55 days to the millennium – USS Nevada, Nevadans shone on D-Day
Paper: Carson City Daily Appeal – 55 days to the millennium – Tuesday, June 6, 1944
Owner and Publisher: Wesley L. Davis Jr.
Published daily except Saturday and Sunday in the Appeal Building, corner of Carson and Second.
Today’s headlines for June 6, 1944 read “D-Day Arrives.” The Allied Expeditionary Forces were storming the beaches of Normandy. The Liberty Bell was ringing in celebration in Philadelphia, Rotarians in Carson City were praying, but the stock market was calm.
Reno casinos closed until 6 p.m., the first time since the funeral of Sen. Key Pittman. State offices closed at noon as did the state highway and Carson City Mayor C. B. Austin ordered merchants to close their stores at 1 p.m. The Ormsby County Offices were also closed.
Calm isn’t the word the 176,000 troops who stormed five beaches on the northern coast of France this day.
Bombarding the shoreline with artillery that flew some 30 miles, the USS Nevada sat off the coast “adding her 14-inch sells to the concentration of explosive which blasted open the” door of “Fortress Europe,” said the staff of the Ship’s Welfare Department who assembled the story of the ship for its crew members sometime after the war.
For 80 hours, its crew stood at general quarters battering a path for the beach landings and aiding in the taking of the beaches and the paratroopers near Ste. Mere Englise.
Ste. Mere Englise was eight to 10 miles inland and the ship was not any closer than 6,000 to 8,000 yards from the beach when firing, but managed to stop the advance of a column of German tanks and another day a concentration of German infantry.
The stellar performance of the Nevada was recognized by Gov. Edward P. Carville who sent a silver chest containing 2,100 silver dollars to the ship’s crew. Many of these dollars bear the “CC” mint mark and were donated by residents, said Bob Nylen, curator of the Nevada State Museum. The dollars later adorned belt buckles, plaques, necklaces and watch chains of the ship’s crew.
Troops began landing in Normandy at 6:30 a.m. It was 10:30 p.m. in Nevada. The Appeal the same day published accounts of the day from a quarter of the way around the world.
From Supreme headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, London, June 6 the paper reported forces “In the first few hours seized beachedheads that threatened to isolate the Normandy peninsula and win a railroad pointed straight to Paris.”
The forces, a compilation of British, American and Canadian troops landed and invaded “according to plan.”
June 6, 1944 will go down in history as the D-Day invasion, which had been planned since 1942, and seemed common knowledge worldwide by the time it happened.
The plan for the largest seaborne invasion in history called for the assault June 5, 1944, but rough seas caused Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone the offensive attack.
United Press reports said people in cities, towns and farms across the U.S. “looked at each other and said: ‘This is it.’ … But mostly people were quiet. They had waited a long time.
“The waiting for the invasion was over. Now the people would wait a while longer, anxiously and prayerfully, to see how it turned out …
“People prayed for the men storming Europe’s beaches and flying Europe’s skies.”
The long awaited invasion was a success.
Though German dictator Adolf Hitler boasted German defenses could resist any attack, his forces were surprised.
By the end of the day, despite the blood bath at Omaha Beach, all five landing beaches were secured by the day’s end.
The assault made way for the landing of more than a million allied troops. Two months later, the Allied troops broke through German lines.
Eleven months later, Germany surrendered May 7, 1945, and the war ended in Europe.
Leonard Anker a Carson Valley resident since 1947 was on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944, a member of the American 29th Division.
The 29th spent the early months of 1944 preparing for the invasion and trying to confuse the Germans.
“Every month we made a fake invasion of someplace,” he said. “We would feint towards France and then we would come back.
“We were supposed to land on Omaha Dog Red, I guess we came fairly close. I was very fortunate in that I was in the third wave in, I wasn’t in the first.”
The Americans landing on Omaha Beach came up against the crack German 352nd Infantry, a unit recently arrived from the Russian front.
Between German defenders and the beach’s natural fortifications, nearly 3,900 Americans were killed, wounded or missing.
“Our beach had tremendous casualties,” he said.
Anker described the beach as a large semi-circle.
“At one point there was a huge naval gun,” he said. “The Navy’s job was to knock it out and they did. But, what they didn’t know was that underneath that gun was another small gun that looked right down the beach.”
That gun was in a perfect position to fire on the Americans as they left their landing craft.
Anker jumped into water which came up to his chest and slogged ashore.
When he got ashore, he said the first thing he saw were the casualties from the previous two waves.
As they worked their way inland, groups of stray soldiers would band together.
“If five people were lost, we’d say come join us, we need you,” Anker said. “We were basically trying to get consolidated and get inland and get enough beach to where you could hang on.”
Anker said the 29th Division’s objective for the third day was to reach the town of St. Lo, about 20 miles inland.
However, a potato masher, a German hand grenade, brought the first few days of battle to an end for Anker.
“This was the first time I got wounded,” he said. “I got a German potato masher. I’ve still got parts in me.”
The injury sent Anker to the hospital, but he recovered in time to take part in the fighting across France.
He was injured two more times before he was pulled out of action for good. After the war he stayed in Germany for 179 days working on agricultural projects to feed the war-torn country.
Anker came to the Carson Valley in 1947 where he worked as the University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension Agent for Douglas County.