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UTAH BEACH LIKELY NAMED AT RANDOM

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For 50 years, people have wondered about Utah Beach.

Why did the D-Day commanders decide to call one of the two Normandy beaches to be stormed Utah?The fact that Utah is a short word and easy to type had something to do with it. Still, rumors and romantic notions about the name linger, and should be dispensed with.

- Geography was not a factor. The French coastline looks nothing like Utah.

- The beach was not named to avenge the loss of the battleship USS Utah, sunk during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

- It wasn't because the Germans couldn't pronounce "Utah." They could.

- U.S. military leaders did not call the beaches Utah and Omaha because they believed mystique of the North American Indian would inspire Americans to fight even harder.

- There was no one from Utah in Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's inner circle, so forget the notion that some high-ranking officer had the beach named out of pride for his state.

In fact, the beach was nearly named Oregon.

Historian Samuel Eliot Morison, who examined the selection of Utah as a code word, wrote that the U.S. Navy originally wanted the beaches named Omaha and Oregon because both were familiar to Americans and not easily confused on the radio.

As the planning progressed, however, "Oregon got into the hands of the Army and emerged as Utah, which sounds the same (on the radio) as Omaha," Morison wrote in a historical series on World War II.

A logical reason for replacing Oregon with Utah was to prevent chaos while soldiers were in the English Channel.

So in all likelihood the naming of the beach, like the fate of the U.S. soldiers scrambling across it, came down to luck of the draw.