Utah Beach

From Academic Kids

Utah Beach was the codename for one of the Allied landing beaches during the World War II D-Day Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944. Utah was added to the invasion plan towards the end of the planning stages, when more landing craft became available. Despite being substantially off course, the U.S. 4th Infantry Division division landed there with relatively little resistance, in contrast to Omaha Beach where the fighting was fierce. Utah beach, about three miles long, was the westernmost of the five landing beaches, located bewteen Pouppeville and La Madeleine.

Contents

Plan of attack

The landing was planned for four waves. The first wave consisted of 20 Higgins boats or LCVP's, each carrying a 30-man assault team from the 8th Infantry Regiment. The 10 craft on the right were to land on Tare Green Beach, opposite the strong point at les Dunes de Varreville. The 10 craft on the left were intended for Uncle Red Beach, 1,000 yards (910 metres) farther south. The entire operation was timed against the touchdown of this first assault wave, which was scheduled to take place at 0630. Eight LCTs (or Landing Craft, Tanks), each carrying 4 amphibious DD Tanks, were scheduled to land at the same time or as soon thereafter as possible. The second wave comprised another 32 LCVP's with additional troops of the 2 assault battalions, some combat engineers, and also 8 naval demolition teams which were to clear the beach of underwater obstacles. The third wave, timed for H plus 15 minutes, contained 8 more LCT's with dozer tanks. It was followed within 2 minutes by the fourth wave, mainly detachments of the 237th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions, to clear the beaches between high and low water marks.

  fires on positions near Utah beach June 6th, 1944
Enlarge
USS Nevada fires on positions near Utah beach June 6th, 1944

D-Day

Two hours before the main invasion force, a raiding party, armed only with knives, swam ashore at Îles Saint-Marcouf, thought to be German observation post. It was unoccupied.

The first wave arrived at the line of departure on time and all twenty craft were dispatched abreast. Support craft to the rear were firing machine guns, possibly with the hope of exploding mines. When the LCVP's were from 300 to 400 yards (273 to 364 metres) from the beach, the assault company commanders fired special smoke projectors to signal the lifting of naval support craft fire. Almost exactly at H Hour the assault craft lowered their ramps and six hundred men walked into waist-deep water to wade the last 100 or more yards (91 metres) to the beach. The actual touchdown on the beach was therefore a few minutes late, but the delay was negligible and had no effect on the phasing of the succeeding waves. Enemy artillery had fired a few air bursts at sea, but otherwise there was no opposition at H Hour.

The first troops to reach shore were from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry. The 1st Battalion landed a few minutes later. Both came ashore considerably south of the designated beaches. The 2d Battalion should have hit Uncle Red Beach opposite Exit 3 . The 1st Battalion was supposed to land directly opposite the strong point at les Dunes de Varreville. The landings, however, were made astride Exit 2 about 2,000 yards (1,820 metres) south.

Potentially this error was very serious, for it might have caused great confusion. In fact it did not. The original plans, in which each assault section had a specific mission, could not be carried out in detail, of course. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., assistant commander of the 4th Division, is famous for volunteering several times, against his commander's best judgement, to go in the first wave and personally lead the initial attack on the beach strong points. When he realized that the landings had been made at the wrong place, he personally made a reconnaissance of the area immediately to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways which were to be used for the advance inland. He then returned to the point of landing, contacted the commanders of the two battalions, Lt. Cols. Conrad C. Simmons and Carlton O. MacNeely, and coordinated the attack on the enemy positions confronting them. Roosevelt's famous quote in these circumstances was "We’ll start the war from here!" These impromptu plans worked with complete success and little confusion. For these actions on Utah beach, Roosevlet was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

Success

By the end of D-Day, some 20,000 troops had safely landed on the beach, along with 1,700 vehicles. Only about 200 casualties were recorded during the landings. Several factors contributed to the success at Utah vs. the bloody battle at nearby Omaha:

  • Fewer German fortifications: the defense of the area was largely based on flooding the coastal plain behind the beaches, and there were fewer bunkers.
  • Effective pre-invasion bombardment: many of the known large bunkers, such as the coastal battery near Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, were destoyed from the air prior to D-Day.
  • DD tanks: nearly all of these swimming tanks made the beach, because they were launched half as far out as at Omaha, and were able to steer into the current more effectively to avoid swamping in the rough seas.
  • Mis-landings: because most of the invasion force landed opposite Exit 2, this one was the most used, but the other exits were more heavily fortified.
  • Paratroopers: the most significant difference was the 13,000 men from the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division already fighting inland. For 5 hours before the first Utah landings, the paratroopers (and glider forces) had been fighting their way out towards the beach, clearing the enemy from positions along the exits. The paratroopers also greatly confused the ememy, and prevented any significant counter-attack to the landing area.

The true cost of Utah Beach is reflected in the airborne heavy casualties: the 101st alone lost about 40% of their force on D-Day. Also, the 1000 casualties during Exercise Tiger, a practice run for the Utah assault, could also be considered part of the price for D-Day.

Beaches at the invasion of Normandy

Edit (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?title=Template:Normandy_battle_beaches&action=edit)
Utah Beach | Omaha Beach | Gold Beach | Juno Beach | Sword Beach

References

  • Much of this text is taken from the official US Military History Utah Beach to Cherbourg (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/BOOKS/WWII/utah/utah.htm), written by Roland G. Ruppenthal. This work is in the public domain.

External link

fr:Utah Beach

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