THE MISSION OF V CORPS was to secure a beachhead in the area between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River, from which they would push southward toward Caumont and St-Lo, conforming with the advance of the British Second Army. The Corps would arrive at the beachhead in four stages. The initial assault force (Force "O") consisted of the 1st Division, reinforced to include four infantry regiments with strong attachments of artillery, armor, and engineers, as well as attachments of engineer and service units for movement to the beach. Chief components of the 1st Division were its own 16th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams, the 116th Regimental Combat Team and the 115th Infantry attached from the 29th Division, and the Provisional Ranger Force of two battalions (2d and 5th). Force "O" numbered 34,142 men and 3,306 vehicles.

The follow-up force (Force "B") was scheduled to arrive off the assault beach after noon on D Day and numbered 25,117 men and 4,429 vehicles. It included the 29th Division, consisting of the 175th Infantry and (attached from the 1st Division) the 26th RCT. Scheduled to arrive on D+1 and D+2, the preloaded build-up contingent had as main component the 2d Division and

Page 9

totaled some 17,500 men and 2,300 vehicles. Schedules for the later build-up completing the transfer of V Corps to Normandy, called for the arrival between D+2 and D+15 of 27 residual groups involving 32,000 troops and 9,446 vehicles. All of these totals included a large number of units attached to V Corps for movement only.

The loading plans of Force "O" and Force "B" were designed to fit an operation which would develop from an assault by one reinforced division into attack by two divisions abreast. Unity of command in the critical first stages would thus be assured. Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner, commanding the 1st Division, would conduct the initial assault with a force that included two units of the 29th Division, and plans for the landings and for movement inland

Page 10

were made so as to permit the early assignment of divisional zones to the 1st and 29th Divisions. These zones would go into effect on corps order, when Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt would assume command of the 29th Division with its normal components. In the meantime, in order to pave the way for this step, Brig. Gen. Norman D. Cota, assistant divisional commander of the 29th, was to land with the 116th RCT and assist General Huebner in handling the 29th Division units until they reverted.

The 1st Division was a veteran unit which had served through the campaigns of North Africa and Sicily. The 29th and 2d Divisions would experience their first action in Normandy.


The coast of Normandy offers only a few areas favorable for large-scale landing operations in the one assigned to V Corps (Maps Nos. II and III). Cliffs, reefs, and the wide tidal ranges combine to present

Page 11

natural difficulties. The estuary at the mouth of the Vire River is marked by extensive shallows, exposed at low tide, and flanked on the east by reefs that extend to Grandcamp. Beyond that seaside village cliffs averaging 100 feet in height tower above a narrow beach as far as Pointe de la Percee. Five miles further east, cliffs reappear at the shore line, and the beach is spoiled by rock ledges which continue as far as Port-en-Bessin.

It was on this five-mile, cliffless interval that V Corps planned its assault landings, designating the sector as "Omaha" Beach.

That part of the stretch regarded as suitable for landing operations was about 7,000 yards long, on a shore which curves landward in a very slight crescent and is backed with bluffs which merge into the cliffs at either end of the sector.

The beach slopes very gently below highwater mark. With a tidal range of 18 feet expected at the period of the assault, low tide would expose a stretch of firm sand averaging about 300 yards in distance from lowwater mark to high. The enemy had placed "underwater" obstacles on this tidal flat. At high tide, men and vehicles wading

Page 12

up the beach could expect trouble with irregular runnels parallel to the shore, scoured out by the tidal current and two and one-half to four feet deep.

At the high-water mark, the tidal flat terminated [4] in a bank of coarse shingle, sloping up rather steeply to a height of some 8 feet. In places it was as much as 15 yards wide, and the stones averaged 3 inches in diameter. On the eastern two-thirds of the beach, the shingle lay against a low sand embankment or dune line and constituted a barrier which was impassable for vehicles. On the western part of the beach the shingle piled against a sea wall, first (near the Vierville exit, D-1) of stone masonry sloping seaward, then of wood. The wall varied in height from 4 to 12 feet and was broken by a gap several hundred yards wide where the tidal flat ended in shingle and embankment. Immediately behind the sea wall a paved,

[4] As a result of defensive preparations by the Germans, the effects of the assault bombardment, and (above all) the work done by engineers to clear the beach for supply operations after the assault, many features of the beach at the time of the assault were largely destroyed. The sea wall and shingle embankment were completely removed, and many of the beach villas were razed or reduced to rubble. The road system was entirely changed.

Page 13

promenade beach road ran from Exit D-1 to Exit D-3, then became a rough track going as far as Exit E-3.

Between the dune line (or sea wall) and the bluffs lay the beach flat. Very narrow at either end of the main landing one, this level shelf of sand widened to more than 200 yards near the center of the stretch. Except at the Vierville end, the flat had large patches of marsh and high grass, usually near the edge of the bluffs. Toward Exit D-1, a number of summer villas lined the shelf behind the promenade road, and at Exit D-3 lay a small village, les Moulins, with buildings clustered on the road running back inland from the beach. Many of these had been razed by the Germans to improve fields of defensive fires. East of les Moulins there were only a few scattered houses.

Bluffs 100 to 170 feet in height rise sharply from the flat and dominate the whole beach area. The slopes are generally steep, but in varying degree. They are most abrupt between Exit D-1 and Exit D-3; farther east, the rise is easier but reaches higher elevations (150 to 165 feet) fairly close to the beach flat. The grass-covered slopes are more uneven than they appear when viewed from only a short distance. Many small folds or irregularities provide opportunity for cover from flanking fires, and from Exit E-1 eastward the bluff sides are partly covered with low scrub and brush. Along most of the stretch, the bluff ends in a clear-cut crest line as it reaches the edge of the inland plateau; toward the eastern end, where the slopes are longer and more gradual, the edge is not sharply defined.

Page 14 & 15


Page 16

At four points along Omaha Beach small wooded valleys slope back inland and provide natural corridors for exit from the beach flat. A paved road led off the coast at Exit D-1; the other draws had unimproved roads. These corridors were, inevitably, key areas both in the plan of attack and in the arrangement of defenses. The advance inland of assaulting units would depend on opening exit roads for traffic and supply from the beach, and armor used in the attack could only get up to the high ground through the draws. Near the eastern end of the beach a very shallow and fairly steep draw, followed by a rough trail leading inland, was marked for development as a fifth exit route (F-1).

Once up the steep slopes bordering the beach, attacking troops would get the impression of coming out on a gently rolling plain. Actually, there is a gradual rise to a height of land which parallels the coast about 2,000 yards inland and reaches over 250 feet in altitude south of Colleville. There is no marked "ridge" line whatever, and except for unusually open fields near the bluff between Exits D-1 and E-1, observation in the whole area is severely limited by the numerous hedgerows, orchards, and patches of trees. Three villages, Vierville, St-Laurent, and Colleville, [5] 500 to 1,000 yards inland, were so situated near the heads of draws and along the coastal highway as to figure inevitably in the defense of main exit routes. These were farming villages, with a certain amount of activity in summer as modest beach resorts. Their stone houses were clustered on or near the coastal highway that connected them with Grandcamp and Bayeux.

South of the tableland lies the valley of the Aure River, running from east to west, flowing about two miles behind the beach at Port-en-Bessin and five miles south of it at Pointe de la Percee (Map No. III). West of Trevieres the valley plain had been flooded to form a barrier over a mile wide. Above the Trevieres the Aure was fordable by infantry. Only on the northern side of the valley are the slopes at all pronounced; at two points (just north of Trevieres and at Mount Cauvin) the ground close to the river on the north is 150 to 200 feet above the stream, giving good observation into the valley and its main approaches from the south.

South of the Aure the ground rises again, at first very gradually, toward the height of land crowned by Cerisy Forest, 12 miles south of the coast and nearly 400 feet above sea level. Several small streams flowing north toward the Aure divide this rising ground into a series of low north-south ridges. In V Corps' estimates for the operation the Cerisy Forest figured as an important tactical objective, necessary to hold if the beachhead was to be secure. It not only included commanding ground, within medium artillery range of the coast, but offered cover for assembly of enemy forces.

The region west and southwest of Omaha Beach figured prominently in DDay plans, for early junction with VII Corps depended on progress in that direction. The flooding of the lower Aure Valley had nearly made a peninsula, 10 miles long and 5 miles wide, comprising the low tableland stretching from Formigny-Trevieres west to the Vire Estuary. In it lay some of the strongest German fortifications, controlling the sea approaches to Carentan, and through it from east to west ran the principal highway from Paris (Caen) to Cherbourg and the Cotentin. The town of Isigny, where the highway crossed the Aure, would be a key point in any effort to link the beachheads of V and VII Corps; all east-west communications near the coast funneled through Isigny, and

[5] All three have compound names, with the ending "-sur-Mer." For convenience, and. since there is no danger of confusion with other localities, these endings are omitted.

Page 17

from it V Corps could debouch on the lowlands near Carentan.

The road net south and west of Omaha is characterized by the absence of main north-south routes; the few major highways in the corps one would be laterals rather than axials. The most important artery is the Carentan-Isigny-Bayeux road just noted. Another highway, well paved for two-way traffic, links Bayeux with the junction point of St-Lo, crossing the Cerisy Forest. From Port-en-Bessin to Grandcamp runs a 15-foot, hard-surface road paralleling the coast about a mile inland. North-south roads in the region, at best secondary, are winding and usually narrow; they were expected to present difficulties in the form of steep shoulders and narrow bridges. Local communications are served by many small lanes and tracks, designed for the needs of farmers, but regarded as unsuitable for military use except by infantry. Any advance inland would require, for the supporting vehicular traffic, a great deal of engineering work to develop small roads into suitable north-south axials. Deployment from any of the roads was estimated as likely to be difficult because of the ever present hedges, often combined with embankments. The double-track railroad from Paris (Caen) to Cherbourg runs from east to west across the high ground a few miles south of the Aure. Cutting this line at Bayeux and Caen, and denying its use to the enemy, was a primary objective in the D-Day attack of the British Second Army.

Page 18


Page 19

American troops who fought in Normandy will always connect the name with hedgerow fighting. They were to begin it as soon as they left the bluffs above Omaha Beach. Stock raising and fruit growing are the main rural activities in this part of Normandy, and the field system is characterized by a patchwork layout of irregular fields varying from narrow ribbon-like strips to shapes more nearly square. These range in size from 10 or 15 to a 100 acres or more, with the greater number probably averaging between 50 and 75 acres. Some contain orchards of low-growing apple trees, more are used for pasture, and there are occasional patches of grain, though the main wheat-growing area of western Normandy is in the Orne Valley. Boundaries between fields tend to follow NNE-SSW and WNW-ESE axes in the Omaha region, but local variations are numerous, and the boundaries could never be counted on to provide a safe direction-line for keeping to an axis of advance. Hedgerows form the universal substitute for fences in this country and vary in character almost as much as do the shapes of the fields. Some are low bushes, five to six feet high, growing from the ground level of the field and not hard to break through. Others are thick, densely matted walls of tough and briery hedge, running up to 10 feet in height and interspersed with large and small trees. In many regions (not so often in the area just behind Omaha Beach) the hedges grow out of banks or dikes of earth, forming natural ramparts sometimes six feet high and adding immensely to the strength of the barrier. Many hedge embankments are not passable for tanks. Drainage ditches are often found skirting the hedge or its embankment, and provide good sites for shelters and fox holes. Communication between fields is usually limited to small openings at the corners. Occasional narrow trails or sunken roads, running between parallel hedgerows (and not always shown on maps) give access to fields far off the regular road net.

Fighting in country of this sort presents serious difficulties to attacking forces. Each hedgerow across the axis of advance might conceal a nest of enemy resistance, in which good positions for flat-trajectory weapons could be quickly organized, with short but usually excellent fields of fire across the nearest fields. Axial hedgerows could be utilized by defenders for delivering flanking fire. Observation would be extremely difficult for the attackers (see illustration, p. 120), and this might hinder the quick use of supporting heavy weapons and artillery fire. In contrast, a defending force could use prearranged fires of mortars and automatic weapons sited to cover the hedgerows leading toward any prepared positions. Split up by hedgerow walls, attacking forces were often to find difficulty in maintaining communications on their flanks and in coordinating the attack of units larger than a company. Fighting in this country would put a premium on initiative and aggressive leadership in small units, and armor could have only limited use.

Trevieres, largest village in the area close to Omaha Beach, had a prewar population of about 800, and the total population of the region shown on Map No. III (excluding Bayeux) was probably under 10,000. Following practices that go back to Celtic settlement of the land, farmers in this part of Normandy tend to group in small straggling villages and hamlets, with houses of stone and rubble-mortar construction. If located on important roads or high ground, these villages were often destined to become centers of local resistance and to suffer accordingly. In terrain so lacking in hills, church towers were inevitably regarded as possible observation posts, and their ruins testify to the results of neutralizing artillery fire. The occasional isolated farms usually

Page 20

consisted of fairly substantial buildings grouped around a court yard; many farms of this type became strongpoints in the battles through hedgerow country.

Enemy Defenses

In the years which followed the fall of France, the Germans publicized the building of an "Atlantic Wall" against any invasion attempts on the part of the Allies. In his speech announcing declaration of war on the United States, Hitler said (11 December 1941): "A belt of strongpoints and gigantic fortifications runs from Kirkenes (Norway) to the Pyrenees.... It is my unshakable decision to make this front impregnable against every enemy." Commando forays on the coast of France, aerial reconnaissance, and reports from the French Resistance and secret agents helped Allied Headquarters to amass detailed information on the enemy's progress in strengthening his fortifications in the west. On the basis of this intelligence Allied plans were checked and revised up to the middle of May. The estimates were later found to be substantially correct regarding enemy fire power, the underwater and beach obstacles, the plans for use of terrain in defense, and the strength of defensive emplacements

German coastal defenses in the V Corps one were distributed in accordance with the degree of opportunity offered by different sectors for a landing assault (Maps Nos. II and IV) Thirty-two fortified areas or strongpoints were located between the Vire River and Port-en-Bessin. The Vire Estuary, Grandcamp, and Port-en-Bessin were strongly defended. On the long stretches of coast enjoying natural protection by reefs and cliffs, the strongpoints were widely spaced. The enemy had recognized that the Omaha sector was more favorable for attack from the sea, and 12 strongpoints were so placed as to be able to bring direct fire on the beach.

The enemy's tactical plan for meeting assault was suggested by the disposition of his coastal defenses, which were concentrated at the beaches and were not developed in any depth. Every evidence pointed to the conclusion that the Germans intended a maximum effort on the coast, seeking either to smash the attack at the water's edge or, at worst, to hold the assaulting forces near the beach until mobile reserves could arrive to finish them off. The beach defenses were designed to stop the attacking force by obstacles and mines, both on the tidal flat and the beach shelf, while it was annihilated with concentrated fires from every type of defensive weapon.

In 1944, at all main beaches practicable for massive landings, the Germans had begun to construct an elaborate system of obstacles along the tidal flat between the high- and low-water marks. These obstacles, designed to wreck or block off landing craft, had begun to appear in the Omaha sector early in April, and work on them was still in progress by D Day.

The first band of obstructions consisted of a series of Element "C," gate-like structures of reinforced iron frames with iron supports, on rollers, about 250 yards out from the high-water line. The main support girders were 10 feet high, and waterproofed Teller mines were lashed to the uprights. The second band, 20 to 25 yards landward, was composed of heavy logs driven into the sand at such an angle that the mine-tipped ends pointed seaward, or of log ramps, reinforced and mined. This belt was found to be more formidable than had been anticipated. One hundred and thirty yards from shore, the final row of obstructions included hedgehogs, about five and one-half feet high and made of three or more steel rails or angles, crossed at the centers and so strongly set

Page 21 (Photo)

Page 22

Map 2  Enemy Defenses at D-3 Draw (les Moulins)

MAP NO. 2 Enemy Defenses at D-3 Draw (les Moulins)

Page 23

that the ends would stave in the bottoms of landing craft. None of these bands were continuous, the elements being staggered at irregular intervals. There were no mines in the tidal sands. Shortly after work began o n these obstacles, Allied intelligence learned of the new development, and Allied planning staffs were preparing measures to meet this new and serious complication in the assault problem.

If the attacking troops reached the bank of shingle at the edge of the tidal sands, they would still have to cross the narrow shelf of beach flat to reach the bluffs. The Germans made liberal use of wire and mines to slow up movement beyond the shingle. Along most of the beach, a row of concertina wire was placed just to landward of the shingle; at the western end, the wire was on top of the sea wall. Irregularly placed minefields, usually posted with warning signs, lay in the flat ground behind the wire and on the bluff slope. In addition to the ordinary types, there were rock fougasses (charges of TNT covered by rock and set off by trip wire, sometimes in the concertina), ordinary trip-wire mines, French "buttercup" mines, and mustard pots. Some dummy minefields consisted of scrap iron planted below the ground surface, but most of the fields were real.

Enemy firing positions were laid out to cover the tidal flat and beach shelf with direct fire, both plunging and grazing, from all types of weapons. Observation on the whole Omaha area, and flanking fire from cliff positions at either end, were aided by the crescent curve of the shore line. The emplacements between Vierville and Pointe de la Percee were particularly dangerous because of their ability to deliver enfilade fire on a large stretch of the landing area. Each strongpoint was a complex system made up of elements including pillboxes, gun casemates, open positions for light guns, and firing trenches, surrounded by minefields and wire (Map No. 2). The elements were connected with each other and with under-

Page 24


Page 25

ground quarters and magazines by deep trenches or by tunnels. Most of the strong-points protecting Omaha were situated near the entrance to the draws, which were further protected by antitank ditches and road blocks. In some cases the elements of a strongpoint were echeloned from the north edge of the beach flat to the top of the bluff, with weapons sited for both grazing and plunging fire on every yard of approach to the draw. In June the Germans were still in process of completing or strengthening several strongpoints, including those guarding E-1 draw.

While machine guns were the basic weapons in all emplacements, there were over 60 light artillery pieces of various types. Eight concrete casemates and four open field positions were designed for guns of caliber from 75-mm to 88-mm; 35 pillboxes were occupied by lighter guns; and there were about 18 antitank guns (37-mm to 75-mm). The heavier guns were sited to give lateral fire along the beach, with traverse limited by thick concrete wing-walls which concealed the flash of these guns and made them hard to spot from the sea. Mortar positions were sometimes included in the strongpoints but were more frequently placed behind the bluffs. About 40 rocket pits were later found, located several hundred yards inland on the high ground and each fitted to fire four 32-cm rockets.

The considerable areas between the strong-points were supposed to be protected by their flanking fires, by minefields scattered on the beach flat and the slopes of the bluff, and by occasional trenches, rifle pits, and machinegun emplacements along the crest. While the line of defense was not continuous, no areas of beach were left uncovered in the pattern of defensive fires. Nearly all weapons, machine guns as well as artillery pieces, were sited primarily to give lateral fires down the length of the beach, and the defense of a given sector usually depended as much on the flanking fire from neighboring positions as on the emplacements in the sector itself.

The Omaha sector was not strongly defended by coastal batteries of heavier guns. But at Pointe du Hoe, some 5,000 yards to the west, there was a battery believed to consist of six 155-mm howitzers (French make), mounted partly in casemates. This position was regarded as the most dangerous in the American one, for guns of that caliber could cover not only the V and VII Corps landing beaches but also both transport areas. Further west, at Maisy, was a battery estimated at four 155-mm howitzers and near Gefosse-Fontenay were four 105-mm field gun-howitzers. Both of these batteries were later found to consist of mobile field guns. Just beyond the First Army boundary, in the British one, the strong defenses of Port-en-Bessin included guns that might be used against the landing area at Omaha.

All main enemy defenses in the Omaha sector were on the beach or just behind it; there was no evidence that the Germans had prepared positions inland for a defense in depth. There were known to be a few minefields in the fields just south of the bluffs, and some scattered emplacements at bivouac areas and assembly points. Defense beyond the beach would depend largely on the use of local reserves in counterattack.

Page 26

Omaha Beach lay in the 53-mile sector reportedly held by the 716th Infantry Division, extending from the Orne River to the Vire Estuary (Map No. I). This was a defensive division, estimated at two regiments, two or three artillery battalions, and other small divisional units. Non-German elements in the division were estimated to be as high as 50 percent, mostly Poles or Russians, and morale was thought to be poor. The 726th Infantry Regiment was responsible for the coast defenses from west of Grandcamp to a point three miles east of Port-en-Bessin. According to the intelligence available, defending troops in the Omaha Beach strongpoints amounted to about a reinforced battalion, some 800 to 1,000 troops, most of them needed to man the beach defenses. Local reserves of the 716th Division were estimated at three battalions, two of these near enough to the Omaha assault area to reach it in two or three hours. Counterattacks by these units were not regarded as likely to be effective against penetrations of the beach defenses, and major counterattacks would depend on the arrival of mobile reserves. The nearest of these to the Omaha area, and the most likely to be committed there was the 352d Infantry Division, reported as stationed in the StLo-Caumont area some 20 miles inland. Commanded by Lt. Gen. Heinz Hellmich, this was an offensive division of good quality, with a core of veterans experienced in fighting on the Russian front, and was expected to furnish most of the opposition

Page 27

to V Corps. It was at full strength, with three infantry regiments and normal artillery of three battalions of 105-mm and one battalion of 150mm howitzers. By commandeering local transportation, the enemy was believed able to get one regimental combat team of this division into the Omaha area by afternoon of D Day. In addition, the three small battalions of the 30th Mobile Brigade, headquarters at Coutances, might be used for early counterattack. These battalions, consisting of three companies each, were provided with adequate transport for quick movement. Other enemy mobile reserves, including his available armored divisions, were located nearer the Caen-Bayeux area in the British one. V Corps units were warned to guard against possible armored counterattack on this flank by late on D Day. The three German divisions in the Cotentin peninsula were expected to be completely occupied by VII Corps' attack [6] and by the need for defending the Cherbourg area against possible further landings.

It was thought that the German air force would make a supreme effort against the Allied convoy and landing operations. Despite his heavy air losses during the winter, the enemy was believed capable of making 1,500 sorties on D Day, mainly of fighters and fighter-bombers. In view of the overwhelming Allied naval strength, there was little fear of enemy surface action against the assault convoy. Enemy capabilities would

[6] The 245th Infantry Division. believed to be guarding the coat from Coutances to Avranches (See Map No. 1), was found in July to have been in the Dieppe region at the time of the invasion.

Page 28

be limited to harassing raids by E-Boats on the flanks of the convoy lane, and underwater attack by U-Boats from bases in western France.

Pre-Assault Bombardment Plans

The assault landings on Omaha Beach were to be preceded by intensive air and naval bombardment in the half-hour before touchdown, designed to neutralize all known gun positions and to demoralize enemy troops in the beach defenses. For the period just previous to D Day air attacks were planned against coastal batteries in the NEPTUNE area, but only as part of a widespread program which put its heaviest attacks on the French coast north of the Seine. The Pointe du Hoe position, one of the priority targets in this pre-D-Day bombing had been hit on 15 April, 22 May, and 4; June. The RAF was to conclude the effort against coastal batteries with a concentrated attack between midnight and dawn of D Day; the coastal batteries from the mouth of the Seine to Cherbourg were the

Page 29

target of 1,333 heavy bombers dropping 5,316 tons of bombs.

From H-30 to H-5 minutes heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force would strike enemy beach defenses in the assault area between the Vire and the Orne. In the V Corps' zone 480 B-24's were to attack 13 target areas with 1,285 tons of bombs. Of these targets, 11 were between Pointe de la Percee and the eastern end of the Omaha landing one, including every strongpoint in the system of beach defenses. The loading consisted for the most part of 100-pound fragmentation and high-explosive bombs, with some 500-pound high-explosive bombs for certain strongpoints. All loads were fitted with instantaneous fuze in order to prevent cratering of the beach and consequent delay in movement of traffic across it. West of Omaha, the battery positions at Pointe du Hoe would receive a final attack by 18 medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force, delivered between H20 and H-5 minutes. In the same period, mediums would deliver a blow of equal weight at Maisy, and the gun positions there and at GefosseFontenay were the targets of two squadrons of fighter-bombers.

Naval gunfire would commence at H-40 minutes and continue to H-3 minutes. The battleships TEXAS and ARKANSAS (mounting a total of ten 14inch, twelve 12-inch, and twelve 5-inch guns) would fire from 18,000 yards off shore. About 600 rounds of their heaviest shells would be aimed at the enemy coastal battery at Pointe du Hoe and at the enemy strongpoints defending Exit D-3. Three cruisers, with 6-inch or 152-mm guns, had as targets for 950 rounds the enemy defenses near Port-enBessin and the strong-points near D-3 and E-1 draws. Firing at 1,800 yards from swept lanes on the flanks of the landing-craft approach area, eight destroyers (4- and 5-inch guns) were to put 2.000 rounds on the beach strongpoints.

In addition to the ships, a large number of fire-support craft were to place area fire on the beach defenses, and point fire on certain other targets. Five LCG (L)'s with two 47-mm guns each, accompanying the leading assault wave, were scheduled to fire 630 rounds on selected strongpoints beginning at H-20 minutes. Sixteen LCT (A and HE)'s, carrying tanks to land in the first wave, were each fitted so that two M-4's could fire over the ramp, beginning from a range of 3,000 yards at about H-15 minutes; each gun had an allowance of 150 rounds. Ten LCT (5) s carried the 36105-mm howitzers (self-propelled) of the 58th and 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalions, due to land in the third hour of the assault. These howitzers were mounted to fire from the LCT's, opening at a range of 8,000 yards about H-30 and closing at a range of 3,700 yards by H-5 minutes. Their allowance was 100 rounds per gun. Finally, 9 LCT (R)'s stationed in positions 3,000 yards o shore were to fire 1,000 HE rockets each when the leading assault wave was 300 yards from the beach.

Analysis of the combined plans shows that the great weight of air and naval bombardment would fall on the immediate beach defenses in the Omaha area, including positions which could put flanking fire on the beach. All the main enemy strongpoints, and the Pointe du Hoe coastal battery, were targets for attack both from air and sea.

Beginning at H Hour naval fires would shift to inland targets such as possible assembly areas, or wait for direction by naval shore fire control parties. There were 24 of these, permitting an allotment of one to each battalion (including the Ranger Battalions) in the two assault divisions, excepting the regiment in corps reserve. High-performance spotting aircraft would be available up to H+5 hours. For purposes of supporting the attack inland, Fire Support

Page 30

Group I, consisting of a battleship, cruiser, and four destroyers, would be on call for the 29th Division units and Fire Support Group II, a battleship, two cruisers, and four destroyers, for the 1st Division.

Plan of Assault Landings

Air and naval bombardment was designed to soften up the beach defenses; the main job of reducing them and breaking through inland would have to be done by the assault landing teams. These had been built up to include every type of specialized technique and weapon needed in the fight at the beach. Every unit, down to the smallest, had been trained to carry out a particular task in a definite area (Maps Nos. II, IV, V, VI).

For purposes of the landing operations, the whole Omaha area had been divided into beach sectors and sub-sectors, with six sub-sectors falling in the main one of landings. The 1st Division planned an attack by two regiments abreast. On the two easterly sub-sectors (Easy Red and Fox Green), totaling about 3,000 yards, the 16th RCT would assault with two battalion landing teams abreast, one on each sub-sector; the support BLT would touchdown on Easy Red at H+70 minutes. On the four western subsectors (Dog Green, Dog White, Dog Red, and Easy Green), totaling about 3,000 yards, the 116th RCT would likewise assault with two BLT' s abreast, the support battalion coming in on the three eastern subsectors.

The Provisional Ranger Force of two battalions (six companies each), attached to the 116th RCT, had special missions on the right flank. Three companies of the 2d Ranger Battalion were to scale the cliffs at Pointe du Hoe, three miles west of the main landings, and take the fortified battery positions. One company of the same unit would land just west of the 116th near Exit D-1 and assault the enemy positions at Pointe de la Percee. If the assault at Pointe du Hoe was successful by H+30 minutes, the 5th Ranger Battalion and the remaining companies of the 2d Battalion would land there; if not, they would come in on Dog Green at H+70 and proceed overland for attack on Pointe du Hoe.

Further break-down of the assault tactics can best be followed in terms of the landing schedule, which brought the BLT's and their specialized supporting attachments ashore in a pattern to conform to the expected needs and development of the battle. The schedule for the 116th RCT may be taken as representative. (See Landing Diagram, 116th RCT, and Maps Nos. V, VI.)

H Hour would be fixed so as to bring in the first landing waves as soon after dawn as possible, and under conditions of tide low enough to expose fully the underwater beach obstacles. This timing was an essential feature of the assault plans. It meant that the first waves would have to cross several hundred yards of open ground on the tidal flat, but it would allow an engineer task force to clear lanes through the obstacles before the arrival of larger forces and supplies at high water.

At H-5 minutes Companies B and C (DD tanks) of the 743d Tank Battalion would make the first touchdown on Dog White and Dog Green. These tanks, fitted to navigate on water or land, were to be launched from 6,000 yards out, swim ashore, and take up firing positions at the water's edge to cover the first phase of the assault. Their fire was to be placed on the main enemy fortifications, particularly those west of Exit D-l which could bring flanking fire on Dog Beach. Moving up through the obstacles as the tide rose, the tanks would support the main assault and then clear the beach through Exit D-3. At H Hour eight LCT's would land Company A of the 743d

Page 31


Page 32

Battalion on Easy Green and Dog Red. This unit had a mission similar to that of the other tank companies. With Company A were landed eight tank dozers, towing trailers of explosive and scheduled for use by engineers in demolition work on obstacles. All three companies were attached to the battalion landing teams to insure closest coordination with the infantry assault.

At H+1 minute the first infantry assault wave would touch down: four companies, each loaded in six LCVP's and correspondingly organized in boat sections rather than platoons. Company A would land on Dog Green, spearheading the 1st BLT's attack on the important Exit D-1. Companies E, F, and G were on the three sub-sectors to the east. This primary assault force was to cross the tidal flat through the obstacles and make its attack immediately on the German defenses. The boat sections were to operate as tactical units, each carrying out a carefully planned assault mission in a well-defined sector. The sections would assist each other in the work of reducing the beach defenses, but no attempt was to be made to organize for action as companies until an inland assembly point had been reached. The infantry attack, together with the fire of the tanks, would occupy the attention of the German strongpoints and cover the work on demolition of beach obstacles by the Special Engineer Task Force.

That Force was to come in at H+3 to H+8 minutes in 13 LCM's. Army personnel (for this section of the beach) was composed of the 146th Engineer Combat Battalion, organized in eight assault and four support teams, and a control section. [7] Averaging 41 men each, 11 of the teams included a Naval Combat Demolition Unit of an officer and 12 men. They had a vital mission to perform: landing when the tide was below the obstacles, to clear and mark lanes through the beach obstacles so that craft could reach the upper sands at flood stage of the tide. In the 116th's half of the beach, they were to prepare eight 50-yard gaps through all obstacles (two gaps per sub-sector). The eight tank dozers would be used to push, break, and tow off obstacles at the lower edge of the beach. Demolitions would be used on other obstacles, and mine crews would take care of the mines on obstacles and (if found) in the sand.

A 30-minute interval would be allowed for the work of the Engineer Special Task Force. Beginning at H+30 minutes, the second and larger group of assault waves would come to shore in a sequence of 5 landings, spaced over 30 minutes. These would bring in the remaining units o the two assault BLT's and (behind the 2d BLT the supporting 3d BLT. Also included were battalion and regimental headquarters, two companies of the 81st Chemical Weapons Battalion, and elements of the 112th and 121st Engineer Combat Battalions. This second contingent of engineers had the mission of assisting the assault infantry through minefields and obstacles on their route of advance, and of opening the beach exits for passage of vehicles by H+3 hours They would then move inland with the 116th RCT, one of their first tasks being to open the transit vehicle areas.

Advance elements of still a third engineer force were due in with the second series of landings. This force comprised the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group, commanded by Brig. Gen. William M. Hog and organized in two brigades of three battalions each. They would aid in clearing the beach area of mines and obstacles and in opening exits; then, when the engineers attached to 116th RCT went inland, the

[7] In the 16th RCT's sector, the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion furnished the Army contingent for this force.

Page 33

Brigade Group engineers would take over organization, operation, and maintenance of the beach installations up to the beachhead maintenance line.

Between H+90 and H+120 minutes the first artillery units would come in, led by the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, which had taken part in the preparatory bombardment by fire from LCT's. Dukws would bring in the 111th Field Artillery Battalion, the 467th AAA AW Battalion, and the antitank and cannon companies of the 116th RCT. Some vehicles had been included in the second wave; however, the real influx of vehicles and supply would come from H+180 minutes on, in steadily mounting proportion. By H+240 minutes there would be cranes, tank-recovery vehicles, half-tracks, and trucks of all types on shore. From that time on, rhino-ferries and dukws were to play a large part in transport of vehicles and supply.

On Easy Red and Fox Green, the 16th RCT (with attachments) was to land by a very similar plan. The differences in respect to infantry landings can be seen on Maps Nos. V and VI. Of the three companies of the 741st Tank Battalion, B and C (DD's) were to land on Easy Red and Fox Green respectively, with Company A astride the boundary of these sectors. The employment of engineer units was similar for both parts of Omaha Beach, [8] and artillery and supply elements would come in at about the same rhythm.

The larger support elements of the assault force were to start landings on Omaha at H+195 minutes, when the 18th RCT would reach Easy Red. The infantry elements of the 115th RCT were to touch down behind the 116th on orders of the commanding general, V Corps, and to operate initially under 1st Division control.

Plan for Movement to Inland Objectives

As the landing schedule clearly shows, the two assault regimental combat teams were expected to break through the beach defenses within the first two hours after touchdown. The enemy strongpoints protecting the exit draws were to be neutralized early enough to permit their opening for traffic off the beach by H+3 hours. After reducing beach defenses in their allotted ones, the companies in the assault battalion landing teams were to make their way to battalion assembly areas, ordinarily about a thousand yards inland. From there on, the battalions would operate toward assigned missions inland (Map No. IV).

In the 16th RCT zone, the 2d BLT had the mission of seizing Colleville, then fanning out beyond and holding the high ground just south of that village so as to cover later landings against possible enemy counterattack from Trevieres or Bayeux. The 3d BLT, once on the plateau, was to turn east and reduce the enemy defenses along the bluff as far as Ste-Honorine-des-Pertes; then, to cover the eastern flank of the division, along the army boundary, by occupying the high ground as far as Mount Cauvin. The 1st BLT, in support during the beach assault, would move through the 2d Battalion, capture Formigny on the main highway, occupy the high ground overlooking Trevieres and the Aure Valley near that village, and secure the river bridges near Trevieres Positions for all-around defense against possible enemy counterattack were to be secured and organized by all battalions.

Of the other 1st Division units, the 18th RCT, assembling under cover of the advance made by the 16th RCT, would move across the Aure southeast of Colleville and occupy the high ground east of Trevieres, patrolling to the D-Day phase line. The 26th RCT, loaded in Force "B" and landing when

[8] The demolition team had the mission of clearing six gaps on Easy Red and two on Fox Green.

Page 34

ordered by corps, would revert on landing to the 1st Division. Its mission was to seize and organize for defense the area south and southeast of Tour-en-Bessin, in contact toward Bayeux with 50 (British) Division.

On the western flank of the beachhead, 29th Division units had the mission of occupying the important area between the flooded Aure Valley and the sea. After capturing Vierville the 1st BLT would move west along the coastal highway, and together with the Rangers clear out enemy defenses from the beachhead to the Vire Estuary. It would be ready to seize Isigny and the important bridge there and to make contact with VII Corps to the west. The 2d BLT had St-Laurent as its first objective and then the higher ground southwest of that point. The 3d BLT landing in support was to move through Longueville, occupy the high ground 2,500 yards to the west, and prepare for advance toward Isigny. The 115th Infantry, landing in attachment to the 1st Division, would assist if necessary in mopping up the beach defenses in the one of either of the assault regimental combat teams. It would be prepared to move through Longueville to the la Cambe area, outpost the high ground south of the Aure, and patrol considerably to the south of the outposts. The 175th Infantry, in Force "B" and designated as corps reserve, was scheduled to land on D+1.

Artillery support would be given by five battalions of 105-mm howitzers landing in attachment to the regiments of the 1st Division, two each to the assault RCT's. These battalions were to move inland with the advance. Additional fire support would be rendered by the heavier guns of the Navy, directed by the fire control parties with the infantry battalions.

If successful, this plan put V Corps in position to advance on D+1 south beyond the Aure toward the key high ground in the Cerisy Forest area, and west through Isigny toward a junction with VII Corps. Corps plans did not contemplate movement in force beyond the Vire, as it was hoped that the southward advance would compel an early enemy retreat from the area between the Vire and Carentan.

page updated 1 October 2002

Return to Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online