D Day Beaches : Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
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On 6 June 1944 dawn broke over Omaha beach ......

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....which stretched several kilometres to the east from Colleville-sur-Mer almost to Porte en Bessin. In this picture the remains of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches (site of the Gold beachhead) can be seen in the distance.

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Omaha beach also extended to the west to St-Laurent-sur-Mer and Vierville-sur-Mer. In the distance can be seen Point et Raz de la Percée. Further west, beyond the actual Omaha beachhead, is the notorious Pointe du Hoc seized after a difficult cliff assault by the American Rangers.

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The immense landing operation began during the night of 5th to 6th June when three airborne divisions were dropped on both flanks of the front. The paratroops' mission was to capture certain keypoints such as the Merville gun battery, the bridge over the Caen canal, roads, locks etc.).

Between 0630 and 0730 hours, 135,000 men and around 20,000 vehicles were brought in by sea on the five landing beaches. From west to east there were two American beachfronts (Utah and Omaha) and three British and Canadian beachfronts (Gold, Juno and Sword).

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The Allied air and sea bombardments prior to the landings were mostly ineffective and the German defenses were largely intact when the first assault waves hit the beach. Wind, waves, and currents scattered most of the landing craft away from their assigned targets and troops that landed here had almost no cover on the beach at low tide.

The landings at Omaha Beach resulted in heavy American casualties. The official record of the 1st Infantry Division states that, "Within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded". The invaders suffered over 2,400 casualties, most within the first few hours of the landings.

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Omaha Beach was the Allied codename of one of the principal landing points during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. The beach is about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long, from Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer.
(Map with acknowledgement to Encyclopaedia Britannica)

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The World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is situated on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel in Colleville-sur-Mer.. The cemetery is located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery which was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and was the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery covers one hundred and seventy-two acres and contains the graves of 9,387 American military Dead, most of whom gave their lives during the D Day landings and ensuing operations.

Three hundred and seven graves are those of 'unknowns' who could not be identified. In addition is memorial wall giving names and particulars of 1557 combatants whose remains have not been recovered and posted as missing.

A Star of David marks the grave of those of the Jewish faith and a Latin cross of all others.

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The cemetery is briefly featured at the beginning of Steven Spielberg's 1998 film, 'Saving Private Ryan', as a much older Private James Ryan, accompanied by his family, makes his way to the grave of a fictitious Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks). (The headstone for John Miller was brought to the cemetery for the movie.)

(Acknowledgement: Much of the information on these pages was obtained from 'Wikipedia', the free internet encyclopaedia, as well as other sources including Encyclopaedia Britannica and the cemetery guide.)

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