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First Wave at Omaha: The Ordeal of the Blue and Gray

Behind them was a great invasion armada and the powerful sinews of war. But in the first wave of assault troops of the 29th (Blue and Gray) Infantry Division, it was four rifle companies landing on a hostile shore at H-hour, D-Day -- 6:30 a.m., on June 6, 1944. The long-awaited liberation of France was underway. After long months in England, National Guardsmen from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia found themselves in the vanguard of the Allied attack. In those early hours on the fire-swept beach the 116th Infantry Combat Team, the old Stonewall Brigade of Virginia, clawed its way through Les Moulins draw toward its objective, Vierville-sur-Mer. It was during the movement from Les Moulins that the battered but gallant 2d Battalion broke loose from the beach, clambered over the embankment, and a small party, led by the battalion commander, fought its way to a farmhouse which became its first Command post in France. The 116th suffered more than 800 casualties this day -- a day which will long be remembered as the beginning of the Allies' "Great Crusade" to rekindle the lamp of liberty and freedom on the continent of Europe.