Dog Green

I got around to various places when I was there, but what I reflect on most is the one night I spent in a little coastal village called Vierville sur Mer. I was alone, and as far as I could tell, the only guest in the hotel. That night a storm rolled in off the Channel and things got a little rough, knocking out the power. It was dark and cold and there was absolutely nothing to do, and no where to go, so I rolled up in some blankets, read a book with my flashlight, and eventually fell asleep.

Next morning I awoke very early. It was still dark, and it occurred to me that the windows were no longer rattling. The storm had passed, so I got dressed and went out to the beach and could see that the tide had rushed out in the night. I wandered down along the surf for awhile, and as dawn broke I could see patches of clearing sky in the dark clouds above. The tide was now coming in. In spring the wind in Normandy is damp, cold and constant. My teeth were chattering. I turned around and headed back to go find some strong coffee.

Before leaving the beach, near the mouth of Vierville draw, I turned around and took these two photos: 

vierville-sur-mer-1

(click to enlarge)

The photos were shot at about 630AM. Exactly when the first wave landed.

vierville-sur-mer-2

(click to enlarge)

This is the western sector of Omaha Beach known as Dog Green. Here is an excerpt from an original Bigot map that would have been carried ashore by infantry officers.  Beach sectors are superimposed on the map (in yellow) by me:

Dog Green - Vierville area

Dog Green - Vierville area of Omaha Beach (click to enlarge)

Some of the fortifications at Vierville draw remain to this day and its easy to stand on them and see the impossibility of a frontal assault against such a well-defended beach exit. This photo was taken at about 7AM from atop a bunker that housed an 8.8cm gun.

Dog Green

Dog Green (click to enlarge)

In the first hour of the D-Day landings it was a horrific place. The first wave of assault troops from the 29th Infantry Division who landed at 0630 on about the boundary between Dog Green and Charlie were massacred. German strong points along the seawall and bluffs at Vierville D-1 draw could make easy work of anyone coming onto this beach. There was only a partial second wave landing here at about 7AM and it was also a disaster. After this, no further landings were attempted on Dog Green that morning. Given the lack of survivors (none in some sections) the events of the initial assault here are not well known, only the tragic results.

By mid-morning Rangers had scaled the cliffs on the west side of the draw (i.e. Charlie) and cleared the German strongpoint fortifications along the bluffs. To the east on Dog White, a number of Rangers and units of the 29th ID scaled the bluffs and proceeded inland and back westward toward the village. [Note: These Ranger actions generally formed the basis for the fictionalized Dog Green landing shown in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.]

By noon the tide had come in all the way to the seawall in front of the draw. The photo below shows American Sherman tanks having made their way down to the vicinity of the Vierville draw (out of view to the left), but the Germans still have the exit blocked. The tide has just begun to recede, and the long shore current is moving left to right, leaving  bodies, equipment and debris (from the failed initial assault) along the high water mark. Some surviving troops may be taking cover along the seawall.

dog-green-noon

Dog Green just after high tide on June 6.

Subsequently, a little after 1:00PM, German fortifications and all other visible structures in the draw were pounded by U.S. Navy destroyers McCook and Thompson as well as by the battleship Texas:

d1-at-1300

The Vierville draw itself was then taken in the early afternoon, but from the rear, by General Norman Cota and four soldiers. They walked from the inland village of Vierville and down the road through the draw, gathering prisoners as they went, and out onto the beach. Hardly what the D-Day planners had envisioned would transpire in the opening of this most prized beach exit.

This entry was posted by Bif.

26 thoughts on “Dog Green

  1. Well done, Bif! It’s always eerie and cool at the same time to try and imagine (and recreate the logistic and other details in your mind’s eye) how things went down at historic battle sites. Your participatory narrative style and knowledgeable contemporary voice are perfect for the retelling of this story, exposing the artistic modifications of history indulged in Saving Private Ryan, etc. To be continued?

  2. Holmes, EE, thanks. Glad you liked the post.

    “To be continued?” Absolutely! Who knows when though.

  3. Great article on a worthy subject, well illustrated Bif. I guess a “tide turner” was the probably relentless pounding of the German positions by the Allied naval guns.

    One minor point: your article starts a little out of context. It needs some introductory material, like why you were there (side trip on a business venture?), when, etc. Were you alone? Did you have relatives involved in the landing? What kind of camera was used to take those fine photos?

    Glad to see this article fits with the current ZK banner, green even.

  4. Oops, you state you were alone. OK, but pour quoi? You’re not a bachelor, right? I often go to exotic places alone these days, because of the business nature of the trip, my wife stays home to care for the kids, she has a job that requires her to be there, it’s probably too expensive to take the family along, etc.

    OTOH, it’s nice to share those experiences, if possible.

  5. Thanks Doom.

    Yeah, it was a side trip I grafted onto a biz trip. When overseas I’m usually alone (except for people I have to meet with, or visiting a friend), which is fine with me. Otherwise I prefer to travel with my family.

    Regarding your comment. Its true that the few hundred defenders along Omaha Beach could only absorb the constant shelling from the offshore armada for so long. But perhaps more important was that the allies began to realize the error of trying to attack headlong toward the draws (or beach exits). Along the 4.5-mile long beach there were five of these draws bisecting the steep bluffs (including the subject Vierville draw), as these were to provide rapid egress for vehicles and troops moving inland from the beach. But these draws each turned out to be heavily fortified on their shoulders, making passage through them impossible. Slowly, at first in small groups, assault troops began to exploit paths of lesser resistance, scaling the bluffs between the draws. Not only were these in-between areas less heavily defended but in some areas the burning vegetation provided smoky concealment, increasing their survivability during the slow climb. This trickle became a flood and soon troops were on top of the bluffs and in the fields, and circling around behind the enemy strongpoints facing the beach. These actions, along with ship-to-shore gunfire sealed the defenders fate.

    Yes I was on the trail of three uncles. One in particular, to whom I was very very close. He and another uncle landed at Omaha, but this was a few days after June 6. He told me a lot about his experiences, which were incredible, but also pretty fucked up. He fought in the hedgerows, got captured, escaped, blew up a lot of shit. He was like 20 yrs old. A few years ago at his funeral my aunt shows me his medals. He was awarded the Silver Star. He never told me this. He was a quiet modest guy. Anyway it was because of him that I got interested in Normandy.

    The photos, believe it or not, were taken with a little Nikon Coolpix pocket camera. Not bad huh?

  6. dave, just read Dolan. while his thesis is awesome, and well presented, darkly funny even, i totally disagree. nuclear winter is the easy way out. it’s not fair to our non-human successors, also. no, humans richly deserve the mass starvation and suffering exit. maybe then, if there is an eventual next time for them, they won’t be so full of themselves.

    there’s a reason most native american cultures teach humility. they know.

  7. By way of interesting coincidence, Dolan’s article was originally published the same day War Nerd’s e-xile column debuted (almost seven years ago). Very clever.

    I think that if you REALLY want to put an end to human suffering, you need to explode the entire planet into itsy bitsy pieces. I have my doubts that a nuclear winter would get the job done.

  8. “…if you REALLY want to put an end to human suffering, you need to explode the entire planet into itsy bitsy pieces.”

    I agree. There has been some very good work done in trying to figure out the most feasible method for achieving that purpose.

    http://qntm.org/?destroy

  9. well, i don’t know, human suffering, perse, has only been around for, at the most, about 10 million years, blink of an eye, i guess. besides, i don’t know if dolan is talking about human suffering(who fucking cares) or suffering in general. fuck, nervous systems(a prerequisite to sufferinf?) have only been around for, again, at the most, from what i know, maybe 300 million years. so, a good nuclear winter could do the job, bring life back to a prenural level. but i don’t think it will happen. nukes, and the will to use them are degradeing concurantly. i will continue to pray for plague.

  10. i will continue to pray for plague. – dave

    “The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population. It may have reduced the world’s population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400.” -wiki

    Chump change. World population is now over 6.7 billion. Toss in a nuke exchange or two, persistent drought, civil strife, widespread famine, tropical diseases, run of the mill pestilence, and no sign of relief for 25 years, maybe longer. Yeah. Now you’re talkin to the grim reaper bubba.

  11. Is it the 15th! Oh, shit! How did I forget? I must have been trying to ignore it since Bernie gave me all those code numbers and the Swiss telephone number. I think I might need a lawyer. Anybody know the number for Dubai Airlines? What is the status of Spanish extradition treaties?

    Fuck!Fuck!Fuck! I’ve got too many commitments til Tuesday. I’m outta here. I’ve gotta lay low. Those Navy snipers scared the piss out if me.

    Bif, Holmes, take care of the fort. I’ll call you in a couple weeks. I’ll say I’m Ahmed, Haji, or Benjamin (or Benny, that won’t raise any eyebrows).

  12. That was weird. I liked the artwork, but you guys were posting classic paintings last week. Where did he get the idea? Plus, he has never done that before.

  13. “The only sure things: death and taxes.”

    Growing old sucks.

    Hang around long enough and you find you have changed from a chick magnet to a tick magnet.

  14. “Where did he get the idea?”

    Funny you should say that. I wondered the same thing.

  15. Ahmed, could it be the ‘doom & gloomy one’ lurks here? I think he must have heard about this blog by now. It is strange for him to post a painting like that.

  16. I’m watching Saving Private Ryan again. (Fuck No, I’m not watching the marathon).

    I’m trying to figure out who dave is. I’ve settled on the point that I would want Holmes leading me if I had to be there. I think I’d be a decent sergeant. I’d definitely want Bif as my sniper, but I’m rethinking his role. I’m thinking Bif might actually be Ryan… I’m just saying. A lot of things are going through my head…

  17. @Dave –

    It’s either Reiben or Mellish. I forgot the good spots that live. If you are unhappy with those, you can have Tom Sizemore as the Sarge. I’ll give it up. You can write your own part.

    Personally I think you are perfect as either Reiben or Mellish. And if you take sarge, I’ll take both. Cuz both dems guys are awesome.

    Burns and Goldberg. My first feature film is all about these assholes.

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