Joseph Paul Barrett
Txikia Tomeo Hernandez-Morales
Jesus Miguelez

The Landing at Utah Beach

Operation Overlord was the allied campaign in northwest Europe from 1944 until 1945 that was subdivided into Operation Neptune, the naval assault phase; the landing; and Operation Fortitude, the cover plan This section will focus on the landing segment of Operation Overlord; more specifically, the landing at the American codenamed Utah Beach.

Utah beach was the most westerly of the five assault beaches, and therefore was the first to receive the incoming tide as it advanced up the English Channel. The Germans fortified Utah beach with seven strong points with 20 batteries plotted along the coast. The first attacks by the American assault forces came from the naval and aerial segment of Operation Overlord. Unfortunately for the Americans, the naval bombardment was the only division that did any damage. "Of the 360 heavy bombers that were above the clouds, 67 of them never released their bombs; the rest, bombing blind, overshot the coastal targets to avoid hitting the incoming forces. Of the 269 medium bombers, only a few made few direct hits" (Man 43).

Rear Admiral Alan Kirk, commander of the Western Task Force, disregarding Admiral Ramsay's advice that the transports should be brought at least eight miles inshore before launching the assault, had ordered the 1,000 transports to disembark almost 12 miles out at sea to keep them well clear of German shore batteries. However, there was a severe storm passing the area with 18-knot winds which produced four-foot swells. In these conditions, the landing crafts were tossed causing many men to become sea sick, some falling overboard, and others seriously injuring themselves. At 5:58 a.m. a leading patrol craft and one of the LCTs hit mines. "The troops were due to land at 6:30 a.m.- H-Hour in military terminology-just after low tide, so that the demolition teams could deal with the beach obstacles before the tide covered them" (Man 43).

In order to allow the troops to occupy the beach, from 300 yards off the shore, leading commanders fired smoke flares to stop the bombardment. At 6:31 a.m., one minute behind schedule, the first 10 landing crafts lowered and 300 men of the 8th Infantry Regiment's 2nd Battalion stepped into waist-deep water and waded the 100 yards to the water's edge. The 1st Battalion soon joined them.

Their arrival was greeted with silence, which was the result of several factors. One reason for the silence was that the German's were in shock after the bombardment, and had lost their vital communication to their commanders. However, the main reason was that the powerful currents produced by the storm had caused e forces south, about one mile left of the intended landing s" at was barely unprotected except for a W5 blockhouse under command of the astonished Lieutenant Arthur Jahnke.

What further dismayed the Germans was the sight of what appeared to be twelve giant bathtubs crawling out of the water and sixteen others swimming through the breakers. Jahnke and his men were shocked to see these giant bath-tubes drop their canvas and reveal 33-ton Sherman tanks.

Only trained and equipped to attack soft targets and unaware of the fact that there existed such weapons like an amphibious tank, Jahnke's force suffered the loss of a machine-gun post and a mortar. In an effort to command the tanks, Jahnke resorted to Goliaths: wire-controlled miniature tanks carrying 200 pounds of explosive that could craw for 600 yards and be detonated by remote control. However, even on practice runs, these tanks proved useless since their electrical systems malfunctioned causing them to roam aimlessly until running out of fuel. Demolition experts defused all of them, with the exception of one that exploded after a grenade was set by it

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, after persuading the 4th's commander, General Raymond Barton, made his primary objective the destruction of Jahnke's blockhouse. Roosevelt, although 57 years old and cousin of the president, believed he could "steady the boys" (Man 45) and make the best out of the unexpended position on the beach, which he did with great success. With 600 men and acute attacks at the pillbox brought W5 and Jahnke out of the war. However, Roosevelt now faced a tactical problem: 30,000 men and 3,500 vehicles were due to land at Utah and they had landed in the wrong place. His options were to either start the war at their actual landing which had one clear road leading inland, or move north and start the war at the proposed landing site which had four guarded roads. He chose to start the war at the actual landing site.

Roosevelt's decision was proved a good one for several reasons. First of all, starting one mile away gave the assault time to begin invading that portion of the beach undetected. "By the time the German defenses had zeroed-in on this section of the beach, the invasion was well under way. After one hour, demolition experts had begun to clear the mined obstacles from the shallows for the incoming landing crafts. After two and a half hours the tanks were through the Atlantic Wall and fanning out in a two-mile front. One by one the strongpoints that had been the original targets fell" (Man 45).

"By the end of the day, as the men surged inland to link up with the paratroopers, the assault force had landed 23,250 men and 1,700 vehicles for the loss of 197 with 60 missing presumed drowned. Losses ten times that figure would have been acceptable" (Man 45).

Works Cited

Man, John. The D-Day Atlas. New York: Facts on File. 1994.

Kemp, Anthony. D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy . New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1994.

Works Consulted

Man, John. The D-Day Atlas. New York: Facts on File. 1994.

Kemp, Anthony. D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy. Abrams, Inc. 1994.

Tute, Warren. D-Day. New York: Collier Books 1974