The landing of soldiers began on the night of 5th/6th June 1944 with the dropping of paratroopers. An armada a 5,000 vessels (one thousand warships) crossed the English Channel and captured the beaches of Normandy.
Omaha Beach is a 7-kilometre indentation between Vierville and Colleville-sur-Mer. It was littered with sharp cliffs and steep slopes, each with a selection of guns, mortars and machine guns. Although the Allies were aware of the dangers of this location, it had to be taken to ensure the success of the D-Day Landings.
The German defences on Omaha Beach had hardly been affected by the ferocious bombings overnight. In fact, the majority were left entirely intact. The 1st and 29th American divisions, led by General Huebner and Gerhardt, took a battering. They were pinned down on the beach surrounded by dead bodies and burning material. It took almost 6 hours to climb the embankment and reach the plateau. By that evening, they had only managed to advance 2 kilometres inland.
The beach became known as ‘Bloody Omaha’ because the death toll had been so heavy. Some 1,800 American soldiers had died either in the waves or on the sand. Most have been buried in the American cemetery in Colleville.
2,300 soldiers had been seriously wounded and were evacuated from the beaches onto war ships offshore. The never-ending shuttles of landing craft took the injured to medics who were waiting to provide initial medical treatment before the soldiers could be transferred to hospitals in Britain.