Omaha Beach, Widerstandsnest 60, Fox Red sector, Normandy
Omaha Beach, Widerstandsnest 60, Fox Red sector , Normandy
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.
"Widerstandsnest" 60 or WN60 is the easternmost of the 14 Widerstandsneste that guarded Omaha Beach in june 1944. It It guarded the small "Fox-1" exit and has a perfect view over Omaha beach. It was at this spot that the real Major Werner Pluskat first saw the invasion fleet approach, a scene made famous in the 1962 movie "The Longest Day" (though shot on a location several miles to the east , the Longueville Battery).
WN60 was manned by some forty soldiers of the German 716th Static Inf.Division. For armament it had a 7.5 cm Gun, several Mortar positions and some MG's as well as a 2cm Flak 38 gun.
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.
This area was designated to the 1st US infantry division (The Big Red One) and elements of the 3/16th RCT landed here from 06.30 (writer Ernest Hemingway was among them - check his book "Voyage to Victory"). Despite the heavy casualties inflicted on them by WN60 and WN61 around 08.00 US soldiers started to climb the bluffs. Among them was 1st Lt. Jimmy W. Monteith who directed the fire of destroyers and two Sherman tanks. He was to be awarded with the Medal of Honor for his role in the taking of WN60, posthumously. The men of L/116th managed to reach te top of the bluff some time before nine 'o clock and attack the WN60 from the rear. Throwing grenades and satchel charges they blasted the Germans out and were able to report the taking of WN60 around 09.00. This was the first of the German strongpoint to be taken and it opened up the small Fox-1 exit through the bluffs though it was not before evening that the first tanks were able to use it.
The photo was taken on the west part of WN60 which overlooks the whole of Omaha beach to the west, note the curve in the beach. In the foreground a "Tobruk MG Ringstand" can be seen.
Even nowadays WN60 is well hidden near a wheatfield and can be reached only by using some unpaved small farmer's roads. The rocky road down to the beach using Fox-1 damn well near cost me the front axle of my car.
Photo was Tonemapped using three differently exposed (handheld) shots (august 2012) with a Nikon D7000 and Tokina AT-X Pro SD 12-24mm F4 lens.