It was a foothold in Europe the American, British and Canadian soldiers who landed and risked their lives there would never give up — until the war in Europe ended less than a year later.
W. Garwood Bacon was a U.S. Navy yeoman from New Jersey, and his story and first-hand perspective on D-Day came aboard a landing craft that hit fabled Omaha Beach.
“Finally, with only a few minutes between us and our appointment with fate, our LCI veered sharply to the right and headed directly for the right flank of the Dog Green beach.
“Some few yards away, to the right of us, another LCI was drifting aimlessly, and German machine guns were mercilessly cutting to ribbons any floundering troops who had managed to jump clear of the smoking and burning hull. On our left, along the (beach) obstacles, I could see two or three LCMs aft, sunk or overturned by shell fire or mines.”
And, Bacon went on, “Suddenly, without warning, a blast shook our sturdy little craft from stem to stern, and a sheet of flame shot up some 30 or 40 feet in the air through the No. 1 hold, directly forward of the conning tower. A fire broke out below and smoke poured out of the gaping hole torn by the flames.
“As if the explosion were a prearranged signal, the (Germans) opened up with everything, 88’s, mortars, machine guns and so forth. Terror seized me as I gazed, horrified at the burned and bleeding, frantically rushing and stumbling past me trying to get away from the blinding fire and smoke. I fought off the weakness in my knees and struggled to keep my mind clear.”
That anecdote was played out thousands of times that gray June day on the beaches of a foreign land.
Landing at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach were volunteers and draftees, everyday Americans of every cut and cloth, who fought and bled and died by the thousands.
They saw sights, heard sounds and experienced smells no human being should ever have to experience.
That they persevered through this man-made hell is a testament to their mettle, that no amount of gratitude truly can ever repay.
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking