the high ground. But their ordeal has gone unmarked because its detail was largely ignored by history in the first place. The worst-fated companies were overlooked, the more wretched personal experiences were toned down, and disproportionate attention was paid to the little element of courageous success in a situation which was largely characterized by tragic failure.

The official accounts which came later took their cue from this secondary source instead of searching the original documents. Even such an otherwise splendid and popular book on the great adventure as Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day misses the essence of the Omaha story.

US Army MH

US Army Military HistoryElements of three companies shared in the assault on the bluffs between the E-1 and E-3 draws (gaps btw the hills). At this part of Easy Red between the strong points, the beach shelf above the shingle embankment is more than a hundred yards wide, with areas of swamp along the inland edge of the flat.

US Army MHOne hundred and thirty feet high on this sector, the bluff is reached by traveling 200 yards of moderate slope, patched with heavy bush.

Five hundred yards west of E-3, a small draw led up at a slight angle to the west, forming a possible corridor for advance to the bluff crest (spalding/dawson rte).

Below the draw on the flat was a ruined house. The 1st Section of Company E, 16th Infantry, and two of the scattered sections of E, 116th, had come to shore here in the first wave.

The 16th's unit, led by 2d Lt. John Spalding, blew a gap in the wire above the shingle, made its way past the house, and then was held up by minefields in the marshy ground at the foot of the slopes.

On the beach, intense small-arms fire came from an emplacement to the left, in the E-3 strongpoint (WN 62). Spalding's men landed (0645) and found a way past the mines.  Now they began to work up the slope, using the visual protection afforded by the small draw (the viewing hollow). To the west, and out of contact, the two sections from the 116th had cut the wire and dashed across the flat, but mines stopped them near the start of the hillside and they took shelter in a ditch. A soldier who went ahead to clear a path by use of a bangalore was killed by an antipersonnel mine. Their progress was delayed.

Meanwhile Company G (Dawson) of the 16th RCT had landed (0700) and had reached the embankment in good order. G Company's machine guns, set up behind the shingle, found no targets until landing craft of the 1st Battalion, coming toward the beach (about 0730), drew enemy fire from 8 or 10 small emplacements along the half mile of bluff. While the heavy weapons built up a volume of supporting fire, a few men from each section blew gaps in the extensive double-apron and concertina wire beyond the shingle. Their work was made more difficult by anti-personnel mines set to detonate by trip wires.

Four bangalores were required to cut one lane. Engineers of Company A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion and Company C, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion helped in clearing and marking the lanes. When G Company's men reached the slopes they came in contact with Lieutenant Spalding's section of E and two other sections of the 116th.

In an effort to coordinate the advance, an arrangement was made with these units to operate on Company G's right.

The mined areas, in which a part of the mines were faked, slowed up every unit that crossed the beach, then and for some time. Company G found one route through the mines by going over the dead bodies of two soldiers who had been caught there earlier. While the company was making its way across the flat, bothered more by the minefields than enemy fire, Capt. Joseph T. Dawson and one man went on ahead.

When they were halfway up the hill, an enemy machine gun at the head of the small draw forced Dawson into cover. He sent his companion back to bring up the company and crawled on from one patch of brush to another. By the time he was 75 yards from the gun, the enemy lost sight of him.  Circling to his left, he came to the military crest a little beyond the machine gun, and got within 30 feet before the Germans spotted him and swung their weapon around. Dawson threw a fragmentation grenade which killed the crew.

This action opened the way up the little draw, but it took some time to get the company up as a result of disorganization suffered in crossing the beach flat. The 5th Section, first to arrive, knocked out two more machine guns and took a prisoner. On the whole, enemy opposition had not been heavy, and cover on the slopes allowed Company G to make the crest with few casualties.

Their movement forward, from embankment to the bluff top, had taken place between 0730 and 0830. Enemy fire died away as the troops emerged on the fields of the upland, reorganized, and started south in column of sections. Their principal concern was with the frequent indications of mined areas just beyond the bluff top.

To their right, Lieutenant Spalding's section of Company E, 16th RCT, was getting up about the same time, helped by covering fire from Dawson's Company G, and effecting a useful extension of the front of penetration. The section now numbered 3 men, having lost 3 at the beach and 3 more getting past an enemy machine gun on the bluff side.

The gun was operated by a lone soldier who was captured and found to be Polish. He informed Spalding that there were 16 enemy in trenches to his rear. The Company E section got to the trenches, sprayed them with fire and found the Germans had withdrawn.

Spalding turned west along the bluff crest, losing contact with Company G as that unit headed south. Moving through hedgerow fields and wooded areas, the Company E group came up on the rear of the strongpoint guarding E-1 draw (WN64). The Germans were manning trenches overlooking the beach, and attack from the high ground caught them by surprise.  In two hours of confused fighting, Spalding's men got through the outworks of this strongpoint and overcame opposition by close-in work with grenades and rifles.

Naval fire hitting in the parts of the strong-point below the bluff top also helped to demoralize the resistance. Twenty-one prisoners were taken, and several enemy killed, without any loss to the attackers. Although the fortified area was too extensive to be thoroughly cleaned out by Spalding's small force, WN 64, the strongpoint east of E-1 had been effectively neutralized by midmorning, just when important reinforcements for the assault were beginning to land in front of the draw. At about 1100, Spalding's section was joined by some other elements of Company E, which had come up from further east. They brought word from battalion to head south for Colleville.

The area opened up by Company G became a funnel for movement off the beach during the rest of the morning.    USAMH

D-Day: Afternoon on Omaha Beach

What Hitler Did Wrong

Converted for the Web from "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II" by Stephen E. Ambrose

Jump to: Afternoon on Omaha Beach | Landing on Omaha Beach
Correspondent Ernest Hemingway | What Hitler Did Wrong | What Eisenhower Did Right

There was no German counterattack. Rommel's plans for fighting the D-Day battle were never put into motion. There were many reasons.

First, German surprise was complete. The Fortitude operation had fixed German attention on the Pas-de-Calais. They were certain it would be the site of the battle, and they had placed the bulk of their panzer divisions north and east of the Seine River, where they were unavailable for counterattack in Normandy.

Second, German confusion was extensive. Without air reconnaissance, with Allied airborne troops dropping here, there, everywhere, with their telephone lines cut by the Resistance, with their army, corps, division, and some regimental commanders at the war game in Rennes, the Germans were all but blind and leaderless. The commander who was most missed was Rommel, who spent the day on the road driving to La Roche-Guyonan -- another price the Germans paid for having lost control of the air; Rommel dared not fly.

Third, the German command structure was a disaster. Hitler's mistrust of his generals and the generals' mistrust of Hitler were worth a king's ransom to the Allies. So were Hitler's sleeping habits, as well as his Wolkenkuckucksheim ideas.

The only high-command officer who responded correctly to the crisis at hand was Field Marshal Rundstedt, the old man who was there for window dressing and who was so scorned by Hitler and OKW. Two hours before the seaborne landings began, he ordered the two reserve panzer divisions available for counterattack in Normandy, the 12th SS Panzer and Panzer Lehr, to move immediately toward Caen. He did so on the basis of an intuitive judgment that the airborne landings were on such a large scale that they could not be a mere deception maneuver (as some of his staff argued) and would have to be reinforced from the sea. The only place such landings could come in lower Normandy were on the Calvados and Cotentin coasts. He wanted armor there to meet the attack.

Rundstedt's reasoning was sound, his action decisive, his orders clear. But the panzer divisions were not under his command. They were in OKW reserve. To save precious time, Rundstedt had first ordered them to move out, then requested OKW approval. OKW did not approve. At 0730 Jodi informed Rundstedt that the two divisions could not be committed until Hitler gave the order, and Hitler was still sleeping. Rundstedt had to countermand the move-out order. Hitler slept until noon.

The two panzer divisions spent the morning waiting. There was a heavy overcast; they could have moved out free from serious interference from Allied aircraft. It was 1600 when Hitler at last gave his approval. By then the clouds had broken up and Allied fighters and bombers ranged the skies over Normandy, smashing anything that moved. The panzers had to crawl into roadside woods and wait under cover for darkness before continuing their march to the sound of the guns.

"The news couldn't be better," Hitler said when he was first informed that D-Day was here. "As long as they were in Britain we couldn't get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them." He had an appointment for a reception near Salzburg for the new Hungarian prime minister; other guests included diplomats from Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. They were there to be browbeaten by Hitler into doing even more for the German war economy. When he entered the reception room, his face was radiant. He exclaimed, "It's begun at last." After the meeting he spread a map of France and told Goering, "They are landing here -- and here: just where we expected them!" Goering did not correct this palpable lie.

Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels had been told of the Allied airborne landings at 0400. "Thank God, at last," he said. "This is the final round."

Goebbels's and Hitler's thinking was explained by one of Goebbels's aides, who had pointed out in an April 10, 1944, diary entry: "The question whether the Allied invasion in the West is coming or not dominates all political and military discussion here.

"Goebbels is afraid that the Allies dare not make the attempt yet. If so, that would mean for us many months of endless, weary waiting which would test our strength beyond endurance. Our war potential cannot now be increased, it can only decline. Every new air raid makes the petrol position worse." It had been galling to the Nazis that the Allies had been able to build their strength in England, untouchable by the Luftwaffe or the Wehrmacht. Now they had come within range of German guns.

But Hitler was more eager to hit London than to fight a defensive war. He had a weapon to do it with, the V-1. It had first been flown successfully on Christmas Eve, 1943; by June 1944, it was almost ready to go to work. The V-1 was a jet-powered plane carrying a one-ton warhead. It was wildly inaccurate (of the 8,000 launched against London, only 20 percent even hit that huge target), but it had a range of 250 kilometers and flew at 700 kilometers per hour, too fast for Allied aircraft or antiaircraft to shoot down.

On the afternoon of June 6, Hitler ordered the V-1 attacks on London to begin. As was so often the case, he was giving an order that could not be carried out. It took six days to bring the heavy steel catapult rigs from their camouflaged dumps to the Channel coast. The attack did not begin until June 12, and when it did it was a fiasco: of ten V-1s launched, four crashed at once, two vanished without a trace, one demolished a railway bridge in London, and three hit open fields.

Still, the potential was there. Fortunately for the Allies, Hitler had picked the wrong target. Haphazard bombing of London could cause sleepless nights and induce terror, but it could not have a direct military effect. Had Hitler sent the V-1s against the beaches and artifical harbors of Normandy, by June 12 jammed with men, machines, and ships, the vengeance weapons (Goebbels picked the name, which was on the mark -- they could sate Hitler's lust for revenge but they could not effect the war so long as they were directed against London) might have made a difference.




Rick, these should fit right in to your blog and your studies.   ~Jim


These a amazing photos. Someone really did they homework planning these
 out. Very hard to believe the course of time.







.D-Day nearly scrapped   exercise tiger
The deadly ambush left Allied commanders rattled. Ten U.S. officers with detailed knowledge of the looming Normandy invasion were missing and the possibility that any of them been taken prisoner on the German E-boats was a major concern. Scrapping "Operation Overlord," the name given to the D-Day landings, was discussed at the highest levels.

But the emergency ended when all ten bodies were eventually recovered. The German crews had no idea they had stumbled upon a secret test run for the Normandy invasion.



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