From: Naval Commander Western Task Force (Commander Task Force 122).
The following aircraft were available in the United Kingdom at the time of the invasion:
Fighters TOTAL U.S. 8TH ARMY AIR FORCE 2,234 903 3,137 U.S. 9TH ARMY AIR FORCE 156 467 1,277 1,900 R.A.F. 237 957 1,306 2,500 TOTAL 393 467 3,191 3,486 7,537
Under the general direction of the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, the Air Commander-in-Chief Allied Expeditionary Air Force, at Allied Expeditionary Air Force Headquarters, Stanmore, England, commanded the Allied Air Forces allotted for direct participation in the operation and coordinated strategic and tactical operations. Operational control was exercised by the Commander Advanced Allied Expeditionary Air Force at Headquarters, Uxbridge, England, through the Combined Operations Room and Combined Control Center, Uxbridge. Combined Headquarters, Plymouth, was manned by representatives of the Naval Commander, Western Task Force, and the NINTH Army Air Force. This Headquarters monitored the Air Support Channels of the Western Task Force, the NINTH Army Air Force Command Channel, and one direct teleprinter circuit to Advanced Allied Expeditionary Air Force Headquarters, Uxbridge, England. Combined Headquarters, Plymouth, was maintained to furnish a standby headquarters and to keep a record of air activity in the Western Task Force Area. Representatives of the Naval Commander Western Task Force were stationed at Advanced Allied Expeditionary Air Force Headquarters and in the Fighter Director Tender in the Assault Area for the purpose of coordinating operations and keeping the Air Force advised as to the Naval dispositions and requirements.
The close proximity of the assault beaches to the United Kingdom was such that control of aircraft was exercised from the United Kingdom until such time as Control Centers were established on the Continent. During this phase of the operation Air Force Representatives in Task Force and Assault Force Flagships, Fighter Controllers in Fighter Director Tenders, and Air Support Parties with Assault Forces were delegated certain control functions and responsibilities as set forth in this report.
Air Support Parties (Army Force personnel) suitably equipped with vehicular mounted VHF and HF radio sets were landed with each Regimental Combat Team, Division and Corps Headquarters. Requests for air support
originating on the CONTINENT were transmitted directly to 21st Army Group Operations Room at Uxbridge by the Air Support Party attached. Such requests were monitored, and where necessary, relayed by the Assault Force Flagships and radio PLYMOUTH. Requests originating in the Task and Assault Force Flagships were given to the Air Representative embarked and transmitted directly to Uxbridge; those originating in the Assault Force Flagships were monitored by the Task Force Flagship. All requests were filtered in the 21st Army Group Operations Room and passed on to the Air Force Combined Operations Room, Uxbridge, for action.
FOR COMPARISON WITH THE ABOVE THE NAVAL DOCTRINE IS QUOTED FROM CURRENT TACTICAL ORDERS AND DOCTRINE TO SHOW METHODS EMPLOYED FOR THE CONTROL OF U. S. FLEET AIRCRAFT IN SUPPORTING AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS.
"Functions of Support Aircraft. Support Aircraft in an amphibious operation have two broad functions:
- Protection of friendly forces at the Objective from enemy air and surface attack.
- Support of Landing Force in assault on Objective."
"Support Aircraft Forces. Support Aircraft consist of all aircraft on station over the Expeditionary Force and the Objective for the support of an amphibious operation."
"This includes Combat Air Patrol, Anti-Submarine Patrol, Hunter Killer Planes, Search Planes, Strike and Troop Support Aircraft, Smoke Planes, Photo Planes, and Liaison Planes. These aircraft may report on station as the result of Scheduled flights or "On Call" flights. Scheduled flights are provided by a pre-arranged plan. "On Call" flights are retained at base until specifically requested by Commander Support Aircraft. Normally, after reporting on station, no Support Aircraft should leave station until properly relieved and ordered by Commander Support Aircraft to perform a mission or return to base, except for shortage of fuel or other emergency."
From: Naval Commander Western Task Force (cont'd).
During the Preparatory Period (D-90 to D day) air bombing commitments included:
- Enemy aircraft factories and assembly plants, ball bearing and aircraft accessory plants, and aircraft on the ground.
- Strategic rail centers, and, in particular, those which include servicing and repair facilities essential to the enemy for the maintenance of rail communications in Northern FRANCE, the LOW COUNTRIES, and WESTERN GERMANY.
- Selected enemy coast defense batteries, CROSSBOW targets and Naval installations.
- Airfields and their installations, in particular those within 130 miles of CANN and in the BREST-NANTES area.
As D-day approached, attacks by air were intensified and focused on key points more directly related to the Assault Area. Attacks on certain coastal batteries were included in this phase. To avoid disclosing the - - - - - - - - - Area, attacks on batteries in this Area were kept at one-third of the total effort against this type of target.
The maximum effort of pre-planned heavy, medium and fighter-bomber Missions were executed the night of D-1/D-day and the morning of D-day. Low ceiling on the morning of D-day precluded effective pre-H hour bombardment by heavy bombers of OMAHA BEACH, as scheduled. To the failure of this mission may be attributed a great deal of the difficulty experienced in gaining a foot-hold on OMAHA BEACH
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Only 42% of the Spotting Missions flown actually spotted naval gunfire. This was due to the following causes: Radio communications and engine failures, inability to locate or find suitable targets of opportunity, ships not in correct position to fire, weather, flak and action of enemy fighters. Thirty-seven (37) (14%) of the two hundred sixty six (266) missions that failed to spot failed because of breakdown in radio communications. Fifteen missions (6%) were aborted by aircraft failure.
Anti-Aircraft Defense And Aircraft Recognition.
During the Assault anti-aircraft fire discipline was excellent. After the Assault forces began their withdrawal, and the build-up of merchant types commenced, fire discipline deteriorated, particularly on merchant ships and small naval ships. As soon as one vessel opened fire during the dark many others would follow suit, irrespective of whether or not planes were seen or heard overhead, or hostile acts committed. Steps were taken to correct this situation. Rigid restrictions were placed on those vessels within the Assault Area. Merchant ships were restricted from firing at any time during darkness. Small Naval ships were prohibited from firing during darkness unless directly attacked. By D+7 day, the AA fire situation was well in hand, and thereafter discipline was again good. At all times the fire discipline of the Destroyers, Cruisers, and Battleships was excellent.
Barrage balloons flown by ships and craft in the Assault Area were kept close hauled until after the first landings were made. After H-hour balloons were flown at 1000 feet unless visibility was less than 1500 yards or cloud ceiling less then 1000 feet in which case balloons were flown at 300 feet.
Aircraft recognition officers were attached to all major men-of-war. Aircraft recognition personnel of the Royal Observer Corps were detailed to all transports and merchant ships participating in Operation - - - - - - -. Prior to the Operation, extensive training had been given to personnel of the smaller craft at the various landing craft bases. To aid in recognition, all Allied aircraft were painted with distinctive markings on D-day.
In spite of all these preventive measures, it is the fact that a few Allied aircraft were shot down by our forces.
Scale Of Enemy Effort.
The enemy air effort against the Shipping Lanes and the Assault Area during the assault phase, and subsequently, was on a scale appreciably less than had been anticipated.
The only air attacks directed against shipping in the Western Task Force Areas was during darkness. Enemy night activity was largely confined to minelaying. There was some night bombing. Flares (aerial and floating) were dropped nightly over the shipping and the beaches, but little follow-up was made.
As our air ascendancy mounted, confidence increased and it soon became common practice, when aircraft appeared in daylight, merely to ask which type of friendly plane was in sight -- never to bother about their being "Jerries".
D-1 (5 June). At 1600 day air cover reported on station and at 2300 was relieved by night cover according to plan. No direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships. On approach to the Assault Area enemy AA fire was observed on the beach. No enemy aircraft action was observed.
D-Day (6 June) -- Day and night air cover operated according to plan. At 0721 radar and radio silence was broken and control of fighter cover in the Western Task Force Area was assumed by FDT 216. Five (5) direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships of which four (4) were flown. Enemy air activity in the Western Task Force Area was slight and consisted of mine laying, flare dropping and reconnaissance flights during darkness only. Two enemy aircraft were reported shot down, one by air cover and one by USS Maloy. Enemy aircraft attacks were countered by AA fire from ships. Advanced Headquarters, NINTH Air Force reported that paratroop drop had been successful. Commanding General NINTH Air Force, estimated the enemy air capabilities to be 360 LRB, 325 SEF, 100 FB, 200 TEF, and 60 reconnaissance aircraft.
D+1 (7 June) -- Day and night air cover operated according to plan. Armed reconnaissance missions flown by aircraft of the air cover and the unexpectedly slight enemy air activity reduced the number of
air cover sorties. Sixteen (16) direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships of which nine (9) were flown. The enemy repeatedly jammed the Aircraft Movement Liaison Broadcast Channel. The enemy operated approximately fifty aircraft over the Western Task Force Assault Area near midnight. Night fighters destroyed one Ju 88. Mines were laid. Enemy bombing results were negligible. Commanding General NINTH Air Force estimated that the disposition of the German Air Force would be completed by dawn 8 June. fighters and bombers from northwest Germany were being transferred to France and Belgium.D+2 (8 June) -- At 0430 day cover reported on station relieving the night cover. At 1600 cover was reduced because of weather. By 2210 all cover was withdrawn because of bad weather which delayed the reporting of the night cover. Twenty-six (26) direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships of which fifteen (15) were flown. There was some duplication of requests. Only seven (7) requests were actually refused. During darkness three (3) attacks were made on shipping in the Assault Area by a total of approximately fifty (50) enemy aircraft. Flares were dropped and mines laid. Bombing results were negligible. The attacks were countered by AA fire, which brought down one (1) enemy aircraft in the Assault Area. The USS Ancon reported that Me 109s and Fw 190s were using Allied Special Identification Markings. The Air Support party of the 101st Airborne Division on shore established radio communication with Direct Support Aircraft and Air Force Headquarters.
D+3 (9 June) -- Weather improved and at 0010, night cover reported on station. At 0430 night cover secured but no day cover reported because of weather. Weather prevented a continuous patrol of day cover. At 2330 night cover reported on station. Thirty-one (31) direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships of which none were flown because of weather. Approximately fifty enemy T/E bombers, mostly Ju 88's, were estimated to have operated against the unloading points on the beachheads during darkness. Bombs were dropped. Mines were laid within the screened area. Enemy fighter reconnaissance missions were flown both during the day and night in the Assault and Approach Areas. A night fighter shot down one Ju 88. Commanding General, NINTH Air Force estimated capabilities of enemy Air Force as five hundred plus fighters and three hundred sixty bombers.
D+4 (10 June) -- Day and night air cover reported on station according to plan. Naval Commander Western Task Force advised the day air cover to stay clear of Assault Area until daylight because of heavy flak. From 1405 until 1447 there was no air cover because of weather. Twenty-seven (27) direct support missions were originated or relayed by Flagships of which twelve (12) were flown. Approximately twenty plus enemy bombers operated over the Western Task Force Area during the night. Flares were dropped resulting in heavy AA fire.
Bombs were dropped with negligible damage. One enemy aircraft was shot down by ship in area screen. One Ju 88 was reported shot down by a friendly fighter. Commanding General, FIRST U.S. Army left the Augusta to assume command ashore as of 102300B.
Because of the extremely light enemy air activity in the Assault Area and the increased number of requests for armed reconnaissance, the number of sorties in the air cover decreased rapidly. After 12 June requests for air support were being sent directly from the Army Command Posts on the Continent.
Conclusions and Recommendations.
Coordinated planning and preparatory training exercises involving the Army, Navy and Air Force participating in a combined operation are essential to good performance.
Exchange of representative liaison officers is desirable.
Low altitude dive bombing attacks are more effective than horizontal bombing attacks against batteries and other point targets.
During darkness aerial mining in anchorages and shipping lanes is more economical for an inferior air force and generally more effective against ships than aerial bombardment.
In an area where enemy aircraft and heavy anti-aircraft fire can be expected, Fighter/Observation aircraft, either shore based or carrier based, are more suitable than combat ship based seaplanes for spotting Naval gunfire.
Shore based air control centers are considered preferable to ship based centers in the control of air cover and air missions, when such shore based control centers are readily available. In a large operation it appears desirable that the control of fighter cover should be divorced from flagships and delegated to ships specially fitted for the purpose.
IN THE PACIFIC, CONTROL OF SUPPORT AIRCRAFT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED SATISFACTORILY FROM AMPHIBIOUS FORCE FLAGSHIPS (AGCS) AND OTHER S HIPS OF THE ATTACK FORCE FITTED WITH CICS.
Naval authorities must be given ample warning of contemplated air operations over shipping, in order that detailed information can be disseminated to the ships concerned.
IN THIS REGARD CURRENT TACTICAL ORDERS AND DOCTRINE FOR U.S. FLEET AIRCRAFT PROVIDE THAT:
"Commander Support Aircraft
- Commander Support Aircraft commands all Aircraft on station over the area of operations of the
Attack Force at the Objective during the amphibious operation. Prior to reporting on station and after departure for base, the Support Aircraft are under command of their respective carrier, group, unit or base commanders.
- In order that the Commander Support Aircraft may be cognizant of all aircraft operating in the vicinity of the area of operations of the Attack Force at the Objective, search planes, transport planes, ambulance planes, and other itinerant aircraft shall report to Commander Support Aircraft prior to entering the area."
From: Naval Commander Western Task Force (cont'd).
In a large operation, where both friendly and enemy aircraft may be expected to operate, a rigid and simple set of anti-aircraft firing rules should be promulgated for each type of ship or craft in the area. It appears desirable that merchant ships and small Naval ships be directed not to fire during darkness.
For a large operation, such as the one just concluded, new and distinctive markings on friendly aircraft for the operation is a valuable aid to recognition.
From: Commander Assault Force "O", (Commander Eleventh Amphibious Force).
Air Support and Defense.
Operation (INVASION NORTHERN FRANCE) differed from previous amphibious assaults in which the Force Commander has been engaged in that the Air Force participating in the operation joined in the planning not only on the highest level, but down to and including the Assault Force Commanders. This was a distinct help.
The Air Plan provided for heavy bombing of specific targets in the beachhead area on D-1 day, and subsequently as necessary to assist Naval gunfire in destroying or neutralizing coast defenses. In addition bombing of the beach defenses was scheduled for delivery between H - 30 minutes and H hour. As far as is known, the attacks scheduled for delivery on D-1 were carried out. Visual evidence indicated that during this attack, or others carried out intermittently over a period of months before the actual assault, the enemy battery on the POINTE du HOE which had caused the Force Commander some concern was damaged to such an extent that four of its guns had been removed to a new site about a mile inland. The attack scheduled for delivery on the beaches did not materialize, and there was no evidence that the beach defenses had been bombarded from the air prior to the assault. The cloud ceiling over the beach area was low in the hours immediately preceding the assault, and it is probable that this prevented the delivery of the
scheduled attack, or required that heavy bombers bomb through the cloud with consequent inaccuracy.
Air cover throughout the entire period of this report was excellent. There were continuous fighter patrols over the beach area on three levels between 5000 and 32000 feet. As a result of this, and probably of the continuous campaign which had been waged against the Luftwaffe for months beforehand, Force "O" was unmolested both during the approach and the assault. Commencing on the night of D day and continuing practically every night thereafter, there were air raid alerts among the vessels at anchor off the beaches and in the beachhead area. In most of these no attack developed, and when it did it was made by relatively few planes and usually appeared to be directed more at the beaches than at the ships in the assault area. As far as is known from time of arrival of Force "O" in the Assault Area until H+21 when the Force Commander left, only one ship, LCI(L)-219, was damaged by bombing. There were no daylight attacks.
Most of the enemy air effort directed against the naval phase of the operation took the form of minelaying by aircraft. For some reason the anchorage area off OMAHA BEACHES was relatively free of this form of attack. However, vessels approaching through channels which had previously been carefully swept and in swept areas occupied by other assault forces were mined, but with the exception of a few landing craft which struck antipersonnel mines while beaching, no mine damage occurred in the OMAHA Assault Area, and no mines were swept there. This despite a number of reports of objects seen falling during the almost nightly alerts.
Anti-aircraft fire discipline among the merchant vessels and smaller landing craft was not too good. Despite strict orders to the contrary some gun crews persisted in opening fire with automatic weapons at night with no targets in sight, on one or two occasions, planes definitely recognized as friendly were fired on during daylight. Fortunately such occasions were rare. Strenuous efforts, including specific directives and limitations as to the conditions under which anti-aircraft fire could be opened, and a visual signal to indicate that friendly aircraft were overhead resulted in a distinct improvement in fire discipline as time passed.
That in planning for air support in amphibious operations, whenever possible, intensive air bombardment of enemy defenses be carried out previous to D day. This, because of the uncertainty as to the ability of the air arm to deliver an attack at a specified time immediately prior to or during the assault.
FOLLOWING IS QUOTED FROM CURRENT TACTICAL ORDERS AND DOCTRINE U.S. FLEET AIRCRAFT.
"Strike and Troop Support Aircraft. Strike and Troop Support missions may be flown by all types of aircraft. Strike missions are flown against the Objective prior to and simultaneously with the landings by the Land Force. Troop Support missions are flown in direct support of the advance of the Landing Force ashore on request of the Landing Force unit commanders through the Air Liaison Parties. All strike missions occurring during the presence of the Attack, together with all troop support missions, are controlled by Commander Support Aircraft until relieved. It is desirable that direction to Support Aircraft on Strike or Troop Support missions should be given by an experienced aviator."
From: Commander Assault Force "O" (Cont'd).
That plans for bombing of beach defenses be included in the assault plan, but in view of the limitation mentioned above, this be done with the knowledge that weather may prevent its delivery, and that hence, plans be so drawn that the success or failure of the attack is not contingent upon bombing beach defenses at a particular time.
That the Naval Commander make every effort to ensure proper anti-aircraft fire discipline by orders specifically defining the conditions under which AA fire may be opened, and by continuous instruction and indoctrination of anti-aircraft gun crews. That particular attention be given to the lesson learned in numerous operations, that indiscriminate anti-aircraft fire at night serves no purpose other than to mark the ship's position and enable enemy aircraft to select it for a target.
From: Commander Assault Force "U".
Enemy Air Activity. Enemy air activity against shipping in the UTAH area in the period 6-17 June 1944 was confined largely to night operations. It is believed that these operations were principally concerned with mine laying; bombing, including radio-controlled bombing of shipping, was incidental. Attacks against both shipping and beaches were sporadic and harassing in nature. There was no heavy concentrated air attack on the UTAH area during this period. No enemy air attack was directed against Force "U" on the approach or during D-day, 6 June, but enemy aircraft were operating over UTAH area during the nights following.
Types of Attack:
- Mines are believed to have been dropped during raids on 10 nights.
- Bombs are reported to have been dropped on the following 6 nights: 7/8, 9/10, 10/11, 13/14, 14/15, 15/16 June. These attacks were chiefly level attacks or, at most, shallow glide bombing attacks. The one reported exception is the attack at 0400, 10 June on the Charles Morgan by a single dive bomber.
- Radio-controlled bomb activity in the area was reported by
RCM officer aboard Bayfield on the following 7 nights:
7 June Bayfield jammed 3 times, between 0440 and 0445.
8 June Bayfield jammed 5 times, between 0107 and 0154.
10 June Bayfield jammed 14 times between 0346 and 0444.
4 of these times Bayfield had received "Vermin" (radio-controlled bomb warning broadcasts) reports; in addition, Bayfield received another "Vermin" warning but picked up no signals to jam.
11 June Bayfield jammed 9 times between 0336 and 0410. In addition, Bayfield received 2 "Vermin" warnings but picked up no signals to jam.
Air Defenses: The protection afforded by the 9th Air Force and by the 9th Tactical Command during the period of this operation has been so perfect that during the period, only one ship, the Charles P. Morgan was hit and sunk by dive bomber, one LCT #447 was slightly damaged by a near miss and the USCG Bayfield was slightly damaged by a near miss which threw water aboard. The Air Liaison was under frequent gunfire from long range guns during the first few days of the operation. Air missions were delivered against suspected gun positions repeatedly on short notice in order to knock out these offending batteries.
Air Bombardment: It has been impossible thus far to assess the effect of air bombardment prior to H-hour in softening up the beach line defenses. This has been due to the inability to locate observers who actually saw bombs fall in the beach area. However, there is reason to believe that air bombing played its part in the demoralized condition of the beach defenders when the initial troops landed.
From: Commander Gunfire Support Craft, Eleventh Amphibious Force (OMAHA BEACH).
It is not known how much air support was requested and used during the period the beach was being subjected to such heavy mortar fire. But from the point of view of an observer off the beach, the destruction of tanks and craft along the beach by enemy guns not visible from the water, might have been alleviated by a bomb drenching operation, even if based only on an approximate location of the enemy batteries. It is possible that this may have been done but, if so, it was not observed by personnel in my headquarters ship.
THE ABSENCE OF ENEMY AIRCRAFT SHOULD HAVE AFFORDED AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE KIND OF CLOSE AIR SUPPORT INFANTRY MUST HAVE IN LANDING OPERATIONS. AN AIR COORDINATOR OVER THE ASSAULT BEACHES COULD HAVE DIRECTED SUCH SUPPORT AND KEPT INTERESTED COMMANDERS INFORMED OF THE LOCATION OF OUR OWN TROOPS.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter  * Next Chapter