Advance Inland

THE PENETRATIONS of the beach defenses made between 0800 0900 represented a definite success, achieved by determined action in the face of great difficulties. Nevertheless, the success was limited in certain respects that handicapped all later efforts to exploit the breakthroughs and attain D-Day objectives. Only fractions of the assault BLT's got up the bluffs in the morning, at first in scattered groups that were rarely of more than company strength and were sometimes only one or two boat sections. They had few heavy weapons, no tanks, and no supporting artillery, and it took time to establish communications well enough to make effective use of naval fire support beyond the bluffs. As a result of the loss of equipment, communications within and between units were to be very limited all through the day. Intermingling of units was common in the larger groups that reached the high ground, and the time spent in overcoming this difficulty was increased by the loss of officers, the scattering of headquarters groups, and the lack of communications. The fact that all the exits were still blocked and that the beach was still under fire prevented early reinforcement of the advance groups. Some elements of the assault waves were still behind the sea wall, mentally "pinned down," and it took time and effort to get them forward, often after lateral movement to reach the penetration areas. The reserve regiments, delayed by confusion that resulted from landing intermingled on a narrow sector, did not play much part until mid-afternoon. Even then, their strength was not fully used.

Enemy opposition was aided by these weaknesses in the assault and by terrain favorable for delaying action. Again and again, the advancing groups ran into small pockets of resistance in prepared positions, usually built around machine guns dug in along hedgerows and having good fields of fire. Locating these positions was difficult because of the confusion caused by many snipers in the area, and it took time to reduce the resistance with weapons available. Bypassing often resulted in the splitting up of assault groups and in progressive loss of control as movement proceeded inland. The difficulties of fighting in hedgerow country were not easy to solve under any circumstances, much less those of their first experience. Though the Germans were concentrated in as much as company strength at only one or two points, such as Colleville, they were able to stop the V Corps advance far short of D-Day objectives.

The battle inland can best be followed in terms of three areas, centering around the three villages on the coastal highway which were preliminary objectives in the advance. In two of these, Colleville and St-Laurent, main points of enemy resistance were encountered. In all three areas, the story is that of a number of assault units, usually in less than battalion strength, fighting more or less uncoordinated and separate actions (Maps Nos. VII and VIII for the morning period; Map No. IX for afternoon).


Vierville Area

In the period 0800-0900, upwards of 600 men went off Dog White Beach (Map No. VII). Besides Company C, which led the way, the advance included most of the main Ranger force (eight companies), 116th Headquarters, some engineer troops of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion, and fragments of Companies B, F, G, and H. Reaching the top in small groups, the troops tended to stop and bunch in the first fields near the edge of the bluff. What little order they had was lost as they became intermingled with units arriving later, and reorganization was a slow process. Though there were no enemy positions in action near by, snipers, harassing long-range fire from a few machine guns, and a brief period of shelling from 88-mm guns contributed to the confusion, and it was two hours before much progress was made. One small group had long since gone inland by itself. A platoon of 5th Battalion Rangers, 1st Lt. Charles H. Parker, Jr., commanding, on reaching the bluff crest had seen no other troops, and immediately started southwest to get around Vierville and reach the battalion assembly area. After making a half-mile without meeting opposition, the platoon was stopped by enemy fire from hedgerows near the Chateau de Vaumicel, just south of Vierville. They spent the rest of the morning working past this fire toward the chateau grounds.

When the CP group of the 116th RCT came over the bluff after 0900 they found Rangers and 116th elements scattered all through the fields ahead, with leading elements near the coastal highway. The communications section of headquarters had landed on another beach; the only working radio belonged to the liaison officer of the 743d Tank Battalion. Completely out of touch with division, Colonel Canham had no contacts with any of his battalion headquarters, did not know what was happening at the exits in the 116th one, and could only assume that the rest of the assault battalions were on their way to assembly areas.

Movement finally began between 1000-1100, with General Cota assisting in getting units started. The 5th Ranger Battalion planned to push across the coastal highway and go around Vierville to the south, while the 116th elements went toward the village. The Rangers' advance in column was stopped when the first elements reached the highway and an enemy machine gun opened up from the hedgerow one field to the south. The column halted while a platoon went after the machine gun by working down an axial hedgerow. In the course of this action, another enemy machine gun opened up to the left of the first. Another Ranger platoon attacked this gun, and once again uncovered new enemy fire positions along the hedgerows still farther east. A third outflanking attack was started, ran into additional machine-gun fire, and was called back pending an attempt to get artillery support. The 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion had just put some guns ashore, but the forward observer reported that their fire at this range was impossible because of the mask presented by the bluff. About four hours had been consumed in these efforts. At 1400 the Rangers gave up the attempt to move south from the highway and instead, followed the coastal highway into Vierville.

That route had already been taken several hours before. Company C and small elements of other 116th companies, some of them moving in isolated groups, had gone that way; so had Company B of the 5th Rangers, which headed down the Vierville highway under the mistaken impression that the Ranger battalion column was following just behind. With General Cota close behind the leading elements, Vierville was


THE VIERVILLE DRAW UNDER FIRE. The time of the action pictured above is uncertain, but this may have been the bombardment between 1200 and 1300 that knocked out the strongpoints. The Vierville steeple, in the background, was later demolished by naval fire.

entered before 1100. Except for scattered fire from the outskirts when the advance was starting, no enemy resistance was encountered. A platoon of Company B, 116th Infantry, went through Vierville out of contact with the rest and turned south toward the chateau. On the way, they encountered a German resistance nest, assaulted it, and took 14 prisoners. A little beyond the chateau, the platoon was attacked by Germans who had just deployed from three trucks coming up from the south. The Company B unit, reduced to 25 men and lacking automatic weapons, withdrew to the chateau and stopped the enemy attack with well-aimed rifle fire. Here they were joined about noon by Parker's platoon from Company A, 5th Rangers, which had been coming toward the chateau across country. Neither party knew there were any other friendly forces near Vierville.

Company B of the 5th Rangers and Company C, 116th Infantry, passed through Vierville before noon and started west on the coastal highway toward Pointe du Hoe. About 500 yards out of Vierville they were stopped by fire from prepared emplacements along hedgerows which ran at right angles to the highway. During the next few hours, the Rangers and Company C worked together in efforts to outflank or neutralize this position. Enemy machine-gun positions were well camouflaged and hard to locate; every time a move was started across open fields, it was checked by fire from German rifles and automatic weapons at ranges of two to three hundred yards. At 1700 the main Ranger force came up and plans for an attack were started, then called off later in the evening. Colonel Canham decided not to press the effort along the coastal highway toward Pointe du Hoe,


since the 5th Rangers constituted the larger part of his forces for defense of Vierville.

The command group of the 116th RCT had come through Vierville about noon on its way to the prearranged CP location, a little southwest of the village. When the small party reached that spot, sniped at all the way, they found themselves out of contact with any friendly units and uncomfortably isolated. A platoon of Company B, 5th Rangers, came by on a flanking maneuver and was impressed as a guard for the CP. Patrols sent towards Louviéres to find the 2d Battalion fought their way for a thousand yards south through scattered opposition and returned without having seen any friendly forces. Small skirmishes took place near the CP all afternoon, and 15 Germans were killed in the immediate vicinity. At 1830, the commander of the 1st Battalion reported in, having got up from Charlie Beach, and Colonel Canham found out for the first time what had happened on the beaches in front of Vierville exit. Toward midnight, he learned that the 2d and 3d Battalions were near St-Laurent.

At nightfall the Vierville area was the weakest part of the beachhead. The 5th Ranger Battalion, remnants of the 1st Battalion, 116th, and a few small elements of engineer units and of the 2d and 3d Battalions (a group from Company K arrived in the evening and was used for headquarters security) were holding defensive positions west and southwest of the village. Separated during the day, these units were finally brought into contact, but no other friendly forces in any strength were nearer than St-Laurent. No reinforcements had landed in the Vierville sector, and the exit from the beach was only beginning to open for traffic by dark.

Yet, had there been any force on hand to use for the purpose, the Vierville draw could have been cleaned up any time during the afternoon. Between 1200 and 1300, heavy naval fire, directed by shore observers with the 116th and including the main batteries of the Texas, was put on the strong-point guarding D-1 draw. After the first four salvos of four rounds each, the destroyer McCook radioed shore that Germans were leaving concrete emplacements to surrender, 30 prisoners being taken by engineers on the beach. Further fire completed the neutralization of the heavily fortified area. Shortly after the naval guns stopped firing, General Cota went down the exit road to the beach to find out why no traffic had yet come through. Accompanied by four or five men, he got all the way down, past the strong-points and the antitank wall and out onto the beach flat, without drawing more than scattered small-arms fire. Five Germans, taken prisoner from holes in the cliff-side along the way, led the party through a minefield at the entrance. The general saw little activity on the beach flat at D-1. The only infantry nearby were the exhausted remnants of Company A, 116th, and the tanks were further east along the flat. General Cota walked along the promenade road to investigate conditions at les Moulins, after finding that engineer troops were about to start work on the obstacles in the Vierville draw.

The 121st Engineer Combat Battalion, responsible for the D-1 exit, had experienced the usual troubles in landing; its units were scattered as far as les Moulins, 75 percent of its equipment had been lost in landing, and personnel losses had run high. The battalion officers had spent several hours collecting their men, and salvaging explosives and equipment along the beach. The work of reorganization was made difficult by scattered fire from snipers along the bluff, and small combat patrols were used in an attempt to clean out bluff positions. One of the patrols entered the Hamel-au-Prêtre


HEAD OF D-3 DRAW, on the edge of St-Laurent. The Germans held prepared positions on the high ground to the right, and the 3d Battalion, 116th Infantry, was unable to make much progress beyond here on the afternoon of D Day. (Photograph taken June, 1945.)

strongpoint and found it wrecked by naval fire and almost abandoned. However, here and at the Vierville draw, long connecting tunnels, some of them going as far inland as the village, afforded a shelter for the enemy and made a quick clean-up of the fortifications impossible.

One 5th Ranger platoon (Company A) managed to get all the way to Pointe du Hoe, four miles through enemy-infested country. At 1430, Lieutenant Parker left the chateau south of Vierville and started for the 5th Rangers' assembly area. On the way, they encountered a small enemy strongpoint and overwhelmed it, killing 2 Germans and capturing 12. The 24 Rangers reached their assembly area, found no one there, concluded the 5th Battalion had gone on toward Pointe du Hoe, and decided to follow. Taking the prisoners with them and moving on secondary roads south of the coastal highway, the platoon got through Englesqueville and on to a point almost south of their goal before they were stopped by fire from prepared enemy positions. Trying again to "bull through" the opposition, the Rangers found themselves out flanked and nearly surrounded; they had to fight their way out and make a short withdrawal. They then left the roads, struck north across country, and about 2100 joined the inland group of 2d Battalion Rangers, in their defensive positions just south of the Grandcamp-Vierville highway. The Company A platoon had not seen the 5th Battalion since leaving the beach, but still believed it must be close behind and so informed Colonel Rudder at the Point.


St-Laurent Area

Except for Company M, pinned on the beach flat near E-1 draw, most of the 3d Battalion, 116th Infantry, had reached high ground by 1000 and were starting to push south. As a result of enemy resistance in and near St-Laurent, they were to make only a half mile of progress during the rest of the day.

No clear picture can be drawn of the confused fighting that took place during the morning, as a dozen or more groups, varying from one to four or five boat teams in size, worked south from the bluff toward St-Laurent, with the aim of reaching a battalion assembly area west of the village (Maps Nos. 3 and VII). The fields between St-Laurent and the bluffs are cut by unusually few hedgerows, and the open ground made the advancing troops more conscious of hostile fire, even when it was wild. Here and there, small enemy detachments with machine guns offered resistance from prepared and well dug-in positions, and a number of skirmishes were fought by sections of Company L and I. By noon most of Company L and several sections of I were at the edge of St-Laurent, on the northwest, where the road from les Moulins comes into the village at the head of the draw. An enemy rocket battery in this area had been disposed of by Company I's mortar fire and a naval shell. Company K was nearby, and the battalion command group was endeavoring to bring the units together and effect a preliminary reorganization. Major Bingham had worked east on the beach from les Moulins with a handful of men from F, H, and Headquarters of the d Battalion, and this group had now come inland.

Enemy resistance was stiffening. Snipers were in the straggling village, but the main trouble came from the western end of St-Laurent. Here, dug in on the high ground commanding the upper end of the draw, Germans estimated at a company in strength controlled the approaches to the main crossroad, and their machine guns had good fields of fire on all the upper draw. Two boa teams of K and a few men of I, trying to bypass the enemy resistance to the north, cut across the draw about halfway down toward les Moulins. Making their way across country, this group found its way to the coastal highway, sighted the 5th Rangers ahead, and tailed them into Vierville. On the way, the Company K group was attacked by a small enemy party from the flank and lost several men to surprise machine-gun fire. Eventually, the K group reached regimental headquarters and was used as its security detachment for that night.

The rest of the battalion was held at the crossroad all afternoon. Several attempts to advance were stopped by machine-gun fire, from positions which the men were unable to locate. Company L suffered most of its casualties for the day in these actions. At dark, the greater part of the 3d Battalion was still at the head of the draw, Company M having come up during the afternoon from E-1. Nearby, the command group of the 2d Battalion had a handful of men from G and F; the rest of that battalion was scattered all the way from Colleville to Vierville, and a few troops were still held on the beach at les Moulins.

St-Laurent had also proved a stumbling block for the 115th Infantry, coming at it from the northeast. That regiment, landing in front of E-1 draw just before noon, took three or four hours to clear the beach, going up mostly to the east of the draw. Somewhat disorganized by intermingling with the 18th RCT, the battalions were attempting to reach assembly points a thousand yards inland, and southwest of St-Laurent. The 115th's transportation was not due in


on D Day, so the men were carrying as heavy loads as possible; the heavy weapons sections were particularly burdened, with guns, mortars, and extra ammunition to hand-carry. Scattered harassing fire from snipers and occasional machine guns also slowed down the movement. The 2d Battalion reached St-Laurent, met opposition in the village, and spent the afternoon trying to clean out a small enemy force, estimated at not more than a company in strength. Once again, the main difficulty for the inexperienced troops was to locate enemy fire positions in terrain affording so much cover. Toward dusk when the attack was finally well started, naval gunfire hit in the village, caused a number of casualties in the 2d Battalion, and stopped the effort. The battalion was drawn south of St-Laurent for the night, where it joined the 1st Battalion. This unit had reached a position near the Formigny road a few hundred yards south of St-Laurent, making slow progress against snipers and some mortar fire. The 3d Battalion had not reached the St-Laurent-Colleville road by dark.

Elements of five battalions had spent the afternoon and evening of D Day fighting through an area of about a square mile which contained only scattered pockets of enemy resistance. The effectiveness of the attacking forces had been reduced by a number of factors, including lack of communications, difficulties of control, and the absence of artillery and armored support.

Colleville Area

When Company G got past the bluff and started inland, about 0900, they were bothered only by light sniping and occasional signs of minefields and made rapid progress for a thousand yards to the south. They were advancing in their designated one and according to plan (Maps Nos. 4, p. 66, and VIII). The first objective was a German bivouac area a quarter-mile west of Colleville; from there the company would turn into Colleville. Company G approached the bivouac area about 0930 and received heavy fire from automatic weapons and mortars on both flanks of its advance. A two-hour action followed, with house-to-house fighting before the enemy was driven out of the area. The company suffered 12 casualties. Remnants of a Company F section and small elements of H, and two sections of Company E, 116th, had followed G's route from the beach and joined up during the morning, giving a strength of about 150 men for the attack on Colleville.

A little after noon, a section of G started into the western edge of the village, but was unable to progress against strong resistance after seizing the first few buildings. The rest of the company was extended to the west, and the section farthest out on that wing lost contact. By some misunderstanding, the two 116th sections withdrew toward the bivouac area. Small groups of enemy filtered through the gaps, a pillbox near the head of E-3 draw was still in action, and fire came from flanks and rear, giving the impression of encirclement. For the next two hours, Company G fought on the defensive, inflicting 18 casualties on the enemy. This action marked the nearest approach on D Day to a German counterattack made in any strength. At about 1500, the situation was relieved by the arrival of the 2d Battalion, 18th Infantry, which came up from E-1 draw with orders to take over the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry's mission. But Company G was unable to get farther into Colleville, and suffered eight casualties when supporting naval fire hit the houses in the village. Enemy resistance was unshaken by the bombardment.

Company G had felt itself isolated during this period, an impression which was characteristic


ENTRANCE TO COLLEVILLE FROM WEST. After advance from Easy Red Beach, Company G, 16th Infantry, fought into this village just after noon, then was held the rest of the day by bitter enemy resistance in houses just beyond church. (Photo taken June, 1945.)


of most of the inland fighting on D Day. Actually, the advance from Easy Red had been followed up by a number of other units which by noon were not far from Colleville. Between Colleville and Easy Red Beach, battalion and regimental command groups were working hard to organize the scattered assault forces and build up support. However, contacts were irregular, the hedgerows cut off observation, and small enemy groups held on tenaciously in bypassed positions, from which they opened with harassing fire on the flanks or rear of advancing units and drew them into a mopping-up action that might consume two or three hours. Other enemy groups, trying to get back from the bluff positions, added to the confusion by appearing in areas supposedly cleared up. In this fashion, small separate battles were developing throughout the day almost anywhere between E-1 and E-3 draws and south beyond the highway. Advance under these conditions was more or less blind, and coordinated action by the assault forces became almost impossible.

Lt. Col. Herbert C. Hicks, Jr., commanding the 2d Battalion of the 16th RCT, had followed Company G toward Colleville and was endeavoring to get other units of his battalion toward that area. The only sizable group he could find during the morning was made up of about 50 men of Company E, including Lieutenant Spalding's section from the E-1 strongpoint. This party reached the coastal highway about noon and pushed several hundred yards beyond to cover the right flank of G. Moving with a section of G, the group came under sniper fire from the rear and lost contact with friendly units. Later in the afternoon, deciding that they were in danger of being cut off, the Company E detachment withdrew toward Colleville. Meantime, elements of the 1st Battalion were reaching the same general area. Companies B and C reached the highway by 1300, near the bivouac area through which G had already fought. They spent several hours cleaning snipers out of the woods in the vicinity, and made about 300 yards progress southward by dark. Company A, slowed in getting up the bluff, spent the morning and early afternoon fighting a machine-gun nest in the woods at the edge of E-1 draw, halfway to the highway. It rejoined the battalion late in the day.

The 18th Infantry had landed in front of E-1 draw from 1100 to 1400. One after another, as the battalions started inland, General Wyman turned them from their original missions to take over those of the 16th Infantry. The 2d Battalion of the 18th pushed toward Colleville to help the 2d Battalion of the 16th. Enemy groups were still scattered along the route of advance, inflicting casualties by rifle and machine-gun fire that seemed to be sited for covering the gates and hedgerow openings. By 1500, the battalion was passing west of Company G, 16th Infantry; at dark it was on the edge of the high ground 500 yards south and southeast of Colleville, with not much resistance to its front but a good deal of fire coming from the rear. The 1st Battalion ran into two platoons of Germans holding trenches near the head of E-1 draw, and was busy until late in the afternoon cleaning out that area and dealing with enemy parties who attempted to escape up the draw from bypassed positions. The 3d Battalion, moving in reserve, received orders at 1615 to take over the objectives of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry: capture of Formigny and Surrain. At 1800, the 3d Battalion, bothered by snipers, was still north of the coastal highway and received the more modest mission of reaching the high ground south of the highway and filling the gap between the 1st and 29th Division units. At midnight the 3d Battalion was still short of the highway. The 1st Battalion, having finished enemy


resistance near the head of the draw, was ordered to attack toward Surrain. By midnight, it was reportedly near the St-Laurent-Colleville highway.

A mile to the east of Colleville, the 3d Battalion of the 16th Infantry had been fighting all day on its own, out of contact with the rest of the regiment. After taking the bluff strongpoint at F-1 draw, the intermingled units of the battalion were reorganized on the high ground behind the bluffs. The advance off the beach had been made by elements of six companies (including Company F of the 16th and Company E of the 116th), but the force that now moved inland numbered little over 100 men. Patrols were sent ahead, but the three men sent to Cabourg ran into a German strongpoint and were captured. Enemy groups were still to the rear near the bluffs and even attempted a counterattack in platoon strength. In the afternoon, the battalion moved into le Grand-Hameau. With the enemy holding Cabourg in some strength, there could be no question of further advance. During the evening, other elements got off the beach, some 17 tanks came up, and the 3d Battalion occupied defensive positions blocking the coastal highway at le Grand-Hameau.

The 26th Infantry, loaded in Force "B," arrived in the transport area at 1300 and was ordered to land at 1800 near E-3 exit. The regiment was ashore by 2100 and received orders to put the 3d Battalion in a defensive position on the road south from St-Laurent to Formigny, with the 2d Battalion close behind it ready to attack through the 3d Battalion in the morning. The battalions were moving toward their objectives during the night. The 1st Battalion went up east of E-3 exit to protect the left flank of the 16th Infantry.

General Huebner and the command group 1st Division, landed on Easy Red at 1900 and joined General Wyman at the division command post, located in the entrance of E-1 draw. General Gerow and the advance headquarters of V Corps left the Ancon for shore at 2030.

Afternoon on the Beach

In the early afternoon, destroyers continued their work of knocking out enemy gun emplacements along the beach front. The strongpoint guarding the Vierville draw was silenced by 1300; somewhat later, the dangerous flanking positions near Pointe de la Percee were literally blown of the face of the cliff. These actions greatly helped the situation on the beach, but by no means ended all enemy opposition. Though the most dangerous enemy guns were now neutralized and some emplacements were surrendered without a fight, there was still enough resistance to block three of the main exits. The Vierville draw, as General Cota's trip through it showed, was ready for opening, but there was not enough force at hand for systematic mopping-up of the weakened positions. Resistance at the D-3 and E-3 draws was still strong enough to block any movement through those exit routes. There and elsewhere, Germans made use of the maze of communications trenches and tunnels by emerging from dugouts to reoccupy emplacements believed neutralized. Snipers reappeared along the bluffs in areas where penetrations had been made. Above all, artillery from inland positions kept up sporadic harassing fire on the beach flat. Directed by observers in the remaining strongpoints, this shelling was most severe from Easy Green eastward and reached its height in the late afternoon. Hits were still occasionally made on landing craft, sinking or setting them afire; vehicles were struck as they jammed the approaches to the exits or tried to move laterally along the beach. Not heavy enough to inflict


LANDINGS WERE DELAYED and in the afternoon the approach the beach was crowded with craft waiting to come in as the receding tide uncovered obstacles. A rhino-ferry, with cranes aboard, has come in hear some drowned-out trucks. Les Moulins (D-3) at right.

major losses or to stop progress, this fire could still hamper and delay the effort to bring order into the confusion on the beach flat. Neither inland observers nor reconnaissance planes located the enemy batteries, and Navy guns could not intervene effectively. Throughout D Day, naval fire on inland targets relied mainly on observation by spotter planes. The destroyer Carmick, in contact with an NSFCP at 1720, made several attempts to locate the enemy battery firing on E-1 draw, but the observers' party finally gave up, admitting it was guessing as to location of the German guns.

Nevertheless, the engineers were able to make steady progress in their vital task of clearing and organizing the beach for movement inland. As the tide lowered, the remnants of the demolition teams went to work again on the exposed obstacles, although four parties had to interrupt their work to deal with harassing fire from enemy snipers on the bluff. They completed three gaps partially opened in the morning, made four new ones, and widened some of the others. By evening, 13 gaps were fully opened and


marked, and an estimated 35 percent of the obstacles on the beach had been cleared. Along the beach flat, units of the Engineer Special Brigade Group were making gaps in the embankment, clearing minefields, and doing what they could to get at the exits. More of their units and equipment were getting ashore, though mislandings still occurred to upset assignments. Fox Beach was ready for development, but the 336th Battalion, scheduled to land there, was brought in at the opposite end of Omaha Beach, 4,000 yards away. About 1500 the unit began a difficult journey to reach F-1 exit. Enemy artillery fire harassed it all the way, especially in front of D-3 and E-3 draws. At E-3 shelling was so heavy that men were sent across the exposed area in pairs. When about half had crossed, a dozer at work near the shingle was hit and burned, sending up clouds of smoke which covered the remainder of the movement. The 336th Engineers reached F-l exit at 1700, with a loss of six men. A trailer loaded with explosives and towed by a tractor had made the trip unscathed.


The primary condition for improvement on the beach was to get vehicles started inland, thus relieving congestion and permitting further landings. This became possible after the fire of destroyers and the advance of the 18th Infantry had cleared up the last enemy resistance at E-1 draw. Gaps had already been cut through the embankment, and the engineers of the 1st, 37th, and 149th Battalions were ready to exploit the advantage. Between 1200 and 1300, doers under fire from snipers cut a road up the western slope of the draw toward St-Laurent, and the movement of vehicles began almost at once. Landings were resumed on Easy Red and Easy Green, the first group of preloaded dukws coming in by 1400. Enemy artillery lacked observation on the E-l draw, fortunately for the heavy traffic now starting. By 1500 new trouble loomed; the vehicles coming up on the plateau found themselves unable to get far toward St-Laurent because of continued enemy resistance in that village. For a time all movement was stopped. Vehicles jammed bumper to bumper all the way up the exit road, but by 1600, engineers had pushed a branch road south off the planned route toward the coastal highway. Vehicles were hastily shunted off this track into the adjoining fields, and movement continued for the rest of the day. At 1700, all remaining tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion were ordered inland via this exit, and four of them later took part in the unsuccessful attempt to clean out St. Laurent before dark.

BREACHES IN THE SHINGLE EMBANKMENT were opened by bulldozers in the afternoon, permitting vehicles to reach the flat. This scene (Easy Red) taken some days later, shows ships unloading at the high-water line, where they were floated off at next high tide.


THE E-1 EXIT ROAD was opened on D Day by 1300, the engineers working under fire from snipers. This photo, looking down E-1 draw, was taken later in the week. A tape to mark mine-cleared areas was still needed, since this draw had been heavily mined.

ROADBLOCKS WERE DEMOLISHED at the mouth of D-1 draw by engineers of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion. After the draw was open for traffic to Vierville by 1700, fire from the artillery inland demolished houses along ad, impeding its use until dark.


Efforts to get other exits working were not successful until late in the day. At the Vierville draw, D-1 exit was cleared during the afternoon by the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion, but movement was impeded by artillery fire which blocked the road with fresh debris. By nightfall traffic was going up into the village, the 121st had partly opened a transit area, and the 743d Tank Battalion bivouacked near Vierville. Les Moulins draw (D-3) was still barred by enemy resistance in the weakening strong-points. Work at E-3 exit was carried on in the intervals of considerable artillery and mortar fire. When this slackened at dark, the engineers developed the exit sufficiently for tanks to go up after midnight. After traversing the beach from the Vierville draw, the 336th Engineers went to work at F-1 exit, clearing mines and pushing a new road, 12 feet wide and one-third of a mile long, up the moderate slope of the bluff. Landing schedules were revised to take advantage of this exit. Company B of the 745th Tank Battalion landed on Fox Green at 1630 and was up on the high ground by 2000, losing three tanks disabled by mines. In most of their work during the afternoon, the engineers were harassed by small-arms fire and had to make full use of their security detachments for mopping up snipers and small bypassed emplacements.

Artillery, held off shore by the unfavorable conditions of the morning, began to land after noon in the E-1 area. Heavy losses had been sustained by some units before they were able to debark. The one remaining howitzer of the 111th Field Artillery Battalion came ashore attached to the 7th Field Artillery Battalion, which itself had lost six pieces on dukws that swamped in the rough seas. Landing after 1300, the other six howitzers of the battalion were tied in together to facilitate control, and fired their first mission from the beach at 1615 on an enemy machine-gun nest near Colleville. Because of difficult observation inland, this was their only mission of the day. The 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion (self-propelled), firing from LCT's in support of the assault, was unable to unload its guns in the morning. From 1500 to 1830, six M-7 howitzers got ashore, two others having been lost. They were moved to firing positions 200 yards inland but fired no missions. The rest of the battalion (eight howitzers) landed on Fox Green at dark and moved toward Colleville. The 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (self-propelled) had lost five howitzers as a result of mishaps to the LCT's trying to land in the morning. The remainder of the battalion got ashore from noon onward, and one battery moved inland at 1800 to support the 115th Infantry near St-Laurent. The 32d Field Artillery Battalion landed in the evening and took positions northeast of St-Laurent. This unit lost 2 guns in the surf and 25 vehicles during the landing (some were later recovered), and had 28 casualties. By night there were elements of 5 artillery battalions ashore, but their combined losses had been 26 guns and a great deal of equipment. Except for the one mission fired by the 7th Battalion, they had played no part in the inland fighting. As for the two anti-aircraft gun battalions scheduled to land, these units were forced to wait for the next daylight.

In general, only a start had been made in clearing and organizing the beaches. The main transit area in use, northeast of St-Laurent, was jammed with vehicles and equipment of all types. The beach flat near E-1 exit was crowded as a result of heavy landings late in the day; there and elsewhere, much of the disorder produced in the morning remained to be straightened out. Medical units had been unable to set up stations inland, supplies were waiting for the organization


of dumps, and "lost" elements of assault infantry, reinforcements, and service troops were trying to find their units. Men dug in for the night wherever they could, some in the sand or on the bluff slopes. All through the shallow beachhead, along the bluffs, in the transit area, and around command posts, sniper fire caused alarms and started outbursts of firing. There were no "rear areas" on the night of D Day.

At the End of D Day

The assault on Omaha Beach had succeeded, but the going had been harder than expected. Penetrations made in the morning by relatively weak assault groups had lacked the force to carry far inland. Delay in reducing the strongpoints at the draws had slowed landings of reinforcements, artillery, and supplies. Stubborn enemy resistance,

WRECKAGE ON EASY RED includes landing craft (right), trucks, and tank No. 9, Company A, 741st Tank Battalion, which had been disabled here in the morning. Much matériell was salvaged during the clean-up of the beach by the Engineer Special Brigade Group.


both at strongpoints and inland, had held the advance to a strip of ground hardly more than a mile-and-a-half deep in the Colleville area, and considerably less than that west of St-Laurent. Barely large enough to be called a foothold, this strip was well inside the planned beachhead maintenance area. Behind U. S. forward positions, cut-off enemy groups were still resisting. The whole landing area continued under enemy artillery fire from inland.

Infantry assault troops had been landed, despite all difficulties, on the scale intended; most of the elements of five regiments were ashore by dark. With respect to artillery, vehicles, and supplies of all sorts, schedules were far behind. Little more than 100 tons had been got ashore instead of the 2,400 tons planned for D Day. The ammunition supply situation was critical and would have been even worse except for the fact that 90 of the 110 pre-loaded dukws in Force "O" had made the shore successfully. Only the first steps had been taken to organize the beach for handling the expected volume of traffic, and it was obvious that further delay in unloadings would be inevitable.

Unit records for D Day are necessarily incomplete or fragmentary, and losses in men and matériel cannot be established in accurate detail. First estimates of casualties

DEBRIS of the landing assault on Dog Beach, with discarded life preservers most prominent. Boxes of demolitions in foreground.


WRECKAGE LITTERED THE BEACHES, at the end of D Day, on Dog Green Beach. On the right, a tank. The LCA carried in a boat team of Company B, 116th Infantry. Element "C" obstacles (left) show in water. Ships off the beach are ready to pour in materials.

were high, with an inflated percentage of "missing" as a result of the number of assault sections which were separated from their companies, sometimes for two or three days. On the basis of later, corrected returns, casualties for V Corps were in the neighborhood of 3,000 killed, wounded, and missing. The two assaulting regimental combat teams (16th and 116th) lost about 1,000 men each. The highest proportionate losses were taken by units which landed in the first few hours, including engineers, tank troops, and artillery.

Whether by swamping at sea or by action at the beach, matériel losses were considerable, including 26 artillery pieces and over 50 tanks. No satisfactory over-all figures are available for vehicles and supplies; one unit, the 4042d Quartermaster Truck Company, got ashore only 13 out of 35 trucks (2 1/2 ton), but this loss was much higher than the average. On the Navy side, a tentative estimate gives a total of about 50 landing craft and 10 larger vessels lost, with a much larger number of all types damaged. The principal cause for the difficulties of


V Corps on D Day was the unexpected strength of the enemy at the assault beaches. By the middle of the morning prisoners had been taken not only from the 726th Regiment but from all three regiments of the 352d Division (the 914th, 915th, and 916th Regiments). During May, when the 91st Division was brought into the Cotentin peninsula and the 21st Panzer Division to the Caen area, the German Seventh Army had also strengthened the beach garrisons between the Vire and Orne rivers. The 352d Division, moving from the St-Lô area, had taken over the sector from Isigny to a point several miles east of Bayeux. Apparently units of the 726th Regiment already holding the coastal strongpoints remained there but were reinforced by 352d units. This meant that all strongpoints were completely manned, that reserve teams were available for some of the weapons positions, and also that there were units close behind Omaha Beach in support of the main defenses. How much of the 352d Division was actually at Omaha is not yet known; certainly not the whole unit, for elements of it were encountered in the Bayeux area by the British, and the 915th Regiment was ordered on D Day to guard the Carentan area. Nevertheless, the Omaha sector had been so strengthened as to account for the tough opposition both on the beaches and inland. Much of the heavy artillery fire during the afternoon was probably due to the 352d Divisional Artillery, which included four battalions, one of medium guns.

In view of the German strength near the beaches, a surprising feature of the D-Day battle was the enemy's failure to stage any effective counterattack. The reason may have been that the 352d Division units were too scattered; it may also reflect disorganization of the division and loss of control as a result of the inland air bombardment and the naval gunfire. Whatever the answer, not a single enemy attack in real strength had been met by the assaulting forces as they pushed south from the beach. Particularly in the morning, when the first penetrations were being made by small units without support of armor or artillery, determined counterblows of battalion strength in the Colleville or Vierville areas might have pushed the battle back to the beach. Enemy power had been frittered away in stubborn defensive action by small groups, which were nowhere able to do more than delay our advances. There is enough evidence to suggest that the 352d units were committed piecemeal, in battalion strength or less, and that companies and battalions of different regiments were intermingled. Elements of the 915th Regiment, for example, were identified east of Bayeux, in the Omaha sector, and near Isigny. Such disposition would not lend itself to coordinated attack in sizable force.

In any event, there were few indications of the aggressive defense called for by German tactical doctrine. All this was the more significant since the 352d Division represented an offensive unit which the enemy had been expected to use for counterattack by the second day. Employed instead in close-up defense of the beach, it had made the initial assault phase harder but had not achieved a defensive success. In that respect, V Corps had surmounted a severe crisis, and the success of its hard fight should be measured in other terms than the size of the beachhead. To the extent that the 352d Division had been used up on D Day, the enemy had lost in available strength for effective early countermeasures. If his local striking force, committed at the start of the invasion, had not been able to gain a decisive advantage, it was by that very commitment less likely to be as dangerous later on. The next few days would show whether the 352d Division had been wisely used. It had delayed the whole assault schedule at Omaha,


but unless enemy reserves were available in time, this delay might mean little for the eventual outcome.

The Omaha assault was only one of several Allied landings, and the fortunes of each were important to the others. On the whole, the Allied operation had achieved a good measure of success in each main area (Map No. X). In the Cotentin, VII Corps' landing from the sea had been relatively easy, and part of the 4th Division was six miles inland near the Carentan-Cherbourg highway. The airborne divisions, however, had been hampered by scattered drops, and some of their vital objectives had not been attained, notably at the Merderet River crossings. Ste-Mére-Eglise was held, but only partial contacts had been made by the airborne units with each other and with the 4th Division. Losses had been severe in a score of separate battles waged by small units, and control had not yet been established over the large area involved in the air and sea landings.

To the east, British Second Army landings had scored impressive early successes. The airborne units had seized the Orne crossings north of Caen, and a wide breakthrough was made in coastal defenses by the assault troops landed from sea. Nevertheless, the 716th Division, perhaps strengthened by the shortening of its sector, had held out tenaciously in some of the bypassed strongpoints. In the later afternoon, elements of the 21st Panzer Division counterattacked in the Caen area and were checked after some initial success. Stopped short of their main objectives, Caen and Bayeux, the British Second Army was nevertheless inland at some points as far as six miles and had cut the Bayeux-Caen highway. Four of its divisions were in action and another was scheduled to start landing on D+1.

The complete absence of enemy air from the assault area of V Corps was an outstanding feature of the day's action. It is easy to imagine what the intervention of enemy fighters and fighter-bombers would have meant in the critical morning hours, when the assault forces were crowded on the narrow beach flat. Allied air supremacy on D Day had been absolute. Only three FW-190's had been sighted and chased of by the U. S. patrols covering the shipping area, and enemy air efforts to get near the battle zone had been negligible. Not until nightfall was there any German air activity near Omaha; then 22 enemy planes attacked shipping without causing any serious damage, though one bomb from a JU-88 landed only 35 yards from the battleship Arkansas. Intense antiaircraft fire shot down three planes .

In contrast, Allied air forces had carried through a day of heavy and far-ranging offensive activity, initiating the program, to be carried on for days to come, of isolating the battle area and hampering the movement of enemy troops and supplies in or near it. Eighth Air Force bombers carried out three major missions after the opening assault bombing. On two of these, involving 1,264 heavies, choke points for traffic behind the assault area were hit from Brittany to the Seine; among them were St-Lô, Vire, and Coutances. On similar missions, the Bomber Command of the Ninth Air Force dispatched 1,011 aircraft on D Day, many crews flying 2 missions. Two thousand and sixty-five fighter-bombers of the Ninth attacked, including among their missions 11 flown on request for air-ground cooperation by ground forces. Their efforts included attempts to deal with enemy batteries between Isigny and Bayeux, and with the guns near Maisy and Gefosse-Fontenay. British planes in the tactical air force (A.E.A.F.) flew 2,489 sorties on D Day.


The Enemy Side17

The enemy had been aware of impending Allied invasion since the late winter. The German High Command believed that the most likely area for the blow was the Pas-de-Calais coast. Hitler, on the other hand, regarded Brittany and the Cotentin area of Normandy as more likely targets. As a result of his views, reinforcements were brought to that area in May. The 91st Division was placed in the Cotentin. The 2d Paratroop Division was ordered from the eastern front, but only the 6th Regiment had arrived by June, to be stationed near Carentan. By May, intelligence had revealed the movement of troops into southern England, and other preparations for the assault. Rommel's Army Group "B" was put in a state of readiness by the end of May, and Rommel himself expressed his complete satisfaction with the preparations for defense. The arrival of reinforcements had permitted him to plan for tactics which he had long advocated. that of making a "more tactical defense" of the coast, with reserves as close as possible to the more vulnerable areas. The keynote of his defensive plans was struck in a letter of 22 April 1944 to commanders of coastal units. "We must stop the assaulting forces in the water, not only delaying, but destroying all enemy equipment while still afloat." On 6 June Rommel was absent from France on a visit to Hitler's headquarters, and had stopped in Stuttgart on his way back, to celebrate his wife's birthday.

Plans for use of the German air force in the event of an invasion had been embarrassed by a number of factors. Goering was afraid of shifting fighters to France before the last moment, since this move would expose them to attack by superior Allied air power. Furthermore, Allied attacks on airfields in France had wrecked so many installations that the Luftwaffe would have great trouble in finding bases for operation close to the coast. Finally, it was difficult to plan on weakening the fighter defense of Germany against Allied airblows. As a result of these considerations, German air strength in France in early June was weak.

According to a statement made in 1945 by a high German staff officer, radio intercepts had yielded the German High Command information on the afternoon of 5 June that led them to expect an invasion the next morning. Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, did not deem it necessary to inform the local commanders in France, since their state of readiness was regarded as sufficient without further notice; furthermore, there had been several false alarms earlier.

At 0130 on 6 June the German Seventh Army received word from LXXXIV Corps that landings from the air were under way from Caen to the northern Cotentin. Despite many early reports of an erroneous nature, and despite the wide distribution of the landings, by 0230 Army felt able to designate the focal areas as the Orne River mouth, and the Ste-Mére-Eglise sector. In contrast to Seventh Army's views that the Allies were attacking to cut off the Cotentin peninsula, Army Group and Western Command (Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt) were of the opinion that a major enemy action was not in progress. By 0250 coastal stations were reporting movement at sea east of Cherbourg and north of Caen, but no detailed appreciations reached Corps then or later.

Despite further reports of parachute landings at inland points all through western Normandy, at 0400 Gen. Erich Marcks (LXXXIV Corps) confirmed the first impression that the focal points were the Caen sector and around Ste-Mére-Eglise. He reported that the 915th Infantry, corps reserve, had been ordered to occupy the Carentan area with the mission of maintaining communications through that point. Army Group alerted


the 21st Panzer Division, attached it to Seventh Army, and ordered it to attack in the Caen area with main effort east of the Orne. Measures were taken to deal with the air landings in the Cotentin by counterattack, and the 30th Mobile Brigade was set in march toward Periers. At 0515, Seventh Army reaffirmed its earlier view to Army Group; a major offensive was in progress with landings by sea expected. The 21st Panzer Division had begun movement northward for immediate counterattack east of the Orne River.

At 0600 Corps reported heavy naval gunfire from Grandcamp to the Orne; at 0645 Army told Army Group that the Allied intentions were still not clear and express an opinion that the naval gunfire might be part of a diversionary attack, to be followed by the main effort in some other area. German air and sea reconnaissance, active since daylight, had furnished no new information. Not until 0900 did Army hear from LXXXIV Corps that heavy landings from the sea had taken place from 0715 on; the sectors reported were from the Orne to northeast of Bayeux and at Grandcamp. The number of ships involved was uncertain; some 60 were reported at Grandcamp. At 0925, Corps reported the situation as very threatening north of Caen, with Allied armor reaching artillery positions, and asked for a mobile reserve to be constituted at once west of Caen. Penetrations in the forward positions of the 352d Infantry Division were reported at this time but were not regarded as dangerous. At 1040 the naval command reported enemy ship movements at the mouth of the Vire Estuary.

Corps reported at 1145 an Allied bridgehead 16 miles wide and over 3 miles deep north and northwest of Caen; no information was on hand from the 352d Division, and communications were out with the eastern Cotentin area. Both Army and Corps were convinced that the Caen landings presented the main threat; the 21st Panzer Division was headed for the beachhead both east and west of the Orne, and 30th Mobile Brigade was ordered to come up to support the 716th Division. Army endeavored to get Army Group's approval of a plan whereby the 711th Division would take care of the east bank of the Orne and the 12th SS Panzer Division would be committed in the Caen sector. At noon, Corps stated that attempted sea landings from the Vire to the coast of northeast of Bayeux had been completely smashed and the only critical area was that near Caen.

The 352d Division advised Army at 1335 that the Allied assault had been hurled back into the sea; only at Colleville was fighting still under way, with the Germans counterattacking. This reassuring view was sent on to Army Group.

At 1500 Army Group decided to put I SS Panzer Corps in charge of the Caen area.18 It would include the 716th Division, the 21st Panzer Division, and the 12th SS Panzer Division, to which would be added the Panzer Lehr Division. Its mission was to attack and wipe out the Allied beachhead on both sides of the Orne. The 12th SS Panzer would move at once from the Alencon area toward Caen; Panzer Lehr was to come behind it. The 21st Panzer Division had elements north of Caen by 1600 and was expected to enter the battle at any moment.

At 1620 Army gave Army Group a general estimate of the situation: the situation in the Cotentin was noted as reassuring, and German forces on hand there were regarded as adequate; Army expressed its surprise that no landings by sea had supported the airborne troops, and hazarded the view that the Allied operation in sector was diversionary. Twenty minutes later, this conclusion was upset by word from Corps that sea landings had taken place in the Madeleine area, just north of the Vire mouth.19 At 1800 more bad news came from the 352d Division: Allied forces had infiltrated through the strongpoints, and advance elements with armor had reached the line Colleville-Louviéres-Asnieres;20 the objective of this attack was believed to be


Bayeux. At the same time the right wing of the 352d Division was threatened by advance of Allied troops toward Bayeux from the northeast. Ryes had been taken, and the 352d was mounting a counterattack to recover it. This effort came to nought; at 2100 Corps reported a heavy Allied penetration toward the Bayeux-Caen highway at the expense of the 915th Regiment. As for the evening attack of the 21st Panzer Division, that unit had at first made progress and nearly reached the coast; it then met heavy resistance and was forced to yield ground.

Army Group at 1700 had transmitted von Rundstedt's demand that the Allied bridgehead be wiped out that evening; also, the order of General Jodl that all available forces be thrown into the battle. Army replied that it was impossible to clean up the penetration area on 6 June, but that all measures were set for a counterattack at the earliest moment.

By midnight Seventh Army and Army Group had made plans for a heavy armored counterattack on 7 June against the British landing area by I SS Panzer Corps, with the 716th Division attached. The 21st Panzer Division would attack east of Caen; 12th SS Panzer and Panzer Lehr west of Caen. Steps had been taken during the day for setting in motion other units to reinforce the battle area (Map No. XIII). Battle groups (Kampfgruppen21) from the 266th and 77th Divisions were put in a state of readiness, and those from the 275th and 265th Divisions were started by rail transport as reinforcement for LXXXIV Corps. All these units were in Brittany, and some hesitation was felt by Army Group in taking too much strength from that area before Allied intentions were fully clarified.

Corps and Army had already received preliminary explanations from the 716th Division on reasons for the success of the Allied assault. (This report may have related only to the British zone.) Particular stress was laid on the devastating effects of the naval gunfire; in addition, it was claimed that "special bombs" had set off German minefields, and that the assault troops had used new tactics in bypassing strongpoints with strong armored units and then attacking the coastal defenses from the rear. German efforts to counterattack had been stopped with high losses, mainly by the action of Allied air and the naval fire. In a further report, made about a week later for submission to Hitler himself, the same unit went into more detail. It was fully alerted on 6 June, and there was no question of being caught unprepared or by surprise. German reconnaissance by sea and air failed completely to produce any information. Defensive obstacles, not yet completed, were not effective, and the minefields had been partly detonated by gunfire and air bombardment. Smoke screens hindered the coastal guns from aimed fire on the ships, and German artillery was put out of action at an early stage by bombing and naval gunfire. The loss of two antitank companies as a result of the air bombardment was keenly felt when it came to meeting armored attack. According to this report, the Allies obviously knew every weak point in the German defensive positions and had made good use of this intelligence in the assault. Because of the lack of a second defensive line, fortified in depth, penetrations were extended rapidly to the proportions of a breakthrough, and air and naval gunfire had greatly hindered the bringing up of operative reserves for counterattack.

At the end of D Day the German Seventh Army had decided that the landings near the Orne constituted the main threat, and had taken steps to commit its strongest and most readily available reserves in that sector. The situation in the Cotentin was not causing particular worry. Information as to the Omaha Beach sector had been scanty throughout the day, and both Corps and Army tended to pay little attention to developments


there, even after the evening news of Allied penetrations. The evidence suggests that both Corps and Army regarded the assault in this area as a mere adjunct of the main effort directed at Caen and Bayeux. Communications were evidently poor in the 352d Division's sector, and no inkling had come back to Corps of the scale of landings in progress at Omaha.

When Hitler, on 6 June, received word of the invasion he was about to appear at a reception near Salzburg of the new Hungarian prime minister. Hitler came in to the meeting with a radiant face and announced "It's begun at last." He was confident that all measures were being taken to meet the crisis, and that by 13 June counterattacks would wipe out any beachheads.

A PILLBOX USED AS HEADQUARTERS. This emplacement (now a battle monument) which protected E-1 draw (west side), was employed as CP for the Engineer Special Brigade Group. This unit operated Omaha Beach as a port of supply until December.


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[17] Captured documents and PW interviews already yield much information on the German reactions to the Allied assault particularly at Army level. What follows is a summary of the action from the enemy point of view and of all important measures taken by the enemy command at higher levels. The summary must include the whole Normandy assault area, for from the standpoint of both Seventh Army and LXXXIV Corps the Omaha sector was only one part of a complex defensive problem. From D Day on enemy reaction in the sector facing V Corps can only be understood in reference so the larger problem faced by the German command.

[18] For enemy reinforcement plans, see Map XIII.

[19] I.e., Utah beachhead.

[20] Village one mile east of Louviéres.

[21] Units of irregular composition and temporary in character, created for special missions or in view of an emergency. In this case, the battle groups probably consisted of the more mobile elements of the divisions concerned, and the best fighting troops. A "battle group" had no fixed size, and there is no indication as to what proportion of the divisions mentioned here were included.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation