D-Day Survivor Stories and Info

By Niall Sullivan and Gant Wheeler

Utah

The target 'Utah Beach' was about three miles wide. Much of it was made up of sandy dunes and the German fortifications here were weak when compared those of Omaha Beach. The nearest major town for the Allies was Carentan, to the south-west of the beach. Through Carentan ran a main road to the east to Bayeaux, which would link the Allies who landed at Utah to the Allies at Omaha and to Gold, Juno and Sword. The landing at Utah was scheduled for 06.30 and the Allied force came from the US 4th Infantry Division. The plan for Utah included an airborne drop by the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions at various points two to five miles inland of the beach. Those landing on the beach were scheduled to link up with the paratroopers as soon as was possible. The paratroopers were dropped primarily to secure the main road from Valognes to Carentan and to cause general chaos as they dropped at night at 01.30. The airborne drop worked well. The seaborne landing did not go to plan though ironically, a battle against Nature was to be of great value to the Allies. Strong currents meant that the landing craft were taken off of their intended targets on the beach. They landed on the beach, but 2000 meters away from their main landing target. Ironically, this was one of the lesser-defended areas along the entire beachfront and the casualties as the Americans came ashore were minimal when compared to Omaha.

Omaha

Omaha Beach was six miles wide the largest of all the five beaches. The whole of the beach at Omaha was overlooked by cliffs which made attacking the area very difficult. The Americans were given the task of doing just this. The Germans had built formidable defenses around Omaha. Rommel had built many of his 'dragon's teeth' on the beach which were designed to take out the base of landing craft - and for good measure, the 'teeth' were also mined. Gun emplacements had been designed to cover the beach. Facing the Germans were troops from the US 1st Army led by Omar Bradly. The attack on the beach was timed for 06.30. The plan was to land infantry troops alongside armored vehicles - amphibious Sherman tanks. Such a potent armored force on the beach would have given the Americans far greater fire power against the Germans. However, the Shermans (DD Tanks) never made it. It is now known that the 29 tanks were released from their landing craft too far away from the beach. The only way off the beach was to scale the cliffs. Led by US Rangers, this is how the Americans escaped from the beach. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha and this is principally why the attack is remembered.

Ivor Anderson

Ivor was part of the British airborne unit who was dropped at Pegasus Bridge near the town of Ranville where they were to hold the objective so that the Germans were not able to reinforce the beaches. Despite repeated German attacks, the bridge and another nearby was successfully held by the airborne forces until reinforcements arrived. After the mission, Mr Anderson spent five weeks laying mines and helping the infantry, before suffering a shrapnel injury.


Robert Coupe

Robert saw his heaviest fighting during the push on Caen, in the weeks following the landings. Only 18 of his 100-strong infantry unit reached their objective. He had landed on Sword Beach on the morning of D-Day, and despite the enemy fire, said it was a relief to get ashore.Once ashore, and with the beachheads secured, Mr Coupe and his unit were given orders to march on German-occupied Caen as part of Operation Charnwood. On the evening of July 7th the combined divisions secured positions for a three pincer attack on the city with the 3rd Canadian Division attacking from the right, and British 3rd Division from the left. Mr Coupe’s division, the 59th, would be in the center. As part of the prelude to the assault, a major Allied air attack on the city was launched. Despite the losses, by the early hours of the following day, Mr Coupe’s unit had entered the city’s northern suburbs. He was hit by a bullet which slammed into his helmet knocking him unconscious for three days. He woke up in a Bayeux hospital.


Jack Schlegel

Schlegel, born in Germany in 1923, immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 7 years old and eventually became a member of the elite 508th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne unit.On D-Day, at 19, he parachuted into Normandy, later suffering a head wound, getting captured by the Germans and tortured by Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel, or, SS. His fluency in the German language helped him survive the Nazis, but he was adamant about one fact: "Even though I was born in Germany, I'm 100 percent American." It was Gen. Patton who gave Schlegel his first Purple Heart and together they shared a drink of scotch whiskey (Johnnie Walker Black Label).