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Timewatch: Bloody Omaha

Updated Thursday 20th December 2007

More than 60 years ago, the fate of World War II turned on five beaches in Normandy, France. ‘D-Day’ was the greatest amphibious invasion ever attempted. History remembers it as a great victory. But new research reveals that on Omaha Beach, it was very nearly a disaster.

Landing craft on beach Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

The German defences were far more ferocious than expected. A massive air strike, intended to take them out, was a total failure. For the troops charged with this mission, it would become a killing zone.

Because it was the toughest and the bloodiest, Omaha Beach has become a symbol to represent all of the Normandy Invasion. History records that within hours 2,000 men were cut down. But now new research has found that in reality, the casualty figures were more than double that.

The story of D-Day has been re-told in dramas such as Saving Private Ryan. But what really happened on Omaha Beach in June 1944? What was it like for the men who had to fight their way ashore here - and how did they manage to win when so much seemed to go so wrong?

‘Bloody Omaha’ uses strong, emotional personal testimony; expert interviews with historians and military experts from both of the Atlantic; ambitious drama reconstruction and state of the art Computer Generated Imaging to she new light on one of the iconic stories of the Second World War.

Omaha Beach memorial Creative commons image Icon FaceMePLS via Flickr under Creative-Commons license
Omaha Beach memorial. Image: FaceMePLS under CC-BY licence

The discovery of a captured German map and the re-emergence of an entire German battery, hidden under the Normandy soil for over sixty years, bring a new insight into how the strength of the German defences had increased significantly between the planning for D-Day and the invasion itself.

The latest historical research reveals a startling turning point to a battle we thought we knew. Timewatch goes in search of the full true story of ‘Bloody Omaha’.

Take it further: Books

Imperial War Museum: The D-Day Experience from the Invasion to the Liberation of Paris
R Holmes, Carlton Books

Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944
Joseph Balkoski, Stackpole Books

Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris
John Keegan, Jonathan Cape

 

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