Utah Beach

Utah, commonly known as Utah Beach, was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), during World War II. The westernmost of the five code-named landing beaches in Normandy, Utah is on the Cotentin Peninsula, west of the mouths of the Douve and Vire rivers. Amphibious landings at Utah were undertaken by United States Army troops, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided by the United States Navy and Coast Guard as well as elements from the British, Dutch and other Allied navies.

The objective at Utah was to secure a beachhead on the Cotentin Peninsula, the location of important port facilities at Cherbourg. The amphibious assault, primarily by the US 4th Infantry Division and 70th Tank Battalion, was supported by airborne landings of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division. The intention was to rapidly seal off the Cotentin Peninsula, prevent the Germans from reinforcing Cherbourg, and capture the port as quickly as possible. Utah, along with Sword on the eastern flank, was added to the invasion plan in December 1943. These changes doubled the frontage of the invasion and necessitated a month-long delay so that additional landing craft and personnel could be assembled in England. Allied forces attacking Utah faced two battalions of the 919th Grenadier Regiment, part of the 709th Static Infantry Division. While improvements to fortifications had been undertaken under the leadership of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel beginning in October 1943, the troops assigned to defend the area were mostly poorly equipped non-German conscripts.

D-Day at Utah began at 01:30, when the first of the airborne units arrived, tasked with securing the key crossroads at Sainte-Mère-Église and controlling the causeways through the flooded farmland behind Utah so the infantry could advance inland. While some airborne objectives were quickly met, many paratroopers landed far from their drop zones and were unable to fulfill their objectives on the first day. On the beach itself, infantry and tanks landed in four waves beginning at 06:30 and quickly secured the immediate area with minimal casualties. Meanwhile, engineers set to work clearing the area of obstacles and mines, and additional waves of reinforcements continued to arrive. At the close of D-Day, Allied forces had only captured about half of the planned area and contingents of German defenders remained, but the beachhead was secure.

The 4th Infantry Division landed 21,000 troops on Utah at the cost of only 197 casualties. Airborne troops arriving by parachute and glider numbered an additional 14,000 men, with 2,500 casualties. Around 700 men were lost in engineering units, 70th Tank Battalion, and seaborne vessels sunk by the enemy. German losses are unknown. Cherbourg was captured on June 26, but by this time the Germans had destroyed the port facilities, which were not brought back into full operation until September.

Allied planning

The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion of continental Europe within the next year was taken at the Trident Conference, held in Washington in May 1943.[7] The Allies initially planned to launch the invasion on May 1, 1944, and a draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943.[8][9] General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).[9] General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all of the land forces involved in the invasion.[10]

On December 31, 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions and two-thirds of an airborne division.[11] The two generals immediately insisted that the scale of the initial invasion be expanded to five divisions, with airborne descents by three divisions, to allow operations on a wider front.[12] The change doubled the frontage of the invasion from 25 miles (40 km) to 50 miles (80 km). This would allow for quicker offloading of men and materiel, make it more difficult for the Germans to respond, and speed up the capture of the port at Cherbourg.[13] Eisenhower and Lieutenant General Omar Bradley selected for Utah the VII Corps. Major General J. Lawton Collins, who had experience with amphibious operations in the Pacific Theater of Operations (though not in the initial assaults), replaced Major General Roscoe Woodruff as commander of VII Corps.[14]

The coastline of Normandy was divided into seventeen sectors, with codenames using a spelling alphabet—from Able, west of Omaha, to Roger on the east flank of Sword. Eight further sectors were added when the invasion was extended to include Utah. Sectors were further subdivided into beaches identified by the colors Green, Red, and White.[15] Utah, the westernmost of the five landing beaches, is on the Cotentin Peninsula, west of the mouths of the Douve and Vire rivers.[16] The terrain between Utah and the neighboring Omaha was swampy and difficult to cross, which meant that the troops landing at Utah would be isolated. The Germans had flooded the farmland behind Utah, restricting travel off the beach to a few narrow causeways. To help secure the terrain inland of the landing zone, rapidly seal off the Cotentin Peninsula, and prevent the Germans from reinforcing the port at Cherbourg, two airborne divisions were assigned to airdrop into German territory in the early hours of the invasion.[17]

The need to acquire or produce extra landing craft and troop carrier aircraft for the expanded operation meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June.[18] Production of landing craft was ramped up in late 1943 and continued into early 1944, and existing craft were relocated from other theaters.[19] More than 600 Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft and their crews took a circuitous route to England in early 1944 from Baer Field, Indiana, bringing the number of available troop carrier planes to over a thousand.[20]

Plan of attack

Amphibious landings at Utah were to be preceded by airborne landings further inland on the Cotentin Peninsula commencing shortly after midnight.[21] Forty minutes of naval bombardment was to begin at 05:50,[22] followed by air bombardment, scheduled for 06:09 to 06:27.[23]

The amphibious landing was planned in four waves, beginning at 06:30. The first consisted of 20 Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVPs) carrying four companies from the 8th Infantry Regiment. The ten craft on the right were to land on Tare Green beach, opposite the strongpoint at Les Dunes de Varreville. The ten craft on the left were intended for Uncle Red beach, 1,000 yards (910 m) south. Eight Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs), each carrying four amphibious DD tanks of 70th Tank Battalion, were scheduled to land a few minutes before the infantry.[24]

The second wave, scheduled for 06:35, consisted of 32 LCVPs carrying four more companies of 8th Infantry, as well as combat engineers and naval demolition teams that were to clear the beach of obstacles. The third wave, scheduled for 06:45, consisted of eight LCTs bringing more DD tanks plus armored bulldozers to assist in clearing paths off the beach. It was to be followed at 06:37 by the fourth wave, which had eight Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) and three LCVPs with detachments of the 237th and 299th Combat Engineer Battalions, assigned to clear the beach between the high and low water marks.[25]

Troops involved in Operation Overlord, including members of the 4th Division scheduled to land at Utah, left their barracks in the second half of May and proceeded to their coastal marshalling points.[26] To preserve secrecy, the invasion troops were as much as possible kept out of contact with the outside world.[27] The men began to embark onto their transports on June 1, and the 865 ships of Force U (the naval group assigned to Utah) began their journey from Plymouth on June 3 and 4. A 24-hour postponement of the invasion necessitated by bad weather meant that one convoy, U-2A, had to be recalled and hastily refuelled at Portland.[28] The ships met at a rendezvous point (nicknamed "Piccadilly Circus") southeast of the Isle of Wight to assemble into convoys to cross the Channel.[29] Minesweepers began clearing lanes on the evening of June 5.[30]

German preparations

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, overall commander on the Western Front, reported to Hitler in October 1943 regarding the weak defences in France. This led to the appointment of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to oversee the construction of enhanced fortifications along the Atlantic Wall, with special emphasis on the most likely invasion front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg.[31][32] Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beach to delay the approach of landing craft and impede the movement of tanks.[33] Expecting the Allies to land at high tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach, he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high-tide mark.[34] The terrain at Utah is flat, offering no high ground on which to place fortifications. The shallow beach varies in depth from almost nothing to 800 yards (730 m), depending on the tides.[35] The Germans flooded the flat land behind the beach by damming up streams and opening the floodgates at the mouth of the Douve to admit seawater.[36]

Defense of this sector of eastern coast of the Cotentin Peninsula was assigned to Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and his 709th Static Infantry Division.[37] The unit was not well equipped, lacking motorized transport and provided with captured French, Soviet, and Czech equipment.[38] Many of the men were Ostlegionen (non-German conscripts recruited from Soviet prisoners of war, Georgians, and Poles), known to be deeply unreliable.[3][39] The southernmost 6 miles (9.7 km) of the sector was manned by about 700 troops stationed in nine strongpoints spaced from 1,100 to 4,400 yd (1,000 to 4,000 m) apart.[39] Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made both the beach and the terrain around the strongpoints hazardous for infantry.[33][40] The German 91st Infantry Division and 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, who arrived in May, were stationed inland as reserves. Detecting this move, the Allies shifted their intended airborne drop zones to the southeast.[38]

D-Day (June 6, 1944)

USS Nevada (BB-36) fire on positions ashore
Nevada fires upon shore.
C-47s fly low over Utah Beach c6 June 1944
C-47 Skytrains with paratroops above a landing craft.

Bombing of Normandy began around midnight with over 2,200 British and American bombers attacking targets along the coast and further inland.[34] Some 1,200 aircraft departed England just before midnight to transport the airborne divisions to their drop zones behind enemy lines.[41] Paratroops from 101st Airborne were dropped beginning around 01:30, tasked with controlling the causeways behind Utah and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve.[42] Gathering together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the bocage terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls, and marshes.[43] Troops of the 82nd Airborne began arriving around 02:30, with the primary objective of destroying two additional bridges over the Douve and capturing intact two bridges over the Merderet.[42] They quickly captured the important crossroads at Sainte-Mère-Église (the first town liberated in the invasion[44]) and began working to protect the western flank.[45] Generalleutnant Wilhelm Falley, commander of 91st Infantry Division, was trying to return to his headquarters near Picauville from war games at Rennes when he was killed by a paratrooper patrol.[46] Two hours before the main invasion force landed, a raiding party of 132 members of 4th Cavalry Regiment swam ashore at 04:30 at Îles Saint-Marcouf, thought to be a German observation post. It was unoccupied, but two men were killed and seventeen wounded by mines and German artillery fire.[47]

Once the four troop transports assigned to Force U reached their assigned position 12 miles (19 km) off the coast, 5,000 soldiers of 4th Division and other units assigned to Utah boarded their landing craft in rough seas for the three-hour journey to their designated landing point.[48] The eighteen ships assigned to bombard Utah included the US Navy battleship Nevada, the Royal Navy monitor Erebus, the heavy cruisers Hawkins (Royal Navy) and Tuscaloosa (US Navy), and the gunboat HNLMS Soemba (Royal Netherlands Navy).[49] Naval bombardment of areas behind the beach commenced at 05:45, while it was still dark, with the gunners switching to pre-assigned targets on the beach as soon as it was light enough to see, at 05:50.[50] USS Corry, a destroyer in the bombardment group, sunk after it struck a mine while evading fire from the Marcouf battery under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Walter Ohmsen.[47] Since troops were scheduled to land at Utah and Omaha starting at 06:30 (an hour earlier than the British beaches), these areas received only about 40 minutes of naval bombardment before the assault troops began to land on the shore.[51] Coastal air bombardment was undertaken in the twenty minutes immediately prior to the landing by around 300 Martin B-26 Marauders of the IX Bomber Command.[47] Due to cloud cover, the pilots decided to drop to low altitudes of 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,200 to 1,800 m). Much of the bombing was highly effective, with the loss of only two aircraft.[52]


Map of D-Day beaches with Utah to the left

The first troops to reach the shore were four companies from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, arriving at 06:30 on 20 LCVPs. Companies B and C landed on the segment code-named Tare Green, and Companies E and F to their left on Uncle Red.[53] Leonard T. Schroeder, leading Company F, was the first man to reach the beach.[54] The landing craft were pushed to the south by strong currents, and they found themselves near Exit 2 at Grande Dune, about 2,000 yards (1.8 km) from their intended landing zones opposite Exit 3 at Les Dunes de Varreville. The first senior officer ashore, Assistant Division Commander Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. of the 4th Infantry Division, personally scouted the nearby terrain. He determined that this landing site was actually better, as there was only one strongpoint in the immediate vicinity rather than two, and it had been badly damaged by bombers of IX Bomber Command. In addition, the strong currents had washed ashore many of the underwater obstacles. Deciding to "start the war from right here", he ordered further landings to be re-routed.[55][56]

The second wave of assault troops arrived at 06:35 on 32 LCVPs. Companies A and D of 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry landed on Tare Green and G and H on Uncle Red. They were accompanied by engineers and demolition teams tasked with removing beach obstacles and clearing the area directly behind the beach of obstacles and mines.[57]

A contingent of the 70th Tank Battalion, comprising 32 amphibious DD tanks on eight LCTs, were supposed to arrive about 10 minutes before the infantry. However, a strong headwind caused them to be about 20 minutes late, even though they launched the tanks 1,500 yards (1,400 m) from shore rather than 5,000 yards (4,600 m) as planned.[58] Four tanks of Company A and their personnel were lost when their LCT hit a mine about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Iles St. Marcouf and was destroyed, but the remaining 28 arrived intact.[59]

Utah beach
Utah landings, planned (center/right) and actual (left). North: lower right

The third wave, arriving at 06:45, included 16 conventional M4 Sherman tanks and 8 dozer tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion.[60] They were followed at 06:37 by the fourth wave, which had eight LCMs and three LCVPs with detachments of the 237th and 299th Combat Engineer Battalions, assigned to clear the beach between the high and low water marks.[57]

Company B came under small arms fire from defenders positioned in houses along the road as they headed to the enemy strongpoint WN7 near La Madeleine, northwest of La Grande Dune and 600 yards (550 m) inland. They met little resistance at WN7, the headquarters of 3rd Battalion, 919th Grenadiers. Company C disabled the enemy strongpoint WN5 at La Grande Dune, which had been heavily damaged in the preliminary bombardment. Companies E and F (about 600 men) proceeded inland about 700 yards (640 m) to strongpoint WN4 at La Dune, which they captured after a short skirmish. They next travelled south on a farm road parallel to the beach towards Causeway 1. Companies G and H moved south along the beach toward enemy strongpoint WN3 at Beau Guillot. They encountered a minefield and came under enemy machine gun fire, but soon captured the position.[61][62] 70th Tank Battalion was expecting to have to help neutralize beach fortifications in the immediate area, but since this job was quickly completed by the infantry, they had little to do initially.[63] The landing area was almost totally secure by 08:30, at which point combat teams prepared to push further inland along the causeways. Meanwhile, additional waves of reinforcements continued to arrive on the beach.[64]

Removal of mines and obstacles from the beach, a job that had to be performed quickly before the tide came in at 10:30, was the assignment of 237th and 299th Combat Engineer Battalions and the eight dozer tanks.[65] The teams used explosives to destroy beach obstacles and blow gaps in the sea wall to allow quicker access for troops and vehicles.[66] The dozer tanks pushed the wreckage out of the way to create clear lanes for further landings.[67]

Moving inland

German prisoners of war in a barbed-wire enclosure on Utah Beach
German prisoners of war in an enclosure on Utah.

The next move for the 4th Division was to begin movement down the three causeways through the flooded farmland behind the beach to link up with the 101st Airborne, who had dropped behind enemy lines before dawn.[68] 2nd Battalion and several tanks headed down Causeway 1 towards Poupeville, which they discovered had already been captured by the 3/501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.[69] A dozen German infantrymen, trapped between the two Allied forces, surrendered.[70] Causeway 2, directly behind La Grande Dune, eventually became the main exit road off the beach.[71] Securing this causeway required the capture of Ste. Marie du Mont, about 3 miles (4.8 km) inland.[72] The Germans had blown a small bridge over a culvert, and movement was delayed while engineers made a repair and cleared two inoperable tanks from the road. Causeway 2 quickly became congested, so some units opted to walk through the flooded areas beside the road.[66] Several hundred defenders were positioned in and around Ste. Marie du Mont, including 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division.[73] Members of the 506th Parachute Infantry successfully attacked batteries at Holdy and Brécourt Manor and took Ste. Marie du Mont in house-to-house and street combat, clearing the way for 8th Infantry, 3rd Battalion to advance up Causeway 2 practically unopposed.[74] 8th Infantry, 1st Battalion headed up Causeway 3 towards Audouville-la-Hubert, which had already been captured by the 502nd Parachute Infantry. As at Poupeville, enemy soldiers (in this case several dozen) were caught between the two converging forces and had to surrender.[75]

Meanwhile, 22nd Infantry, 3rd Battalion and five tanks moved north along the beach, tasked with eliminating as many German strongpoints as possible. They discovered that tank fire could only destroy the concrete pillboxes via a direct hit on the embrasures, so they called for artillery fire from the naval vessels offshore. [76] By evening they had combined with 12th Infantry, who had travelled directly across the flooded fields to a position far short of their target for the day, to form a defensive perimeter on the northern end of the beachhead.[4][77] On the southern end of the beachhead, about 3,000 men of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment moved into position near Saint-Côme-du-Mont, preventing the 501st Parachute Infantry from advancing any further on D-Day.[78]

US glider reinforcements arrive on D-Day 1944
Gliders are delivered to the Cotentin Peninsula during Mission Elmira.

In the center, the 82nd Airborne were able to consolidate their position at Sainte-Mère-Église in part due to the work of First Lieutenant Turner Turnbull and a squad of 43 men, who held off for more than two hours a far larger enemy force that was attempting to retake the crossroads from the north.[79] A task force led by Colonel Edson Raff that included 16 Sherman tanks of the 746th Tank Battalion, four armored cars, and a squad of infantry worked their way up from the beach, but were stopped from reinforcing Sainte-Mère-Église by a line of German defenders 2 miles (3.2 km) south of the town.[80] Reinforcements arrived by glider around 04:00 (Mission Chicago and Mission Detroit), and 21:00 (Mission Keokuk and Mission Elmira), bringing additional troops and heavy equipment. Like the paratroopers, many landed far from their drop zones.[81] Even those that landed on target experienced difficulty, with heavy cargo such as Jeeps shifting during landing, crashing through the wooden fuselage, and in some cases crushing personnel on board.[82] German defenders also took a toll on the glider units, with heavy losses inflicted in the area near Sainte-Mère-Église in particular.[83] Members of the 82nd Airborne who had landed west of the Merderet were widely scattered and surrounded by enemy forces. They quickly realized that they would be unable to achieve their D-day objectives and would have to wait for reinforcements. It took several days for this to happen as the Germans set up defensive positions along the river.[84] For 36 hours, 82nd Airborne were unable to establish radio contact with other units or with Collins aboard his command ship, USS Bayfield.[85]

82nd Airborne were finally relieved by 90th Division, who began disembarking at 16:00 on D-Day and were all ashore by June 8. The original plan for the 90th had been that they should push north toward the port of Cherbourg, but Collins changed their assignment: they were to cut across the Cotentin Peninsula, isolating the German forces therein and preventing reinforcements from entering the area.[86] Their poor performance led to their being replaced by the more experienced 82nd Airborne and 9th Infantry Division, who reached the west coast of the Cotentin on June 17, cutting off Cherbourg.[87] The 9th Division, joined by the 4th and 79th Infantry Divisions, took control of the peninsula in fierce fighting. Cherbourg fell during the Battle of Cherbourg on June 26, but by this time the Germans had destroyed the port facilities, which were not brought back into full operation until September.[88]


Normandy 2
Members of the 101st Airborne Division in the village of St. Marcouf, June 8, 1944

The 4th Infantry Division did not meet all their D-Day objectives at Utah, partly because they had arrived too far to the south, but they landed 21,000 troops at the cost of only 197 casualties.[1][4] Airborne troops arriving by parachute and glider numbered an additional 14,000 men, with 2,500 casualties.[5] Around 700 men were lost in engineering units, 70th Tank Battalion, and LCTs and other vessels sunk by the enemy.[89] German losses are unknown.

Forces landing on Utah cleared the immediate area in less than an hour, and penetrated 6 miles (9.7 km) inland by the close of D-Day.[90][91] Within two hours of landing, the 82nd Airborne captured the important crossroads at Sainte-Mère-Église, but they failed to neutralize the line of defenses along the Merderet on D-Day as planned.[45][92] While many of the airborne forces landed far from their drop zones and were unable to meet all their D-Day objectives, this widespread scattering of forces had the unintended side effect of confusing the German defenders, who were slow to react.[93]

The highly trained 4th Division faced a mediocre German unit composed of conscripts; all the best troops had been sent to the Eastern Front.[94] The Allies achieved and maintained air superiority, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of preparations underway in Britain prior to the invasion and were unable to launch airborne counterassaults on D-Day.[95] Extensive Allied reconnaissance provided the attackers with detailed maps of the defenses and terrain.[96] Unlike neighboring Omaha, the preliminary aerial bombardment was highly effective at Utah.[96] Indecisiveness and an overcomplicated command structure on the part of the German high command was also a factor in the Allied success at Utah and throughout the Normandy campaign.[97]


Germans Allied (United States)


Map of plan for US 4th division, D-Day, 6 June 1944

Plan for US 4th Infantry Division on D-Day

Utah Beachhead-crop

Positions at close of D-Day. Brown color: beach.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Whitmarsh 2009, p. 51.
  2. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 325.
  3. ^ a b Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 118.
  4. ^ a b c Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 165.
  5. ^ a b Balkoski 2005, p. 331.
  6. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 330-331.
  7. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 11.
  8. ^ Wilmot 1997, p. 170.
  9. ^ a b Gilbert 1989, p. 491.
  10. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 12–13.
  11. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 5.
  12. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, p. 13.
  13. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 10.
  14. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 26–28.
  15. ^ Buckingham 2004, p. 88.
  16. ^ Beevor 2009, Map, inside front cover.
  17. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 12, 17–18.
  18. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 19.
  19. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 22.
  20. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 24–25.
  21. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, p. 49.
  22. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 51–52.
  23. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 88.
  24. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 158–159, 161.
  25. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 158.
  26. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 68.
  27. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 3.
  28. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 70–72.
  29. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 74.
  30. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, p. 33.
  31. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 30, 54.
  32. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 33.
  33. ^ a b Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 54–56.
  34. ^ a b Whitmarsh 2009, p. 31.
  35. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 52, 56.
  36. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 54.
  37. ^ a b Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 130.
  38. ^ a b Balkoski 2005, p. 51.
  39. ^ a b Balkoski 2005, p. 52.
  40. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 119.
  41. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 51.
  42. ^ a b Wilmot 1997, p. 243.
  43. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 166–167.
  44. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 67.
  45. ^ a b Wilmot 1997, p. 244.
  46. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 152.
  47. ^ a b c Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 160.
  48. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 78.
  49. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 344–345.
  50. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 69.
  51. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 51–52, 69.
  52. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 90–91.
  53. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 158, 161.
  54. ^ Lee 2008.
  55. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 131, 160–161.
  56. ^ Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 50–51.
  57. ^ a b Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 158, 164.
  58. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 158, 160–161.
  59. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 204.
  60. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 203.
  61. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 158–159.
  62. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 196–200.
  63. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 207.
  64. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 221.
  65. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 208–209.
  66. ^ a b Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 164.
  67. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 209.
  68. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 219.
  69. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 164–165.
  70. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 243.
  71. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 159.
  72. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 222.
  73. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 248–249.
  74. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 247, 250–252.
  75. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 245.
  76. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 223–224.
  77. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 294.
  78. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 261.
  79. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 272–273.
  80. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 279, 283.
  81. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 151.
  82. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 71.
  83. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 287.
  84. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 268, 276–277.
  85. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 306.
  86. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 299–300.
  87. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 182.
  88. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 185–193.
  89. ^ Balkoski 2005, pp. 330–331.
  90. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 119.
  91. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 310.
  92. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 115.
  93. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 316.
  94. ^ Balkoski 2005, p. 312.
  95. ^ Wilmot 1997, p. 289.
  96. ^ a b Balkoski 2005, p. 313.
  97. ^ Wilmot 1997, p. 292.
  98. ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 122.
  99. ^ a b c d e f g Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 125.


  • Balkoski, Joseph (2005). Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0144-1.
  • Beevor, Antony (2009). D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. New York; Toronto: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02119-2.
  • Buckingham, William F. (2004). D-Day: The First 72 Hours. Stroad, Gloucestershire: Tempus. ISBN 978-0-7524-2842-0.
  • Lee, Demorris A. (June 6, 2008). "For Largo man, D-day is like yesterday". The St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on May 24, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  • Ford, Ken; Zaloga, Steven J (2009). Overlord: The D-Day Landings. Oxford; New York: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-424-4.
  • Gilbert, Martin (1989). The Second World War: A Complete History. New York: H. Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-1788-5.
  • Whitmarsh, Andrew (2009). D-Day in Photographs. Stroud: History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5095-7.
  • Wilmot, Chester (1997) [1952]. The Struggle For Europe. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-85326-677-9.

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 49°25′05″N 1°10′35″W / 49.41806°N 1.17639°W

439th Operations Group

The 439th Operations Group is an active United States Air Force Reserve unit. It is the flying component of the Twenty-Second Air Force 439th Airlift Wing, stationed at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts.

The unit's World War II predecessor unit, the 439th Troop Carrier Group was a C-47 Skytrain transport unit assigned to Ninth Air Force in Western Europe. During Operation Overlord, two serials of aircraft, one of 45 and the other of 36 from the 439th TCG were dispatched late in the evening of 5 June to drop the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the first hour of the invasion behind Utah Beach.

Difficult weather conditions and heavy anti-aircraft fire were encountered and three aircraft failed to return. A reinforcement mission with gliders was flown on the following day, with 50 C-47s towing 30 Horsa and 20 CG-4 Wacos. The 439th later received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its work during these two days.

American airborne landings in Normandy

The American airborne landings in Normandy were the first American combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Around 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day. As the opening maneuver of Operation Neptune (the assault operation for Overlord) the two American airborne divisions were delivered to the continent in two parachute and six glider missions.

Both divisions were part of the U.S. VII Corps and provided it support in its mission of capturing Cherbourg as soon as possible to provide the Allies with a port of supply. The specific missions of the two airborne divisions were to block approaches into the vicinity of the amphibious landing at Utah Beach, to capture causeway exits off the beaches, and to establish crossings over the Douve River at Carentan to assist the U.S. V Corps in merging the two American beachheads.

The assault did not succeed in blocking the approaches to Utah for three days. Numerous factors played a part, most of which dealt with excessive scattering of the drops. Despite this, German forces were unable to exploit the chaos. Many German units made a tenacious defense of their strong-points, but all were systematically defeated within the week.

Battle of Carentan

The Battle of Carentan was an engagement in World War II between airborne forces of the United States Army and the German Wehrmacht during the Battle of Normandy. The battle took place between 6 and 13 June 1944, on the approaches to and within the city of Carentan, France.The objective of the attacking American forces was consolidation of the U.S. beachheads (Utah Beach and Omaha Beach) and establishment of a continuous defensive line against expected German counterattacks. The defending German force attempted to hold the city long enough to allow reinforcements en route from the south to arrive, prevent or delay the merging of the lodgments, and keep the U.S. First Army from launching an attack towards Lessay-Périers that would cut off the Cotentin Peninsula.

Carentan was defended by two battalions of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6 (6th Parachute Regiment) of the 2nd Fallschirmjäger-Division and two Ost battalions. The 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, ordered to reinforce Carentan, was delayed by transport shortages and attacks by Allied aircraft. The attacking 101st Airborne Division, landed by parachute on 6 June as part of the American airborne landings in Normandy, was ordered to seize Carentan.

In the ensuing battle, the 101st forced passage across the causeway into Carentan on 10 and 11 June. A lack of ammunition forced the German forces to withdraw on 12 June. The 17th SS PzG Division counter-attacked the 101st Airborne on 13 June. Initially successful, its attack was thrown back by Combat Command A (CCA) of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division.

Battle of Cherbourg

The Battle of Cherbourg was part of the Battle of Normandy during World War II. It was fought immediately after the successful Allied landings on June 6, 1944. Allied troops, mainly American, isolated and captured the fortified port, which was considered vital to the campaign in Western Europe, in a hard-fought, month-long campaign.

Brécourt Manor Assault

The Brécourt Manor Assault (6 June 1944) during the U.S. parachute assault of the Normandy Invasion of World War II is often cited as a classic example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a larger enemy force.


Carentan (pronounced [kaʁɛ̃tɑ̃]) is a small rural town near the north-eastern base of the French Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy in north-western France near the port city of Cherbourg, with a population somewhat over 6,000. It is a former commune in the Manche department. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Carentan-les-Marais. The town was a strategic early goal of the World War II landings as capturing the town was necessary to link the lodgements at Utah and Omaha beaches which were divided by the Douve River estuary (nearby fields were flooded by the Germans up to the town's outskirts). The town was also needed as an intermediate staging position for the capture of the cities of Cherbourg and Octeville, with the critically important port facilities in Cherbourg.


The Douve or Ouve is a river, 79 kilometres in length, which rises in the commune of Tollevast, near Cherbourg in the department of Manche. Ouve is considered its old name (Unva in ancient texts): Ouve appears to have been misspelled over the course of time as "Douve river" and then as "River of the Douve" (Douve literally means Ditch). The French name for this watercourse is la Douve.

After passing Tollevast, the river proceeds through the hills of the Cotentin peninsula (Cherbourg peninsula) and goes by Sottevast, l'Étang-Bertrand and Magneville. It borders Néhou and crosses Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. Once it reaches Bauptois, it alters its direction towards the Bay of the Seine in the south-eastern English Channel, passing through Carentan. The Douve is a navigable river owing to its flat bottom and adequate depth of flow.

In 1944 German troops, preparing Rommel's Fortress Europa, flooded the valley to prevent landing paratroops or gliders. On D-Day, the river was the boundary between the allied left flank landing forces on Utah Beach (on its left bank and so to the west nearest Roune) and the bloody defensive battle that occurred at Omaha Beach. The Utah beach landings were part of contingency planning only scheduled after ample landing craft became available and designed to give the allies a leg up on taking a port city, in this case, Cherbourg for without such, any sustained offensive was foredoomed to failure from lack of logistical capacity. Had the landing craft been lacking, the river would have protected the exposed right flank of the allied invasion lodgement. With Utah in the plan, it was used to originate an offensive aimed squarely at the early domination of the peninsula and capture of Cherbourg as the British-Canadian forces were to attempt an early capture of the port of Caen (and eventually Rouen) at the opposite end of the lodgement. Both cities were well protected by their German defenders.

Among those landing at the Douve was the unit known as the Filthy Thirteen, later the basis of the novel and film The Dirty Dozen, loosely inspired on the exploits of PFC Jack Agnew of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Leonard T. Schroeder

Leonard T. "Max" Schroeder Jr. (July 16, 1918 – May 26, 2009) was a colonel in the United States Army, who served on active duty from 1941 to 1971. As a captain during World War II, he commanded Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in the Normandy Landings on June 6, 1944, landing on Utah beach in France. Leading the men of his company, Schroeder was the first American soldier to come ashore from a landing craft in the D-Day invasion.

MS West Honaker

MS West Honaker was a diesel-powered cargo ship of the United States Maritime Commission (USMC) that was part of the "Corncob Fleet" of old ships sunk as part of the "gooseberry" breakwater off Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion. The ship was originally built as SS West Honaker, a steam-powered cargo ship built for the United States Shipping Board (USSB), a predecessor of the USMC. At the time of her completion in 1920, the ship was inspected by the United States Navy for possible use as USS West Honaker (ID-4455) but was neither taken into the Navy nor ever commissioned under that name.

West Honaker was built in 1920 for the USSB, as a part of the West boats, a series of steel-hulled cargo ships built on the West Coast of the United States for the World War I war effort, and was the 28th ship built at Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in San Pedro, California. In 1926, West Honaker was outfitted with diesel engines that replaced her original steam engines as part of a pilot program by the USSB. After her conversion, she sailed on a New York – Australia route. On her second trip to Australia, from August 1927 to March 1928, she became the first diesel ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1929, she began sailing for an around-the-world cargo service from the Pacific coast to South Africa

By the late 1930s, she had been laid up, but was reactivated for merchant service prior to World War II. She sailed to Australia and New Zealand until after the United States' entry into World War II, and in transatlantic service to the United Kingdom for most of the time after that. In March 1944, she sailed from the United States for the final time, and was incorporated into the Corncob Fleet of old ships scuttled in June to make the "gooseberry" breakwater off Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion. This last voyage earned the West Honaker a battle star.

Maisy battery

The Maisy Battery is a group of World War II artillery batteries constructed by the Wehrmacht near the French village of Grandcamp-Maisy in Normandy. It formed a part of Germany's Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications and was the principal position of defence for that area. It was responsible for the defense of the sector between the Longues-sur-Mer and the St Marcouf (Crisbecq) batteries. It could target both Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.The complex was built under strict security by forced labour from Russia, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The Wehrmacht run battery was not marked on the Allied D-Day maps which were released to the invasion troops. Given that the Allied Rangers were not briefed to assault Maisy Battery and were instead sent to attack the empty gun battery at Pointe du Hoc, author and historian Gary Sterne was the first to publicly suggest that Pointe du Hoc (leading up to D-Day) was used by German defenders as a ruse to lead the Allies away from the Maisy site.

Mission Chicago

Mission Chicago was a pre-dawn glider-borne combat assault in the American airborne landings in Normandy, made by elements of the 101st Airborne Division on the early morning of June 6, 1944 during the Normandy landings of World War II. It was part of Operation Neptune, the assault portion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord. Originally slated to be the main assault for the 101st Airborne Division, the glider operation instead became the first reinforcement mission after the main parachute combat assault, Mission Albany. Because the area of responsibility for the division was in close proximity to Utah Beach, the use of glider reinforcement was limited in scale, with most division support units transported by sea.

Mission Detroit

Mission Detroit was a pre-dawn glider-borne combat assault in the American airborne landings in Normandy, made by elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division on the early morning of June 6, 1944, during World War II. It was part of Operation Neptune, the assault portion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, Operation Overlord. Originally slated to be the main assault for the 82nd Airborne, the glider operation instead became the first reinforcement mission after the main parachute combat assault, Mission Boston. The landing zone for mission Detroit was near Sainte-Mère-Église, to the west of Utah Beach.

The objective of the division was to secure the town of Sainte-Mère-Église and to take the bridges along the Merderet River. By doing this, the U.S. 4th Infantry Division coming in at Utah Beach would have easy access to making their way northwards towards the ports at Cherbourg.

Casualties for the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day were about 1,260 of 6,600, or about 20%.

On 6 June 1944 the heavier elements of the division landed by glider in Mission Elmira.

Normandy landings

The Normandy landings were the landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on D-Day was far from ideal and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours; a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable. Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.

The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 US, British, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach-clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs. At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled, using specialised tanks.

The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation gained a foothold which the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.

Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many visitors each year.

Pointe du Hoc

La Pointe du Hoc (French pronunciation: ​[pwɛ̃t dy ɔk]) is a promontory with a 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the north-western coast of Normandy in the Calvados department, France. During World War II it was the highest point between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casemates and gun pits. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.

Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Manche

Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is a commune in the Manche department and in the region of Normandy in north-western France. The commune has 740 inhabitants.

The Venus Hunters

The Venus Hunters is a collection of short stories by British writer J. G. Ballard, first published in 1980 as a paperback by Panther Books, and reprinted as a hardback in 1986 by Victor Gollancz. It includes:

"Now: Zero"

"The Time-Tombs"

"Track 12"

"Passport to Eternity"


"Time of Passage"

"The Venus Hunters"

"The Killing Ground"

"One Afternoon at Utah Beach"

"The 60 Minute Zoom"The first seven stories are reprinted from The Overloaded Man; the other three are more recent. "The 60 Minute Zoom" may be one of Ballard's best experimental pieces: one of the oldest plots is given a unique treatment, only possible in a society depersonalised through technology.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt III (September 13, 1887 – July 12, 1944), known as Theodore Roosevelt Jr., was an American government, business, and military leader. He was the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt. Roosevelt is known for his World War II service, including the directing of troops at Utah Beach during the Normandy landings, for which he received the Medal of Honor.

Roosevelt was educated at private academies and Harvard University; after his 1909 graduation from college, he began a successful career in business and investment banking. Having gained pre-World War I army experience during his attendance at a Citizens' Military Training Camp, at the start of the war he received a reserve commission as a major. He served primarily with the 1st Division, took part in several engagements including the Battle of Cantigny, and commanded the 26th Infantry Regiment as a lieutenant colonel. After the war, Roosevelt was instrumental in the forming of the American Legion.

In addition to his military and business careers, Roosevelt was active in politics and government. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1921–1924), Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–1932), and Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–1933). He resumed his business endeavors in the 1930s, and was Chairman of the Board of American Express Company, and Vice-President of Doubleday Books. Roosevelt also remained active as an Army reservist, attending annual training periods at Pine Camp, and completing the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Command and General Staff College, and refresher training for senior officers. He returned to active duty for World War II with the rank of colonel, and commanded the 26th Infantry Regiment. He soon received promotion to brigadier general as assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry Division.

After serving in the Operation Torch landings in North Africa and the Tunisia Campaign, followed by participation in the Allied invasion of Sicily, Roosevelt was assigned as assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division. In this role, he led the first wave of troops ashore at Utah Beach during the Normandy landings in June 1944. He died in France of a heart attack the following month; at the time of his death, he had been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross to recognize his heroism at Normandy. The recommendation was subsequently upgraded, and Roosevelt was a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.

V for Victory

V for Victory, or V4V for short, is a series of turn-based strategy games set during World War II. They were the first releases for Atomic Games who would go on to have a long career in the wargame industry.

Like earlier computer adaptions of the pen-and-paper wargame genre, V4V used a hex-based map covering its area of action and used military markers to indicate the location of various units. However, V4V used a much simpler user interface where commands were given by point-and-click and dragging the units on-screen with the mouse, compared to arcane commands and map coordinates used in earlier games. At the same time, the game engine was able to simulate many operational factors that earlier games like Squad Leader had to ignore in order to avoid overloading the user with minutia.

The result was a wargame that was both easy to play and had considerably more operational detail at the same time. It was lauded by players and reviewers, who called it a "must have". The original scenario, D-Day Utah Beach, was a best-seller and was followed by three additional scenario packs. The system was written so that the scenarios plugged into a common base application, allowing users to launch newer games from whichever scenario they purchased first.


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