The First Hours of D-Day on Omaha Beach

[Excerpted from Omaha Beachhead (6 June-13 June 1944) American Forces in Action Series. Historical Division. War Department (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, Facsimile Reprint, 1984), pp. 35-87]

D Day: The Landings

THE SELECTION OF D DAY was governed by several factors, complicated by the need of satisfying Allied requirements in five different landing areas, each with its own problems. It was desirable that D Day fall during a period when the days were long, for maximum use of Allied air power; when the moon was near the full, for better maneuver of ships and for easier night landings of airborne troops; and when tides were strong, so that beach obstacles would be fully exposed at low water and the landing craft could be floated far up the beach for convenient unloading at high water. Further, D Day must be selected with reference to certain requirements for H Hour, the moment when the first assault units touched down on the beaches. These were: that there be an hour of daylight before H Hour so that the preliminary bombardment would be as accurate as possible, and landing craft could be more easily organized into formation for the assault; that the tide should be near half-flood, so that obstacles would still be exposed, but rock ledges near the shore in the British one would not be dangerous; and that the tide be rising at H Hour, insuring two high tides during daylight to facilitate maximum unloading of supplies. Certain groups of days came nearest to satisfying all these requirements: 21-22-23 May, 5-6-7 June, and 19-20-21 June were closest to the target date of 1 June. On 8 May, D Day was fixed at 5 June.

V Corps units had been alerted on 23 March to be ready for movement to marshaling areas on short notice. Actually, movement began 7 May and was completed by 11 May for elements of the assault and follow-up forces ("O" and "B"). The pre-embarkment handling of 65,000 men and 7,600 vehicles was accomplished by the XVIII and XIX Districts of the Southern Base Section, Services of Supply. Once in the marshaling areas, troops were "sealed" in their camps, given final items of equipment, and thoroughly briefed on all phases of their assignments. During the last few days of May, they were moved from the marshaling points to the ports and "hards" [1] for embarkation, their places being immediately taken by units designated to follow across the Channel in build-up schedules. By 3 June all troops of Force "O" had been loaded, and some of them had been aboard several days. Portland, Weymouth, and Poole were the embarkation areas. On the night of 27 May, a small enemy air attack on the Weymouth area caused some losses of a few smaller craft by mines. Aside from this raid, the loadings suffered no interference from enemy action, and German air reconnaissance up to D Day was on a routine scale.

The story of the Navy's share in operation NEPTUNE must be told elsewhere. Western Task Force, commanded by Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk, was responsible for the embarkation and landing of First U. S. Army forces. Rear Adm. J. L. Hall, Jr., commanded Force "O," which would carry the assault against Omaha Beach. The magnitude and complexity of the movement may be suggested by figures. To lift and land this initial assault force of 34,000 men and 3,300 vehicles required 7 transports, 8 LSI's, 24 LST's, 33 LCI (L)'s, 36 LCM (3)'s, 147 LCT's, and 33 other craft, while the escort, gunfire support, and bombardment missions employed 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 105 other ships. Force "O" also included 33 mine-sweepers and 585 vessels used in service work.

The 16th RCT, including 3,502 men and 295 vehicles attached only for movement to the beach, numbered 9,828 personnel, 919 vehicles, and 48 tanks. To handle this one unit required 2 transports, 6 LST's, 53 LCT's (of various types), and 5 LCI (L)'s; small craft, to be launched from the larger ships in the transport area, included 81 LCVP's, 18 LCA's (British), 13 other landing craft, and about 64 dukws.

The assault of this armada was dependent on the weather, which could so easily influence both naval and air operations. At the last minute, with all assault forces loaded and waiting for the signal to start, Operation NEPTUNE was threatened with checkmate. On 3 June, his meteorological staff gave General Eisenhower an unfavorable forecast for D Day, predicting overcast skies and strong winds. At 0415 on 4 June he decided to postpone D Day 24 hours. One of the divisions of the assault convoy had already started out to sea, according to schedule, and had to be recalled.

Weather forecasts on 4 June held out hopes for a slight but temporary improvement. Beginning on 5 June and lasting about 24 hours, there would be an interval of better sky conditions, with broken clouds at a ceiling not lower than 3,000 feet. Seas were expected to moderate. Following this break, the prospects were for renewed cloud and stronger winds. Postponement to 7 June would therefore risk a deterioration of weather conditions, as well as fueling difficulties for some of the ships in convoys already at sea; further postponement would mean a delay until 19 June before tide and moon conditions were again suitable. General Eisenhower decided at 0415 on 5 June to accept the risks involved in making the assault under the conditions of sea and sky expected for the next day. H Hour for Omaha Beach was set at 0630. [2] Low tide would occur at 0525 and the first high water 1100. Sunrise was at 0558 and sunset 2207.

The main convoy of Force "O" cleared Portland Harbor on the afternoon of 5 June; movement across 100 miles of channel to the assault area was uneventful. The operation met no interference from action by enemy naval or air forces. Continuous air cover was provided for the shipping lane and for the Allied assault beaches. Spitfires protected the convoys at low altitudes; patrols of four squadrons of P-47's from the Ninth and Eighth Air Forces were over the shipping lane and its flanks at all times.

The assault beach ones were to receive continuous cover by fighters, the Ninth Air Force detailing five groups for high cover, with the task of maintaining three squadrons over the Allied beaches at all times during daylight. Low cover was a British commitment. One of the most important contributions to the whole operation was performed by the sweepers of Western Task Force, which made possible the passage of the convoys to the assault beaches without loss from mines. The Ancon, headquarters ship for Admiral Hall and General Gerow, anchored at 0251 on D Day in the transport area, 23,000 yards off Omaha Beach.

In spite of some improvement over the previous period, weather conditions were far from ideal for the assault operations. Visibility was 10 miles, but there was a partial overcast to hamper bombing. The wind was still strong, coming from the northwest and therefore producing its full effects on the coastal waters off the Omaha sector. A wind force of 10 to 18 knots caused waves averaging 3 to 4 feet high in the transport area, with occasional waves up to 6 feet. On the beach, breakers were 3 to 4 feet. This condition of the sea persisted well into D+1 before the wind moderated. The effect on the landing plans was to be felt throughout D Day.

Approach to the Beach

The movement from transport area to shore proceeded according to a complex schedule, involving hundreds of craft and requiring the nicest timing to get the assault elements to the shore in their appointed order. One of the first steps was the loading of the assault infantry units from their transports into the small LCVP's and LCA's, which were launched from the larger mother ships. The process began three to four hours before Hour and was rendered difficult by the choppy seas, which caused some minor delays. Carrying the early waves of 116th assault troops, the transport Thomas Jefferson was able to unload all its craft in 66 minutes, aided by the fact that 25 of the 33 craft could be "railloaded" and then swung overside. The Thomas Jefferson craft left the rendezvous area at 0430, 25 minutes ahead of schedule, since control officers feared the conditions of sea would delay the approach run.

More serious effects of the rough seas were felt as the smaller craft moved in through the rendezvous area to the line of departure. The LCVP's and LCA's were drenched with spray from the start, and most of them began to ship enough water to demand full use of the pumps. In a good many craft the pumps would not carry the load, and the assault troops had to bail with their helmets. Craft having pump troubles were likely to be slowed down, and any attempt to raise the speed and catch up resulted in shipping more water than before. Only a small minority of the craft were in serious difficulties. Out of 180 to 200 craft used for the two assault RCT's, 10 carrying infantry are definitely known to have swamped, some almost at the start and others near the beach. Nearly all personnel from the swamped craft were rescued by naval craft or passing ships, often after hours in the water.

In most of the craft the soldiers were drenched from the outset by the cold spray, and seasickness overcame a great majority. Boat teams in the same formations, carrying men who had eaten the same breakfast and had the same training, were very unevenly affected, the "casualty" rates ranging all the way from zero to 100 percent. Men who had been chilled by their wetting, cramped by immobility in the small and fully loaded craft, and weakened by seasickness were not in the best condition for strenuous action on landing. Similar handicaps, however, had been met and overcome at training exercises, and many men, even among the seasick, were keyed up by the occasion. One officer remembered his troops chatting about "What a shambles the beach would be from the bombs and ships' guns," although his own impression was: "It looked like another big tactical scheme off Slapton Sands, and I couldn't get the feeling out of my head that it was going to be another miserable two-day job with a hot shower at the end."

As the landing craft carrying the 16th RCT units came within a few miles of shore they passed men struggling in life preservers and on rafts. These were personnel from foundered DD tanks, the first casualties of the rough seas. According to plan, Companies B and C of the 741st Tank Battalion were launched at H-50 minutes, 6,000 yards off shore, to lead in the first assault wave on the eastern beach sectors. In very short order the DD's bean to suffer crippling damage in broken struts, torn canvas, and engine trouble from water flooding the engine compartment. Of the 32 tanks, 2 swam in and 3 others were beached from an LCT which could not launch its DD's because of a damaged ramp. In the 116th RCT zone, the officers in charge of the tank-loaded LCT's had decided not to risk the conditions of sea, and the 32 DD's of the 743d Tank Battalion were carried in to the beach.

In terms of ultimate effects, all these difficulties were minor by comparison with those of navigation. The plan called for landing each assault unit in a relatively small, defined area where it had a specific task to perform in reducing enemy defenses, opening gaps in obstacles, or clearing a section of the flat. Quick success on the beach was dependent on carrying out a large number of such small tasks, which were often correlated to lead to some major result such as the opening of an exit.

Despite all the intensive study put on conditions of current and wind for this part of the coast, all the visual aids for spotting beachmarks by panoramic photographs, and all the experience with similar difficulties in training exercises, a great many landing craft of the first waves came in away from their target sectors. Smoke and dust along the beach from naval fire and a slight early morning mist made it hard to recognize landmarks as the shore was neared. One of the control vessels for Dog Beach drifted off its station, which may explain some of the later troubles of approach in that sector. The fact that practically all the mislanded craft were east of their targets points to he tidal current as a contributing factor. It was known that with a rising tide (low tide on 6 June was at 0525), a strong current ran laterally eastward along Omaha Beach, reaching maximum velocity of nearly 2.7 knots at 5 miles off shore; strong winds might increase its average velocity. That the current was very strong on D Day is indicated by the report of the destroyer Satterlee, which found it necessary to steer 20 to 30 degrees "up current" in order to maintain position in the firing lane.

Whatever the cause, a majority of landing craft during the first hour came in east of their appointed beach sector, and this majority included craft bearing engineers as well as infantry (Maps Nos. V, VI). Sometimes the margin of error was as much as a thousand yards or more; one company (E) of the 116th, destined for Easy Green, came in, boat sections scattered, on the 16th beaches as far east as Fox Green. More often, the error was in the order of a few hundred yards, but this could be enough to undo the assignments for taking out a key strong-point or opening an exit. It might also be enough to completely "lose" units which landed below an unfamiliar stretch of bluff, were consequently unable to identify the terrain, and so could not make a proper estimate of the enemy defenses with which they must deal. The resulting difficulties of the boat teams were heightened by the frequent separation of sections of the same company. Whether because of delays suffered by individual craft, straggling on the way in, or disagreement between coxswains in recognition of landmarks, some unit formations of landing craft were broken up enough to result in widely scattered landings. Under conditions prevailing at the beach, separation of craft by as little as 200 yards could easily bring about the complete isolation of a section. This would deny elements of a mislanded company the advantages of combining in order to improvise their assault if they came to shore in strange territory. Sections which suffered heavy casualties in leaders might be particularly affected by separation.

The landing craft came in under the comforting thunder of the tremendous fire support from naval guns, as well as the tank and artillery pieces firing from LCT's. [3] Up to within a few hundred yards of the water's edge, there was every reason to hope that the enemy shore defenses might have been neutralized. Then, many of the leading craft began to come under fire from automatic weapons and artillery, which increased in volume as they approached touchdown. It was evident at H Hour that the enemy fortifications had not been knocked out.

Just how much had been accomplished by the preliminary bombardment can only be determined later from enemy sources. Many gun positions and strongpoints certainly survived the early fire. The well-concealed emplacements were hard enough to locate later in the day, with better visibility and chances for observation. The tanks and artillery operating from LCT's in rough water were handicapped by conditions making accurate fire difficult. The rockets, according to most reports from the assault troops, made a heartening display but ailed to hit defensive positions-an opinion which cannot be accepted as final and which runs counter to naval reports. The total bombardment had certainly had effect, and it may have been more considerable than the infantry could realize. Enemy guns had been sited to cover every part of the beach; nevertheless, there were sectors where units landed without meeting any artillery fire whatever. Furthermore, of the nearly 200 craft carrying the assault infantry to shore in the first 2 hours, only about 10 are known to have been hit by artillery before debarking their troops, none was sunk by this fire, and in only a few cases were the casualties serious. Larger craft, particularly LCI's, may have been a favored target for both shore and inland guns, and may have suffered relatively more.

The assault troops experienced their worst disappointment of the day when they found the beach unscarred by air bombardment; they were correct in concluding that the air bombardment had had little effect on the beach defenses. Overcast conditions forced the use of Pathfinder instruments by the Eighth Air Force Liberators. With that technique, the range of possible error in the drop would be so increased as to endanger the approaching waves of landing craft. A bombing plan had already been made to cover this eventuality, by delaying the time of bomb release enough to push the center of the estimated drop patterns well inland, thus ensuring the safety of the craft. Varying inversely with the distance in time from H Hour, the delay ranged to as much as 30 seconds. The decision to use this alternate plan had to be made on the night preceding D Day and was approved by Supreme Headquarters. It meant that the impact of the bomb weight fell from a few hundred yards to three miles inland, and the main effect, difficult to evaluate without enemy records, was probably to disrupt enemy communications and rear assembly areas. Of 446 Liberators dispatched, 329 attacked, dropping over 13,000 bombs. Their attack had taken place between 0555 and 0614.

The Initial Assault Wave

Ninety-six tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry (1,450 men), landing just before and after 0630, were to carry out the first assault missions (Map No. V).

On the right, the 743d Tank Battalion brought in all its tanks on LCT's. Company B, coming in directly in face of the Vierville draw, suffered from enemy artillery fire. The LCT carrying the company commander was sunk just of shore, and four other officers were killed or wounded, leaving one lieutenant in Company B. Eight of that company's 16 tanks landed and started to fire from the water's edge on enemy positions. The tanks of Companies C and A touched down to the east at well-spaced intervals and without initial losses. In the 16th RCT one, only 5 of the 32 DD tanks (741st Tank Battalion) made shore; of Company A's 16 standard tanks, 2 were lost far off shore by an explosion of undetermined cause, and 3 were hit and put out of action very shortly after beaching. The surviving third of the battalion landed between E-1 and E-3 draws and went into action at once against enemy emplacements.

The Army-Navy Special Engineer Task Force had one of the most important and difficult missions of the landing. Their chances of clearing gaps through the obstacles in the half-hour allotted were lessened by accidents on the approach to the beach. Delays in loading from LCT's to LCM's and in finding their way to the beaches resulted in half of the 16 assault teams reaching shore 10 minutes or more late. Only five team hit their appointed sector, most of them being carried eastward with the result that Dog Beach (the 116th RCT one) received much less than the effort scheduled. As a further effect of mislandings, at least three teams came in where no infantry or tanks were present to give protective fire.

Men burdened with equipment and explosives were excellent targets for enemy fire as they unloaded in water often several feet deep. Of 16 doers only 6 got to the beach in working condition, and 3 of these were immediately disabled by artillery hits. Much equipment, including nearly all buoys and poles for marking lanes, was lost or destroyed before it could be used. Eight navy personnel of Team 11 were dragging the preloaded rubber boat off their LCM when an artillery shell burst just above the load of explosives and set off the primacord. One of the eight survived. Another shell hit the LCM of Team 14, detonating explosives on the deck and killing all navy personnel. Team 15 was pulling in its rubber boat through the surf when a mortar scored a direct hit and touched o the explosives, killing three men and wounding four. Support Team F came in about 0700. A first shell hit the ramp, throwing three men into the water. As the vessel drifted of out of control, another hit squarely on the bow, killing 15 of the team. Only five army personnel from this craft reached shore.

Despite such disasters and under continued intense fire, the engineers got to work on obstacles wherever they landed and with whatever equipment and explosives they could salvage. Some of the teams arriving a few minutes late found the rapidly advancing tide already into the lower obstacles. Infantry units landing behind schedule or delayed in starting up the beach came through the demolition parties as they worked, and thereby impeded their progress. One of the three doers left in operation was prevented from maneuvering freely by riflemen who tried to find shelter behind it from the intense fire. As a final handicap, there were instances where teams had fixed their charges, were ready to blow their lane, and were prevented by the fact that infantry were passing through or were taking cover in the obstacles. When Team 7 was set to fire, an LCVP came crashing into the obstacles, smashed through the timbers, and set of seven mines; the charge could not be blown. In another case, vehicles passed through the prepared area and caused misfire by cutting the primacord fuse linking the charges. A naval officer, about to pull the twin-junction igniters to explode his charge, was hit by a piece of shrapnel that cut of his finger and the two fuses. The charge laid by Team 12 went off but at heavy cost. Their preparations completed for a 30-yard gap, the team was just leaving the area to take cover when a mortar shell struck the primacord. The premature explosion killed and wounded 19 engineers and some infantry nearby.

In net result, the demolition task force blew six complete gaps through all bands of obstacles, and three partial gaps. Of the six, only two were in the 116th's half of the beach, and four were on Easy Red (Map No. V), a fact which may have influenced later landing chances. Owing to the loss of equipment, only one of the gaps could be marked, and this diminished their value under high-water conditions. Their first effort made, the demolition teams joined the other assault forces on the shingle or sea wall and waited for the next low tide to resume their work. Casualties for the Special Engineer Task Force, including navy personnel, ran to 41 percent for D Day, most of them suffered in the first half-hour.

The infantry companies in the first wave came in by boat sections, six to a company, with a headquarters section due in the next wave (0700). Each LCVP carried an average of 31 men and an officer. The 116th assault craft were loaded so that the first to land would be a section leader and 5 riflemen armed with M-1's and carrying 96 rounds of ammunition. Following was a wire-cutting team of 4 men, armed with rifles; 2 carried large "search-nose" cutters, and 2 a smaller type. Behind these in the craft, loaded so as to land in proper order were: 2 BAR teams of 2 men each, carrying 900 rounds per gun; 2 bazooka teams, totaling 4 men, the assistants armed with carbines; a mortar team of 4 men, with a 60-mm mortar and 15 to 20 rounds; a flame-thrower crew of 2 men; and, finally, 5 demolition men with pole and pack charges of TNT. A medic and the assistant section leader sat at the stern. Everybody wore assault jackets, with large pockets and built-in packs on the back; each man carried, in addition to personal weapons and special equipment, a gas mask, 5 grenades (the riflemen and wire-cutters also had 4 smoke grenades), a half-pound block of TNT with primacord fuse, and 6 onethird rations (3 K's and 3 D's). All clothing was impregnated against gas. The men wore life preservers (2 per man in 16th Infantry units), and equipment and weapons of the 16th were fastened to life preservers so that they could be floated in.

As expected, few of the LCVP's and LCA's carrying assault infantry were able to make dry landings. Most of them grounded on sandbars 50 to 100 yards out, and in some cases the water was neck deep. Under fire as they came within a quartermile of the shore, the infantry met their worst experiences of the day and suffered their heaviest casualties just after touchdown. Small-arms fire, mortars, and artillery concentrated on the landing area, but the worst hazard was produced by converging fires from automatic weapons. Survivors from some craft report hearing the fire beat on the ramps before they were lowered, and then seeing the hail of bullets whip the surf just in front of the lowered ramps. Some men dove under water or went over the sides to escape the beaten one of the machine guns. Stiff, weakened from seasickness, and often heavily loaded, the debarking troops had little chance of moving fast in water that was knee deep or higher, and their progress was made more difficult by uneven footing in the runnels crossing the tidal flat. Many men were exhausted before they reached shore, where they faced 200 yards or more of open sand to cross before teaching cover at the sea wall or shingle bank. Most men who reached that cover made it by walking, and under increasing enemy fire. Troop who stopped to organize, rest, or take shelter behind obstacles or tanks merely prolonged their difficulties and suffered heavier losses.

There were fortunate exceptions to this general picture. Several hundred yards of bluff west of les Moulins draw were obscured in heavy smoke from grass fires, apparently started by naval shells or rockets. Blanketed by this smoke, enemy guns and emplacements were unable to deliver effective fire on that end of Dog Beach, and units landing there were comparatively unscathed. At other places, what would seem to be an occasional "blind spot" in the enemy fire pattern let a craft get men ashore with few losses. In the main, the first wave was hard hit.

Perhaps the worst area on the beach was Dog Green, directly in front of strongpoints guarding the Vierville draw and under heavy flanking fire from emplacements to the west, near Pointe de la Percee. Company A of the 116th was due to land on this sector with Company C of the 2d Rangers on its right flank, and both units came in on their targets. One of the six LCA's carrying Company A foundered about a thousand yards o shore, and passing Rangers saw men jumping overboard and being dragged down by their loads. At H+6 minutes the remaining craft grounded in water 4 to 6 feet deep, about 30 yards short of the outward band of obstacles. Starting off the craft in three files, center file first and the flank files peeling right and left, the men were enveloped in accurate and intense fire from automatic weapons. Order was quickly lost as the troops attempted to dive under water or dropped over the sides into surf over their heads. Mortar fire scored four direct hits on one LCA, which "disintegrated." Casualties were suffered all the way to the sand, but when the survivors got there, some found they could not hold and came back into the water for cover, while others took refuge behind the nearest obstacles. Remnants of one boat team on the right flank organized a small firing line on the first yards of sand, in full exposure to the enemy. In short order every officer of the company, including Capt. Taylor N. Fellers, was a casualty, and most of the sergeants were killed or wounded. The leaderless men gave up any attempt to move forward and confined their efforts to saving the wounded, many of whom drowned in the rising tide. Some troops were later able to make the sea wall by staying in the edge of the water and going up the beach with the tide. Fifteen minutes after landing, Company A was out of action for the day. Estimates of its casualties range as high as twothirds.

The smaller Ranger company (64 men), carried in two LCA's, came in at H+15 minutes to the right of Vierville draw. Shells from an antitank gun bracketed Capt. Ralph E. Goranson's craft, killing a dozen men and shaking up others. An enemy machine gun ranged in on the ramps of the second LCA and hit 15 Rangers as they debarked. Without waiting to organize, survivors of the boat sections set out immediately across 250 yards of sand toward the base of the cliff. Too tired to run, the men took three or four minutes to get there, and more casualties resulted from machine guns and mortars. Wounded men crawled behind them, and a few made it. When the Rangers got to shelter at the base of the cliff, they had lost 35 men.

An unscheduled gap of more than a thousand yards separated Company A from the next unit of the 116th RCT. Instead of coming in on Dog White, Company G landed in scattered groups eastward from the edges of Dog Red. The three or four boat sections nearest Dog Red, where smoke from grass fires shrouded the bluff, had an easy passage across the tidal flat. Most of the men were halfway up the flat before they became aware of sporadic and inaccurate fire, and only a few losses were suffered. In 10 to 15 minutes after touchdown this part of the company was behind the shingle bank, in good condition. Officers, knowing they were left of their landing area, were uncertain as to their course of action, and this hesitation prevented any chance of immediate assault action. Further east on Easy Green, the other sections of Company G met much heavier fire as they landed, one boat team losing 14 men before it reached the embankment.

Company F came into the beach almost on its scheduled target, touching down in front of the strongly fortified les Moulins draw (D-3). The 3 sections to the east, unprotected by the smoke, came under concentrated fire and took 45 minutes to get across the exposed stretch of sand. By this time half their number were casualties; the remnants reached cover in no state for assault action. The other sections had better fortune, but had lost their officers when they reached the shingle bank and were more or less disorganized.

This completes the story of the first assault wave on half of Omaha Beach, for the fourth company (E) of the 116th, supposed to land on Easy Green, veered a mile eastward from that sector. The three companies in the 116th's one were in poor condition for carrying out their assault missions. By 0700 Company A had been cut to pieces at the water's edge, Company F was disorganized by heavy losses, and of the scattered sections of Company G, those in best shape were preparing to move west along the beach to find their assigned sector.

To the east, in the 16th RCT's area, the picture differed only in detail. Easy Red Beach, over a mile long and fronting E-1 draw, was assigned to the 2d BLT, with Companies E and F landing in the first wave. The bulk of both companies landed far to the east. The only infantry to come in on Easy Red in the first wave were two lost boat sections of Company E, 116th RCT, and one section each of Companies E and F, 16th RCT. All of them were between E-1 and E-3 draws. Men from two of the craft were put out in waist-deep water, but hit a deep runnel as they waded in and had to swim through surf and a strong tidal current pulling them eastward. Flamethrowers, mortars, bazookas, and many personal weapons were dropped in the struggle. The two 116th sections lost only two men from enemy fire up to the shingle--an experience suggesting the ill-fortune of the first wave in that so few landings were made on Easy Red. A little to their left, the 1st Section of Company F came into the belt of heavy enemy fire that apparently extended from there on eastward to E-3 draw; of the 31 men unloading in neck-deep water, only 14 reached the shingle. Except for these four sections-about a hundred men-the only assault elements on Easy Red Beach for the first half hour were four DD tanks, one already disabled.

Very different was the record of the landings on Fox Beach. Whereas four scattered sections of infantry came into Easy Red without many casualties, the bulk of four companies (three of them scheduled for more westerly beaches) landed on Fox against every possible handicap of mislandings, delays, and enemy opposition.

Less the one section already accounted for (on Easy Red), Company E of the 16th RCT touched down on the western part of Fox Green, the craft badly scattered over a front of nearly 800 yards. The final run-in was not costly, but crossing bands of automatic fire caught most of the craft as the ramps were lowered, and from there on losses were heavy. Most of them were incurred in the water, and among men who stopped to drag the wounded ashore. So exhausted and shaken were the assault troops that when they reached the sand, 300 yards from the shingle bank, most of them stopped there and crawled in just ahead of the tide. The greater number of the company's 105 casualties for D Day were suffered on the beach, in the first stage of assault.

Four boat sections of Company E, 116th RCT, came in on the same beach sector and had much the same experience. From 3 of the sections, a total of 60 men reached the shingle bank. The company commander, Capt. Laurence A. Madill, already wounded crossing the beach, was hit twice by machine-gun bullets as he returned to salvage mortar ammunition. His last words were, "Senior non-com, take the men off the beach." The company's sections were separated, and it was some time before any contact was made between them.

Five sections of Company F, 16th RCT, landed on Fox Green scattered all the way from E-3 draw to a point a thousand yards further east. Two sections landed close together in front of the strongpoints defending E3 draw. Mortars as well as machinegun fire got about one-third of the personnel before they made the shingle. Further east, the other three parties fared as badly, only seven men from one craft getting through the fire to the shingle. Two officers survived among Company F's widely separated sections.

The two units scheduled to land on Fox Green, Companies I and L of the 16th RCT, were so delayed in the approach that they hardly figured in the first assault wave. Both, moreover, suffered from the eastward trend of all landings. Company I's craft, less two that swamped, headed almost as far east as Port-en-Bessin before the error was realized. An hour and a half was lost by this mishap. Company L touched down about 30 minutes late; supposed to land in front of E-3, it came into the beach beyond the eastern end of Fox Green. One craft had foundered two miles off shore, losing eight men. Artillery fire came close as the remaining craft touched down, causing some casualties and destroying one craft just after the troops had debarked. Machine-gun fire caused heavier losses as the sections crossed 200 yards of beach to get to the shingle. The 3d Section, keeping extremely well spread out in movement, lost not a single man; the other sections had a total of 34 casualties. As a result of landing at the edge of Fox Green, the company was in a sector where the tidal flat almost reaches the bluff, and where the first rise of the bluff is cliff-like in steepness. In the defilade this afforded, the sections organized and started to move to the right where they could assault the bluff. Company L, reduced to 125 men, was the only one of the 8 companies in the first assault infantry which was ready to operate as a unit after crossing the lower beach.

The misfortunes of the first wave were bound to condition the further course of the assault. Landing schedules on many sectors would be affected by the failure to clear obstacles. Fire support from the tanks would be much less than planned on the eastern part of the beach. Mislandings of the infantry units had produced bad gaps in the assault line along the sea wall and shingle, leaving certain areas, notably Dog White and Easy Red, almost bare of assault troops. Above all, stiff enemy resistance and the disorganization caused by mislandings and heavy casualties had combined to prevent infantry units in this wave from carrying out their mission of immediate assault. All the more credit is due those elements, most of them facing unfamiliar terrain and enemy defenses, which surmounted the shock of the worst period on the beach and shared in the first advances inland.

The Later Assault Waves: 116th RCT

Beginning at 0700, the second group of assault waves touched down in a series of landings that lasted for 40 minutes, ending with the support battalions of the two regimental combat teams (Map No. VI). The later waves did not come in under the conditions planned for their arrival. The tide, flowing into the obstacle belt by 0700, was through it an hour later, rising eight feet in that period; but the obstacles were gapped at only a few places. The enemy fire which had decimated the first waves was not neutralized when the larger landings commenced. No advances had been made beyond the shingle, and neither the tanks nor the scattered pockets of infantry already ashore were able to give much covering fire. Consequently, much of the record of this period is a repetition of what had happened earlier. Casualties continued to be heavy on some sectors of the narrowing tidal flat, though unit experiences differed widely and enemy fire, diverted or neutralized by the troops and tanks already along the embankment, was not often as concentrated as earlier in the assault. Mislandings continued to be a disrupting factor, not merely in scattering the infantry units but also in preventing engineers from carrying out special assignments and in separating headquarters elements from their units, thus hindering reorganization.

Rifle companies in the later assault waves of the 116th Infantry were organized somewhat differently from those in the first landings. Two sections in each company were designated as "assault" units and carried the special weapons and equipment characteristic of the first wave. The assault sections had the mission of mopping up enemy emplacements bypassed by the first wave. The other four boat sections had the ordinary equipment of rifle units.

On the assumption that the first penetrations would already be made, support units were under orders to proceed as quickly as possible inland, by boat sections, toward battalion assembly areas. In the 16th Infantry, the support battalion (1st) was organized in assault sections exactly like those of the first wave; this arrangement may have reflected the experience of that regiment in its previous landings in Africa and Sicily, where plans had never worked out according to schedule.

In the 116th zone three companies of the 1st BLT were scheduled to land in reinforcement of Company A on Dog Green, facing the Vierville exit. In all, only two or three boat sections from these units landed on Dog Green.

Company B was due in at 0700. Its craft failed to pick up landmarks, scattered badly, and beached on a front of nearly a mile to both sides of the target area. Only three scattered sections on the flanks were to play much part in the later battle. The craft which touched down on or near Dog Green came under the same destructive fire which had wrecked Company A, and the remnants of the boat sections mingled with those of Company A in an effort for survival at the water's edge.

Company C came in at 0710 a thousand yards east of the Vierville exit, on Dog White, in a mislanding that was to work out to ultimate advantage. One of its 6 craft ran into a mined obstacle, and was delayed 20 minutes in maneuvers to get free without setting off the mines. The others came in fairly close together, suffering only one mishap when a craft thrown by the surf against a ramp turned over on its side, spilling men and equipment into water four to five feet deep. This boat section had been equipped for mopping-up work at the Vierville draw, and all its flamethrowers, demolition charges, bangalores, and mortars were lost. Enemy fire was surprisingly light, possibly because Company C was near the western end of the belt of smoke coming from grass fires on the bluff slopes. Only five or six casualties were suffered in disembarking and getting across the open sand. No other troops were near them; only four or five tanks were in sight. Bunched together on a front of about a hundred yards, Company C's men took shelter behind the four-foot timber sea wall and reorganized. Most of their equipment was intact, their sections were well together, and they were in relatively better shape for action than any unit so far landed in the 116th's zone.

Company D was not so fortunate. Three of its craft were in serious trouble as a result of shipping water; one of these was abandoned far out, and the section got in after noon. Another craft was sunk by a mine or an artillery hit 400 yards from shore, forcing the men to swim in under a barrage of mortar shells and machine-gun bullets. Half the personnel reached the sands. A third section was debarked 150 yards from the water's edge, saw riflemen ahead of them staying in the water, and followed their example, hiding behind obstacles. It was nearly two hours before the scattered survivors got to shore, with one mortar and no ammunition. The second platoon arrived on the beach with only two machine guns, one mortar and a small amount of ammunition. The first platoon got one machine gun and one mortar ashore during the morning. The heavy weapons of the 1st BLT were to take little part in the beach assault.

To complete the picture of misfortune for the 1st BLT, the three craft carrying the Headquarters Company, the command group, and the Beachmaster's party for Dog Green were brought in several hundred yards west of that sector and under the cliffs. Headquarters Company lost heavily among officers and noncommissioned officers, including the commanding officer of the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The crossing of the tidal flat to the cliff against concentrated small-arms fire cost one-half to two-thirds of the group. The survivors, reaching the base of the cliffs, took refuge in niches in the rock. Not only was the command group separated from all other battalion units, but the members of the group were so scattered that they had to use radio for inter-communication. Sniper fire from the cliffs was to pin the group here for most of the day.

Three companies of the 2d BLT had landed in the first wave. Completing the BLT, Company H got in at 0700, but in condition to furnish very little supporting fire for the rifle units. The 1st Machine-Gun Platoon and two mortar sections beached on Easy Red, where they helped the 18th RCT later in the morning. Other elements, landing on Dog Red and Easy Green, suffered heavy losses, one boat section getting only six men to the shingle. Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company came in on Dog Red at 0700. When the ramps went down, fire was so heavy that many men took refuge behind some tanks at the water's edge, only to find them favorite targets for artillery fire. Maj. Sidney V. Bingham, Jr., Battalion Commander, was among the first to reach the shingle, where he set to work trying to revive leaderless sections of Company F. For nearly an hour he had no radio working to contact the widely scattered elements of his battalion. During this period, the only part of the 2d BLT which had arrived at the embankment in good condition, four sections of Company G, set out to reach their planned assault sector on Dog White. To do so meant a lateral movement of several hundred yards behind the now crowded shingle bank and under small-arms fire. Starting out together and working slowly west, the four sections gradually lost all cohesion. One after another, individuals or small groups stopped to take cover, and sections became mixed or separated. Only remnants were to reach Dog White, about 0830, after the main action on that sector was over.

Major Bingham's attempts to organize an assault at les Moulins were unsuccessful. He managed to get about 50 men of Company F across the shingle near the prominent three-story house at the mouth of the draw (see illustration, p. 12); a good system of trenches had been dug near the house and gave cover for the group. But their rifles, clogged with sand, failed to function well enough to build up any volume of fire. Although Bingham led a group of 10 men nearly to the top of the bluff just east of D-3 draw, they were unable to knock out an enemy machinegun nest and had to return to the house.

The 3d BLT of the 116th was scheduled to land at 0720-0730 behind the 2d BLT, on Dog White, Dog Red, and Easy Green. Five to ten minutes late, the entire battalion came in to the east of les Moulins, with some elements on the edge of Easy Red. [4] Only a handful of assault troops from the first wave had come in between D-3 and E-1 draws: two or three scattered sections of G and the headquarters boat of Company E, which touched down at 0700 right on the target to find no trace of the E assault sections. Now, in contrast, this thousand-yard stretch was comparatively crowded, although there were gaps enough to give many boat teams the impression of being isolated. The craft of Companies K and I came in well bunched on the right wing. Enemy small-arms fire was light; K had no losses crossing the tidal flat to the shingle, and I took only a few casualties. Nevertheless, the men tended to become immobilized after reaching shelter, and reorganization of the boat teams was delayed by the fact that sections of different units had landed on top of each other.

Company L came in midway between the draws, its craft rather scattered, and enemy fire was so light and ineffective that some of the troops had been several minutes on the open sand before they became aware of machine-gun fire. Company M's boat sections were still further east, on Easy Red, one craft arriving in sinking condition from a mine explosion which wounded three men. The troops were tired and cramped by the trip in, and found their loads of weapons and ammunition heavy to get across the sand. As one of them put it: "The burdens we ordinarily carried, we had to drag." Enemy fire was more intense on this stretch of beach, near the E-1 strong-points, and the sections hesitated near the water's edge, taking shelter behind obstacles. Machine-gun bullets were kicking up the sand ahead; some of the men, after studying the beaten ones, decided that the enemy guns were delivering fixed fire and figured out routes for avoiding the ones. When the tide began to push them forward, the company made the move to the embankment as a body. Only a few were hit; said one survivor, "The company learned with surprise how much smallarms fire a man can run through without getting hit."

Eighteen LCA's, carrying the 5th Ranger Battalion and Companies A and B of he 2d Rangers, had been waiting in the assembly area for word of the assault on Pointe du Hoe. One LCA had already been swamped further out, its men transferring to a passing LCT. After delaying 15 minutes beyond the time limit (0700), the Rangers still had no word and were forced to conclude that the assault had not succeeded. According to plan, they started in toward Dog Green to land behind the 1st Battalion of the 116th and go inland through the Vierville exit.

Approaching shore, Lt. Col. Max F. Schneider got a clear impression of the conditions on Dog Green and ordered the flotilla to swing east. Even so, Companies A and B of the 2d Rangers, on the right flank, came in on the edge of Dog Green and experienced what the 1st BLT of the 116th had already been through. One of their 5 craft was sunk by a mine in the outer obstacles, and the 34 men had to swim in under fire. Small-arms and mortar fire caught the other craft as they touched down. The small Ranger companies numbered about 65 officers and men each; some 35 in Company A and 27 in Company B got to the sea wall. Only a few hundred yards further east, on the favored section of Dog White, 13 out of the 14 craft carrying the 5th Battalion touched down close together, in two waves. LCI 91 was struck and set afire while the Rangers were passing through the obstacles beside it, but none of their craft was hit. The 450 men of the battalion got across the beach and up to the sea wall with a loss of only 5 or 6 men to scattered small-arms fire. They found the sea-wall shelter already fully occupied by 116th troops, and crowded in behind them.

By and large, the later waves of assault infantry on the western beaches had fared much better than in the first landings. Five of the eight companies of the 116th RCT had landed with sections well together and losses relatively light. Some had been shielded by the smoke of burning grass, but the better fortune was probably due also to the fact that, as landings increased in volume, enemy positions still in action were not able to concentrate on the many targets offered. By 0730, in contrast to the earlier situation, assault units were lined along the whole beach front in the 116th's one. The weakest area was in front of Exit D-l; Dog Green, the one of the 1st BLT, had almost no assault elements on it capable of further action.

Beginning at 0730, regimental command parties began to arrive. The main command group of the 116th RCT included Col. Charles D. W. Canham and General Cota. LCVP 71 came in on Dog White, bumping an obstacle and nudging the Teller mine until it dropped off, without exploding. Landing in three feet of water, the party lost one officer in getting across the exposed area. From the standpoint of influencing further operations, they could not have hit a better point in the 116th one. To their right and left, Company C and some 2d Battalion elements were crowded against the embankment on a front of a few hundred yards, the main Ranger force was about to come into the same area, and enemy fire from the bluffs just ahead was masked by smoke and ineffective. The command group was well located to play a major role in the next phase of action.

The Later Assault Waves: 16th RCT

The first-wave landings of this combat team had veered so consistently eastward that Easy Red, longest of the beach sectors, had only a handful of assault infantry on it at 0700. The situation was largely corrected in the next 45 minutes by landings that concentrated between exit draws E-1 and E-3 (Map No. VI), where most of the surviving 741st tanks were available for support.

Company G beached on its target area at 0700, all craft together except for one delayed by shipping water. Some artillery shells hit near as they came close to touchdown, but there were no casualties before debarking. The craft were handled well; one of them hit a sandbar several hundred yards out, but the coxswain bumped his way through and made shallow water. Engineers were still at work on the obstacles as Company G passed through, and three

DD tanks on the sand were already disabled by enemy fire. The short passage from ramps to shingle bank was costly for the company; most of its 63 casualties for D Day came here, from small-arms and mortar fire. There was no way to avoid these losses; the men were cramped by the trip in, were heavily loaded, and had to make the distance at a walking pace. Nevertheless, the sections were well together and reached the shingle without being disorganized. In 15 minutes the supporting weapons were set up and were engaging enemy emplacements as soon as these could be spotted by their fire on later landings. Company G's men had come in almost on top of three sections left on the beach by the first wave, one from Company E and two from Company E of the 116th RCT.

Company H, due in on the same beach at 0710, was delayed in contacting the Navy control boat. Landing 20 minutes late a few hundred yards left of Company G, it lost a good deal of equipment including all radios in getting to the embankment. There, on a stretch facing E-3 draw where few troops had landed and enemy fire was heavy, the company was immobilized for the next few hours.

The 1st BLT, scheduled to reinforce and support the first assault units, came in on time about 0740 to 0800, between E-1 and E-3 draws, with Companies A and B on the right. Company D was boated so that its machine-gun sections came in attached to the rifle companies, and the heavy mortars with battalion headquarters. As far as incomplete evidence shows, casualties were much less heavy than in earlier landings.

Fox Green Beach already had elements of five companies, sections separated and scrambled (except for Company L) as a result of first-wave landings. Company K, arriving at 0700, added further to the mixture with sections bunching in two main groups that were not in contact until some hours later. That company took most of its 53 casualties for the day on the beach, including 4 officers. Company M's craft came in scattered, from 0730 to 0800. One capsized some distance from shore; the others, unloading in deep water and under fire, nevertheless got enough of their equipment ashore in time to be ready for effective support to the rifle units.

Company I, scheduled in the first assault wave, had gone o course to the east, lost two boats swamped, and finally came in to Fox Green about 0800. The four craft suffered heavily in the last yards of their approach. The command party craft struck a mine and was set afire by machine-gun bullets, two others received artillery hits (or struck mines), and the fourth was hung up on an obstacle, under machine-gun fire. Casualties were heavy. Captain Richmond, on landing safely, found himself senior officer on Fox Green and in charge of the intermingled elements of the 3d BLT on that beach. The command party of the battalion had been mislanded, this time to the west, and was unable to rejoin for hours.

Conditions on the Beach: 0730-0800

Infantry units were not the only assault elements to come ashore in the period from 0700 to 0800. The 81st Chemical Weapons Battalion, combat engineer battalions, advance elements of the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group, naval shore fire control parties, advance elements of artillery units, medical detachments, and antiaircraft units were included in the landings before 0800, and artillery was due to start landing during the next hour. Mislandings of these elements operated, as they had with the infantry, to snarl the assault plans. Engineer units with special assignments to carry

out in clearing exits or marking beaches found themselves hundreds or even thousands of yards away from the targets, sometimes separated from their equipment or losing it in the debarkment. An engineer unit with panels for marking Dog Red Beach landed on Easy Red, over a mile away; they set up their panels anyway. About 0830 an officer on Dog White noticed two engineers making slow progress as they lugged a heavy box of explosives along the open beach behind the sea wall. As they stopped to rest, one of them wiped the sweat off his face and asked, "Where are we? We are supposed to blow something up down toward Vierville." They picked up the box and moved along toward the hottest section of the beach.

Navigational difficulties in landing increased as the tide advanced into and past the obstacles. On most of the beaches no gaps had been cleared. Landing craft, including now the larger LCI's and LST's, had to find a way through and avoid the mines affixed to the timbers. Some craft bumped on sandbars in the middle of obstacles and hurried to drop their ramps in deep water; others maneuvered somehow through the surf and got all the way in. There are not many recorded instances of craft sunk by the obstacles before getting their troops off, though on LCA 853 half of the 116th's boat team was killed by a mine explosion. However, crippling damage was inflicted on many craft, often in their efforts to retract after touchdown, or as a result of enemy artillery and mortar hits while the craft were delayed in the obstacles. Only a few were destroyed by this fire, but enough to make a vivid and discouraging impression on the men watching from the shelter of the embankment.

One of the spectacular disasters of the day was suffered by LCI 91, approaching Dog White about 0740 and carrying the alternate headquarters of the 116th RCT. Handled by a veteran crew with experience at Sicily and Salerno, the LCI was struck by artillery fire as it made a first attempt to get through the obstacles. Backing out, the craft came in again for a second try. Element "C" was barely showing above the rising tide, and the LCI could not get past. The ramps were dropped in six feet of water. As some officers led the way off, an artillery shell (or rocket) hit the crowded forward deck and sent up a sheet of flame. Clothes burning, men jumped or fell off into the sea and tried to swim in under continued artillery fire. It is estimated that no personnel escaped from No. 1 compartment of the craft out of the 25 carried there. [5] A few minutes later LCI 92 came into the same sector and suffered almost the same fate, an underwater explosion setting off the fuel tanks. The two craft burned for hours. Much of the artillery fire at this end of the beach was coming from the enemy gun positions toward Pointe de la Percee. The tanks had been given those flank positions as a priority target, but they found themselves fully occupied by enemy strongpoints in front of the landings.

At the other end of the beach, LCI 85 came in to Fox Green with Company A of the 1st Medical Battalion, attached to the 16th RCT. The craft slid over the pilings of Element "C," then stuck, and was. at once hit forward by artillery fire. The crew decided the water was too deep for unloading, backed the craft off the piling, and pulled out for another try. Number 3 hold was burning, and the craft was listing from a hit below the water line. On the second attempt only a few men had got off when the ramps were shot away, and fire broke out in the two forward holds. Practically rendered a hospital ship for medical personnel, LCI 85 backed off again, put out the fires, and managed to transfer its many casualties to another ship.

Conditions could hardly have been worse for the landing of vehicles, now beginning to arrive. If the halftracks, jeeps, and trucks survived the difficulties of getting close enough in to avoid deep water, and of unloading in surf under artillery fire, they found themselves on a narrowing strip of sand without any exits opened through the impassable shingle embankment. Wherever vehicles landed close together, a few were liable to be immobilized by engine trouble or artillery hits, and the others were then caught in a hopeless traffic jam. Enemy artillery and mortars had easy targets.

Losses in equipment ran high during the first landings, affecting all types of materiel. Engineer supplies, necessary for clearing the beaches, were seriously reduced. The 397th AAA AW Battalion lost 28 of its 36 machine guns disembarking, and infantry units experienced great difficulty in getting their heavy weapons ashore. All weapons were likely to be temporarily put out of action by the effects of water and sand; the first thing some units did on reaching cover was to strip and clean their rifles . Though much special equipment, such as bangalore torpedoes, ammunition, and heavy weapons, had been jettisoned when men were debarked in deep water, much more was saved at the: cost of casualties to the men who were slowed down in carrying it. Losses in radio equipment were particularly heavy, and water damaged many sets that reached the beach. Colonel Canham reported that three-fourths of the 116th RCT's radios were destroyed or rendered useless in the landings. This loss was to hamper control of the assault infantry, both on the beach and throughout the day.

As headquarters groups arrived from 0730 on, they found much the same picture at whatever sector they landed. Along 6,000 yards of beach, behind sea wall or shingle embankment, elements of the assault force were immobilized in what might well appear to be hopeless confusion. As a result of mislandings, many companies were so scattered that they could not be organized as tactical units. At some places, notably in front of the German strongpoints guarding draws, losses in officers and noncommissioned officers were so high that remnants of units were practically leaderless. Bunching of landings had intermingled sections of several companies on crowded sectors like Dog White, Easy Green, and Fox Green. Engineers, navy personnel from wrecked craft, naval shore fire control parties, and elements of other support units were mixed in with the infantry. In some areas, later arrivals found it impossible to find room behind the shingle and had to lie on the open sands behind. Disorganization was inevitable, and dealing with it was rendered difficult by the lack of communications and the mislanding of command groups. However, even landing at the best point, a command party could only influence a narrow sector of beach. It was a situation which put it up to small units, sometimes only a remnant of single boat sections, to solve their own problems of organization and morale.

There was, definitely, a problem of morale. The survivors of the beach crossing, many of whom were experiencing their first enemy fire, had seen heavy losses among their comrades or in neighboring units. No action could be fought in circumstances more calculated to heighten the moral effects of such losses. Behind them, the tide was drowning wounded men who had been cut down on the sands and was carrying bodies ashore just below the shingle. Disasters to the later landing waves were still occurring, to remind of the potency of enemy fire. Stunned and shaken by what they had experienced, men could easily find the sea wall and shingle bank all too welcome a cover. It was not much protection from artillery or mortar shells, but it did give defilade from sniper and machine-gun fire. Ahead of them, with wire and minefields to get through, was the beach flat, fully exposed to enemy fire; beyond that the bare and steep bluffs, with enemy strongpoints still in action. That the enemy fire was probably weakening and in many sectors was light would be hard for the troops behind the shingle to appreciate. What they could see was what they had suffered already and what they had to cross to get at the German emplacements. Except for supporting fire of tanks on some sectors, they could count on little but their own weapons. Naval gunfire had practically ceased when the infantry reached the beach; the ships were under orders not to fire, unless exceptionally definite targets offered, until liaison was established with fire control parties. Lacking this liaison, the destroyers did not dare bring fire on the strongpoints through which infantry might be advancing on the smokeobscured bluffs.

At 0800, German observers on the bluff sizing up the grim picture below them might well have felt that the invasion was stopped at the edge of the water. Actually, at three or four places on the four-mile beachfront, U. S. troops were already breaking through the shallow crust of enemy defenses.

Assault of the Bluffs

THE OUTSTANDING FACT about these first two hours of action is that despite heavy casualties, loss of equipment, disorganization, and all the other discouraging features of the landings, the assault troops did not stay pinned down behind the sea wall and embankment. At half-a-dozen or more points on the long stretch, they found the necessary drive to leave their cover and move out over the open beach flat toward the bluffs. Prevented by circumstance of mislandings from using carefully rehearsed tactics, they improvised assault methods to deal with what defenses they found before them. In nearly every case where advance was attempted, it carried through the enemy beach defenses. Some penetrations were made by units of company strength; some were made by intermingled sections of different companies; some were accomplished by groups of 20 or 30 men, unaware that any other assaults were under way. Even on such terrain as Omaha Beach, the phenomenon of battlefield "isolation" was a common occurrence, and units often failed to see what was going on 200 yards to their flanks on the open beach.

Various factors, some of them difficult to evaluate, played a part in the success of these advances. Chance was certainly one; some units happened to be at points where the enemy defenses were weak, where smoke from grass fires gave concealment, or where dangerous strongpoints had been partly neutralized by naval fire or by the tanks. At one or two areas of penetration, notably Fox Green, destroyers' guns and tanks were called on for support during the assault and rendered good service. Combat engineers blew many of the gaps through enemy wire, helped get across minefields, and took part as infantry in some of the fighting on and past the bluffs.

But the decisive factor was leadership. Wherever an advance was made, it depended on the presence of some few individuals, officers and noncommissioned officers, who inspired, encouraged, or bullied their men forward, often by making the first forward moves. On Easy Red a lieutenant and a wounded sergeant of divisional engineers stood up under fire and walked over to inspect the wire obstacles just beyond the embankment. The lieutenant came back and, hands on hips, looked down disgustedly at the men lying behind the shingle bank. "Are you going to lay there and get killed, or get up and do something about it?" Nobody stirred, so the sergeant and the officer got the materials and blew the wire. On the same sector, where a group advancing across the flat was held up by a marshy area suspected of being mined, it was a lieutenant of engineers who crawled ahead through the mud on his belly, probing for mines with a hunting knife in the absence of other equipment. When remnants of an isolated boat section of Company B, 116th Infantry, were stopped by fire from a well-concealed emplacement, the lieutenant in charge went after it single-handed. In trying to grenade the rifle pit he was hit by three rifle bullets and eight grenade fragments, including some from his own grenade. He turned his map and compass over to a sergeant and ordered his group to press on inland.

One characteristic of these early penetrations was to influence the rest of the action on D Day at Omaha: the penetrations were made not at the draws but in areas between them, by advances up the bluffs. Mislandings may have had something to do with this, but the chief factor seems to have been the survival of the enemy strongpoints protecting the draws, for units which landed directly in front of them, especially at D-1, D3, and E-3, had suffered crippling losses and were unable to press the assault. The first advances were effected in the intervals between strongpoints, where the enemy defenses were thin. The routes planned as exits for movement of tanks and vehicles from the beach were not cleared.

The Advance From Dog White

The most important penetration on the western beaches (Map No. VII) was made by Company C, 116th Infantry, and by the 5th Ranger Battalion, which had landed partly on top of Company C. Both units were in relatively good condition after the landings and had suffered only minor losses, but the men were crowded shoulder to shoulder, sometimes several rows deep, along the shingle at the base of the timber sea wall.

Intermingled with these troops were one or two boat sections from other units of the 116th, and some engineer elements. Reorganization for assault was spurred by the presence of General Cota and the command group of the 116th Infantry, who had landed in this area about 0730. Exposed to enemy fire, which wounded Colonel Canham in the wrist, they walked up and down behind the crowded sea wall, urging officers and noncoms to "jar men loose" and get moving.

The sector was relatively favorable or an advance across the beach flat and up the bluff. The nearest enemy strongpoints were several hundred yards off to either flank, and no concentrated fire was hitting the area congested with assault troops. In front of them, heavy smoke from grass fires on the bluff was drifting eastward along the face of the slope. From sea wall to the foot of the rise was only 150 yards, but the flat ground, with patches of marsh near the hill, was nearly devoid of cover. Along the whole stretch between D-1 and D-3 draws the bluff is steep and bare, but men climbing the slope would find small folds and depressions for defilade against small-arms fire. German defenses at this part of Dog White consisted of lightly manned rifle pits connected by deep trenches and placed just at the crest of the bluff, with a few machine-gun emplacements sited for flanking fires on other stretches of beach rather than for dealing with troops coming directly from below.

Company C's movement began about 0750. Across the promenade road that edged the sea wall was a double-apron wire entanglement. Pvt. Ingram E. Lambert jumped over the wall, crossed the road, and set a bangalore torpedo. When he pulled the friction igniter, it failed to act and Lambert was killed by a machine-gun bullet. The platoon leader, 2d Lt. Stanley M. Schwartz, went over and fixed the igniter.

The explosive blew a large gap. The first man to try it was shot down; others followed and took shelter in some empty trenches just beyond the road, where they were joined by another group that had got through the barrier by cutting the wire. After a delay of 5 to 10 minutes, while more troops crossed the road to the trenches, they started again toward the bluff, finding minor concealment from light enemy fire in the tall grass and occasional bushes. Once they were on the hillside, the defilade and smoke gave good protection, but progress was slowed by fear of mines. The men went up in a narrow column, searching the ground before them as they climbed and angling west to take advantage of a faint path. No enemy were found in trenches along the crest. The column went a couple of hundred yards into flat, open fields and stopped as it met scattered fire from machine guns at some distance to the flanks. This was the only sign of enemy resistance, and Company C had taken only half-a-dozen casualties after leaving the sea wall. Capt. Berthier B. Hawks, who had suffered a crushed foot in debarking, got to the top with his men.

The 5th Ranger Battalion joined the advance very soon after it started, and some of the Rangers were intermingled with Company C as they went forward. The battalion had reached the sea wall just before 0800, in platoon formations. Hasty preparations were made for assault, and Colonel Schneider passed the word "Tallyho" to his officers, this being the order for each platoon to make its own way beyond the bluffs to the assembly area south of Vierville. About 0810 the Rangers began to cross the road; what with the confusion at the beach and the smoke ahead, few of them realized that Company C was already on the move in the same one. Four gaps were blown in the wire with bangalores and the men went across the beach flat at the double, then slowed to a crawl on the steep hillside. Heavy smoke covered them on the climb, forcing some men to put on gas masks. By the time the crest was reached, platoon formations were disorganized and contacts lost. Just over the bluff top, German warning signs enabled the Rangers to avoid a minefield from which engineers later took 150 mines. The first groups up, a platoon of Company A and some men of Company E, went straight on inland and disappeared. The other platoons were on top by 0830 and stopped to reorganize. On the left flank of the battalion, Company D's platoons had to clean out a few Germans from a trench system along the bluff edge, knocking out a machine gun sited just below the crest and firing along the beach. The battalion had lost only eight men, to small-arms fire that became more ineffective as the movement progressed across the beach flat.

The advance from Dog White Beach had taken place on a narrow front of less than 300 yards. By 0830 the last groups were leaving the sea wall, and the command party established itself temporarily halfway up the bluff. Unsuccessful efforts were made to reach 1st Division units by SCR 300. Fire from enemy mortars began to range in on the slope for the first time, killing two men standing near General Cota and knocking down the General and his aide. The headquarters party moved on up to the top, joined by some elements of Company G and a machine-gun platoon of Company H, which had reached Dog White after moving laterally along the sea wall from D-3 draw. The command party found work to do on the high ground. Company C, the 5th Ranger Battalion, and small elements of other units were intermingled in the fields just beyond the bluff, disordered by the advance and not sure of the next move. Scattered small-arms fire was keeping men down, and some shells began to hit in the vicinity.

Just east of Dog White, the penetration area was widened before 0900 by the action of small parties from Companies F and B. Remnants of three boat sections of Company F crossed the beach flat and got up the bluff; a short distance behind them came an isolated section of B. Neither group had to contend with enemy resistance at the crest. The Company F sections drifted right and eventually joined the 5th Rangers. The Company B party of a dozen men started left, toward les Moulins, and was stopped by a machine gun. 1st Lt. William B. Williams assaulted it single-handed, was wounded, and ordered his men to move to Vierville.

The Advance Between D-3 and E-1 Draws

The 3d BLT of the 116th had come in on a half-mile stretch of beach including most of Easy Green and the western end of Easy Red. All units were facing unfamiliar ground, east of their appointed landing sectors, in some cases as much as 1,200 yards. Losses had not been heavy in crossing the tidal flat. The boat sections of Companies K and I were fairly well together on Easy Green; L and M, more scattered, were to the east (Map No. VI). Since each boat team was supposed to make its own way past the bluffs to a battalion assembly area about a mile inland, no attempt was made to organize the companies for assault, and forward movement was undertaken by many small groups starting at different times, acting independently, and only gradually coming together as they got inland by different routes and with different rates of progress. By 0900, elements of all three rifle companies were past the bluff (Map No. 3, page 64).

Company I was nearest the strongpoints defending les Moulins draw, but was receiving little fire from that direction. Each of the two assault sections made breaches in the wire along the embankment, needing four sections of a bangalore in one case but only wire cutters in the other. The assault sections moved out onto the flat, followed a little later by the other sections as they found their way to the gaps. Not all of the men who had landed moved out from the embankment; control was difficult. One section leader of Company I moved a hundred yards west, found a gap in the wire, and came back for his men. Under the impression that they were following, he went through the gap and was out on the flat before he realized that he had only 10 soldiers with him. A sergeant who went back could not find the others, and the section leader did not see them again for two days.

The beach flat was open, with some swamp and brush near the foot of the bluff, and there was little cover on the sharp slopes of the bluff. Fortunately, enemy small-arms fire was light and scattering, and there was no shelling. Minefields, encountered on the flat and on the bluffs, caused delays while the troops found a safe way around. Here as elsewhere on D Day, movement off the beach was not made by "charges." Each section of 20 to 30 men tended to advance in an irregular column, sometimes a single file, and was often checked by a burst of enemy fire or the discovery of mines. It took half an hour for leading elements to reach the bluff top, and much longer for some of the sections which started later. No enemy resistance was met at the edge of the high ground, where the troops came out in the open fields stretching toward St-Laurent. Elements of three or four sections came together soon after reaching the top, and took shelter behind an east-west hedgerow about 200 yards from the bluff. Few of the men knew where they were (afterwards, some described their position as being west of D-3), and there was no sign of enemy or friendly troops.

Company K's sections, close by I on the beach, were slow in getting started and had more trouble getting to the top. Sporadic machine-gun fire hit a few men on the beach, and mines, thickly sown, caused difficulty on the bluff slope. Although naval gunfire and rockets had torn up the slopes so much as to expose many mines, guides had to be placed to mark safe routes. K had lost 15 to 20 men when the sections got to the top, shortly after 0900. A stray group of Company G was just ahead of them. K's sections had begun to bunch together as they met on the climb or at the top, though there was no intention of organizing as a company. This was characteristic of the fighting that day; as one soldier described it, any small party seeing a bigger one "wanted company" and joined up, sometimes with units of a different company or battalion. K's sections made a couple of hundred yards beyond the bluff, then were pinned to the ground in open fields by scattered machine-gun fire and some shelling.

Company L's boat teams were somewhat more separated and so took longer in drawing together; otherwise, their story is much like K and I. Each boat team made its own way from the embankment to the high ground against ineffective enemy fire and with very few losses. Once on top the sections began to work to the southwest, knowing they had come in to the left of their target area. As they pushed inland, the teams began to meet resistance from small enemy pockets in prepared positions.

Company M's sections, most of them landed together, were near enough the E-1 strongpoints to be met by heavy fire as soon as they attempted to cross the beach flat. They managed to reach a gully which gave some defilade, and here they set up four machine guns and two heavy mortars. With these, they engaged the enemy emplacements near E-1, and snipers along the bluff. Six men were shot in attempts to find a route beyond the gully to reach the hill. The larger part of Company M was held here until later in the morning, when the arrival of massive reinforcements in front of E-1 broke the stalemate.

The Advance From Easy Red

Elements of three companies shared in the assault on the bluffs between E-1 and E-3 draws (Maps Nos. 4 and VIII). At this part of Easy Red, the beach shelf above the shingle embankment is more than a hundred yards wide, with areas of swamp along the inland edge of the flat. One hundred and thirty feet high on this sector, the bluff is reached by 200 yards of moderate slope, patched with heavy bush. Five hundred yards west of E-3, a small draw led up at a slight angle to the west, forming a possible corridor for advance to the bluff crest. Below the draw on the flat was a ruined house.

The 1st Section of Company E, 16th Infantry, and two of the scattered sections of E, 116th, had come to shore here in the first wave. The 16th's unit, led by 2d Lt. John M. Spalding, blew a gap in the wire above the shingle, made its way past the house, and then was held up by minefields in the marshy ground at the foot of the slopes. Intense small-arms fire came from an emplacement to the left, in the E-3 strongpoint. Spalding's men found a way past the mines and were beginning to work up the slope, using the defilade afforded by the small draw. To the west, and out of contact, the two sections from the 116th had cut the wire and dashed across the flat, but mines stopped them near the start of the hillside and they took shelter in a ditch. A soldier who went ahead to clear a path by use of a bangalore was killed by an antipersonnel mine.

Meanwhile Company G of the 16th RCT had landed (0700) and had reached the embankment in good order. The company's machine guns, set up behind the shingle, found no targets until LCVP's of the 1st Battalion, coming toward the beach (about 0730), drew enemy fire from 8 or 10 small emplacements along the half mile of bluff. While the heavy weapons built up a volume of supporting fire, a few men from each section blew gaps in the extensive double-apron and concertina wire beyond the shingle. Their work was made more difficult by anti-personnel mines set to detonate by trip wires.

Four bangalores were required to cut one lane. Engineers of Company A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion and Company C, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion helped in gapping and marking the lanes. When G's men reached the slopes they came in contact with Lieutenant Spalding's section of E and the two sections of the 116th. In an effort to coordinate the advance, an arrangement was made with these units to operate on Company G's right.

The mined areas, in which a part of the mines were faked, slowed up every unit that crossed the beach, then and for some time. Company G found one route through the mines by going over the dead bodies of two soldiers who had been caught there earlier. While the company was making its way across the flat, bothered more by the minefields than enemy fire, Capt. Joseph T. Dawson and one man went on ahead. When they were halfway up the hill, an enemy machine gun at the head of the small draw forced Dawson into cover. He sent his companion back to bring up the company and crawled on from one patch of brush to another. By the time he was 75 yards from the gun, the enemy lost sight of him. Circling to his left, he came to the military crest a little beyond the machine gun, and got within 30 feet before the Germans spotted him and swung their weapon around. Dawson threw a fragmentation grenade which killed the crew. This action opened the way up the little draw, but it took some time to get the company up as a result of disorganization suffered in crossing the beach flat. The 5th Section, first to arrive, knocked out two more machine guns and took a prisoner. On the whole, enemy opposition had not been heavy, and cover on the slopes allowed Company G to make the crest with few casualties. Their movement forward, from embankment to the bluff top, had taken place between 0730 and 0830. Enemy fire died away as the troops emerged on the fields of the upland, reorganized, and started south in column of sections. Their principal concern was with the frequent indications of mined areas just beyond the bluff top.

To their right Lieutenant Spalding's section of Company E, 16th RCT, was getting up about the same time, helped by covering fire from Company G, and effecting a useful extension of the front of penetration. The section now numbered 3 men, having lost 3 at the beach and 3 more getting past an enemy machine gun on the bluff side. The gun was operated by a lone soldier who was captured and found to be Polish. He informed Spalding that there were 16 enemy in trenches to his rear. The Company E section got to the trenches, sprayed them with fire and found the Germans had withdrawn. Spalding turned west along the bluff crest, losing contact with Company G as that unit headed south. Moving through hedgerowed fields and wooded areas, the Company E group came up on the rear of the strongpoint guarding E-1 draw. The Germans were manning trenches overlooking the beach, and attack from the high ground caught them by surprise. In two hours of confused fighting, Spalding's men got through the outworks of this strongpoint and overcame opposition by close-in work with grenades and rifles

Naval fire hitting in the parts of the strong-point below the bluff top, helped to demoralize the resistance. Twenty-one prisoners were taken, and several enemy killed, without loss to the attackers. Although the fortified area was too extensive to be thoroughly cleaned out by Spalding's small force, the strongpoint east of E-1 had been effectively neutralized by midmorning, just when important reinforcements for the assault were beginning to land in front of the draw. About 1100 Spalding's section was joined by some other elements of Company E, which had come up from further east. They brought word from battalion to head south for Colleville.

The area opened up by Company G became a funnel for movement off the beach during the rest of the morning. The command group of the 16th RCT had landed in two sections; the first, coming in at 0720, lost the executive officer and 35 men on the tidal flat. Col. George A. Taylor arrived in the second section at 0815 and found plenty to do on the beach. Men were still hugging the embankment, disorganized, and suffering casualties from mortar and artillery fire. Colonel Taylor summed up the situation in terse phrase: "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die-now let's et the hell out of here." Small groups of men were collected without regard to units, put under charge of the nearest noncommissioned officer, and sent on through the wire and across the flat, while engineers worked hard to widen gaps in the wire and to mark lanes through the minefields. Confusion prevailed all the way along the route to the bluff top, with enough scattered enemy fire from the flanks and mortar fire falling on the bluff slope to cause more delay and to give late-comers the impression that they were leading the assault. A traffic jam threatened to clog the trail through the little draw, as leaderless groups stopped to rest just below the shelter of the crest; one such group was picked up by an engineer platoon going inland as a security patrol and went on with them. Colonel Taylor's command post was set up just below the bluff crest, and regimental and battalion officers concentrated on getting men forward. Despite all difficulties, troops were brought up from both flanks of the penetration area and sent inland. During the morning a few scattered sections of Companies E, F, and H moved laterally along the beach from the east and took Company G's route; the 1st Battalion, 16th RCT, came over from the west.

The 1st BLT of the 16th landed between 0730-0800, with Company A just east of E-1, and B and C near the area where 2d BLT troops were then starting up the bluff. Company A moved across the flat and had serious difficulties after passing the antitank ditch below the E-1 strongpoint; mines and small-arms fire inflicted 48 casualties, including 3 officers. Reaching the bluff slope, Company A found more mines and to avoid them took a path that led eastward along the lower slope. Movement was slow, as the men went along the path in single file and had to cross areas exposed to enemy fire, and further difficulty was caused by meeting a party of 116th men going in the opposite direction. The other units of the 1st BLT got to the bluff crest about 0930, in the area where Company G had already passed inland.

The Advance From Fox Green

Fox Green fronted two exit routes: the fairly large valley (E-3) winding a mile inland toward Colleville and, 600 yards to the east, an area (F1) where the bluff front was only slightly interrupted by a shallow and steep draw. Two main enemy strongpoints, one just east of F-1 and the other near the Colleville draw, commanded the narrowing beach flat (Map No. 5).

As a result of the eastward trend of landing approaches, elements of seven assault companies had come in on Fox Green by 0800. Behind the shingle embankment scattered sections from Company E, 116th RCT, and Companies E and F, 16th RCT, were intermingled with units of the 3d BLT of the 16th. The 3d Battalion command group had come in west at another sector. Most of the landings had been costly, and nowhere would discouraging conditions seem to have had better opportunity for checking assault. Nevertheless, by 0800, an assault was under way. Its main power came from Company L, which landed fairly well together, kept its organization, and led off the attack. But elements of Companies I, K, and E (116th) shared in the advance; the heavy weapons of Company M were used to support it; and both tanks and destroyers gave noteworthy assistance. Under most difficult circumstances, enough coordination was somehow achieved to make possible a successful advance.

Four sections of Company L had landed and reorganized on the western end of Fox Red sector, where the bluff, merging here into a partial cliff just beyond the highwater shingle, afforded good cover. The company commander was killed as he exposed himself to direct the fire of some nearby tanks, and 1st Lt. Robert R. Cutler, Jr., took command. The sections were moved west, out of the shelter of the cliff and to a position where they were just below the strongpoint commanding F-1 draw. Two tanks were called on for fire support. As a scheme of maneuver, Lieutenant Cutler sent three sections and headquarters, 2d and 3d Sections leading, up the draw a little to the west of the strongpoint. There were no hostile prepared positions at the head or the west side of the draw. The heavy brush gave good cover from enemy small-arms fire, and the 2d and 3d Sections worked to the top in squad columns without serious losses, despite crossing enemy minefields. Here the 2d Section moved left and got in position to take the strongpoint from behind; a little to the right, the 3d and 5th Sections moved a short distance inland and organized a hasty defensive position. The three sections kept in contact with each other and with the beach.

Other units were meantime starting up the slopes to assist Company L. The 1st Section of Company L, reduced to 12 men by early losses and separated from the rest of the company, had landed nearer E-3 and attempted to engage the enemy strongpoint on that side of the assault area, which had been Company L s original objective. Finding the fire too heavy, 1st. Lt. Kenneth J. Klenk moved his handful of men east along the beach, picked up some sections of Company E, 116th, and prepared to assault the F-1 strongpoint. Capt. Kimball R. Richmond of Company I, who had just reached Fox Green to find himself the senior officer present of the battalion, started to organize the follow-up of Company L's advance. Two sections of Company K, a handful from Company I, and Lieutenant Klenk's mixed detachment were involved in this second assault wave, which went straight up toward the strongpoint. Machine guns and mortars of Company M, the tanks, and naval guns combined to cover the advance, and enemy fire was light. The Company L sections already on the hill sprayed the strongpoint with BAR fire and helped to keep the Germans down.

A destroyer' s fire, helpful in the first stages of the assault, now caused a halt. The 2d Section of Company L, from on top of the hill, telephoned the beach that it was ready to close on the strongpoint if naval fire could be lifted; the second assault wave was stopped short of the enemy positions by the same fire. When it lifted, the strongpoint was immediately stormed by the troops coming at it from below. Enemy resistance was broken; grenades and satchel charges cleaned out the trenches and emplacements, and 31 prisoners were taken, 15 of them wounded. About 0900 the battalion was informed that the strongpoint had been subdued, the action having required little more than an hour. Led by Company L, the 3d BLT at once started south for inland objectives.

Other Assault Actions

The penetrations described thus far opened the way for progress inland on an important scale, but they do not tell the whole story of the assault. At several parts of the beach lesser groups fought their way off the flat in isolated battles, often without knowing what was happening elsewhere. Stray boat sections of assault infantry, scratch parties of engineers, advance elements of artillery units, stranded Navy men, and other personnel took part in small actions which helped in weakening and disorganizing enemy resistance along the beaches. Few of these actions got into the records, and some cannot be located accurately in place and time. Two, involving Ranger units, can be taken as examples.

Company C, 2d Ranger Battalion, was probably the first assault unit to reach the high ground (beach sector Charlie) and did so in an area where cliffs begin to border the western beach (Map No. VII). Landing in the opening assault wave, about 30 men survived the ordeal of crossing the sands and found shelter at the base of a 90-foot cliff, impossible to climb except at a few points. Three men went off immediately to the west, looking for a spot to go up. Three hundred yards away they tried a crevice in the slope and made it by using bayonets for successive hand holds, pulling each other along. 1st Lt. William D. Moody, in charge of the party, brought along 4 toggle ropes and attached them to stakes in a minefield 15 feet below the crest. Enemy small-arms fire opened up from the left, near a supposedly fortified house. Moody and one Ranger went along the cliff edge toward the house, reached a point above Company C, and shouted down directions. The unit displaced to the ropes and monkey-walked them to the top; all men were up by 0730. While the movement was in progress, Capt. Ralph E. Goranson saw an LCVP landing troops (a section of Company B, 116th RCT) just below on the beach and sent a man back to guide them to the ropes.

Captain Goranson decided to go left toward the fortified house and knock out any enemy positions there which would cause trouble on Dog Beach; then, to proceed on his mission toward Pointe de la Percee. When the house was reached, the Rangers found that just beyond it lay a German strongpoint consisting of a maze of dugouts and trenches, including machine-gun emplacements and a mortar position. Captain Goranson put men in an abandoned trench just west of the house and started to feel out the enemy positions on the other side. This began a series of small attacks which continued for hours without any decisive result. The boat section of Company B, 116th RCT, came up early and joined in, but even with this reinforcement Captain Goranson s party was too small to knock out the enemy position. Three of four times, attacking parties got around the house and into the German positions, destroying the mortar post and inflicting heavy losses. Enemy reinforcements kept coming up along communication trenches from the Vierville draw, and the Ranger parties were not quite able to clean out the system of trenches and dugouts. Finally, toward the end of the afternoon, the Rangers and the Company B section succeeded in occupying the strongpoint and ending resistance. They had suffered only 2 casualties; a Quartermaster burial party later reported 69 enemy dead in the position. This action had tied up one of the main German firing positions protecting the Vierville draw.

Small elements of the 2d Ranger Battalion also fought their own way off Dog White, just west of the main penetration area. Less than half of Companies A and B had reached the shelter of the sea wall, about 0740. Some tanks, firing at enemy emplacements, were scattered along the beach, but the Rangers saw no other troops and had the impression of being alone on the beach; less than a quarter mile to their left, the 5th Ranger Battalion was touching down on a beach already crowded with assault infantry. Within a few minutes of reaching the wall, the survivors of Companies A and B dashed over the promenade road beyond the sea wall and got into the cover of shrubbery surrounding the wrecked villas that line this stretch of the beach flat. Eighteen Rangers of Company B turned right and, hugging the foot of the slope, went several hundred yards toward the Vierville draw, intending to go up that exit in accordance with original plans. Nearing the draw and facing heavy fire on an open stretch of the flat, the group retraced its steps. Meantime, Company A's men and a few from B, after crossing the road in several scattered groups led by noncommissioned officers, had worked through the villas and were trying the bluff at different points. They were joined by a machinegun section of Company D, 116th RCT, and three DD tanks helped by silencing enemy positions on the flanks which had been giving trouble. Two Rangers of Company A reached the top above and found enemy trenches, containing two or three machinegun emplacements, in plain sight just beyond the military crest. In a few minutes another group of six Rangers joined up, and they started out to investigate the apparently empty trenches. Machine-gun fire opened from two points as Germans came out of dugouts and manned their positions. They had waited too long. The leading Rangers were within 20 yards, and more small parties were coming up behind them. Working in twos and threes, they mopped up the enemy emplacements, taking six prisoners and killing as many more. Only three of the attacking force were casualties. Company B now came up, having got back from its try toward the Vierville exit, and the 5th Ranger Battalion was in sight on the bluff top to the left. The 2d Battalion men joined them for the move inland. This action took place between 0800 and 0830, widened the area of penetration on Dog White, and probably aided in the success of the larger advance to the east by covering its right flank.

The Beach: 0800-1200

The assault had gone forward, but not according to pull (Maps Nos. VII and VIII). Penetrations had been made where enemy defenses were thin and lightly held, on the long stretches of bluff between the draws scheduled for use as exits. The F-1 strong-point was knocked out, but the exit route here was so steep that no plans had been made for its early use, and there were no engineer parties at hand. In the case of the main draws, only at E-1 was a strongpoint (on the east side) being reduced by flanking action of a force which turned aside for this purpose after getting up the bluff; elsewhere, the small and often scattered assault groups were fighting inland toward their assembly areas. As a result, nearly all the enemy strongpoints defending the vital draws were still in action, especially at E-3 and D-3 which were scheduled for use by the first movement of traffic off the beach. On large stretches of the beach there was still enough fire to make landings costly and to stop all movement in front of the draws. The engineers, hampered by landing on wrong beaches and by loss of equipment, were unable to start on their main job of opening the beach for traffic. At 0800, there were no gaps anywhere in the shingle embankment to permit movement onto the beach flat.

As a result, the penetrations made in the next two hours could not be followed up properly. Vehicles were beginning to arrive, but they found only a narrow strip of sand to occupy and nowhere to move even for shelter from enemy fire. This fire and the difficulties with obstacles in the higher water led many craft to come in on Easy Green and Easy Red instead of other sectors, thereby threatening to clog that beach with vehicles under destructive artillery fire from the flanks. Consequently, the commander of the 7th Naval Beach Battalion radioed an order (about 0830) suspending all landings of vehicles. During the next few hours scores of craft, including dukws and rhino-ferries, were milling about off the Easy Green and Easy Red sectors, waiting for a chance to come in. The dukws had particular difficulty in the rough seas, in which they had to run at least at half throttle to maintain steerage way. The consumption this entailed would exhaust a fuel tank in 10 to 12 hours, leaving the craft in danger of foundering. The tie-up affected the heavier weapons scheduled to support the attack off the beach and inland. The Antitank Company of the 116th RCT landed one gun platoon of three 57-mm's, but they had to remain under fire for hours before they could move off the sand. Only two antiaircraft guns of the 16th RCT were landed out of two batteries, the others being sunk in the effort to unload. The Cannon Company of the 16th RCT got its halftracks ashore at 0830 after two attempts, but they could not move more than 50 yards through the litter of disabled vehicles. Its 6 howitzers were loaded on dukws, which were swamped one by one in the heavy seas with a loss of 20 personnel. Artillery units of the regimental combat teams were having a hard time getting toward shore, where they were scheduled to land between 0800 and 0900. The 111th Field Artillery Battalion of the 116th RCT suffered complete disaster. The forward parties, including observers, liaison and reconnaissance sections, and the command group, landed between 0730 and 0830 in front of les Moulins. Remnants of the 2d BLT were immobilized there in front of the draw, and the artillery personnel suffered as heavily as had the infantry in getting from their craft to the shingle. They quickly decided that the guns could not land there, but their radio had been disabled by sea water and no radio on the beach was working. Lt. Col. Thornton L. Mullins, commander of the battalion, said, "To hell with our artillery mission. We've got to be infantrymen now." Although already wounded twice, Colonel Mullins went to work organizing little groups of infantry. Leading a tank forward, he directed its fire against an emplacement and as he started toward another tank across an open stretch, was killed by a sniper.

The howitzers of the battalion were coming in on 13 dukws, each carrying 14 men, 50 rounds of 105-mm ammunition, sandbags, and all essential equipment for set-up and maintenance. This load made the dukws hard to maneuver from the start, especially for inexperienced crews. Five dukws were swamped within half a mile after leaving the LCT's. Four more were lost while circling in the rendezvous area. One turned turtle as they started for the beach; another got within 500 yards of shore, stopped because of engine trouble, and was sunk by machine-gun bullets. The last two dukws went on and about 0900 were close enough to see that there was no place to land on the beach. When they drew together and stopped to talk things over, one was disabled by machine-gun fire and then set ablaze by an artillery hit. Eight men swam ashore or to another craft. The surviving dukw had some near misses from artillery shells, turned away from the shore, and tried to find out from both shore and Navy where to go in. Shore gave contradictory advice; Navy had no ideas at all. The dukw pulled alongside a rhino-ferry to wait, but in a short time the crew realized the craft was in a sinking condition. Determined to save the howitzer, two or three men stayed on. They managed to move the dukw as far as another rhino with a crane aboard, and unloaded the howitzer on this craft. The one gun of the 111th got ashore that afternoon in charge of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion.

Several other artillery units fared almost as badly. The 7th Field Artillery Battalion (16th RCT) lost six of its 105's on dukws that swamped en route to shore; the others could not land. The 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion had taken part in the fire support of the first landings, firing from LCT's. The commanding officer and reconnaissance officer were casualties soon after landing at 0730. At 1030, three of its LCT's attempted to land and struck mines; one capsized, one sank in seven feet of water, and a howitzer on the third was jettisoned to keep the craft afloat. The 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, likewise involved in the preliminary bombardment, attempted no landings in the morning. Elements of two self-propelled antiaircraft battalions (the 197th and 467th) began to land after 0830. Losses in personnel and halftracks were considerable, but the guns were used in close support of infantry for fire on German emplacements.

Conditions on the beach improved in the later morning. Fire from the main enemy strongpoints was gradually reduced, as one gun emplacement after another was knocked out, often by tanks. Fighting both the enemy and the tide, the tanks were leading a hard life, caught on the sand between high water and the embankment, unable to get past the shingle to the beach flat, and an open target for enemy guns. Unit control was almost impossible, with tanks scattered over long stretches of beach and hampered in maneuver. The commander of the 741st Tank Battalion came ashore at 0820 with a 509 radio, but the radio was damaged by salt water and failed to function. The small command group had to contact individual tanks up and down the beach in an effort to control operations, losing three of its five members in the process. At the other end of the beach, Lt. Col. John S. Upham, Jr., commanding the 743d, was shot down as he walked over to a tank for better direction of its fire. Nevertheless, the tanks kept on firing: one of them, disabled, until the rising tide drowned out the guns, others while the crew worked on dismounted tracks. Their achievement cannot be summed up in statistics; the best testimony in their favor is the casual mention in the records of many units, from all parts of the beach, of emplacements neutralized by the supporting fire of tanks. In an interview shortly after the battle, the commander of the 2d Battalion, 116th Infantry, who saw some of the worst fighting on the beach at les Moulins, expressed as his opinion that the tanks "saved the day. They shot the hell out of the Germans, and got the hell shot out of them."

The destroyer Carmick, by what was described as "silent cooperation," did her best to help some tanks on Dog Green which had managed to get up on the promenade road and were trying to fight west toward the Vierville draw. The destroyer's observers watched for the tanks' fire to show targets on the bluff edge, and then used the bursts as a point of aim for the Carmick's guns.

Support from naval units, necessarily limited during the first landings, began to count heavily later on. Some of the landing craft had tried to support the debarking troops with the fire from their light guns. When Company G was landing near les Moulins, the infantry saw a patrol craft stand off directly in front of the enemy strongpoint to the east of the draw and pump shell after shell into it. German artillery got the craft's range and forced it ashore, still firing; it continued in action until a shell made a direct hit, setting the craft ablaze. Later in the morning, two landing craft made a conspicuous, fighting arrival in front of E-3 draw. LCT 30 drove at full speed through the obstacles, all weapons firing, and continued the fire on an enemy emplacement after touchdown. At the same time LCI (L) 544 rammed through the obstacles, firing on machine-gun nests in a fortified house. These exploits also helped demonstrate that the obstacles could be breached by larger craft, which had been hesitating at the approaches.

Naval gunfire became a major factor as communications improved between shore and ships. At first, targets were still hard to find; Gunfire Support Craft Group reported at 0915 that danger to friendly troops hampered fire on targets of opportunity; an NSFCP in contact with ships was told by General Cota (about 0800) that it was "unwise to designate a target." Between 1000 and 1100 two destroyers closed to within a thousand yards to put the strong-points from les Moulins eastward under heavy, effective fire. All along the beach, infantry pinned at the sea wall and engineers trying to get at the draws to carry out their mission were heartened by this intervention. One result may have bee the decision to try to get some tanks through E-3 draw. At 1100, Colonel Taylor ordered all tanks available to go into action at that exit route. Of the several tanks that were able to move along the beach to the rallying point, only three arrived, and two of these were knocked out as they tried to go up the draw.

One of the participants in this effort was Capt. W. M. King, who had been ordered to round up all the tanks and get them to E-3 draw. Captain King ran along the beach to the west, notifying each tank as he came to it. When he reached the last tank, he found the commander wounded and took over. Backing away from the shingle, King drove east, weaving in and out of the wreckage along the beach. He made 200 yards, then circled toward the water to avoid a tangle of vehicles and wounded men. A Teller mine, probably washed off a beach obstacle, blew the center bogie assembly of and broke the track. King and the crew proceeded on foot to E-3.

The decisive improvement along the beach came at E-1 draw. The strongpoint on the east side had been neutralized by flanking action of the platoon from Company E, 16th Infantry, after it reached the bluff top. The unfinished strongpoint on the other side was still partly in action, but was being contained by fire from Company M, 116th Infantry. Engineers of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion were able to bulldoze their first gap through the dune line, just east of this draw, about 1000 Company C of the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion made another gap to the west. The destroyers' intervention speeded up the progress; in the next two hours the antitank ditch was filled, mines were cleared, and the approach to the draw was made ready for vehicles. During the same period major infantry reinforcements were landing in front of E-1, and the last remnants of enemy resistance at that draw were about to be overpowered.

Landing of Reinforcements on Easy Red

The 18th RCT had been scheduled to land on Easy Red in column of battalions, beginning about 0930. After passing the line of departure, the first wave (LCVP's and LCM's) ran into difficulties in maintaining formation and steering a straight course; there was much congestion of traffic toward shore, with craft of all descriptions maneuvering in every direction. The 2d Battalion began landing just west of E-1 shortly after 1000. As they neared shore, troops of the 18th had no impression that any progress had been made from the beach: "The beach shingle was full of tractors, tanks, vehicles, bulldozers, and troops-the high ground was still held by Germans who had all troops on the beach pinned down-the beach was still under heavy fire from enemy small arms, mortars and artillery." The underwater obstacles caused great difficulties, even though a narrow gap had been cleared near E-1; the Navy report for the transport group carrying the 18th Infantry lists 22 LCVP's, 2 LCI (L)'s and 4 LCT's as lost at the beach, nearly all from being staved in by log ramps or hitting mines. Nevertheless, personnel losses in the 18th Infantry were light.

On the right of E-1, the 2d Battalion found an enemy pillbox still in action. Fire from a tank supported the infantry in a first attempt, but the attack was stalled until naval fire was laid on. The NSFCP contacted a destroyer about 1,000 yards off shore and coordinated its action with the infantry assault. The affair was very nicely timed; the destroyer's guns, firing only a few yards over the crowded beach, got on the target at about the fourth round and the pillbox surrendered. Twenty Germans were taken prisoners. Thus, at about 1130, the last enemy defenses in front of E-1 draw were reduced. Within half an hour, engineers of the 16th RCT were clearing mines in the draw, and the Engineer Special Brigade Group units were working dozers on the western slope to push through an exit. E-1 became the main funnel for movement of the beach, beginning with troops.

The troop movement inland, however, was slowed up by congested landings at this one area. Shortly after the first units of the 18th RCT had landed, the LCI (L)'s of the 115th Infantry began to touch down on top of them. The 115th, in reserve in Force "O," was scheduled by lastminute plans of V Corps to land at 1030 on Dog Red and Easy Green beaches. The LCI's were unable to find the control vessel for these sectors and came in very much to the east, on Easy Red, where the 18th Infantry had started landing. [6] The result was further congestion and confusion off that sector, and considerable delays for both regiments, both in making shore and in getting of the beach. Instead of getting in between 1030 and 1130, the 3d and 1st Battalions of the 18th Infantry did not land until about 1300. Meantime, all the battalions of the 115th had come in together instead of at intervals, and the result was a partial scrambling of units on the beach. The 2d Battalion of the 18th got off before noon; it was nearly 1400 before the 115th had started inland, along with the remainder of the 18th. Reorganization and movement were complicated by enemy fire on the beach area and by the difficulties of getting through minefields on the narrow cleared paths. Fortunately, enemy mortar fire was apparently unobserved and ineffective, and artillery fire, now coming from inland, was directed at the landing craft. These suffered some hits, but casualties among the troops were light. Movement of the crowded beach took place on both sides of the draw rather than through it, since there were minefields and enemy emplacements up the draw inland. As the 2d Battalion of the 18th Infantry moved out, orders were received from Brig. Gen. Willard G. Wyman, assistant division commander of the 1st Division, to take over the mission of the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry. The 18th Infantry unit therefore moved left down Easy Red to the penetration route of the 16th and followed it toward Colleville. The battalions of the 115th pushed off toward assembly points southeast of St-Laurent, where they planned to reorganize; Col. Eugene N. Slappey, commanding, found General Wyman on the beach and received orders to carry out his primary mission in the Longueville area. However, before Colonel Slappey left to follow his battalions, General Cota arrived with news from the 116th zone. On consultation with General Wyman, it was decided that one battalion of the 115th would be used to clean up StLaurent. Radios were not working, and Colonel Slappey had heard nothing from his battalions when he started inland about 1600 to find them.

News of the movement inland from Easy Red reached the higher command, and was doubly welcome because V Corps Headquarters had been sweating through the first hours of the assault with very little information on what was really happening ashore. Back on the Ancon direct messages from the beach were almost entirely lacking, and Headquarters depended on what it picked up from reports of the Navy and from its Forward Information Detachment under Colonel Talley. This detachment tried to get to shore early on two dukws, but decided that radio equipment would probably be lost under the conditions of landing. Therefore, the dukws were kept cruising up and down the beach a few hundred yards off shore. Unfortunately, information both from this source and the Navy were limited by the difficulties of observation, and delays in transmittal; early news at V Corps Headquarters was fragmentary and not encouraging. Messages brought word of craft sunk, of heavy enemy artillery fire, of dukws swamping, and of troops pinned down. The first penetrations were made by small units on slopes often obscured by smoke or brush, and apparently escaped all notice from seaward observers. Main attention was naturally focused on the exits, where no progress was being made. At 0945, V Corps made its first report to First Army: "Obstacles mined, progress slow. 1st Battalion, 116th, reported 0748 being held up by machine-gun fire-two LCT's knocked out by artillery fire. DD tanks for Fox Green swamped." At 1155 Corps was still so far behind the situation that its next report to Army reads "situation beach exits Easy Fox and Dog still critical at 1100. 352d Infantry Division (German) identified115th Infantry directed to clear high ground southwest of Easy Red at 1131-16th and 116th ashore, fighting continuous on beaches, vehicles coming ashore slowly. Reported that some Germans surrendering Easy Green." From 1055 on, Colonel Talley had sent in some scraps of better news: "infiltration approximately platoon up draw midway between exits E-1 and Easy 3"; and "Men advancing up slope behind Easy Red, men believed ours on skyline." But these messages did not come into Corps Headquarters until 1225-1243. Not until 1309 could V Corps make its first favorable report to Army: "Troops formerly pinned down on beaches Easy Red, Easy Green, Fox Red advancing up heights behind beaches." From that time on the Headquarters begins to catch up more closely with the situation, and the further information becomes more reassuring .

Another example of the difficulties of ship-to-shore communications, and of the limited observation from seaward, is furnished by the report of a naval officer in the fire-support group. Shortly after noon, he came in close to shore, under fire from enemy guns. "Troops were plainly visible on the beach lying in the sand. So were the dead. Heavy machine-gun fire was coming from enemy positions halfway up the hill. Troops were unable to advance." Anxious to aid in breaking what seemed to be a stalemate, the officer requested permission from higher headquarters to lay down a rocket barrage. The request was denied because of the danger to assaulting troops "who may have filtered through."

[1] Beach areas given a hard surface by wire mats, concrete blocks, or other treatment so as to permit direct loading of vehicles from sand to ships.

[2] The Allied assault forces used four different H Hours, to meet the differing conditions of tide and bottom on the main assault beaches. The hour was 0630 at Omaha and Utah, while the British landings carne between 0700 and 0730.

[3] The only reaction from enemy coastal batteries came earlier, and from eastward; at 0537 guns near Port-en-Bessin put 10 rounds close to the destroyer Emmons and bracketed the Arkansas. Answering fire, including 20 rounds of 12-inch and 110 rounds of 5-inch shells, promptly silenced the enemy guns, but more counterbattery work had to be done on this area later in the morning.

[4] In the case of one company, according to Navy reports, the company commander gave orders which were responsible for the landing eastward.

[5] The report of LCI 91 attributes the explosion and damage to mines on the obstacles. The evidence suggests that there may have been both mine explosions and artillery (or rocket) hits.

[6] LCI 553 beached almost as far east as the E-3 draw, where it was disabled by mines.