Omaha Beach, Normandy, D+5

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

The men of the 111th split into two groups, one led by Cpt. Goode, the other by Lt. Brooks, and formed two convoys to make the 250-mile road journey from St. Dogmaels to the D-Day departure ports of southern England. Leaving by boat from near Southampton, the 111th crossed the English Channel and arrived on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on June 11, 1944–D+5. David Andrews said, “My brother Bobby reminded me that our father’s company was originally supposed to be in the Third Wave of the D-Day invasion, but the Army lost track of them in Wales, and they were ultimately sent in a few days later.”

My sister told me her husband recalls talking to Dad about his unit’s arrival in Normandy: “Mike remembers a conversation he had with Dad about D+5.  Mike had asked him what it looked like when he landed; Dad said that Omaha beach had been totally sanitized by the time they got there.”  

Two of the ships the 111th crossed the Channel on

Two of the ships the 111th crossed the Channel on

Our trucks unload on Omaha Beach

Our trucks unload on Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach, D+5, when the 111th Ordnance arrived.

Omaha Beach, D+5, when the 111th Ordnance arrived

Fighting was fierce as they headed inland. They spent a month or two in the area of Cerisy le Foret, the town where an abbey has stood for centuries. A watercolor of the abbey church long had a spot on our living room wall; we never knew what memories it must have held for Dad. Here is one report of activity there that June:

“Opposition on this move was chiefly confined to harassing snipers, a hazard throughout the Normandy campaign for the wooded thickets were well suited to the camouflaged hidden enemy. Here at Cerisy the battalion set up an all-around defensive position; the town was to be held at all costs. It lay on the path to the strategic St. Lo toward which we were steadily forging. Cerisy will always be remembered as the place where the battalion learned what tragedies can grow out of “trigger happiness.”

Evidence of the price the 2nd Division paid for Hill 192, Normandy

Evidence of the price the 2nd Division paid for Hill 192, Normandy

Cherbourg, the day of the 3,000-plane raid for the st. Lo breakthrough, July 25, 1944

Cherbourg, the day of the 3,000-plane raid for the St. Lo breakthrough, July 25, 1944

Gus Welty, satisfied with his foxhole, France.

Gus Welty, satisfied with his foxhole, France.

The Red Cross on the ball in Normandy

The Red Cross on the ball in Normandy

The girls of the Red Cross donut wagon

The girls of the Red Cross donut wagon

Joe Sedlacek and Louis Soutier try for a little fresh milk, Normandy

Joe Sedlacek and Louis Soutier try for a little fresh milk, Normandy

Dad with kids and pets, France

Dad with kids and pets, France

John Andrews (on top left, in truck) and Dad, France

John Andrews (on top left, in truck) and Dad, France

Tank near Charleroi, FranceTank near Charleroi, Belgium

Falaise Gap, France, five days after the decisive battle thereFalaise Gap, France

After passing through the Falaise Gap five days after the battle there, the unit spent about a week in Versailles and went into Paris for Liberation Day celebrations. They then traveled into northern France in September 1944, northeast of Paris, and joined the Allied movement east, toward Germany. Passing Charleroi and Liege, Belgium, into Holland near Fort Eben Emael, they arrived in Maastricht, Netherlands–near the Belgian border–sometime after the Market Garden battle that took place in Germany and the Netherlands in late September 1944. Maastricht had been taken by the Nazis in 1940 and was the first Dutch city to be liberated by the Allies, in early September 1944.

Belgium, Septemebr 1944

Belgium, September 1944

The convoy takes a lunch break, Belgium, Sept. 1944

The convoy takes a lunch break, Belgium, Sept. 1944

The ever-present poker game, while on convoy from France into Belgium

The ever-present poker game, while on convoy from France into Belgium

The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944. According to Wikipedia, “A tragic consequence of the operation’s failure was the Hongerwinter (Hungerwinter). During the battle Dutch railway workers, incited by the Dutch government in London, went on strike in order to aid the Allied assault. In retribution, Germany forbade food transportation, and in the following winter more than twenty thousand Dutch citizens starved to death.”

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