I look around at my men all swaying in the boat, all wet and windswept. We have been on this landing craft 10 maybe 12 hours, “Almost there now!” I say to my men. I can tell they are all tired; we have been sailing over night which means no sleep unless you can sleep standing up. My men about 30 of them, brave for standing up for their country. Probably never been to war before, whereas I’m more experienced, that’s why I’m captain.
The smell is putrid; it stinks of stale sick, the sea water smell of salt getting up my nose. How I long for the smell of food again, real food not the food we have to eat at the moment, slush as everyone calls it. All we have to drink is a small flask of water that just lasted the whole of the journey here.
I look around again at all the men in the boat some being sick over the side, some clutching hold of crosses round their necks, praying maybe. Even though it’s cold because it’s around 5 in the morning, I’m so hot because of all this equipment and clothes that are meant to last us for however long we are going to be out here. I’m sweating like mad.
As we get closer I start to here shots being fired, “two minutes” shouted the craft captain. A few men put out their cigarettes. The distant sound of men screaming on the beach begins to reach our ears, I remember the journey we’ve had, and it rained most of the time. The sea was rough, it wasn’t pleasant, but I had to be here, I have no choice. I can sense the suspense, anxiety and excitement going through everybody.
“30 seconds” said the craft captain. Everyone was getting even more nervous you could feel the discomfort everywhere, people wondering how long they would last after the ramp goes down, whether they would be one of the survivors, and wanting to see their family for one last time.
“Get ready!” I shouted, “And good luck.” I knew barely half of these men would survive the fatal bullets shooting out of the German guns. I blew my whistle, it was time.
“GO, GO, GO!” I screamed. And down went the ramp.
Scene 2 – The Soldier
“Go, Go, Go!” shouted the captain as the ramp went down. This was it I thought; this could be the end of my life. I jumped out of the boat and into the cold, murky water; swimming as well as I could with all my equipment acting like an anchor dragging me down to the seabed. As I reach the shore all I could sea were dead men all around me, murdered by the enemy. I reach the end of the water spluttering, l had survived the first bit, fear ran through my body.
Why was I doing this? I could be at home with my wife and children. But I had to be here it was my duty. The water around me was turning red, from all my fellow friends and soldiers’ blood. The sound is deafening, Splatters of blood were flying everywhere, and body parts were lying discarded on the floor, dead bodies everywhere I look.
I’m freezing cold; the water is splashing up fiercely like a lion. I am sitting behind a metal cross it’s sheltering me from the bullets. People are running about, being shot but not quite dead, I think I’ll stay where I am. I put on my helmet over my blood stained head. I taste the slippery blood as it slides down my face and into my mouth.
I start to crawl closer to everyone. The sand feels like rough sandpaper under my hands.
“Stay there!” shouts the captain to everyone. I stop and stand as still as a rock. I can hear the captain conferring with other soldiers and captains. He suddenly shouts “Go, Go, Go!” everyone starts running towards the cliff face, but nerve holds me back.
BANG, I had been blown backwards and start running towards the sea, everything goes blurry, I’m disorientated, I’d been shot In the head, blood flying like birds everywhere. I turn as white as a sheet, everything comes rushing back to me, where am I? What am I doing here? Suddenly I see flashbacks of my life flashing before my dreary eyes. My wife, my children, gone. Sinking slowly to the bottom of the seabed, the last thing I see is the black shadow of the German gun that murdered me.
Scene 3 – German Soldier
Down at the bottom of the cliff blood is splattering everywhere, the water has turned bright, pillar box red. I’m on the top of the cliff standing at my post, behind the gun. Suddenly the Americans start running towards the bottom of the cliff. It’s my job to shoot them when they get off the landing crafts. But with the sudden surprise of movement I start to shoot at anything moving.
The feel of the gun against my shoulder as I fire, drumming painfully, my shoulder feels numb it hurts so much. Screams of the American soldiers as they get shot, sounding like cats being strangled. More landing crafts still arrived.
The smell of us Germans on the top of the cliff in all our gear, guns and ammunition, sweating. The sea thrashing about at the bottom of each landing craft, like a lion.
“Aaaaah” screamed the soldier next to me, he had been shot.
Omaha beach, 6th June 1944, approximately 12 thousand casualties.