Slaughter at Omaha Beach

Heroes Remember

Slaughter at Omaha Beach

You got to go to what they call action stations. And your job might be in the forward gun or the fore-aft gun. Mine was up on the bridge with an (inaudible) gun, a machine gun. Me and my gunner was there. And we watched and we could see the people, the ships coming in, and we were there. We couldn’t get out because there was no place . . . they couldn’t let us out. There was no place for us to go. So, they told us to keep going, keep going. So, we swept around the mines there, but all night you could hear the drones of the aircraft. We didn’t know whether they were friend or foes, or what they were. But once, one time, I looked. There was a big search light, and I looked up and I seen them gliders. They were the airborne troops that were heading, heading for the beaches. And we watched that all night there, and then at 7 . . . about 5:30 in the morning, the word was, “Go.” So, we went in, took ourselves out of bed again. All the landing crafts and all the small ships . . . them landing craft would come and they’d have about 200 men aboard them, in the landing crafts ready to hit the beach. We come in, we turned around, we come back out, and the assault craft and the landing craft went in there. As soon as that ramp come down from the thing there, them poor devils went ashore, there. They were brave men. If there is any such a thing as a hero on D-Day, it was the first assault troops that went ashore because they landed there. They were in no man’s land. They had nowhere to go. The Germans had a big barricade up there. They had a bulkhead, and they had a machine gun nest. They had a bunker. And just as soon as they come off the beach, they could pick them off, slaughter them. Our beach . . . the Canadian troops, when they talk about Juno beach . . . we were in the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla, what they call the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla, and we got assigned with the American flotilla, and they went on the Omaha beachhead, “bloody Omaha” is what they called it. It was a slaughter there. The assault craft would be about, I’d, I’d say about 30, 40 feet long. It was alright for the first ships that went in there. They went in, they got in, they got ashore, but as the ships come in later, you know, they had to stand back about another 10, 15 feet. And then they opened the door. And like I said, it was rough and soon as that ramp come open on the front door, there was two or three hundred soldiers wanting to go ashore, and the wave just swept into the thing and swept them out to sea. An awful lot of them drowned. They never got to shore. They never got to shore. And like I said, if they got to shore, the German machine guns were there just to gun them down. The poor devils had a hard time. Oh, yes. We could see, we could see they had a front sight, a front row seat. And what I meant to tell you, up on the bridge and looking down on the channel, I thought I’d gone crazy. I thought I went foolish. And I said to my buddies, “Look, do you see what I see?” He said, “What?” “All the trucks.” I said, “Look at all the trucks.” “Where?” “On that . . . look!” He looked. “By God, yeah,” he said. The trucks were, one little fella driving, and driving it like a truck. And I’d never seen an amphibious jeep in my life. The one they got ashore, the, the craft was made that it could go in water or it could go ashore. And that’s how they established a little fortification on the beachhead to give the troops some cover to come in. But I never seen that before, never in God’s world, I thought for sure. And daylight in the morning at 5:30, I looked up in the sky and all you could see was zebra-striped aircraft. They were all flying overhead, all flying over. And that zebra stripe was for aircraft recognition. And they, they went in, and you could hear, you could hear the bombs. And I guess they were bombs, but it was just aboard the ship, there. It was quite a sight.

Mr. Gray gives a chilling description of the Allied assault at Omaha Beach on D-Day

Earl Gray

Mr. Gray was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on May 6, 1924. As a child, he lived in poverty, despite the fact that some of his family worked in the local steel mill. Although there was a large naval presence in Sydney early in the war, Mr. Gray enlisted in the army, only to be released as an under aged recruit. Six months later, he successfully enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. He first experienced life at sea aboard the HMCS St.Croix, a destroyer assigned to convoy duty. After four voyages, Mr. Gray joined the minesweeper HMCS Vegreville, whose responsibility it was to sweep mines between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. After joining the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla in Portsmouth, England, HMCS Vegreville took part in the sweep of the English Channel as part of the D-Day assault. After the war ended, Mr. Gray was married within a month of his return home. He still resides in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Earl Gray
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
English Channel
Omaha Beach
HMCS Vegreville
Able Seaman
Deck, Gunnery crew

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