||Melvin B. Farrell
Omaha Beach - 2nd Platoon, Company B, 121st
Engineer Combat Battalion
About 1:00 in the morning
of June 6th we were awakened, those who could sleep that
is, and had chow consisting of toast and G.I. coffee. At 1:30 A.M.
the order came through to board the smaller Landing Craft, "LCM's"
as they were called, and at a given signal were to rendezvous for
the frontal assault on Normandy Beach. These boats were large enough
to accommodate a full platoon, 41 men, combat gear and all, and
had a ramp in front which the operator could lower to allow fast
Ours was the 2nd
Platoon, Company B 121st Engineer Combat Battalion and
was scheduled to be the lead of spearhead because of the nature
of our mission.
This mission was to demolish
a masonry wall about four feet high and four feet thick that ran
parallel to the water's edge so that the Tank forces could get in.
Every man of us in the 2nd Platoon carried 40-Lb. satchel
charges of TNT for this purpose plus one 7 foot bangalore torpedo
and full field pack, rifle, etc.
A few yards from the beach
was a barbed wire entanglement that we would encounter before getting
to the wall. The bangalore torpedoes were for the purpose of cutting
huge holes through those obstacles.
I had been on the English
Channel at least four times before and had never seen the water
so rough. It was vicious. Waves would throw the LCM up out of the
water and it would slam down with a bone-breaking jar. Every man
jack of us were so seasick we had regurgitated on ourselves and
everyone around us by 5:00 A.M.
"H-Hour" or landing
time was originally set for 6:00 A.M. This was changed, moved to
6:20 A.M. because of high tide and rough water. Our radio operator
was so sick he missed the message so our "H-Hour' was still
As we neared the beach we
began to look about us. Never did I think there were so many boats
and ships in the world. They were everywhere!
The Air Force had taken the
paratroops in earlier in what appeared an endless stream of planes.
Then about 6:00 A.M. they started bombing and strafing the beach
to try and soften up the defenses. The large battlewagons behind
us opened up with their big guns lobbing shells over our heads to
the beach. It would seem that nothing could have withstood such
a bombardment of shells and blockbusters but somehow the German
personnel escaped serious injury. At least they were still very
much alive and alert at 6:00 A.M.
About 200 yards out our LCM
floundered, nosed up on a hidden sandbar and stuck fast. The operator
seesawed back and forth but she wouldn't give. The machine gun fire
rattling off the sides set up such a din of noise you could hardly
think. The operator threw the ramp down and yelled, "Hit it!".
I was the 3rd
man out. We three wheeled left and jumped off the side of the ramp.
Machine gun fire was now raking the inside of the LCM, and a high
percentage of our men were killed before they could get out.
When the first three of us
jumped we landed in a shell hole and what with all the luggage we
had plummeted to the bottom like a rock. We walked along the bottom
until we climbed out of the hole. It seemed an eternity before we
reached the surface. We were then on the barren sand but there was
another stretch of water between us and the beach. This stretch
contained a maze of tank traps, mines and every object the Krauts
could plant to thwart a landing attempt.
It all seemed unreal, a sort
of dreaming while awake, men were screaming and dying all around
me. I've often wondered if all the men prayed as fervently as I
did. I remember going past one of the log type tank obstacles with
"legs" attached to the back end. I ran up beside it and
got down as low as I could to rest a moment and find as much shelter
from the hail of machine gun fire as possible. Looking over the
log I discovered about half way up was a large Teller Mine with
"trip" wires running in every direction. Since some of
this type detonators are tension devices I knew that if a bullet
cut one of those wires it would blow me to bits. But the question
was how to get past? I knew I had to make it so without hesitation
I angled off to the left and by the devine help of God I made it
through the maze of wires with all my gear.
I suddenly found myself confronted
with what seemed a mountain of rusty barbed wire. I slid the bangalore
as far under as I could, cut as short a fuse as I dared, lit it
and ran back about ten paces and flattened myself out on the ground.
It blew a gap about twenty feet wide in the wire.
This section was under intense
fire from the pillboxes that we could see on the hill. Every fifth
bullet used in machine guns is a tracer, which you can see in the
form of a glow. These looked so dense and crisscrossed that it is
hard to believe anything could get by unscathed.
With heartbreaking slowness
I arrived at the wall behind which several of our men were already
waiting for us. I threw my satchel charges onto the wall and attached
the lead fuse to the primacord they had already stretched and started
crawling down the beach for safety from the coming explosion.
When the explosion occurred,
the first wave of infantry was about a hundred yards out. At this
time our initial mission was completed so we huddled behind the
ragged remnants of the wall we had just blown. I turned my gaze
toward the coming infantry and saw my Sergeant, Steve Kleman, not
forty yards from me. He was sitting down, had been hit through both
hips. I tried four times to get out to him to drag him in. Each
time I left cover a hail of machine gun fire would drive me back.
By this time he had been hit so many times it was hopeless.
Company B sustained 73% casualties
on this landing, but lying behind the cover of the wall we could
not tear our eyes off the infantry. They ran through and up the
hill in a never-ending stream, the dead and dying piling up behind
them. I honestly could have walked the full length of the beach
without touching the ground, they were that thickly strewn about.
Stark raw death in every imaginable form lay all around us. I remember
a Corporal, still walking, looking for a medic, with his whole chin
and nose shot away, cut cleanly and evenly.
I wonder if I shall ever
be able to forget all this.
Melvin B. Farrell
These memories were published
with the permission of Melvin B. Farrell's Daughter : Gail Farrell.