DD Tanks on D Day

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Paul Reed, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    Much is written about the use of DD Tanks on 6th June 1944, and I thought members here would be interested in this document from the 'G' Branch HQ Diaries of 79th (Armoured) Division.

    It was part of a report stating the case for DD Tanks after the disaster at Omaha at that time had been partially blamed on their failure.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Make no mistake, the DD tanks, along with the Sappers won the day on Sword. Their going in first, prepared the way for the infantry, the Commandos and the RA to land later. First in, last out.
    Sapper
     
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Good stuff, but is that where the myth starts?
    What they've mentioned accounts for 741 Tk Bn. There was also 743 Tk Bn that 'did not launch', beached about the same time as the first wave and did what they were supposed to do.

    Edit: The 79 Div history picks up the theme of disaster at OMAHA because Funnies weren't used, except for DDs of which "90% foundered". No mention of UTAH either. Looks like they are slapping themselves on the back a little too hard.
     
  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The DD tanks were great, and took out the defences.... Their can no praise high enough for what these men did with their DD tanks.
     
    CL1 likes this.
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Seconded.
    Even on OMAHA, the few that got ashore on the eastern half of the beach did useful work shooting the infantry in. Conversely, the high proportion that were landed dry on the western end still weren't enough to offset the Germans' advantages.
     
  6. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    Cheers Paul, one of my casualties, was B Squadron 13/18th Hussars, so an interesting piece of info.

    P
     
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Seconded.
    Even on OMAHA, the few that got ashore on the eastern half of the beach did useful work shooting the infantry in. Conversely, the high proportion that were landed dry on the western end still weren't enough to offset the Germans' advantages.

    I seem to recall that a lot of the DD Tanks destined for Omaha were swamped due to the tidal conditions taking the tanks away from the beach landing areas and as the tanks were turned this caused them to get swamped and sink.

    A great pity as by letting the tide take then a little further sideways at least they would have made a landing.

    Who knows if it would have been any better, but a working tank on the beach was better than no tank.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  8. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    That was a good documentary about the DDs. The tidal problem affected many units at OMAHA. It was the easternmost battalion of DDs that was launched and the tide was taking them further east to a part of the coastline that was mainly cliff, so they didn't have an alternative.

    Some of the infantry over that side, on British LCAs, got a fair way to Port-en-Bessin before realising their mistake, coming back and landing a bit late. I think that was more down to navigational issues, though, as the LCAs could clearly handle the tides and currents (if not the swell on occasion).

    Whether it was a DD that had swum ashore or been landed dry, its job was the same. The DD concept had more to do with reducing the risks to LCTs - a much more valuable and vulnerable target if it had to beach.
     
  9. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Some of the Sappers were landed away from their proper area ..And made their way back through enemy held territory..
    Sapper
     
  10. The tide problem was part of it. However several DD swamped in the waves shortly after leaving the landing craft ramps. That and the wave height triggered the decision by one of the battalions to not launch offshore but to run in on the boats.
     
  11. ranville

    ranville Senior Member

    Was'nt the big problem with DD tanks at Omaha that they were launched too for out[where the tides were stronger]?----The British DD tanks were launched much closer to the shore i think.
     
  12. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The 13/18 Hussars' history has an appendix that has a bit more detail than the 79 Armd Div report that Paul posted at the top of the thread. Most importantly, it includes the missing US Tk Bn:

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=26225&stc=1&d=1269126405

    One detail I've learned recently was that Sheman V DDs had more freeboard than Sherman II DDs (Vs had a longer hull because of the type of engine fitted so were more buoyant).

    It appears that the SWORD and JUNO DDs were Sherman V; GOLD, OMAHA and UTAH were Sherman II. This was almost certainly a part of 741 Tk Bn's problem. Anglo-Canadian DDs may also have benefited from a slightly different tidal state as their H-Hour was an hour or so later than the US beaches.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Bodston

    Bodston Little Willy

    It seems that the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry did launch albeit at 700 yds.
    Off Gold beach, where H-hour was 0725 hours, it was now the turn of B and C Squadrons of the Nottinghamshire Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry (SRY) to land on Jig sector. Sea conditions were not good here so they launched at 700 yards (646m), but even so the two squadrons lost eight tanks between them. They were late in landing and in the interim Sherman Crab flail tanks of the Westminster Dragoons had been doing their work for them, taking out gun positions and machine-gun nests. However, it is interesting to note that in this case the SRY records that A Squadron and Regimental Headquarters (both waders) arrived about 90 minutes later. Immediately to their east the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards encountered similar conditions, so its senior naval officer decided to run them all the way in. The water was deep enough to justify raising the screens, but in essence the DD tanks of B and C Squadrons simply drove ashore through the breakers. Unfortunately, having made it to the beach a number of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards tanks were then trapped in patches of soft sand and were subsequently swamped by the incoming tide.
    From Swimming Shermans by David Fletcher an Osprey New Vanguard No.123

    The SRY are my local regiment and I was lucky enough to get a look around their museum last week. Located in the Carlton barracks officers mess. Very splendid it is too.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  14. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    The 13/18 Hussars' history has an appendix that has a bit more detail than the 79 Armd Div report that Paul posted at the top of the thread. Most importantly, it includes the missing US Tk Bn:



    One detail I've learned recently was that Sheman V DDs had more freeboard than Sherman II DDs (Vs had a longer hull because of the type of engine fitted so were more buoyant).

    It appears that the SWORD and JUNO DDs were Sherman V; GOLD, OMAHA and UTAH were Sherman II. This was almost certainly a part of 741 Tk Bn's problem. Anglo-Canadian DDs may also have benefited from a slightly different tidal state as their H-Hour was an hour or so later than the US beaches.

    Idler, you couldnt by any chance post the narrative for 13/18th (p99 could you)

    Phil
     
  15. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    There you go:
     

    Attached Files:

    englandphil likes this.
  16. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    There you go:


    Thanks Idler, im looking for any info on Trooper John Cuncliffe, kia on D Day 6th June, if there is anything

    P
     
  17. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Phil, the RoH has him KIA on 10 June. The main event on that day was B Sqn & Recce Tp supporting an attack by 7 PARA and 11 PARA around Benouville. 4 Shermans, 2 Stuarts lost, 1 officer and 8 ORs killed, 1 officer and 2 ORs wounded.
    The above is consistent with CWGC, wonder what the WD has to say?
    Andrew
     
  18. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    The 7th Bn Parachute Regiment War Diary states the following. 11th Bn must be a typo as they didnt serve in Normandy

    10th June 1944
    Place: Le Hom
    0500 - "B" Coy area shelled for 30 mins - 2 ORs killed, 1 OR wounded.
    1025 - Pty of enemy at 119740 reported believed destroyed by bn mortar and MG fire.
    Place: Le Mesnil
    1535 to 1809 - Bn completed successful attack on enemy in woods between bn posn and LE MESNIL taking up final posn in LE MESNIL. Cas - wounded 1 officer Major NEAL, and 10 ORs. Estimated 30 enemy killed - 90 take prisoner. Appx II.

    Appendix II
    Wood Clearing Action Fought with Tank Support at LE MARIQUET

    On 10th June 1944 the battalion was in position at LE HOME 113737 i.e. at the SW corner of the DZ it had landed on four days earlier.

    Except for occasional shelling life was quiet. The seaborne personnel of the bn joined the airborne part in the position.

    At about 0930 hrs on the 10th the MMG and mortar pls in the area of rd and track junc 112729 reported parties of enemy on the DZ in the area 124735. These were at long range but considerable damage was done to them by mortar and MMG fire and the snipers (including myself, who claim one at 1,750 yds) had a real field day.

    It later transpired that these enemy had broken onto the DZ from BREVILLE 1374 and, after abortive attempts to cross the DZ itself, had made for the wood at LE MARIQUET 1273. Here their presence was particularly undesirable as they lay between the 5th and 3rd Para Bdes, which had not actually made contact at this stage. The flank bns of each Bde i.e. 13th at RANVILLE 1173 and Canadians at X rds 1372 would have been in danger of overreaching themselves if they had extended their positions to include these woods.

    The battalion was therefore ordered to sweep the woods and to clear the enemy out of them. It was thought that there was about a company of them in there.

    A sqn of 13/18 H (Sherman tks) was to support the attack and the bn (less C Coy, which was in a detached position covering Bde HQ in RANVILLE) was to do the job that afternoon.

    Time for planning was short and this planning was not made easier by the facts that:-
    (1) It was raining hard.
    (2) The tps in the area where I met the tank comd i.e the East end of wood 113745 (which had been the bn RV after the drop) insisted that there were two platoons of enemy forming up for attack at a distance of about fifty yards to the East. This supposition was based on the fact that snipers were in certain of the gliders on the DZ and small parties of enemy could be seen moving about amongst them. There appeared to be no real reason to assume that they were about to attack but the general atmosphere was not conductive to a careful reconnaissance or the typing up of details for a tank cum infantry attack.

    The plan was made however and was as follows:-

    Tanks would moved across the DZ and fire into each wood in turn and would indicate when they had finished firing by means of a smoke shell fired into the wood in question. The infantry would then enter and clear the wood.

    From the infantry point of view it was essential to maintain the momentum of the attack and so I ordered a very simple plan which catered for each wood in turn being swept and then mopped up by one company while the other company passed through the first and carried out the same manoeuvre in the next wood. The two companies were to leap frog thus on to the final objective. Advance Bn HQ was to always be just behind the leading company and Rear Bn HQ just behind the other one.

    The woods in question were:-
    W wood 122735
    X wood 124733
    Y wood 124631
    Z wood 133727

    After clearing Z wood the battalion was to secure rd junc 133726 and send out patrols to contact 3 Para Bde in the area X rds 1372.
    I detailed B Coy to clear woods W, Y and Z and A Coy to clear wood X and to secure the rd junc at 133726. The infantry start line was the East face of wood 118733 and the time of start was 1600 hrs.

    The attack started at the appointed hour but difficulty was experienced from the start in co-ordinating with the tanks. These latter came up in pairs and it was hard to know when they were all up as I understood that a sqn was being used but actually only six tanks appeared at any time. It was also very hard to know when they had finished firing because on only one occasion did I see a smoke shell fired and on several occasions there were tanks on fire which produced so much smoke themselves that it was difficult to see what was happening. All six tanks were eventually hit and burned out, this happened before the assault on Z wood was begun and the assault on this wood was carried out without tank support. Fortunately the wood was unoccupied and the support was not necessary.

    The clearing of W wood went without a hitch and several Germans were killed (Major Neale was wounded) and A Coy duly passed through and cleared X wood, where several more Germans were killed. Two of the tanks were ablaze at this stage. The remaining tanks then fired well into Y wood and A coy gave covering fire for B coy's approach to it.

    When B coy entered the West of Y wood a white flag was raised from the NE corner of it. The wood was thick and it was difficult to sort out the situation as, of course, B coy in the wood were not aware that the Germans were trying to surrender. About 40 were taken prisoner here and the sorting out of them delayed A Coy, who should have followed B coy closely into the wood in anticipation of the next stage.

    When I eventually got A coy on the move again I found that Rear Bn HQ had got ahead of Adv Bn HQ and was, in fact, at the East end of Y wood (which B coy had completely cleared) and I found my 2 i/c (Steele-Baume) busy marshalling a batch of about 40 more prisoners whom he appeared to have partially stripped.

    At this stage I modified the plan as the delay over the prisoners had caused a slowing of the momentum which I was anxious to avoid; I therefore ordered B Coy to sweep Z wood immediately and held A coy for ten minutes and then sent them off at best speed by the road to secure the rd junc. Adv Bn HQ went with A coy and Rear Bn HQ with B coy.

    The final stage was something of an anti-climax as there were no enemy either in Z wood or at the rd junc. 3rd Para Bde were in fact at the rd junc themselves and there I contacted an RE captain who was in command of a party found by 3rd Para Bde whose area was centred on the rd junc.

    Casualties suffered by the battalion were:-
    Killed Nil
    Wounded Nine (includes one officer (Major Neale))

    Field
    29 Jun 44.
    Signed R.G. Pine-Coffin.]
    Lieut.Col. Commanding 7th (L.I.) Bn The Parachute Regt.


    SOURCE: The 6th Airborne Division in Normandy
     
  19. Was'nt the big problem with DD tanks at Omaha that they were launched too for out[where the tides were stronger]?----The British DD tanks were launched much closer to the shore i think.

    Idler's post has as accurate information on that as any. Some historians or observers describe significant differences in wind, wave height, currents... between the beaches which is entirely believable. From my training in amphibious ops. wide variations are to be expected, even at points just a few kilometers apart. The British beaches are described as having a 800+ yard shoal, reef, or mud flat extending out from the tide line. That can create much different water conditions than where the bottom drops off at a steeper gradient.

    Whatever the reason the effect was none of the tanks arrived on Omaha beach in advance of the first wave of infantry/sappers to give them covering fire during the critical first ten minutes. Just one of a half dozen failures in fire support during the first sixty minutes at Omaha beach.
     
  20. ranville

    ranville Senior Member

    Idler's post has as accurate information on that as any. Some historians or observers describe significant differences in wind, wave height, currents... between the beaches which is entirely believable. From my training in amphibious ops. wide variations are to be expected, even at points just a few kilometers apart. The British beaches are described as having a 800+ yard shoal, reef, or mud flat extending out from the tide line. That can create much different water conditions than where the bottom drops off at a steeper gradient.

    Whatever the reason the effect was none of the tanks arrived on Omaha beach in advance of the first wave of infantry/sappers to give them covering fire during the critical first ten minutes. Just one of a half dozen failures in fire support during the first sixty minutes at Omaha beach.

    Thanks for that----Did'nt they launch the DD tanks at Omaha at 5000/6000 yards[despite the protests of the tank commanders], where as at Gold beach they launched at about 800 yards.?----I'm not nautical in any way but it strikes me as inherently more risky to launch further out because presumably the tides/winds are stronger and more unpredictable.[of course i may be missing the point of this thread altogether so,if i am, sorry!]
     

Share This Page