On Veteran’s Day two years ago, I posted this after being stunned by learning new details about the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy. Since that time I have been on the lookout for attempts to publicize and inform the public about a crucial aspect of battle for Omaha Beach that have been completely ignored in most media accounts. There have not been many. So it seems like a good idea this June 6 to post the story again.
After all these many years of reading about and watching movies and TV shows about D-Day, June 6, 1944, I discovered how the US Navy saved the invasion and maybe the world only yesterday, thanks to stumbling upon a 2009 documentary on the Smithsonian channel.
If you recall the way the story is told in “The Longest Day” and other accounts, US troops were pinned down by horrific fire from the German defenses on Omaha beach until Gen. Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum in the movie) rallied them to move forward, and by persistence his infantry troops ultimately broke through. Yet it was US destroyers off shore that turned the tide of the battle at Omaha, an element that isn’t shown in “The Longest Day” at all.
Though it was not part of the plan, the captains of the Navy destroyers decided to come in to within 800 yards of the beach and use their big guns at (for them) point blank range to pound the German artillery, machine gun nests and sharpshooters. The barrage essentially wiped them out, allowing Cota’s troops to get up and over without being slaughtered. I’ve never seen that explained or depicted in any film, and according to the Smithsonian’s video, apparently was part of the story that had been inexplicably neglected. No monument to the US Navy commemorating its contributions on 6/6/44 was erected at Normandy until 2009.
Here’s the relevant part of account from the Naval History website on “Operation Neptune,” the Navy counterpart to Operation Overlord: