The Past & Present Series reconstructs historical battles by using photography, juxtaposing modern views with those of the past. It shows how much infastructure has remained and points to the passing nature of things such as outfits, uniforms, and ephemera.
Of the five beaches attacked on 6 June, Omaha saw the sternest fighting. Well-placed defenders on the high ground and extensive beach defenses did their job. On top of this, so much had gone wrong with the first wave: many of the amphibious DD Sherman tanks didn’t reach the beach. They were released from their landing craft too far away where the greater swell swamped them and the troops landing on Omaha missed their firepower. Another problem was that many units landed in the wrong place. Strong tides and winds carried the landing craft off line and led to confusion. Finally, the German emplacements and defenses were well-placed on high ground and the only cover on the beachthe seawallwas over a killing ground. There were 32 fortified areas located between the Vire River and Port-en-Bessin: in all, 12 of these strongpoints were able to direct fire on Omaha Beach. The attacking forcesunits of the US 29th and 1st Inf Divssuffered over 2,000 casualties, many of them drowned during the approach, but led by US Rangers, themselves misplaced (they were the follow-up troops to Rudder’s Rangers who had scaled the Pointe du Hoc) the American troops pushed forward and by nightfall, they had gained hold of the beach and its immediate hinterland. Despite the casualties, 34,000 troops had been landed by the end of the day.
About the Author
Leo Marriott has written numerous books on aviation, naval and military subjects including Treaty Cruisers, Catapult Aircraft, Jets at Sea and Early Jet Fighters: British and American 1944-1954. He is now retired after a fifty-year career as an air traffic controller but still maintains his pilot’s licence flying a syndicate-owned Cessna 172. Apart from aviation and naval history, his other interests include sailing, photography and painting.
Simon Forty was educated in Dorset and the north of England before reading history at London University’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He has been involved in publishing since the mid-1970s, first as editor and latterly as author. Son of author and RAC Tank Museum curator George Forty, he has continued in the family tradition writing mainly on historical and military subjects including books on the Napoleonic Wars and the two world wars. Recently he has produced a range of highly illustrated books on the Normandy battlefields, the Atlantic Wall and the liberation of the Low Countries with co-author Leo Marriott.