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D-Day: Success Against the Odds

Evening Program

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0253

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Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944 (National Archives)

The landings of thousands of Allied troops on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 are remembered as some of the most iconic moments in American military history. Depicted in such well-known films as The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, the operation involved thousands of American troops attempting an amphibious landing on the Normandy coast. As waterlogged troops struggled ashore headlong into withering fire from heavily armed Nazis positioned along the beach, “Bloody Omaha” looked for hours like a military catastrophe. It was an almost-impossible political and logistical nightmare to conceive and execute, but uncommon acts of bravery, particularly from junior officers, helped prevent the day from ending in disaster. The American divisions landing at Omaha suffered more than 2,000 casualties, but by the end of the day they had succeeded in establishing a foothold on the beach.

Christopher Hamner, an associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, explores the experiences of the rank-and-file GIs on D-Day, focusing on the factors that motivated men to endure the chaos and terror of what was, for many, their first experience under fire.

Afterward, participants are invited to view Al Gaspar’s miniature Omaha Beach war-game battlefield.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)