Lightning D-Day Session
Sergeant Joe Garrison, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Journal Entry: June 6, 1944. 4:27am (along with memories, in the aftermath)
Eisenhower said, “Okay. Let’s go.” And the wheels were set in motion. The beaches, Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah, were lined up like shooting ducks. Only thing is we were the ducks, and boy would we be shot. I was assigned to the 1st Infantry, and we were going to be hitting the Omaha Beach soon. Sandwiched between Utah and Gold Beaches, I knew that we would have our work cut out for us.
Right into the teeth of Hitler’s Atlantic Seawall, the teeth of his defensive system laid down by none other than Rommel himself. Only the finest German strategist of our day, he had prepared the approaches well. Sure reconnaissance has given us some information about what to expect, but not enough. Is there ever enough?
The winds were whipping the seas into a good froth, as the early morning, pre-dawn was beginning to give us a better look at the darkened landmass ahead of us. The support from the Navy had been battering away this morning, with covering fire and has been lightening its attack, knowing we were about to “Hit the Beach!!”
Jerry had set up nicely for us. Later I found out that all the beaches were completely filled with our entire force, before we began to really “take it to them.” Early on, we were just happy to make it to the beach alive. Anything beyond that, early that morning was wishful thinking. The Germans rained hot lead down on us, yet we took cover, then they turned heavy weapons at us, we kept our heads down, before they broke off the attack.
They continued the attacks right down the row. We were next. They threw the 352nd Infantry at us, hard, but we held with platoon cohesion. The 21st Panzer division rumbled up in support of the 352nd. We had never seen these monsters, and they took our breath away, but their organization broke down as chaos broke out, and they called the brief offensive off.
The middle of that day, suddenly it got real quiet. You could hear the gulls for the first time. I was astonished that there were any animals left alive. Odd. We figured that the Germans were stocking up for one last push, they must have thought the same about us. Then it started, slowly, again. You could hear the sound of gunfire, asking questions, getting small-arms fire back, in answer.
Whatever the Germans gave to us, we gave it right back to them, taking Sword Beach, finally, just before dusk. The 1st Corps, combined with the 3rd Infantry, in a classic one-two punch, that knocked out those defending on the high ground at Sword Beach. Then when it was secured they turned and hit into Juno, softening them up enough for the Canadians to bump off the remaining elements of the 716th Infantry.
Taking these two beaches, was just the beginning of an entire juggernaut that was assembled and preparing to start the Normandy Campaign. But, I get ahead of myself in the re-telling of it.
Gold Beach, well it was still silent, I guess Ike had other plans for them. Omaha, that’s us, well we went out at them, yet weren’t given enough ammunition to finish the job. Supply train held up offshore, I guess. So now, as darkness was about to descend, and (the game in its last turn), it was up to the 4th Infantry and the VII Corps to take Utah, turn against Omaha’s flank, and win a tactical victory for G.I., and all us Joe’s.
They had taken out the 243rd Infantry earlier in the day, and now were concentrating everything they could on the 709th Infantry. Again, the one-two punch, Joe Lewis versus Max Schmeling in the ’36 Olympics, except this time Hitler’s golden boy went down, (like he did in the 1938 re-match, when the Brown Bomber dropped Max in the first round). Then, a quiet voice from the heavens, yes! It was the 82nd Airborne dropping in to finish off what remained of the defensive sector of Utah Beach, the 91st Infantry. They swooped in laying them low, just as the last of the remaining light closed on this the longest day.
We didn’t accomplish our goal of capturing the 4th beach, but we achieved a draw, where we were about to lose this first, and most vital day of our entry into Normandy, and the Campaign of the same name. But we had done our part and would go on to fight again. The wheels were set in motion, and soon they would be moving us into the heartland, on our way to Berlin, and a meeting with Ivan.