The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach
John C. McManus
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A white-knuckle account of the 1st Infantry Division’s harrowing D-Day assault on the eastern sector of Omaha Beach—acclaimed historian John C. McManus has written a gripping history that will stand as the last word on this titanic battle.
Nicknamed the Big Red One, 1st Division had fought from North Africa to Sicily, earning a reputation as stalwart warriors on the front lines and rabble-rousers in the rear. Yet on D-Day, these jaded combat veterans melded with fresh-faced replacements to accomplish one of the most challenging and deadly missions ever. As the men hit the beach, their equipment destroyed or washed away, soldiers cut down by the dozens, courageous heroes emerged: men such as Sergeant Raymond Strojny, who grabbed a bazooka and engaged in a death duel with a fortified German antitank gun; T/5 Joe Pinder, a former minor-league pitcher who braved enemy fire to save a vital radio; Lieutenant John Spalding, a former sportswriter, and Sergeant Phil Streczyk, a truck driver, who together demolished a German strong point overlooking Easy Red, where hundreds of Americans had landed.
Along the way, McManus explores the Gap Assault Team engineers who dealt with the extensive mines and obstacles, suffering nearly a fifty percent casualty rate; highlights officers such as Brigadier General Willard Wyman and Colonel George Taylor, who led the way to victory; and punctures scores of myths surrounding this long-misunderstood battle.
The Dead and Those About to Die draws on a rich array of new or recently unearthed sources, including interviews with veterans. The result is history at its finest, the unforgettable story of the Big Red One’s nineteen hours of hell—and their ultimate triumph—on June 6, 1944.
Emond, letter to Army Historical Division, August 26, 1946, Record Group 319, Entry 72, Box 1, Folder 4, Records of the Army Historical Division, Army Forces in Action, Omaha Beachhead (Emond was the company clerk of Cannon Company); 16th Infantry Regiment, “History of the Invasion of France,” all at National Archives; Brigadier General Willard Wyman, biographical information, Chester Hansen Papers, Series II, Box 9, Folder 19; PC-553, Deck Log, June 6, 1944, Robert Rowe Papers, Box 11, Folder
morning reports, A through M, including Headquarters, June 6, 1944, all at National Personnel Records Center; Lieutenant Colonel Derrill Daniel, “Landings at Oran, Gela and Omaha Beaches (An Infantry Battalion Commander’s Observations),” 1950, p. 27, located at USAMHI; Littlejohn, “UCLA’s WWII Casualties,” Daily Breeze; “May They Never Be Forgotten,” Hooah: Newsletter of the UCLA Department of Military Science, Fall 2007, p. 6; Warren Coffman, I Never Intended to Be a Soldier, self-published,
Scanlon, Sergeant Billy, 100 Schatz, Private First Class Reuben, 80 Schintzel, Private First Class Art, 140 Schlotterbeck, Private Vincent, 251, 252 Schnuell, Sergeant Major, 59, 158, 160 Schu mines, 144–48, 246 Sears, Chief Electrician’s Mate Alfred, 97–98 Seasickness, 14–15, 72, 75, 78, 82, 84, 133, 180, 200, 208, 278–79 Seech, Private First Class Elmer, 209, 213, 214 Seifert, Lieutenant Glendon, 11 Seitz, Colonel John, 281 Semanchyk, Captain John, 46 Semmes, Lieutenant Commander
his right, Staff Sergeant John “Pat” Forde jumped into a shell crater, right on top of a Schu mine. “It blew Ford’s [sic] leg off,” Dillon recalled, “threw him into the air and he came down on his shoulder on another one that tore up his arm and threw him onto a 3rd mine.” A medic, Private First Class James Babcock, got to him, but there was little he could do except try to quell Forde’s terrible pain. Babcock gave the sergeant three syrettes of morphine (the kind of dosage given only to the
ST.-LAURENT DRAW As Captain Dawson led a push for Colleville and Lieutenant Spalding’s group neutralized WN-64, reinforcing battalions from the 18th and 115th Infantry Regiments landed around midday. The 115th was part of the 29th Infantry Division and landed in this area by mistake. In order to secure the Saint-Laurent Draw and open up a major route of advance inland, the Americans had to destroy an H677 casemate—or pillbox, in common parlance—located within WN-65 at the foot of the draw. A