How many defenders were there at Omaha Beach?

How many people could fire at the landing forces? Indirect fire counts, I’m trying to figure out how much of a Force Multiplier the Atlantic Wall provided them.

For instance, there’s theBeast of Normandy.

It seems that the Germans had a huge advantage. Still, this is the weakest spot in the line?

According to the wiki article, 352nd division contained 12 000 men. Of those about 7 800 were on the beaches.


A lot when wrong there on the allied side even considering the strength of the defences.

Having been there I would argue that the local terrain contributed as much as anything the German army did to fortify it and the various problems encountered by the Allies. Omaha beach is basically cliffs and hills as opposed to Juno beach which is as flat as a pancake.

It wasn’t the weakest spot in the line. The only reason the allies took it is because it was there and they had to take it in order to create a unified front.

The main central beach at Omaha is wideand opens into a flat area (there is a seawall). It’s a bit of a bottleneck, but there’s a path that leads into the country. You’re probably thinking about the cemetery, which is at the top of a cliff, but which was at the edge of the beach (and in the background of the first photo).

Those images are blocked when I try to view them. Another source, maybe?

FYI … Your links go to photos that require a Google-plus account and login. Not useful for at least some of us.

The slaughter at Omaha had more to do with two other factors:

  1. The Americans were opposed by a legitimately professional force, the 352nd, a reinforced division of regular Heer troops. Other beaches featured much less impressive resistance. Gold and Sword, especially, were opposed by ill-prepared “static” divisions that lacked the training, equipment, and esprit de corps of regular divisions.

  2. Although all the beaches had disorganization and stuff, Omaha was the worst by far; almost everything that could have gone wrong did.

Nevertheless, the Allies made it through. It is a testament to the truly awesome force they brought to bear, really.

I can’t open the photos either, but I was thinking of further down the beach as well at one of the towns. Sure there’s a nice open path into the country, but there were hills on either side of it that would have made nice platforms from which to attack anyone trying to take advantage of it.

I note that in most of the reports I have read, written largely by American historians, little is made of the catastrophic failure of the landing craft that were supposed to deliver the tanks near the beach, but for some reason, dropped them in deep water where they sank with their crews inside.

With no armour and dropped a long way from their target positions the Americans were stuck until the extraordinary bravery of the Rangers who scaled the cliff and made the breakthrough.

Sorry. This should work better:

Omaha Beach looking north
Looking inland

Yeah, the consensus is that the quality of the German unit (352nd) accounts for the disproportionate bloodiness of the Omaha landing.

And the fairly poor quality of one of the attacking divisions, the 29th Infantry.

And the totally inadequate pre-invasion naval bombardment.

I thought the Allies had staged an elaborate hoax that the main invasion was going to happen elsewhere. So for some hours, the Axis thought Normandy was just a feint. Am I misrembering?


Try a few WEEKS. The Allied poured a huge amount of effort into making it appear as if the main landing would be at Pas-de-Calais, to the extent that Patton was placed in charge of an army that did not actually exist.

The Germans were defeated in part because they were not sure where the Allied would land and so tried to defend everything, which, as the old saying goes, means you defend nothing. Perhaps most strikingly is that several hundred thousand German troops were set to defend Norway against an invasion that never came. With the exception of limited action at the northern Norway-USSR border they basically sat the war out until it was over and everyone had to go home.

The deception lasted a lot longer than some hours. There was a huge effort devoted to misinformation, with various operations under the umbrella of Operation Bodyguard. The main Normandy one was Operation Fortitude, There’s a wealth of reading even in the wiki links. There were some right sneaky bastards working for allied intelligence. Joan Pujol Garcia (agent GARBO) was one such - a remarkable story.

Seven weeks before the Germans finally realised that the main invasion had already taken place and the Pas de Calais was not going to be the target.

BTW, your link doesn’t work for me. Try this

On the OP, the questions of numbers has already been answered, around 12000 in the division, something like 7000 combat strength. worth noting that although they were of significantly higher quality than the static divisions they weren’t all fearsome combat veterans from the Ostfront. The cadre was but there were a lot of new recruits and a quarter of the actual numbers were Russian. As a regular division they were better equipped and somewhat more mobile than the other defenders (although still reliant on horse power) but they had the great advantage that they were fully deployed on the coast as part of an exercise.

Not quite right. You’re conflating a couple of issues. It was always planned that the Americans would drop their landing craft further out than the British at around 11 miles rather than 7 (I’ve never understood why) but all the DD amphibious tanks were due to be launched around four miles out. Given the choppy weather and 3-4 foot waves half the Omaha DDs were not launched but of the 34 that were launched as planned only 5 made it ashore and those behind the leading infantry. Off the British beaches the waves were even bigger and the decision was made not to launch the DD tanks at all. Unlike at Omaha the tanks were landed directly on the beaches **ahead **of the infantry giving immediate fire support as the sea sick foot sloggers hit the beach. They also had the support of the flamethrower, flail, and bridging tanks of Hobart’s funnies (that the American commanders had decided not to use) to help them through beach obstacles.

All important, particularly the short 40 minute naval bombardment that failed to do more than wake up the defenders. One of the main things that helped to break up the log jam and start the assault troops moving off the beach was when at around 0730 8 American and 3 British destroyers closed with the beach (as close as 800 yards in one case) and silence the defenders with direct gun fire.

As RickJay and Baron Greenback have said there was a massive deception operation to cover the Normandy landings. Fortitude North created a fictitious British Army in Scotland ready to land in Scandinavia and Fortitude South created Patton’s First US Army Group ready to land in the Pas de Calais some time after the Normandy landings. Both were amazingly successful in large part because they chimed directly with Hitler’s own assessments and fears and certainly kept large, fresh forces away from Normandy for many weeks after the landings. One part of the plan to protect the actual invasion force was to simulate the radar reflections of a major invasion force heading for the Pas de Calais on the night of 5/6 June using circling bombers dropping Window (chaff) together with small craft carrying radar reflectors. They also dropped dummy parachutists all over northern France to simulate airborne landings.

The measures on the night certainly added to the confusion across the German command and control but probably did not do much to help those assaulting Omaha beach. You can’t do much to disguise thousands of vessels milling around off-shore and waves of troops landing when the Germans could see them with eyeball Mk1!

Although not exactly cliffs, OMAHA was not an easy beach to assault. David Belcham, who was the (British) head of Montgomery’s operations and planning staff before and during Normandy, says (Victory in Normandy, p90):

He goes on to say:

That does not make sense. The Allies had near infinite troops and supplies - if they had flooded the easier to storm beaches with the same soldiers who would have died in the deathtrap of Omaha beach, wouldn’t those soldiers have been present to deal with any flanking or counterattacks from the side?

I assume that’s what you mean by a “unified front”, where you don’t have to worry about attacks coming from the sides. However, if the Allies have 10 times as many troops, the Germans are going to have a tough time making a flank attack.

So, if you could go back in time and somehow provide the information on the actual landing location to the German commanders (using some method ensuring they would trust the information and act on it), what would have happened if several hundred thousand German troops concentrated on the Normandy beaches?

The Allied armada was so vast…it seems mind boggling to think such an apparatus could be stopped. But if the only troops coming ashore are in open landing craft, and they leave their craft to be standing in the open with no real cover…