by Brian Williams
Aerial and Naval Bombardment
At 0300 on the morning of June 6th, fleets of Allied bombers roared
overhead delivering thousands of tons of bombs onto the German coastal
defenses. These were followed at 0500 by the naval
bombardment which had been planned to immediately precede the invasion itself.
The battleship USS Nevada's 14-inch guns were assigned to the
bombardment of the German batteries on Utah beach, while the USS
Texas was to fire at Pointe-du-Hoc where the Rangers were to land
as part of the Omaha landing. On the western end of Omaha
the USS Arkansas pounded a battery at Les Moulins. Several
cruisers and destroyers also jumped into the bombardment with
pre-determined targets and as opportunity arose. At such
close range, there was very little trajectory to the shots and
many Americans who were coming in to land, could feel the vacuum of the shells passing
overhead. Needless to say, the bombardment was a very
welcome sight to those troops about to land.
At approximately 0620, the Nevada turned its guns to the beach and
began bombarding a concrete seawall. Immediately after the
bombardment, the plan called for a rocket bombardment by LCT(R)s
(Landing Craft, Tank with Rocket launcher). This was to be followed by
the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, in 20 Higgins boats which carried
a 30-man assault team each. Also, 2 squadrons of DD tanks
(Dual-Drive, amphibious tanks) were to accompany the first
wave. Following the first wave would be the 1st
Battalion, 8th Infantry, in 32 more Higgins boats. The third
wave would include 8 LCTs (Landing Craft, Tank) carrying some
bulldozer tanks and Shermans. Then, almost immediately
afterwards, units of the 237th and 299th Engineer Combat
Battalions would follow.
Of course, during the actual operations, nearly everything didn't work
out as planned. The various units did not arrive on time or
arrived too early. Most units landed at the wrong places due
to the smoke and strong currents. But, the greatest cause for the
confusion was the loss of 3 of the 4 LCCs (Landing Craft, Control)
to sea mines. The LCCs were responsible for bringing in the LCTs
and without the LCCs, the LCTs were forced to circle
though the DD tanks were to accompany the first wave, these were moving so slow that many of the
infantry transports overtook them. The DDs were to launch 2
miles offshore and then drop their rubber "skirts" that
made them amphibious, but were having a slow time approaching the
shore. Carrying on with the assault, as the LCVPs approached the shore, they fired smoke
canisters to signal the lifting of the naval
The first wave of troops were scheduled to land in Higgins boats at 0630 shortly after
the naval bombardment. But, because of the sinking of
the LCCs and all of the confusion, the landings were slightly off by a
couple thousand yards and had arrived a little late. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.. (the son of
the ex-president) was the assistant division commander to the 4th
and was in the first wave to hit the beach. He took control
of the troops who had just landed with him and they began to move
forward. The DD tanks who were to land simultaneously with
the troops, landed about 15 minutes behind the first wave.
landing site was to be opposite Exit 3, but because of the
confusion, it ended up nearer to Exit 2. Luckily, the new
position was significantly less defended than the original landing
site. Only sporadic fire from German infantry small
arms and the occasional German 88 were firing upon the American
positions on the beach.
The engineers followed
the first wave with their demolition teams. Their job was to
clear a path for the invasion before the tide covered the
obstacles. Since the invasion began at the lowest point in
the tide, time was against them to complete their mission.
The 4th Division's first task was to get off the beach and
secure the exits and the causeways. Hopefully, the Airborne
had secured the interior section of the causeways, since crossing
them would prove very hazardous.
In many cases, the beach became so congested that units were
forced to advance forward - even though this meant straight
through minefields. As predicted, many men
were wounded trying to negotiate through the fields. By 0645,
the Shermans started to arrive on the beach - firing at any active
fortifications or resistance. Several Shermans were lost to
mines also, but those tanks that remained headed toward Pouppeville.
Within 3 hours, exits 1, 2, and 3 had been secured and by 1PM, when leading elements of
the US 4th approached Pouppeville, they found that it was secured
by the 101st Airborne, who had captured it earlier that morning.
By the end of the day, the 4th Division had established a 4-mile
deep penetration inland and were within reach of Ste-Mere-Eglise,
where the 82nd had fought throughout the night.
Overall, the Utah landings were a great success. Casualties
were very light due to the effective pre-landing bombardment and
the accidental landings that put them some 2000 yards from the
initial location - more or less out of harm's way. Estimates
put casualties at less than 1% of the committed force.
The Germans were unable to mount a counterattack or a solid
defense against the invasion, due in part to the US Airborne
landings. The landings came as a surprise to the German
defenders and they found themselves unprepared.
Utah Beach - written by Brian Williams.
Copyright © 2000 Brian Williams.