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Voices of D-Day: German Soldier Franz Gockel

Troops in trenches The heavy naval guns fired salvo after salvo into our positions. In the beginnings, the ships lay at twenty kilometers, but the range slowly decreased. With unbelieving eyes we could recognize individual landing craft. The hail of shells falling upon us grew heavier, sending fountains of sand and debris into the air. The mined obstacles in the water were partly destroyed.

The morning dawn over the approaching landing fleet exhibited for us approaching doom. Bombs and heavy-caliber shells continued to slam into the earth, tossing tangles of barbed wire, obstacles, and dirt into the air. The fight for survival began. The explosions of naval gunfire became mixed with rapid-fire weapons. I attempted to seek shelter under my machine-gun position.

Our weapons were preset on defensive fire zones, thus we could only wait. It appeared that the enemy would land in the approximate center of the beach. We had planned that he should land at high tide to drive the boats over the open beach, but this was low tide. The waterline was three hundred meters distant.

Surprisingly, we had not suffered heavy casualties. We used every available minute to contact one another throughout the rain of shells, and although we saw no possibility to escape from this chaos, we clung desperately to every minute won.

Suddenly the rain of shells ceased, but only for a very short time. Again it came. Slowly the wall of explosions approached, meter by meter, worse than before -- a deafening torrent -- cracking, screaming, whistling, and sizzling, destroying everything in its path. There was no escape, and I crouched helplessly behind my weapon. I prayed for survival and my fear passed. Suddenly it was silent again.

There were six of us in the position, and still no one was wounded. A comrade stumbled out of the smoke and dust into my position and screamed, "Franz, watch out! They're coming."

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