(WVUE) - The D-Day landing on Omaha Beach was one of the most meticulously planned invasions in military history. Even so, not everything went according to plan.
For thousands of soldiers who landed at D-Day and then fought their way across France and into Germany, those memories are still vivid today. Dan Farley, 87, is an army ranger who now lives in Jackson, Louisiana. He describes what it was like 70 years ago.
As the landing craft approached Omaha Beach, troops were suddenly hit with vicious machine gun fire, just as the ramps that had been shielding the troops were about to drop open.
"You could hear the machine gun hitting the boat and we knew the ramp was about to drop and we were so seasick. Believe me we didn't care, get off of that damn boat," Farley said. "You're talking a thousand bodies literally. You couldn't hardly walk or run on the beach unless you hit a body or stepped on it."
On D-Day, the war in Europe was just beginning for American ground troops. Eight months later, Dan Farley's Fifth Rangers faced one of their most desperate battles trying to clear a German stronghold at Irsch-Zerf.
"Counter attacks, counter attacks, counter attacks, counter attacks. We run out of ammo twice," recalled Farley. "You laid in the foxhold - no food, no ammunition - and they were dropping ammunition by piper cub so they dropped it and we had to clean the ammunition before we could use it."
A battle that was only supposed to last 48 hours stretched on for nine days. At one point, the rangers were so desperate that they called for their own artillery to shell their position.
"We were really in trouble and the Germans were coming in on us. We said 'bring the fire.' We finally convinced the artillery observers to bring it in. The shells [were] coming in at least ten yards from the foxholes. Ten yards is not too much with all the shrapnel flying around. Zerf was the worst think I ever seen during World War Two."
Those D-Day veterans are now in their late 80s and early 90s. Some are still returning to Normandy for this 70th anniversary.