Friday, June 06, 2008

Omaha Beach

I wrote earlier that I've been scanning in some of my uncle's pictures from Omaha Beach. It's a family project; I'm putting them on disks for his children and grandchildren (who use computers, which he and my aunt have no interest in).

He piloted a LCVP [corrected from LST, on sugestion of commenter] onto the beach on June 6, 1944, after months of training. The ship was hit and disabled so he could not return to the fleet, and he spent D-Day on the beach. At least five of his Navy buddies from training died that day.

I'm sorry I don't have more details on his service ready to hand; he has written them down, and it's a great letter, but I don't have a copy of that at the moment; I plan to get one soon.

He didn't take any of these photos, I think. From what he told me, he got them from U.S. Army and newspaper photographers in exchange for cigarettes.

He stayed on the beach for months afterward, part of the army of men who kept the troops at the front supplied, repaired damaged machinery, and kept the reinforcements flowing. If you search online for "D-Day pictures" you see a lot of the same views, including some dramatic shots of the landing itself. But I found relatively few shots such as these. It's not the most dramatic or glamorous aspects of a war, but I doubt the Allies would have won it without their grueling work on that cold, tide-swept mud. So this is my small tribute to them, and to everyone who took part in D-Day.

If anyone has more information on any of the views here, please let me know.

Here are a few of the pictures. None is dated, but my uncle was there till November, so presumably they were taken in that span of time. Clicking should give you a larger view.

Quite a few craft never made it to the beach. This was one. A few were deliberately sunk as wave-breaks, but I suspect this was not one of them by the way it went down.

"The famous causeway," in my uncle's description. Ferrying men and supplies to the beach. He tells me this is the one that was towed over to Omaha during the invasion and broken up by a storm a few days later. But he said they still used part of it.

My uncle's caption: "Another C-47 loaded with wounded GIs takes off for a hospital in England." Also, with arrows pointing to background, "Note ambulances by C-47s unloading wounded into planes."

"Writing home."

This I think was the tent where my uncle and his service-mates ended up working on the beach (it says "electrical shop").

"D'Amour, Genetski, Flarety, Kurchen (?) and Weiner posing in front of their 16 x 16 tent." Added: "Yes, he's from Brooklyn."

Life in the pup tent village that sprang up on the dunes above the tide-line.

"The nurses come ashore." Women must have started arriving in Normandy not long after the first wave of the invasion. Another photo in his set shows the arrival of WACs and very pleased and jaunty-looking groups of sailors greeting them.

"Some of the boys in our jeep"

Lining up for chow.

LST-510 on the beach at Omaha. I believe this is the same ship described here.

More hulks along the sand. In my uncle's description: "An LCI and LCT who had just too many 88's." The 88 was a particularly feared piece of German artillery, as anyone who studies the World War II European campaign knows.

Shipping out for home at last. "So Nov. 19 the LCT 153 took us off the beach, out to LCT 512 to return to Plymouth, England." On the back is written "Me," pointing to an X corresponding to the position of the person above wooden beams at upper left center.

My uncle is more prominent in some of the other pictures, too, but as he does not make a big deal of himself, and his experience was so entwined with those of his buddies, better not to single him out. To me, who grew up with him since 1960, he's always just been a gentle and good-natured man who took his lot in life without complaining. Knowing what happened before I was born, perhaps, makes that easier to understand.