D-Day: Trial By Fire
- Sunday, May 30, 2004
“Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 4, 1944
“Put on another hundred,” shouted the commander. As fast as they could be counted, 9,200 men boarded the warship Aquitania – capacity 6,500. German submarines tailed them as they sailed from America to England and finally to the shores of France.
Gray with seasickness, Loren Weldon and other members of his shore party changed from their navy uniforms into army fatigues. They wanted to be sure their fellow Americans could easily recognize them once they landed on the enemy-held shores. As they boarded their landing craft, many reflected on the staggering defenses that lay before them. Many pondered the chaplain’s words spoken moments before. Loren prayed for His God to be close to Him and those with him.
The ramps of their landing craft opened onto the stormy shores of Omaha Beach in southern France. Loren and thirty other men of the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion waded through sandbars and debris to help crack the Atlantic Wall. Loren was stunned by the carnage from air strikes and earlier assault waves that morning.
Demolished vehicles as well as dead and wounded soldiers were strewn everywhere. “We could hardly get onto the beach,” Loren reflected. “The men were fearful and trembling.”
Unfortunately, some of the soldiers in the first assaults had worn their small flotation tubes too low on their waist. When they inflated their tubes, the men were flipped upside down. The weight in their packs and ammunition left them helpless, and they drowned.
“I wasn’t afraid to die, because I knew God.” Loren’s unshakable faith kept him from the sheer panic that surrounded him. Once on shore he immediately began digging a hole to climb into for protection. The tide would be coming in, and he knew he couldn’t stay there for long. He risked the withering gunfire, moved further up the beach, and began to dig again.
“Don’t dig! Don’t dig!” shouted one soldier. As he looked beneath his hands, he saw the metal covering of a land mine. He began to move carefully away from the container of death beneath his hands. An hour later German airplanes began to strafe the beach, blasting it with firepower that left them shocked and stunned.
“Our troops were so scattered and fragmented,” Loren said with a lump in his throat. “Shrapnel was piercing right through our helmets.”
Night fell, and then at first light, Loren began to scan the beach for other members of his company. Looking up and down the beach, he saw two more boats as they landed. Immediately, artillery found and obliterated them. An ammunition barge arrived next and exploded moments later in a fireworks of noise and sound. The muffled clatter of exploding ammunition continued throughout that day and into the next.
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