• Leon's Survival Blog | Travel Log

  • SEARCH

La Pine, Oregon veteran recalls Omaha Beach landing on D Day

D Day, D Day Omaha Beach
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Ahead of the amphibious assault soldiers lay “Fortress Europe.”  Behind them was the rising sea. At stake, was the final outcome of World War II. Here is the story of an American hero.

by Leon Pantenburg

knivesshipfree.com, best knife store, best knives

June 6, 2018 is the 74th anniversary of D-Day. On this anniversary,  I honor my friend, the late Bob Shotwell, of La Pine, Oregon, by re-posting his recollections. Mr. Shotwell, 94, passed away two months ago.

D Day Germans, D Day, D Day Omaha BeachI was privileged to interview 12 Central Oregon World War II veterans for a Bend Bulletin Special Section “Vanishing Heroes,” which was published on Veterans Day, 2004.

As a member of the 149th Amphibious Combat Engineers, Private Shotwell landed in the first wave of the Dog Red section of Omaha Beach.

Here is an excerpt from Private Shotwell’s story as he headed toward Omaha Beach at dawn in a Higgins landing craft.

“The noise was deafening. Big guns fired, engines on vehicles roared, men shouted and geysers of water erupted around our craft. It seemed like mass confusion.”

Still, Shotwell said he wasn’t really scared.

“I felt excited, probably because I had no combat experience at all,” he said. “Like most kids, I had this feeling of invincibility and I though nothing could happen to me.”

Capra photos, D Day landing, Omaha Beach

This image was shot by Robert Capra, who landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave.

That feeling “evaporated” as the boat stopped and the front ramp went down. The Germans had every inch of the beach pre-sighted for accurate firing of mortars, machine guns, and 88mm cannons.

The slaughter started before the soldiers disembarked, and the first wave was almost decimated.

Shotwell and the survivors took shelter behind a “shingle”, a pile of rocks with a depression that the waves had washed up, and they were pinned down for several hours. He said the soldiers “were desperate to move forward.”

“To lift your head up was almost certain death from a sniper or machine gun,” Shotwell said. “But we couldn’t stay behind the shingle, because the tide would be coming in.

“Bits and pieces pop into focus…a hand. An arm with no body around it. A foot. A helmet with a head still in it,” he added. “I wondered if the next shell would be mine.”

By late afternoon, enough equipment had come ashore that the engineers could start clearing the wire and obstacles. In the face of heavy fire, Shotwell and other engineers blew holes in the wire and advanced to the bluffs.

They stopped at nightfall, and Shotwell, exhausted, “slept fitfully” about halfway up the cliff.

D Day, D Day plus 1, World War II

By June 7, Allied forces had penetrated “Fortress Europe.”

By night fall of  June 6, about 175,00 Allied military personnel were ashore in France. But the cost had been very high – some 4,900 died on the beaches and  in the battle further inland that day.

Of the 40 combat engineers who landed at Dog Red in the first wave, only four were alive at the end of the day. The next morning, Shotwell reached the top of the cliffs.

He looked out to sea, over the armada of 5,000 anchored ships, with a sense of disbelief. Shotwell was incredulous that he was still alive and not wounded.

“So this is France, I thought,” he said. “I had no idea of what I had just been a part of.”

Shotwell went on to fight in four major combat actions before the war was over. He was recommended for the Silver Star for his part in the crossing of the Rhine River in Germany.

Like many veterans, Shotwell rarely mentions his service, and initially, was reluctant to be interviewed for the “Vanishing Heroes” project.

His memories have “thankfully softened,” he said.

“War memories are best held in limbo,” he said. “They take on a softer glow that way. Most of my memories of World War II are of the pleasant things. I try to forget the bad things.”

But Shotwell does remember the attitude that helped him and his buddies get through the hell of Omaha Beach.

“We didn’t want to make a D Day type landing on some American beach, and we didn’t want to make a combat crossing of the Mississippi, and we didn’t want that kind of fighting going on in some small town in America,” Shotwell said. “We were thankful we could be the line of defense between our enemies and our homes.”

We can’t thank these WWII service members enough, so let’s allow that respect to include  ALL veterans of ALL American wars: Thanks, and God bless you!

Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel – thanks!


4 comments
  • Leon

    Many of the WWII combat veterans, such as my dad and several uncles, wanted to leave those experiences behind them. While I completely understand not wanting to re-live the horror, I wish more of them would have talked so that part of history is not lost.

  • petem

    My father was shot through the calf in WWII. He showed me the scars. Years later we came accross his purple heart sitation which decribed how he landed on Ohmaha Beach and was wounded in action. He never talked about it.

  • Jim Long

    Dear Mr Pantenburg,
    My step father Earl Draper droped into France ahead of the d-day invasion with the 509th he went back in 1994 and recreated the jump, you may remember him he is the whose chute was tangled in his boots and had to cut away the main and deploy the reserve chute, he lived to tell about and was an instant celebrity. Earl died about 4 years ago and he left me an umbrella that they were given that had the d-day invasion printed on it with all who participated. I would like to send it to you I know it would mean more to you, if you will send me your mailing address I will make sure it is mailed to you this week. Thanks you for your service.
    Sincerly
    Jim Long

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shopping cart

Total
Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.
Checkout