AP WAS THERE: Hitler's Atlantic wall under assault

AP News
Posted: Jun 05, 2014 7:26 PM
AP WAS THERE: Hitler's Atlantic wall under assault


When D-Day arrived on June 6, 1944, The Associated Press implemented coverage plans that had been drawn up over many months of consultation with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. On the beaches and in the air, more than a dozen correspondents and six photographers accompanied or observed the Allied forces as they launched Operation Overlord, the code name for the Invasion of Normandy, the first phase of the liberation of Europe from German occupation. After making the five beachheads, it would take weeks of ground combat, the bombing of French towns and the deaths of nearly 20,000 French civilians before the Allies entered Paris on August 25, 1944.

Under the direction of AP chief invasion correspondent Wes Gallagher and London Bureau Chief Robert Bunnelle, AP produced 40,000 words in the first 24 hours of the biggest amphibious operation ever undertaken in warfare. Among them was Don Whitehead, setting a record for American war reporters as he made his fifth amphibious landing under fire. He would report the fall of Cherbourg in late July.

Roger Greene furnished the first reporting from the Normandy beachhead on June 6 after accompanying British forces across the Channel. His copy, marked "Delayed" and datelined "On a Beachhead in France, June 6," arrived at AP headquarters in New York on June 8 and instantly moved to member newspapers. It was not unusual during the war to receive stories written in the first person. Indeed, it would have been expected and perhaps requested on this occasion.

In his second paragraph, Greene uses the derisive term "boche" to refer to the Germans. The word had come to mean "blockhead," as it was a shortened form of "caboche" or "head."

Seventy years after its original publication, the AP is making Greene's original report available.


ON A BEACHHEAD IN FRANCE — Hitler's Atlantic wall cracked in the first hour under tempestuous allied assault.

As I write, deeply dug into a beachhead of northwestern France, German prisoners, mostly wounded, are streaming back. But the Boche still is putting up a terrific fight.

Shells are exploding all over the beach and out at sea as wave after wave of allied ships, as far as I can see, move into shore.

My escorting officer, Sir Charles Birkin, was slightly wounded three times in the first 15 minutes ashore and three men were killed within five feet of me.

Our heavy stuff is now rolling ashore and we not only have a solid grip on the beachhead but are thrusting deep inland.

The beach is jammed with troops and bulldozers for many miles, and now it has been quiet for 15 minutes, which apparently means the German big guns are knocked out.

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Our casualties on this sector have been comparatively light.

I landed at 8:45 a.m. wading ashore waist deep in water under fire to find quite a few wounded and some killed on the beach — and Nazi prisoners, very stiff and sour-looking already coming back.

Before embarking we were told there would be 10,000 allied planes attacking today and there is every sign our air mastery is complete. So far not a single German plane has been seen.

The night-long channel crossing also was quiet until the last mile.

German prisoners said Hitler visited this beach two days ago and they admitted they were taken by surprise.

Only a few hundred Nazis manned the beach defenses on this sector. They laid down a terrific machine-gun fire, but were quickly overwhelmed.

As far as I have seen there is no sign of Hitler's vaunted Atlantic wall with its massive concrete fortifications. German artillery deeper inland is very formidable, but the beach defenses are piddling, rifle-slits and strands of barbed wire.


AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.