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St. George veteran courted death on Omaha Beach

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"It made you feel a little more comfortable seeing something like that going in with you," he said.

Murdock had no inkling he and the rest of the early landing forces would soon feel like human targets in a shooting gallery.

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To the shoreline and beyond

The seas were rough as the Higgins boats motored toward the shore.

"One minute you’d be up on top of the waves and you could see all the ships firing," Murdock recalled. "The next minute you’d be way down in a valley of water."

Murdock’s landing craft ground to a halt and the ramp creaked downward. Heavy machine gun fire from pillboxes rained down from the cliffs on Omaha Beach.

"It was so bad on that beach you couldn’t hardly move without being killed," he said.

Murdock was aghast at what he saw on shore. Allied air forces were supposed to pulverize the beaches and German coastal defense casemates. Instead, those bombs landed much further inland.

And the fate of the tanks intended to provide close-in fire support? Most sank to the bottom of the English Channel.

As a result, the 16th took a beating. Nearly 1,000 men were casualties on the Omaha sector. Boats loaded with personnel were wiped out by direct hits from artillery, adding heavy amounts of blood into sea.

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Murdock was able to crawl to the sea wall, which afforded him at least a tiny bit of cover — provided he lay completely flat. But what next? To charge forward meant certain death.

"I laid there for a bit, maybe 20 minutes, trying to get my mind together again," Murdock said. "There was so much enemy fire and you couldn’t do anything. It was demoralizing how bad it was. So then you had to recover from that bad feeling and decide you got to go do something."

The inspiration to push forward came from Col. George Taylor, commander of the 16th Infantry, who stood fully erect imploring his men to get off the beach.

It was during this time groups of soldiers took initiative and gathered whatever weapons and manpower they could summon to surmount the German defenses near the beach exits.

In one area, Lt. William Dillon — who served with Murdock previously in A Company and who Murdock called, "the best soldier in the army" — scrounged up three Bangalore torpedoes and blew open a gap in the barbed wire.

Word reached Taylor that exits were being opened. The time was nigh to push forward and catch the Germans on their heels. Taylor tramped down the beach telling men in a variety of ways to get moving.

Murdock remembers Taylor’s exhortations.

"He was shouting, ‘If you stay on the beach you are dead or about to die!’ He was hitting everybody on their rears to get over the hill," Murdock remembered. "It shook us out of the daze we were in and got us going."

Murdock dodged the machine gun fire to reach the draw. In his excitement, he bounded off the trail through a minefield, but did not set off any mines.

Murdock’s luck continued to hold in the coming days, getting grazed in the ear by a bullet after inadvertently passing near a ditch containing approximately 50 Germans.

He can reflect on those moments now with a grin, but can get weepy when recalling the men he served with who never returned.

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