Experiences in World War II
From Omaha Beach to the Malmédy Massacre
Howard E. Nixon
6 April 1923 - 29 December 2001
Omaha Beach was a bloody landing. They died in the water as well as on
the beach. It was lucky for us that the Germans didn't think that the landing
would be so soon. Therefore they didn't have as many soldiers there at the
beach. (Note: also General Patton's "phantom army" did its job well.
That was a ruse to make the Germans think that the invasion was coming at
Calais instead of Normandy. That trick tied up a whole German panzer army.)
There were five beach heads: Utah, Juno, Omaha, Gold, and Sword. Omaha
Beach was the worst by far.
A few days after the invasion they said, "Boys, we are ready to
go." We drove to South Hampton docks and there they proceeded to load our
ambulances on the ship. The ambulances consisted of our duffle bag, medical
equipment, blankets, litters, and lots of louse powder, and lots of
Sulfanilamide for infection.
The ambulance had 2 fold down seats on each side one long and one
shorter. We could take 4 litters, or we could take 10 walking wounded, or we
could take 2 litters on one side and 5 walking wounded on the other.
When they got to my ambulance to load it, it was about 10:00 in the
morning. They picked it up in a net and started to haul it up. Just then one of
them Englishmen hollered, "Tea Time." They stopped the hoist and
there it hung - halfway up the ship till they finished their tea. I thought
that a little strange when a war was going on.
The ship started up. We were headed for France. It was a little choppy,
but not too bad. Everybody was quiet - thinking I guess. We got to where we
could see land and Joe Robinson said to me, "Well Nick, we're going to
France." Then it hit me - this was it. The real thing.
Before we left South Hampton, England they had sent back prisoners from
the beach They were on a train and they were smiling. They were out of it.
The 82nd and 101st airborne dropped behind the German lines on June 5th.
They were to knock out bridges, communications, etc. One man dropped onto a
church steeple of St. Mère Eglise, or St. Marie Eglise, his chute
caught, and there he hung. He couldn't get down. Come daylight the Germans were
there and saw him hanging there and thought that he was dead. When the clock on
the church struck they would look up and he was afraid they would shoot him,
but they didn't. He was rescued later by infantrymen.
They sent over gliders as well. They were pulled by a plane and then let
go and they glided back of the beach. But that didn't work too well. The
Germans had long poles in the ground and the gliders hit them, flipped over and
tore off wings. Gliders carried a jeep and 4-6 men.
The beach had all sorts of objects to slow down the troops and loading
craft; mines, posts, iron posts pointing out to the sea. By the time we got
there most of it had been cleared. Omaha was the hardest landing of the 5. They
called it "Bloody Omaha."
War correspondent Ernie Pyle walked the beach and saw a small Bible on
the sand. He picked it up, walked a few feet and turned around and put it back
where it had lain.
There was a hospital ship anchored by the beach for the wounded. The dead
had been cleared away by this time.
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© Copyright, Howard E. Nixon, 2001.
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