A pair of secret Nazi bunkers used on D-Day have been uncovered, Fox News reported. New light detection and ranching technology helped researchers find the bunkers, which were built underground. They are reminders of the struggle of U.S. troops to capture Omaha Beach.
According to the Fox News article, the newly unearthed bunkers were part of a recent documentary episode of Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown. Host and executive producer, Josh Gates, had the opportunity to take cameras inside the bunkers, which have remained untouched for the last 75 years. “The bunkers are part of a complex known as the Maisy Battery that is about two miles inland from Omaha Beach,” the article said. “When it was operational, the battery had a total of 14 huge guns, including 150 mm Howitzers.”
According to History®‘s website, the battle on D-Day was monumental, “the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare.” During the assent of thousands of air and sea vehicles as they approached Normandy, France, “more than 150,000 combined troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada stormed the five beaches in Normandy” to clear the way to Berlin to stop Hitler. Suffering the greatest losses were the U.S. troops at Omaha Beach and the Canadian troops at Juno Beach. The website also relates that due to bad weather and German resistance, D-Day was a chaotic and costly military conflict, although successful by nightfall. Omaha Beach was, by far, the most difficult ground to take out of the five beaches, with an immediate high loss of lives.
“Omaha Beach Was Different”
Early in the day, during the June 6, 1944, military operation, landing boats arrived at five beaches in Normandy.
“From west to east, these were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword,” said Dr. David R. Stone, Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College. “Americans took the first two; the British came in at Gold and Sword, the Canadians at Juno. Four of the five beaches were taken relatively easily—Omaha Beach was different.”
According to Dr. Stone, the natural elements hindered American efforts to take Omaha Beach—in his words, “wide sands and high cliffs.” Additionally, the Nazis had ensconced themselves deeply in bunkers, like the ones recently uncovered. So, almost from the outset, the Nazis impeded American progress up Omaha Beach.
“American warships offshore shelled the Germans while the Americans struggled up the beach to establish a foothold,” Dr. Stone said. “Omaha was a fantastically tough objective, yielding the least progress and producing the most casualties. The amphibious tanks to support the landing were dropped too far offshore; most simply sank.”
Tragedy at Pointe du Hoc
Geography may have been one of the biggest setbacks in the effort to overtake Omaha Beach, but it wasn’t the only problem U.S. troops faced on D-Day.
“In one heroic and tragic episode, 225 U. S. Army Rangers climbed 100-foot cliffs to take the Pointe du Hoc, standing between Utah and Omaha Beaches,” Dr. Stone said. “Believing that the point held German 155 mm guns, capable of wreaking havoc, the Americans fought their way to the top only to find the guns had moved inland. Still, the rangers held that high ground for two days against fierce German attack before being relieved.
“Only 90 of them were still alive or unwounded,” related Dr. Stone.
Despite the circumstances of Pointe du Hoc and the hard-won Omaha Beach, none of the Allied soldiers throughout the Normandy invasion had fought in vain.
“Perhaps half the Allied soldiers killed on the beaches on D-Day lost their lives at Omaha Beach,” Dr. Stone said. “And yet, by nightfall, 150,000 Allied troops were fighting on French soil. Within a month, that number was up to a million.”
To honor the ultimate sacrifices given by the Allied troops during D-Day, memorial organizations in Europe and the United States have dedicated memorial sites to honor the lives lost. The National D-Day Memorial Foundation, in Bedford, Virginia, enshrined the names of every Allied soldier, sailor, airman, and coast guardsman in bronze plaques. The National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., honors the Allied troops, as well, and continues to remind us of their sacrifice. Now, thanks to newly developed light detection and ranching technology and researchers’ continued interest in world history, two of the Nazi bunkers near Omaha Beach have been unearthed, documented, and recommitted to the annals of history.
Dr. David R. Stone contributed to this article. Dr. Stone is a Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, where he began teaching in 2015 and became chair of its Strategy and Policy Department in 2018. He received a B.A. in History and Mathematics from Wabash College and a Ph.D. in History from Yale University.