“Big day men, eat up!” General Mathews yells. I sit on a bench in the cafeteria and clasp my hands. All the men around me have sullen faces. Many stare at pictures of their family longingly. I look down at my shoes, wishing for a family of my own. “You ready, Louis?” Walter asks with a nervous smile. I respond in a whisper, looking up at him, “Are any of us?”
I knew that the Allies had been stockpiling troops and equipment in Britain, and had increased the number of air strikes and bombings in German territory in preparation…”I guess we are ready.” He nods in agreement. I continue, “I heard Mathews saying that there’d be over 150,000 allied troops from here in the U.S., the UK, France, Norway and Canada.”
Walter shovels down some instant oatmeal silently. He asks, “Which beach are we attacking?”
“Omaha. There are five key beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.”
He cringes and fiddles with his name tag, reading “Walter Greene”.
Suddenly, General Mathews barks, “Troops! We’re moving out, don’t want to miss the low tide!”
We were off, taking with us over 34,000 men and 3,300 vehicles, with naval support provided by two battleships, three cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 105 other ships.
Things seem eerily quiet as we cross the ocean, and come near the beach. No one dares to say a thing. We had finally arrived. It was June 6th, a date that is now seared into my memory. The invasion had actually begun the night before; the first line of attack was our paratroopers, who had jumped from planes in the dark the night before and landed behind enemy lines. As we approached the stormy beach, we hoped that the paratroopers had done their jobs of destroying strong targets and capturing bridges for us to land on the beach.
Suddenly, we hear violent tapping on the metal boat: the sounds of gun shots. I look up into the sky, and pray for myself and others. Rumor has it the Germans knew about this invasion, because of the many sudden air strikes and troops gathering in Britain. I snap out of my dazed state, and hear the latches of our ship’s door unhook. We position ourselves on the edge of the boat as it opens. As soon as the ship gates open, men start jumping out. Others do not even make it a foot before they are shot, and crumple to the ground screaming. I try not to throw up as I jump into the icy water.
My equipment is so heavy, I start to sink, but luckily I’m able to swim a bit, and get my footing on the sandy bottom. Walter all of a sudden screams, “Louis! Louis Moore!” I look up as a bullet whizzes by my ear, just barely missing me. “Thanks!” I yell in terror and relief. As I walk towards the shoreline slowly, I watch as a Teller mine blows up, throwing two men many feet away. I scream, but cannot be heard over all the chaos. Walter and I reach the shore and trudge up the sandy beach, ducking every so often. Many men lay dead on the beach with expressionless faces. Others scream in agony from terrible wounds. I knew no one could save them now. Silently, I pay my respects to those familiar faces who lay on the beach. Walter and I duck; a searing pain explodes in my side–I fall and all goes black.
Several days later I wake up in a sterile white room, disoriented, until I hear a familiar voice. Walter is sitting next to my bed. He fills in the blanks for me…the invasion, code named Operation Overlord, raged on for hours after I went unconscious. Two thousand, four hundred and ninety-nine of my fellow soldiers died on Omaha beach that day. I knew I was lucky to be alive, but that life would never be the same.