June 7, 2001
12:21 PM   Subscribe

D-Day was 57 years ago yesterday. It was 16 years before an article in the Atlantic finally provided Americans an unvarnished account of the carnage that was Omaha Beach that day. I'm in awe of what these 19-year-olds went through.
posted by luser (1 comment total)
I suppose it depends on what you mean by "unvarnished". Ernie Pyle described it in quite impressive detail a few days after it happened.

And despite how terribly bad it was (and it was terrible indeed) the fact is that they were only stuck on the beach for about 6 hours. By comparison to things like Monte Casino, or Anzio, let alone the WWI trench lines, that was minor indeed.

This takes nothing at all away from the men who fought in the Normandy landing, of course. But it's not even the most bloody landing made in WWII. I believe that record would held by Tarawa. It's not so much an issue of total casualties as it is of percentages. The Marines really got badly handled at Tarawa, because they still didn't really know what they were doing and didn't have the right kind of equipment. The Normandy landing benefitted greatly from the lessons learned in the Pacific, assaulting Japanese-held islands.

A single Marine division lost 3300 casualties, 900 killed, taking Tarawa. Nine divisions (3 airborne) attacked Normandy and lost 2500 dead, an average of less than 300 per division. Of course, the casualties weren't distributed quite that evenly. The worst hit divisions were the American 1st and 29th, which hit "Omaha" beach. Between them they suffered 2400 casualties (I don't know how many dead) that day, which is still less for two divisions than the 3300 casualties that single Marine division suffered at Tarawa.

The Normandy landing was a great achievement, but it has to be kept in proportion.

(Equally, the fighting for the notorious Bocage was very bad -- but not as bad as the fighting on Iwo, where 30,000 Japanese soldiers fought to the death.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2001

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