Why was Operation Overlord scheduled for June?

D-Day: Invasion of Normandy

On an unusually stormy summer morning in 1944, the largest invasion fleet of all time approaches the French coast, which was defended by the Wehrmacht: 175,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers, almost all of them young conscripts, are supposed to liberate Europe. Many will not even survive the first few minutes of this "longest day"

You see this picture the second before you die: a crescent-shaped beach, sand and gravel in front of a cliff, grass in the wind, the top of a Norman church, as gray as the morning light. A nice picture. A terrible picture. Because this beach is supposed to be scarred by grenades and bombs, so that nothing living is moving. This coast, which is a fortress where soldiers hide, machine guns, artillery and rock-sized bunkers. And then the machine-gun bullets are there, the projectiles are faster than their sound. Whoever they meet is often dead before they can even hear their crack of fire.

Most of the men are young conscripts

Pieces of cloud in the sky, whistling northwest, waves one or two meters high, the coast is still several hundred meters ahead. 30 heavily armed American soldiers wait huddled together in a barely seaworthy boat. The twelve meter long, three meter wide and only 70 centimeter deep landing craft sways on the waves, cold salt water lashes over the sides and the ramp on the clumsy bow. For around two hours the soldiers have been sweating and freezing at the same time in their uniforms impregnated with chemicals against water and gas, hung with 30, 40 kilograms of equipment, the rifles with plastic covers protected against moisture. Many men are seasick and the remains of breakfast are now sloshing around their boots. And maybe fear presses on the stomach, too, homesickness too.

For example with Ray Stevens, a 24-year-old sergeant major in A Company of the 116th Regiment, who like almost all GIs on board is not a professional soldier, but a farmer's son from Bedford, a town of 3,000 people in Virginia. Stevens is a child of the Depression and grew up with 13 siblings during America's worst economic crisis. Ray has shared his life with twin brother Roy for as long as he can remember. As adolescents, the two fought boxing matches at a gas station in the evening to earn a few cents from onlookers. They bought a farm together for $ 3,700 because land was of little value during the crisis. They went together voluntarily to the National Guard, then were drafted into A Company of the 116th Infantry Regiment. They got through the endless drill together and the narrowness of the barracks. But now Ray and Roy Stevens are separated, almost for the first time in their lives: The twins are in different landing craft. A few hours earlier, Ray wanted to shake hands with his brother again, to say goodbye. But Roy, superstitious, has said that they should not shake hands again in greeting until they are both off the landing craft - in France, this June 6th. The handshake will never happen.

D-Day is the largest landing army invasion of all time

On this cool early summer morning, the largest landing army of all time moves towards the Norman coast, a total of 175,000 Americans, British and Canadians and around 200 French. The men come with tanks weighing more than 30 tons and with guns. With carbines, machine guns, pistols, bayonets. With flamethrowers and mortars, pipe bombs and hand grenades, adhesive explosives and mines. Your task: you should conquer the continent. Because even in the fifth year of the world fire, Europe is still largely ruled from Berlin. The power of the National Socialists extends from the North Cape to the Black Sea; their armies are in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway, northern Italy, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and the USSR. And from Norway to the Pyrenees, soldiers have holed up behind bunkers and mine barriers on the coasts to fend off any attempted invasion. If Ray Stevens were to turn around at that moment, he would see a world in shades of gray. In the early morning light, under the tatters of the wind-torn cloud cover, the sea shimmers like crumpled wrapping paper; Spray flies from the crests of the waves. The most unusual fleet in history floats on the English Channel: 2,727 ships from the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Belgium, Poland, Norway, Greece and the Netherlands. On the horizon behind Stevens are six battleships, floating fortresses like the 175 meter long "USS Texas". The tubes of their turrets point to the coast.

Around 2000 landing craft are heading for the coast

20 cruisers, 68 destroyers and dozens of other warships as well as hundreds of patrol and mine clearance boats, ferries and merchant ships form a wide range. Troop carriers bob around in between. A fleet of small water companions is now heading for the coast in front of these ships: around 2,000 landing craft heading for a 90-kilometer section near Caen. The boat drivers have trouble getting their mostly box-shaped companions through the wind and waves on the 15-kilometer course. The strong current drives them away. Many boats carry 30 soldiers each in the loading bays, others are sealed Sherman tanks, which can travel in the water thanks to additional propellers, or clumsy swimming trucks. A few minutes earlier, more than 1,000 bombers had flown towards the mainland, in such a dense formation that their shadows darkened the ground.

Allied fighters are now circling between the clouds. Larger DropShips pull blocking balloons on long lines with them to keep enemy dive bombers at a distance. But the wind pulls on them so hard that the slithering ropes are dangerous for the crews: Some captains therefore quickly pick up their ax and chop up the lines of the balloons, which disappear in the gray sky. The battleships set fire to the coast from around 17 kilometers away. With every salvo from the 356-millimeter guns, the recoil pushes the 27,000-ton colossi sideways through the water, and high waves slosh up. Other ships fire massive volleys from rocket launchers in the direction of the beaches. The projectiles race closely over the landing craft, which sway in the meter-high swell. In the boats it stinks from the impregnation of the uniforms and from the grease with which tanks and jeeps are smeared against moisture, from sweat and vomit. Then the rumbling of the sea ceases: the battleships and cruisers stop firing because the first boats are approaching the beach.

The Allied military planners called the ten-kilometer-wide section in front of them "Omaha Beach": a 200-meter-deep beach that is almost completely flooded at high tide, behind it a gently rising gravel embankment, another 200-meter-deep, bordered by an overhead 30 meter high cliff. This is the central, but also the most inaccessible section of the 90 kilometers of coast that is being attacked that day. 40,000 GIs are supposed to attack here alone, in several waves. To Stevens' right, out of sight, is "Utah Beach". Like Omaha, he, too, is a target of US troops. On the left, up to the height of Caen, the Allies have designated beaches with the code names "Gold", "Juno" and "Sword" as attack points for British and Canadian units.

The GIs should fight for a first base in France

On June 6th, the Allied soldiers are supposed to conquer all five beaches, then push several kilometers deep into the interior and take Caen: So they are supposed to fight for a bridgehead, a first base in France. The Wehrmacht made the coast part of their "Atlantic Wall". In front of the beaches, beams are rammed into the ground and cross-shaped obstacles made of sawed-up railroad tracks: monstrous steel structures intended to tear open landing craft. Lying on the beach, buried in the sand, are mines next to barbed wire barricades, anti-tank trenches and concrete barriers. There are camouflaged, concrete-reinforced shaft-like holes in the rock that provide cover for machine guns, light artillery and mortars and are connected by trenches and tunnels. The beach entrances are secured by "resistance nests": defensive structures protected by anti-tank trenches and mines, from whose well-camouflaged positions the Germans can see the whole beach. There are massive bunkers on top of the cliff. Green-brown camouflage nets span their reinforced concrete walls, which are up to two meters thick; In some of these fortresses there are modern 88-millimeter anti-tank guns, in others, prey weapons from all parts of Europe.

The US officers have announced that these positions will be destroyed when the GIs land on the beach: 480 heavy B-24 bombers are to drop 1,300 tons of bombs on Omaha Beach immediately before landing, the ships to fire hundreds of shells. On the way, Stevens saw the shadow of the bomber cloud and felt the turbulence of the ship grenades. Now he hopes to hit a field of rubble: destroyed steel barriers, shattered bunkers, dead Germans. But in the brief first moment when the bow flap of his landing craft falls, he will be gripped by confusion and fear like countless GIs: the beach lies untouched in front of them. The German positions are intact; Coils of barbed wire and steel barriers lie immovable in the sand. And the church tower of Vierville-sur-Mer stands directly above Omaha Beach, as if no shot had been fired here. Something went wrong ...

Operation "Overlord" aims to end World War II

"Before battle, plan is everything, but in battle it is nothing," said General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In December 1943, the 53-year-old took over the command of Operation "Overlord". Their goal: to bring the war to the center of the German Reich, to force it to surrender. Eisenhower - smart, kind, cautious - was a non-combat staff officer in World War I and the interwar period, but he proved himself as an organizer and as someone who can inspire loyalty to subordinates. In 1934 a superior ruled: "This is the best officer in the Army. When the next war comes, he should get to the top."

When Germany declared war on the USA at the end of 1941, it was initially a struggle in the Atlantic: German submarines torpedoed dozens of freighters and tankers on the US east coast, American destroyers were fighting the invisible fighters. In 1942 the first US bombers were deployed on bases in Great Britain. In the same year, GIs land in North Africa. Later the invasion of Sicily followed, then that of mainland Italy. All three operations are commanded by Eisenhower. But the British and Americans are making slow progress in Italy. In addition, the Soviet head of state Josef Stalin is impatiently pushing for a second front in the west. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also know that they have to force a direct route into the German center. The advance must begin in occupied France: Its coast is so close to Great Britain that bombers can reach it from the British airfields and invasion ships arrive there quickly - this minimizes the time in which the slow troop transports can be discovered and attacked by the Wehrmacht. On the other hand, the coast is so long that the Germans are not able to defend it massively everywhere. And once allied armies have established themselves in France, they can advance relatively quickly eastward, towards the Rhine.

D-Day was planned over a year

The Allies have to wait a year and a half before American industry has produced the huge quantities of landing craft, armored vehicles, aircraft, weapons, medicine packs, uniforms, helmets, boots, tents, and radios necessary for the invasion. In the early summer of 1944, 50,000 vehicles were ready for the first day of Operation Overlord in the southern ports of England: tanks, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles. Six battleships lie in the docks. Mini-submarines cruise off the French coast to scout out defensive positions. Almost 11,000 aircraft are in the hangars and on the airfields: bombers and fighter pilots, transport machines and gliders that are disengaged from towing vehicles at great heights and are supposed to bring attacking troops silently behind enemy lines. Eisenhower is clearly superior to his opponent in almost all respects. His armed force counts 175,000. With the exception of a few professional officers, they are citizen soldiers: young draftsmen. Men like Ray and Roy Stevens. Or like Lieutenant Ray Nance, 29 years old - a fellow citizen of the twins from the town of Bedford. Or like Earl Parker, who had to leave his young wife pregnant and has never seen the daughter who has now been born. He's from Bedford too. Because the American recruiting system, which assigns men from a community to the same unit, will wash an extraordinary number of soldiers from the small town in Virginia to the coast of Normandy. The combat troops of the 116th Regiment, which is to be the first unit to land on Omaha Beach, include 34 "Bedford Boys". Two thirds will never see their homeland again.

The soldiers of the 116th Regiment have been barracked in Great Britain for almost two years. They spent several months at a base near Salisbury, which they named "Colonel Canham’s Concentration Camp" in the dubious honor of their commander. The soldiers have learned to shoot and are now proficient in their weapons. And they have practiced storming a coast from landing craft on remote British beaches. The GIs flirt with young British women, mock their English comrades, whose wages are not even half as high as theirs, complain about the pathetic food. Southerners deny the units' few black soldiers entry to the casinos. White compatriots are also treated harshly: In the spring of 1944 new recruits come to the 116th regiment - Yankees from the north, such as George Roach from New York. He is now standing at attention in front of officers who intentionally address him in the almost incomprehensible Virginia slang.

Strategic deception and a fallacy

While the GIs are being trained, British and American planners are staging Operation Fortitude, perhaps the greatest deception in war history: Senior officers take up positions in Scotland and send out easily decipherable radio messages, others move wooden planes down runways. German eavesdropping specialists and scouts are said to believe that an army is gathering in the north of the British Isles. And at Dover, soldiers push armor made of paper mache and rubber around. It should appear as if the target of the invasion is not Normandy - but Calais. Also spies unmasked by the British secret service and now working as double agents report false troop movements.

The armed forces leadership is undecided. Will the Allies actually land in the Pas-de-Calais? It would be the ideal location closest to the UK. Or in Norway? Why else would there be so suspiciously high activity in Northern Scotland? Since the German generals assume that the Allies want to land in the summer of 1944 (the numerous troops, planes and ships are not hidden from anyone), but do not know when and where, they are faced with a dilemma: The comparatively weak Wehrmacht units (most of them Soldiers fight in the east) have to be spread over several thousand kilometers of coastline.

Even among the Allies, only a few officers were initially initiated: the strategists had already decided in June 1943 to attack the Normandy coast. Not the ideal place for an invasion. Around 150 kilometers of sea separate this part of Normandy from the nearest British region, which is almost four times the distance between Dover and Calais. The invasion fleet therefore takes longer to reach its position - the Germans could be warned accordingly earlier. In addition, after conquering the beaches near Caen, the attackers have to cross the Seine in order to advance towards Germany - the river is a natural barrier that the Wehrmacht can defend. The Allied planners believe, however, that one decisive advantage outweighs all the disadvantages: precisely because the Norman coast is so unfavorably located, it is less strongly defended. At Omaha Beach, for example, Allied agents report that only 800 soldiers from the 716th Infantry Division are in position: older men, most of them with no combat experience - no opponents for the well-trained and drilled GIs. On May 28, 1944, Eisenhower finally orders: D-Day, the day of the invasion, should be June 5th. (Anglo-American planners have referred to a day of attack as "D-Day" at least since World War I.) What the Allies do not know: Two months earlier, a new Wehrmacht unit took over the positions of Omaha Beach, three battalions of the 352nd Division. A more powerful force. Almost 1500 men.

Eisenhower didn't give a single order during the invasion

The soldiers of the 116th Regiment, among them the Bedford Boys, board the two transporters "SS Empire Javelin" and "USS Thomas Jefferson". George Roach from New York prays a rosary. The Catholic knows that his unit belongs to the first wave of landing. The tension in the damp quarters is great. A private named Harry Parley lights a cigarette with his flamethrower - his comrades jump for cover when the gun hisses.

4.15 a.m. Allied High Command weather conference at Southwick House, a country estate in southern England. A North Atlantic low rolls in with low clouds, rain, storms. Worse still: American and British meteorologists have been contradicting each other for days. The experts have the same measured values ​​- but their forecasts differ. Will the storm be so strong in the next few days that the landing craft will not be able to move out? Are the clouds getting so thick that the bombers can't find their targets? The British are pessimistic, the Americans are optimistic. General Eisenhower decides after a period of reflection: The invasion will be postponed by 24 hours.

The soldiers of A Company of the 116th Regiment heard about this when the "SS Empire Javelin" changed course in the afternoon. Roy Stevens sharpened his bayonet to get rid of the nervousness. He later gets cookies from the ship's canteen, which he shares with his brother Ray - and with Earl Parker. While they are standing at the railing and staring at the sea, he pulls out a photo of his 16-month-old daughter that his wife had sent him and shows it to the twins. "If I could only see her once," he says, "I wouldn't mind dying." It goes back to the harbor. The GIs have a stormy, restless night on board ahead of them.

9.30 p.m. The forecast is now a little more favorable, if not good: wind, rain and a closed, low cloud cover, which will break up at dawn, then it should remain clear for 36 hours. Eisenhower knows that he cannot keep his army waiting in the ships indefinitely. He gives a new order: attack on June 6th. "H-Hour" - the time of landing - is 6.30 a.m., half an hour after sunrise. The following day, Eisenhower drafts an explanation in the event that the invasion should fail: All Allied soldiers would have fought heroically, wherever mistakes were made, if he alone was responsible. Then all that remains for him is to wait and see how things develop. On D-Day, the Commander-in-Chief will not give a single order.

The weather thwarted the landing

The first dead. Allied airborne troops reach Normandy a few kilometers behind the coast. At a bridge over the canal that connects Caen with the sea, a British officer kills a German guard; shortly afterwards he is shot himself. 3.09 a.m. The Wehrmacht's radar recorded the landing fleet. The Germans believe that the bad weather will prevent a landing these days; many commanders are therefore on their way to an exercise in Brittany or on a short break in Paris. Because of the Allied deception, even now some do not want to admit that an attack is imminent. Maybe this is all just a distraction so that the invaders at Calais have an easier time of it? Nevertheless, the defenders are warned by this time at the latest (the news of fights with parachutists apparently comes in only sparsely). The soldiers in the bunkers man all available weapons. You just have to wait.

4.00 a.m. The GIs gather on the deck of the "SS Empire Javelin" and the other troop transports to get into the landing craft. The vehicles hanging from the davits, the cranes on the side of the transporters, are lowered into the water. Then the soldiers descend on nets over the side of the ship to the boats swaying on the waves. Some men squeeze parts of their bodies, even break bones, and three die. At least ten landing craft hit the ground. Ray Stevens hears a message from Eisenhower over the loudspeaker: "Soldiers, sailors and pilots of the Allied invasion troops! You are beginning the Great Crusade that we have been preparing for so many months. You will destroy the German war machine, destroy the Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and create security for us in a free world. "

The GIs of the A company line up in front of seven landing craft: six vehicles are supposed to drop 30 men each on Omaha Beach at 6.30 a.m. The seventh boat is scheduled to arrive 19 minutes later: Lieutenant Ray Nance and 16 soldiers will then, according to the plan, land with their bulky radios. Roy Stevens is assigned to LCA 911. Many soldiers on the "SS Empire Javelin" shake hands again. Ray holds out his right hand too. "I'll shake it for you when we're in Vierville-sur-Mer," says Roy, "at the intersection above the beach. Sometime later this morning." "I won't make it," replies Ray, hand still outstretched. Roy continues to refuse. Then he gets into LCA 911. 4.30 a.m. The landing craft are in the water, picking up speed. The waves hit them like hammer blows. 5.30 a.m. Other landing craft are said to let the buoyant Sherman tanks into the water about five kilometers from the beach, the first units to land. But the swell is too strong for the colossi: within minutes, 27 of the 32 tanks intended for the left section sink into the sea. And with them the crews.

The Allied bombs miss the positions of the Wehrmacht

In command of the right section is Lieutenant Dean Rockwell, a former football coach who signed up for the Navy. He sees that the tanks are going under - and ignores the order to keep radio silence. He sends his eight boats, each transporting four tracked vehicles, the order to steer closer to the beach and only then to let the Shermans roll off deck. Around 6 a.m. At this point, Eisenhower's plan for Omaha Beach is worthless. The cloud cover confuses the bomber pilots, they cannot see the coastline - and they fly too far. Their bombs fall into the hinterland, devastating the fields of Norman farmers. But they missed the German positions on the beach, not a single bomb fell there. The volleys from the battleships, on the other hand, hardly cause any damage, and the missiles from the transporters all crash into the water in front of the beach.

About 6:05 a.m. Lieutenant Ray Nance pushes back a narrow plate in the bow of the landing craft to look out: smoke - probably from the shelling by the battleships - floats like a cloud over Omaha Beach. No clear view of the cliffs. Nance closes the opening. His boat sways so much that his comrade's radio antenna has broken off - the device is now useless. Nance orders him to be carried to the beach anyway. Maybe the system can be repaired there.

Around 6:15 a.m. The diesel engine of the LCA 911 with Roy Stevens on board roars when the skipper gives full power. "We're on our way in!" Someone shouts. Roy prays. Suddenly water splashes up: artillery fire from the bank. “We're sinking!” Yells one on board - and at the same moment the bow disappears into the sea. Roy Stevens falls into the water about a kilometer from the coast, tearing the CO2 cartridges in his life jacket. It puffs up - but his equipment and uniform, crammed full of ammunition and hand grenades, are so heavy that he can barely stay afloat. "I'm drowning!" He hears one of his comrades. Of the 30 soldiers on board, quite a few never really learned to swim. The first GI goes down. The other landing craft go on at full speed. Your boatmen are under orders not to stop during the attack to pick up castaways. Too dangerous. 6.29 a.m. H-hour minus one minute. The first landing craft is on shore - Dean Rockwell's LCT 535. The swimming tanks rumble from the ramp into the water about a meter deep.

Landing in Normandy will be hell for the Allies

The 116th Regiment's A Company is one of the first to hit the beach and is roughly where it should be. However, quite a few landing craft miss their targets. The beach is free for hundreds of meters, but in other places far too many troops hit the land in a disorderly manner. "We'll lower the ramp. And as soon as we do that, we'll go back again. So be ready!" Shouts a bowman in George Roach's boat. The lieutenant of her group rushes out first, Roach and the others stumble over the ramp after them. There is immediate fire from everywhere, the short, sharp bang of rifle fire can be heard, the "Tak-Tak-Tak" of the machine guns, hammering like hail on sheet metal. Mortar and shrapnel grenades fly up howling.

Then the bang of exploding boats and tanks and the screaming of the wounded - an infernal noise that makes it seem as if you've suddenly lost your hearing. For Roach and his comrades - at least for those who survive the first few seconds - it is like a nightmare, in a confused hectic and at the same time in a stretched time, with individual scenes but without a coherent plot: MG bullets, a long row of small sand fountains blow up in the beach; a soldier who suddenly bursts his head; a sailor flying high in the air when his landing craft hits a mine and explodes; torn off arms and legs on the beach that look like someone has thrown away some of their equipment; a soldier who runs ahead on the ramp, wades through the water and suddenly sinks into a deep trench drawn by the tides. Roach, loaded with more than 50 kilos of equipment, stumbles through the shallow water, in which the dead are already floating. He throws himself down on the sand, pulls his rifle to his shoulder and fires. "What are you shooting at?" Shouts his sergeant major. "I have no idea!" He calls back. It lies almost without cover on the gently sloping beach, a few dozen meters in front of a wall of low gravel dunes.

Somewhere beyond jagged cliffs rise up and limit the horizon. There is fire from everywhere, but the German positions are so well camouflaged that not even the muzzle flash can be seen. Roach doesn't know what to do. His first lieutenant is dead - probably, survivors will later testify, shot in two by a volley of machine guns. His sergeant major dies shortly afterwards. Soon only one of the comrades around him is still alive. But he has lost his glasses and is now almost blind. "Can you swim?" Asks Roach. "No." They crawl back into the water anyway to find shelter behind a shot down Sherman. Three men with faces disfigured by burns float behind the tank in the water: crew survivors. The commander crouches behind the tower of the Sherman. His left leg is torn off below the knee, and a bone protrudes into the water. The half-blind GI crawls into the wrecked tank, gropes, finds a medicine pack and a syringe of morphine in it. They give them to the wounded. But the commander, apparently in shock, wants to swim ashore. He calls his crew to help him into the water, they somehow swim away. Roach will never see any of the four tank drivers again. He remains in cover behind the Sherman, as does his comrade. But the sea creeps in from behind, the tide comes up. Soon they have to get on the tank. Then on its tower. And then that too is flooded.

Chaos and death on the beaches of Normandy

Private Harry Parley jumps off the ramp into the water - and immediately goes under. Like so many GIs this morning, he underestimates how deep the sea still is here. In addition to his normal equipment, he carries the 40 kilogram flamethrower, which is now dragging him into the depths. A soldier who just manages to grab him and pulls him into shallower water saves his life. Parley staggered forward across the beach, coughing. A small rise of about two meters where the gravel strip begins is the only cover. He staggered forward while comrades collapsed in front of him.

The guns of the German defenders and the cannons of the few still intact Sherman tanks are roaring. Acrid smoke wafts through the air. Parley makes it to the gravel strip and throws himself down. GIs everywhere, many wounded; they crawl on all fours and have to yell at each other to make themselves heard in the noise. Where are they? Most of the officers are already dead; one - with his left arm half torn off - tries to bring order to his unit, but then he too is fatally hit. Parley wants to dig himself in while lying on the beach - in vain. He grabs a discarded rifle to shoot the Germans - but he can't see anything. He pulls a couple of wounded GIs off the beach before they drown helplessly in the approaching tide. Confusion. Nobody knows where they are, where to go and what to do next. Parley prays.

Lieutenant Ray Nance storms off the landing craft, his rifle over his head to protect it from the waves. Where are the men of his unit? Nobody to see. Then he recognizes them: dead in the sand. Mortar shells. MG bullets. His radio operator with the heavy, damaged device crawls slowly forward. "Move, move!" Orders Nance. "I've been hit." "Can you still move?" No answer: the radio operator has disappeared. Most of the other soldiers who stormed off the boat with him fall bleeding in the sand. Then Nance realizes that a German machine gunner is apparently taking him under fire. Sand fountains from the projectiles splash up, closer and closer. Nance throws himself down, head in the direction the bullets are coming from. So he offers the invisible defender a smaller target - and should he hit him, the suffering is over immediately: headshot. Then the impacts recede - apparently the German has found another target. Nance crawls forward; the fire is getting closer again. A hard blow on his right foot. He is hurt. The fire drifts away again. The officer pulls on and sees a trough in the sand, full of sea water, formed by the current. He throws himself in, goes into hiding. Balls in the water. He emerges, disappears, endlessly. His rifle has long been useless from sand and water. Then up again, further, just further. Nance, bleeding, unarmed, exhausted and with no men to follow him, reaches the foot of the cliff, where he takes cover. He is one of only three officers in his company who are still alive on Omaha Beach.