Utah Beach. D Day.

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Trux, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    THE TRANSPORTS.

    Task Force 125.

    APA Bayfield. Force Flagship.
    DD Forrest. Stand By Flagship.
    PT 199.

    Transdiv 5.
    APA 5 Barnett. Flagship.
    APA 33 Bayfield. (Also acting as Force Flagship).
    APA 13 Joseph T Dickman.
    LSI(L) Empire Gauntlet.

    Note that APA 33 Bayfield was acting as an attack transport, part of Transdiv 5, and also as Force Flagship, Naval Force ‘U’. This was not an ideal arrangement.

    APA 5 Barnett was Flagship Transdiv 5 and would return to the UK with the other APAs while APA33 remained off Utah Beach as Force Flagship, Naval Force ‘U’.

    APA = Auxiliary, Personnel, Assault.
    An auxiliary is a ship not designed or intended for fighting. In the Pacific in particular they did a lot of defensive fighting.
    Personnel is a troop transport.
    Assault is a ship equipped and trained for landing troops under combat conditions. Sometimes referred to as a Combat Loader or Attack Transport.

    Typically an APA would carry an infantry battalion and attached troops plus equipment, supplies and vehicles. On D Day they were not required to carry supplies and only a limited number of small vehicles (Jeeps and Weasels). It was not thought wise to have the APAs anchored longer than necessary off a hostile shore which was threatened by air attack and attack from surface craft and submarines.


    When writing about APAs in regard to Force ‘O’ at Omaha Beach Mike was uncertain as to whether LCVP were loaded at the rail and then lowered or lowered and then troops loaded using scrambling nets. The answer seems to be that both were used according to circumstances. I hope this is made clearer below.

    The following is based on a useful booklet, ‘Ship to Shore Movement,’ 1943.

    An APA is designed to transport assault troops and their equipment and disembark them on a hostile shore in the least possible time. Much of the following is devoted to rapid disembarkation.

    An APA normally carries a battalion of infantry plus supporting units. A division pf APA, TransDiv, normally carries an infantry regiment, plus supporting units and a proportion of divisional troops. Typically a Transdiv consisted of four APAs, two of which would carry the assault battalions and the remaining two the reserve battalions.’

    On approaching the Transport Area off the hostile shore all APAs would go to General Quarters. On arrival at the Transport Area APAs would go to Condition One Able for debarkation. In Condition One Able all boat stations were fully manned for debarkation and unloading. Transports would anchor or lie to under way in line parallel to the shore. Transports would lie to under way if the sea bed made it impracticable to anchor, or if sea conditions would cause the anchor to drag. Off Utah the first did not apply but there were reports of transports dragging anchors.

    On arrival at the designated point in the Transport Area the APAs will lower boats as quickly as possible. Craft will already be loaded with equipment and the troops will be assembled at their unit boat stations ready to embark. APAs have a Tannoy system to call troops to the correct station.

    The APAs of Force ‘U’ had multiple bank davits which were capable of lowering a fully loaded LCVP thus the craft could be loaded at the rail before lowering. Multiple bank davits allowed two or three craft to be carried on one set of davits. One craft would be already on the davit ready to be hoisted out to the rail for loading and then lowered. Two more craft were stacked inboard of the davits. When the first boat was clear the second could be attached to the falls of the davit and hoisted to the rail for loading. The third boat would follow in s similar manner.

    Boat loads were planned so that the first boats to be loaded and lowered would be for the first assault wave. When the complete wave was in the water they would be led by the boat wave commander to the Rendezvous Area where they would be formed up for the run in to shore. The other boats would follow in similar manner when ready.

    On most APAs there were some LCVP or other small craft such as LCS(S) and LCC which were not carried on davits but were stowed on the hatch covers. These would have to be lowered into the water using the ships cargo booms. These booms were not to be used for lowering loaded craft. As time did not normally allow these craft to be hoisted to the rail for loading they were loaded with troops using scrambling nets.

    Boats that were lowered by booms, together with any boats assigned from other ships, formed a boat circle. Usually boats would be lowered from both sides and so two circles were formed. These should be some 250 foot away from the ship and those on the port side circled counter clockwise while those on the starboard side circled clockwise. This meant that when they were called in to the APA for loading they would approach from the stern. Loaded craft would leave from the bows thus avoiding delays and collisions. Any larger craft, including the ships own LCMs and any other craft assigned, would form a circle to the stern of the ship and circle clockwise. Each circle will have an officer in charge to see that the circles are correctly formed and maintained and that signals received from the ship’s embarkation officer are promptly obeyed.

    APAs had five debarkation stations on each side. These had a number and a colour assigned to them. These numbers and colours were the same for all APAs so that craft from other ships could readily understand them. From the bow the numbers and colours were:
    Number 1. Starboard. Red.
    Number 2. Port. Red.
    Number 3. Starboard. White.
    Number 4. Port. White.
    Number 5. Starboard. Blue.
    Number 6. Port. Blue.
    Number 7. Starboard. Yellow.
    Number 8. Port. Yellow.
    Number 9. Starboard. Green.
    Number 10. Port. Green.
    Later in the Pacific APAs would have these numbers displayed in coloured squares painted on the ship’s hull. This was not done on D Day.

    The ship’s debarkation officer would be stationed on the bridge. He had a schedule showing the boat that is to be at a debarkation station at any time. He also kept a record of boats loaded and despatched. There would be an officer or petty officer at each debarkation station to keep the debarkation officer informed of progress. There was a telephone line to each debarkation station and to the signal position at the stern. When calling boats from a boat circle the debarkation officer would send instructions to the signal position and the signal party would send a signal to the boat that was required and the station to which it should proceed. The debarkation station would show a flag of the appropriate colour, or show a coloured light at night. The ship also had a powerful loud hailer.

    The debarkation officer had radio links to the boat group commander and the assistant boat group commander. These two officers would be in the rendezvous area forming the craft into waves.

    When troops had to disembark into craft which were in the water and not at the rail they used the scrambling nets which were hung at each debarkation station. The bottom end of the net was to be kept inside the craft so that if a man fell he would at least fall into the boat and not in to the water between the craft and the ship. Scrambling nets were also used by ship’s crew when required.

    LCMs or other craft carrying vehicles were called alongside and vehicles were lowered into them using the ship’s cargo booms. Vehicles were carried in the hold which was underneath the personnel decks. To access them the hold covers had to be removed and then the access hatches in the troop decks had to be removed, the troops bunk tiers being removed first. Vehicle crews were to be in the craft before the vehicle was lowered so that they could ensure correct handling and positioning.

    Marshalling troops to the correct debarkation station was a complicated process. Troops would be assembled into their correct boat groups, have their equipment checked and then, often for a long period, be called by Tannoy. There was not much space to spare in the accommodation area, in the passages or on the APAs deck so that it was important that routes be planned carefully and that troops should be called only when there was space near the boat davits. It was also important that troops be ready to move when called.

    Mike.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2020
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    THE TRANSPORTS PART 2.

    APA 33 Bayfield.

    While being converted to APA Bayfield had extra accommodation added to fit it as a stand by command ship.

    Bayfield.jpg

    Class C3-S-A2 APA.

    Commissioned November 1943.


    Ordered for US Maritime Commission but completed as US Navy APA with accommodation for use as stand by flagship.

    8,100 tons.
    492 foot long
    69 foot 6 inches beam.
    23 foot draught.

    2 X 5” DP guns.
    2 X twin 40mm.
    18 X 20mm.

    Crew,
    51 officers. 524 men.

    Flag.
    43 officers. 108 men.

    Troops.
    80 officers.
    1,146 men.

    12 LCVP
    4 LCM
    3 LCP(L).

    Flagship Force ‘U’. As such remained off Utah until 25June.

    As Flagship USS Bayfield carried the following staffs.
    Naval Commander, Force ‘U’ and staff.
    Commanding General US VII Corps and staff.
    Commanding General US 4 Division and staff.
    Air Representative (a Colonel USAAF) and staff.

    On D Day Bayfield carried the following.
    From the Landing Tables.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 3 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    771 men from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    1 man from Headquarters Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    1 man from Service Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    1 man from Cannon Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    12 men from Shore Fire Control Parties.
    8 men from 20 Field Artillery Battalion.
    46 men from Company ‘A’, 4 Engineer Combat Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    90 men from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    20 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from Headquarters 4 Division.
    M29 and 1 man from Headquarters 4 Division.


    APA 5 Barnett.

    USS Barnett was Flagship Transdiv 5

    Barnett.jpg

    Barnett was built in the UK, on Teeside, for Grace Line.

    AP 11 in 1940.
    APA 5 in 1943.

    Served at Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Sicily and Salerno before taking part in the Normandy landings.

    9,750 tons.
    486 foot long.
    64 foot wide.
    25 foot draught.
    15 knots.

    Crew,
    41 officers. 437 men.

    Troops.
    99 officers. 1392 men.

    Craft.
    27 LCVP.
    2 LCM.
    Control or Support craft could be carried inside the LCMs or on the hatches.

    Three triple davits each side of the superstructure.

    Armament.
    4 X 3” Dual Purpose guns.
    2 X twin 40mm guns.
    8 X .5” machine guns.
    The original 5” gun was replaced by 40mm guns.

    For the D Day landings USS Barnett was Flagship, Transdiv 5.


    From VII Corps Landing Table.
    USS Barnett was to land 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment on Uncle Red using small craft.

    M29 and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regimen
    M29 and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    712 men from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    5 men from Headquarters Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    1 man from Service Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    1 man from Cannon Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    13 men from Shore Fire Control Parties.
    144 men from Company ‘A’, 237 Engineer Combat Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    89 men from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    12 men from 29 Field Artillery Battalion.
    16 men from 65 Armoured Field Artillery Battalion.
    4 men from 70 Tank Battalion.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep with ¼ ton Trailer and 3 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep with ¼ ton Trailer and 3 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    20 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    16 men from Headquarters 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    74 men from Company ‘A’, 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    62 men from Company ‘C’, 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    8 men from Headquarters 1 Engineer Special Brigade.
    30 men from Joint Assault Signal Company.
    8 men from Headquarters 2 Naval Beach Battalion.
    89 men from Company ‘B’, 2 Naval Beach Battalion.
    11 men from 449 MP Company.
    10 men from Headquarters 1106 Engineer Group.


    From the ships log.
    D-1.
    1224. Underway from Torbay with 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment and other units embarked. Sailed in company with USS Dickman and SS Empire Gauntlet.
    1420. Took station in Convoy 2-1A.

    D Day.
    0226. Anchored in the Transport Area and commenced rail loading troops.
    0232. Commenced lowering boats.
    0233. All boats of first wave clear of the ships side.
    0300. All davits and hatches clear of boats. Unloading of equipment commenced as additional boats from Bayfield and the LSTs arrived in the assault area.
    0632. All personnel of the organised waves debarked and 9 priority vehicles unloaded.
    0639. Shifted berth.
    0735. First boats returned from the beach. Commenced hoisting boats and receiving casualties.
    1030. First LCT came alongside to receive remaining vehicles and troops.
    1048. HMS Fitch came alongside.
    1130. Second LCT came alongside to receive additional vehicles.
    1243. Completed unloading vehicles and troops.
    1251. USS Fitch departed.
    1430. Underway with Transport Division 5 less USS Bayfield, from the Transport Area for Portland.

    D+1.
    0119. Anchored Berth C2, Portland. Transferred 20 dead and 45 wounded.
    0459. Underway for Falmouth.
    1456. Moored at Buoy 3, Falmouth. Transferred remaining 49 wounded and 219 non casualty evacuees.


    Notes.
    At 0639 Barnett shifted berth because its anchor dragged and it was in danger of drifting into Bayfield. Barnett got underway twice during the landing to create shelter for returning LCVPs.

    114 casualties were taken on board. 10 were dead on arrival and a further ten died onboard.

    197 non casualty evacuees from the destroyer USS Corry were brought to Barnett by the destroyer USS Fitch.

    Barnett’s boats hit the beach between 30 seconds and 1 minute after H Hour. No boats were lost but LCVP 18 suffered indentations and perforations to the washboard. Two boat crew were killed.

    Four LCS accompanied the boat wave and fired 192 rockets in support. The LCS, first wave boats and the group commanders LCPLs all gave supporting fire.


    APA 13 Joseph T Dickman.

    Joseph T Dickman.jpg

    Joseph T Dickman was built as a cargo liner. Launched in 1921 she was operated by the United States Line as President Rooseveldt. Taken over by the USN she became AP 26 Joseph T Dickson before becoming APA 13. She was a veteran of Operation Torch and Operation Husky.

    13,500 tons.
    535 foot long.
    72 foot wide.
    31 foot draught.
    Speed 17 knots.

    Armament.
    4 X 3” guns.
    4 X 40mm AA guns.
    18 X 20mm guns.

    Crew.
    58 Officers.
    635 men.

    Troops.
    95 Officers.
    1960 men.


    From VII Corps Landing Table.
    USS Dickman was to land 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment on Uncle Red using small craft.

    M29 and 1 man from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    M29 and 1 man from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep and 1 man from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    743 men from 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    38 men from Headquarters Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    16 man from Service Company, 8 Infantry Regiment
    33 men from Anti Tank Company, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    33 men from Cannon Company, 8 Infantry Regiment.
    1 man from Medical Detachment, 8 Infantry Regiment
    13 men from Shore Fire Control Parties.
    135 men from Company ‘C’, 237 Engineer Combat Battalion.
    16 men from Headquarters 11 AAA Group
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    M29 and 1 man from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    91 men from 87 Chemical Battalion.
    12 men from 29 Field Artillery Battalion.
    8 men from 65 Armoured Field Artillery Battalion.
    4 men from 70 Tank Battalion.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep with ¼ ton Trailer and 3 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep with ¼ ton Trailer and 3 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    88 men from 81 AA/AT Battalion.
    8 men from Headquarters 1 Engineer Special Brigade.
    19 men from Headquarters 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    74 men from Company ‘F’, 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    62 men from Company ‘D’, 531 Engineer Shore Regiment.
    20 men from Joint Assault Signal Company.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    ¼ ton 4 X 4 Jeep from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    12 men from 22 Infantry Regiment.
    89 men from Company ‘C’, 2 Naval Beach Battalion.
    35 men from 449 MP Company.
    28 men from 33 Chemical Decontamination Company.
    100 men from 3207 Quartermaster Service Company.
    10 men from Headquarters 1106 Engineer Group.


    LSI(L) Empire Gauntlet.

    Empire Arquebus.jpg

    This is actually Arquebus

    One of the US Maritime Commission C1-S-AY1 Class of Landing Ship Infantry (Large) ordered by the British. At the time of D Day they were manned by Merchant Navy crews under Merchant Navy Captains.

    11,650 tons.
    417 ft long.
    14 knots.

    Craft.
    18 X LCA.
    2 X LCP(L)
    No LCM were carried on D Day.

    Craft were carried on similar davits to those on US ships.

    Armament.
    1 X 4” gun.
    1 X 12 pdr gun.
    12 X 20mm gun.


    From the Landing Table
    751 men from 3 Battalion, 22 Infantry Regiment.
    1 man from 1 Battalion, 22 Infantry.
    9 men from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 22 Infantry Regiment.
    31 men from Medical Detachment, 22 Infantry Regiment.
    12 men from Shore Fire Control Parties.
    7 men from Headquarters Battery, 44 Field Artillery Battalion.
    6 men from Battery ‘C’, 44 Field Artillery Battalion.
    45 men from Company ‘C’, 4 Engineer Combat Battalion.
    93 men from Company ‘D’, 87 Chemical Battalion.
    1 man from 746 Tank Battalion.

    No vehicles were carried.


    PT 199.
    A 78 foot Higgins Motor Torpedo Boat.

    From May to October 1944 PT 199 was with Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2 (MTBRon2). This was a small unit formed for special duty with the Office of Strategic Services, landing personnel and equipment in Occupied France.

    On D Day PT 199 was employed as a tender for USS Bayfield, Flagship Force 'U'.

    Mike
     
    Slipdigit, Bin There, stolpi and 3 others like this.
  3. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    LANDING SHIPS TANK.

    A simple distinction between ships and craft is that ships are deemed to be self sufficient and commanded by a capable navigator and can thus proceed independently. Craft should sail in groups commanded by a competent senior officer.

    LSTs.
    LST Flotilla 10.


    30 LST.

    Group 29.
    LST 47, 48, 230, 281, 282, 501,
    49, 50, 283, 284, 491, 492.

    Group 32.
    LST 46 (Flag), 58, 294, 351, 509, 515.
    57, 290, 499, 500, 508, 539.
    311, 346, 371, 380, 382, 400.

    LST plan.jpg

    The Landing Ship Tank Mark 2 had a displacement of 3,700 tons, was 328 foot long, fifty foot wide and drawing only 3 foot of water at the bows when beaching. There were two decks. The Tank Deck could carry the heaviest tanks in service while the Main Deck was limited to a weight of 10 tons. There were bow doors which opened and a ramp which when raised formed a watertight door and when lowered could rest on the shore. Access to the Main Deck was via a lift situated at the bow. This could lift 10 tons, took 56 seconds to raise and 52 seconds to lower. This made unloading the Main Deck a slow process. Later types were equipped with a ramp which speeded up the discharge of vehicles from the Main Deck. Accommodation was provided for 12 officers and 165 men in addition to the ship’s crew. Catering and medical facilities were provided. Top speed was 10 knots. Two propellers and two rudders made the LST manoeuvrable at low speed for beaching. A kedge anchor was provided so that the LST could winch itself of a beach, and also keep itself correctly positioned.

    Correct loading was essential and was the result of much planning. The regimental staff, prepared detailed stowage plans in conjunction with unit Commanding Officers. Scale cardboard cut outs of vehicles were fitted onto a scale deck drawing to ensure the plan was workable. A loading plan was then made. This showed the position of each tank and vehicle together with its unit and priority. The plan was then submitted to the Senior Officer Assault Group and the commanding officer of the LST.

    Vehicles arrived at the LST in serial order and the Upper Deck was be loaded first. These vehicles drove forwards onto the lift and then turned round when they were on deck (the last vehicles had to reverse as no room to turn remained). Vehicle reversed into the Tank Deck. Vehicles were secured by chocks and lashings.

    Landing.
    On approaching the shore the following were standard procedures:
    Troops should have a hot meal two hours before landing.
    All vehicle engines should be turned over to ensure that they will start. If any are out of commission arrangements will be made to clear it out of the way or to tow it ashore.
    Ventilators on the Tank Deck will be checked.
    Fuel in the vehicles will be topped up.
    Chocks and lashings will be removed. Hand brakes will be on and vehicles in gear.
    15 to 30 minutes before landing ventilation fans will be started and checked. Engines will be warmed up.
    Vehicle crews will mount their vehicles.

    The standard method of landing was a straightforward beaching in which LST arrived on a rising tide, preferably just before high water, and unloaded as rapidly as possible. The D Day timetable did not meet this ideal. In any case the slope of the Normandy beaches was too shallow for normal beaching and it was intended that LSTs would unload using Rhino Ferries. These were 175 foot long, 43 foot wide and 5 foot deep, with a ramp at the bow. They were powered by a separate tug of similar construction with two 160 horse power outboard motors. There was sufficient deck space to allow an LST to unload in two trips.

    A Rhino Ferry was towed behind the LST. On arrival at the unloading point the ferry moved to the bows of the LST. A centre line was passed to the LST and the ferry reversed towards the LST ramp. The LST doors were opened and the ramp lowered to 6 foot above the water. The ferry was then winched up to the LST ramp using the centre line. Side lines then secured the ferry to the LST and the ramp was lowered to the ferry deck. Vehicles could then drive directly on to the ferry, which headed to the shore under its own power when loaded. On arrival at the beach the vehicles could drive straight down the fixed centre ramp into 1½ foot of water. While the ferry was away the vehicles on the Upper Deck could be lowered to the Tank Deck so as to be ready to board the ferry on its return. This meant that the order was reversed as the first vehicles to be lowered from the bow of the Upper Deck must reverse to the rear of the Tank Deck.

    Although it was not thought wise to do so in the early stages of the landings because of the threat of enemy action it was soon found that the beaches were suitable for LSTs to beach and dry out. They then had to wait for the tide to go out and in again before refloating. These LST could unload in the normal way through the bow doors and down the ramp. Once it was certain that vehicles would be landing onto dry sand the standard procedure was to remove as much waterproofing as possible while waiting to unload thus saving time once ashore. The delay caused in drying out did not matter much in the later stages since return convoys only sailed once a day.

    All LSTs could carry casualties but a number were modified for casualty evacuation from the beaches. Three tier stretcher racks were fitted down both sides of the Tank Deck. These could be folded against the sides and did not reduce the vehicle space. 120 stretchers could be carried on the racks. Eighty more stretchers could be carried on the floor and walking wounded could also be carried. A steriliser and sink, with water laid on, were fitted on the rear bulkhead of the Tank Deck. Special lighting and fittings for curtains were provided so that the rear part of the Tank Deck could be used as an emergency operating theatre.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    LANDING CRAFT.

    Landing Craft Infantry (Large).


    LCI(L) Flotilla 11.
    2 X LCH*, 28 LCI(L).

    Group 30.
    LCI(L) 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324,
    95*, 96, 325, 326, 349, 350.

    Group 32.
    LCI(L) 419, 513,514,515,516, 517,
    521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 526.

    Group 33.
    LCI(L) 527, 528, 529, 530*, 551, 552.


    LCI(L) Flotilla 2.
    19 LCI(L).

    Group 5.
    LCI(L) 10, 11, 209, 217. 218, 219,
    229, 232, 3, 4, 5, 8,
    211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 231.

    The Landing Craft Infantry (Large) was mass produced in the US. The original requirement was for a craft that could carry 200 men under cover and provide a hot meal. It was not envisaged that troops would be on board for more than 48 hours.

    The LCI(L) was 158 foot 6 inches long and 23 foot 3 inches wide. The draught at the bow was 2 foot 8 inches. Crew was 3 officers and 23 men. Troop accommodation was for 6 officers and 182 men. Propulsion was by eight diesel truck engines powering twin propellers. This gave a speed of 16 knots and twin propellers made for good manoeuvrability. Armament was four 20mm guns.

    Landing was by foot ramps at the bows. On a steeply sloping shore it was possible for troops to land reasonably dry but on the Normandy beaches the nearly three foot draught plus waves made for a wet landing. Since men were carrying heavy loads landing could be difficult. If possible troops could be landed using LCVP or other craft to ferry troops ashore but eventually pontoon causeways allowed dry landings for personnel.

    In the Build Up stage of the landings LCI(L) were generally used to accompany groups of LCTs and carry personnel from the unit(s) whose vehicles were being carried, or they were used by the far shore Ferry Service to unload troop transports.

    LCI(L) were also used with minor modifications as headquarters craft.

    LCI(L) plan.jpg



    LCT(5) and LCT(6).

    LCT Flotilla 4.
    18 LCT(5). 18 LCT(6). All over Pennant No 500 should be LCT(6).

    Group 10.
    LCT 447,456, 457,458, 459, 497,
    443, 474, 475, 486, 489, 495.

    Group 11.
    LCT 3, 362, 476, 492, 510, 511,
    522, 524, 527, 528, 529, 530.

    Group 12.
    LCT 525, 526, 531, 532, 533, 534,
    515, 516, 517, 518, 519, 520.


    LCT Flotilla 17.
    35 LCT(6).

    Group 49.
    LCT 580, 581, 583,584, 585
    592, 593, 594, 595, 596, 597.

    Group 50.
    LCT 620, 621, 622, 763, 764, 765,
    663, 766, 777, 809, 810, 811.

    Group 51.
    LCT 812, 851, 852, 853, 854, 855,
    664, 709, 710, 778, 779, 780.

    The following LCT(5) were operated by the Royal Navy.

    LCT ‘C’ Squadron. RN.
    45 LCT(5).

    104 Flotilla.
    LCT 2002, 2045, 2046, 2055, 2130, 2131, 2189, 2194, 2226, 2261, 2272, 2303, 2331, 2440, 3628.

    107 Flotilla.
    LCT 2011, 2056, 2057, 2073, 2074, 2304, 2427, 2053, 2186, 2235, 2269, 2292, 2302, 2477, 2485.

    110 Flotilla.
    LCT 2004, 2040, 2135, 2138, 2188, 2498, 3627, 2363, 2421, 2423, 2424, 2429, 2437, 2483, 2484.

    All the LCT of the assault groups were LCT(5) or LCT(6). Both were designed to be broken into three sections, bow, centre and stern, for transport on LSTs or cargo vessels for long Pacific journeys. On arrival they were to be launched in sections, re assembled and used for the ship to shore movement of vehicles, supplies and personnel. On D Day of course they crossed the Channel under their own power.

    The LCT(6) was designed with doors at the rear as well as a ramp at the front so that vehicles could drive straight through. They were also designed to reverse up to the bow ramp of an LST and moor so that vehicles could drive straight on to the craft. This proved both difficult and unnecessary on the Normandy beaches since LSTs were able to beach and dry out for unloading.

    The LCT(5) was adapted to accept vehicles from an LST by having a section of the side bulwarks made so that they could be removed. The craft manoeuvred and moored so that it was broadside to the LST ramp. Vehicles could then drive from the LST onto the craft’s deck and then manoeuvre so that they were facing forward. In the event this feature was not used.

    Both types of LCT were used more for carrying vehicles from MT ships and coasters to shore than for unloading LSTs. They were also useful for carrying supplies and personnel. There was always a danger that they would be stranded on the shallow slopes of the Normandy beach on a falling tide so it was standard practice to drop a stern anchor when approaching the beach so that it could winch itself off if necessary.

    LCT5 plan.jpg
    LCT(5).
    134 tons.
    114 foot long.
    11 crew.
    8 Knots.
    2 X 20mm.
    4 X .5”

    LCT6-plan.gif
    LCT(6).
    143 tons.
    119 foot long.
    13 crew.
    8 knots.
    2 X 20mm
    4 X .5”

    LCT(4)
    The following British LCT(4) were part of Force 'U'.

    LCT ‘G’ Squadron. RN.
    36 LCT(4).

    44 Flotilla.
    LCT 651, 753, 755, 756, 800, 758, 954, 965, 966, 967, 969, 970.

    50 Flotilla.
    LCT 645, 691, 794, 797, 801, 824, 833, 836, 920, 956, 974, 975.

    52 Flotilla.
    LCT 512, 646, 793, 795, 798, 799, 822, 837, 1050, 977, 996, 997.

    LCT4 plan.jpg

    LCT(4) was a British design and a development of the earlier versions. The design incorporated the following:
    Improvements based on experience gained in the operation of earlier marks.
    A design which did not need to be built in traditional shipyards but could be produced by a variety of industrial concerns.
    A reduced draught forward to allow for use on the gently sloping Normandy beaches.

    The LCT 4 was shorter and wider than previous versions. Length was 187 foot 3 inches and width was 38 foot 8 inches. Draught at the bows was only three foot with a full load of tanks and less with other loads. The tank deck was 93 foot by 26 foot and could carry any of the following (or a mixture):

    Six 40 ton tanks (Churchill)
    Nine 30 ton tanks (Sherman or Cromwell)
    Twelve loaded 3 ton GS lorries
    350 tons of cargo

    Positioning the craft on the approach to a beach in cross winds and currents was aided by twin engines, twin screws and twin rudders. Holding a position on the beach and retraction from the beach was helped by a kedge anchor at the stern.

    The front ramp was operated by a hand winch, although lowering only required the winch brake to be released. There was a hinged, forward folding and armoured door near the bow. Armour was added to key positions including the wheelhouse, winch position and kedge anchor position and gun positions. Some 800 were built.

    Mike
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    MINOR CRAFT.



    LCVP.
    Landing Craft Vehicle and personnel.

    LCVP plan.jpg

    The LCVP was a good general purpose craft. Its primary role was to land assault infantry on a beach but it could carry small vehicles or equipment and supplies. It was used as a general workboat and was particularly useful for casualty evacuation since it could be hoisted aboard a transport while carrying seven litters or a larger number of walking wounded.

    The LCVP could carry 36 personnel although generally less in an assault wave, a jeep or 8,000 lbs of supplies. It was of wooden construction but the hull sides and the bow ramp were armoured. The helmsman’s position was alongside the engine, and his forward view was limited. Usually one crew member was stationed near the bow from where he could look forward, signal to the helmsman and be ready to unlock the ramp. The ramp was operated from the helmsman position.

    The LCVP had a single engine, single propeller and single rudder which made it less manoeuvrable than an LCA but it made up for it in power. In the early waves of landing it was usual for the craft to be formed into line abreast at the Start Line but when some 1000 yards from the beach each craft would go at full speed and drive itself up onto the beach. On a rising tide and with its powerful engine there was normally no problem reversing off. A nudge from a bulldozer was the simple answer to a stranded craft. Kedge anchors were carried but do not seem to have been used in the assault.

    A disadvantage of the LCVP design was that once the ramp was lowered the enemy could fire straight into the craft. The advice was to exit over the sides in this case but with full equipment that would not be easy.

    In the assault LCVP carried two .3” machine guns in ring mounts. These were used to give covering fire on the final approach to the beach and while on the beach. The craft were not to remain to give further cover however. They were needed for other work and the beach was to be kept clear for incoming craft.

    36 foot long.
    10 foot 5 inches beam.
    26 inches draught.
    Various diesel or petrol engines. For assault craft diesel was preferred since it was less of a fire risk.


    LCA.
    Landing Craft Assault.

    LCA plan.jpg

    The Landing Craft Assault was specifically designed to carry assault infantry from ship to shore, unlike the US LCVP which could carry personnel, vehicles and cargo, and act as a general run about. They were designed to carry an infantry platoon and was well designed for its task of landing troops under fire. It had a shallow draught at the bow so that troops could land dry shod. It was manoeuvrable, having twin Ford petrol engines, twin propellers and twin rudders. Construction was of hardwood planking with armour over the personnel and engine areas. The troops had seats down each side under the decking and a row of seats down the centre. There was a ramp at the front and armoured doors protecting the troop area. The ramp had rollers at the top. These rested on the shore when the ramp was lowered and allowed the craft to move forward with the tide without raising the ramp. There were armoured shelters near the bows for the coxswain and Bren gunner.


    Landing Craft Support.
    In addition to the personnel carrying craft the transports carried Landing Craft Support. In the case of the US APAs and APs these were Landing Craft Support (Small). On the British LSI(L)s they were Landing Craft Support (Medium) although both were much the same size and had the same function. Both were to accompany landing craft all the way to the beach and give fire support. They were even capable of beaching if necessary.

    LCS(S).
    Landing Craft Support(Small).

    IMG_20200209_0002.jpg

    These were based on the LCP(L). They were 36 foot long and had armour on the pilot house. Armament varied but was usually two .5” machine guns or one .5” and two .3” machine guns. Eight MkIII smoke pots were also fitted at the stern. The crew was six and there was space for four extra personnel. The extra personnel seem to have been gunners. Rocket racks were carried alongside the pilot house and could be fired in salvos of six rockets at a time. These were intended to make the enemy keep their heads down in the final approach when naval gunfire, air bombing and rockets from LCT(R) had ceased. After leading the first waves of craft to the beach and standing by to give fire support they reported to the PC control craft and acted as guides or despatch boats.


    LCS(M).
    Landing Craft Support (Medium).
    The British LSI carried larger Landing Craft Support than did the US APAs. They were based on the LCA but had a pointed bow. They were 40 foot long, 10 foot beam and had a shallow draught of 23 inches. A crew of eleven was carried. The control position amidships was armoured and had a turret with twin .5” machine guns. A 4” mortar was mounted in a well near the bows. This could fire smoke or gas shells, although the latter were not carried on D Day.



    LCM Mk3.
    Landing Craft Medium.

    LCM3 plan.jpg

    The US LCM Mk3 had an all welded steel hull. Length was 50 foot and width 14 foot. Draught was 36 inches at the bow. Power came from two 225hp diesel engines. A crew of six was carried. Armour was limited to the control station.

    The LCM Mk3 was a stable craft. It was designed with a vehicle, or cargo, well which was at or below water level and very close to the hull bottom. The front of the well sloped upwards so that water would not enter the well. This did present a problem in that vehicles had to climb from a standing start which could cause stalling if drivers were under stress. However the LCM Mk3 was not normally used for the landing of tanks in the assault phase, and rarely used for carrying tanks at all. A Sherman tank was on the weight limit and there was very little space between tank and sides when exiting the craft.

    LCM Mk3 was carried on the decks of APAs and needed a jumbo boom to lift and lower it. On D Day the number of LCM that could be carried was limited by the fact that APAs had only one such boom which was positioned aft. Later a second boom would be added so that LCM could be carried forward as well.


    LCC
    Landing Craft Control.

    IMG_20200209_0008.jpg

    Landing Craft Control were an essential craft in controlling the flow of craft to the beach. They were used to lead in waves of craft, to mark and control the line of departure, to control the flow of craft to and from the beach and when they had completed these tasks they assisted with hydrographic survey work.

    LCC were well equipped with:
    Gyro Compass.
    SO Radar. A surface search radar developed for small craft. Range 15 to 20 miles.
    NK 2 Echo sounder.
    NJ 8 Echo sounder.
    Gyro repeater.
    Odograph. Plots the course and distance travelled.
    OBG Underwater sound receiver.
    ZB/RU Radio Direction Finder.
    Two TCS transmitter/receiver.
    Two SCR 610 FM transmitter/receiver.
    Plus an array of aerials.

    All of this equipment allowed the LCC to precisely locate the start line, keep watch on the craft before they arrived at the start line and after they had left it. The radio equipment kept the LCC in contact with the headquarters ship, with larger control craft and with boat wave commanders.

    Crew was fourteen and three twin .5” machine guns were carried in gun tubs.

    Mike.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
    Dave55, mwesseling, Bin There and 4 others like this.
  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    BOMBARDMENT FORCE 'A'.

    Bombardment Force ‘A’ sailed from the Clyde and Belfast on D-1 and proceeded at speed, the best defence against U boats. It was to use Fast Channel 1 and arrive off Utah Beach in the early hours of D Day. When the operation was postponed the Bombarding Force did not return to the Clyde or put into any anchorage en route. It remained at sea and kept moving. The battleships and cruisers could cope comfortably with the stormy conditions.

    Bombardment Force ‘A’ consisted of:
    Battleship USS Nevada.
    Monitor HMS Erebus.
    Heavy Cruisers USS Tuscaloosa (Flagship) and USS Quincy.
    AA Cruiser HMS Black Prince.
    Light Cruisers HMS Hawkins and HMS Enterprise.
    Gunboat HNLMS Soemba.

    Erebus and Soemba did not sail from the Clyde but joined the force en route.

    Destroyers of the bombarding force were berthed at Portland.

    Most of the bombarding ships were either old or in need of repair and/or refitting. Nevada, Erebus, Hawkins and Enterprise were old. Black Prince had been worked hard in the Mediterranean and was repaired and refitted after D Day. The US destroyers were not exactly old but were not of the latest designs. Tuscaloosa was 10 years old, had been hard worked and was due for a refit. Quincy was a new ship.


    USS Nevada. BB 36.

    Uss_nevada.jpg


    Nevada was a WWI battleship, commissioned in 1916. She was at Pearl Harbour and was the only battleship to get under way when the Japanese attacked. She was hit by one torpedo and several bombs and had to be beached. She was salvaged and modernised and then used for shore bombardment work.

    30,500 tons.
    583 foot in length.
    Speed 20.5 knots. (as designed).

    After rebuilding Nevada had
    10 X 14” guns in two triple and two double turrets. Range 20 miles.
    16 X 5” dual purpose guns in eight twin turrets.
    32 X 40 mm guns in eight quadruple mounts.
    40 X 20mm guns (by 1945).


    HMS Erebus.

    Erebus.jpg

    Shore bombardment was what Erebus was designed for. A stable, shallow draught gun platform to support operations on land. She was commissioned in 1916.

    405 foot long.
    Speed 12 knots.

    2 X 15” guns in a twin turret. Range 22 miles.
    8 X 4” guns.
    2 X 12pdr AA guns.
    2 X 3” AA guns.


    USS Tuscaloosa. CA 37.
    Flagship Bombarding Force ‘A’.

    Tuscaloosa.jpg

    USS Tuscaloosa was an Astoria class heavy cruiser launched in 1933. Tuscaloosa, and the rest of her class, were originally designated light cruisers. Until the Washington Naval Treaty there was no standard specification for light and heavy cruisers. The Treaty made 8” gun cruisers heavy and 6” gun cruisers light.

    9975 tons.
    588 foot long.
    Speed 32.7 knots.

    Armament.
    9 X 8” guns in three triple turrets.
    8 X 5” AA guns in single mounts.

    During WWII light AA guns were added until she carried
    24 X 40mm in six quadruple mounts.
    28 X 20mm.


    USS Quincy. CA 39.

    USS_Quincy_(CA-71)_underway_in_the_Pacific_Ocean_1952-54.jpg

    USS Quincy was a wartime construction, launched in 1943. Originally to be called St. Paul she was renamed in honour of the Astoria Class cruiser named Quincy sunk in 1942.

    A Baltimore class heavy cruiser.
    13,600 tons.
    675 foot long.
    Speed 33 knots.

    Armament:
    9 X 8” guns in three triple turrets.
    12 X 5” guns in twin dual purpose turrets.
    48 X 40mm AA guns.
    24 X 20mm AA guns.


    HMS Hawkins.

    Photo06clHawkins1NP.jpg

    HMS Hawkins had a chequered career, Launched in 1917 she was decommissioned and placed in reserve in 1930. She was commissioned again in 1932. Decommissioned a second time in 1935 she had her armament removed in 1937. She was rearmed and re commissioned on the outbreak of WWII.

    9750 tons.
    605 foot long.
    Speed 30 knots.

    Armament:
    7 X 7.5” guns in single mounts.
    4 X 12 pdr AA guns.


    HMS Enterprise.

    Enterprise.jpg

    HMS Enterprise was one of the two Emerald Class light cruisers. Laid down during WWI she was launched in 1919. Since there was no urgent need for more warships she was not actually completed until 1926. She was experimentally fitted with a twin 6” turret forward and this was retained throughout her career.

    7580 tons,
    570 foot long.
    Speed 33 knots.

    Armament 7 X 6” guns. One twin and five single.
    3 X 4” AA guns.


    HMS Black Prince

    HMS_Black_Prince_1944_IWM_FL_2239.jpg

    HMS Black Prince was a Dido Class anti aircraft cruiser.

    5950 tons.
    512 foot long.
    Speed 32 knots.

    Armament:
    8 X 5.25” dual purpose guns in twin turrets.
    6 X 20mm guns.
    3 X 2pdr guns.


    HNLMS Soemba.

    Soemba.jpg

    HNLMS Soemba was commissioned in 1926 for use in the Dutch East Indies.

    1480 tons.
    248 foot long.
    Speed 15 knots.

    Armament:
    3 X 5.9” guns.
    1 X 75mm gun.
    6 X 20mm guns.

    Soemba provided a very useful amount of fire power in a small craft capable of operating close inshore.


    The Destroyers.

    Eight destroyers in two Desdivs were assigned to bombardment duty.
    Each Desdiv (Destroyer Division) had four Gleaves Class destroyers.

    Desdiv 20.
    USS Forrest. DD 461
    USS Fitch. DD 462.
    USS Corry. DD 463
    USS Hobson. DD 464

    Desdiv 34.
    USS Butler. DD 636
    USS Gherardi. DD637
    USS Herndon. DD 638
    USS Shubrick. DD 639

    1,630 tons.
    348 foot long.
    36 foot beam.
    11 foot 10 inches draft.
    37.4 knots.

    Complement.
    16 officers.
    260 enlisted men.

    Armament.
    Early type.
    4 X 5” Dual Purpose guns.
    6 X 20mm
    6 X .5”
    10 X 21” Torpedo Tubes.

    Late Type.
    4 X 5” Dual Purpose guns.
    4 X 40mm
    4 X 20mm
    5 X 21” Torpedo Tubes.

    The destroyers were very useful in the support role. They could move close in shore to observe targets and the fall of shot if necessary. They could respond to calls for supporting fire from the Forward Observers Bombardment on shore and maintain a high rate of fire. They did not have the heavy shells as used by the larger ships but for engaging pillboxes, bunkers and troops they were perfectly adequate. In fact the larger ships often used their secondary armaments for such fire support roles, keeping the big guns for counter battery work. The large guns found on battleships had a limited bore life.

    Mike
     
  7. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    SUPPORT CRAFT.

    The following Support Craft were part of Naval Force 'U'. All were Royal Navy.
    4 Landing Craft Flak.
    LCF 18, 22, 27, 31.

    4 Landing Craft Gun (Large).
    LCG(L) 5, 6, 7, 893.

    5 Landing Craft Tank (Rocket).
    LCT(R) 368, 425, 459, 448, 481.

    8 Landing Craft Tank (Armoured).
    LCT(A) 2282, 2301, 2309, 2310, 2402, 2454, 2478, 2488.
    All eight were armoured. No LCT(HE) were used.

    14 Landing Craft LCP(L). Smoke.


    Landing Craft Tank (Rocket).
    LCT(R) 368, 425, 459, 448, 481.

    Standard operating procedures were developed for use on all the Normandy beaches. Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) followed the assault waves and fired rockets at an area of beach defence 1400 yards long and 300 yards deep. Three craft fired at H-10 minutes and the remaining two fired at H-4 minutes. There was no fire on the beach after H Hour since by then there would be troops landing on the beach and the rockets were not accurate enough or versatile enough to be used in close support roles.

    Rocket launchers could not be aimed or trained so that the LCT had to be aimed and be positioned exactly 3,500 yards from the target area. Thus their position in the approach formations was important.

    Landing Craft Tank, Rocket were conversions of LCT3. Modifications included blast screens protecting the bridge and upper works, radar and other navigation equipment on a lattice tower mast and banks of rocket projectors. Either 1,080 projectors MkI or 936 projectors MkII could be carried in sets of six. These fired a series of 24 rocket salvos in rapid succession. Each rocket carried a 29lb warhead. Launchers could not be aimed or trained so that the LCT had to be aimed and be positioned exactly 3,500 yards from the target area.

    Reloading took some four hours. They remained available to fire on targets within range and did so on occasion under the control of Forward Observers Bombardment.


    Landing Craft Gun (Large).
    LCG(L) 5,6,7 and 893.

    LCG plan.jpg

    The LCG(L)s fired on beach defences from H-45 minutes to H-15 minutes. At H-15 minutes the craft engaged targets on the flanks until H+30 minutes when they were at the call of Forward Observers Bombardment.

    LCG(L) were LCT Mk3 converted to carry the same 4.7” guns as used on destroyers, although there were only two guns per craft. The crew was two officers and 13 men plus one Royal Marine officer and 22 gunners. They were to provide direct fire against beach defences from much closer inshore than destroyers could provide. It was intended that LCG should remain out of range of enemy mortar fire because of the large quantity of ammunition carried above the water line.


    Landing Craft Flak.
    LCF 18, 22, 27, 31.

    LCF4 plan.jpg

    Landing Craft Flak were conversions of LCTs. The tank deck was decked over to provide crew accommodation and ammunition, and light AA weapons were fitted. They were designed to give protection against low level air attacks for landing craft on the approach to the beach and for troops on the beach. Secondary functions were to protect landing craft from seaborne attack on the approach to the beach and to engage enemy beach defences with direct fire. After the landing they were to provide seaborne anti aircraft protection for the transport areas.

    All LCF used on D Day were converted from LCT(4)s and carried four 2 pdr pompoms and eight 20mm. Two Royal Marine officers and forty eight Royal Marine gunners were carried in addition to the crew of two officers and 10 ratings.


    Landing Craft Personnel (Large) Smoke.
    These were Landing Craft Personnel (Large) fitted with smoke generators to lay smoke screens if required. Six of these craft accompanied the Landing Craft Tank carrying DD tanks in order to lay smoke screens if they came under fire from shore batteries and beach defences. They then accompanied the DD tanks in the run in to the beach in order to lay smoke if required and to act as escort and rescue craft. They were not required in this primary role on D Day. The first groups of craft to approach the shore were accompanied by four LCP(L) to lay smoke if required. Again they were not required. Six LCI(L) Smoke were assigned to lay smoke on the right (western) flank to protect bombardment destroyers from shore batteries. Other LCI(L) were assigned to provide smoke cover if necessary for the bombarding cruisers and battleship Nevada, and for the transport area. No smoke was called for on D Day.

    The LCP(L)s remained off the beaches for some weeks. Some joined the defence screen and these would be available to lay a smoke screen at dawn and dusk or as required. Other craft were assigned to the Naval Officer in Charge for use as workboats.

    LCP(L) used for smoke were fitted with two sets of low pressure CSA smoke generators and two racks of four No24 smoke generators. The No 24 generator was a standard type, some 18 inches high and 9 inches diameter. Weight was about 40 lb. It came in a tin with a lid. The lid was removed and an electrical fuse was inserted. The electric fuse was wired to a battery and could be used to wire generators in series so that a continuous smoke screen was produced. Once it had started to burn each generator produced a thick smoke for some twenty minutes. The CSA generator was used until the No 24 generator became fully effective. It worked by mixing two liquid chemicals which immediately formed a mist. The smoke was effective but unpleasant and the chemicals rather dangerous to handle. Smoke floats were also carried.

    LCT(A).
    LCT(A) are described elsewhere with accounts of 70 Tank Battalion.

    The LCT(A) had some armoured protection for the crew since they would operate in the first waves of craft. They had ramps at the bows for two Sherman M4 tanks fitted with deep wading gear and a Sherman dozer. They were to provide close support on the approach and on the beach. They were also to make gaps in the sea wall with their 75mm guns.

    Mike
     
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    THE CROSSING.

    Force ‘U’ was always going to have the most difficult task for a variety of reasons.

    While other naval forces had the advantage of a large port and a sheltered anchorage Force ‘U’ had to use nine separate loading ports.

    Most of the convoys had to assemble sections from three or four different ports.

    The different groups had to rendezvous and form convoys at sea.

    Escorts often had to sail from different ports to their convoys and again rendezvous at sea.

    Force ‘U’ was the last to be formed and the craft were often the last to arrive in England. This meant that they had not had the same amount of training as other forces and the crews were not used to the difficult conditions of tide and weather found in the Channel.

    Force ‘U’ had the greatest distance to travel from its embarkation ports to the Normandy Coast. The distance was shortened somewhat by providing a swept channel from Portland Bill to the entrance to swept channels 1 and 2 through the German minefields. This by passed Area Z which was the area south of the Isle of Wight through which the other naval forces passed in order to locate the craft marking the entrances to the correct channels. This placed an extra problem of navigation on Force ‘U’.

    On the day it was to be the weather which presented the greatest difficulty. Of course the weather was much the same for all the forces crossing the Channel but Force ‘U’ had to contend with it for longer than other forces, having a greater distance to cover. Convoy U2A had the most difficult time of all. This was a large convoy which included 128 LCT.

    The first convoys of Force ‘U’ sailed from their assembly points on June 3. They sailed along the swept channel from Portland and made good progress with the strong westerly wind no doubt helping. When it was decided to postpone the operation convoys already at sea were ordered to return to sheltered anchorages. The possibility of postponement had been arrangements made.

    Convoy U2A had got ahead of its planned position and missed the postponement signal sent at 0515 on June 4. At 0900, four hours later, they were still headed south and were 25 miles into the Channel crossing. Two destroyers were sent to intercept them and at 0948 it was reported that they had turned northward. The convoy had a difficult time battling against high winds and choppy seas before it reached Weymouth Bay where it was to anchor. When it reached Weymouth Bay it had to refuel and prepare for a sailing only a few hours after it had arrived. It was after midnight and into June 5 when the last craft were safely at anchorage and they would be setting off later that day. Some of the officers had been on duty on the bridge of their vessels for some 70 hours by the time they completed the operation.

    One LCT which had broken down sank off Portland at 2300 on June. No casualties were reported. It was however reported that she had been carrying twelve vehicles and seventy men instead of the eleven vehicles and fifty five men on the loading table. This overloading seems to have been common despite reminders and warnings that it could affect stability and the draught of the vehicle, which would lead to it beaching in deeper water than intended and the consequent drowning of vehicles leaving the craft. Seven LCTs failed to arrive on the far shore having broken down or suffering damage which caused them to return to port.

    The thread on Omaha Beach contains accounts of the problems encountered by LCTs in the crossing. The dangers of high seas and strong winds are fairly obvious but problems encountered were many and various. Strong tidal currents and heavy seas affected different craft in different ways. A following tide and wind will make craft move more speedily since the speed of the current should be added to the indicated speed of the craft. Inexperienced crews may not fully appreciate this and make adjustments. A following wind and swell can cause waves to break over the stern of craft. Many craft suffered engine breakdown when the engine room flooded. The LCT(6) was in particular danger since it had a through vehicle deck and the bridge and superstructure to the side. This meant that waves could break over the rear doors and flood the vehicle deck. LCT(5)s were modified by making the bulwarks removable to allow the side loading of vehicles from LSTs. In some cases these gave way and allowed the vehicle deck to flood. If nothing worse happened there remained the problem of tide and wind from the side when craft were heading south across the Channel. These could push the craft of course by as much as forty degrees. The helmsman needed to be aware of this and constantly correct the drift.

    A factor affecting all the naval forces was that neither naval nor army planners had seriously considered the possibility of a crossing and landing in bad weather. The army in particular considered that fine weather and calm seas would be essential and certainly bad weather had played no part in the detailed planning and training.

    There were some advantages in sailing in bad weather. It had been a constant worry that the massive assembly, sailing and crossing would be spotted by the enemy who would then be able to prepare to oppose it. In the event the bad weather prevented the detection of the assault forces. Indeed enemy meteorological officers considered that no invasion could be possible on June 5 or June 6 because of a prolonged period of bad weather. Many German commanders were absent, attending an anti invasion war game. All anti invasion troops from headquarters to coastal lookouts were at a low state of alert.

    IMG_20200210_0003.jpg

    A map to show the route taken by Force 'U', the position of naval screening units and the position of convoys at H-6 Hours, 0030, D Day.

    Force 'U' left its assembly ports and formed convoys before proceeding along the long established swept coastal channels to Portland Bill. They then followed a direct route from Portland Bill to the entrance to swept channels 1 and 2 through the German minefields off the Normandy Coast. This route did not go to Area Z as did the routes for the other naval forces. Channels 1 and 2 were short lived. After the assault convoys had passed through all further shipping used Area Z and then Channels 3 and 4.


    Naval protection for forces crossing the Channel.
    South of Area Z was a broad funnel shaped area leading across the Channel. Because of its shape this was known as ‘The Spout’. Because there were only a limited number of escort vessels available it was decided that the main naval defensive effort would be aimed at preventing the enemy getting to the Spout. This was achieved in a wide variety of ways:

    There was a seven mile wide exclusion zone on either side of the Spout. Any vessel inside the zone would be deemed to be hostile. Friendly vessels could only enter the zone if in hot pursuit of the enemy.

    Destroyers patrolled the edges of the exclusion zone.

    The coverage given by shore radars was augmented and extended by the use of radar equipped frigates. These were accompanied by MTB patrols at night. If necessary Naval Officer in Charge Newhaven would control forces within shore radar range to the east of the exclusion zone. Flag Officer in Charge Portland would control forces within shore radar range to the west in necessary.

    Offensive patrols were maintained by MTBs off the hostile coast in order to intercept and enemy craft.

    To the east of the exclusion zone coastal forces patrolled the narrow waters of the Channel while to the west of the exclusion zone destroyers plus two radar control vessels patrolled the wider waters.

    Four US destroyers patrolled to seaward of the Force ‘U’ Route from Portland. Coastal forces joined this patrol at night.

    Further west there were patrols by destroyers and by RAF Coastal Command.

    As a defence against U Boats coming up the Channel from the West coastal minefields were laid, anti submarine aircraft fitted with anti submarine detection equipment patrolled and there were four anti submarine naval groups.

    Further west still, out in the Western Approaches, there were three escort carriers and 6 escort groups.

    Some enemy craft did slip through and cause losses to Allied shipping but that is another story.



    Mike.
     
    Bin There, Roy Martin and Aixman like this.
  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Minesweepers.

    Force ‘U’ Minesweepers.
    Sailed from Plymouth.

    Fast Channel 1.
    Sailing from Dartmouth on D-1.
    16 Minesweeping Flotilla RN. Fleet minesweepers to sweep Channel1.
    ‘A’ Minesweeping Flotilla USN. 11 X AM for inshore minesweeping.
    ‘Y’ Minesweeping Flotilla USN. 11 X YMS for inshore minesweeping.

    Slow Channel 2.
    14 Minesweeping Flotilla RN. Fleet minesweepers to sweep Channel 2.
    132 Minesweeping Flotilla RN. MMS for inshore minesweeping.

    Minesweepers of Force ‘U’ had the task of sweeping a channel from Portland to a point just north of the German minefield. This required good navigation since there would be little assistance from marker buoys or navigation craft. The minesweepers would then turn southwards and clear two channels through the minefield and then on to the transport area ten miles from the Normandy coast. These would be Fast Channel No1 and Slow Channel No 2.

    Minesweepers needed to keep a good formation and also employ precise navigation. A flotilla of sweepers would advance in echelon with paravanes trailing astern. The paravanes were attached to long steel cables which should catch mines and lead them to the cutting blades on the paravane. Mines would then float to the surface and be exploded by gunfire. The swept channel should then be marked with dan buoys which had lights for use at night. These buoys were laid one per mile by specially equipped dan laying trawlers.

    Minesweepers then swept areas for the landing ships and craft to assemble, fire support ships to position themselves and routes for craft to move to and from the beach and along to other beaches.

    Fleet minesweepers were needed for sweeping the moored mines of the minefield. Smaller sweepers were not powerful enough to handle the paravanes. Both 14 Flotilla and 16 Flotilla were equipped with Bangor class minesweepers. These had been planned before WW2 but the plans had to be accelerated when war broke out. The design had to be altered to enable the ships to be built in a variety of shipyards and use a variety of propulsion systems. Below are the details for one version. The others were similar but not identical.

    Bangor Class Minesweeper.
    670 tons.
    171 foot long.
    28 foot beam.
    8 foot draught.
    Speed 16 knots.
    Crew 60.

    Armament.
    1 X 4” gun.
    1 X Quad .5” machine guns.

    minesw_hms_hythe_j194.jpg

    HMS Hythe, a Bangor Class minesweeper.


    Smaller minesweepers were used to clear a variety of types on mine from shallow water. These smaller vessels were not capable of towing paravanes, but moored mines were rarely found close inshore.

    Mines found in the shallow waters off Utah beach were of the following types:

    Magnetic mines. These were detonated by the magnetic force present in any steel built ship. They could be dealt with by degaussing equipment on the sweeper helped by the fact that inshore sweepers were of wooden construction.

    Acoustic mines. These were detonated by the sound of ships propellers. These were dealt with by acoustic hammers on the bows of inshore sweepers. These produced a sound which detonated the mine.

    Pressure mine. These were detonated when a large vessel passed close by. The change in water pressure activated the mine. There was no real answer to this type of mine. Speed limits were introduced and the lower speeds produced a reduced pressure wave and thus less chance of detonation. They were however difficult to clear.

    Any of the above could be fitted with a delayed action fuse. This could be set to only activate when a certain number of vessels had passed close by.

    Mines were to be a considerable problem off Utah. The water was shallow, and in particular there was an underwater ridge running parallel to the shore. These conditions were ideal for the various non contact mines. Some had been laid in advance of the invasion but more were dropped from aircraft flying over at night. The best way of countering this was to have patrols of small craft ready to spot and report the location of mines being dropped.

    The inshore sweepers of 132 Minesweeping Flotilla RN were MMS or Motor Mine Sweepers. They were built of wood to combat magnetic mines and had diesel engines. Equipment included degaussing loops and acoustic hammers.
    250 tons.
    105 foot long.
    23 foot beam.
    9 foot draught.
    Speed 12 knots.
    Crew 20.

    Armament:
    2 X 20mm.
    2 X machine gun.

    MMS3.jpg
    MMS.


    ‘A’ Minesweeping Flotilla USN used AM. 11 X AM for inshore minesweeping.
    ‘Y’ Minesweeping Flotilla USN. 11 X YMS for inshore minesweeping.

    YMS were of wooden construction and had diesel engines. They were mass produced, some 500 being built. There were three types which were similar and all have the same equipment.
    215 tons.
    136 foot long.
    24 foot wide.
    6 foot draught.
    Speed 12 knots.
    Crew 50.

    Armament:
    1 X 3” gun.
    2 X 20mm guns.

    Yms324 (1).png
    YMS.


    AM were larger minesweepers of the Raven class. They were of steel construction and had diesel engines.
    890 tons.
    221 foot long.
    32 foot wide.
    10 foot draught.
    Speed 18 knots.
    Crew 100.

    Armament:
    1 X 3” gun.
    4 X 40mm guns.

    One of these minesweepers, AM 56 Osprey, was lost on D-1. She sank after hitting a mine in the late afternoon.

    1566223470623.jpg
    USS Osprey.

    Mike
     
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    THE AIRBORNE LANDINGS.

    Mike does not normally write about airborne landings. Partly this is because I know little about the airborne forces and this is in turn because they have very few vehicles and this has been my main interest for decades. For the other Normandy beaches I have limited my writing about land operations to the Beach Maintenance Area which extended some two miles inland. On Utah two miles just about clears the causeways over the flooded areas and most military action took place further inland or further north along the Cotentin Peninsula.

    One cannot ignore the airborne forces role in the landings on Utah. The two US airborne divisions involved, the 101st and the 82nd, were a part of VII Corps for the operation and they had a key role in seizing and holding the key points and the few causeways which provided the only routes from the beaches across flooded lowland.

    The US airborne divisions were acting in the traditional role of light forces. They were to move rapidly to seize key points and hold them until heavier forces arrived to relieve them.


    The initial wave of airborne troops used 821 C47 transport aircraft. Each plane carried a stick of 18 to twenty paratroops who would hopefully land close together.

    On the night a series of mishaps and unforeseen occurences led to this careful plan going wrong. First the Pathfinder teams were hampered by unexpected low cloud which lead the transport planes to drop them in the wrong place. There were six Drop Zones, three each for 101 and 82 Airborne Divisions. Only two teams were dropped accurately onto the correct Drop Zone, Zone ‘C’ in 101 Division’s area and Zone ‘O’ in 82 Division’s area. In the case of the other four Drop Zones the Pathfinder teams were dropped too far away to reach the correct location in time. Some set up Aldis lights in the wrong place in hopes that at least the drop could be concentrated while others set up Eureka beacons which would give direction but not indicate the drop point.

    Radio silence prevented the Pathfinders from warning the transport waves about the low cloud so that the transports came upon them unexpectedly and reacted differently. Some climbed over the cloud and then could not see any drop zone lights, some went under the cloud and dropped paratroops from a lower altitude than planned, some went into the cloud and then spread out to avoid collisions. Finally the transport encountered anti aircraft fire which few had experienced before. Some pilots took evasive action so that it became impossible to drop troops in a concentrated pattern.

    IX Troop Carrier Command carried a total of 13,348 men. Three sorties were aborted and 21 aircraft were lost.


    OPERATION ALBANY.
    This was the landing of 101 Airborne Division which started landing from 0130 on D Day.

    Units included:
    501 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    502 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    506 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
    326 Airborne Engineer Battalion.

    Orders.
    To seize control of the area behind Utah Beach between St. Martin de Varreville and Poupeville.
    To facilitate the exit of 4 Infantry Division from the beach via the existing causeways over the flooded areas.
    To protect the southern flank of VII Corps by destroying bridges on the road to Carentan.
    To gain control of the Borguette Lock which controlled the drainage of the low lying areas.
    To establish a bridgehead over the River Douve.

    These were expanded as follows:
    To attack German coastal positions from behind.
    To capture or knock out German coastal batteries.
    To secure four causeways leading inland across the marshy areas behind Utah Beach.
    To take and hold the town of St Conte de Mont.
    To capture or destroy the Douve River bridges at Brevands.
    To capture or destroy the bridges on the Carentan causeway to prevent German reinforcements moving northwards.
    To capture the lock on the Douve River at la Barquette. This controlled drainage and was being used to flood the areas behind the shore.
    To disrupt German communications and erect roadblocks to prevent German reinforcements reaching the coast.

    There are many problems in dropping a large force of paratroops onto specific drop zones. It is important from a tactical point of view that units should land close together and be ready to form tactical groups as soon as possible. In practice this is not easy to achieve. In operations such as D Day fairly large Drop Zones were chosen and it was sufficient for the lead aircraft in each formation to identify the Drop Zone and drop paratroops when over it.

    If a unit is to land close together it is necessary for a stick of paratroops to exit the aircraft as rapidly as possible. Flying at 500 feet and dropping a stick of twenty paratroops, and assuming each man takes only a second to exit the aircraft, the stick will be spread over a distance of up to 1000 yards on landing.

    When dropping from aircraft in formation there are other factors to consider. The signal to jump will be given by the pilot of each aircraft pressing a button to display a green light by the exit. There will be a time lag in the individual pilot reacting to the formation leader and pressing the button. There will be a time lag in the jump master reacting and signalling for the first man to jump. There will be a time lag before the first paratroop reacts and jumps.

    On D Day the parachute drops would take place in the dark so pin point accuracy was not expected. Drop zones were planned so that a battalion sized unit plus some supporting troops such as signallers, medical personnel and engineers could land within a reasonable area. A perimeter would then be formed within which sections, platoons and companies could be formed before setting off to their objectives.

    Take off was late on D-1. Aircraft formed three plane V formations which joined with two others to form a nine plane formation. The lead plane was to navigate while the other eight maintained formation with it. The formation was to be held until it arrived over the drop zone when all would drop paratroops at the same time on the leaders signal.

    Each wave consisted of 36 aircraft to carry a parachute battalion plus aircraft carrying regimental or divisional headquarters and/or support troops such as engineers or medical personnel.

    It was planned that the aircraft would approach the drop zones from the west. It was important that the formations should not overfly ships of the assault convoys who would be understandably nervous about any aircraft flying over them. In the Sicily landings planes carrying airborne troops had flown over the seaborne convoys and many planes had been shot down. It was also important to maintain surprise. It was unlikely that such a large force could avoid detection but at least its nature and destination could be disguised. The formation was to fly westwards, guided by seaborne checkpoints. They would then turn at a signal from a surfaced submarine, pass over the Channel Islands and approach the Cotentin Peninsula from the west.

    The plan was that aircraft should fly at an altitude of 1,500 foot before dropping to 500 foot for the approach to the drop zones. Aircraft were to maintain a steady course and altitude before slowing down to 110 miles an hour before giving the green light signal to paratroops to exit the aircraft.

    Identifying the Drop Zone was a major problem, especially since the drop would take place at night. Pathfinders were to be landed by parachute ahead of the main transport waves and set up visual and radar signal equipment. The radar was a AN/PPN-1 ‘Eureka’ beacon which was a wireless navigation system transponder. Lead aircraft carried a ‘Rebecca’ set which sent a signal to which the Eureka transponder reacted by re transmitting the signal. The Rebecca receivers visual display then showed the pilot if he was on the correct course and the distance from the drop point. Sets were tuned so that only the aircraft destined for a particular zone could receive the signal from that zone. Some lead aircraft also had Gee navigation devices. Visual equipment was used to mark the aiming point in the centre of the Drop Zone. A set of coloured Aldis lights was arranged in the form of a letter ‘T’. These were upward directed 6 volt battery powered lamps which gave a clear diffused light. These should have been visible from two miles away, the distance at which the Eureka signal became unreliable. Coloured filters could be fitted and those used on D Day were green for 101 Airborne and amber for 82 Airborne. They could be set to flash coded signals to identify individual drop zones.

    On approaching the drop zone the pilot turned on a red light near the rear door as a signal to the paratroops to stand up, hook their static lines to the overhead cable running the length of the aisle and face towards the rear door. At the drop point the pilot turned on a green light as the signal for the first man to jump. The crew chief signals to the jump master who is the first man to jump, usually by placing a hand on his shoulder since voice or hand signals would be difficult to hear or see. The first man to jump was the section commander’ Others followed as rapidly as possible with the last man being the section second in command who should make sure that all men have jumped. The jump master then signalled the pilot that all have left the aircraft.

    Three Drop Zones were selected, A, C and D.



    The Serials.
    Serials were formations of aircraft which would fly together and drop paratroops on the same Drop Zone. They were made up of multiples of nine plane formations and each carried a parachute infantry battalion or equivalent. Usually the serial consisted of twelve, fifteen or eighteen three plane V formations, (36, 45 or 54 planes).


    The Pathfinders.
    Pathfinder flew in a single three plane V formation for each Drop Zone.

    Each aircraft carried its individual number on its nose.

    Serial 1 consisted of C47s No1, 2 and 3. It was timed to drop at 0020 to mark Drop Zone ‘A’ for 1 Battalion 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2 Battalion 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment and 377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion.

    Serial 2 consisted of C47s No 4, 5 and 6. It was timed to drop at 0025 to mark Drop Zone ‘C’ for 2 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment and 3 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Battalion. (No 4 was lost at sea and the personnel rescued).

    Serial 3 consisted of C47s No 7, 8 and 9. It was timed to drop at 0030 to mark Drop Zone ‘D’ for 2 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment and 3 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Battalion.

    Serial 6a flew in at the same time.
    Serial 6a consisted of C47s No 19 and 20. It was timed to drop at 0027. It was to land on Drop Zone ‘C’ to mark Landing Zone ‘E’ for gliders which would carry 3 Battalion 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment and 377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion.


    Drop Zone ‘A’.
    Serial 7 consisted of thirty six C47s from 438 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0048.

    Serial 8 consisted of forty five C47s from 438 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop personnel from 1 and 2 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0050.

    Serial 9 consisted of thirty six C47s from 436 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0055.

    Serial 10 consisted of fifty four C47s from 436 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and 326 Airborne Medical Company at 0108.


    Drop Zone ‘C’.
    Serial 11 consisted of forty five C47s from 439 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0114. One plane was lost.

    Serial 12 consisted of thirty six C47s from 439 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0118.

    Serial 13 consisted of forty five C47s from 435 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 3 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0120. Three aircraft were lost.


    Drop Zone ‘D’.
    Serial 14 consisted of forty five C47s from 441 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0126. One aircraft was lost.

    Serial 15 consisted of forty five C47s from 441 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment plus personnel from Company ‘C’, 326 Airborne Engineer Battalion and 326 Airborne Medical Company at 0134. 2 aircraft were lost.

    Serial 16 consisted of forty five C47s from 440 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 3 Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment plus personnel from Company ‘C’, 326 Airborne Engineer Battalion and supplies at 0140. 3 aircraft were lost.


    On D Day the primary objective was the seizing of the area inland of Utah Beach so that 4 Infantry Division could move inland. The northern sector was given to 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment. They were to secure the inland ends of the causeways across the flooded areas known as Exit 3 and Exit 4. The southern sector was given to two Battalions of 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment. They were to secure the causeways for Exit 1 and Exit 2.

    The Pathfinders were due to land between 0020 and 0030 which should have given sufficient time to set up their equipment. On crossing the coast of the Cotentin Peninsular from the west the aircraft carrying the Pathfinders met a bank of low cloud which was unexpected and caused navigation problems. In 101 Airborne Divisions area only the team for Drop Zone ‘C’ landed near the actual drop zone. In the other areas the teams did not have time to reach the correct position and they had to set up their equipment outside the drop zone. The Pathfinder team for Drop Zone ‘A’ had thirty minutes before the first serials of the main force were due. This did not allow sufficient time and their equipment was set up two miles to the north. The beacon for Drop Zone ‘C’ was set up on the western edge of the zone. The beacon for Drop Zone ‘D’ was set up a mile to the west of the zone but most of the sticks of paratroops landed in a concentrated area at the eastern end of the zone.

    As the main formations of aircraft approached the coast of the Cotentin Peninsular all seemed to be going very well. They were on schedule, in good formation and the enemy were unawares of their presence. The weather was somewhat windy but the skies were clear. Then it began to go wrong. There was a bank of cloud which was not forecast. The Pathfinder aircraft which had flown in earlier had encountered this but could not radio a warning since strict wireless silence was in force. Not wishing to risk a collision in close formation pilots began to break formation and spread out. Usually the lead pilot of each group maintained the correct course but when aircraft emerged from the cloud they were scattered.

    On emerging from the cloud bank the aircraft began to encounter anti aircraft fire from the ground. Many pilots had not been under fire before and some had little experience of dropping troops since planes and crews were still arriving until just before the operation and had not had the full training programme. Although it was important that the aircraft should fly at five hundred feet in a straight line and in formation and slow down to 110 miles an hour before dropping troops many pilots took evasive action. Some took evasive action, some speeded up, some changed altitude and many became lost. The result was that the paratroops could not land in a concentrated fashion on the drop zones. Many sticks landed many miles away from the intended zone and many landed in the flooded areas.



    The Units.

    502 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    502 Parachute Infantry Regiment was to land on Drop Zone ‘A’.

    1 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    1 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment seems to have landed fairly accurately with regard to the Pathfinders beacon, which was a mile north of the planned Drop Zone ‘A’. Although no sticks landed on the drop zone over half landed within a mile of it and mostly to the north. The Commanding Officer led a group to take the billets of the garrison for the St Martin de Varreville battery. They then occupied the crossroads at Mesieres and sent patrols to check that Exits 3 and 4 were clear of the enemy. As more troops arrived one team moved north to hold Foucarville, one team went east to clear the area. The Regimental Commander arrived with some two hundred troops and relieved 1 Battalion which then moved north to join the rest of the unit before turning west to carry out its secondary mission of making contact with 82 Airborne Division. This group became engaged with German infantry near Fournel and this action continued for most of the rest of the day.

    2 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    The first wave of transport aircraft carried 2 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment and Headquarters 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment. It was necessary to land the headquarters early since there was no way in which command and control could be exercised from the UK or in the air. In the seaborne landings there were headquarters craft and ships close offshore. The aircraft were scattered on the approach by unexpected low cloud banks and by light anti aircraft fire and the Pathfinder team for Drop Zone ‘A’ had the same problems and were not in the correct location. Thus no paratroop sticks actually landed on Drop Zone ‘A’ but were scattered over a wide area. However a considerable concentration of paratroops landed three miles south of the intended Drop Zone ‘A’, almost in Drop Zone ‘C’. The area where they landed was typical Normandy bocage with small fields surrounded by thick hedges on high banks. This made it difficult for troops to identify their position and to assemble into tactical units. 2 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment could play little part in the early stages of the operation.

    3 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    3 Battalion, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment landed to the east of St Mere Eglise and thus to the west of the intended Drop Zone. They were scattered but the Commanding Officer managed together some 75 men and moved to the coastal battery at St Martin de Varreville. When they got there they found that the guns had been moved to avoid the pre landing bombardment and the position was deserted. They then moved on to secure the causeway, Exit 3, at Audouville la Hubert, arriving at 0730. They found German troops who had abandoned WN8 moving along the causeway at 0930. These were ambushed with the loss of 50 to 75 men. 3/502 then attempted to secure Exit 4. This was undefended but could not be used because it was covered by German batteries. Contact was made with troops from 4 Infantry Division at about 1300.

    Overall 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment succeeded in securing and defending the northern perimeter and ensured that the two northern exits were clear.


    377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion.
    377 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion fielded one battery with sixteen 75mm airborne howitzers. These should have landed close together but were so widely scattered that only one dropped in the area to be occupied by 101 Airborne Division. Most of the guns dropped too far away to be able to join the infantry. Most of the uns dropped eight miles to the north of Drop Zone A and some landed on flooded land. Thus the guns took no part in the operation.

    85 Troop Carrier Squadron carried 377 Field Artillery Battalion. Each plane carried a 10 man stick of men plus one 75mm airborne howitzer and ammunition.


    506 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    Two battalions of 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment were to drop on Drop Zone ‘C’ and move to secure the inland ends of the causeways of Exit 1 and Exit 2.

    One serial of fourteen aircraft dropped paratroops fairly accurately and in a concentrated area on Drop Zone ‘C’. Another serial of thirteen aircraft dropped paratroops some mile and a half to the south and southeast. Other serials were widely scattered due to confusing beacons or pilots who were lost.

    1 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    Some 140 men of 1 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment assembled in the regimental area. Since the regimental commander had no idea where 2 Battalion were or where they were heading he ordered 1 Battalion to move to the Poupeville area to take control of Exit 1 and hold it until units of 4 Division arrived from the beaches. They had problems en route and too several hours to reach the exit. By the time they arrived a column from 3 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry had arrived, secured the exit and made contact with 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment from 4 Division who had arrived from the beach.

    2 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    2 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment landed north of the drop zone. Some 200 men were collected and moved south to occupy the areas behind Houdenville (Exit 2) and Poupeville (Exit 1). They had a difficult journey south and came under enemy fire several times. They did not reach Exit 2 until after noon by which time 4 Division troops moving inland from the beach had secured it.

    3 Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    3 Battalion had a hard time. They landed in Drop Zone ‘D’ but the Germans had identified the area as a potential landing area and were waiting. They had soaked a wooden building in fuel and set fire to it to illuminate the paratroops. The battalion commander and the executive officer were both killed in the first moments. The Battalion S3, a captain, who had landed away from the main drop area collected a small group of men and set off to the Le Port bridge, a battalion objective. The group collected other groups of men on the way and by 0430 had established themselves at the bridge. Around 0630 the Germans counterattacked and the paratroops were forced back when they ran short of ammunition. They established positions near by and held on for the rest of the day.

    Bridges always pose a problem. Obviously the US troops did not want to destroy bridges since they would eventually need them to cross the river when, hopefully, they advanced. On the other hand they would not wish to allow the Germans to cross the bridge and threaten the landings. In the event the paratroops managed to prevent the Germans from taking the bridges, in any case the paratroops did not have the means to destroy the bridges until later when engineers arrived. On D+1 the problem solved itself. The S3 managed to arrange for an air strike on the Germans on the far side of the bridge but due to some misunderstanding the fighter bombers bombed the bridge itself.


    501 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    1 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    1 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment was scheduled to land on Drop Zone ‘D’ at 0126. This was the most southerly of the drop zones and the troops landing there were the last to arrive. Troops landing here were also dropped more accurately than others with more than forty sticks landing in the zone and most of the rest close by. German anti aircraft defences were ready and alert by this time and although 1 Battalion lost only one aircraft several were damaged. Troops on the ground were also alert and the commanding officer of 1 Battalion was killed and the executive officer was captured. The commanding officer 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment landed near the centre of the zone and gathered a force of some hundred and fifty men. He set of with them to the primary objective, the locks at La Barquette which controlled the flooding of the Douave River. This force was able to occupy the locks area quite easily. Around a hundred of the battalion remained to defend the area while the remaining returned to the rendezvous area.

    2 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    It had been planned that 2 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment should join 1 Battalion in the defence of the La Barquette Locks and moving on to destroy or occupy the bridges of the Douave River. The regimental commander returned from locks to gather reinforcements but found that 2 Battalion was engaged in a firefight around the village of Les Droueries. They had been unable to disengage and move southwards. Intelligence suggested that the area was held by a single German platoon but in fact there was a complete German battalion in the area. 2 Battalion spent most of the day fighting around the town of St Come du Mont.

    3 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    3 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment landed on Drop Zone ‘C’ together with Headquarters 101 Airborne Division with its associated artillery headquarters and signals. They were to occupy the area designated as a Lading Zone for the gliders which were to arrive later. This was adjacent to Drop Zone ‘C’. Three aircraft were lost on the approach but some three hundred men managed to assemble near Hiesville. Not knowing where the columns of 1 and 2 Battalions 506 Parachute Infantry Battalions were the divisional commander decided to send a party of forty men from 3 Battalion, 501 Parachute Infantry Battalion to secure Exit 1. They set off around 0600 and were the first US troops to arrive at the causeway, about 0800. The German defences were not very well organised or determined but the small group of paratroops took some four hours to clear the defenders in close quarter house to house fighting. The German defenders surrendered about noon. Twenty five had been killed, 38 surrendered and the remainder fled down the causeway towards the beach and ran into troops from 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment, 4 Division. Exit 1 was then secure at both ends and contact was made between the airborne troops and those landing from the sea.


    The above accounts come from the official reports which were made by commanding officers and headquarters staff. They relate only to those actions ordered by commanders and executed by formed troops under their officers. Large numbers of paratroops were not part of such groups. Many had been scattered across the countryside, some up to twenty miles from the planned drop zones. Many of these had little idea of where they were or where they should be heading. Gradually many coalesced into larger groups under an officer or NCO. Most managed to rejoin their units, some not until many days later. Some were captured, some were hidden by the French.


    One positive aspect of the scattered landing was that the Germans were just as confused as the paratroops. Reports of widely scattered groups of paratroops together with the confusion caused by the dropping of dummy paratroops and the absence of many senior German officers meant the defenders had little clear idea of what was happening and were thus slow to respond.




    A Parachute Infantry Battalion.

    Headquarters
    5 Officers
    Warrant Officer.

    Headquarters Company.
    7 Officers.
    165 men.
    8 X .30” machine gun.
    4 X 81mm mortar.
    9 X bazooka.

    3 X Rifle Company.
    Total.
    8 Officers.
    165 men.

    Headquarters.
    2 Officers.
    27 men.

    3 X Platoon.
    Headquarters.
    2 Officers.
    5 men.
    2 X light machine gun
    1 X bazooka.

    3 X rifle squad.
    12 men.
    1 X .30” light machine gun.
    1 X BAR
    2 X .3” carbine.
    10 X rifle M1.

    Mortar squad.
    6 men.
    1 X 60mm mortar.

    Battalion total.
    36 Officers.
    1 Warrant Officer.
    669 men.
    Total 706 all ranks.


    Notes.
    In February 1944 the strength of the battalion had been considerably increased by adding an extra rifle squad per platoon. This made the parachute platoon similar to a regular infantry platoon.

    The above scale of weapons seems to have been official rather than actual. Only 18 sub machine guns were authorised but accounts and photographs suggest that many more were in actual use. Similarly only 2 .45” automatic pistols were authorised but many more were carried.

    Each squad was led by a serjeant.

    Paratroops dropped carrying their personal weapons such as pistols, carbines and rifles. Heavier items such as BARs, machine guns, mortars, bazookas and snipers rifles were dropped in containers. Hopefully containers would drop close to the men for whom they were intended but there were reports of some going astray and of troops finding and using weapons not intended for them.

    All paratroops carried knives. There was a issue fighting knife which was intended for use in the hours of darkness since they were silent. Many men carried non issue knives which were privately purchased. A small but sharp knife was also carried for cutting loose the parachute shrouds. US parachutes did not have the quick release mechanism of the British equipment. Ideally men would take off the harness the approved manner but under fire, or even under water, this was not always possible. Many troops did fall in flooded areas and although the water was usually only waist high the heavy equipment, the drag of the parachute and thick mud made it difficult to escape. Unfortunately some did not.



    The Gliders.

    At 0400 gliders began to land on Landing Zone ‘E’ which was adjacent to Drop Zone ‘C’. The zone had been secured and cleared as far as possible of obstacles and mines by paratroops and marked by Pathfinders.

    The gliders were towed across the Channel by Serial 27, fifty two C47 Dakotas from 434 Troop Carrier Group. Each C47 towed a Waco C4A Glider. For glider towing the formation was slightly different to that of the paratroop aircraft. A series of groups of four C47 and Waco glider flew in echelon with the lead plane on the left and the other three to the right and behind at an angle of 45 degrees. One C47 was lost.

    Landing gliders in the dark was a hazardous business. Once released from the towing plane the glider must find its own way to the landing ground. In moonlight it should be possible to identify obstacles and find an open space long enough to land and come to a stop, avoiding trees on the approach. In the dark this becomes very difficult. At 0400 there was a moon but it kept disappearing behind low cloud. A glider cannot abort its landing if it identifies obstacles at the last moment.

    The lights which the Pathfinders arranged in the shape of a letter T were a help in guiding gliders but the second glider to land ran over the lights and the rest of them had to rely on moonlight and good night vision. Having found a suitable field the gliders encountered another problem on landing. In good conditions the glider would come to a stop after some 300 feet. On this occasion the grass was wet and many gliders skidded and took two or three times as long to stop. Many gliders ran into hedges, trees or ditches and even into each other but most delivered their loads. Seven men were killed including the deputy divisional commander, a brigadier general.

    The gliders were scattered almost as badly as the paratroops. Only six were on target with another fifteen within the landing zone or within three quarters of a mile. Eighteen gliders landed further away.

    Forty four of the gliders carried 57mm anti tank guns with jeeps to tow them and crews to serve them from A and B Batteries, 81 Airborne AA/AT Battalion. Most of the other gliders carried jeeps and trailers for signals, engineers and medical units. One signals trailer carried a SCR 499 radio which was capable of communicating with the UK. This set was for the divisional command post. Engineer loads included equipment, supplies and an airborne bulldozer. Medical loads were jeeps and equipment to set up a hospital at the Chateau Colombieres.

    The Waco C4A glider was very limited in the load it could carry. A Jeep, a trailer, an anti tank gun or thirteen men were its limit. Most of the glider trained units of the division landed by sea. The anti aircraft batteries of 81 Airborne AA/AT Battalion landed early on Utah Beach to set up its .5” machine guns. 321 and 907 Glider Field Artillery Battalions were to land from the troopship Susan B Anthony. Unfortunately this ship was sunk by a mine off the beach. The personnel were rescued but the guns and most other equipment were lost.

    The gliders carried a total of:
    16 57mm anti tank guns.
    24 Jeeps.
    165 men.
    An airborne bulldozer.
    14 tons of cargo.


    A Glider Infantry Battalion.
    Headquarters
    4 Officers

    Headquarters Company.
    3 Officers.
    171 men.
    6 X .30” machine gun.
    6 X 81mm mortar.
    6 X .30” light machine gun.

    3 X Rifle Company.
    Headquarters.
    2 Officers.
    26 men.

    Weapons Platoon.
    Headquarters.
    1 Officer.
    4 men.

    Light Machine Gun Section.
    Headquarters.
    NCO.
    2 men.
    2 X squad
    6 men
    1 X Light Machine Gun.

    Mortar section.
    Headquarters.
    NCO
    2 men.
    2 X squad.
    7 men
    1 X 60mm mortar.

    4 X Platoon.
    Headquarters.
    1 Officer.
    10 men.

    3 X rifle squad.
    12 men.
    1 X BAR
    1 X rifle M1903
    10 X rifle M1.

    Battalion total.
    22 Officers.
    621 men.
    Total 643 all ranks.

    The rifle M1903 (Springfield) was for use with a grenade launcher.


    Were the airborne landings a success?
    They achieved the most important objectives of securing the landward end of the four causeways across the inundated coastal area and prevented enemy counter attacks from stopping the seaborne landings. As Rommel warned ‘If the invaders get off the beach they cannot be stopped’ (a paraphrase). However the Allies never again attempted an airborne landing by night.

    Mike.

    C47_Skytrain_-_Duxford_D-Day_Show_2014_(cropped).jpg
    A well restored C47 Dakota.

    800px-Waco_CG-4A_USAF.jpg
    A nicely restored Waco CG4A.

    Invasion stripes were never as neat as these.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Mike had not intended to write about 82 Airborne Division, deterred by the confused nature of their experiences and Mikes lack of knowledge. However I have been encouraged to do my best so here goes.

    82 AIRBORNE DIVISION.

    Boston Mission.
    The original plan was for 82 Airborne Division to lane further west in order to secure routes for the seaborne forces to advance across the base of the Cotentin Peninsula thus cutting it off from reinforcements and opening the way to the vital port of Cherburg. This plan was changed when a German division moved into the planned landing areas. The new plan was for 82 Airborne Division to land one regiment around St Mere Eglise on the east of the River Merderet and two regiments on the west of the River Merderet in order to secure the river crossings.


    The Serials.
    Serials were formations of aircraft which would fly together and drop paratroops on the same Drop Zone. They were made up of multiples of nine plane formations and each carried a parachute infantry battalion or equivalent. Usually the serial consisted of twelve, fifteen or eighteen three plane V formations, (36, 45 or 54 planes).


    The Pathfinders.
    Pathfinders flew in a single three plane V formation for each Drop Zone.

    Serial 4 consisted of C47s No10, 11 and 12. It was timed to drop at 0121 to mark Drop Zone ‘O’ for 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    Serial 5 consisted of C47s No 16, 17 and 18. It was timed to drop at 0138 to mark Drop Zone ‘N’ for 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    Serial 6 consisted of C47s No 13, 14 and 15. It was timed to drop at 0202 to mark Drop Zone ‘T’ for 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    Drop Zone ‘O’.
    Serial 17 consisted of thirty six C47s from 316 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0151.

    Serial 18 consisted of thirty six C47s from 316 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 3 Battalion 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0157.

    Serial 19 consisted of forty eight C47s from 315 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0203.

    Drop Zone ‘N’
    Serial 20 consisted of thirty six C47s from 314 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0208.

    Serial 21 consisted of twenty four C47s from 314 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop Headquarters 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment and ‘B’ Company 307 Airborne Engineer Battalion at 0214.

    Serial 22 consisted of thirty six C47s from 313 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0220.

    Serial 23 consisted of thirty six C47s from 313 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 3 Battalion 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0226.

    Drop Zone ‘T’.
    Serial 24 consisted of thirty six C47s from 61 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 2 Battalion 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0232.

    Serial 25 consisted of thirty six C47s from 61 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 3 Battalion 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0238.

    Serial 26 consisted of forty five C47s from 61 Troop Carrier Group. It was timed to drop 1 Battalion 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment plus Headquarters 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment at 0244.


    82 Airborne Division began landing around 0230, an hour after 101 Airborne Division so the enemy were alert.

    505 Parachute Infantry Regiment
    505 Parachute Infantry Regiment was to land on Drop Zone ‘O’, northwest of St Mere Eglise. From there it could move to occupy St Mere Eglise, guard the northern perimeter and move to seize the eastern end of the River Merderet crossings. 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment were able to land in an accurate and concentrated manner. The Pathfinders had marked the Drop Zone clearly and accurately. The approaching C47 serials spotted the cloudbank which had caused problems earlier and they flew over it without losing formation. Cloud over the drop zone led to some pilots dropping paratroops from 1000 foot instead of 500 foot as planned but others circled and returned to drop more accurately.

    1 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    1 Battalion 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment landed together with Headquarters 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. At 0400 Company ‘A’ set off with some 165 paratroops to secure the La Fiere bridge over the River Merderet. They collected some paratroops from 507 and 508 Parachute Infantry Regiments who had been dropped in the wrong location. There were numerous encounters with the enemy on the way to the bridge and the first attempt to take it was stopped by entrenched machine guns. Several attempts were made but it would be several days before the bridge was finally secured.

    2 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    2 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment collected about half of its personnel and moved to secure a defence line to the north of the drop zone. The drop zone would soon become Landing Zone ‘O’ for gliders. A7 0930 a German counter attack was launched against St Mere Eglise from the south. 2 Battalion were ordered to move south to counter this threat but left one platoon to hold the northern perimeter. This platoon was attacked by a German company but held the position for eighteen hours by which time only sixteen of the original forty four paratroops survived. The major part of 2 Battalion took over part of the southern St Mere Eglise perimeter from 3 Battalion. The German attack was repulsed and 2 Battalion remained to protect the town while 3 Battalion counter attacked to the south.

    3 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    3 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment were to take and hold St Mere Eglise. They managed to gather some 180 men fairly rapidly. The town was garrisoned by a supply unit but the majority of them had left before the paratroops arrived. The town was quickly seized with ten Germans being killed and thirty captured. The paratroops had been ordered to use only knives, bayonets and grenades so that any gunfire could be identified as German. Around 0930 the Germans launched a counter attack from the south and aided, by 2 Battalion, the paratroops of 3 Battalion repulsed the attack and then counter attacked.


    507 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    507 Parachute Infantry Regiment was to drop onto Drop Zone ‘T’ which was to the west of the River Merderet. The Pathfinders dropped in the right place but could not set up their beacon or lights because of the number of enemy troops near by. About half of the regiment landed too far to the east and landed in the marshes around the River Merderet. Many drowned and much equipment was lost including the machine guns, mortars and bazookas. The only land above water was the north south railway line which was on an embankment and many paratroops gathered on it. Some paratroops from 507 Regiment landed to the east of the river and joined 101 Airborne Division units. Apart from those troops which dropped around the river and its marshes the rest of 507 Regiment were hopelessly scattered over a wide area and did not rejoin their units on D Day.

    One objective of 507 Parachute Regiment was to seize the western approaches to the La Frere bridge over the River Merderet. This would provide a connection between 101 Airborne Division and 82 Airborne Division. The area around the bridge was marsh and the bridge could only be reached via a long causeway above the marsh and flood water. This was exposed to entrenched enemy machine guns. 1 Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment had tried to secure the bridge from the eastern end and had failed. Now the eastern end became a collection point for paratroops from 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment who had dropped on the wrong side of the river and were trying to reach the western end to rejoin their units. By midday there were some six hundred troops there. A small force under a captain from 2 Battalion, 507 Parachute Infantry cleared the enemy from a farm and hamlet at the eastern end of the bridge.

    General Gavin, Commanding General 82 Airborne Division, arrived and sent a party of seventy five men south to find another crossing over the river. He himself led a party of seventy five men to the bridge at Chef du Pont. This group failed to seize the bridge since it was defended by German troops dug in along the causeway. The group were ordered back to La Frere, leaving a platoon to cover the bridge. This platoon was nearly overwhelmed by a German attack but reinforcements arrived and they succeeded in clearing the bridge and crossing to the west side.

    508 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
    508 Parachute Infantry Regiment were so badly scattered and so seriously threatened by German forces that there was little concerted action on their part. Isolated groups engaged the enemy but there seems to be little in the official reports.

    General Ridgeway, Commanding General 101 Airborne Division, arrived at La Frere. He ordered the Officer Commanding 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment to organise the various groups of paratroops who had gathered at La Frere and take the bridge. About noon some eighty paratroops from 2 Battalion 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment succeeded in crossing the causeway and linking with the remainder of the battalion. Before more men could be moved across the causeway the Germans attacked with infantry and tanks and regained control of the bridge. It would be another two days before US forced regained it.

    2 Battalion, 508 Parachute Infantry assembled near Picarville and set off to the unit’s objective, to destroy the bridge over the Douve at Pont l’ Abbe. They ran into a German battalion and withdrew to the battalion assembly area and formed a defence to shield the operations at La Frere. They fought there for the rest of the day.


    Mission Detroit.
    Serial 28 consisted of fifty two C47s from 437 Troop Carrier Group towing fifty two Waco CG4A gliders. It was timed to land on Landing Zone ‘O’, east of the River Mederet, at 0407. The gliders carried:
    220 men.
    16 57mm anti tank guns.
    22 Jeeps.

    Twenty gliders landed on or near the landing zone, seven were released too early and seven landed west of the river. Rough landings meant the loss of:
    11 Jeeps.
    3 men killed.
    23 seriously injured.
    All the gliders were written off.

    Apologies in advance for errors, misinterpretations and simple ignorance.

    Mike.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
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  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Mike

    Brilliant details as ever - thanks

    TD
     
  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Apologies to those who are/were following this thread. I see that it is six weeks since I posted. I have recently been spending all my time arranging deliveries of food and essentials or entertaining/amusing her indoors indoors. I may soon be able to pick up the threads (no pun intended) again. I am on a priority list for deliveries from Waitrose, have arranged for fruit and veg deliveries, found a small concern that still delivers papers and lined up a friendly neighbour for anything else I need (stop sniggering at the back).

    Mike
     
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  14. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    The Approach.

    The transports anchor in the Transport Area at H-4 Hours (0230). The first assault craft are lowered immediately, already loaded with troops. It will be four hours before they reach the beach.

    In Post 21 we left the assault wave boats circling near the transport and waiting for the order to move off to the Rendezvous Area.

    From the Rendezvous Area the various groups of craft will be sent forward according to a timetable based on the planned time of arrival at the beach and the speed at which it is planned that they will travel. H Hour is the time at which the first wave of landing craft should hit the beach. This was planned to be about 40 minutes after morning civil twilight and approximately three hours before High Water. In the case of Utah Beach on D Day H Hour was to be 0600.

    Wave 1.
    The first wave of craft was composed of:
    LCTs carrying DD amphibious tanks plus the control vessels and LCP(L) Smokers which accompanied them.
    LCT(R). Landing Craft Tank (Rocket)
    Control vessels for Wave 1.
    LCVP carrying assault troops.
    LCS(S). Landing Craft Support (Small).
    LCT(A). Landing Craft Tank (Armoured) carrying 75mm Sherman tanks in a fire support role.

    The LCTs carrying DD tanks would travel at 5 knots and would need 20 minutes to launch the DD tanks. They were to leave the Transport Area at H-167 minutes. Eight LCT(6) (Special) each carried four Sherman M4A1 DD amphibious tanks from 70 Tank Battalion for Tare Green. Another eight LCT(6) (Special) each carried four Sherman M4A1 DD amphibious tanks from 70 Tank Battalion for Uncle Red.

    The LCT(R) would not use the boat lanes but used the lanes to either side which were for support craft and returning craft. They could maintain 5 knots and would not encounter small craft. They were to leave the Transport Area at H-138 minutes.

    The assault wave LCVP, LCS(S) and control craft would travel at 6 knots. They were to leave the Transport Area at H-115 minutes. Ten LCVP from APA 13, USS Joseph T Dickman were to land the assault companies, Company ‘B’ and Company ‘C’, of 1 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment on Tare Green. Ten LCVP from APA 5, USS Barnett, were to land the assault companies, Company ‘E’ and Company ‘F’, of 2 Battalion, 8 Infantry Regiment on Uncle Red.

    The LCT(A) would travel at 5 knots. They were to leave the Transport Area at H-138 minutes.


    Wave 2.
    Tare Green.
    Nine LCVP from USS Dickman were to land the reserve company, Company ‘A’, and the weapons company, Company ‘D’ plus the remainder of the assault companies on Tare Green. Nine LCVP from USS Barnett were to land the reserve company, Company ‘E’, and the weapons company, Company ‘H’, plus the remainder of the assault companies on Uncle Red.

    Wave 2 was a large wave and was difficult to organise and control. In the original plan the beach obstacle clearing personnel from the US Navy Demolition Teams and the Army Demolition Teams were to land with Wave 4. It was later decided that obstacle clearance was of such importance that it should be given priority and the teams should land with Wave 2. This would give them a further 12 minutes to carry out their work before the tide rose too high. However it did make Wave 2 too large and unwieldly. It was generally considered that twelve was the maximum number of LCVP that a that a wave commander could handle and the new plan would give a wave of fourteen to sixteen depending on how many troops were included.

    The final plan was to divide the wave into two sections, each with a section commander, and retain the wave commander. The reserve company and the weapons company were retained and the Navy Demolition Teams were to be added, plus only two Engineer Demolition Teams. The remainder of the assault companies were moved to later waves.

    The wave organisation was to have the weapons company LCVPs on the flanks so that when they landed the weapons teams would be in a good flank position to support the assault teams. The Demolition Teams were interspersed with the rifle teams.


    The wave would now have the following for the final run in.

    Tare Green. Right to Left.
    LCVP, Weapons Company.
    LCVP, Weapons Company.
    LCVP, Navy Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Reserve Company. Section Commander.
    LCVP, Navy Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Reserve Company.
    LCVP, Engineer Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Reserve Company. Wave Commander.
    LCVP, Engineer Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Reserve Company.
    LCVP, Navy Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Reserve Company. Section Commander.
    LCVP, Navy Demolition Team.
    LCVP, Weapons Company.
    LCVP, Weapons Company.
    LCVP, Weapons Company.

    Uncle Red. The above in reverse.


    The LCVP would travel at 6 knots and leave the Transport Area at H-103 minutes.

    The reorganisation of Wave 2 caused further complications in that the Demolition Teams were carried in LSTs and were to be landed by the LCVPs carried by those ships. The Demolition Team LCVPs then had to be launched and make their way to the Assembly Area of the LCVPs from the APAs carrying the infantry. This was eased somewhat by the fact that the LSTs were to anchor immediately to seaward of the APAs.

    Wave 3.
    The LCT carrying Company ‘C’, 70 Tank Battalion would travel at 6 knots and leave the Transport Area at H-91 minutes. Four LCT for each beach.

    Wave 4.
    The LCVP and LCM(3) would travel at 6 knots and leave the Transport Area at H-79 minutes.

    Wave 5.
    The LCVP, and LCM(3) would travel at 6 knots and leave the Transport Area at H-67 minutes.

    Wave 6.
    The LCT carrying SP field artillery would travel at 5 knots and leave the Transport Area at H-78 minutes.

    These timings should find all the waves at the Line of Departure, 4000 yards from the beach, at the correct times. Waves would be held at the Line of Departure and given the signal to commence the final approach on time. In the event the DD tanks were behind schedule. The LCTs carrying them were late arriving at the Transport Area, having being delayed by the bad weather and sea conditions. They actually arrived at the Transport Area some thirty minutes after they should have left it. They were able to make up the lost time by launching DD tanks at some 3,000 yards from shore instead of the planned 6,000 yards. Since the LCT were faster than DD tanks in the water some time was made up. There was also an extra ten minutes gained at the launch point. Thirty minutes was allowed although only twenty minutes were actually needed.

    All the above waves were scheduled to beach in the first hour.


    The Rendezvous Area.
    The Rendezvous Area is where loaded boats will wait until the time for them to depart for the Line of Departure. It is a fixed position some thousand yards from the transports and on a line between them and the Line of Departure. It will be marked by a control vessel which will have accurately located the position in relation to the shore and Line of Departure. It should remain in position with its bows towards the centre of the line of departure so that boats can determine the correct course. Waves will be formed in the Rendezvous Area and may include craft other than those from the transports.

    Coxswains of craft will be given a bearing and distance to the control vessel while the craft are at the boarding station.

    When loading troops into craft one designated member of each boat load of troops carries a board. This displays two numbers, one is the number of the boat division and the second is the number of the boat within the division. The lowest number boat within the boat division is the division leader. These numbers are not to be confused with the numbers which craft have already painted on the side near the bow and which show the number of the mother ship and the individual number of the boat. The boat coxswain also has a copy of the landing diagram showing the number of the wave to which the boat belongs and the position of the boat within the wave. Thus there should be no room for doubt or error, even under stress.

    When loading troops into craft one designated member of each boat load of troops carries a board. This displays two numbers, one is the number of the boat division and the second is the number of the boat within the division. The lowest number boat within the boat division is the division leader. These numbers are not to be confused with the numbers which craft have already painted on the side near the bow and which show the number of the mother ship and the individual number of the boat. The boat coxswain also has a copy of the landing diagram showing the number of the wave to which the boat belongs and the position of the boat within the wave. Thus there should be no room for doubt or error, even under stress.

    Waves will be assembled in the rendezvous area under the direction of the wave commander. His craft is Number 1. All odd numbered craft will circle slowly in a clockwise direction, retaining the correct order. Even numbers will circle in a counter clockwise direction.

    At H-115 minutes the control vessel will leave the Rendezvous Area and head for the Line of Departure. The first wave will follow the control vessel in a deployed formation, leaving at least 50 yards between craft. This formation will initially be two lines astern with the wave commander leading one line. They should be spread out and staggered to minimise losses from enemy gunfire

    The other assault waves will follow at the correct time intervals, H-103 minutes, H-91 minutes, H-79 minutes and H-67 minutes. The wave commanders will be responsible for leading their waves from the rendezvous area at the correct time. The wave commander should not lose sight of the wave ahead and the commander of the first wave should not lose sight of the control vessel. Thus if anything goes wrong, as it did, at least all the craft will arrive at the same place and in the correct order.

    As the boat wave approaches the Line of Departure the lines of craft will gradually move from their line astern, the left hand column spreading to the left and the right hand column to the right until they are in a V with the wave commander at the apex. By the time they arrive at the Line of Departure they should have formed line abreast for the final run in.

    In the run in to shore boats should maintain a distance of fifty yards from the boats on either side. Each boat is provided with a stadiameter with which the boat coxswain, or a member of the boat crew, can check that the correct distance is maintained between other boats. A stadiameter is a very simple device which is difficult to explain. It consists of a length of cord and a strip of wood with a hole in the centre. The cord is fastened through the hole. In use the wood is held at arm’s length and the cord held to the eye. The length of the piece of wood should correspond with that of the image of the boat. A diagram is needed.

    It is not easy to keep a small craft on course. The coastal current will tend to push craft sideways, or crabwise. Although the craft is pointing towards the shore and on the correct bearing the current can have a considerable effect on a ten mile approach. The Utah landings were more than a mile to the left. A quick sum shows that they should have made a correction of some forty degrees. However neither the boat wave commander or the individual coxswain could do this. It needed a control craft to do so.

    Waves also have an influence. A wave hitting the side of a craft will push it off course. If the coxswain corrects this he will be moving in a series of sideway movements and getting out of station. The correct reaction for an experienced coxswain is to anticipate the effect of the wave and steer into it before it has an effect. This will keep the craft on a straight course.

    Coxswains of craft were issued with a sketch of the shoreline as seen from sea level. This was intended to help them identify the correct landing point. How many of these were used is not known but from sea level and poor visibility you need to be fairly close to the coast before you can see it. In the case of Utah there were no readily identifiable features. There were sand dunes on the shore, low hills inland and a lack of man made features such as church steeples, lighthouses, towers etc.

    When sent forward from the Line of Departure it was particularly important to keep the boats in formation and with the correct spacing. For the last thousand yards craft should use full speed ahead and on reaching the beach should power onto it. The rising tide and reversed engines should ensure the craft can retract. The danger is that of allowing the craft to broach to. This is when the current swings the craft parallel to the beach and washes it up onto it. This is a position from which it is difficult to recover without assistance. Powering onto the beach should make the craft more stable.

    As soon as the last man has left the craft it should retract and return to its mother ship. Wave commanders should aid their boats in returning but no attempt should be made to gather craft into waves. Individual boats should be able to find their transport with the help of other craft and control craft.


    Rules of the Road.
    Coxswains of boats need to have a knowledge of the rules of the road. These are intended to avoid collision and confusion.

    Boats should pass each other to the right.

    Empty boats should keep clear of loaded boats. Usually this is done by having empty boats moving to the flank while the loaded boats use the boat lane. Exceptions are if an empty boat is towing another boat or if an empty boat is retracting from the beach.

    Boats bound for the beach have right of way over other boats.


    It is easy to imagine that the sea off the invasion beach must be filled as far as the eye can see with craft of all kinds. In fact the area is so large that craft would be very sparsely scattered across it. On Utah the boat lanes from the Transport Area to the beach was some ten miles long and a mile and a half wide or some fifteen square miles.

    The swept area of the boat lanes was 2,600 yards wide and included two battalion boat lanes each 700 yards wide with a 1000 yard separation between them. On the outside of the boat lanes were retiring lanes which were a hundred yards wide.


    The most crowded time would be when the first wave was heading for the beach from the Line of Departure.
    Wave 1 LCVP were to leave the Point of Departure at H-20 minutes.
    Wave 1 LCT(A) were to leave the Point of Departure at H-24 minutes.
    Wave 2 LCVP and LCM(3) were to leave the Point of Departure at H-8 minutes.
    Wave 3 LCVP and LCM(3) were to leave the Point of Departure at H+4 minutes.
    Wave 4 LCVP and LCM(3) were to leave the Point of Departure at H+16 minutes.
    Wave 5 LCVP and LCM(3) were to leave the Point of Departure at H+28 minutes.
    Wave 6 LCT were to leave the Point of Departure at H+36 minutes.

    At H Hour:
    Wave 1.
    LCVPs should be on the beach.
    DD tanks should be close behind the LCVPs.
    The LCT(A)s should be 4 minutes behind the LCVPs.
    The LCG(L) should be giving fire support from the retiring lane.
    The LCT(R) should be retiring.

    Wave 2.
    The LCVP and LCM(3) should be in line abreast 2,400 yards from the shore.

    Wave 3.
    The LCVP and LCM(3) should be 800 yards from the Line of Departure and 4,800 yards from the shore. They should be moving from echelon to line abreast.

    Wave 4.
    The LCVP and LCM(3) should be dispersed and 7,200 yards from the shore.

    Wave 5.
    The LCVP and LCM(3) should be dispersed and 9,600 yards from the shore.

    Wave 6.
    The LCTs carrying self propelled artillery should be 10,000 yards from the shore and preparing to move aside into the retiring lane. They will circle until it is time for them to rejoin the flow of craft in readiness to land.

    The LCTs which launched DD tanks should be in the retiring lane at 13,500 yards.


    The above schedule was adhered to except for the LCTs carrying DD tanks. They were behind schedule and launched DD tanks closer to the shore than planned. The DD tanks were some ten minutes behind schedule in landing and the LCTs were not so far out in the retiring lane.


    Mike.
     
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  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron





    The Approach Part 2.
    Sea and air support.


    Support Craft.

    The roles of the Close Support ships and craft were:

    To engage in direct fire the enemy sea front defences up to the moment of touch down of our own troops.

    To continue to engage sea front defences on the beaches on either side of those being used by our forces.

    To carry out the roles Commanding Officers were to close their ships or craft to decisive range. The attack was to be pressed regardless of loss or difficulty.

    Fire was to be directed where practicable on targets in clear view. If smoke obscured the targets destroyers were to engage in blind fire up to H-20 minutes.

    The various support craft approached with the assault troops and gave supporting fire:

    The LCG(L) were giving supporting fire from the flanks. They were to fire on the beach defences on the assault beach from H-45 minutes until 15 minutes before H Hour and then fire on targets to the flanks until H+30 Minutes. They then remain on call in the retiring lane for as long as they are required. They can of course leave the retiring lane and enter the boat lane in order to give close support to troops ashore.

    The LCT(R) approach the beach with the assault waves and then fire their salvos of rockets over the landing craft and onto the area behind the beach. The first three craft fire their rockets at H-10 minutes. These are aimed to saturate the area to prevent the defence recovering from the effects of the naval bombardment, which will have just either ceased fire or changed to firing on targets to the flanks or inland. A further two craft will fire their salvos at H-4 minutes.

    The self propelled field artillery batteries on LCTs will also give artillery support on the approach. They will start firing when they are 8,000 yards from the beach and then continue to fire, steadily decreasing the range setting for the guns until they are 3,000 yards from the beach. They will then turn aside and retire down the retiring lanes before waiting to re enter the boat lanes and prepare to land. When firing on the approach the guns will use ammunition stacked on the craft so that they will land with a full ammunition scale.

    As the assault waves near the beach the M4 Sherman tanks on LCT(A)s will fire on beach defences to cover the final approach of the assault troops. They will then land to give support on shore. Again while at sea they will use ammunition stacked on the LCT and thus land with a full ammunition scale.

    When close enough to shore the LCS(S) will give covering fire from rockets and machine guns. These are seldom mentioned but they dis expend a considerable amount of ammunition and considerable numbers of rockets. With what effect is not known.

    When the leading wave of craft is three hundred to four hundred yards from the beach the boat wave commander will fire signal rockets. All support craft will then cease fire.


    Naval Bombardment Force ‘A’.
    As the assault waves were making their approach naval units were bombarding the beaches and any defences that might hinder the landings.

    Bombardment Force ‘A’ had the following tasks:

    To neutralise any enemy shore batteries that might interfere with the landings.

    To put down heavy fire for 40 minutes so that the enemy would hopefully be shell shocked, demoralised and unable to move.

    To give close support to troops ashore if required.

    Neutralisation implies that they were to prevent the enemy batteries interfering with the landings. It was never considered practicable to actually destroy enemy batteries with naval gunfire. Obviously many of them were well protected against even the heaviest naval guns.

    In general the naval bombardment force would only engage enemy batteries if they themselves opened fire. Large warships could not carry sufficient ammunition to maintain a barrage for any length of time and it was not practicable to re ammunition at sea. Major warships had to return to the UK to re ammunition.

    It was hoped that some damage, both material and morale, would have been inflicted by air bombardment. Certainly it was expected that communications would be damaged.

    The naval bombardment was limited to forty minutes on Utah since the first waves of assault troops were timed to land at 0630, an hour earlier than on the British beaches. Since naval bombardment units could not fire without spotter planes to observe and report the fall of shell, and the planes could not observe the fall of shell until it was sufficiently light, there was only a forty minute window in which the bombardment could take place.

    There was a variety of shore batteries along the Cotentin coastline. The following were considered a threat to Utah Beach.

    The most formidable battery was that referred to as Crisbeq or St Marcouf. This was planned by the German Navy as part of the defences of Cherbourg, although by D Day it was manned by an army unit,3/HKAA 1261. Being designed to engage enemy warships it had four Skoda 210mm K39/40 guns and a Fire Control Centre in a M272 casemate. Two of the guns were in H683 casemates but the other two casemates were not complete. The Fire Control Centre could track a moving warship and predict the point at which ship and shell would meet. This did not pose a threat to the beaches but it could, and did, threaten the shipping. It was intended that the flank of the landing area would be protected by a smokescreen, which would be laid and renewed by relays of RAF Boston aircraft. However one aircraft was shot down and the battery was able to fire on the destroyers USS Corry and USS Finch. USS Corry was sunk but although the commanding officer reported that he had been hit by gunfire, and the German battery claimed to have hit the ship, enquiries showed that the ship had been sun by a mine when manoeuvering under fire.

    Retaliation was swift. The Crisbeq battery was fired on first by the cruiser USS Quincy and then by the battleship USS Nevada. USS Nevada scored a direct hit on one emplacement but the 5 inch shell failed to explode. One gun was putout of action in the early morning engagement. A second gun was put out of action at 1557 and a third at 1830.

    The Azeville battery with four ex French 105mm guns in H650 casemates was also fired on by USS Nevada. A shell went straight through the embrasure of one casemate and put the gun out of action.

    The Morsaline battery with six ex French 155mm guns opened fire on minesweepers. The guns had been in concrete emplacements near to St Vaas but air bombardment had forced them to move to open positions near Videcosville. The cruiser HMS Black Prince responded. Black Prince was an anti aircraft cruiser with dual purpose air/surface guns and was positioned on the flank of the landing area and so well placed to guard against air attack.

    St Martin de Varreville battery had four 122mm ex Russian guns in open positions. The cruiser HMS Hawkins was assigned to bombard this battery. It was heavily shelled and did not go into action.

    The Barfleur battery and La Pernelle battery were further away from the landing beaches but the monitor HMS Erebus covered them with its heavy long range guns.

    Barfleur battery was actually at Gatteville near La Hougette on the Pointe de Barfleur. It had four ex French 155mm guns in casemates.

    La Pernelle was more powerfully armed with a battery of six ex French 105mm guns in casemates and a battery of three 170mm guns in open pits.

    Bombardment Control was to be exercised from USS Bayfield under the Naval Commander Force ‘U’.

    If fire was required unexpectedly the Bombardment Control Ship would detail a ship for the duty and tell her the target and the call sign of the aircraft which was to spot for her. The firing ship should then contact the aircraft and tell it what the target is.

    Pre arranged sorties were to be flown up to Sunrise + 320 minutes after which five sorties would be flown over the target area until Sunrise + 590 minutes. These would be prepared to spot on impromptu targets. During this period any of the ships may call on any of the sorties concerned and carry out a shoot. After Sunrise + 590 minutes requirements for spotting aircraft should be signalled to the Allied Naval Commander by the Naval Commander Force ‘U’. A percentage of sorties would remain over the target area for impromptu shoots until Sunrise + 680. From Sunrise + 680 to Sunrise 860 there will be five sorties on call.

    The successful completion of the pre arranged fire tasks against enemy batteries was considered vital and it would not be possible to attach cruisers or heavy ships to Forward Observers Bombardment until the batteries were known to be captured or silenced. Calls for fire from cruisers or heavy ships should only be made when destroyers were considered unsuitable.

    Ranging fire when using spotter aircraft should be in salvos of up to four guns when practicable. The first salvo of an indirect shoot by a Forward Observer Bombardment should also be by four guns if practicable. Other ranging salvos observed by a Forward Observer Bombardment should be by a single gun.

    Since the time a ship is available for bombardment depends on the rate of expenditure of ammunition this expenditure should be kept to a minimum needed to achieve the result of neutralising enemy batteries. A close check was kept on the expenditure of ammunition. After each shoot a signal should be sent stating the number of rounds fired. Signals should also be sent when ships had 50% and 25% of ammunition remaining.

    It is fairly easy to see the similarities between the naval bombardment plan and that of artillery in any attack made by the army on land. There was the counter battery fire which on land meant the neutralisation of enemy artillery, which had been previously identified, by heavy batteries. There was the blanket barrage just before the assault and intended to keep the enemy pinned down. There was the fire on call phase when units could request fire support on targets identified by forward observers.

    The basis for planning fire support was the Manual of Combined Operations 1938. Although much had changed between 1938 and 1944 there was little change in the principles of naval fire support. This document was used by the planning teams for Operation Overlord/Neptune.

    Coast artillery has the role of denying the use of sea approaches. Such batteries are permanent installations and must be rendered ineffective. If there is any danger of a coastal battery remaining effective on D Day one of the largest naval batteries available must be assigned to engage it.

    Field artillery is mobile and its role is to place fire on hostile troops. Naval gunfire must be prepared to place fire on field batteries that are discovered, whether they are firing or not. Field artillery depends on observation post to obtain information on the nature, strength and point of attack. Naval gunfire should be prepared to blind such posts. Artillery also depends on command posts for the reception and transmission of information and orders. If located command posts should be engaged in order to disrupt communications.

    Clearly the relative importance of targets varies with the different stages of the assault. During the period of debarkation active coastal batteries are the most important targets with known beach defences coming second. During the run in of the boat waves the beach defences and strongpoints become the most important although coastal batteries must be engaged if necessary. With the troops firmly ashore and moving inland any targets designated by the troops or observers should take precedence

    While bombarding warships may be well placed to carry out defence against attacks from sea and air they must not be diverted from their primary bombardment duties.




    Air Support.

    Heavy bombers from 8 USAAF attacked coastal batteries before D Day and in the early hours of D Day.

    La Pernelle was bombed before D Day.

    Fonteney was bombed before D Day.

    Barfleur was bombed overnight before D Day.

    La Pernelle was bombed overnight before D Day.

    Fonteney was bombed overnight before D Day.

    St Martin de Varreville was bombed overnight before D Day.

    Le Pernelle was bombed in the early hours of D Day.

    Maisy was bombed in the early hours of D Day.


    Utah Beach did not have the benefit of heavy bombers for the immediate pre landing bombing support. It had instead the medium bombers of IX Bomber Command, 9th US Air Force. This was the tactical air force which supported US 1st Army. In the event these medium bombers performed better than did the heavy bombers on Omaha.

    The medium bomber used by IX Bomber Command was the B26 Martin Marauder. This was a twin engined aircraft which could carry 2 tons of bombs. On D Day B26 were deployed on Utah, dropping 525 tons of bombs between 0605 (D-25 minutes) and 0624 (D-6 minutes).

    The first waves of B26 were to bomb strongpoint WN5. 277 B26 dropped 4.414 250lb bombs with instantaneous fused bombs. These were very effective. The cloud cover prevented high level bombing so aircraft flew low enough to be under the clouds, at altitudes from 3,500 foot to 7,000 foot. The bombing was accurate and the defenders were stunned and demoralised. Open gun pits were put out of action, bunkers were damaged and trenches were filled in.

    Sixteen B26 of 322 Bomb Group dropped thirty two 2,000lb delay fused bombs intended to clear beach obstacles. The weather did not allow sufficient precision. This group did not fly low but stayed above the cloud so the bombs were dropped too far inland. None of the four intended lanes were cleared.

    A further thirty three B26 dropped 47 tons of bombs on the coastal batteries near Maisy and Gefosse.

    There has been speculation over the years as to why the medium bombers appear to have performed better than the heavy bombers. To my untutored mind it seems that this was largely because the medium bombers were performing the role for which they were intended and trained. The heavy bomber was neither trained nor equipped to provide precise close support.

    The role of the medium bomber was essentially a tactical one. It was to attack targets which required longer range or heavier bomb load than the fighter bomber provided. Targets such as headquarters and dumps well behind the front line or targets which required area pattern bombing such as artillery gun areas and troop assembly areas were ideal for medium bombers.

    The operations of medium bombers required a very different approach to that of the US heavy bombers. The latter flew in large formations which were stacked so as to give good fields of defensive fire, and spread so as to cover a wide area. This suited the strategic aims of the heavy bomber commanders. They were to destroy enemy industry and cities in the hope of causing civilian unrest and lost production of war material. The medium bomber typically flew in small formations, six or so aircraft, which flew a tight formation and dropped bombs on the orders of the formation leader. They also flew at lower altitudes. All of this meant that they could place bombs more accurately, and in a more concentrated pattern.

    General Brereton, commanding 9 USAAF, can probably take credit for the medium bombers success. He had an interesting career. After graduating from the US Naval Academy he joined the US Army. He was a very early army aviator and when the US Army Air Corps went to France in WW1 he was a staff officer. His commanding general was General Mitchell who came up with an interesting suggestion to break the stalemate on the Western Front. This was to use aircraft to fly troops over the frontlines and land them in the enemy’s rear. Brereton was tasked with the planning of the operation. It did not actually take place but it must have been useful when 28 years later he became commander of the 1st Allied Airborne Army.

    In WW2 Brereton was sent to N. Africa to command a USAAF force of tactical aircraft to support the British. Again this was good preparation for his role as commanding general of 9 USAAF. As part of 8 USAAF the B26 had performed badly and it was threatened with disbandment. As part of 9 USAAF and in a tactical role it performed well.

    It may also be that the heavy bomber commanders and aircrew resented being taken from their primary mission to help the military in a tactical role.

    In the event it seems that the US heavy day bombers main contribution to D Day was that they drew away and destroyed large numbers of German fighters so that there was relatively little opposition in the air on D Day and the weeks following.


    Air Support Parties.

    9 USAAF attached an Air Support Party to each of the Regimental Combat Teams in the initial assault. These parties were to remain with the Regimental Combat Team Headquarters until the parent Divisional Headquarters was established ashore. The Air Support Party then returned its normal function with the division to which it was attached.

    Parties landing with the assault teams have radio equipment carried on handcarts. As soon as possible jeeps land to carry wireless sets. The sets are capable of operating on HF for long distance communication and on VHF for communicating with aircraft. The role of the parties was to secure direct air support for the troops of the RCT. In order to reduce the time taken to arrange such support any request originating from the RCT was to be transmitted direct to UK Headquarters at Uxbridge and fighter bombers would be assigned as available. Air Support Parties were not to communicate directly with aircraft unless they were specifically authorised to do so or to warn aircraft when they were attacking own troops or the wrong target.

    Fighter bombers were despatched in relays every 20 minutes. They were briefed for specific targets but could be diverted to other more urgent targets by controllers on headquarters ships when the aircraft reported their arrival off the beach area or by Uxbridge before taking off. In the latter case there would be at least an hours delay because of the flight time across the Channel. If a special mission was requested then Uxbridge would assign fighter bombers or medium bombers from the reserve. This would require two to three hours.

    9 USAAF deployed a powerful force of tactical fighter bombers. The main fighter bomber was the P47 Thunderbolt and 39 squadrons were available. Compared with the Spitfire and P51 Mustang the Thunderbolt was a massive aircraft, twice as heavy as the Spitfire and more than 50% heavier than the Mustang. It lacked the elegant streamlined looks of the Spitfire and Mustang but it was no slowcoach. Its powerful radial engine gave it a speed that equalled that of the other two planes and the later P47M was faster. As a tactical fighter bomber it was formidable. It was fast in a dive and it could survive a tremendous amount of battle damage thangs to its rugged construction. It carried a heavy armament of eight .5” machine guns plus up to 2,500lb of bombs, usually a 500lb bomb under the fuselage and a 1000lb bomb under each wing. Its speciality was dive bombing and strafing.

    By D Day most of 9 USAAF fighters were Thunderbolts. It had been agreed that 8 USAAF would use the F51 Mustang as a long range bomber escort and the 9th would use Thunderbolts. This was partly achieved by exchanging aircraft between the two forces and all new Thunderbolt squadrons arriving in the UK went to 9 USAAF.

    9 USAAF did have three squadrons of F38 Lightning fighters but on D Day these were used as high level cover for convoys crossing the Channel. It was thought that their distinctive twin boomed shape would be recognisable to sailors who were understandably nervous of planes overflying them. There were also two squadrons of Mustangs used for tactical reconnaissance.


    Mike.
     
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