D-Day eyewitness account: ‘Hitler’s Atlantic wall cracked’
AP writer Roger Greene describes scene after crossing the Channel with British forces
Troops wade ashore from a landing craft at Omaha Beach during the Normandy D-Day landings on June 6th, 1944. Photograph: Robert F. Sargent/US National Archives/Handout via Reuters.
German prisoners of war captured after the D-Day landings in Normandy are guarded by US troops at a camp in Nonant-le-Pin, France, August 21st, 1944. Photograph: US National Archives handout via Reuters.
An archive report from the Normandy beachhead on D-Day, filed by AP reporter Roger Greene, who had accompanied British forces across the Channel.
ON A BEACHHEAD IN FRANCE — June 6th, 1944:
Hitler’s Atlantic wall cracked in the first hour under tempestuous allied assault.
As I write, deeply dug into a beachhead of north-western France, German prisoners, mostly wounded, are streaming back. But the Boche still is putting up a terrific fight.
Shells are exploding all over the beach and out at sea as wave after wave of allied ships, as far as I can see, move into shore.
My escorting officer, Sir Charles Birkin, was slightly wounded three times in the first 15 minutes ashore and three men were killed within five feet of me.
Our heavy stuff is now rolling ashore and we not only have a solid grip on the beachhead but are thrusting deep inland.
The beach is jammed with troops and bulldozers for many miles, and now it has been quiet for 15 minutes, which apparently means the German big guns are knocked out.
Our casualties on this sector have been comparatively light.
I landed at 8.45am, wading ashore waist deep in water under fire to find quite a few wounded and some killed on the beach - and Nazi prisoners, very stiff and sour-looking already coming back.
Before embarking we were told there would be 10,000 allied planes attacking today and there is every sign our air mastery is complete. So far not a single German plane has been seen.
The night-long channel crossing also was quiet until the last mile.
German prisoners said Hitler visited this beach two days ago and they admitted they were taken by surprise.
Only a few hundred Nazis manned the beach defences on this sector. They laid down a terrific machine-gun fire, but were quickly overwhelmed.
As far as I have seen there is no sign of Hitler’s vaunted Atlantic wall with its massive concrete fortifications. German artillery deeper inland is very formidable, but the beach defences are piddling, rifle-slits and strands of barbed wire.