Omaha Beach was one of five beach landing sectors designated for the amphibious assault component of operation Overlord during the Second World War. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded German-occupied France with the Normandy landings. “Omaha” refers to an 8-kilometer (5 mi) section of the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary. Landings here were necessary to link the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah, thus providing a continuous lodgement on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided predominantly by the United States Navy and Coast Guard, with contributions from the British, Canadian and Free French navies.
Omaha Beach East/West Maps
These maps and historical actions can be found in Critical Hit’s Advanced Squad Leader module: Omaha East/West.
June 6, 1944
Omaha Beach was one of the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion, also known as D-Day, on June 6, 1944. It was the second beach from the west, and it was assigned to the U.S. 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The objective was to secure a beachhead of about eight kilometers (five miles) depth, linking with the British forces at Gold Beach to the east, and reaching the area of Isigny to the west to link up with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach. The invasion plan also called for the capture of the towns of Vierville, Saint-Laurent, and Colleville, and the heights overlooking the beach, including Pointe du Hoc, a prominent cliff that housed a German artillery battery.
However, the landings at Omaha Beach faced many difficulties and challenges, resulting in heavy casualties and a near-failure of the operation.
The weather and the tides: The invasion was delayed by one day due to bad weather, and the landing craft had to navigate through rough seas and strong currents. The tide was low when the first wave of troops landed, exposing many beach obstacles, such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and mines, that were intended to stop or damage the landing craft. Many of the craft were hit by these obstacles, or by enemy fire, and sank before reaching the shore. The troops had to wade through deep water, sometimes up to their necks, under constant fire from the German defenders. The low tide also meant that the distance between the water’s edge and the seawall was longer, exposing the troops to more danger. The seawall was a concrete barrier that ran along the beach, providing some cover for the invaders, but also preventing them from advancing inland. The tide gradually rose throughout the morning, covering some of the obstacles and allowing more landing craft to reach the shore, but also reducing the available space on the beach.
The terrain and the defenses: The beach was about six kilometers (four miles) long, and varied in width from 300 to 900 meters (1,000 to 3,000 feet). It was divided into eight sectors, codenamed (from west to east) Charlie, Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy Red, Fox Green, and Fox Red. The beach was backed by a line of bluffs, ranging from 30 to 50 meters (100 to 170 feet) high, that overlooked the beach and provided excellent observation and firing positions for the Germans. The bluffs were cut by four main draws, or valleys, that led inland, codenamed (from west to east) D-1, D-3, E-1, and E-3. These draws were the main routes for the troops to move off the beach, but they were also heavily defended by machine guns, mortars, and artillery. The Germans had built a series of strongpoints, bunkers, pillboxes, and casemates along the beach and the bluffs, connected by trenches and tunnels. They also had minefields, barbed wire, and anti-tank obstacles to slow down or stop the Allied tanks and vehicles. The German forces at Omaha Beach consisted of the 352nd Infantry Division, a well-trained and experienced unit that had fought on the Eastern Front. They had about 12,000 men, 85 artillery pieces, and 100 machine guns. They were commanded by Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiss, who had arrived at the area only a few days before the invasion.
The intelligence and the preparation: The Allied planners had underestimated the strength and the quality of the German defenses at Omaha Beach. They had relied on aerial photographs and reports from the French Resistance, but they had missed some of the recent changes and improvements that the Germans had made. They had also overestimated the effectiveness and the accuracy of the pre-invasion bombardment, which was supposed to soften up the enemy positions and destroy some of the obstacles. The bombardment was carried out by the Allied naval and air forces, but it was hampered by poor visibility, bad weather, and German anti-aircraft fire. Most of the bombs and shells fell inland, behind the German lines, or missed the target altogether. The German defenses were largely intact when the invasion began, and they were able to resist the Allied assault with fierce determination.
The landings at Omaha Beach were the bloodiest and the most chaotic of the D-Day operation. The first wave of troops, consisting of about 1,450 men, landed at 6:30 a.m., and was met with a hail of bullets and shells. Many of the men were killed or wounded before they could reach the shore, or were drowned by the weight of their equipment. The survivors had to crawl across the open beach, seeking cover behind the obstacles or the seawall, and trying to avoid the enemy fire. The second and third waves of troops, arriving at 6:35 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., faced a similar situation, and were unable to advance or support the first wave. The beach soon became a scene of carnage and confusion, with dead and wounded men, burning and sinking landing craft, and abandoned equipment. The communication and the coordination between the units were poor, and the commanders had little control or information over the situation. The troops were isolated and disorganized, and had to rely on their own initiative and courage to survive and fight.
Some of the men managed to reach the seawall, and started to clear the gaps in the barbed wire and the minefields, using explosives, bangalore torpedoes, or their own hands. They also tried to knock out some of the enemy positions, using grenades, flamethrowers, or small arms. Some of the men scaled the bluffs, using ropes, ladders, or their own strength, and attacked the Germans from the rear. Some of the men moved along the beach, looking for a weak spot in the defenses, or a way to link up with other units. Some of the men stayed on the beach, providing covering fire, treating the wounded, or organizing the supplies. Some of the men were paralyzed by fear, shock, or exhaustion, and could not move or fight.
The landings at Omaha Beach were supported by various specialized units and equipment, such as engineers, medics, naval gunfire support teams, amphibious tanks, bulldozers, and rocket launchers. However, many of these units and equipment were either delayed, destroyed, or ineffective, due to the enemy fire, the obstacles, or the technical problems. Some of the units and equipment that did make it to the beach were able to provide some assistance and relief to the troops, but they were not enough to turn the tide of the battle.
One of the most notable units that supported the landings at Omaha Beach was the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. This unit had a special mission to assault Pointe du Hoc, a cliff that was believed to house a German artillery battery that could threaten the landing beaches. The Rangers had to scale the cliff using ropes and grapnels, under heavy fire from the Germans. They reached the top of the cliff, and found that the artillery pieces had been moved inland, and replaced by wooden dummies. They destroyed the dummies, and then moved to secure the area, fighting off several German counterattacks. They also sent a patrol to the nearby town of Grandcamp, where they found and destroyed the real artillery pieces.
The casualties and equipment losses on both sides were staggering. According to various sources, the American forces suffered between 2,000 and 5,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action on the first day of the landing. The exact number is difficult to determine due to the confusion and chaos of the battle. The American forces also lost many vehicles and equipment, such as tanks, landing craft, and artillery pieces, due to enemy fire, mines, and obstacles. The German forces also suffered heavy losses, although they were lower than the American ones. The German casualties on Omaha Beach are estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,200 killed, wounded, or captured. The German forces also lost many fortifications, guns, and ammunition, as well as some aircraft and naval vessels, due to the Allied bombardment and attack.
The Omaha Beach landing was a costly but crucial victory for the Allies, as it opened a vital foothold in Western Europe and paved the way for the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
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ASL maps can be considered to be a form of artistic expression, and the Map Spotlights are meant as quick history lessons on available historical Advanced Squad Leader actions. These articles are meant to highlight both a short history of the battle portrayed for players unfamiliar with the setting, as well as show the ASL map on which it plays out.
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