My Grandfather only dreamed of becoming a mathematics teacher. But life does not turn out as one hopes. On June 6th 1944 Oberst (Colonel) Ernst Goth found himself the commander of the German sector now known to history as "Omaha Beach!" Below is his story on the invasion in Normandy June 6th, 1944.
In the second half of 1943, after commanding a infantry regiment at the Russian front, I was promoted to command the 916th Grenadier Regiment of the 352nd Infantry division, stationed in the town of Saint Lo in Normandy about 20 Kilometers from the sea. About a third of the regiment was made up by men who had survived the Eastern Front and the rest comprised young conscripts, who had just finished basic training.
From St. Lo we were then send up to the coast to guard the coast against the Allied Landing. My regiment was to hold the sector between Vierville to the west and Colleville to the east. The beach by the villages of Vierville, St. Laurent, Colleville was about 8 kilometers long by 300 or 400 meters wide and was lined with steep bluffs about 15 to 30 meters high. The rear area was fairly hilly and it became difficult to see the sea after you had gone a couple of hundred meters.
At the beginning of the year Field Marshal Rommel, whom I had already met before, came to visit me. His first words were: "Goth, hier kommen Sie" (Goth, they'll be arriving here, where you are - this looks just like the bay at Salerno). Over the whole 8 kilometer length of the beach, there was only a single concrete base for a Maschinengewehr (machine gun) and that was at the westernmost point of the bay at Vierville.
After the field Marshal had made his inspection, I received a lot of equipment from various sources, including thousands of mines and stakes, for reinforcing the sector with my men. We all felt that the invasion could come any moment. In the evening of June the 5th, the regiment, was combat ready and in position. The soldiers were in different positions around the beach. Observation posts, strong points (Widerstandsnester), underground shelters and trenches. Most of the men were at a fair distance from the beach as we assumed that there would be a big aerial bombardment before the allied troops would storm the beach.
At about 02:00, we were pit on maximum alert. Incoming messages from other units told us about paratroopers and glider landings in the sectors around Carentan. At around 06:00 our positions were subject to heavy bombing. At abut 06:30, we saw the first ships coming over the horizon and the enemy naval artillery opened fire. I ordered our artillery and MG's to wait for the landing craft to come within 400 meters of the beach before opening fire. At about 07:00, I went over to the strong points WN 67 and WN 69 in St. Laurent and Colleville, in the middle of my sector. I took part in fierce fighting with American troops who had managed to climb over the shingle bank and we forced them back.
In the early afternoon, I signaled to HQ that the Americans had come ashore in successive waves, but that we were containing them on the beach an a little beyond. Naval gunfire was becoming heavier and heavier. By the evening of June the 6th the enemy had managed to open up breaches and reached the westernmost point of Vierville and the outskirts of St. Laurent and Colleville.
The regiment stuck to its positions. We were threatened on two fronts - to the east, around Bayeux, by the British and to the west by the Americans in the vicinity of Carentan. I was given the permission to fall back southwards 2 or 3 kilometers during the night, a move we were to repeat several times over the next six weeks.
Rommel had told me to stop the allied from gaining ground for 48 hours and then his tanks would be there, but no tanks arrived. Each day, though, we would fall back a kilometer or two and keep our losses down, but each day was a new defeat. And still no planes, no tanks, not within 48 hours, not ever. The remainder of the 914th and 915th Regiments, positioned on my left and right flanks, were soon disbanded and placed under my orders. They were named "Kampfgruppe Goth" (Goth Battle unit).
By the end of July, when the 352nd was deactivated, I had men from 175 different units under my command.
Thanks to Martin Galle Goth's grandson.
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