That’s Omaha Beach at low tide; the invasion was timed so the sea was as far to left as it goes, all the way up to the darker sand near the green cliffs. The beach is only around 250 yards wide then: that’s still a dash, in race terms, meaning you can sprint it flat-out the entire time. That’s on level ground, I suppose.
The landing craft had shallow draws, but could only get as close as 50 yards in; the men were wearing fifty pounds of gear strapped to their back and legs and arms, and the ocean took some before the Germans could. This is what it looked like:
Look closely at the ship’s hull. It’s made of wood; most of the landers were. They were known as Higgins boats, after the company that made most of them. The company got the contract because they could make them fast and cheap. So did the company that made German bullets, but those were still made from metal.
Fifty yards to the beach, and then another fifty to the Shingle. The notch in between the waterline and the cliffs, the little step-up you’d never notice if you weren’t being shot at? That’s the Shingle, and it’s the only natural cover on the beach; if you crouch behind it, the guns on the cliffs can’t get an angle on you.
The Germans had mortars, which were parabolas that killed you; and rifles, which killed you in a straight line; and machine guns that went from side-to-side.
You couldn’t stay at the Shingle, though, because there were men behind you. There are about 250 yards left until the cliff bluffs, which are safer than anywhere other than the Shingle, which you have to leave. The bluffs are not safe at all, but they contain the small gulleys which are the only path off the beach, which you need to cross.
Sand is tough to run on, and you have a fifty-pound backpack and a ten-pound M1 Garand, and you are cold and soaking wet which you are fine with because it means no one can see that you have pissed yourself. You are 22 years old and this is your first time in Europe; before the war, you had never been out of Ohio or Brooklyn or Texas. There is a half-written letter for your younger brother in your fifty-pound backpack and you need to cross the beach, which is about 250 yards wide and made of sand, which is tough to run on.
Behind the pillboxes are the tanks, and then the fortifications, and then the bridges; they could go to hell for the moment. They were not the beach, which is about 250 yards wide and you do not know whether there are mines in it. It seems like something they would have mentioned, but the briefings are hard to remember now. You have never smelled this smell before, and your name is Hank or Ed or something reassuring like that, but you go by a nickname because it was the 1940’s and men wore hats and had nicknames.
The Shingle is behind you, and the cliffs are in front of you. General Eisenhower needs to get to Berlin and you need to go home and the only path is across this beach, which is about 250 yards wide.