by Giles Milton
Who were Charles Canham and Norman Cota? And why were they sent to Omaha Beach with the greatest urgency on the morning on D-Day? Turns out, they were the only two men who could break the bloody stalemate that had afflicted Omaha since dawn.
Welcome to Season 3 of Unknown History: D-Day Stories. I’m your host, Giles Milton, and today we’re returning to the terrible killing fields of Omaha Beach.
In an earlier episode of Unknown History, we heard how the first wave of American troops to land on Omaha were massacred by the German defenders. Hardly a single man who landed in the first wave survived.
So what happened next? And how did American troops finally win the beach? It’s a story of courage and leadership—and it begins on USS Augusta, anchored offshore from Omaha. Pacing the bridge of the ship, and gravely anxious, was General Omar Bradley, General Eisenhower’s principal American commander on D-Day.
Bradley was a worried man. The few reports he’d received from the beach suggested that the assault on Omaha was turning into a huge-scale catastrophe.
“Privately,” he said, “I considered evacuating the beach-head and directing the follow-up troops to Utah Beach or the British beaches.”
But he knew that evacuation was logistically impossible and that a diversion of troops would wreck the entire invasion plan. It would also condemn those already on the beach to certain death.
It was in this moment of desperation that Bradley chose to deploy two of his most formidable weapons. Norman Cota and Charles Canham were to be dispatched to Omaha Beach with the unenviable task of saving the landing from catastrophe.
To learn more about how the American Troops finally won the beach from German defenders at Omaha Beach, and to listen to all of the episodes about D-Day, check out the Unknown History channel on Quick and Dirty Tips. You can also listen to the entire episode on the player below.