THE OUTSTANDING FACT about these first two hours of action is that despite heavy casualties, loss of equipment, disorganization, and all the other discouraging features of the landings, the assault troops did not stay pinned down behind the sea wall and embankment. At half-a-dozen or more points on the long stretch, they found the necessary drive to leave their cover and move out over the open beach flat toward the bluffs. Prevented by circumstance of mislandings from using carefully rehearsed tactics, they improvised assault methods to deal with what defenses they found before them. In nearly every case where advance was attempted, it carried through the enemy beach defenses. Some penetrations were made by units of company strength; some were made by intermingled sections of different companies; some were accomplished by groups of 20 or 30 men, unaware that any other assaults were under way. Even on such terrain as Omaha Beach, the phenomenon of battlefield "isolation" was a common occurrence, and units often failed to see what was going on 200 yards to their flanks on the open beach.
Assault of the Bluffs
Various factors, some of them difficult to evaluate, played a part in the success of these advances. Chance was certainly one; some units happened to be at points where the enemy defenses were weak, where smoke from grass fires gave concealment, or where dangerous strongpoints had been partly neutralized by naval fire or by the tanks. At one or two areas of penetration, notably Fox Green, destroyers' guns and tanks were called on for support during the assault and rendered good service. Combat engineers blew many of the gaps through enemy wire, helped get across minefields, and took part as infantry in some of the fighting on and past the bluffs.
But the decisive factor was leadership. Wherever an advance was made, it depended on the presence of some few individuals, officers and noncommissioned officers, who inspired, encouraged, or bullied their men forward, often by making the first forward moves. On Easy Red a lieutenant and a wounded sergeant of divisional engineers stood up under fire and walked over to inspect the wire obstacles just beyond the embankment. The lieutenant came back and, hands on hips, looked down disgustedly at the men lying behind the shingle bank. "Are you going to lay there and get killed, or get up and do something about it?" Nobody stirred, so the sergeant and the officer got the materials and blew the wire. On the same sector, where a group advancing across the flat was held up by a marshy area suspected of being mined, it was a lieutenant of engineers who crawled ahead through the mud on his belly, probing for mines with a hunting knife in the absence of other equipment. When remnants of an isolated boat section of Company B, 116th Infantry, were stopped by fire from a well-concealed emplacement, the lieutenant in charge went
after it single-handed. In trying to grenade the rifle pit he was hit by three rifle bullets and eight grenade fragments, including some from his own grenade. He turned his map and compass over to a sergeant and ordered his group to press on inland.
One characteristic of these early penetrations was to influence the rest of the action on D Day at Omaha: the penetrations were made not at the draws but in areas between them, by advances up the bluffs. Mislandings may have had something to do with this, but the chief factor seems to have been the survival of the enemy strongpoints protecting the draws, for units which landed directly in front of them, especially at D-1, D3, and E-3, had suffered crippling losses and were unable to press the assault. The first advances were effected in the intervals between strongpoints, where the enemy defenses were thin. The routes planned as exits for movement of tanks and vehicles from the beach were not cleared.
The most important penetration on the western beaches (Map No. VII) was made by Company C, 116th Infantry, and by the 5th Ranger Battalion, which had landed partly on top of Company C. Both units were in relatively good condition after the landings and had suffered only minor losses, but the men were crowded shoulder to shoulder, sometimes several rows deep, along the shingle at the base of the timber sea wall.
The Advance From Dog White
NOON OF D DAY, DOG WHITE. This aerial, at 3,000 feet, shows the penetration area of Company C, 116th Infantry, and the 5th Ranger Battalion (left half of picture). The bluff is flattened out in this view, but the top edge can be followed along the ends of the fields, pocked with the craters of many shells and rockets. A wrecked craft (LCI 92) and the edge of les Mouins at right.
PENETRATION AREA, 116TH INFANTRY, on Dog White. Another view, facing the bluff, near the edge of Dog White. This photograph, taken 25 June 1944, shows the bluff sloped denuded by grass fires that occurred on D Day. A military cemetery gives a background for religious services. The small building at top is near the left hand edge of the last illustration, showing the same area.
Intermingled with these troops were one or two boat sections from other units of the 116th, and some engineer elements. Reorganization for assault was spurred by the presence of General Cota and the command group of the 116th Infantry, who had landed in this area about 0730. Exposed to enemy fire, which wounded Colonel Canham in the wrist, they walked up and down behind the crowded sea wall, urging officers and noncoms to "jar men loose" and get moving.
The sector was relatively favorable or an advance across the beach flat and up the bluff. The nearest enemy strongpoints were several hundred yards off to either flank, and no concentrated fire was hitting the area congested with assault troops. In front of them, heavy smoke from grass fires on the bluff was drifting eastward along the face of the slope. From sea wall to the foot of the rise was only 150 yards, but the flat ground, with patches of marsh near the hill, was nearly devoid of cover. Along the whole stretch between D-1 and D-3 draws the bluff is steep and bare, but men climbing the slope would find small folds and depressions for defilade against small-arms fire. German defenses at this part of Dog White consisted of lightly manned rifle pits connected by deep trenches and placed just at the crest of the
bluff, with a few machine-gun emplacements sited for flanking fires on other stretches of beach rather than for dealing with troops coming directly from below.
Company C's movement began about 0750. Across the promenade road that edged the sea wall was a double-apron wire entanglement. Pvt. Ingram E. Lambert jumped over the wall, crossed the road, and set a bangalore torpedo. When he pulled the friction igniter, it failed to act and Lambert was killed by a machine-gun bullet. The platoon leader, 2d Lt. Stanley M. Schwartz, went over and fixed the igniter.
The explosive blew a large gap. The first man to try it was shot down; others followed and took shelter in some empty trenches just beyond the road, where they were joined by another group that had got through the barrier by cutting the wire. After a delay of 5 to 10 minutes, while more troops crossed the road to the trenches, they started again toward the bluff, finding minor concealment from light enemy fire in the tall grass and occasional bushes. Once they were on the hillside, the defilade and smoke gave good protection, but progress was slowed by fear of mines. The men went up
PROFILE VIEW OF BLUFFS, DOG WHITE, in the area where Company C, 116th, and the 5th Ranger Battalion assaulted the bluff. The picture was taken in June 1945 when vegetation had grown up heavily. View is toward east; beach flat shows in left rear.
in a narrow column, searching the ground before them as they climbed and angling west to take advantage of a faint path. No enemy were found in trenches along the crest. The column went a couple of hundred yards into flat, open fields and stopped as it met scattered fire from machine guns at some distance to the flanks. This was the only sign of enemy resistance, and Company C had taken only half-a-dozen casualties after leaving the sea wall. Capt. Berthier B. Hawks, who had suffered a crushed foot in debarking, got to the top with his men.
The 5th Ranger Battalion joined the advance very soon after it started, and some of the Rangers were intermingled with Company C as they went forward. The battalion had reached the sea wall just before 0800, in platoon formations. Hasty preparations were made for assault, and Colonel Schneider passed the word "Tallyho" to his officers, this being the order for each platoon to make its own way beyond the bluffs to the assembly area south of Vierville. About 0810 the Rangers began to cross the road; what with the confusion at the beach and the smoke ahead, few of them realized that Company C was already on the move in the same one. Four gaps were blown in the wire with bangalores and the men went across the beach flat at the double, then slowed to a crawl on the steep hillside. Heavy smoke covered them on the climb, forcing some men to put on gas masks. By the time the crest was reached, platoon formations were disorganized and contacts lost. Just over the bluff top, German warning signs enabled the Rangers to avoid a minefield from which engineers later took 150 mines. The first groups up, a platoon of Company A and some men of Company E, went straight on inland and disappeared. The other platoons were on top by 0830 and stopped to reorganize. On the left flank of the battalion, Company D's platoons had to clean out a few Germans from a trench system along the bluff edge, knocking out a machine gun sited just below the crest and firing along the beach. The battalion had lost only eight men, to small-arms fire that became more ineffective as the movement progressed across the beach flat.
The advance from Dog White Beach had taken place on a narrow front of less than 300 yards. By 0830 the last groups were leaving the sea wall, and the command party established itself temporarily halfway up the bluff. Unsuccessful efforts were made to reach 1st Division units by SCR 300. Fire from enemy mortars began to range in on the slope for the first time, killing two men standing near General Cota and knocking down the General and his aide. The headquarters party moved on up to the top, joined by some elements of Company G and a machine-gun platoon of Company H, which had reached Dog White after moving laterally along the sea wall from D-3 draw. The command party found work to do on the high ground. Company C, the 5th Ranger Battalion, and small elements of other units were intermingled in the fields just beyond the bluff, disordered by the advance and not sure of the next move. Scattered small-arms fire was keeping men down, and some shells began to hit in the vicinity.
Just east of Dog White, the penetration area was widened before 0900 by the action of small parties from Companies F and B. Remnants of three boat sections of Company F crossed the beach flat and got up the bluff; a short distance behind them came an isolated section of B. Neither group had to contend with enemy resistance at the crest. The Company F sections drifted right and eventually joined the 5th Rangers. The Company B party of a dozen men started left, toward les Moulins, and was stopped by a machine gun. 1st Lt. William B. Williams assaulted it single-handed, was wounded, and ordered his men to move to Vierville.
The 3d BLT of the 116th had come in on a half-mile stretch of beach including most of Easy Green and the western end of Easy Red. All units were facing unfamiliar ground, east of their appointed landing sectors, in some cases as much as 1,200 yards. Losses had not been heavy in crossing the tidal flat. The boat sections of Companies K and I were fairly well together on Easy Green; L and M, more scattered, were to the east (Map No. VI). Since each boat team was supposed to make its own way past the bluffs to a battalion assembly area about a mile inland, no attempt was made to organize the companies for assault, and forward movement was undertaken by many small groups starting at different times, acting independently, and only gradually coming together as they got inland by different routes and with different rates of progress. By 0900, elements of all three rifle companies were past the bluff (Map No. 3, page 64).
The Advance Between D-3 and E-1 Draws
Company I was nearest the strongpoints defending les Moulins draw, but was receiving little fire from that direction. Each of the two assault sections made breaches in the wire along the embankment, needing four sections of a bangalore in one case but only wire cutters in the other. The assault sections moved out onto the flat, followed a little later by the other sections as they found their way to the gaps. Not all of the men who had landed moved out from the embankment; control was difficult. One section leader of Company I moved a hundred yards west, found a gap in the wire, and came back for his men. Under the impression that they were following, he went through the gap and was out on the flat before he realized that he had only 10 soldiers with him. A sergeant who went back could not find the others, and the section leader did not see them again for two days.
EASY GREEN, viewed from jsut east of les Moulins, was the penetration area of the 3d Battalion, 116th Infantry. The bluff on this sectore was bare and had a "double" slope, with a terrace or bench halfway up (upper right). (Photograph taken in June, 1945.)
MAP NO. 3 The Advance between D-3 and E-1 Draws
The beach flat was open, with some swamp and brush near the foot of the bluff, and there was little cover on the sharp slopes of the bluff. Fortunately, enemy small-arms fire was light and scattering, and there was no shelling. Minefields, encountered on the flat and on the bluffs, caused delays while the troops found a safe way around. Here as elsewhere on D Day, movement off the beach was not made by "charges." Each section of 20 to 30 men tended to advance in an irregular column, sometimes a single file, and was often checked by a burst of enemy fire or the discovery of mines. It took half an hour for leading elements to reach the bluff top, and much longer for some of the sections which started later. No enemy resistance was met at the edge of the high ground, where the troops came out in the open fields stretching toward St-Laurent. Elements of three or four sections came together soon after reaching the top, and took shelter behind an east-west hedgerow about 200 yards from the bluff. Few of the men knew where they were (afterwards, some described their position as being west of D-3), and there was no sign of enemy or friendly troops.
Company K's sections, close by I on the beach, were slow in getting started and had more trouble getting to the top. Sporadic machine-gun fire hit a few men on the beach, and mines, thickly sown, caused difficulty on the bluff slope. Although naval gunfire and rockets had torn up the slopes so much as to expose many mines, guides had to be placed to mark safe routes. K had lost 15 to 20 men when the sections got to the top, shortly after 0900. A stray group of Company G was just ahead of them. K's sections had begun to bunch together as they met on the climb or at the top, though there was no intention of organizing as a company. This was characteristic of the fighting that day; as one soldier described it, any small party seeing a bigger one "wanted company" and joined up, sometimes with units of a different company or battalion. K's sections made a couple of hundred yards beyond the bluff, then were pinned to the ground in open fields by scattered machine-gun fire and some shelling.
Company L's boat teams were somewhat more separated and so took longer in drawing together; otherwise, their story is much like K and I. Each boat team made its own way from the embankment to the high ground against ineffective enemy fire and with very few losses. Once on top the sections began to work to the southwest, knowing they had come in to the left of their target area. As they pushed inland, the teams began to meet resistance from small enemy pockets in prepared positions.
Company M's sections, most of them landed together, were near enough the E-1 strongpoints to be met by heavy fire as soon as they attempted to cross the beach flat. They managed to reach a gully which gave some defilade, and here they set up four machine guns and two heavy mortars. With these, they engaged the enemy emplacements near E-1, and snipers along the bluff. Six men were shot in attempts to find a route beyond the gully to reach the hill. The larger part of Company M was held here until later in the morning, when the arrival of massive reinforcements in front of E-1 broke the stalemate.
Elements of three companies shared in the assault on the bluffs between E-1 and E-3 draws (Maps Nos. 4 and VIII). At this part of Easy Red, the beach shelf above the shingle embankment is more than a hundred yards wide, with areas of swamp along the inland edge of the flat. One hundred and thirty feet high on this sector, the bluff is reached
The Advance From Easy Red
MAP NO 4 Advance from East Red (Photograph of 15 February 1944)
by 200 yards of moderate slope, patched with heavy bush. Five hundred yards west of E-3, a small draw led up at a slight angle to the west, forming a possible corridor for advance to the bluff crest. Below the draw on the flat was a ruined house.
The 1st Section of Company E, 16th Infantry, and two of the scattered sections of E, 116th, had come to shore here in the first wave. The 16th's unit, led by 2d Lt. John M. Spalding, blew a gap in the wire above the shingle, made its way past the house, and then was held up by minefields in the marshy ground at the foot of the slopes. Intense small-arms fire came from an emplacement to the left, in the E-3 strongpoint. Spalding's men found a way past the mines and were beginning to work up the slope, using the defilade afforded by the small draw. To the west, and out of contact, the two sections from the 116th had cut the wire and dashed across the flat, but mines stopped them near the start of the hillside and they took shelter in a ditch. A soldier who went ahead to clear a path by use of a bangalore was killed by an antipersonnel mine.
Meanwhile Company G of the 16th RCT had landed (0700) and had reached the embankment in good order. The company's machine guns, set up behind the shingle, found no targets until LCVP's of the 1st Battalion, coming toward the beach (about 0730), drew enemy fire from 8 or 10 small emplacements along the half mile of bluff. While the heavy weapons built up a volume of supporting fire, a few men from each section blew gaps in the extensive double-apron and concertina wire beyond the shingle. Their work was made more difficult by anti-personnel mines set to detonate by trip wires.
EASY RED, between E-1 and E-3 draws, was the area where the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry reached the bluffs. COmpany G made the penetration here, from ruins in foregrounnd. Photo taken shortly after D Day shows beach road already improved by U.S. Engineers.
E-1 STRONGPOINT, to the west of the draw, was neutralized by a boat team of Company E, 16th Infantry, which came on it from the woods to the rear. The photograph above, taken a day later, shows beach obstacles and wrechage along the top of the tidal flat.
Four bangalores were required to cut one lane. Engineers of Company A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion and Company C, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion helped in gapping and marking the lanes. When G's men reached the slopes they came in contact with Lieutenant Spalding's section of E and the two sections of the 116th. In an effort to coordinate the advance, an arrangement was made with these units to operate on Company G's right.
The mined areas, in which a part of the mines were faked, slowed up every unit that crossed the beach, then and for some time. Company G found one route through the mines by going over the dead bodies of two soldiers who had been caught there earlier. While the company was making its way across the flat, bothered more by the minefields than enemy fire, Capt. Joseph T. Dawson and one man went on ahead. When they were halfway up the hill, an enemy machine gun at the head of the small draw forced Dawson into cover. He sent his companion back to bring up the company and crawled on from one patch of brush to another. By the time he was 75 yards from the gun, the enemy lost sight of him. Circling to his left, he came to the military crest a little beyond the machine gun, and got within 30 feet before the Germans spotted him and swung their weapon around. Dawson threw a fragmentation grenade which killed the crew. This action opened the way up the little draw, but it took some time to get the company up as a result of
disorganization suffered in crossing the beach flat. The 5th Section, first to arrive, knocked out two more machine guns and took a prisoner. On the whole, enemy opposition had not been heavy, and cover on the slopes allowed Company G to make the crest with few casualties. Their movement forward, from embankment to the bluff top, had taken place between 0730 and 0830. Enemy fire died away as the troops emerged on the fields of the upland, reorganized, and started south in column of sections. Their principal concern was with the frequent indications of mined areas just beyond the bluff top.
To their right Lieutenant Spalding's section of Company E, 16th RCT, was getting up about the same time, helped by covering fire from Company G, and effecting a useful extension of the front of penetration. The section now numbered 3 men, having lost 3 at the beach and 3 more getting past an enemy machine gun on the bluff side. The gun was operated by a lone soldier
PATH THROUGH MINEFIELDS, marked by engineers and followed by the assaulting units of the 16th Infantry from Easy Red. View taken from the foot of the slopes, looks directly up route taken D Day morning by units of the 16th Infantry (2d and 1st Battalions).
ADVANCE FROM EASY RED is under way up the slopes in background, as 1st Division reinforcements (probably 18th Infantry) land late in the morning. Note the shingle, which confined vehicles to a narrow sand strip just above high tide. Two dukws have made shore.
who was captured and found to be Polish. He informed Spalding that there were 16 enemy in trenches to his rear. The Company E section got to the trenches, sprayed them with fire and found the Germans had withdrawn. Spalding turned west along the bluff crest, losing contact with Company G as that unit headed south. Moving through hedgerowed fields and wooded areas, the Company E group came up on the rear of the strongpoint guarding E-1 draw. The Germans were manning trenches overlooking the beach, and attack from the high ground caught them by surprise. In two hours of confused fighting, Spalding's men got through the outworks of this
strongpoint and overcame opposition by close-in work with grenades and rifles.
Naval fire hitting in the parts of the strong-point below the bluff top, helped to demoralize the resistance. Twenty-one prisoners were taken, and several enemy killed, without loss to the attackers. Although the fortified area was too extensive to be thoroughly cleaned out by Spalding's small force, the strongpoint east of E-1 had been effectively neutralized by midmorning, just when important reinforcements for the assault were beginning to land in front of the draw. About 1100 Spalding's section was joined by some other elements of Company E, which had come up from further east. They brought word from battalion to head south for Colleville.
The area opened up by Company G became a funnel for movement off the beach during the rest of the morning. The command group of the 16th RCT had landed in two sections; the first, coming in at 0720, lost the executive officer and 35 men on the tidal flat. Col. George A. Taylor arrived in the second section at 0815 and found plenty to do on the beach. Men were still hugging the embankment, disorganized, and suffering casualties from mortar and artillery fire. Colonel Taylor summed up the situation in terse phrase: "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die-now let's et the hell out of here." Small groups of men were collected without regard to units, put under charge of the nearest noncommissioned officer, and sent on through the wire and across the flat, while engineers worked hard to widen gaps in the wire and to mark lanes through the minefields. Confusion prevailed all the way along the route to the bluff top, with enough scattered enemy fire from the flanks and mortar fire falling on the bluff slope to cause more delay and to give late-comers the impression that they were leading the assault. A traffic jam threatened to clog the trail through the little draw, as leaderless groups stopped to rest just below the shelter of the crest; one such group was picked up by an engineer platoon going inland as a security patrol and went on with them. Colonel Taylor's command
AERIAL PHOTO (above), taken 31 May 1944, shows approximately same area as the map (below).
MAP NO. 5 The Penetration at Fox Green
post was set up just below the bluff crest, and regimental and battalion officers concentrated on getting men forward. Despite all difficulties, troops were brought up from both flanks of the penetration area and sent inland. During the morning a few scattered sections of Companies E, F, and H moved laterally along the beach from the east and took Company G's route; the 1st Battalion, 16th RCT, came over from the west.
The 1st BLT of the 16th landed between 0730-0800, with Company A just east of E-1, and B and C near the area where 2d BLT troops were then starting up the bluff. Company A moved across the flat and had serious difficulties after passing the antitank ditch below the E-1 strongpoint; mines and small-arms fire inflicted 48 casualties, including 3 officers. Reaching the bluff slope, Company A found more mines and to avoid them took a path that led eastward along the lower slope. Movement was slow, as the men went along the path in single file and had to cross areas exposed to enemy fire, and further difficulty was caused by meeting a party of 116th men going in the opposite direction. The other units of the 1st BLT got to the bluff crest about 0930, in the area where Company G had already passed inland.
Fox Green fronted two exit routes: the fairly large valley (E-3) winding a mile inland toward Colleville and, 600 yards to the east, an area (F1) where the bluff front was only slightly interrupted by a shallow and steep draw. Two main enemy strongpoints, one just east of F-1 and the other near the Colleville draw, commanded the narrowing beach flat (Map No. 5).
The Advance From Fox Green
As a result of the eastward trend of landing approaches, elements of seven assault companies had come in on Fox Green by 0800. Behind the shingle embankment scattered sections from Company E, 116th RCT, and Companies E and F, 16th RCT, were intermingled with units of the 3d BLT of the 16th. The 3d Battalion command group had come in west at another sector. Most of the landings had been costly, and nowhere would discouraging conditions seem to have had better opportunity for checking assault. Nevertheless, by 0800, an assault was under way. Its main power came from Company L, which landed fairly well together, kept its organization, and led off the attack. But elements of Companies I, K, and E (116th) shared in the advance; the heavy weapons of Company M were used to support it; and both tanks and destroyers gave noteworthy assistance. Under most difficult circumstances, enough coordination was somehow achieved to make possible a successful advance.
Four sections of Company L had landed and reorganized on the western end of Fox Red sector, where the bluff, merging here into a partial cliff just beyond the highwater shingle, afforded good cover. The company commander was killed as he exposed himself to direct the fire of some nearby tanks, and 1st Lt. Robert R. Cutler, Jr., took command. The sections were moved west, out of the shelter of the cliff and to a position where they were just below the strongpoint commanding F-1 draw. Two tanks were called on for fire support. As a scheme of maneuver, Lieutenant Cutler sent three sections and headquarters, 2d and 3d Sections leading, up the draw a little to the west of the strongpoint. There were no hostile prepared positions at the head or the west side of the draw. The heavy brush gave good cover from enemy small-arms fire, and the 2d and 3d Sections worked to the top in squad columns without serious losses, despite crossing enemy minefields. Here the
ROCKY LEDGES ooutcrop on the beach at Fox Red, where the foot of the bluff is clilike. Troops carrying heavy weapons equipment, are coming in at the sector where Company L, 16th Infantry, found shelter before moving right to assault the F-1 strongpoint.
2d Section moved left and got in position to take the strongpoint from behind; a little to the right, the 3d and 5th Sections moved a short distance inland and organized a hasty defensive position. The three sections kept in contact with each other and with the beach.
Other units were meantime starting up the slopes to assist Company L. The 1st Section of Company L, reduced to 12 men by early losses and separated from the rest of the company, had landed nearer E-3 and attempted to engage the enemy strongpoint on that side of the assault area, which had been Company L's original objective. Finding the fire too heavy, 1st. Lt. Kenneth J. Klenk moved his handful of men east along the beach, picked up some sections of Company E, 116th, and prepared to assault the F-1 strongpoint. Capt. Kimball R. Richmond of Company I, who had just reached Fox Green to find himself the senior officer present of the battalion, started to organize the follow-up of Company L's advance. Two sections of Company K, a handful from Company I, and Lieutenant Klenk's mixed detachment were involved in this second assault wave, which went straight up toward the strongpoint. Machine guns and mortars of Company M, the tanks, and naval guns combined to cover the advance, and enemy fire was light. The Company L sections already on the hill sprayed the strongpoint with BAR fire and helped to keep the Germans down.
A destroyer' s fire, helpful in the first stages of the assault, now caused a halt. The 2d Section of Company L, from on top of the hill, telephoned the beach that it was ready to close on the strongpoint if naval fire could be lifted; the second assault wave was stopped short of the enemy positions by the same fire. When it lifted, the strongpoint was immediately stormed by the troops coming at it from below. Enemy resistance was broken; grenades and satchel charges cleaned out the trenches and emplacements, and 31 prisoners were taken, 15 of them wounded. About 0900 the battalion was informed that the strongpoint had been subdued, the action having required little more than an hour. Led by Company L, the 3d BLT at once started south for inland objectives.
The penetrations described thus far opened the way for progress inland on an important scale, but they do not tell the whole story of the assault. At several parts of the beach lesser groups fought their way off the flat in isolated battles, often without knowing what was happening elsewhere. Stray boat sections of assault infantry, scratch parties of engineers, advance elements of artillery units, stranded Navy men, and other personnel took part in small actions which helped in weakening and disorganizing enemy resistance along the beaches. Few of these actions got into the records, and some cannot be located accurately in place and time. Two, involving Ranger units, can be taken as examples.
Other Assault Actions
Company C, 2d Ranger Battalion, was probably the first assault unit to reach the high ground (beach sector Charlie) and did so in an area where cliffs begin to border the western beach (Map No. VII). Landing in the opening assault wave, about 30 men survived the ordeal of crossing the sands and found shelter at the base of a 90-foot cliff, impossible to climb except at a few points. Three men went off immediately to the west, looking for a spot to go up. Three hundred yards away they tried a crevice in the slope and made it by using bayonets for successive hand holds, pulling each other along. 1st Lt. William D. Moody, in charge of the party, brought along
BEACH SECTOR CHARLIE, west of Vierville draw, saw the assault by Company C, 2d Rangers. They lostnearly half of their men when landing in the middle of the stretch show here; then moved west, scaling the cliff to reach the "fortified" house on the top.
THE "FORTIFIED" HOUSE, above Charlie Beach, although not actually fortified, was on the edge of a strongpoint (foreground) overlooking Vierville draw and connected with the draw by a maze of communications trenches. (Photograph taken in February, 1945.)
4 toggle ropes and attached them to stakes in a minefield 15 feet below the crest. Enemy small-arms fire opened up from the left, near a supposedly fortified house. Moody and one Ranger went along the cliff edge toward the house, reached a point above Company C, and shouted down directions. The unit displaced to the ropes and monkey-walked them to the top; all men were up by 0730. While the movement was in progress, Capt. Ralph E. Goranson saw an LCVP landing troops (a section of Company B, 116th RCT) just below on the beach and sent a man back to guide them to the ropes.
Captain Goranson decided to go left toward the fortified house and knock out any enemy positions there which would cause trouble on Dog Beach; then, to proceed on his mission toward Pointe de la Percee. When the house was reached, the Rangers found that just beyond it lay a German strongpoint consisting of a maze of dugouts and trenches, including machine-gun emplacements and a mortar position. Captain Goranson put men in an abandoned trench just west of the house and started to feel out the enemy positions on the other side. This began a series of small attacks which continued for hours without any decisive result. The boat section of Company B, 116th RCT, came up early and joined in, but even with this reinforcement Captain Goranson s party was too small to knock out the enemy position. Three of four times, attacking parties got around the house and into the German positions, destroying the mortar post and inflicting heavy losses. Enemy reinforcements kept coming up along communication trenches from the Vierville draw, and the Ranger parties were not quite able to clean out the system of trenches and dugouts. Finally, toward the end of the afternoon, the Rangers and the Company B section succeeded in occupying the strongpoint and ending resistance. They had suffered only 2 casualties; a Quartermaster burial party later reported 69 enemy dead in the position. This action had tied up one of the main German firing positions protecting the Vierville draw.
Small elements of the 2d Ranger Battalion also fought their own way off Dog White, just west of the main penetration area. Less than half of Companies A and B had reached the shelter of the sea wall, about 0740. Some tanks, firing at enemy emplacements, were scattered along the beach, but the Rangers saw no other troops and had the impression of being alone on the beach; less than a quarter mile to their left, the 5th Ranger Battalion was touching down on a beach already crowded with assault infantry. Within a few minutes of reaching the wall, the survivors of Companies A and B dashed over the promenade road beyond
THE BLUFFS ON DOG GREEN, east of the Vierville draw, where Companies A and B, 2d Ranger Battalion, made their assault. The beachh villas were wrecked by naval fire. Le Hamel strongpoint was on the bluff above the villas. (Photo taken in June, 1945.)
the sea wall and got into the cover of shrubbery surrounding the wrecked villas that line this stretch of the beach flat. Eighteen Rangers of Company B turned right and, hugging the foot of the slope, went several hundred yards toward the Vierville draw, intending to go up that exit in accordance with original plans. Nearing the draw and facing heavy fire on an open stretch of the flat, the group retraced its steps. Meantime, Company A's men and a few from B, after crossing the road in several scattered groups led by noncommissioned officers, had worked through the villas and were trying the bluff at different points. They were joined by a machinegun section of Company D, 116th RCT, and three DD tanks helped by silencing enemy positions on the flanks which had been giving trouble. Two Rangers of Company A reached the top above and found enemy trenches, containing two or three machinegun emplacements, in plain sight just beyond the military crest. In a few minutes another group of six Rangers joined up, and they started out to investigate the apparently empty trenches. Machine-gun fire opened from two points as Germans came out of dugouts and manned their positions. They had waited too long. The leading Rangers were within 20 yards, and more small parties were coming up behind them. Working in twos and threes, they mopped up the enemy emplacements, taking six prisoners and killing as many more. Only three of the attacking force were casualties. Company B now came up, having got back from its try toward the Vierville exit, and the 5th Ranger Battalion was in sight on the bluff top to the left. The 2d Battalion men joined them for the move inland. This action took place between 0800 and 0830, widened the area of penetration on Dog White, and probably aided in the success of the larger advance to the east by covering its right flank.
The assault had gone forward, but not according to plan (Maps Nos. VII and VIII). Penetrations had been made where enemy defenses were thin and lightly held, on the long stretches of bluff between the draws scheduled for use as exits. The F-1 strong-point was knocked out, but the exit route here was so steep that no plans had been made for its early use, and there were no engineer parties at hand. In the case of the main draws, only at E-1 was a strongpoint (on the east side) being reduced by flanking action of a force which turned aside for this purpose after getting up the bluff; elsewhere, the small and often scattered assault groups were fighting inland toward their assembly areas. As a result, nearly all the enemy strongpoints defending the vital draws were still in action, especially at E-3 and D-3 which were scheduled for use by the first movement of traffic off the beach. On large stretches of the beach there was still enough fire to make landings costly and to stop all movement in front of the draws. The engineers, hampered by landing on wrong beaches and by loss of equipment, were unable to start on their main job of opening the beach for traffic. At 0800, there were no gaps anywhere in the shingle embankment to permit movement onto the beach flat.
The Beach: 0800-1200
As a result, the penetrations made in the next two hours could not be followed up properly. Vehicles were beginning to arrive, but they found only a narrow strip of sand to occupy and nowhere to move even for shelter from enemy fire. This fire and the difficulties with obstacles in the higher water led many craft to come in on Easy Green and Easy Red instead of other sectors, thereby threatening to clog that beach with vehicles under destructive artillery fire from the flanks. Consequently, the commander of the 7th Naval Beach Battalion radioed an order (about 0830) suspending all landings of vehicles. During the next few hours scores of craft, including dukws and rhino-ferries, were milling about off the Easy Green and Easy Red sectors, waiting for a chance to come in. The dukws had particular difficulty in the rough seas, in which they had to run at least at half throttle to maintain steerage way. The consumption this entailed would exhaust a fuel tank in 10 to 12 hours, leaving the craft in danger of foundering. The tie-up affected the heavier weapons scheduled to support the attack off the beach and inland. The Antitank Company of the 116th RCT landed one gun platoon of three 57-mm's, but they had to remain under fire for hours before they could move off the sand. Only two antiaircraft guns of the 16th RCT were landed out of two batteries, the others being sunk in the effort to unload. The Cannon Company of the 16th RCT got its halftracks ashore at 0830 after two attempts, but they could not move more than 50 yards through the litter of disabled vehicles. Its 6 howitzers were loaded on dukws, which were swamped one by one in the heavy seas with a loss of 20 personnel. Artillery units of the regimental combat teams were having a hard time getting toward shore, where they were scheduled to land between 0800 and 0900. The 111th Field Artillery Battalion of the 116th RCT suffered complete disaster. The forward parties, including observers, liaison and reconnaissance sections, and the command group, landed between 0730 and 0830 in front of les Moulins. Remnants of the 2d BLT were immobilized there in front of the draw, and the artillery personnel suffered as heavily as had the infantry in getting from their craft to the shingle. They quickly decided that the guns could not land there, but their radio had been disabled by sea water and no radio
on the beach was working. Lt. Col. Thornton L. Mullins, commander of the battalion, said, "To hell with our artillery mission. We've got to be infantrymen now." Although already wounded twice, Colonel Mullins went to work organizing little groups of infantry. Leading a tank forward, he directed its fire against an emplacement and as he started toward another tank across an open stretch, was killed by a sniper.
The howitzers of the battalion were coming in on 13 dukws, each carrying 14 men, 50 rounds of 105-mm ammunition, sandbags, and all essential equipment for set-up and maintenance. This load made the dukws hard to maneuver from the start, especially for inexperienced crews. Five dukws were swamped within half a mile after leaving the LCT's. Four more were lost while circling in the rendezvous area. One turned turtle as they started for the beach; another got within 500 yards of shore, stopped because of engine trouble, and was sunk by machine-gun bullets. The last two dukws went on and about 0900 were close enough to see that there was no place to land on the beach. When they drew together and stopped to talk things over, one was disabled by machine-gun fire and then set ablaze by an artillery hit. Eight men swam ashore or to another craft. The surviving dukw had some near misses from artillery shells, turned away from the shore, and tried to find out from both shore and Navy where to go in. Shore gave contradictory advice; Navy had no ideas at all. The dukw pulled alongside a rhino-ferry to wait, but in a short time the crew realized the craft was in a sinking condition. Determined to save the howitzer, two or three men stayed on. They managed to move the dukw as far as another rhino with a crane aboard, and unloaded the howitzer on this craft. The one gun of the 111th got ashore that afternoon in charge of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion.
Several other artillery units fared almost as badly. The 7th Field Artillery Battalion (16th RCT) lost six of its 105's on dukws that swamped en route to shore; the others could not land. The 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion had taken part in the fire support of the first landings, firing from LCT's. The commanding officer and reconnaissance officer were casualties soon after landing at 0730. At 1030, three of its LCT's attempted to land and struck mines; one capsized, one sank in seven feet of water, and a howitzer on the third was jettisoned to keep the craft afloat. The 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, likewise involved in the preliminary bombardment, attempted no landings in the morning. Elements of two self-propelled antiaircraft battalions (the 197th and 467th) began to land after 0830. Losses in personnel and halftracks were considerable, but the guns were used in close support of infantry for fire on German emplacements.
Conditions on the beach improved in the later morning. Fire from the main enemy strongpoints was gradually reduced, as one gun emplacement after another was knocked out, often by tanks. Fighting both the enemy and the tide, the tanks were leading a hard life, caught on the sand between high water and the embankment, unable to get past the shingle to the beach flat, and an open target for enemy guns. Unit control was almost impossible, with tanks scattered over long stretches of beach and hampered in maneuver. The commander of the 741st Tank Battalion came ashore at 0820 with a 509 radio, but the radio was damaged by salt water and failed to function. The small command group had to contact individual tanks up and down the beach in an effort to control operations, losing three of its five members in the process. At the other end of the beach, Lt. Col. John S. Upham, Jr., commanding the 743d, was shot down as he
walked over to a tank for better direction of its fire. Nevertheless, the tanks kept on firing: one of them, disabled, until the rising tide drowned out the guns, others while the crew worked on dismounted tracks. Their achievement cannot be summed up in statistics; the best testimony in their favor is the casual mention in the records of many units, from all parts of the beach, of emplacements neutralized by the supporting fire of tanks. In an interview shortly after the battle, the commander of the 2d Battalion, 116th Infantry, who saw some of the worst fighting on the beach at les Moulins, expressed as his opinion that the tanks "saved the day. They shot the hell out of the Germans, and got the hell shot out of them."
The destroyer Carmick, by what was described as "silent cooperation," did her best to help some tanks on Dog Green which had managed to get up on the promenade road and were trying to fight west toward the Vierville draw. The destroyer's observers watched for the tanks' fire to show targets on the bluff edge, and then used the bursts as a point of aim for the Carmick's guns.
Support from naval units, necessarily limited during the first landings, began to count heavily later on. Some of the landing craft had tried to support the debarking troops with the fire from their light guns. When Company G was landing near les Moulins, the infantry saw a patrol craft stand off directly in front of the enemy strongpoint to the east of the draw and pump shell after shell into it. German artillery got the craft's range and forced it
VEHICLES ARE HELD ON THE TIDAL FLAT, unable to get beyond the shingle, which was reached by high tide about 1100, D Day. This sector is on Easy Red, and E-3 draw, still strongly defended by the an forces, is about a quarter mile to the east (left).
ashore, still firing; it continued in action until a shell made a direct hit, setting the craft ablaze. Later in the morning, two landing craft made a conspicuous, fighting arrival in front of E-3 draw. LCT 30 drove at full speed through the obstacles, all weapons firing, and continued the fire on an enemy emplacement after touchdown. At the same time LCI (L) 544 rammed through the obstacles, firing on machine-gun nests in a fortified house. These exploits also helped demonstrate that the obstacles could be breached by larger craft, which had been hesitating at the approaches.
Naval gunfire became a major factor as communications improved between shore and ships. At first, targets were still hard to find; Gunfire Support Craft Group reported at 0915 that danger to friendly troops hampered fire on targets of opportunity; an NSFCP in contact with ships was told by General Cota (about 0800) that it was "unwise to designate a target." Between 1000 and 1100 two destroyers closed to within a thousand yards to put the strong-points from les Moulins eastward under heavy, effective fire. All along the beach, infantry pinned at the sea wall and engineers trying to get at the draws to carry out their mission were heartened by this intervention. One result may have bee the decision to try to get some tanks through E-3 draw. At 1100, Colonel Taylor ordered all tanks available to go into action at that exit route. Of the several tanks that were able to move along the beach to the rallying point, only three arrived, and two of these were knocked out as they tried to go up the draw.
One of the participants in this effort was Capt. W. M. King, who had been ordered to round up all the tanks and get them to E-3 draw. Captain King ran along the beach to the west, notifying each tank as he came to it. When he reached the last tank, he found the commander wounded and took over. Backing away from the shingle, King drove east, weaving in and out of the wreckage along the beach. He made 200 yards, then circled toward the water to avoid a tangle of vehicles and wounded men. A Teller mine, probably washed off a beach obstacle, blew the center bogie assembly offd and broke the track. King and the crew proceeded on foot to E-3.15
The decisive improvement along the beach came at E-1 draw. The strongpoint on the east side had been neutralized by flanking action of the platoon from Company E, 16th Infantry, after it reached the bluff top. The unfinished strongpoint on the other side was still partly in action, but was being contained by fire from Company M, 116th Infantry. Engineers of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion were able to bulldoze their first gap through the dune line, just east of this draw, about 1000 Company C of the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion made another gap to the west. The destroyers' intervention speeded up the progress; in the next two hours the antitank ditch was filled, mines were cleared, and the approach to the draw was made ready for vehicles. During the same period major infantry reinforcements were landing in front of E-1, and the last remnants of enemy resistance at that draw were about to be overpowered.
The 18th RCT had been scheduled to land on Easy Red in column of battalions, beginning about 0930. After passing the line of departure, the first wave (LCVP's and LCM's) ran into difficulties in maintaining formation and steering a straight course; there was much congestion of traffic toward
Landing of Reinforcements on Easy Red
HIGH-TIDE LANDINGS were hindered by teh beach obstacles. LCI(L) 83, carrying combat engineers, approached Fox Green at 0830, was unable to get in, and debarked 72 men on LCVP's. An artillery hit on the port bulwarks caused 16 casualties. Finally beaching at 1116, the craft was further damaged on one side by a mine but all personnel debarked and the LCI was floated off that night.
shore, with craft of all descriptions maneuvering in every direction. The 2d Battalion began landing just west of E-1 shortly after 1000. As they neared shore, troops of the 18th had no impression that any progress had been made from the beach: "The beach shingle was full of tractors, tanks, vehicles, bulldozers, and troops-the high ground was still held by Germans who had all troops on the beach pinned down-the beach was still under heavy fire from enemy small arms, mortars and artillery." The underwater obstacles caused great difficulties, even though a narrow gap had been cleared near E-1; the Navy report for the transport group carrying the 18th Infantry lists 22 LCVP's, 2 LCI (L)'s and 4 LCT's as lost at the beach, nearly all from being staved in by log ramps or hitting mines. Nevertheless, personnel losses in the 18th Infantry were light.
On the right of E-1, the 2d Battalion found an enemy pillbox still in action. Fire from a tank supported the infantry in a first attempt, but the attack was stalled until naval fire was laid on. The NSFCP contacted a destroyer about 1,000 yards off shore and coordinated its action with the infantry assault. The affair was very nicely timed; the destroyer's guns, firing only a few yards over the crowded beach, got on the target at about the fourth round and the pillbox surrendered. Twenty Germans were taken prisoners. Thus, at about 1130, the last enemy defenses in front of E-1 draw
A CROWDED BEACH resulted from landing of two infantry regiments (1ith and 115th) in front of E-1 draw. This pciture, taken at noon from 3,000 feet, shows the swarm of men, vehicles, and craft along 510 yards of shingle. The antitank ditch protects E-1 draw.
were reduced. Within half an hour, engineers of the 16th RCT were clearing mines in the draw, and the Engineer Special Brigade Group units were working dozers on the western slope to push through an exit. E-1 became the main funnel for movement of the beach, beginning with troops.
The troop movement inland, however, was slowed up by congested landings at this one area. Shortly after the first units of the 18th RCT had landed, the LCI (L)'s of the 115th Infantry began to touch down on top of them. The 115th, in reserve in Force "O," was scheduled by lastminute plans of V Corps to land at 1030 on Dog Red and Easy Green beaches. The LCI's were unable to find the control vessel for these sectors and came in very much to the east, on Easy
Red, where the 18th Infantry had started landing.16 The result was further congestion and confusion off that sector, and considerable delays for both regiments, both in making shore and in getting of the beach. Instead of getting in between 1030 and 1130, the 3d and 1st Battalions of the 18th Infantry did not land until about 1300. Meantime, all the battalions of the 115th had come in together instead of at intervals, and the result was a partial scrambling of units on the beach. The 2d Battalion of the 18th got off before noon; it was nearly 1400 before the 115th had started inland, along with the remainder of the 18th. Reorganization and movement were complicated by enemy fire on the beach area and by the difficulties of getting through minefields on the narrow cleared paths. Fortunately, enemy mortar fire was apparently unobserved and ineffective, and artillery fire, now coming from inland, was directed at the landing craft. These suffered some hits, but casualties among the troops were light. Movement of the crowded beach took place on both sides of the draw rather than through it, since there were minefields and enemy emplacements up the draw inland. As the 2d Battalion of the 18th Infantry moved out, orders were received from Brig. Gen. Willard G. Wyman, assistant division commander of the 1st Division, to take over the mission of the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry. The 18th Infantry unit therefore moved left down Easy Red to the penetration route of the 16th and followed it toward Colleville. The battalions of the 115th pushed off toward assembly points southeast of St-Laurent, where they planned to reorganize; Col. Eugene N. Slappey, commanding, found General Wyman on the beach and received orders to carry out his primary mission in the Longueville area. However, before Colonel Slappey left to follow his battalions, General Cota arrived with news from the 116th zone. On consultation with General Wyman, it was decided that one battalion of the 115th would be used to clean up St. Laurent. Radios were not working, and Colonel Slappey had heard nothing from his battalions when he started inland about 1600 to find them.
MAP NO. 6 The 2d Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoe, 6 June (Photograph 15 June 1944)
News of the movement inland from Easy Red reached the higher command, and was doubly welcome because V Corps Headquarters had been sweating through the first hours of the assault with very little information on what was really happening ashore. Back on the Ancon direct messages from the beach were almost entirely lacking, and Headquarters depended on what it picked up from reports of the Navy and from its Forward Information Detachment under Colonel Talley. This detachment tried to get to shore early on two dukws, but decided that radio equipment would probably be lost under the conditions of landing. Therefore, the dukws were kept cruising up and down the beach a few hundred yards off shore. Unfortunately, information both from this source and the Navy were limited by the difficulties of observation, and delays in transmittal; early news at V Corps Headquarters was fragmentary and not encouraging. Messages brought word of craft sunk, of heavy enemy artillery fire, of dukws swamping, and of troops pinned down. The first penetrations were made by small units on slopes often obscured by smoke or brush, and apparently escaped all notice from seaward observers. Main attention was naturally focused on the exits, where no progress was being made. At 0945, V Corps made its first report to First Army: "Obstacles mined, progress slow. 1st Battalion, 116th, reported 0748 being held up by machine-gun fire--two LCT's knocked out by artillery fire. DD tanks for Fox Green swamped." At 1155 Corps was still so far behind the situation that its next report to Army reads "situation beach exits Easy Fox and Dog still critical at 1100. 352d Infantry Division (German) identified115th Infantry directed to clear high ground southwest of Easy Red at 1131-16th and 116th ashore, fighting continuous on beaches, vehicles coming ashore slowly. Reported that some Germans surrendering Easy Green." From 1055 on, Colonel Talley had sent in some scraps of better news: "infiltration approximately platoon up draw midway between exits E-1 and Easy 3"; and "Men advancing up slope behind Easy Red, men believed ours on skyline." But these messages did not come into Corps Headquarters until 1225-1243. Not until 1309 could V Corps make its first favorable report to Army: "Troops formerly pinned down on beaches Easy Red, Easy Green, Fox Red advancing up heights behind beaches." From that time on the Headquarters begins to catch up more closely with the situation, and the further information becomes more reassuring .
Another example of the difficulties of ship-to-shore communications, and of the limited observation from seaward, is furnished by the report of a naval officer in the fire-support group. Shortly after noon, he came in close to shore, under fire from enemy guns. "Troops were plainly visible on the beach lying in the sand. So were the dead. Heavy machine-gun fire was coming from enemy positions halfway up the hill. Troops were unable to advance." Anxious to aid in breaking what seemed to be a stalemate, the officer requested permission from higher headquarters to lay down a rocket barrage. The request was denied because of the danger to assaulting troops "who may have filtered through."
While the main assault was proceeding on Omaha beaches, three companies (D, E, and F) of the 2d Ranger Battalion were engaged in an isolated action three miles to the west (Map No. 6). Led by Lt. Col. James E. Rudder, commander of the Provisional Ranger Force, about 200 men came in at Pointe
The Rangers at Pointe du Hoe
du Hoe. Their primary mission was to seize that fortified position and neutralize its battery of six 155-mm howitzers, which could put fire on the whole Omaha approaches, from the craft assembly area in to the beaches.
The mission presented special difficulties. The beach at the Point was a 25-yard strip, surmounted by sheer cliff 85 to 100 feet high. The Rangers had been training for several months on English cliffs of similar character, and, as a result of experiment aided by the experiences of British Commandos, they had developed special equipment for their task. Each of the 10 LCA's was fitted with 3 pairs of rocket guns, firing grapnels which pulled up (by pairs) 3/4-inch plain ropes, toggle ropes, and rope ladders. In addition, each craft carried a pair of small hand-projector-type rockets, which could be easily carried ashore and fired small ropes. Each craft also carried tubular-steel extension ladders made up of light, four-foot sections suitable for quick assembly. Four dukws mounted a 100-foot extension ladder, fire department type. Personnel of the assault parties carried minimum loads, with heavier weapons amounting to four BAR's and two 60-mm mortars per company. Two supply craft brought in packs, rations, demolitions, and extra ammunition for the three companies.
Their assault plan provided for landing at H Hour, Companies E and F on the east side of the Point, Company D to the west. Unfortunately, one of the accidents of misdirection befell the Rangers; they headed eastward so far that, when the mistake was corrected, they had to approach the Point from that quarter on a course close to and almost paralleling the shore. Under fire from strongpoints along the cliffs, the flotilla came in 40 minutes late. This delay meant that the eight other companies of Rangers (A and B of the 2d Battalion, and the entire 5th Battalion), waiting off shore for word of the assault, did not follow in to Pointe du Hoe but went toward Vierville.
One LCA had been swamped, going down soon after leaving the transport area; one of the supply boats sank 15 minutes after the start, and the other jettisoned all packs aboard in order to stay afloat; one dukw was hit and sunk by 20-mm fire from a cliff position near the Point. The 9 surviving LCA's came in on a 400-yard front on the east side of the Point. Naval fire had been lifted since H Hour, and the enemy had been given time to recover and to man the trenches above the cliff. The destroyer Satterlee observed their movement and swept the cliff top with fire from all guns; nevertheless, scattered small-arms fire and automatic fire from a flanking machine-gun position beat around the LCA's, causing about 15 casualties as the Rangers debarked on the heavily cratered strip of beach. The rockets had been fired immediately on touchdown. Some of the water-soaked ropes failed to carry over the cliff, but only one craft failed to get at least one grapnel to the edge. In one or two cases, the demountable extension ladders were used. The dukws came in but could not get across the cratered beach, and from the water's edge their extension ladders would not reach the top of the cliff.
Germans appeared on the cliff edge and started to harass the Rangers directly below them with rifle fire and grenades. This show of enemy resistance was promptly discouraged; BAR men picked off the riflemen as they exposed themselves, and the destroyer Satterlee, coming in at close range, swept the cliff top with a few minutes of concentrated fires from all her guns. The escalade was not delayed. In less than five minutes from time of touchdown, the first Rangers, by one type of rope or another, were getting to the cliff top. Some, covered with mud from having fallen into deep crater-pools on the beach, had trouble in
THE TIP OF POINTE DU HOE was ravaged by bombs and naval fire. LCA 861 of Company E, 2d Rangers landed just below. One of its rope ladders, attached to a grapnel carried over the cliff by a rocket, was still in place when photo was taken in June, 1945.
climbing. A few ropes had been cut by the enemy or had slipped from the anchorage. The first men up waited no longer than it took for three or four to assemble, then moved out on prearranged missions toward the gun positions. They found themselves in a no-man's land of incredible destruction all landmarks gone, and the ground so cratered that if men got 15 feet apart they were immediately out of contact. Only a few enemy were seen, and these were quickly driven to cover in a network of ruined trenches connecting deep dugouts and emplacements. One after another, the small advance parties reached their appointed gun emplacements, only to find them empty.
THE CLIFFS AT POINTE DU HOE were assaulted under difficult conditions. Here, a section of cliff smashed off by bombardment made a mound from which Rnagers worked to the top by ropes. Photo was taken after the first assault parties had captured the Point.
The gun positions, three of them casemated, were partly wrecked; the guns had been removed. Without hesitation, the Ranger parties started inland on their next mission: to reach the coastal highway, set up a defensive position cutting that main route between Vierville and Grandcamp, and await the arrival of the 116th Infantry from Omaha Beach.
0800; farther west, a dozen or so from Company F came out on the blacktop at the same time and joined up. The force took up a defensive position in fields just beyond the road, putting one group in position to block the highway toward Grandcamp. A few enemy parties had been met and driven off with losses during the speedy advance.
Patrolling was started at once. About 0900, two Rangers went down a lane 200 yards off the main road and found the missing battery of 5 guns. Cleverly camouflaged, they were sited for fire on either Omaha or Utah Beach and large ammunition stocks were ready at hand, but there were no enemy in or near the position. The patrol put two guns out of commission with incendiary grenades and went back for more grenades. While they were gone, a second patrol finished the job of disabling the guns and set fire to the powder. Word was sent back to the Point that the main objective had thus been accomplished.
There was mounting evidence that the enemy on or near the Point was recovering from his confusion. East of the fortified area a machine-gun emplacement which had caused most of the losses on the beach was assaulted by some men of Company F. They were unable to reach it, and the position remained in action until the whole cliff edge was blown into the sea by naval fire late in the morning. Just west of the Point an antiaircraft emplacement near the cliff edge began to sweep the Point with fire. By 0740 all the Ranger boat teams were up, and a dozen men of the late-comers were diverted from going inland and sent to attack this antiaircraft position. As they worked toward it through craters, artillery and mortar fire stopped them and the party scattered. A few minutes later a German counterattack, emerging from tunnels or nearby trenches, overwhelmed and captured all but one man. So torn up was the ground that the command post group, in a crater only a hundred yards away, was unaware of what had happened until the survivor returned. Another assault was hastily improvised, consisting of a dozen riflemen and a mortar section. They got halfway to the strongpoint and were caught by artillery fire, which killed or wounded nearly every man in the party.
For the rest of the day the small force on the Point was in a state approaching siege. Enemy snipers appeared in the fortified area, and despite several attempts, the Rangers could never clean out the maze of wrecked positions. Three or four Germans still held out on the tip of the Point in an undamaged concrete observation post. During the afternoon two enemy counterattacks coming from the direction of St-Pierre-du-Mont were stopped, the most dangerous one by accurate and rapid fire from the Rangers' only remaining mortar. The antiaircraft position was still very much in action, and destroyer fire could not quite reach it. Communication with the advance party on the highway was intermittent, depending chiefly on patrols that occasionally had to fight their way through.
The command post on the Point was out of communication with the assault forces on the main beaches, but was able to contact naval support ships with blinker and (later) radio. Naval Shore Fire Control Party No. 1 was able to establish communications as early as 0728 with the Satterlee, which stayed on hand for the rest of D Day and gave extremely useful fire support. In the afternoon a message from the Point came through to V Corps via the Navy, "Located Pointe du Hoe-mission accomplished-need ammunition and reinforcement-many casualties." This, the only word received on D Day from Colonel Rudder's force, left considerable doubt and anxiety at headquarters.
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 In the illustration on p. 107, King's tank. No. 9 of Company A, 741st Tank Battalion, can be seen at the spot where it as left, disabled. It is believed that this same tank, No. 9, is the one shown in the assault landing on p. 44.
 LCI 553 beached almost as far east as the E-3 draw, where it was disabled by mines. (See illustration p. 15).