Before I talk briefly about the battle our 82nd and 101st airborne divisions parachuted behind enemy lines at midnight before the assault to provide the soldiers on the beach with back-up and set up a zone so they could attack the Germans as they attempted to escape from the battlefield. We lost an extraordinary amount of men as parachutes didn’t open, some landed in enemy territory, some were killed while flying down in their chutes, and some drowned in the water. Parachutes weren’t as easy to control as they are today.
Back then there wasn’t a good way to figure out how effective the bombing was…they calculated how many bombs they thought would do the trick and then launched them from their ships. Probably hard to believe but our ships could send one ton ammunition over 20 miles (that's right 20 miles). Of course today we can get awesome insight into conditions anywhere with the use of satellites; unfortunately in this case they overestimated how much damage the bombs did to the Germans before sending our men in. The Germans had time to build deep bunkers at high points along the hill so our bombs didn’t do enough damage to reduce our casualties very much.
I’m sure you remember live footage or footage from various films about the soldiers charging out of the water with men falling down all over the place as German machine guns strafed our soldiers. Side note: I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about this but do you remember all the logs and barb wire that were scattered around the beach; they were several feet high and impossible to climb over. The reason the Germans used these is that it caused our soldiers to stack up between them in an effort to charge up the hill making it easier for Germans to pick them off.
When our soldiers reached the shore they were still out in the open with no place to hide so their best chance was to get to the hill as soon as possible so they’d have some shelter. Keep in mind that once there their next objective was to climb the hill to take the German shelters out. This required them charging the bunkers with grenades and rifle fire. Try to envision this…Germans safely in their bunkers with their guns sticking out of small holes and our soldiers out in the open while charging them. Would you be brave enough to charge or would you freeze? As for me, I don’t know but I’m so thankful for those who did have the courage.
I would’ve been terrified beyond belief at every aspect of their invasion. First of all trying to get out of the marine amphibious vessel to make my way to shore and seeing men all around me get killed, would make me about pass out. Reaching the beach with no protection while Germans shot and killed even more of my comrades would take me to my knees. Lastly, knowing I had to climb a hill while bullets were flying around me to throw a grenade in a bunker and then charge towards it would just about kill me without being shot. I can’t even begin to understand their bravery.
For some reason consistent information on how many U.S. soldiers died at Normandy is a little difficult to confirm but the average of those reported are 2,500 killed. The cemetery in Normandy has around 21,000 buried which makes since because there were eight countries fighting in this battle in one way or another. We were the only outsiders in this fight which says a lot for our country.
The Battle of Normandy changed the tide of WW2 as Germany was taking over Europe so the U.S. helped set France free which opened up the door to directly attack the Germans and push them home, which we did. A lot of people think the French hate Americans and they might overall but I can tell you they still love us in the Normandy region even having annual celebrations that are much more extravagant than many of ours.
Thanks to all those brave soldiers who risked it all for us, many having given all they had to give. I’m sure all our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives. We reflect on Normandy once a year while these family members think about the battle every day of their lives. God bless them.