D-Day Battle for Easy Red and Fox Green Beaches

D-Day Battle for Easy Red & Fox Green Beaches

Amid bullets and shells, blood and death, the men of the 1st Infantry Division helped turn the tide of battle during the D-Day landings in Normandy.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachThe Omaha Beach sectors. Although carefully planned, the landings were a confused affair; strong currents and navigational errors created problems for the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions, but the men of the Big Red One managed to push inland by early afternoon.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachTo stop any Allied invasion at the water’s edge, the Germans constructed hundreds of concrete bunkers, pillboxes, and fighting positions along the Normandy coast. Here, a German sentry looks for any sign of the invasion.

The chaos, carnage, and confusion at Omaha Beach were captured by Navy combat artist Dwight Shepler. General Omar Bradley feared that the landings would fail and survivors would have to be evacuated.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachAfter the beachhead was secured, an aerial reconnaissance plane took this image of Omaha Beach with thousands of men and scores of amphibious DUKWs delivering supplies to the invaders.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachThe desperation of the landings is evident in this famous, blurry photograph taken by Robert Capa. The soldier struggling in the surf is believed to be Pfc. Huston S. Riley, Company F, 16th RCT, 1st Infantry Division.

Now it was Dawson’s turn to move out. “I felt the obligation to lead my men off, because the only way they were going to get off was to follow me; they wouldn’t get off by themselves … We dropped over [the shingle] and got into this minefield. There was a body of a boy who had found the minefield and unfortunately also found the mine and destroyed himself, but he pointed the way for us to go across him, which we did. Sergeant Cleff and myself, and Pfc. Baldridge, another man in my company, started up the hill…. There was a path and it seemed to generally go in the right direction toward the crest of the hill, so I started up that way. About halfway there, I encountered Lieutenant Spaulding with a remnant of his platoon. I think he had two squads and a person in a third squad, and they were the only survivors that I knew of at that time in E Company. He joined us at that time and became part of us; my men were still back on the beach.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachThree heroes on D-Day: Colonel George A. Taylor (left), CO of the 16th RCT; Sergeant Harley Reynolds, Company B, 16th RCT, the “first man to the top”; Captain Joe Dawson (receiving the DSO from General Eisenhower).

Originally scheduled to land in front of the E-3 draw, the L Company boats beached beyond the extreme eastern boundary of Fox Green, near the shelter of low cliffs that came down nearly to the water’s edge. Organizing his company in the relative safety of the cliffs, Captain Armellino saw that his unit, although it had already lost nearly half its strength, was basically intact—the only one of eight companies in this initial wave able to operate as a unit.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachCold, wet, and wounded, members of Company L, 16th Infantry Regiment, as well as the 29th Infantry Division pause to catch their breath and have their wounds treated under the protection of a cliff at the far eastern end of the Fox Green sector.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachA German shell explodes on the sand as troops move in from their landing craft.

K Company’s six boats came under heavy enemy fire, and two were blown up by mines. The officer corps was decimated in minutes. As Prucnal and his XO, First Lt. Frederick L. Brandt, were attempting to organize the remnants of the company, a shell screamed in and mortally wounded Brandt. Coming to his aid, Prucnal was killed by another shell. A platoon commander, Lieutenant James L. Robinson, attempted to rally the company only to fall dead at the hands of a sniper. Another lieutenant, Alexander H. Zbylut, was wounded while struggling ashore. Taking command of the rapidly dwindling unit, Lieutenant Leo A. Stumbaugh organized a patrol of what was left of the first and second assault sections, dashed through a blaze of enemy fire, and forced Germans holding a defensive position to withdraw. The right flank of the German line holding Omaha Beach was slowly, almost imperceptibly, beginning to crumble.

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachWounded men of the 16th RCT await evacuation back to England. Many men had been hurt or killed before even firing a shot at the enemy.

War correspondent Don Whitehead noted, “The invasion on Omaha Beach was a dead standstill! The battle was being fought at the water’s edge! I lay on the beach wanting to burrow into the gravel. And I thought: ‘This time we have failed! God, we have failed! Nothing has moved from this beach and soon, over that bluff, will come the Germans. They’ll come swarming down on us….’”

D-Day Landing on Omaha BeachBy the afternoon of June 6, the fighting for Easy Red and Fox Green sectors had ended, leaving the sands covered with the detritus of war.

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