Omaha Beach (D-Day) By: noah baumann

The fourth division of America was sent there to push back the Germans. The American Marine corps were to arrive in 4 stages. They sent 34,000 men in the morning followed by another 25,000 in the afternoon.

Omaha beach was about 7,000 yards long. It had a gentle sloping tidal area averaging 300 meters between low and high water marks.

There were fourteen enemy strong points that were able to direct fire on Omaha beach. Strong-points were built onto and into the bluffs, many designed to fire along the beach, making them difficult to see and damage from the sea. Fourteen major strong points were built, one on each side of the five draws, two on the headland to the east and three covering the upper ends of the draws. The 352nd infantry division was the platoon from the Germans who were to defend Omaha Beach. They had 333 officers. 70 army officials. 2,164 NCO's. 9,650 men. They also had 1,455 'Hilfswillige' (Russian Volunteers in non-combat support roles). All three battalions came under the overall command of Major General Dietrich Kraiss, the commander of the 352nd Division and a veteran of the eastern front.

There were three obstacles existing on Omaha Beach. The first obstacle were gate like structure that were strapped with mines.

The second of the three obstacles were About 200 yards inland, there were logs that were placed into the ground at an angle with mines strapped to them. Theses were called the Cointet-element, also known as a Belgian Gate or C-element, was a heavy steel fence about three meters wide and two meters high, typically mounted on concrete rollers, used as a mobile anti-tank obstacle during World War II. Each individual fence element weighed about 1,280 kg but was movable (e.g. with two horses) through the use of two fixed and one rotating roller.

The last obstacle were metal hedgehogs. Metal hedgehogs were static anti-tank obstacle defense made of metal angle beams or I-beams (that is, lengths with an L- or H-shaped cross section). The hedgehog is very effective in keeping tanks from getting through a line of defense. It maintains its function even when tipped over by a nearby explosion. Although it may provide some scant cover for infantry, infantry forces are generally much less effective against fortified defensive positions than mechanized units.

Before the men were landed. They had bombarded the beach with naval and air guns 1 ½ hours beforehand. Although neither the aerial or naval bombardments of Omaha Beach lived up to expectations. The massive aerial attack suffered because poor visibility made the bomber crews wary of dropping their bombs too soon and hitting the incoming assault crews. As a result most of the bombs fell behind the German defenses. Not only did this leave the bunkers intact, it also meant that the beach was lacking the bomb craters that had been expected to act as cover for the infantry.

Enemy guns had been sited to cover every part of the beach. The 914th Grenadier Regiment was spread out to the west of Omaha beach to defend. The Germans had built a strong but thin line of defenses on Omaha beach, taking advantage of the cliffs at both ends and the escarpment.

The first wave have been set at 6:30 in the morning that consisted of 96 tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry.

The Special Engineer Task Force was comprised of both army and navy demolition specialists.

The Special Engineer Task Force mission was to clear paths of obstacles. Only 5 of the 16 teams arrived at their assigned locations. Three teams came in where there were no infantry or armor to cover them. Working under heavy fire, the engineers set about their task of clearing gaps through the beach obstacles—work made more difficult by loss of equipment, and by infantry passing through or taking cover behind the obstacles they were trying to blow. They also suffered heavy casualties as enemy fire set off the explosives they were working with.

The tanks and infantry were to provide covering fire for the Special Engineer Task Force. The Americans were also worried by the powerful gun battery at Pointe du Hoc, sending a detachment of Rangers to attack this battery on D-Day. Of the eight companies landing in the first wave, only Company A of the 116th RCT at Dog Green and the Rangers to their right landed where intended. The gun battery on Pointe du Hoc was to be attacked by the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions. The 743rd Tank Battalion, actually reached the beach largely intact, largely because the naval commander of the eight landing craft carrying their DD tanks realized that the sea was far too rough to release the tanks 5,000 yards out to sea. 40 of the 48 tanks allocated to the western end of Omaha beach arrived safely.

The German defenses at Omaha Beach were hard but brittle – they had little or no defensive in depth. They were able to take control of Omaha Beach at the end of the day. Omaha Beach was one of the most heavily defended areas and has been sited to be the hardest beach to control on D-Day.


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