Omaha Beach Then and Today: Remembering D-Day


Some dates are burned into the American memory because of historical significance. For instance, we can’t reference July 4th without instantly thinking of our nation’s birth. We can’t see the date September 11th and not remember the terrible tragedies that occurred that day in 2001.

There are dates that carry the same weight in regards to world history as well, and June 6th, 1944, is definitely one of them, more commonly referred to as D-Day.

That’s the day the Allied forces invaded northern France from the beaches of Normandy, changing the face of history forever. That’s also the day that ultimately led to the downfall of Nazi Germany, but not without a huge price.


A Look Back at Omaha Beach

The code name given to the second from the west among the five designated D-Day landing zones was Omaha Beach. It was easily the largest of the assault areas, covering a stretch of about 6 miles between the mouth of the Vire River and Port-en-Bessin. The German 352nd Infantry was on the opposition, consisting of about 12,000 men, 6,800 of which were experienced combat troops.

Very little went according to plan when the Allies landed at Omaha, to say the least. Setbacks included but were not necessarily limited to:

  • Navigation difficulties that caused most of the landing craft to miss their targets over the course of the day
  • The unexpected strength of the defense, resulting in heavy U.S. casualties
  • The inability of the remaining troops to clear the beach’s exits as planned, a direct consequence of the number of casualties

Eventually, the surviving troops managed to achieve some small penetrations in the defense due to ingenuity and improvisation. By the end of the day, they also won a couple of important footholds. The Allies further exploited these advantages as a way to leverage additional weaknesses in the defense over the next few days. The eventual achievement of the original D-Day objectives was the result.




The Legacy of Omaha Beach

The staggering number of American lives lost is the main reason we remember Omaha Beach. As touched on above, the Germans did excellent job of orchestrating their defense and situating their machine gun emplacements. Although the seawall offered some protection, the German fire tore mercilessly into the troops, as they ran at top speed across the beach
Even in the face of the Allies’ eventual victory, it’s hard to look past the fact that America lost 2,400 of its finest men that day at Omaha Beach. However, it’s vitally important that we remember and honor their sacrifices, as they quite literally saved the free world. They are the ultimate reminder that some things are worth not only fighting for, but dying for as well.



Remembering and Commemorating Omaha Beach and D-Day

This June 6th, take some time out of your busy day to remember the events of D-Day and pay your respects to the brave men that laid down their lives at Omaha Beach. The following are just a few ideas about how you can commemorate the occasion.

Educate Yourself
Acquiring additional knowledge is never a bad idea, but it’s an especially good way to honor the legacy of a historic event like D-Day. Don’t just stop at reading generalized history books on the topic of World War II, either. Also, check out regional volumes on the topic to experience different perspectives on the war, military history and other related topics.

Talk to Your Children
Anniversaries of serious events like D-Day present the very best opportunities to teach your children the value of human life, sacrifice and honor. Consider sitting the youngest members of your family down this June 6th to talk to them about the events of Omaha Beach, and explain how those sacrifices made a lasting contribution to freedom. Ask them to share something they’re grateful to have in their lives, and remind them how it may not be the case today, if someone hadn’t fought and died for their freedom so long ago.

Help Veterans
Our veterans deserve honor every day, but it is paramount during important anniversary dates. Consider contributing to a good cause that helps veterans or doing something nice for the military personnel who live in your neighborhood. Be sure to thank them for their service in a meaningful way.

While much was lost that fateful day at Omaha Beach, there’s no doubt that more was gained. Its impact on our country and the world, particularly in the fight for democracy, will not soon be forgotten. How will you be honoring the gloriously fallen this June 6th? In what ways are you most grateful for the freedom that you enjoy as a result of their sacrifices?