‘Yanks earned medals the size of dustbin lids’ – Peter Rhodes’ D-Day Diaries Day 6

The Americans took the western beaches, codenamed Omaha and Utah. Utah fell miraculously easily, with barely a dozen killed by enemy action and about 60 drowned. But ‘Bloody Omaha’ was a different story. Omaha Beach, awash in machine gun fire and overlooked left and right by gun emplacements on high terrain, became a three-mile killing field where more than a thousand Americans died.

Few British had any idea what was going on in Omaha.

One of the few was Arthur Weston from Oldbury, a 23-year-old radio operator on a wooden motor launch.

Omaha Beach was secured after D-Day, 1944

As he watched thousands of Americans march toward the maelstrom, he was amazed and shocked:

‘My assessment of the Yanks had been quite low. But when I saw them moving in, onto the beaches, climbing the cliffs, advancing under a hail of machine gun fire, my opinion changed dramatically. Some Americans fell and lay still, but the green wave of men continued. I think they all should have had medals the size of trash can lids.

At one point, battle-hardened German defenders reported that they had driven the Americans back into the sea at Omaha. Not so. As an American colonel said to his boys hiding behind the sea wall: ‘The only people on this beach are the dead and those who will die. Let’s get out of here right now!’

In countless displays of individual courage, young Americans simply stood up, crossed the sea wall and walked forward into the gunfire. Sheer courage and relentless shellfire from Allied ships, some of which came dangerously close to the coast, drove the Germans back.

Ken Marcham in 1940
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