My View: Remember D
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My View: Remember D

Oct 02, 2023

Rodney Shunk

Almost all of Europe was conquered by Nazi Germany in World War II. D-Day was the landings on the Normandy coast by U.S., English and their Commonwealth troops. This was to bring the fight to the German troops and free the occupied countries of Europe.

The Germans were aware that the Allies were planning to invade Europe, but they didn't know when and where. They had built fortifications all along the French coast calling it the Atlantic Wall.

One of the fortifications was called a pill box because of its shape. It was built of steel reinforced concrete that was very thick to try to protect the occupants’ from bombs or shells. These pill boxes had machine guns such as the MG 42. That gun was probably the best machine gun in all of World War II.

Out in the water the Germans had steel obstacles that were designed to rip open the bottoms of landing craft and on top of the obstacles, they had explosives to blow up the craft. Just inland from the beaches the Germans had many rows of barbed wire entanglements.

After that they had minefields with explosives underground that could blow off a leg or two. Also, they had cannons and mortar bombs that could drop explosives on the beach.

Before the troops landed on the beach, American and British paratroops and gliders had come in the dark of night. They were to capture important bridges and towns. Many of these paratroops landed miles from where they were to have landed due to cloudy weather and anti aircraft fire.

On D-Day there were five beaches that were where the troops landed. The English and Commonwealth troops landed on Juno, Gold and Sword beaches. The American two beaches were called Utah and Omaha.

Most of the landings went relatively well except at Omaha beach. Many things went wrong and the first waves of troops were cut down. The troops could not get off the beaches and later waves of troops just piled up on the beach.

Omaha beach was like a meat grinder at a slaughterhouse. It was so bad that the generals considered pulling the troops off the beach.

Omaha beach was a disaster with nearly 2,000 dead, dying, wounded and missing troops. Many of the troops were still in their teens. According to some sources, some of the troops has lied about their age and were as young as 15. Many were only 17 and they had missed their high school graduation that was taking place that June.

After all the death and destruction, the American troops on Omaha beach overcame all of the obstructions to finally get off the killing ground on the beaches. One of the best words to describe these troops is perseverance.

Finally, later in the day, the German troops manning the beach defenses were either killed, wounded or captured, so more American troops could go ashore.

The casualties at each beach were about 1,000 for Gold, 961 at Juno, 683 for Sword, 197 for Utah and 2,400 at Omaha.

A good description of the horrors of Omaha beach was the movie "Saving Private Ryan." This movie starred Tom Hanks and shows him landing on Omaha beach.

It is well done but hard to watch as soldiers with an arm blown off are seen walking around carrying their blown off arm. Others had their legs blown off. Many drowned as they were put in too deep of water. They were told to carry too much extra weight of items that could come in once the beaches were more safe.

Most of the surviving troops who landed on D- Day have since died, as that was 79 years ago. However, when you see a person who is a veteran, please thank them for their service to our country.

The freedom we have now was paid for by the red stained beaches of Normandy and other battles. Thank you to all vets.

Rodney Shunk has read hundreds of books on World War II and has studied it for 60 years. He lives in St. Clair.

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