Launching the Invasion: Organizing the Beaches
On the morning of 6 June 1944 five task forces, three British and two American, under continuous air cover and following air and naval bombardment, assaulted the coast of Normandy and won continental beachheads. On four of the beaches opposition ranged from light to moderate. On the fifth, OMAHA, unexpectedly strong enemy forces delayed the V U.S. Corps in its advance inland and inflicted heavy casualties. In the UTAH sector the VII U.S. Corps, assisted by two airborne divisions dropped six hours before the seaborne attack, secured a firm beachhead by the end of D plus 1. At the eastern end of the assault area British and Canadian forces initially enjoyed rapid success and pushed inland toward Caen and Bayeux. Although the two American landings remained unlinked for several days, it was apparent by the end of D plus 1 that the Allies had succeeded in the initial assault.
(1) Tactical Developments in June1
The Supreme Commander had made a significant change in the scheduled landings at the eleventh hour. The date for the attack had been set as 5 June, when moon and tidal conditions most satisfactorily met the requirements of all components of the invasion force. Loading of the assault elements was completed on 3 June, and certain vessels of the Force U Fire Support Group sailed from Belfast the same day, other convoys getting under way that evening. The night of 3-4 June was clear, but the wind was rising and the Channel was choppy.
General Eisenhower was given an unfavorable forecast for D Day that evening, and early on the morning of 4 June he made the difficult decision to postpone the assault twenty-four hours. Convoys that had already departed were immediately notified by prearranged radio signal, and destroyers were also dispatched to overtake them. Some of the ships and craft were forced to return to ports; others simply reversed their course and backtracked for the next twenty-four hours.
The decision to postpone D Day was based on a forecast of more moderate seas and more favorable flying conditions between the afternoon of the 5th and the afternoon of the 6th. But the forecast for the subsequent period was not encouraging, for it promised an indefinite period of unfavorable weather. The Supreme Commander was therefore faced with the necessity of making a further decision on whether to initiate the operation on 6
June or order a further delay. To order a delay would have meant a postponement of two weeks, since the required conditions of tide and moon would not occur again until that time. The invasion had already been postponed a month in order to permit enlargement of the assault forces and widening of the assault front. Another delay of two weeks would shorten the summer campaign season still more. Furthermore, some of the assault forces were already on the Channel, others were briefed and embarked, and additional follow-up units had already moved into the marshaling areas. The entire mounting machinery was already in full operation. Early on the morning of 5 June General Eisenhower directed that the assault be launched the following day.
On the morning of 5 June the seventeen convoys of Forces O and U, comprising nearly 2,000 ships and craft, started across the English Channel. The voyage itself was uneventful, although the weather continued unfavorable. The convoy routes led through minefields, but well-marked lanes had been swept through them. Convoys began arriving in the transport area, approximately twelve miles off the beaches, about midnight. The moderate sea, greater at OMAHA than at UTAH, created some difficulty in transferring assault teams from the transports to the small landing craft, and there was much seasickness. By dawn of 6 June hundreds of craft in the invasion armada lay off the French coast, assembled in the transport area. At approximately midnight, 5-6 June, RAF bombers had ranged along the entire invasion coast striking at heavy coastal batteries and other specific targets. Shortly thereafter, beginning at H minus 6 hours, paratroops of the 82d and the 101st Airborne Divisions began dropping astride the Merderet River and to the rear of the inundated areas to seize the causeway exits and thus facilitate the later landings of the 4th Infantry Division in the UTAH sector. Immediately preceding the seaborne landings came the preparatory naval and aerial bombardments. At H minus 40 minutes warships of the bombardment groups began firing on enemy shore batteries on both OMAHA and UTAH Beaches, and as the assault craft started for the beaches the naval bombardment was augmented by the fire from fire-support craft, variously equipped with rockets and small guns. In the meantime aerial bombardments hit both beaches. At UTAH Beach medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force struck at specific beach targets without destroying beach fortifications. The bombing by the Eighth Air Force planes at OMAHA meanwhile was foiled by bad weather. Forced to use blind-bombing equipment and to take special precautions against hitting friendly troops in the assault craft, bombers at OMAHA released their loads too far inland to be of any direct assistance to the assaulting infantry.
U.S. forces in the OMAHA sector badly needed an effective air effort. Initial assault units of the V Corps, comprising elements of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions and Rangers, touched down on OMAHA Beach at approximately 0635, and met unexpectedly heavy opposition. As a result of the rough sea many craft foundered, amphibian tanks were swamped, and landing craft missed their assigned beaches. Heavy enemy fire prevented the proper clearance of beach obstacles. The landings lost all resemblance to the plan, and the beaches soon became congested with disabled and burning vehicles and with troops immobilized by enemy fire. Landing operations were finally halted
until enemy fire could be neutralized. With the help of close-range naval fire the situation was gradually brought under control and landings were resumed. Units gradually reorganized themselves and pushed up the slopes to destroy enemy positions behind the beaches. But for many hours the situation at OMAHA was uncertain, and at the end of D Day units of the V Corps clung precariously to a hard-won strip of land less than 3,000 yards deep.
At UTAH Beach, meanwhile, seaborne elements of the VII Corps carried out their landings with contrasting ease. Troops of the 4th Division touched down on UTAH at approximately 0630, rapidly overcame relatively weak enemy opposition, crossed the causeways spanning the inundated areas, and pushed inland as much as 10,000 yards on D Day. The initial success of the 4th Division was partly attributable to the naval and air bombardment, which was more effective than at OMAHA, but also to the assistance rendered by the airborne units that had dropped during the night. Both airborne divisions suffered heavy losses in men and matériel and were able to bring only a portion of their full strength to bear in the fighting on D Day. By striking suddenly in the enemy's rear, however, the airborne infantry created confusion in the enemy's ranks and secured the western exits of the inundated area, thus rendering much easier the initial task of the seaborne elements.
But there was little cause for optimism on either beach as D Day drew to a close. The V Corps held only a tenuous beachhead at OMAHA. At UTAH, in spite of the successful landings of the seaborne elements, heavy fighting with high losses had been going on inland. Both airborne divisions had had scattered drops, the 82d Division had not linked up with the seaborne forces and had no communications with other units, and some of its elements were completely isolated west of the Merderet River.
Both V and VII Corps pressed forward on D plus 1, the VII Corps clearing out scattered enemy holdings and rounding out its lodgment, the V Corps enlarging and securing its precarious toe hold. In the next few days the V Corps pushed inland to capture the high ground between the beaches and the Aure River, and by 10 June it had pushed west to the Vire and south just beyond the ForÍt de Cerisy. In the UTAH sector the VII Corps extended its beachhead north, west, and south. In the north the 4th Division fought through heavily fortified headland batteries toward Montebourg; in the west the 82d Airborne Division established a bridgehead over the Merderet after hard fighting; and in the south the 101st Airborne Division crossed the lower Douve and established contact with the V Corps. Carentan, vital communications link with the eastern beachhead, was not captured till 12 June.
After the capture of Carentan VII Corps turned its attention to its major objective, Cherbourg. Its first move was to strike westward to cut the peninsula and prevent the enemy from reinforcing his forces in the north. The stroke was accomplished by the veteran 9th Division during the night of 17-18 June. The corps then quickly organized its attack toward Cherbourg and on 19 June pushed rapidly to the north its three divisions (the 4th, 79th, and 9th) converging on the port. Temporarily checked at the prepared defenses which ringed Cherbourg on the south, the three divisions, with the aid of an intensive air preparation on 22 June, finally broke through and captured the port on the 27th.
No full-scale attacks had been attempted on the remainder of the American
Map No. 11: TACTICAL PROGRESS: 6-30 JUNE 1944
front after 20 June, and only minor advances were made in efforts to deepen the lodgment southward. Two additional corps meanwhile joined First Army forces. The VIII Corps, becoming operational on 15 June, assumed control of the divisions released from VII Corps (90th Infantry, 82d and 101st Airborne) at the base of the Cotentin peninsula on 19 June and undertook to clear the area southward toward La Haye-du-Puits. Meanwhile the XIX Corps took over a sector between V and VIII Corps on 14 June, with the 29th and 30th Infantry Divisions under its command. It immediately took steps to consolidate the beachhead junction in the Carentan-Isigny area, and then drove southward astride the Vire River. On about 21 June, their supply limited by the priority given the Cherbourg operation and by an interruption of unloadings at the beaches, all three corps assumed an active defense, and only minor gains were made toward the city of St. LÙ.
At the end of June, although advances were somewhat behind schedule, the First U.S. Army was firmly established on the Continent. (Map 11) It had cleared the Cotentin, captured a major port, and extended its holding inland from OMAHA Beach to a depth of about seventeen miles. Nowhere on the American front had the enemy been able to gather sufficient strength to threaten the continental beachhead seriously.
The story of supply operations in the first weeks of the continental operation is almost exclusively that of the organization of the beaches and beach maintenance
(2) OMAHA Beach on D Day
Map No. 12: OMAHA BEACH AND BEACH MAINTENANCE AREA
areas, and of the part played by the engineer special brigades.2
In the V Corps sector the beach known as OMAHA was a 7,900-yard flat stretch of sand running from Pointe et Raz de la Percée to Colleville-sur-Mer, backed by hills and flanked by steep rocky cliffs rising from the water's edge. (Map 12) It had a great tidal range and a large tidal flat. Between the low- and high-water marks the flat consisted of hard, well-compacted sand, with shale outcroppings on the flanks. Its average width was 300 yards, and it was broken in places by a series of runnels, two and a half to four feet deep, located 50-100 yards from the high-water mark. This wide tidal flat was a key feature of OMAHA and figured importantly in both the invasion plans of the Allies and the defensive plans of the Germans. The enemy had assumed that the width of the beach was too great to permit a landing at low tide and had built his defenses to guard against a high-tide assault. These defenses consisted of rows of obstacles covering the tidal flat, including bands of steel hedgehogs, heavy log stakes driven into the sand at an angle pointing seaward, and huge iron gate barriers known as Element C or Belgian gates, often with Teller mines lashed to them. They were no barrier to men landing at low tide, but they created a great hazard for craft approaching shore after the tide began to rise. For this reason the Allies planned a low-tide assault, counting on heavy air and naval bombardment to neutralize shore defenses sufficiently so that men could cross the beaches and demolition teams could
destroy the obstacles before the tide again came in.
Above the tidal flat the OMAHA terrain varied greatly. Along most of its length the beach sloped upward sharply for about twenty-five yards. On the eastern half this rise ended in an extended shingle pile of small rounded stones. On the western end a wood and masonry sea wall rose from six to twelve feet high. Concertina wire was strung along both the shingle pile and the wall. A road ran along most of the beach, hard-surfaced at the western end, but hardly more than a trail through the dunes farther east. Two of the roads leading inland off the beach were blocked by antitank ditches, and fields were sown with mines or falsely marked with warning signs.
Just beyond this strip above the tidal flat the ground rose more precipitously, particularly at the western end, with most of the beach backed by hills of from 80 to 130 feet. Bisecting these hills and cliffs were several draws which served as natural exits from the beaches. Starting at the western end of OMAHA they were designated with letter-numbers as follows: D-1, which had one of the best roads from the beach, leading to the town of Vierville-sur-Mer, about 600 yards behind the beach; D-3, which also had a good road, leading to St. Laurent-sur-Mer, about one mile inland; E- 1, which had a narrow cart track leading up a steep hill on the west and also southwest to St. Laurent; E-3, which had a dirt road winding through thick scrub growth and trees to the small town of Colleville; and the easternmost exit F-1, which had only a cart track and was the poorest of all.
As the logical routes of advance from the beaches inland, these exits had great importance to both the defenders and the assaulting forces. They were well defended, therefore, with gun emplacements set into the sides of the hills, together with pillboxes, dugouts, and interlocking trenches designed to cover the exits as well as the beaches themselves. Artillery and mortar positions were placed well behind the high ground.
Inland from these hills and bluffs a rolling plateau extended two to four miles, descending to the low, swampy Aure River valley. The road network of this area was based on two highways. One (Route B), less than a mile from and roughly parallel to the beach, ran through the three principal villages immediately back of the beaches (Vierville, St. Laurent, and Colleville). The other was the Isigny-Bayeux road, roughly parallel and a few miles farther south. The area from the beaches to the Aure River comprised the planned beach maintenance area, and its organization for supply was the responsibility of the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group.
Infantry assault teams were scheduled to land in the first wave to overcome resistance on the beaches. Joint Army-Navy demolition teams were to follow closely behind and, under the infantry's protection, blow gaps in the maze of obstacles on the tidal flat. But plans went wrong from the beginning. Most of the initial landings took place too far to the east, and some demolition teams landed before the infantry. The first waves suffered heavy casualties from enemy automatic small arms fire and artillery, and the infantry were thus unable to afford the necessary protection to the demolition teams. Assault engineers consequently were forced to work on a tidal flat drenched with fire. Only five of the sixteen teams came in on their assigned beaches, and they had only six of the sixteen
tank dozers scheduled to land, five of which were shortly knocked out. They were able to clear only five narrow lanes instead of the sixteen 50-foot gaps planned, and of the five only one proved very useful. Through these inadequately cleared gaps the succeeding waves tried to pour onto the beach.
The landings of assault elements were unnecessarily marred by the repetition of an error which had been detected as early as the first DUCK exercise in January. Troops as well as vehicles were overloaded in the assault, often with tragic consequences. While there is no precise record of the load men carried, it is clear that the equipage of the individual rifleman weighed at least sixty-eight pounds. The additional personal items not specified in orders which many men are known to have carried brought the load of even the most lightly equipped rifleman to seventy or more pounds. BAR-men and heavy weapons crewmen carried even greater burdens.3
Planners had taken early cognizance of the weight problem. In the critique of DUCK I, the director of umpires had recommended that the load of the infantrymen in the initial assault be kept under forty-four pounds. In subsequent exercises, however, these good intentions were gradually submerged as more and more "essential" items were added to the soldier's pack, with the result that the load he carried in the OVERLORD assault eventually included several items not allowed for in recommendations of earlier conferences and critiques, such as grenades, TNT, a lifebelt, and a raincoat, which added about fifteen pounds to the load carried in the exercises.
Overloading had particularly serious consequences at OMAHA, where both surf and enemy opposition were greatest, and survivors of the landings there were virtually unanimous in their judgment that they had been overburdened with unessential impedimenta.4 Battle shock and fear in themselves are known to induce physical weakening, and every extra pound which the soldier carried only reduced his tactical capabilities still further and in many cases prevented men from ever reaching the beach.5
In the midst of mounting confusion and congestion came the first elements of the engineer special brigades, which were to organize the beaches for supply. First to land was a small reconnaissance party from the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, which came ashore at exit E-3 within a half hour of the first assault wave. Within another thirty minutes eight other groups from the engineer brigades reached the beach, but it was immediately clear that their planned work was impossible. The tidal flat was becoming littered with dead and wounded, and the infantrymen who
had succeeded in reaching the sea wall or the shingle pile on the eastern end of the beach formed only a thin line of fire, which was inadequate to silence the enemy in his hill emplacements. Initially, therefore, engineers from the special brigades devoted themselves to aiding the wounded and building up the line of fire.
Landings continued in the second hour, but most of the men and vehicles were confined to the beach. A few small groups of infantrymen worked their way up the hills, but their penetrations were initially insufficient to reduce the enemy fire. The result was additional congestion and confusion. Engineer brigade troops landing in the second hour, mostly on the wrong beaches, joined the others in aiding the wounded and building up fire power. In a few cases they helped to blow gaps in the wire obstacles. Some units lost a large part of their equipment. Signal Corps troops, unable to use their transmitters, turned them over to the infantry who had lost their radios in the water.
Most of the landings in the first two hours were made near exits D-3 and E-1, in approximately the center of OMAHA Beach, creating increasing congestion and a profitable target for the enemy. The beach soon became littered with wrecked vehicles and landing craft, and to add to these difficulties the tide began to rise, forcing the gap assault teams to come ashore. This made the landing of all craft more and more hazardous and inspired the commander of one unit in the 6th Engineer Special Brigade to radio offshore command ships to stop sending in vehicles.
In the next two hours the number of landings was greatly reduced. The fire from the hills continued to be heavy, and many of the engineer troops continued to aid the infantry. One sergeant in the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion led a mine detector crew into an open field in the face of enemy fire and cleared a path up a defile between exits E-1 and E-3, opening the first personnel trail. Infantry units were then organized and urged to advance inland on this trail, and between 0830 and 1030 infantry parties managed to clear enough of the area around E-1 to enable elements of the 37th and 149th Engineer Combat Battalions to begin opening that exit. A company from the 37th cut one road from the tidal flat east of the exit, and another company from the 149th cleared a road to the west with dozers. Men from both battalions helped fill the antitank ditch blocking the exit and cleared mines from the road and a field to the west. Near D-3 elements of the 147th Engineer Combat Battalion cut through wire entanglements, blew gaps in the sea wall, and cleared the beach with dozers.
At 1030 the prospects for the beginning of orderly landings and the organization of the beaches still appeared very dim. The
tide reached its peak at that time, landings had almost come to a halt, and except at E-1 enemy fire appeared as heavy as in the beginning. Infantry troops, however, were beginning to filter over the hills to get at enemy positions to the rear of the beaches, and two fortuitous events helped change the future. Two landing craft (an LCT and an LCI(L)), unable to find a safe landing place, suddenly drove full speed through the obstacles in front of E-3, firing all their weapons at the enemy emplacements. Both craft beached and landed their men. One of them was damaged and could not withdraw, but several enemy positions had been silenced, and the beach obstacles were found to be less formidable than expected. Observing the success of this daring experiment, other craft began to follow suit.
The second event to give heart to the attackers occurred at about the same time. A destroyer neared shore, swung broadside, and, beginning at D-3, fired on the German emplacements at that exit and then continued down the beach hitting all defenses spotted. Lack of communications with the beach had prevented calling for naval fire, and naval officers until that time had refrained from firing on beach targets because of the vague situation on the beaches and the fear of hitting friendly troops.
These two events unquestionably influenced the more rapid progress which followed. Men readily moved forward under the destroyer's support to take the high ground, and in the next two hours, from 1030 to 1230, more and more troops exploited the penetration inland, particularly on the eastern half of the beach. Additional combat units also landed to reinforce those already ashore, and some degree of order gradually emerged from the earlier chaos.
Elements of the engineer special brigades played a large role in resolving the confusion and congestion, although hardly according to plan. Beach clearance had been assigned first priority. But in some sectors such work was impossible and even pointless. First things came first. In some cases this meant clearing the ramps of LCT's so that undamaged vehicles could come ashore. In others it entailed removing damaged tanks and half-tracks which were clogging the beach exits. Shortly after noon all exit strongpoints were neutralized and a bulldozer began clearing the beach road. An attempt to cut a new road directly south from E-1 to the highway (Route B) proved premature, for Germans still held the ground north of the road. But vehicles began moving off the beach and over the hill, thus escaping the artillery fire that was falling on the beach, and at 1400 tanks began to use exit D-1. Exit F-1 had been cleared, but was of no use to vehicles because of the poor road. In the middle of the afternoon exit E-1 , at the center of OMAHA, was still the focal point of beach operations.
Late in the afternoon, as the tide dropped, the gap assault teams returned to the tidal flat to carry out the mission that they had found impossible at H Hour, With salvaged explosives and detonating equipment and dozers borrowed from other units they resumed the work of clearing the beach of obstacles and debris. The task proved difficult even at this time. Artillery fire still covered all exits and continued to fall on the beach, and the almost continuous arrival of new waves of infantrymen hampered the demolitions. By late afternoon, however, five large and six small gaps were cleared and marked.
In the meantime the situation in the center of the beach continued to improve. Fighting in the vicinity of St. Laurent-sur-Mer
delayed the opening of through traffic in that area, but late in the afternoon 1st Division engineers pushed a branch road through from E-1 to the highway so that vehicles could be driven up from the beach and shunted off into fields adjoining the highway. The exit road was thus cleared and some of the congestion on the beach was relieved. Meanwhile brigade engineers cleared minefields and opened up transit and bivouac areas where units could pause and reorganize. On the beach they continued to aid the wounded and clear wreckage. Enemy small arms fire gradually slackened and died out as the infantry and engineers mopped up more and more of the hill area.
Organization of the eastern end of the beach also got under way late in the afternoon. Advance units of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade landed between exits D-1 and D-3, 4,000 yards from their assigned beach, and made their way eastward. The first men from the 336th Engineer Combat Battalion arrived at Exit F-1 at 1700 and found that good progress had been made in the removal of obstacles. Because the condition of the exit road had been miscalculated some changes in plan were necessary, but demining teams and tractors immediately started work on another route and built a through road to the highway. Antitank ditches were filled, fields were cleared of mines, and a number of LCT's and other craft were ordered to land on the beach opposite F-1 in anticipation of the opening of the new exit. The exit was actually opened at 2000 hours when two tanks passed through, although succeeding tanks struck mines and were disabled. A path around the tanks was cleared, and by 2230 other tanks were passing through to aid in clearing the enemy from the Colleville area. Two small fields on the high ground were then demined and used as dump areas, the first deliveries being made in DUKWs preloaded with gas. Additional fields near the exit were cleared for use as bivouacs.
Toward evening the situation also improved at exit E-3. Enemy small arms fire was finally silenced about 1630. Men of the 348th Engineer Combat Battalion began sweeping the lateral beach road for mines, completing the task by 1700. For some time, continued artillery fire on the beach prevented work on the exit road, but by 2000 hours it slackened sufficiently to permit beach engineers to work on this road also. They made the most of the unusually late hours of daylight, but sniper fire stopped work after darkness fell. Tanks began using the exit shortly after 0100.
By the end of D Day, then, the prospects for systematic organization and operation of the beaches at OMAHA were much more encouraging. Brigade engineers had opened enough beach exit roads to accommodate all incoming vehicles and had made a good start on clearing obstacles from the tidal flat. Three exits--D-1, E-1, and F-1--were in operation, the first dumps were open, and units of the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group were ready to reorganize and begin their planned missions. Logistic operations on the first day had been limited chiefly to such tasks as removing obstructions and cutting trails to permit the movement of men, vehicles, and a few supplies away from the congested beaches. Tonnage targets had to be forgotten, and only a negligible quantity of stores could be landed and placed in the hastily improvised dumps. Personnel build-up, on the other hand, fared quite well in view of the heavy fighting on OMAHA Beach. Of the two loaded forces intended for OMAHA--Force O, with 29,714 men, and Force B, the follow-up force of 26,492
men, only part of which was expected to land on D Dayómore than 34,000 are estimated to have crossed the beach on the first day.
All engineer special brigade operations on D Day were under the direction of the commanding officer of the 5th Brigade, Col. Doswell Gullatt. In midafternoon the command party of the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group arrived at Exit E-1 and set up its first headquarters in a beach pillbox. At midnight the commanding general of the group, Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, took command of all units ashore. Those of the 6th Brigade, which had been under the control of the 5th, then reverted to their parent headquarters. The commander of the 6th Brigade, Col. Paul W. Thompson, became a casualty on D Day and was succeeded by Col. Timothy L. Mulligan.
While operations at OMAHA were going badly, those at UTAH proceeded more nearly according to plan and provided one of the bright spots of the day. In many respects the physical characteristics of UTAH and OMAHA were similar, but in some ways they differed as sharply as did D-Day operations on the two beaches. UTAH Beach was a 9,000-yard stretch of flat sandy beach extending from the mouth of the Douve River north and northwest to Quinéville. (Map 13) The assembly, or transport, area for Force U was the same as for the OMAHA forces, ten to twelve miles offshore, and partially sheltered from westerly storms by the Cotentin peninsula. UTAH Beach itself, lying on the eastern shore of the peninsula, enjoyed even better protection than either OMAHA or the British beaches against storms from the northwest. Otherwise weather and tidal conditions were about the same. Deep anchorage for task force vessels was provided about two and a half miles offshore. UTAH, like OMAHA, had a wide tidal flat. In some places it was even wider than the one at OMAHA, and in the southern sector, near the mouth of the Douve, it was so wide and the gradient so slight that it was useless for landing craft.
(3) UTAH Beach on D Day
The UTAH tidal flat had the usual type of beach obstacles, which were thicker toward the northern end of the beach. Beyond the high-water mark was a stretch of loose sand about twenty-five yards deep, backed by a concrete sea wall about five feet high which extended the entire length of the planned assault beaches. Gaps existed for exit roads at two places, but all other outlets were blocked off. Immediately to the rear of the wall were sand dunes, in some places barely extending above the wall, in others reaching a height of perhaps twenty-five feet. In this respect UTAH contrasted sharply with OMAHA, for there was no sudden rise immediately behind the beaches. Physically the dunes constituted no hazard to assaulting troops. But built into them were the enemy defenses--field fortifications consisting of fire and communications trenches, machine gun emplacements, and some field guns. Concrete pillboxes were built into the sea wall itself and thus were tied in with the other fortifications. The strongest of these were on the northern half of the beach, at Les Dunes de Varreville and beyond.
The grassy sand dunes extended inland from 200 to 600 yards, sloping downward and becoming flat pasture land and cultivated fields. The fields were small in size and distinctly outlined by their tall border hedges, drainage ditches, and tree lines. Behind the actual assault beaches, in the
Map No. 13: UTAH BEACH AND BEACH MAINTENANCE AREA
southern sector of UTAH, the flat pasture land extended inland about 1,000 yards. Farther north it gradually decreased in width and almost disappeared, becoming only a narrow spit of solid ground between Ravenoville and Quinéville. Beyond this solid ground lay an inundated area. This feature of UTAH Beach, plus the absence of hills behind the beaches, formed the most striking contrast with OMAHA, and created an entirely different problem.
The flooded area extended from Quinéville south to the Douve River and averaged 1,500 to 2,000 yards in width. In the area of the assault opposite La Grande Dune the water started 1,000 yards behind the beach and extended 1,800 yards inland, its depth varying from two to four feet. This water barrier was an artificial one, created intentionally by the enemy to prevent, or at least hinder, an advance inland. The flooding was controlled by obstruction across several small streams south of Quinéville, and in the southern sector additional inundations could be created by the control of certain locks, for the land was slightly below sea level at high tide. Beyond these inundations the terrain was similar to that behind OMAHA Beach. It consisted of gently rolling country and offered no unusual difficulties to the attackers except for the hedgerows that sharply limited observation. The enemy built heavily fortified casemated batteries on the headlands overlooking the inundated area.
The flooded area posed a special problem in the UTAH area. Even if the assaulting troops overcame opposition on the beaches they would still have to cross the flooded area. There were only a few roads or causeways across these inundations, down which the attacking forces would be channeled, and it was likely that the western shore of this area, and particularly the road exits, would be defended. The anticipation of difficulties in crossing this barrier was one of the chief reasons for the decision to use airborne troops. These troops were to drop behind the inundations, disrupt communications, capture strategically important objectives, and secure the western exits to facilitate the crossings of the seaborne forces. The roads and causeways that led from the beach inland and across the inundations were therefore an important feature of the area. Infantry troops might with difficulty be able to wade through the shallower parts of the inundations; but the area was honeycombed with deep drainage canals and tributary ditches, which presented a hazard to any movement inland, and the causeways were vitally necessary to the movement of vehicles and artillery.
The roads leading across this artificial lake in the area of the assault varied as to type and state of repair. The following ones were the more important, from north to south: S-9, which was flooded along its entire length; T-7, which was also flooded for most of its length, but hard surfaced and usable even though under water; U-5, leading directly inland from the center of the assault area, narrow but hard surfaced and in good condition, and the first to be used by troops on D Day; and V-1, at the southern extremity, which was almost completely dry, but in poor condition and without a beach exit. All of the causeways were narrow, and their shoulders had been softened by the water. The importance of gaining immediate control of them was obvious.
Plans for the landings at UTAH Beach were very similar to those for the landings at OMAHA. Infantry assault teams were to constitute the first wave, followed closely
by the gap assault teams which were to clear avenues through the obstacles on the tidal flat. The initial landings by two battalions of the 8th Infantry (4th Division) took place approximately on time, but about 2,000 yards to the left (south) of the planned beaches. The error actually proved fortunate. Beach fortifications at the planned landing spots were stronger, and the tidal flat was mined and had many more obstacles than farther south. The actual assault beach had only one less favorable feature. The distance between the low- and high-water marks was greater, creating a wider tidal flat, forcing craft to remain farther offshore, thus causing some beaching difficulties.
The first landings were made astride route U-5, rather than T-7 as planned. Some of the amphibian tanks were late in arriving, but almost all of them landed and aided in reducing the opposition along the beach. The gap assault teams which had been scheduled to land in separate waves--the Army-Navy teams to clear the underwater obstacles, and the Army teams to clear those above water--actually landed almost at the same time. This departure from plan also proved fortunate, for all obstacles were found to be dry, and the demolition teams therefore found it possible to clear complete lanes by placing their charges on all bands and blowing them simultaneously. And since the obstacles were not as thick as had been expected, they cleared the entire assault beach on the first tide instead of blowing only fifty-yard gaps as originally planned. A wide avenue of approach was therefore open at an early hour, allowing uninterrupted landings on a relatively broad front. Other engineers meanwhile proceeded to blow gaps in the sea wall and to destroy barbed wire obstacles in front of the wall and on the dunes. Four gaps were soon blown in the wall to provide exits for vehicles, and two Belgian gates were blown from the exit at the terminus of route U-5.
Elements of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, including its commander, Brig. Gen. James E. Wharton, began to cross the beach at about H plus 60 minutes. Initially the brigade was to organize two beaches, known as Uncle Red and Tare Green, each with a width of 1,000 yards. To the north of Tare Green a third beach, Sugar Red, was to be opened on the second tide. When the assault forces landed too far south these beach designations were simply shifted to correspond to the actual landings. Uncle Red and Tare Green therefore lay approximately south and north respectively of the U-5 exit.
The first elements of the brigade to land came from the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment and the 286th Joint Assault Signal Company. When they landed (H plus 60 minutes) there was no longer any small arms fire on the beach except from a few snipers, although there was intermittent shelling from inland batteries. There was none of the congestion that prevailed at OMAHA. Units arriving in the succeeding waves had no difficulty getting off the beach, and there was very little wreckage. The initial tasks of the engineers included the building of exit roads through the sea wall and dunes, and the clearing of mines from roads, dump sites, and transit areas. Few areas in the immediate vicinity of the assault beaches were actually mined, but the enemy had marked many fields as mined and they had to be combed thoroughly. While the fields were being checked, brigade engineers widened the gap at U-5 and blew additional gaps in the sea wall. They improved the existing
beach road with wood and wire matting known as chespaling. U-5 was found to be usable, and troops and tanks began crossing the flooded area via the causeway. Meanwhile General Wharton redesignated the beaches, and markers were prepared to aid incoming craft in locating the beaches, exits, and various installations as they were completed. Officers also reconnoitered the area north of Tare Green, and the beach was partially cleared in preparation for its operation (as Sugar Red) by the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment. The 1st Brigade command post was established about 700 yards behind the dune at the small hamlet of La Grande Dune. With the arrival of other brigade units, such as elements of the 1106th Engineer Combat Group, work also began on the causeway roads across the flooded area, and on the sluice gates which controlled the water in the inundations. The most important of the locks were the northern gates near Quinéville, the central gates north of Sugar Red beach, and the locks southeast of Pouppeville. Neither the northern nor central locks could be reached on D Day, but elements of the 1106th worked their way down the beach to the Pouppeville area, removed booby traps, and demined and opened the locks there to begin draining the southernmost area.
The organization and operation of UTAH Beach proceeded, but not without difficulties. Enemy shelling continued with varying intensity and hampered beach work to some extent. Perhaps more important were the navigational difficulties, changes in naval landing orders, and beaching troubles, which contributed to a general slowing down of the landings. The planned phasing of troops fell behind schedule quite early, vehicles arrived late throughout the day, and the sequence of landings was not strictly followed. The remoteness of the transport area and defects in ship-to-shore communications and coordination contributed to these difficulties. One of the chief tasks of beach engineers was to rescue drowned vehicles. Because of the shallow gradient, landing craft tended to discharge their loads in deep water, and many vehicles stalled as they left the ramps.
Nevertheless the build-up continued steadily and in a much more orderly manner than at OMAHA. Causeway U-5 had been placed in service during the morning after some difficulty with an enemy antitank gun on the west bank of the inundated area, and engineers had quickly installed a treadway bridge to replace a culvert which had been blown. U-5 was the best of the causeways and soon bore the main burden of vehicle traffic inland. By noon it was clogged with vehicles, and two-way traffic became almost impossible because of the trucks and guns which had slipped halfway off the soft shoulders and mired in the mud and water that came within a foot of the road's surface.
Development of the beaches themselves continued as additional elements of the 1st Brigade landed. Work on the third beach, Sugar Red, was stepped up with the arrival of the 3d Battalion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment, although the job was hindered somewhat by the continuing shellfire and by the late arrival of road construction equipment. As the tide again ebbed later in the day gap assault teams returned to the tidal flat they had cleared on the first low tide. They resumed the demolition and removal of obstacles on the flanks and thus cleared a still greater expanse of beach. Eight major gaps were blown in the sea wall, and Sommerfeld
track6 was laid to the existing lateral roads. About nightfall route T-7 was opened, although the road was still under water.
Unloading operations also proceeded more satisfactorily than on OMAHA, although hardly according to plan. Because every craft scheduled to land and discharge on D Day was combat loaded, all unloading was confined to the offloading of trucks and the unloading of engineer road-building equipment from preloaded LCT's. Only six of the twelve LCT's came in on D Day, and one of the six was lost after it beached when it received a direct hit from an enemy shell. Two others were hit but managed to transfer their loads to other craft. The remaining six beached and unloaded on D plus 1. Dumb barges7 were also beached on D Day, but were kept in reserve and not unloaded. Only limited use was made of DUKWs on the first day. Four of the amphibians came ashore with their cargoes at 1330 and during the rest of the day were used to evacuate casualties. Since the DUKWs were not yet greatly needed, most of them were held offshore until D plus 1 to prevent losses.
The establishment of dumps and transit areas also began on the first day, but could not proceed as planned because some of the chosen areas remained in enemy possession. Beach dumps were established on Tare Green for ammunition and medical supplies, and brigade officers reconnoitered inland dump sites. Class I, III, and engineer Class IV sites were in the hands of the 4th Division, but still under the fire of enemy snipers. None of the other planned locations had been captured. The same situation prevailed for the transit areas. One was overrun but was under enemy fire; another remained in enemy hands throughout the day. Incoming units therefore reorganized and bivouacked in an initial assembly area immediately behind the dunes, thus causing some congestion and hindrance to engineer operations toward the end of the day. Military police units began to land within the second hour of the landings, their principal task being to keep traffic moving inland so that troops and vehicles would be dispersed and other units could cross the beaches.
As at OMAHA, brigade units worked late on D Day (until 2300). Enemy planes raided the beach after darkness, but they inflicted no damage, and the end of D Day saw a fairly high degree of organization and security despite landing difficulties and enemy fire. The tidal flat was clear of obstacles, exit roads had been established, the beach area had been demined, two causeway roads were in use, and a few dumps were established and in operation. There are no estimates as to tonnages of supplies landed, but approximately 23,000 of the 32,000 men in Force U crossed the beach on D Day.
At both OMAHA and UTAH various difficulties hampered beach development, and discharge performance was erratic for some time. UTAH was subject to enemy artillery fire for a full week. The Germans shelled OMAHA only until about noon of D plus 1, but sniping from scattered enemy troops plagued the beach maintenance area for several days. The engineers were under the initial disadvantage of having to clear a great amount of wreckage. Ship-to-shore
(4) Development of the OMAHA Area
operations did not go smoothly at either beach at first.
These troubles were gradually overcome, and tonnage discharge improved steadily. Beginning with an estimated capacity of 2,400 tons on D Day, the daily discharge rate at OMAHA Beach was scheduled to reach 10,000 tons by D plus 12 rising to 15,000 tons in about two months. UTAH was estimated to have a starting capacity of 2,250 tons, leveling off at 5,700 tons by the end of the first week and ultimately attaining a maximum of 10,000 by the end of the second month. There are no records of actual unloadings on D Day and D plus 1. Available figures indicate that UTAH exceeded its planned intake of 3,300 tons on D plus 2. But the chaotic situation at OMAHA in the first day or two and the shipping and unloading difficulties at both beaches permitted a total discharge of only 26.6 percent, or 6,614, of the planned cumulative 24,850 tons at the two beaches in the first three days.8
Marked improvement was made in the next few days at OMAHA, where the target of 7,000 tons was actually exceeded on D plus 5. At that time 28,100 tons or 46.6 percent of the planned cumulative 60,250 tons had been discharged on the two beaches. Vehicle build-up continued to lag at both beaches, with only 20,655 or 65.7 percent of the planned total of 31,424 tons unloaded at this date. Personnel build-up fared considerably better. By D plus 5, 88 percent, or 184,119, of the planned cumulative build-up of 207,771 had been achieved, with eight and a half of the planned nine divisions ashore.
The progress of the OMAHA area was made possible partly by the rapidly moving tactical situation. On the morning of D plus 1 enemy troops were still fighting on the edge of Vierville and St. Laurent. But the advance south of Colleville was more rapid. On D plus 2 the Americans entered both Formigny and Mosles and made a rapid advance westward almost to Grandcamp. On D plus 3 they entered Isigny, and with the taking of TréviËres on D plus 4 all of the area north of the Aure River, the proposed beach maintenance area, came under V Corps control.
One of the chief concerns of the beach brigades was the protection of the beach area against enemy activity. Elaborate precautions were taken, particularly against air attacks. In addition to taking normal measures, such as providing antiaircraft artillery and camouflaging installations, the Americans made plans for the use of deceptive lighting to represent such things as convoys and beach exit roads, and also for the use of smoke. But the deception plan was abandoned as unfeasible, first, because capture of the area in which it was to be used was delayed and, second, because the bright moonlit nights made its success doubtful. Nor were smoke generators used, inasmuch as air attacks never became serious. The few enemy planes that appeared over the beach every night inflicted only slight damage on installations and troops. Enemy activity was directed mainly against ships anchored offshore and consisted primarily of dropping mines, which caused some sinkings. The most serious damage in the beach maintenance area occurred on the night of 13-14
June, when fifteen tons of ammunition were destroyed in a dump near Formigny. Beyond this sporadic and relatively ineffectual air activity the enemy did little to disrupt the organization of the beach. The development of the beach maintenance area and port area therefore proceeded relatively free of interruption.
Plans had outlined three phases in the development of the beach areas after the assault. In the first phase, known as the initial dump phase, the beaches were to be marked and cleared of wreckage, and temporary supply dumps were to be established on the beach itself. The second phase, called the beach maintenance area dump phase, was to begin when the dumps were moved farther inland. The third, or port phase, would begin with the opening of the MULBERRY. These designations were established simply for convenience in planning, and no schedule was written for the beginning and ending of the phases. The transition from one to another was expected to be gradual, with certain installations closing as new ones were opened.
The initial dump phase may be said to have begun on the morning of D plus 1, the first beach dumps having been opened late the first night. One of the first tasks on D plus 1 was marking the beaches so that incoming craft could locate the proper unloading points. The few markers that had been erected on D Day were shot down by enemy artillery. Beaches were designated in accordance with the British "World Wide System" of marking. Under this system the entire 7,900-yard stretch of beach was divided into sectors, named after the phonetic alphabet, beginning with Able at the western extremity. What is usually referred to as OMAHA Beach consisted of beaches Dog, Easy and Fox. Each of these was further subdivided into three sub-beaches known as Green, White and Red. The beaches were marked with large panels, and with colored lights at night.
Another task which had high priority was beach clearance. On the morning of D plus 1 the tidal flat was still littered with wrecked ships, drowned vehicles, obstacles, and equipment. Scores of craft lay beached at the high-water mark, some undamaged, but many torn by shellfire. The clearance of the flat was obviously necessary to allow the beaching of additional craft and the movement of men and supplies. Special brigade units applied themselves to this task at first light at D plus 1. In addition, survivors of the demolition teams returned to remove the remaining obstacles, and dozers towed away swamped vehicles. Some craft were patched up enough to be floated again. Several days were required to complete this cleaning up. In the meantime work also proceeded inshore of the high-water mark. Gaps through the shingle pile and sea wall were widened, chespaling was laid on the soft sand to provide a firmer footing for vehicles, beach exit roads were improved, and mines were swept from fields needed as bivouac areas or parking and dump sites.
Preoccupation with preliminary work such as clearance delayed the planned development of the beaches. One result was that LCT's and preloaded barges intended as an insurance against bad weather were the only means of supply on both beaches in the first days, and larger vessels could not be berthed inshore until late on D plus 1. By D plus 2 an enormous pool of unloaded ships lay offshore, and the debarkation of personnel and unloading of supplies consequently fell far behind schedule.
Other conditions contributed to this lag. Certain methods of discharge of the various types of ships and craft had been specified and a system of calling in and berthing of craft had been worked out. Both plans had to be radically altered before unloading met requirements. Troops and vehicles continued to go ashore on D plus 1 via two methods. Under the first, landing craft, except LST's, beached and when necessary "dried out." The craft would beach on a falling tide, discharge after the water had receded, and then wait to be refloated on the next tide. Vehicles and men could thus go off the ramps onto a dry beach instead of wading through several feet of water. Only the smaller craft used this procedure. MT coasters, MT ships, APA transports, and LST's were unloaded onto ferry craft and DUKWs. But it became evident on D plus 1, when unloadings fell behind, that the process had to be speeded up. One solution was to beach LST's and dry them out, as was being done with smaller craft. This method was urged by ground force commanders in both the V and VII Corps, for there was growing concern over the lag in the build-up. Naval authorities had not favored this procedure for LST's because ground inequalities on the beaches might cause hogging damage. Larger craft had been successfully beached in the Mediterranean, where tides were small, but it was feared that they might break their backs if dried out on the Normandy beaches. When landings fell behind schedule, however, and when the Americans realized that scores of smaller craft had been lost in the assault, they decided to take the risk. Experimentation with several vessels revealed no damage to the ships,9 and, beginning on D plus 2, LST's were dried out regularly. More than 200 were unloaded in this manner at OMAHA in the first two weeks, all without damage. The discovery that the beaching and drying out technique could be applied to LST's was an important factor in the accelerated build-up of troops and vehicles.
A second important modification was necessitated by the partial failure of the plan for calling in and berthing ships and craft. Supply plans for OVERLORD had laid down a procedure by which stowage and sailing information could be transmitted to the First Army, enabling the latter to establish unloading priorities in accordance with immediate and foreseeable needs. Times of departure, identities of ships, and manifests showing their content and stowage plans all were supposed to be communicated to the First Army in advance by a combination of radio and airplane or fast surface craft. First Army was to consolidate this information and send it to the beach brigades, assigning priorities for unloading. Upon the actual arrival of ships at the far shore, the Naval Officer in Command (NOIC) at the beach was to inform the brigades, which would indicate the time and place of berthing according to priorities established by the army.
This plan broke down in actual operations, mainly as the result of poor communications. The inability of planes to get through, and the tardy arrival of courier launches, plus other failures in communications, meant that ships would arrive and no agency ashore or afloat would know their identity or their contents. Stowage plans were not received, and ships arrived without being seen by the NOIC. In addition,
there was a shortage of ferry craft to transfer cargo from ship to shore. The lack of orderly control of allocation and berthing of ships resulted in considerable confusion afloat and ashore. Lacking instructions, ships' masters frequently made their own decisions on where to anchor their ships, some going to the wrong beaches, many of them anchoring too far offshore, thus necessitating long round trips for ferry craft and DUKWs.
First Army initially insisted on adhering to the system of selective unloading and unloading on a priority basis, even though manifests were unavailable and the names of the ships offshore were unknown. For a time Navy and Transportation Corps officers had the impossible task of going about in small boats to determine what ships were present and what cargo they carried. Armed with this information First Army would then indicate the vessels it wanted unloaded. Since unloading priorities and allocations were often made late or not at all, the brigades likewise resorted to expedients and adopted the practice of scouting for ships awaiting discharge, and then working whatever vessels were ready and eager to unload.
The subsequent provision of radio communication between the offshore naval control craft and beach headquarters made it possible to identify craft on arrival at the control point and to make arrangements with the beach brigades for berthing. But these improvements in communications were not made in time to prevent the formation of a large backlog of loaded ships and craft. A more immediate although temporary remedy was found in abandoning the priority system. After repeated requests by naval authorities, First Army finally agreed on D plus 4 (10 June) to order LST's and LCT's unloaded in the order of their arrival, and on the following day it ordered all ships and craft unloaded without delay and without regard to priorities. Another expedient which aided in speeding up unloading operations was the relaxation of blackout restrictions. Because opposition was slight, vessels were authorized on 12 June to use hooded lights to permit unloading to proceed at full capacity throughout the night. By that date a shortage in some types of ammunition had developed, particularly in 155-mm shells, and ammunition was therefore given unloading priority for a time. The new plan quickly solved the problem, and the backlog of ships was cleared by D plus 9 (15 June).10
In ship-to-shore operations, cargo was moved by a variety of ferry craft, including lighters, barges, DUKWs, and landing craft of the smaller types, principally the LCT, which was considered one of the most useful of the naval craft. By plan, the deputy assault group commanders were to direct the use of ferry craft until the NOIC was ready to take control. After the assault, however, the landing craft were scattered, it was difficult to concentrate them at the designated rendezvous points, and the deputy assault group commanders were not equipped to operate the large numbers of craft. Consequently the transition of control to the NOIC was "not notable for its orderliness," and the employment of ferry craft was not efficient in the early stages. In many instances craft were unavailable when needed, and sometimes they were as much as forty-eight hours late in responding to requests. While
their first-priority mission was to unload vessels carrying vehicles, in which a backlog developed, it became necessary to shift the ferry craft to certain coasters loaded with critical supplies.
One of the most useful of the various types of craft was the Rhino ferry, a barge made up of ponton units and propelled by outboard motors. Rhino ferries were towed across the Channel, their crews riding on the open and unprotected decks, and then used to unload LST's and MT ships. They enjoyed several advantages over other craft, for they had a large load capacity (two could normally empty an LST), their cellular construction made them almost unsinkable, and they could discharge vehicles on beaches of almost any gradient. Even when they were poorly beached and broke their backs the undamaged sections could readily be joined with others to build a new ferry. In the early stages, before LST's were beached, these craft brought in a large percentage of the vehicles, and their crews displayed a high quality of seamanship in handling the unwieldly craft.11
Much of the initial cargo unloading was accomplished by DUKWs. These 2‡-ton amphibians were called on to bear a heavy burden in the early ship-to-shore operations and, as in the earlier Mediterranean operations, proved their versatility and endurance. The first DUKWs were scheduled to land within the first hour on D Day. One unit attempted to land at that time, but its officer was killed and none of the amphibians reached the beach. Others went ashore early in the afternoon, but most of the DUKWs scheduled to land on D Day were held offshore until D plus 1. Once they were available great demands were placed on them because of the shortage of both ferry craft and trucks. The lack of trucks forced the DUKWs to carry a major portion of the supplies the entire distance from the ships to the initial dumps. They had originally been intended to carry their cargo only to beach transfer points, where it was to be lifted onto trucks and transported to dumps. The practice of having DUKWs carry their cargo beyond the beaches was uneconomical, for their ship-to-shore function was a highly specialized one. They had a relatively slow speed in the water, and the added mileage only increased their turnround time and thus reduced their overall capacity. Nevertheless they continued to make the complete round trips to the dumps until enough trucks became available and transfer points were established.
To make matters worse, many of the DUKWs were discharged as far as twelve and fifteen miles from shore in the first two days. Many exhausted their fuel in the long run, in maneuvering, in searching for the proper beach, or in awaiting an opportunity to land. When they ran out of fuel they sometimes sank, for the bilge pumps stopped when the motor went dead. In addition, most of the amphibians preloaded for the assault were overloaded. Their normal load was three tons, but most of them carried at least five tons, and some as many as six and seven, a burden that caused many to swamp. While maintenance of the DUKWs was generally good, there was a serious lack of spare parts, which had to be salvaged from sunken vehicles and from 2‡-ton cargo trucks, many of the parts being interchangeable. Despite excessive periods of operation and special maintenance problems the DUKW again demonstrated its usefulness and dependability. Its unique ability to transport
DISCHARGING AT THE BEACHES. Landing craft, above, and Rhino ferry, below.
cargo both from ship to shore and overland to dump contributed immeasurably in meeting the problem posed by the shortage of trucks, cranes, and transfer rigs during the first days, In the words of one observer, "It converted this beach operation from what might have been a random piling of supplies on the beach to an orderly movement from ship to dump."12
Landing hazards had reduced the number of trucks available, and many were either lost or held offshore longer than planned. The losses resulted more from drowning than enemy fire. Landing craft often beached in front of deep runnels and sometimes lowered their ramps in four to six feet of water. Waterproofing failed to protect vehicles in such depths, and many were either swamped or mired in sand after leaving the craft. The 5th Brigade alone lost forty-four trucks in the first two days, mainly in this way. At no time were there enough vehicles to meet the great demand for them on the beach. The critical period in operations came at low tide when trucks were needed for hauling the cargo brought ashore by ferry craft as well as the cargo brought to transfer points by DUKWs. Maintenance work on trucks was therefore restricted to high-tide periods, and available vehicles were pooled under brigade direction and allotted to the engineer battalions in accordance with needs.
Quartermaster and Ordnance units, attached to the brigades to set up the first dumps, began landing at D plus 90 minutes, but they found it impossible to carry out their assigned tasks because of enemy fire. Elements of the 95th Quartermaster Battalion, for example, suffered sixteen casualties coming ashore, others were forced to dig in on the beach, and still others were held offshore. Despite the situation on the beach some supplies were brought ashore and piled on the beach, and the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion cleared a few small fields for emergency dump and transit areas, at which preloaded DUKWs discharged the first ammunition. These emergency dumps in the 5th Brigade area operated through D plus 2, and then were consolidated with larger dumps. In the 6th Brigade area on the western half of OMAHA Beach emergency Class V dumps were established as late as D plus 1 and 2, and one continued to issue ammunition till D plus 5. Meanwhile the first planned dumps were opened in the 5th Brigade area on D plus 1 and in the 6th Brigade area on D plus 4. They were located behind the cliffs, inland from the beach. Sniper fire hampered operation of the 5th Brigade's initial dumps until D plus 3, and in the western sector the dumps were still so near the front lines when they opened on D plus 4 that shells were taken from their boxes at the dump and carried by hand to the artillery batteries. Very little segregation of supplies was possible, and it was difficult to locate required items. In these first days priority of cargo unloading was generally given to ammunition, and on D plus 4 a special air shipment of 200,000 rounds of small arms ammunition was made to overcome a developing shortage in this category. The reserves of Class I and III (rations and gas) carried by the units in the assault tided them over the critical first stages when supply was difficult.13
On D plus 6 (12 June) the initial beach dump phase ended and the beach maintenance area dump phase began. On that
day the inland dumps began to function, although a few had actually begun to issue supplies the day before. The dumps were located very much as originally planned, except those for Class V (ammunition), which were consolidated near Formigny. It became evident early in the operation that ammunition would offer the biggest supply problem, since stocks were not built up as rapidly as had been hoped. The Americans decided to open only one Class V dump, the one near Formigny, and First Army almost immediately took charge of it. On D plus 7 First Army decided to take control of all inland dumps from the beach brigades in order to tighten control over the issue of critical items. The responsibility of the special brigades was thereby limited to unloading supplies from ships and craft and passing them across the beach to the army supply points. In the next few days engineer, signal, and medical dumps were opened, and existing installations were expanded. Most of the dumps were located in the small Normandy fields, with supplies usually stacked along the hedgerows which provided partial concealment. In many cases it was necessary to fill ditches and punch gaps in the hedgerows to permit truck movements. The fields were well turfed and provided a firm footing for storage, but there was considerable trouble with mud during rainy spells.
While the beach maintenance area dumps were being established, the first transfer points were opened on the beach in order to speed deliveries to the dumps and to save DUKWs the long trip inland. The transfer points were simple, consisting mainly of crane facilities to swing nets of cargo from DUKWs to trucks. They were set up so that DUKWs and trucks approached the cranes in parallel lanes on either side, with the cargo being transferred either directly or to a platform where it could be sorted and reloaded. Later, when more trucks were available, a highly organized transfer system was worked out with carefully co-ordinated control, closely regulated traffic, and an efficient communications system connecting traffic control towers, truck pools, and transfer points, to facilitate the most economical use of all vehicles.
In contrast to the confusion and chaos of D Day, activities at OMAHA Beach by the end of the second week resembled the operations of a major port. Except for three or four wrecked craft, beaches were clear, and minefields behind the sea wall were slowly being cleared. Additional roads were pushed through the shingle pile, and exits were blasted through the sea wall. The discharge and inland movement of cargo and the evacuation of casualties and prisoners of war were highly organized. One of the most encouraging developments for the engineer special brigades was the build-up of trucks, for every additional truck increased the amount of cargo which could be unloaded and moved forward. By the end of the second week the limiting factor in supply build-up was no longer the number of trucks, DUKWs, and ferry craft, but the arrival of ships. At that time the daily tonnage discharge at OMAHA averaged nearly 9,000 tons, about 95 percent of its target, and approximately 11,000 men and 2,000 vehicles were crossing the beach every day and moving forward to add their weight to the offensive.
UTAH Beach likewise developed into an important logistic base within the first two weeks, although on a smaller scale than OMAHA. In the first few days UTAH was actually able to receive greater tonnages
(5) Development of the UTAH Area
than its neighbor (a total of 7,541 tons in the first four days as against OMAHA'S 3,971) and in the second week of operations it began to achieve a daily discharge of between 5,000 and 5,500 tons, which roughly approximated the planning figures.
In developing that rate UTAH experienced difficulties not unlike those encountered at OMAHA, despite the initial advantages enjoyed as the result of the more orderly landings. Although the beachhead at UTAH was relatively deep, its flanks were not immediately extended sufficiently to secure beach operations from enemy artillery fire. Expansion of the lodgment was slow in the first week, and in the north the limited progress had special importance because of the strongly fortified headland batteries in that sector. Observed artillery fire fell on the beach until D plus 5, and sporadic unobserved fire continued until 12 June and had a noticeable effect on unloading operations. On that day the 4th Division finally overran the last enemy battery able to fire on the beach.
The UTAH installations were also subjected to enemy air attacks, but, as at OMAHA, the Germans made their raids entirely at night and concentrated on shipping and on mining the harbor. Several casualties resulted, but no damage was done to beach installations. Activity was hampered more by the slow progress in broadening and deepening the beachhead. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade's units were confined to a much smaller area than planned. During the first week five battalions of engineers were restricted to an area which was scheduled to have been operated by two.
The UTAH beaches were to have been marked like the OMAHA beaches, but differences in the physical features of the two areas made this impossible. At OMAHA the signs were placed well up on the hills and were clearly visible to incoming craft. Since there was no high ground at UTAH, markers were initially erected along the sea wall where they could not be seen from very far offshore. The addition of barrage balloons as markers remedied the situation on D plus 1. The balloons, appropriately colored and numbered, were flown at the beach boundaries, and on the cables holding the balloons naval signal flags were flown to guide incoming craft. The system proved very successful, although there was suspicion in some minds that the balloons provided a convenient target marker for enemy artillery in the first week.
While the removal of debris and obstacles from the beach of necessity held first priority at OMAHA, supply clearance was the main problem at UTAH because of the inundations. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade had to give immediate attention to drainage of the flooded area and improvement or construction of exit roads. The engineers began drainage at once and at the southern end of the beach did the job rapidly. The central gates north of Sugar Red were opened on D plus 2, but they required constant maintenance and had to be closed during periods of high tide. The northern gates could not be opened until after D plus 8 because the enemy occupied the Quinéville ridge. Even in the southern area, where drainage was effected, the fields remained saturated and could not be used as transit areas or dumps. The chief effect of the drainage on military operations was to make some of the previously flooded roads usable. Route T-7, although completely under water, was used beginning the night of D Day, but the heavy traffic quickly made it impassable. On D plus 3 it was closed, and troops of the 531st
Engineer Shore Regiment worked continuously for thirty-six hours to improve it. By that time the water was drained off and the road was graveled, and it proved one of the most useful of all routes leading from the beach.
To relieve pressure on the lateral road which paralleled the beach about 700 yards inland, and also to speed traffic along the beach itself, engineers quickly laid Sommerfeld matting along the base of the dunes and parallel to the sea wall about 125 feet inland. They blew additional gaps in the wall, improved the exits by dozing and grading, and laid matting in these exits and also along stretches of the beach itself. At the southern extremity of the beach, route V-1 was improved and carried some traffic beginning the night of D Day. To provide access to it the engineers extended a lateral beach road southward from U-5. By D plus 1 UTAH Beach had several exits through the sea wall, two lateral beach roads, and three outlets across the flooded area.
Throughout the first weeks the three beaches opened on D Day--Uncle Red, Tare Green, and Sugar Red--continued to serve as the principal landing points. Initially the most important was the southernmost of these beaches--Uncle Red. It was free from shellfire and had the best exit and road, U-5. One battalion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment was originally supposed to move north on D plus 1 and open a fourth beach south of Quinéville. Since the area was not cleared for several days, such a move was impossible.
Instead, plans were made to open an additional beach north of Sugar Red, known as Roger White. That beach was reconnoitered on D plus 2, while still under enemy artillery fire, and on D plus 4 elements of the 38th Engineer General Service Regiment landed and began developing the area. The principal route (S-3) serving Roger White had been flooded, like S-9 to the south, but the opening of the gates drained it sufficiently to make it usable. The engineers meanwhile proceeded with their usual tasks of preparing the beach for unloading operations. Beach obstacles, which included tetrahedra and mined stakes in this area, they either blew or pulled off the tidal flat, and they blasted gaps in the sea wall. By 12 June the beach was announced ready for operation. No DUKWs were on hand at that time, however, and no coasters were ready for unloading. Furthermore; the beach was still subject to enemy fire. Its opening was postponed, therefore, and it was not put into operation till later.
While unloading operations got off to a better start at UTAH than at OMAHA, build-up targets were not met in the VII Corps sector for several days. The unloading of the first tide convoy was not completed until D plus I. Of the twelve preloaded LCT's scheduled to land on D Day, six came in on the second tide, and the remainder did not beach until the morning of D plus 1. Some of the LBV's landed at OMAHA by mistake. By D plus 2 all sixteen supply coasters were located and were unloading, but discharge proceeded slowly because the DUKWs had to make such long trips from the transport area to the dumps. The initial refusal to beach LST's compelled all unloading to be accomplished by DUKWs, by ferry craft such as LCT's and LBV's, and by the dumb barges intended as a bad weather reserve. Unloading soon fell behind schedule, and the lag created apprehension on the part of the ground commanders. In this respect UTAH'S experience was similar to OMAHA'S. A backlog
of shipping developed and was not relieved until the decision was made to beach LST's. Once this decision was made, as many as fifteen LST's were brought ashore at a time.
Other factors contributed to the slow start. Neither trucks nor DUKWs were plentiful. Three DUKW companies came ashore on D plus 1, and an additional four companies came in within the next five days.14 But the shortage of trucks made it necessary for DUKWs to carry cargo the entire distance to the inland dumps. Some vessels carrying hatch crews from the United Kingdom failed to arrive on schedule. And before the first week had passed, a partial breakdown of the loading arrangements at Southampton set back the movement of troops and supplies still further.15
Additional difficulties arose from the initially imperfect functioning of the brigades and the temporary disorganization of ship-to-shore operations. While some units of the special brigades had trained together, the beach organizations were really put together for the first time on the beaches and did not immediately achieve their highest efficiency. A loose control of certain units of the brigades, such as the DUKW companies, at first resulted in wasted effort and inefficient ship-to-shore operations. Furthermore, the early lag in unloading created a natural anxiety in the minds of the corps commanders, who intervened in the beach organization in an effort to hasten the discharge of supplies.16
Part of the trouble lay in poor co-ordination between the Army and Navy at the beaches. Control of shipping at both OMAHA and UTAH left much to be desired, and close co-operation with the Navy was delayed by the late arrival of the Naval Officer in Command, who was responsible for the control of ferry craft and for the location and berthing of all vessels. At UTAH the NOIC was finally ordered ashore at the request of the VII Corps commander.17 A further stumbling block to the smooth functioning of the beach port was the disagreement between the Navy and the brigade over the former's policy of holding ships offshore to prevent damage from shelling. Once these various difficulties were ironed out and lines of control were clearly established, discharge at UTAH proceeded more smoothly. On the whole, co-operation between the 1st Engineer Special Brigade and the Navy was close, since the 2d Naval Beach Battalion had operated with 1st Brigade in the Mediterranean. Brigade headquarters eventually established a close control over all units involved in cargo unloading; it notified the NOIC of its requirements, and the NOIC allocated ferry craft through the Navy's Ferry Craft Control.
Similar difficulties were experienced at OMAHA, where dissatisfaction quickly developed over the way in which the NOIC discharged his responsibilities, particularly with regard to the location of ships. The brigades, anxious to control shipping once it arrived at the far shore, soon got into the habit of ordering vessels moved without reference to the NOIC. The initial difficulties and confusion were undoubtedly the product of poor preparation, and were
aggravated by complicated channels of control and poorly defined lines of responsibility. They revealed many of the difficulties inherent in joint operations. Improvement was marked after NOIC headquarters was reorganized on 10 June, and within two weeks the difficulties were largely resolved and an effective port organization was in operation.18
Development of the UTAH area was to be carried out in two roughly defined phases: first the initial dumps were to be established; then the beach maintenance area was to be organized. Initial dumps were actually established somewhat earlier than at OMAHA, and the transition to the beach maintenance area phase also took place sooner. Demining activities delayed the opening of the dumps somewhat, but this was a minor hindrance inasmuch as supplies did not begin arriving in any great quantity until late on D plus 1, when initial dumps for ammunition, gasoline, and salvage were opened back of Uncle Red and Tare Green.
Within the first week it became possible to move dumps farther inland and to organize the beach maintenance area. Sites had been selected in advance by map reconnaissance. Most of them were found to be satisfactory as they were uncovered, and for the most part the beach maintenance area therefore developed as planned. When the Class V dump was reconnoitered on D plus 1 and found to be under artillery fire an alternate area was selected. Meanwhile dumps for Classes I and II, signal, engineer, medical, chemical warfare, and air force supplies were also established in the beach maintenance area, all within the first few days.
Beginning with the second week the First Army established a more centralized control over supply operations in both the OMAHA and UTAH areas. On 13 June it took direct control of all dumps, although brigade units continued to operate them. On the same date it took over direct control of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade from the VII Corps. Five days later the brigade was attached to the Advance Section, which in turn remained attached to the army. Control of motor transportation was concentrated in the 537th Quartermaster Battalion.
The week of 13-19 June was one of steady development and consolidation of the beach maintenance area. In that period the beachhead was expanded to the Quinéville ridge in the north and beyond Carentan in the south. In the west, corps units drove all the way across the peninsula, thus giving Advance Section considerably more elbow room in which to develop a supply base. Unloading operations also proceeded more smoothly in the second week, and the movement of supplies inland from the beaches was facilitated by an increasing number of trucks. Congestion in the dumps actually became a major problem for a time. On the night of 15 June the tie-up in the Class V dumps was so great that drivers had to unload their own trucks. A similar congestion occurred with gasoline, and in the next few days additional dumps were established to relieve this situation.
By D plus 12 (18 June) the movement of both troops and supplies over UTAH Beach was proceeding approximately according to plan. Daily tonnage discharge was averaging 5,500 tons (about 97 percent of the target), and 7,000-8,000 men and 800 vehicles were crossing the beach every day.
The two methods of unloading that have been described--discharge directly onto the beach from landing craft, and unloading from larger vessels moored offshore into ferry craft and DUKWs--were intended primarily for the early stages of the invasion in the absence of adequate port facilities. Construction of the beach ports made possible a third method of discharge -- to pierhead, or quayside. The progress made in completing these ports contributed in large measure to the improved discharge performance in the second week.
(6) The Beach Ports
At UTAH the planned harbor installation was relatively small, consisting simply of two ponton causeways and a GOOSEBERRY made up of ten blockships, which were to provide shelter for landing craft. The emplacement of these ships was begun on D plus 2, when British tugs towed three of them into position. Siting of the GOOSEBERRY had to be accomplished under enemy artillery fire, and the troops at UTAH thought it a good joke when the Berlin radio announced that two Allied ships had been sunk off that beach. Two of the breakwater ships had been hit by the enemy and obligingly sunk in approximately their correct positions, although slightly too far apart. The enemy fire did hamper operations, however, and a third blockship was also spaced incorrectly when the tug that was towing it cut loose too quickly in its eagerness to escape. The remaining ships were sited properly and the UTAH breakwater was completed on D plus 7 (13 June).
Meanwhile work had begun on the ponton causeways. The first was laid off Uncle Red and was opened on D plus 7. Three days later a second causeway, extending beyond the line of blockships, was completed, and debarking troops began using it. A third causeway, not in the original plans, was built later.19
Construction of the larger port at OMAHA also began on schedule. The first units of MULBERRY A to get under way were the blockships which were to form the breakwater. These included both merchantmen and warships, sailing under the flags of many of the United Nations. Either obsolete or war damaged, some more than forty years old, all were destined to render one last useful service. Because of their age and slowness they had to leave British ports as much as six days before D Day, and were therefore the first units of the invasion fleet to sail. Surveys for the proposed harbor and the actual siting of the blockships were begun on D plus 1 with the arrival of the commander and staff of Force MULBERRY. Three ships were sunk in position the same day and immediately came under enemy artillery fire, which caused some casualties among the merchant marine crews. On D plus 2 three more blockships were sunk, three PHOENIXES were emplaced to begin the caisson breakwater, and the first BOMBARDONS were moored. By D plus 4 the GOOSEBERRY was completed, 10 PHOENIXES were emplaced, 12 BOMBARDONS were moored, 19 additional moorings were laid, and all breakwater surveys completed. Within another week (by 17 June) all 24 BOMBARDONS were moored, 32 of the 51 PHOENIXES had been sited, and moorings for 2 Liberty ships were completed. Meanwhile, work on the 3,000-foot piers had also progressed rapidly. By 16 June the center LST pier was completed and in operation, both western and eastern piers were well under
PARTIALLY COMPLETED MULBERRY off OMAHA Beach. Portion of breakwater, above; piers and pierheads, below.
way, and two of the big Lobnitz pierheads were installed.20 On the first day the center pier was used LST's spent an average time of 64 minutes in discharging, disgorging their vehicles at the rate of one every 1.16 minutes.
The 2,450-foot ponton causeways were also built on schedule. Naval construction workers started on one causeway on D plus 2, building it twice the width originally contemplated, and completed it on D plus 4. The causeway enabled almost all troops coming ashore thereafter to land dry shod and it was also used for unloading various types of craft. A second causeway was started on D plus 5. Although it was completed in three days, it was not immediately put into full operation. MULBERRY A was not scheduled to be completed until D plus 18 (24 June), but unloading profited increasingly from the partially constructed port. The lengthening line of blockships and PHOENIXES afforded considerable protection for small craft and coasters and small craft were unloaded more rapidly than they could have been had the roadstead been left open.21
At the end of the second week, then, there was every reason to feel encouraged by the discharge situation. Even though the minor ports of Grandcamp and Isigny had not been opened as scheduled, the performance at both beaches offered hope that the planning targets would soon be reached. Tonnage discharge had lagged at first and ground forces had not made as rapid progress as had been hoped for, but there were favorable factors as well. Total casualties thus far had been unexpectedly low, the expenditure of materiel was less than preinvasion estimates, and the buildup of men and supplies was now picking up speed. By 18 June (D plus 12) the combined daily discharges at the two beaches were averaging approximately 14,500 tons, which was only slightly below expectations. The combined target was actually exceeded on D plus 9 (15 June) when nearly 15,000 tons of supplies and equipment were unloaded at the two beaches, as against a target of 13,700. Such occasional performance in excess of estimated capacities had not sufficed to overcome the initial lag, of course. On 18 June the total cumulative discharge still stood at about 72.8 percent of planned unloadings (116,065 as against 159,350 tons). First Army estimated that it had accumulated a stockage of 9 days of rations, 5 days of POL, and about 3 units of fire of ammunition.22 Vehicle discharge continued to cause concern, for only 40,541, or 66 percent, of the planned 61,367 vehicles had been delivered to the far shore. The troop build-up continued at approximately 88 percent of scheduled debarkations.23 By D plus 12 a total of 314,504 of the planned 358,139 men had crossed the American beaches, and eleven of the planned build-up of twelve divisions were ashore.24 At both beaches evacuation of casualties and prisoners of war proceeded without difficulty. As of that date, 18 June, a total of 14,500
COMPLETED PIER OF THE MULBERRY in operation. Loaded vehicles coming ashore, above, and leaving Lobnitz pierhead, below.
casualties had been evacuated via the beaches, an additional 1,300 by air, and an estimated 10,000 prisoners of war had also been shipped to the United Kingdom.25
Hopes had soared on 16 June when the first vehicles and personnel debarked onto the MULBERRY pierheads. Three days later nature struck a devastating blow to the installations which the Allies had so carefully planned and laboriously constructed, and threatened to disrupt the entire invasion design. Beginning on 19 June and continuing for three days, high winds pounded the French invasion coast, wrecking scores of craft and smashing the artificial harbor. When the gale finally subsided on the 22d much of the work of the first two weeks had been demolished, and MULBERRY A was never to be reconstructed.
(7) The Great Storm of 19-22 June
A northeast wind had freshened early on the morning of the 19th, immediately hampering unloading operations, and the rising sea shortly halted all DUKW and ferry craft operations at both OMAHA and UTAH. Within a few hours antiaircraft crews were forced to abandon their guns on the PHOENIXES in the outer breakwater at OMAHA because of the heavy seas that swept away handrails and shelters at the base of the gun platforms. Inside the western breakwater, pier bridging soon began to break away from mooring cables. Before long all normal port operations ceased, and almost all available men were diverted to whatever rescue and salvage work was possible. Late in the day conditions worsened. The winds increased in velocity and began to drive scores of craft onto the beach. Some were thrown undamaged beyond the normal high-water mark and could not be refloated for many days; others were thrown against the UTAH sea wall or onto the OMAHA shingle pile and damaged beyond repair.
Danger threatened the MULBERRY not only from the heavy sea, which tore the breakwater units from their moorings, but from the many craft which tossed about helplessly and crashed into the piers. Toward evening an American salvage barge and five British LCT's struck the center pier, damaging beetles and mooring cables. The strong winds continued on 20 June, thwarting attempts to keep craft under control, and many vessels drifted against the bridging and pierheads. By the evening of the second day the eastern mooring cables were cut, and one pier drifted westward, damaging adjacent bridging.
At the same time both the Lobnitz pierheads and some of the PHOENIXES showed signs of breaking up, and personnel had to be removed from the former. The floating BOMBARDONS broke from their moorings, and all twenty-four went adrift, some of them washing into the piers, some piling up on the beach, and others threatening to crash into ships offshore. During the night WHALE bridging of the piers was further damaged by drifting shore ramps and pontons, and a telescopic section connecting two of the pierheads was carried away. By the morning of 21 June only eight of the thirty-two PHOENIXES that had been sited remained effective. The day brought more damage, and on the night of the 21st the two pierheads were carried away and driven into shallow water. By that time all
pier bridging was badly twisted, and landing craft of all sizes and descriptions were piled on the beach, entangled with the bridging of the piers.
The storm finally abated somewhat on 22 June, although normal operations were still impossible. But on the 23d DUKWs were again able to operate, and unloading was resumed. At UTAH Beach the NOIC estimated that 60 percent of the ferry craft there would be inoperative for thirty-six to forty-eight hours even after normal unloading began again.
Of most immediate concern throughout the storm was the almost complete stoppage of unloading, which promised to nullify the gains of the preceding week and again widen the gap between planned and actual discharge. On 19 June, when the storm began, approximately half of the discharge targets were met. The brigades managed to unload more than 8,300 tons of supplies and 3,000 vehicles, and about 17,750 troops debarked. But the full effect of the storm was felt the following day. Only 1,000 tons of supplies, 738 vehicles, and 3,300 troops were brought ashore on the 20th. On the 21st 1,000 tons were discharged, and on the 22d only 500.
The inability to unload supplies threatened to produce a grave situation. Some types of ammunition were already in short supply and were urgently needed ashore, particularly by the VII Corps, which had just started its drive up the Cotentin and in the next few days was to launch its final assault against Cherbourg. The situation at the beaches prompted First Army to direct that expenditures be cut to one-third unit of fire per day. Shortages in critical calibers were met chiefly by specially arranged air shipment, 500 tons being flown in daily over a period of three days. Meanwhile, First Army also ordered eight ammunition coasters to be beached, and directed the brigades on both beaches to give first priority to ammunition discharge and second priority to gasoline. To fortify the ammunition position further, five prestowed Liberty ships lying in U.K. waters were also called forward.26 Normal discharge was impossible, but several small coasters were beached and unloaded at low tide. These were worked only with great difficulty, and, where necessary, holes were cut into the sides of the craft in order to reach cargo.27
The cumulative effect of the four-day storm can be seen most readily in the following figures: of a planned stores discharge of 64,100 tons, only 12,253 were unloaded; of a projected 13,337 vehicles, only 4,205 were brought ashore; of a scheduled 77,081 troops, only 23,460 were debarked. Percentages of cumulative planned build-up targets achieved consequently fell considerably behind. Whereas on 18 June 72.8 percent of the projected build-up of supply tonnages had taken place, on 22 June this had fallen to 57.4 percent; vehicle build-up had fallen from 66 percent to 57 percent; and the personnel build-up had dropped from 88 to 77.7 percent.28
OMAHA Beach presented a chaotic picture as the weather moderated on 22 June. Nearly a hundred LCVP's and LCM's were lost, in addition to a large number of LCT's and larger craft. Of twenty Rhino ferries only one remained operational. All types of craft were strewn along the entire beach, partially blocking every exit. E-3
BEACHED AND WRECKED LANDING CRAFT smashed during the storm of 19-22 June.
STORM-TWISTED PIERS. Lobnitz pierheads are visible in the background.
MULBERRY A as seen from the air after the storm.
was complete disorder. A tentative check revealed that eighty craft, including 35 LCM's, 11 LCT's, 9 Rhino ferries, 3 LCI's and various smaller craft, were piled opposite the exit. Near by an LCM straddled the deck of an LCT, a coast guard cutter had cut into a nest of LCM's and wound up sideways on the sand, and four LCT's were piled together deck to deck. The MULBERRY was a total loss with the exception of the blockships, and even these had been pulled out of line, and half had broken their backs. Many of the PHOENIXES had likewise broken, and one had piled on the cliffs at the western end of the beach. One of the piers was completely ruined. Its center span of bridging was bent and twisted in a great arc curving to the west, and its beetles were either broken loose and beached, or smashed and filled with water. The other pier was not as badly damaged, but was also bent in a great arc. It was difficult at first to estimate the damage because ships and craft had crashed into the causeways, obscuring their condition.
The brigades at both beaches had continued their efforts throughout the storm to salvage craft and equipment, and particularly to clear openings so that craft
could beach. They also opened emergency exits from the beach and cleared some of the salvaged material in trucks. Thus it was possible for LCT's to continue beaching and keep a trickle of supplies coming in. On the 22d all the craft on the beach had been completely unloaded, and there was the very hopeful prospect when the weather cleared that day that many of the craft could be taken off the beach in good condition. The brigades had also made plans and preparations to facilitate the discharge and movement of cargo upon the return of favorable weather. They checked and repaired equipment, moved supplies left on the beach to the inland dumps, and built some new installations, the most important of which were the improved transfer points. Consequently, although the beaches, particularly at OMAHA, were a mass of wreckage when the storm subsided on 22 June, inshore installations and facilities were much improved. Roads were in better condition, dumps cleared, and trucks and DUKWs in good repair. Beach clearance again became a tremendous problem at OMAHA, but efforts were also immediately made to resume the unloading of cargo. On 22 June five coasters with ammunition were beached and dried out so they could unload directly into trucks, and other coasters were taken in as close as possible to reduce DUKW and ferry craft travel.
UTAH had not suffered as badly as OMAHA, and by the afternoon of 23 June coasters were again being beached rapidly and unloaded directly into trucks and DUKWs. Many craft were strewn along the beach, but since UTAH had virtually no limits and could expand to either side the congestion was not serious. As at OMAHA, the 1st Brigade had improved inshore cargo-handling facilities during the storm. Most important were the erection of new transfer points and the improvement of the whole traffic organization, which subsequently made it possible to handle a record volume of supplies without developing a bottleneck. In addition, engineers opened the northern locks and completed the drainage of the inundated area behind UTAH, they repaired beached craft, and they cleared away wreckage.
During the storm, and for a few days thereafter, certain loaded ships had been held at U.K. ports owing to the difficulties of unloading at the far shore and to the fact that there were numbers of loaded MT ships still off the beaches. On 23 June sailings were resumed on a limited basis, and on the 26th normal sailings were restored, though planned loadings were not reached in most categories owing to the nonreturn of MT ships and craft from the far shore. LCT's, and even LST's, were held at the beaches to unload the accumulation of MT ships.29 A reallocation of craft between U.S. and British forces partly alleviated the shipping shortage,30 but the effects of the storm continued to be felt in the U.K. ports in the succeeding days when loading was delayed for lack of adequate lift.
Despite these disruptions in the shipping program, and in spite of the destruction of the piers and the wreckage which cluttered the beaches, discharge operations showed a remarkably quick recovery when unloading was fully resumed on 23 June. On that day OMAHA unloaded 10,000 tons and UTAH unloaded 6,400 tons, both beaches surpassing all their previous
BEACH TRANSFER POINTS. Pool of trucks waiting to be loaded, above. Crane transferring cargo from a DUKW, below.
performance. In the last week of June OMAHA averaged 13,500 tons per day, 115 percent of planned capacity, and UTAH averaged 7,000 tons, or 124 percent of capacity. This record was achieved over open beaches and without the benefit of the MULBERRY facilities, although the sunken ship breakwaters still afforded some protection to craft at both beaches.31
The failure of MULBERRY A to withstand the storm of 19-22 June gave definite warning that the artificial ports could not be relied on in winter weather. By normal standards the storm actually had not been a very severe one. Winds had reached velocities of 25-32 knots (29-36 miles an hour), and had therefore never exceeded half-gale force.32 General Eisenhower thought it one of the fortunate results of the storm that a timely warning had been given, and hoped for the quick capture of Cherbourg.33
Immediately after the storm the commander of the Western Naval Task Force, Admiral Kirk, surveyed the damage at OMAHA and concluded that no attempt should be made to reconstruct MULBERRY A.34 BOMBARDONS had been a complete failure, and rebuilding them would have served no useful purpose. The PHOENIXES had sustained heavy damage and revealed an inability to withstand heavy sea action and scouring. Piers appeared to be impractical under weather conditions which destroyed the PHOENIXES. The GOOSEBERRIES had also tended to weaken in the face of northerly gales, although it was concluded that they offered the one means of affording shelter to small craft. These observations led Admiral Kirk to recommend that the MULBERRY be abandoned and that the GOOSEBERRY be reinforced. On 24 June the commander of Task Force MULBERRY and other high Navy officials met with the commander of the Western Naval Task Force and accepted this recommendation. Two days later General Gale, the chief administrative officer of SHAEF, and other top administrative officers gave their concurrence, and the recommendation was approved by the Supreme Commander. More specifically, it was agreed that the GOOSEBERRY at OMAHA should be reinforced with twelve additional blockships; that a 25-ton pier for unloading coasters should be constructed within the breakwater; that no attempt would be made to replace the BOMBARDON breakwater; that pier bridging should be salvaged for use in the British MULBERRY; and that the capacity of Cherbourg should be increased.35
The decision to abandon MULBERRY A and to strengthen the GOOSEBERRY instead was buttressed by the demonstration of what could be accomplished over open beaches. Despite the loss of the MULBERRY and despite the fact that the 25-ton pier was never built, OMAHA handled tonnages
DRIED-OUT LST discharging its cargo at OMAHA Beach. Portion of a BOMBARDON washed ashore during storm may be seen at left.
far beyond the most optimistic forecasts, overshadowing Cherbourg as an intake port for several months to come.
The destruction of MULBERRY A by a single storm and the subsequent success of the build-up over open beaches at first sight would appear to discredit the whole idea of the artificial port. Several U.S. officials had in fact been dubious of the project from the start and had withheld their criticisms only because of the high-level support which the project was known to have.36 A few had predicted that the synthetic ports would not withstand bad storms. MULBERRY A might well have held together if craft in the harbor had not drifted and smashed it, or if the BOMBARDONS had held. It is of course impossible to say what might have been accomplished with the artificial port had it withstood the storm of 19-22 June. Some indication of its probable worth may be derived from the performance of the British port. MULBERRY B did not take the full brunt of the storm, for the Calvados reef, lying offshore, gave it some protection by breaking the main force of the waves. It suffered considerable damage, nevertheless, and many craft were driven ashore. In addition, many components of the harbor,
such as PHOENIXES and sections of pier, were lost or damaged when caught by the storm while they were still being towed. But most of the partially completed harbor remained intact, and with the salvaged units and equipment from OMAHA it was far easier to complete the British port at Arromanches than to reconstruct the American harbor at OMAHA. Despite the decision regarding the American MULBERRY, great importance was still attached to the completion of the British port.
To finish it and to put it in first-class condition by the end of September so that it might withstand the autumn gales, additional WHALE and PHOENIX units had to be constructed. These General Eisenhower requested from the British immediately after the storm. In his requests he had the full support of the Prime Minister, who had a great personal interest in the MULBERRY and was convinced of its vital role. Mr. Churchill was determined that all necessary steps be taken to make the port fully secure and effective. He assured the Supreme Commander that everything would be done to meet the requirements.37
Not only did MULBERRY B prove useful; it exceeded its targets. The British port was expected to handle 6,000 tons of cargo per day after reaching its capacity on D plus 14. For more than three months it actually averaged 6,765 tons, handling 48 percent of all the tonnage landed for British forces. British observers have speculated that, but for the MULBERRY, operations might have been halted at the Seine or the Somme, and that without it the 21 Army Group probably would have had to ask for an allocation of a portion of the capacity of Cherbourg.38 In the light of the British experience, it would appear that the American artificial port might have had equal success had it withstood the storm which struck before the harbor was even complete, or had it been reconstructed. It is important to remember, however, that MULBERRY B was substantially reinforced with units salvaged from the American harbor and that the PHOENIXES were pumped full of sand to give them greater stability, measures that undoubtedly explain the extended service which the British port was able to render. Furthermore, the planners obviously underrated the capacities of open beaches. The tremendous tonnage capacities subsequently developed at both UTAH and OMAHA were without doubt one of the most significant and gratifying features of the entire OVERLORD operation.
While the value of the beaches was not yet fully appreciated at the end of June, both OMAHA and UTAH had already begun to handle cargo considerably in excess of planned estimates, a welcome augury in view of the unsatisfactory port situation. Together the two beaches handled a total of 161,507 tons in the eight days following the storm. By 30 June a total of 289,827 tons of supplies had been moved to the Continent. While this amount represented 80.5 percent of the cumulative tonnage (360,000) that planners had estimated should be landed over the beaches by that date, it represented
(8) The Build-up to 30 June
TABLE 7--SUPPLY BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944
[Long Tons Daily]
Date Total OMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 4,650 (a) 2,400 (a) 2,250 (a) D+1 7 9,900 (a) 5,100 (a) 4,800 (a) D+2 8 10,300 5,807 7,000 1,429 3,300 4,378 D+3 9 11,000 5,705 6,600 2,542 4,400 3,163 D+4 10 11,700 6,340 7,000 3,942 4,700 2,398 D+5 11 12,700 9,452 7,000 7,187 5,700 2,265 D+6 12 12,700 9,869 7,000 5,752 5,700 4,144 D+7 13 13,700 9,300 8,000 5,461 5,700 3,839 D+8 14 13,700 12,335 8,000 7,377 5,700 4,958 D+9 15 13,700 14,744 8,000 9,008 5,700 5,736 D+10 16 14,700 14,466 9,000 8,535 5,700 5,931 D+11 17 14,700 13,660 9,000 8,876 5,700 4,784 D+12 18 15,900 14,360 10,200 8,690 5,700 5,670 D+13 19 15,900 8,339 10,200 5,764 5,700 2,575 D+14 20 16,000 999 10,300 676 5,700 323 D+15 21 16,100 1,558 10,400 1,077 5,700 481 D+16 22 16,100 1,359 10,400 494 5,700 865 D+17 23 16,300 16,395 10,600 9,996 5,700 6,399 D+18 24 16,300 16,395 10,600 11,562 5,700 5,959 D+19 25 16,400 20,136 10,700 12,994 5,700 7,142 D+20 26 17,500 21,347 11,800 14,449 5,700 8,898 D+21 27 17,500 19,699 11,800 12,808 5,700 6,891 D+22 28 17,500 22,512 11,800 13,842 5,700 8,670 D+23 29 17,500 23,040 11,800 14,869 5,700 8,171 D+24 30 17,500 20,857 11,800 14,361 5,700 6,496 a No record.
Source: NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, App. A; Pt. VI, of the Administrative and Logistical History of the ETO, OCMH.
only 71 percent of the total tonnage that was to have been moved to the Continent (408,550 tons). (Table 7)
Both Cherbourg and the minor Normandy ports were supposed to have been opened before the end of June. According to plan, Cherbourg was to have been captured about 20 June and expected to receive cargo within a few days of its capture, beginning with a capacity of about 1,600 tons per day. As events turned out, however, Cherbourg made no contribution to the logistical support of the American forces for at least another month. Two minor ports--Grandcamp and Isigny-- had been captured within the first four days, and after Carentan was seized on D plus 6 the Allies decided to utilize that
TABLE 7--SUPPLY BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944--CONTINUED
[Long Tons Cumulative]
Date Total OMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Percent of
Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 4,650 (a) (a) 2,400 (a) 2,250 (a) D+1 7 14,550 (a) (a) 7,500 (a) 7,050 (a) D+2 8 24,850 5,807 23.4 14,500 1,429 10,350 4,378 D+3 9 35,850 11,512 32.1 21,100 3,971 14,750 7,541 D+4 10 47,550 17,852 37.5 28,100 7,913 19,450 9,939 D+5 11 60,250 27,304 45.3 35,100 15,100 25,150 12,204 D+6 12 72,950 37,200 51.0 42,100 20,852 30,850 16,348 D+7 13 86,650 46,500 53.7 50,100 26,313 36,550 20,187 D+8 14 100,350 58,835 58.6 58,100 33,690 42.250 25,145 D+9 15 114,050 73,579 64.5 66,100 42,698 47,950 30,881 D+10 16 128,750 88,045 68.4 75,100 51,233 53,650 36,812 D+11 17 143,450 101,705 70.9 84,100 60,109 59,350 41,596 D+12 18 159,350 116,065 72.8 94,300 68,799 65,060 47,266 D+13 19 175,250 124,404 71.0 104,500 74,563 70,750 49,841 D+14 20 191,250 125,403 65.6 114,800 75,239 76,450 50,164 D+15 21 207,350 126,961 61.2 125,200 76,316 82,150 50,645 D+16 22 223,450 128,320 57.4 135,600 76,810 87,850 51,510 D+17 23 239,750 144,715 60.4 146,200 86,806 93,550 57,909 D+18 24 256,050 162,236 63.4 156,800 98,368 99,250 63,868 D+19 25 272,450 182,372 66..9 167,500 111,362 104,950 71,010 D+20 26 289,950 203,719 70.3 179,300 125,811 110,650 77,908 D+21 27 307,450 223,418 72.7 191,100 138,619 116,350 84,799 D+22 28 324,950 245,930 75.7 202,900 152,461 122,050 93,469 D+23 29 342,450 268,9790 78.5 214,700 167,330 127,750 101,640 D+24 30 359,950 b289,827 80.5 226,500 b181,691 133,450 108,136 a No record.
b Includes 4,558 long tons discharged at Isigny and Grandcamp. for which distribution figures by day of arrival are not readily available.
port also. Port structure was found intact in all three. But there were mines to be cleared, sunken craft and other obstructions and debris to be removed, and dredging and lock repair to be accomplished. Port construction and repair units started work after a reconnaissance, and the speedy rehabilitation of these ports promised an early, if limited, augmentation of beach discharges.
Together the two ports of Grandcamp and Isigny were expected to have an opening capacity of but a few hundred tons, and to develop an ultimate capacity of 1,000-1,500 tons per day. Isigny was to have been opened on D plus 10 (16 June)
TABLE 8--VEHICLE BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944
Date Total OMAHAMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 a6,810 2,870 3,241 2,870 3,569 0 D & D+1 6 & 7 b4,431 ---- 4,431 ---- 0 ---- D+1 7 c2,821 2,676 1,656 1,207 1,165 1,469 D+2 8 d4,854 4,713 2,616 3,555 2,238 1,158 D+3 9 4,108 4,035 2,879 2,148 1,229 1,887 D+4 10 3,920 2,667 2,117 1,579 1,803 1,088 D+5 11 4,480 3,694 3,001 2,183 1,479 1,511 D+6 12 4,086 2,645 2,480 1,610 1,606 1,035 D+7 13 4,335 3,134 2,685 2,268 1,649 866 D+8 14 4,278 2,388 1,381 1,506 2,897 882 D+9 15 4,071 2,819 2,457 1,584 1,614 1,235 D+10 16 4,413 2,908 2,533 2,228 1,880 680 D+11 17 5,001 3,581 4,359 2,515 642 1,066 D+12 18 3,760 2,411 2,225 2,087 1,535 324 D+13 19 4,103 3,045 2,781 1,902 776 1,143 D+14 20 4,792 738 2,004 533 2,077 205 D+15 21 4,220 243 (e) 243 (e) 0 D+16 22 4,222 179 (e) 146 (e) 33 D+17 23 4,118 4,053 (e) 3,430 (e) 623 D+18 24 4,031 3,866 (e) 3,321 (e) 545 D+19 25 4,193 2,519 (e) 1,971 (e) 548 D+20 26 4,124 3,428 (e) 2,984 (e) 444 D+21 27 4,136 41,60 (e) 2,713 (e) 1,447 D+22 28 3,523 2.080 (e) 1,425 (e) 655 D+23 29 3,543 3,230 (e) 552 (e) 2,678 D+24 30 3,549 2,828 (e) 1,466 (e) 1,362 a Forces O and U.
b Force B or follow-up.
c Preloaded build-up.
d Includes 3,242 vehicles on preloaded build-up.
e Data not readily available.
and Grandcamp on D plus 14 (20 June). Grandcamp was ready for operations on 17 June, ahead of schedule; but too few troops were available to operate it, and not till 23 June did the first craft, a Dutch coaster, enter the basin. During the remaining week in June the port discharged an average of about 280 tons per day. Isigny was finally opened on 24 June and averaged 475 tons per day in the first week. At the end of the month it was estimated that with additional troops and equipment the combined capacity of the two ports could be raised to 3,500 tons.
TABLE 8--VEHICLE BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944--CONTINUED
Date Total OMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Percent of
Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 6,810 2,870 42.1 3,241 2,870 3,569 0 D & D+1 6 & 7 11,241 ---- ---- 7,672 ---- 0 ---- D+1 7 14,062 5,546 39.4 9,328 4,077 4,734 1,469 D+2 8 18,916 10,259 54.2 11,944 7,632 6,972 2,627 D+3 9 23,024 14,294 62.1 14,823 9,780 8,201 4,514 D+4 10 26,944 16,961 162.9 16,940 11,359 10,004 5,602 D+5 11 31,424 20,655 65.7 19,941 13,542 11,483 7,113 D+6 12 35,510 23,300 65.6 22,421 15,152 13,089 8,148 D+7 13 39,844 26,434 66.4 25,106 17,420 14,738 9,014 D+8 14 44,122 28,822 65.3 26,487 18,926 17,635 9,896 D+9 15 48,193 31,641 65.7 28,944 20,510 19,249 11,131 D+10 16 52,606 34,549 65.7 31,477 22,738 21,129 11,811 D+11 17 57,607 38,130 66.2 35,836 25,253 21,771 12,877 D+12 18 61,367 40,541 66.1 38,061 27,340 23,306 13,201 D+13 19 65,470 43,586 66.6 40,842 29,242 24,082 14,344 D+14 20 70,262 44,324 63.1 42.846 29,775 26,159 14,549 D+15 21 74,482 44,567 59.8 (e) 30,018 (e) 14,549 D+16 22 78,704 44,746 56.9 (e) 30,164 (e) 14,582 D+17 23 82,822 48,799 58.9 (e) 33,594 (e) 15,205 D+18 24 86,853 52,665 60.6 (e) 36,915 (e) 15,750 D+19 25 91,046 55,184 60.6 (e) 38,886 (e) 16,298 D+20 26 95,170 58.612 61.6 (e) 41,870 (e) 16,742 D+21 27 99,306 62.772 63.2 (e) 44,583 (e) 18,189 D+22 28 102,829 64.852 63.1 (e) 46,008 (e) 18,844 D+23 29 106,372 68,082 64.0 (e) 46,560 (e) 21,522 D+24 30 109,921 70,910 64.5 (e) 48,026 (e) 22,884 3 Data not readily available.
Source: Planned build-up data from First Army Revised Consolidated Troop List (List A), FUSA Rpt of Opns (20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44), II, Annex 2a, and FUSAG Buildup Priority Tables, List B, in BUCO Tables FUSAG, EUCOM Hist Files, AG Hist Records. Actual data from NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, App. B.
But their initial tonnages were negligible. Together with the delay in the restoration of Cherbourg, these deficits explain the overall lag of approximately 30 percent in the cumulative build-up, despite the encouraging performance of the beaches.
In vehicle unloadings and personnel debarkations the records of the beaches were not as spectacular in the week following the storm. About 26,165 vehicles were landed at the two beaches against a planned 31,217, and a cumulative total of
TABLE 9--TROOP BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944
Date Total OMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 a61,626 57,500 29,714 34,250 31,912 23,250 D & D+1 6 & 7 b26,492 ---- 26,492 ---- 0 ---- D+1 7 c21,238 31,569 13,428 20,834 7,810 10,735 D+2 8 d31,220 33,349 17,668 21,761 13,552 11,588 D+3 9 23,986 20,291 13,781 15,881 10,205 4,410 D+4 10 23,232 22,571 8,899 12,397 14,333 10,174 D+5 11 19,477 18,839 11,932 12,428 7,545 6,411 D+6 12 22,869 17,270 13,483 8,777 9,386 8,493 D+7 13 26,275 17,901 18,708 13,779 8,567 4,122 D+8 14 19,713 19,460 8,309 11,481 11,404 7,979 D+9 15 17,151 22,841 9,280 10,798 7,871 12,043 D+10 16 20,527 16,696 9,165 11,538 11,362 5,158 D+11 17 26,919 17,905 22,036 10,791 5,883 7,114 D+12 18 15,414 18,312 9,200 12,729 6,214 5,583 D+13 19 e18,359 17,765 10,992 8,318 3,786 9,447 D+14 20 f24,943 3,299 9,403 3,299 9,806 0 D+15 21 17,051 1,498 (g) 1,498 (g) 0 D+16 22 17,178 898 (g) 333 (g) 565 D+17 23 19,592 30,916 (g) 24,425 (g) 6,491 D+18 24 12,425 17,345 (g) 15,525 (g) 1,820 D+19 25 23,023 9,351 (g) 7,624 (g) 1,727 D+20 26 21,657 13,590 (g) 10,747 (g) 2,843 D+21 27 14,634 14,341 (g) 6,816 (g) 7,525 D+22 28 19,264 9,430 (g) 4,540 (g) 4,890 D+23 29 19,138 12,168 (g) 1,395 (g) 10,773 D+24 30 14,018 7,355 (g) 3,657 (g) 3,698 a Forces O and U.
b Force B or follow-up.
c Preloaded build-up.
d Includes 21,734 troops in preloaded build-up.
e Includes 3,581 planned arrivals at Cherbourg.
f Includes 5,284 planned arrivals at Cherbourg. g Data not readily available.
only 70,910 as compared with the scheduled 109,921. The vehicle build-up therefore continued to fall short of expectations, with only 64.5 percent of the target achieved, and was estimated to be about thirteen days in arrears. (Table 8)
The troop build-up likewise had not recovered from the setback occasioned by the storm, although the lag had not been as serious. In the week following the storm a total of 114,496 troops debarked at the two beaches, compared with the originally
TABLE 9--TROOP BUILD-UP OVER THE BEACHES: 6-30 JUNE 1944--CONTINUED
Date Total OMAHA Beach UTAH Beach D Days June Planned Actual Percent of
Planned Actual Planned Actual D Day 6 61,626 57,500 93.3 29,714 34,250 31,912 23,250 D & D+1 6 & 7 88,118 ---- ---- 56,206 ---- 31,912 ---- D+1 7 109,356 89,069 81.4 69,634 55,084 39,722 33,985 D+2 8 140,576 122,418 87.1 87,302 76,845 53,274 45,573 D+3 9 164,562 142,709 86.7 101,083 92,726 63,479 49,983 D+4 10 187,794 165,280 88.0 109,982 105,123 77,812 60,157 D+5 11 207,271 184,119 88.8 121,914 117,551 85,357 66,568 D+6 12 230,140 201,389 87.5 135,397 126,328 84,743 75,061 D+7 13 257,415 219,290 85.2 154.105 140,107 103,310 79,183 D+8 14 277,128 238,750 86.2 162.414 151,588 114,714 87,162 D+9 15 294,279 261,591 88.9 171,694 162,386 122,585 99,205 D+10 16 314,806 278,287 88.4 180,859 173,924 133,947 104,363 D+11 17 342,725 296,192 86.4 202,895 184,715 139,830 111,477 D+12 18 358,139 314,504 87.8 212,095 197,444 146,044 117,060 D+13 19 376,498 332,269 88.3 223,087 205,762 149,830 126,507 D+14 20 400,991 335,568 83.7 232,490 209,061 159,636 126,507 D+15 21 418,042 337.066 80.6 (a) 210,559 (a) 126,507 D+16 22 435,220 337,964 77.7 (a) 210,892 (a) 127,072 D+17 23 454,812 368,880 81.1 (a) 235,317 (a) 133,563 D+18 24 467,237 386.225 82.7 (a) 250,842 (a) 135,383 D+19 25 490,260 395,576 80.7 (a) 258,466 (a) 137,110 D+20 26 511,917 409,166 79.9 (a) 269,213 (a) 139,953 D+21 27 526,551 423,507 80.4 (a) 276,029 (a) 147,478 D+22 28 545,815 432,937 79.3 (a) 280,569 (a) 152,368 D+23 29 564,953 455,105 78.8 (a) 281,964 (a) 163,141 D+24 30 578,971 452,460 78.1 (a) 285,621 (a) 166,839 a Data not readily available.
Source: Plnned build-up data from First Army Revised Consolidated Troop List (List A), FUSA Rpt of Opns (20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44), II, Annex 2a, and FUSA Buildup Priority Tables, List B, BUCO Tables FUSAG, EUCOM Hist Files, AG Hist Rocords. Actual build-up data from NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, App. B.
scheduled 143,751. On 30 June the cumulative U.S. troop build-up in Normandy totaled 452,460, which represented 78 percent of the planned 578,971.39 (Table 9)
Evacuations through 30 June totaled approximately 27,000,40 bringing actual strength down to about 425,000. The lag in personnel build-up consisted entirely of a lag in service and supporting troops. The combat strength of the First Army was actually greater than originally planned--eleven divisions as scheduled, plus the two airborne divisions which were to have been withdrawn to the United Kingdom but which were retained on the Continent through June.41
The difficulties attending the reception and discharge of ships at the Normandy beaches constituted only part of the continental build-up problem. Several other closely related difficulties plagued the build-up from the start.
(9) Cross-Channel Movement
The whole movements machinery was put to a severe test in the first days of the invasion, for the shipment of men, and particularly supplies, was almost immediately thrown off schedule for lack of shipping at the embarkation points. The immediate cause of this shortage was the failure of ships to return from the far shore for the planned shuttle service. Shipping simply did not complete the round trip to the beaches in the time originally estimated. This failure was directly attributable to discharge difficulties on the far shore and to a wasteful use of craft. Not only did the entire procedure for calling in and berthing ships at the beaches have to undergo a shakedown before it was efficiently organized, but cargo discharge points did not always come into operation as planned. Vessels were not always unloaded as they arrived and they were often subjected to a ìselective" discharge to obtain certain urgently needed supplies. A number of ammunition ships, for example, were only partially unloaded in the search for comparatively small quantities of particular types of shells, and then remained idle off the Normandy coast.42
The failure to receive ships' manifests at the beaches also contributed to the tie-up of shipping. Many vessels arrived at the far shore with their contents unknown to shore personnel. One example of the results is seen in the search for 81-mm mortar shells, which were urgently needed in the Normandy hedgerow fighting. Because the troops on shore did not know where this type of ammunition was located in ships lying offshore, they called forward a large part of the ammunition in U.K. waters. Even then they had to conduct a ship-by-ship search to find the desired items.43 Late in June, after hearing many complaints on the subject of manifests, General Eisenhower became impatient with the poor performance and promised that heads would roll if no improvement was shown.44
The admittedly wasteful practice of selective unloading was in part the result of unusual demands for certain types of supplies, the need for which could not be accurately foreseen. Without adequate records of the status of supplies in continental
dumps and depots or lying offshore, and without adequate experience factors on consumption and expenditure, it was not immediately possible to make adjustments in the scheduled shipments. In the early weeks, therefore, it was natural to rely on emergency requisitions such as Red Ball, GREENLIGHT, and air shipment, and to unload the most urgently needed supplies where and when they could be found.45
In addition, the whole discharge program at the far shore was affected by such factors as bad weather and the shortage of ferry craft, tugs, and barges. The total effect of these difficulties and practices was to slow up the turn-round time of shipping and consequently create a shortage of vessels for the scheduled movement across the Channel.46
The nonreturn of shipping had an immediate impact on the outloading ports in the United Kingdom. Its worst effect was felt in Southampton, where backlogs of both men and supplies immediately began to form. In fact, the backing up of personnel had begun earlier for another reason. The movement of troops, like the shipment of supplies, was prescheduled, and the entire mounting process was already in full swing when D Day was postponed twenty-four hours. As men continued to pour into the ports even though embarkations had halted, the ports quickly became clogged. The situation was further aggravated when outloading fell behind for lack of shipping. It soon had its repercussions farther back along the lines of movement. Apparently disregarding force movement tables and the slowdown in embarkations, Southern Base Section continued to move units into the marshaling areas. Before long, camps were so overcrowded that the original craft-load basis of marshaling lost all meaning, and all flexibility of control temporarily disappeared. Each day's craft assignment continued to differ both in quantity and in type from the planned movement.
The confusion reached its height about 12 June, when units became so badly scrambled that troops could not be identified and sorted into craft loads at all. For a brief period the clogging of the marshaling areas prevented the flow of troops to the ports in numbers sufficient to load the available ships, and the U.S. Zone chairman, Colonel Stevens, on his own authority diverted vessels to the British in order to avoid wasting precious shipping which otherwise would have remained idle.47 The log jam was finally broken by simply funneling troops into the ports and onto ships and craft as fast as possible and without regard to craft-loading plans. It was doubly fortunate that no shipping losses occurred in this period, for no record was kept of many of the embarkations.48
The burden on the outloading sectors became so heavy at this time that stowage and loading plans made on the basis of expected movements simply had to be abandoned. The number and type of craft becoming available in no way conformed to the embarkation and loading plans. Lack of advance information about actual craft availability added to the difficulties, and loading was either hastily worked out on paper within a few hours' notice that vessels
had arrived, or was improvised on the ground. At the height of the confusion a few devoted and experienced men worked round the clock, keeping up a grueling schedule of improvisations to unscramble the mixed units and maintain the best possible volume of shipments across the Channel. More than one officer collapsed from exhaustion during this trying period.49
Beginning on 13 June a concerted "clean-up" effort was made, and by the time of the storm the chaotic conditions of the first week were largely eliminated. But the experience had been a harrowing one. Some units were "lost" for several weeks. On one occasion Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, the V Corps Commander, personally visited the United Kingdom to locate a unit which the Southern Base Section insisted had been shipped to the Continent, and found that it had not even moved out of its assembly area.50
Logistical operations require as high a degree of co-ordination as tactical operations, and the difficulties that beset the movement of men and supplies from the U.K. camps and depots to the front lines in Normandy were the result of a failure to gear capacities with one another along the entire line of communications. The principal single cause of the trouble in personnel movements had been the lack of balance between movements in and out of the marshaling areas and the failure to match these movements with ,the capabilities of the ports to outload. The OVERLORD planners had foreseen the need for exercising detailed control over the mounting process, and it was precisely for this purpose that they had established BUCO.
In practice, however, the movement-control machinery did not initially operate as intended. In the desire to work out a uniform system with the British, in view of the possible disruption of the mounting process by enemy air attacks and the possible necessity of handling British troops through U.S.-controlled areas or vice versa, the control of movements had been somewhat decentralized. While the decentralization apparently caused little difficulty in the British zone, it was definitely a hindrance to efficient operations in the U.S. zone, at least at the beginning. BUCO occupied a rather anomalous position with respect to command, for it was not a formal agency of either the First Army, 1st Army Group, or Supreme Headquarters. Because of divided responsibility for preparing the build-up priority lists and preparing and executing the mounting plan, BUCO found it necessary to deal with numerous authorities and experienced difficulties in taking timely action to correct mistakes in the mounting of the operation.
MOVCO was charged with executive supervision of the whole process. But powers were dispersed and the demarcation of authority was ill defined. The authority to order units forward to the ports and hards was vested in U.S. MOVCO; the control of movements into the marshaling areas, on the other hand, was assumed by the base section.51
The SOS had never been sympathetic to the joint movement plans and instructions issued by SHAEF,52 and, to complicate matters, established an agency of its
own for the control of the mounting--that is, Embarkation Control, or EMBARCO. In an already intricate setup, "Embargo," as it was derisively referred to by other agencies, was generally regarded as an encumbrance to the whole machinery, and the Southern Base Section and the SOS were warned that it would not work under the pressure of the inevitable last-minute changes occasioned by tactical needs. The base section persisted, nevertheless, with full confidence that it could control the location and movement of the hundreds of units involved.53 Events proved otherwise.
EMBARCO performed a useful function to the extent that it confined itself to its original purpose--that is, keeping an up-to-date record of the location of all units in the mounting process, thus enabling the Southern Base Section commander to keep abreast of all movements in his command. But it came in for severe criticism for attempting to exercise actual control over those movements, for in doing so it encroached directly on the authority of BUCO and its executive agency, MOVCO.
The entire movements machinery was under constant compulsion to accommodate itself to changes in the build-up schedule or to the unpredictable shipping situation. Build-up priority tables were closely followed only in the first few days, after which BUCO issued frequent changes in priorities. Despite the fact that such changes were anticipated they caused great confusion. There was no reversing the marshaling process. Once a unit moved forward, its place was immediately taken by another, and every change in the priority for embarkation necessitated holding other units in the marshaling areas like a train on a siding, while higher priority units were processed past them. Even so, much of the congestion could have been prevented. Southern Base Section had been advised to hold 25 percent of the marshaling camp capacities free for such contingencies, and had failed to do so.54 The result was that the lines of communications became choked, and elasticity of control was nullified. To aggravate matters, units were occasionally called forward on short notice and without regard for their "readiness date," and were found to lack most of their equipment.55
Turn-round performance continued to fall far short of expectations, with the result that neither cargo nor troops could always be dispatched as rapidly as they became available in U.K. ports.56 Since the nonreturn of ships was in part due to the practice of selective unloading at the far shore, the SOS urged the First Army to complete the discharge of ships and release them so that better use could be made of the limited lift.57 Of particular concern were the lag in the movement of vehicles and the lack of a deepwater port for the reception of larger vessels. The latter handicap made it especially important that the maximum number of shallow-draft, coaster-type vessels be retained in the Channel shuttle service to permit the fullest utilization of the beaches and small ports. The storm had already
aggravated the shipping position by its destruction of LCT's.58
Before the end of June theater headquarters took steps to end its embarrassment in shipping. Immediately after the storm, with the U.S. vehicle build-up about 35,000 in arrears, General Eisenhower appealed to Washington and succeeded in getting additional allocations of both MT ships and LST's.59 In addition, the theater secured a postponement of the planned reduction in the coaster fleet which was to have occurred after D plus 42.60
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (9) * Next Chapter (11)
1 For the full story of tactical operations see Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack.
2. Description of the beaches and supply operations is based on [Clifford L. Jones] NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, and the Artificial Ports, Pt. VI of The Administrative and Logistical History of the ETO, Vol. II, Chs. IX-XII, OCMH.
3. The figure of sixty-eight pounds is derived from orders and historical accounts and includes the intrenching tool. which was not specified in orders but which other evidence indicates was carried. Royce L. Thompson, D Day Personal Loads, a compilation and study of data on the equipment and supplies carried by individuals in the assault waves on D Day, MS, OCMH.
4. Ltr, AG 29th Div to AG WD, 1 Aug 44, sub: Battle Lessons, 29th Inf Div Battle Lessons 320-0.4 (5451); Thompson, D Day Personal Loads, Apps. IA 5 and 7.
5. After the war Col. S.L.A. Marshall, chief historian of the ETO and respected military journalist, first drew attention to the dire effects which overloading has on the individual's effectiveness in combat in an article in the Infantry Journal (October, 1949) entitled "The Mobility of One Man," later published as a book, The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation (Washington, 1950). Colonel Marshall showed that the load which a man can carry on a road march is no measure of what he can bear in battle, and proposed that the infantryman's load in combat be kept under Forty pounds. The experience at the Normandy beaches indicated that any substantially larger burden only hastened bodily exhaustion and seriously impaired, if it did not completely destroy, the individual's mobility. In 1950 a special Army Field Forces board at the Infantry School at Fort Benning further examined the entire problem. The board concluded that the policy by which the soldier had been overloaded with supplies and equipment to meet every conceivable contingency had been wrong, for it had made the soldier a vehicle for the transportation of cargo beyond his immediate needs. It accepted forty pounds as the optimum load for the rifleman operating under the most trying conditions, but saw little possibility of reducing the load to that figure. The Infantry School at that time submitted minimum lists of equipment, the weight of which ranged from 44.88 pounds (for the rifleman) to 65.26 pounds (for the BAR-man) in the rifle squad, not including the clothing worn (7.88 pounds) and water carried in the canteen (2 pounds), which brought the minimum load for men in the rifle squad to a range of between 54.76 and 75.14 pounds. Rpt of Army Field Forces Bd 3, Project 2053A, 5 Aug 50, sub: Loads Carried by the Soldier and Means for Carrying Same, OCMH.
6. A matting made of wire netting reinforced with steel, used in the same manner as chespaling.
7. Unpowered LBV's which had a capacity of 100-200 tons and could be beached.
8. First Army build-up figures, as given in FUSA Rpt of Opns (Bk. V, p. 147) do not agree with those of the brigades. The statistics given here are derived from a comparison of actual build-up, as given in NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, Apps. A, B, and C, based on brigade records, with planned personnel and vehicle build-up as given in the FUSA Troop List (FUSA Rpt of Opns, 20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44, Bk. II, pp. 142ff.) and planned tonnage discharge as given in NEPTUNE, II, App. A.
9. Operation, Organization, Supply and Service of the Transportation Corps in the ETO, Gen Bd Rpt 122, pp. 28-29; Ltr, Col Charles F. Howard to CG AGF, 27 Jul 44, sub: Observer's Rpt, WDGDS 319.1, A47-2, Rpts, I.
10. Operation Report NEPTUNE, OMAHA Beach, prep by Hist Sec ETOUSA, Sep 44, pp. 175-78, 188, OCMH; Operations History of the Advance Section, COMZ ETOUSA, prep by Hist Sec ADSEC, 1945, mimeo (hereafter cited as ADSEC Operations History), pp. 31, 38, OCMH.
11. Operation Report NEPTUNE, pp. 199-201.
12. Ibid., pp. 199-203, 207-08; ADSEC Operations History, pp. 34-37; Ltr, Hq COMZ to CG ADSEC, 21 Jun 44, sub: Inspection of UTAH Beach--Misuse of Dukws, with Ind, Col Cort, CofS, ADSEC, 26 Jun 44, EUCOM 45 1.94 Amphibian Vehicles 1944.
13. Operations Report NEPTUNE, pp. 225-31; FUSA Rpt of Opns, 20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44, Bk. II, p. 55.
14. One load of DUKWs, unaware of the enemy situation, tried to land near Quintville. As the ramp of the LST went down, enemy artillery found the craft, and three DUKWs were lost.
15. See Section 9 of this chapter.
16. Comments on the early functioning of the special brigades are contained in an aide-memoire by General Moses, 30 June 1944, in 12 A Gp G-4 Misc Ltrs, Memos by chiefs of divs in G-4. Moses was critical of higher commanders' interference with the brigades, the operations of which he thought they did not fully understand.
17. Ltr, Col Howard to CG AGF, 27 Jul 44, sub: Observer's Rpt, WDGDS 3 19.1, A47-2, I.
18. Operation Report NEPTUNE, pp. 135-39; Ltr, Col Gullatt to OCMH, 17 Jul 51.
19. NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, 129-30, OCMH.
20. Weekly Logistical Summary, 6-18 Jun, SHAEF G-4 War Diary, Jun, Exec Br, App. 3, SHAEF G-4.
21. Operation Report NEPTUNE, pp. 141-51, 157-58, 186.
22. FUSA Rpt of Opns, 20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44, Bk. V, p. 142.
23. Landings at OMAHA consistently achieved a higher percentage of the build-up target, with 93 percent of its planned debarkations completed on D plus 12.
24. As compared with the British build-up of eight and two-thirds divisions out of a planned nine and a third. British and U.S. Buildup Progress Rpts for 18 Jun, SHAEF G-4 3 19.1 Buildup Rpts, I. Personnel landing figures given above do not take into account the two airborne divisions included in the total of eleven U.S. divisions ashore.
25. Medical evacuation figures from FUSA Rpt of Opns, Bk. VII, Medical Annex, Apps. 20, 21, pp. 169-70. Prisoner of war evacuations are estimated from total captures. FUSA Rpt of Opns, Bk. V, G-1 Annex, Chart 7.
26. FUSA Rpt of Opns, Bk. V, p. 142.
27. ADSEC Operations History, p. 32.
28. NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, Apps. A, B, and C; FUSA Troop List, FUSA Rpt of Opns, Bk. II, pp. 17 1-74; FUSAG Buildup Priority Tables. List B, BUCO Tables FUSAG, EUCOM Hist Files, AG Hist Records.
29. Col Brooke, SHAEF representative on BUCO, Report of Bad Weather 19-23 June 1944, 27 Jun 44, App. 7 of Exec Br, SHAEF G-4 War Diary, Jun, SHAEF G-4.
30. 12th A Gp Rpt of Opns, VI (G-4), 21.
31. The OMAHA Command changed hands in the last week of June, Colonel Talley replacing General Hoge.
32. Memo, Capt Robert C. Lee, USN, Mov and Tn Br, G-3 SHAEF, for Crawford et al., 26 Jun 44, sub: Building Up Load and Discharge, SHAEF G-4 825.1 Piers, Wharves, Docks and Berths 1944, II.
33. Ltr, Eisenhower to Somervell, 25 Jun 44, Hq ASF-European theater last half 1944; Cbls, Eisenhower to Marshall, 20 Jun 44, S-54240, and 21 Jun 44, S-54306, P & O Cbl Files.
34. It is worth noting that on the very day the storm had broken--19 June--the ANCXF made proposals to SHAEF advocating that the MULBERRIES be strengthened against autumn gales by extending the breakwater and double-banking the ends with additional PHOENIXES. Ltr, ANCXF to SHAEF, 19 Jun 44, sub: Completion of MULBERRIES, SHAEF AG 820-1 Artificial Harbors April-July 44.
35. Min, Mtg held at SHAEF, 26 Jun 44, Gale presiding; Ltr, Gale to Smith, 26 Jun 44, sub: Reconstruction of MULBERRIES; TWX S-54648, Eisenhower to ANCXF and 21 A Gp, 27 Jun 44. All in SHAEF SGS 800.1 MULBERRY O/CS, II.
36. Intervs with Talley, 6 Mar 51, and with Lord, 9 Aug 51, OCMH.
37. Ltr, Eisenhower to Churchill, 29 Jun 44; Note by Minister of Production, 12 Jul 44, sub: Provision of Additional MULBERRY Equipment, DC (S) (44) 27 Defence Corn; Min, Stf Conf, Defence Corn of War Cabinet, 6th Mtg, 13 Jul 44, DC (S) (44). All in SHAEF SGS 800.1 MULBERRY O/CS, Vol. II. Ltr, Churchill to Eisenhower, 1 Jul 44, SHAEF SGS 800.1 MULBERRY Case A.
38. Rear Adm H. Hickling and Brig I. L. H. MacKillop, Story of the Mulberries, MS, OCMH.
39. Comparative statistics are compiled from NEPTUNE: Training for and Mounting the Operation, II, Apps. A, B, and C, and from FUSAG Buildup Priority Tables, List B, EUCOM Hist Files, AG Hist Records, BUCO Tables. These figures differ slightly from those in FECOMZ Rpt 21, for 30 Jun 44, lnformation re Logistical Buildup on the Continent, 3 Jul 44, EUCOM 38 1 Rpts General-Logistical Buildup on the Continent. See also 12th A Gp Rpt of Opns, VI (G-4), 21.
40. FUSA Rpt of Opns, Bk. VII, Apps. 20, 21.
41. The British build-up at this time stood at thirteen divisions as against a planned fifteen. It was planned to be slower than the American build-up initially, and actually achieved its targets more nearly on schedule in the first week, after which it fell behind slightly. The U.S. build-up, on the other hand, lagged for about ten days, then accelerated, and achieved its planned strength of eleven divisions by 30 June.
42. Mounting the Operation OVERLORD, Gen Bd Rpt 129, p. 19.
43. G-4 History, COMZ ETO, prep by Hist Sec G-4 COMZ, 1945. mimeo, Sec. I, p. 22, ETO Adm 553.
44. Ltr, Eisenhower to Bradley, 27 Jun 44, Diary Office CinC.
45. Gen Bd Rpt 129, p. 21.
46. Military Shipments Priority Mtg, SHAEF, 1 Jul 44, SHAEF AG 337-18.
47. Interv with Col Stevens, 15 Feb 50, OCMH; G-4 Plans Diary, 7, 10, 13 Jun, including Memo for Col Potter, OCofT, 13 Jun 44, sub: Rpt of Inspection of Areas C [Southampton] and D [Portland], SHAEF G-4 Plans Diary.
48. Interv with Lt Col Ivan L. Brenneman, US member, SHAEF liaison stf, BUCO, 8 Feb 50, OCMH.
49. Intervs with Stevens, 15 Feb 50, and Lt Col Leo J. Meyer, then CO 14th Port (Southampton), 8 Nov 49, OCMH.
51. Interv with Meyer.
52. Ltr, Ross to H. Larson, 5 Dec 49, Note A, OCMH.
53. Interv with Stevens.
54. Interv with Brenneman.
55. Historical Critique of the United Kingdom Overlord Movements, prep by Lt Col M. J. Frechie, OCofT, 1 Nov 45, p. 37, OCMH.
56. Memo, Col Meyer for Dir of Opns, 14th Port, 8 Jul 44, and TWX, 14th Port to OCofT COMZ, 8 Jul 44, ETO OCOT 563.512 14th Port; Ltr, Napier to Smith, 24 Jul 44, sub: Release of Berths Occupied by MONTCLARE at Southampton, SHAEF G-4 825.1 Piers, Wharves, Docks and Berths 1944, II.
57. TWX E-33816, Lord to FUSA G-4, 19 Jun 44, EUCOM 560 Landing Craft.
58. Cbls S-54240 and S-54306, Eisenhower to Marshall, 20, 21 Jun 44, P&O Cbl Files.
59. Cbl OZ-3538, AMSO to JCS, 6 Jul 44, SHAEF Cbl Log, Smith Papers; Cbls, Eisenhower to JCS, 27 Jun 44, S-54625, and 14 Jul 44. FWD-12397, and Cbl WAR-61920, JCS to SHAEF, 7 Jul 44, P&O Cbl Files; Memo, COS Com to CofS SHAEF, 5 Jul 44, COS Brief and Action Rpt, 27 Jul 44, sub: OVERLORDóMT Shipping Requirements; Cbl W-75 165, CCS to SHAEF, 3 Aug 44. All in SHAEF SGS 540 Shipping Problems.
60. Ltr, Ross to Continental Movements and Shipping Com, 30 Jun 44, sub: Retention of Coaster Fleet beyond D plus 42, EUCOM 560 AT, Transport, Vessels, Boats; Supply Movement (U.S.) Instructions, Hq COMZ, Supplement 2 (Coaster Revision), 22 Jul 44, EUCOM 38 1/12 OVERLORD,