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Second Lieutenant Smith H. Shumway

1st Infantry Division - 18th Infantry Regiment - B Company

Omaha Beach

 

On June 6, 1944, I was a 2nd Lieutenant and an infantry platoon leader in the First Army Division, 18th Regiment, Company B. My unit was assigned to land on Omaha Beach, in the section called "Easy Red", in the second wave. We rushed down the ramp of the LCI into water about knee deep and ran up to the beach to re-assemble there. There were dead bodies floating in the water and many on the beach. Some tanks had been hit by artillery. The confusion on the beach made it impossible for me to get my bearings. Death and wreckage were everywhere. German mortar shells were still hitting the beach. The noise from the planes, boats, artillery explosions and gunfire was almost unbearable. 

There was a red-headed fellow with a very white face looking up at me in a kneeling position on the beach. I stepped back from the sight, and was given a push by a man kneeling on the ground behind me. He yelled, "Do you want to get us both killed?" He was in the process of disarming a land mine. I gestured and muttered something about the red-headed fellow in front of me. The soldier exclaimed, "Don’t worry about him, he’s dead! Just watch where you put your feet." I then came out of my daze and was very alert to everything around me.

We all lined up and started up the hill, one after another, following the soldiers that were removing the mines. There were explosions all around us but I couldn’t see anyone firing guns at us. There were uncovered land mines on both sides of the path so we knew we had to watch our step. It seemed to take a couple of hours to get up the hill.

Before we went over the top of the hill, I looked back and contemplated the scene before me.  Hundreds of ships and boats were circling in the Channel. LCI’s and LST’s were landing men and tanks. With planes soaring overhead, big shells bursting on land and sea, and the beach littered with men and machines, I thought of the millions of dollars and thousands of lives being spent to wage war and the tragic cost and horror of it all. At the top of the hill we had to cross a mine field, after which we dug in for a counterattack, which never came.