Would bloody Omaha have been so bloody if it were a British beach?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by pattle, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. pattle

    pattle Member

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    First off I don't pretend to be an expert on the Omaha D Day landing beach and this is not an attempt by a Limey to assert that the British would have done a better job than the Americans. The reason that I ask this question is because of two reasons, first of all I originate from near Weymouth where the Omaha troops embarked and so feel empathy towards them and also because I have heard of a number of mistakes that are suggested to have influenced the terrible losses at this beach.
    1) The offer by the British of a midget submarine to guide the invasion force towards the beach was turned down by the Americans, my understanding is that the Americans became confused as to where to land their troops and some were landed in the wrong areas which could have been avoided.
    2) That the American rocket firing LCT's discharged their rockets into the sea as they did not get close enough into shore.
    3) That the Americans launched their duplex tanks to far out to sea and also at the wrong spot.
    In addition to this I have heard conflicting reports regarding the aerial bombardment of the beaches, army eye witnesses insist that the beaches had not been cratered and air force eye witnesses insist that they had. What is truth behind this, did the air force bomb the wrong beach or did the army land on the wrong beach or was it something completely different that happened.
    Some reports state that the landing was saved by an American destroyer coming close to shore and using it's guns almost point blank to destroy the German bunkers, while other reports say that it was the same GI's that were being massacred that destroyed the German bunkers and a third report tells me it was a group of Rangers that were landed in the wrong area that destroyed the German bunkers by getting in behind them. Can anyone tell me what actually happened?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    RAF Bomber Command was tasked with destroying Maisey Battery. They missed.

    German heavy artillery located at Maisey Battery will kill British infantry just as easily as American infantry on an exposed beach. So Omaha will be just as bloody.
     
  3. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Hello Pattle-

    I don't think the outcome would be any less bloddy. This is off the top of my head, but the biggest problem facing the Americans was the geography(High bluffs, only a few exits off the beach). They'd also had to deal with the 352nd Division, while not elite troops, were regular Heer troops compared to the conscripts found on other beaches. The "Hobarts Funnies" may have helped, but if the RAF does not destroy the artillery covering the beaches, then the "Funnies" would be brewed up. My input anyway.
     
  4. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Omaha was the beach where if it could go wrong it went wrong. Having visited the beach its a wonder anyone got off alive its a terrible place to assault I am no great shot but give me lots of ammo belts and a well built fire position on top of the Bluffs and all I would have to do is hose soldiers as they stumbled down the ramp. Dreadful place to attack but sometimes in war strategic and tactical desisions have to be taken that will cost lives. No Omaha landing and there is a giant hole between the US and C/W forces enough to drive a Panzer Army through.
     
  5. pattle

    pattle Member

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    #5 pattle, Jun 15, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
    Fastmongrel, Yes you are right Omaha Beach was an absolutely rotten place to land troops and casualties were always going to be high because of this, but I also feel that casualties should have been lower than actually experienced if the planning had not fell apart. I understand that a large part of the reason for the planning failing apart was the weather and that the weather and its effects were what they were and could not have been changed, but I also feel that the organisation of the landing could of have been better. It was actually 8th Air Force B24s that were supposed to bomb the beach pre-landing and I have read that the problem that they had was that the target was obscured by low cloud. There are a lot of conflicting reports regarding the part played by the B24s some say they were sent to crater the beach to provide cover for the infantry while others say they were sent to destroy the German positions but that the bombs they were carrying were to small to damage them, I have also read that the B24s were ordered not to crater the beach because this would have made it difficult to get tanks and vehicles across it. In addition to this I also read that the B24s did crater the beach (I think this was in Wild Blue by Ambrose) which makes me wonder did they bomb a different beach to where the troops were landed?
    What makes me ask if Omaha would have been LESS bloody if it were a British beach is that the British would have used midget submarines to ensure that the troops landed in their correct areas and that the Duplex tanks would have been launched close enough to the beach to have reached it without sinking, also the Duplex tanks were launched in the wrong place which meant they had to turn and swim parallel to the beach in order to land. I can't for the life of me think why the Americans failed to get within range with their rocket firing landing craft other than maybe the rockets were fired at the correct distance but for some reason didn't have the expected range. You have to remember that Duplex tanks and rocket firing landing craft were all developed by the British and I ask if the Americans were as familiar with them as they should have been. I am not aware of aircraft deploying a smoke screen over Omaha beach, the RAF had specially trained a number of squadrons of Boston bombers for this purpose before the landings and apparently they were very effective.
     
  6. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    I don't think the Germans cared what flag was being flown, so can't see that it would have been more or less bloody..!
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I doubt we can know, but it is a fair point that the Anglo/Canadian landings did use some different techniques and systems from the US ones. Some of these may well have helped, particularly to land troops in the correct place. The failure to do this on Omaha was one of the many, many things that combined to cause a near disaster for the allies.

    The fact that the US troops who landed on and around that beach did eventually prevail speaks volumes for their bravery and persistence in the face of what must have seemed to them overwhelming odds.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  8. pattle

    pattle Member

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    After having had time today to read a little more about Omaha Beach and mull it all over the one thing that keeps coming to mind is what the olduns in my family keep telling me, that during the war you weren't really told what was happening, I think that because of this a lot of myths about the war have lived on. For example my Mum's uncle was working in a field near Shaftsbury in Dorset when there was a loud explosion nearby, everyone was led to believe that a German plane had dropped a bomb on some American troops and that some had unfortunately been killed, it wasn't until long after the war that the truth came out, a group of American soldiers had been practising working with mines when their truck rolled back and detonated the mines behind it, in actual fact quite a lot of Americans were killed but it was hushed up. During the Slapton Sands practice landings there was a mix up and the troops were shelled by their own ships while landing, in addition to this some of the landing craft were sunk at sea by German E-Boats, the casualty figures have never been clear and there is now a belief that many more were killed than officially reported, this was because one of the LCTs was unable to sail and it is now thought that the troops from that ship were transferred to the remaining ships and later lost during the exercise. I'm not sure but I don't think what happened on Omaha Beach has been fully and properly investigated and explained post-war, I think that this has led to so many inconsistencies about exactly what happened and exactly where it wrong.
     
  9. bbear

    bbear Member

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    From what little I have read, there is agreement that without the Dieppe raid (Jubilee, 1942, disaster), Normandy landings could have been a bloodbath for the Canucks and Brits too. I'm not qualified to say why that would be exactly.

    In case that helps in your detective work.
     
  10. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I think the main lessons of Dieppe were dont try to land at a well defended port, practise practise and practice again and dont try and land on a shingle beach.

    To be fair some British and Canadian units took similar casualty rates as the US at Omaha and Utah went as well as could be expected.

    Amphibious assault is generally considered the most difficult operation to organise because it uses so many different and conflicting resources. When I was in the Army we did practise river crossing and those excercises used to turn the senior NCOs prematurely grey. There is so much to go wrong simply getting a tank across a river that getting it across the sea alongside 100s of other tanks and tens of thousands of troops doesnt bear thinking about.

    You see so many threads on various forums about Operation Sea Lion and many of the people who think it is possible for the Germans to have succeded always forget that Overlord was the culmination of many Amphibious landings and would have had a massively greater casualty list without the previous landings. Dieppe, Torch, Husky and the long string of Pacific landings all built up the knowledge base. You can throw an Army together and carry out a land assault in a matter of weeks but a big amphibious assault takes months of training and years of logistics planning.
     
  11. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I think that the British and Canadians may have tried to do some things different to the way that the Americans did. The use of marker submarines to identify jump off points etc may have enabled the correct positioning of troops on the beach. They would probably have used more "funnies" to try to clear beach obstacles - mines, barbed wire and ramps etc. How effective they would have been - who knows?
    I do believe that the bombing of the beaches was delayed due to the force being slow forming up over England, so they were called off to avoid hitting their own ships and troops near / on the beach. This would almost certainly have occurred no matter which troops were landing - meaning no craters to shelter in and re-group / coordinate the attacks on beach exits.
    So the loss rates would probably have been similar to those that did take place - and similar as Fastmongrel said to British and Canadian losses on other beaches.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Dieppe, as someone pointed out, was an attempt to see whether capturing a port as part of an invasion was feasible. It proved not to be so. The solution was to take a port (or ports) with the invasion fleet. A quick "google" of Mulberry Harbour is all you need.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. nincomp

    nincomp Member

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    As Pattle points out, there were numerous mistakes made by the Americans as well as some plain old bad luck. In the end, I think that the British might have suffered fewer casualties if they had made fewer mistakes than the Americans. In this case, I mean "mistakes" as things not going according to plan (as opposed to mistakes in strategy). Examples include ineffective naval shelling prior to the landing and the release of the swimming tanks at the wrong place. It is likely that Omaha Beach would have been considerably less bloody for the Americans if all had gone according to plan.

    In retrospect, the some of the differences in the "British Plan" versus the "American Plan" could have reduced some of the mistakes. I had been unaware of the role played by British midget submarines, but yes, I think that having them at Omaha may have increased the chances of the landing "going according to plan." The loss of the swimming tanks is an interesting issue as I have seen a recent simulation that came to the conclusion that a large percentage of the tanks sank while swimming parallel to the beach trying to get to the correct landing area. It does not take a rocket-scientist to realize that a soldier is less likely to be hit by machinegun fire when advancing behind a tank, or even advancing by sprinting from the cover of one disabled tank to the next.

    My opinion has been changed (you may say "corrupted") by talking to my Canadian father-in-law (a WWII veteran). His opinion is more along the lines of "Do not get a lot of soldiers killed by doing stupid stuff like attacking a well defended beach." He does not believe that much was learned at Dieppe that was not common sense.
     
  14. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    We have already talked on Maisey, see http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/ww2-general/no-bombardment-omaha-34555-2.html, So IMHO Maisey wasn't important

    Juha
     
  15. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    In general, at lest at Commonwealt beaches there were more specialiced armour like AVREs, so chances would have been that losses would have been less heavy

    Juha
     
  16. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The Royal Navy had been doing the Dieppe type of raid for 100s of years and a raid of that type was fairly orthodox in the very small book of amphibious ops. Dieppe taught the planners how not to do it, at the pointy end it might have seemed stupid and badly planned (it was both in spades) but in my opinion it had to be done. The idea of taking and holding a port had to be got out of the system particulary in the minds of the US Army who didnt even listen to the US experts at amphib ops the USMC. US Army planners were still talking about attacking ports face on in 43.

    Its an unfortunate matter of fact the best lessons are learned in defeat thats fine in sports but in war someone has to pay for the mistakes.
     
  17. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    If it seemed that the invasion was plagued with bad luck, there was at least one stroke of luck that certainly saved many Allied lives.

    Rommel wasn't on hand at the beginning...
     
  18. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    At Omaha, I have never heard of the landings being made at the wrong beaches. Over on Utah it happened. But it was by good fortune that those wrong beaches were also lightly defended.

    My 2 cents worth ..... the failure to neutralize the beach defenses belongs with the 8th AF and their complete failure in doing it. I'd also put some of the blame on the army for not insisting that the beaches have close range gunfire support by a cruiser or two.
     
  19. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I have also heard that Dieppe was carried out at least in part to prove that an invasion of France was not possible before 1944 and to give weight to the argument that Italy should be attacked first. As well as at Dieppe some vital lessons were learnt during the Italian landings which no doubt proved useful. As bad as Omaha was it could still have been much worse, most importantly the battle was won and hopefully this led to many more lives being saved going forwards.
     
  20. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    This is a question that has no answer. The support that America gave to it's own landings could not have been surpassed, the same as when we had been supporting our allies. The full support of the U.S.A. has never been called into question, therefore, the idea of less casualties, has nothing to do with it. It comes down to how many good young men were killed by German machineguns and mines.
     
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