Omaha Beach - Easy red sector, Normandy, France (Panorama)
Omaha Beach - Panorama overlooking Easy red sector
Omaha was divided into ten sectors, codenamed (from west to east): Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy Red, Fox Green and Fox Red. On june 6, 1944 -D-Day - the initial assault on Omaha was to be made by two Regimental Combat Teams (RCT), supported by two tank battalions, with two battalions of Rangers also attached. The RCT's were part of the veteran 1st Infantry division ("The Big Red One") and the untested 29th ("Blue and Grey") , a National Guard unit.
The plan was to make frontal assaults at the "draws" (valleys) in the bluffs which dominate the coast in Normandy , codenamed west to east they were called D-1, D-3, E-1, E-3 and F-1 . These draws could then be used to move inland with reserves and vehicles.
The Germans were not stupid; they knew the draws were vital and concentrated their limited resources in defending them. To this end they built "Widerstandsneste" with AT guns, mortars, MG's in Tobrul's, trenches and bunkers, manned by soldiers of the German 716th and - more recently - 352nd Infantry Division, a large portion of whom were teenagers, though they were supplemented by veterans who had fought on the Eastern Front. All in all some 1100 German soldiers defended the entire Omaha beach sector of over 5 miles.
Preliminary bombardments were almost totally ineffective and when the initial waves - on this sector units of the 1st American division "The Big Red One" and combat engineers of the 299th - landed on low tide they met with fiece opposition of an enemy well dug in and prepared.
Casualties were heaviest amongst the troops landing at either end of Omaha. At Fox Green and Easy Red, scattered elements of three companies were reduced to half strength by the time they gained the relative safety of the shingle, many of them having crawled the 300 yards (270 m) of beach just ahead of the incoming tide. Casualties on this spot were especially heavy amongst the first waves of soldiers and the demolition teams - at Omaha these were tasked with blasting 16 channels through the beach obstacles, each 70 meters wide. German gunfire from the bluffs above the beach took a heavy toll on these men. The demolition teams managed to blast only six complete gaps and three partial ones; more than half their engineers were killed in the process.
Situation here on Easy Red and at Dog Green on the other end of Omaha by mid morning was so bad with nearly all the troops essentially pinned down on the beach gen. Eisenhower seriously considered to abandon the operation.
As the US first waves assault forces and combat engineers landing directly opposite the "draws" were pinned down it was up to forces landing on the flanks of the strongpoints to penetrate the weaker German defences by climbing the bluffs. Doing this they had to overcome the minefields and barbed wire as well as machinegun fire from German positions but they did and they were able to attack some key strongpoints from the side and the rear, taking them out by early afternoon.
This happened on several spots at Omaha and essentially saved the day: individual acts of initiative by lower ranked officers and courage like that of First Lieutenant Jimmy Monteith, who led a group of men to take one of the key German widerstandsneste and was killed in action, succeeded where a flawed plan failed.
Robert Capa and the battle for Easy Red
Amongst the first wave of infantry and Combat Engineers here at Easy Red was the famous war photographer Robert Capa. He came ashore with the men of Easy Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. They left their LCVP at H-Hour, 06.30, and waded ashore towards Widerstandsnest 62.
Judging from the photo's Capa made with his Zeiss Ikon Contax II they disembarked on the edge of Easy Red and Fox Green sectors, directly opposite WN62. Capa is the last man to leave the "Higgins Boat" which probably carries the support team of the Company. His first few shots show him following these men towards the beach. In the next hour or so Capa shoots three rolls of film before he manages to embark on an LCI which takes wounded men towards the bigger ships. He hands over the rolls of film and they are shipped back to England the very same morning but in the rush to develop them all but 11 are destroyed. Those that remained are blurred, surreal shots, which succinctly conveyed the chaos and confusion of the day.
Example; See: www.flickr.com/photos/herbnl/7002443857/in/photostream (one of the first shots; note the men of Easy Company wading towards the DD tanks which arrived minutes before the infantry to support them. Most of them were either sunk before reaching the beach or consequently destroyed by the German AT fire.
On the Photo:
I made the panorama during high tide (on D-day this would have been around 11 AM) . The high ground which contained the infamous WN 62 (Widerstandsnest 62) can be seen directly in front.
As the US assault forces and combat engineers landing directly opposite the Colleville "draw" were pinned down it was up to forces landing to the left and right to penetrate the weaker German defences and attack these stronpoints from the side and the rear. German defenses were strongest around the "draws". All in all some 1200 German soldiers defended the entire Omaha beach sector of over 5 miles. US casualties are now eastimated at well over 3500 men.
Note: famous war photographer Robert Capa landed here with the first waves of troops on 06.35 and made his famous photo's here: check: "The Magnificent Eleven: The D-Day Photographs of Robert Capa" . The high ground visible on the last four of Capa's frames can be seen here directly in front.
Twelve (handheld) shots were used for this panorama using a Nikon D7000 DSLR with a Tokina 12-24mm, Augustus 2012. Photo's were tonemapped using three differently exposed shots for each section.
For a map of the eastern part of Omaha click here. The German WN's are marked as well as the Draws and beach sections.