6:30 A.M. The first wave of assault troops approached their landing grounds!! These were the men of the 16th. Regimental Combat Team of the First Division and the 116th. Regimental Combat team of the 29th. Division. The Navy had been shelling the beach for some time prior to the assault, unfortunately the shells and rockets fell way short of any German defences. Similarly the bombs dropped by the American airforce completely missed their intended targets, leaving the German defenders at full strength to oppose the incoming troops. The German 352nd. Infantry Division along with the 716th. Static Division were well dug in overlooking the landing beach.
The American troops were taken by complete surprise, as they expected only minimal opposition. It soon became apparent that a major disaster was taking place, many landing craft were sunk miles from the beach, others hit the obstacles lying in wait beneath the surface of the water, the D.D. Floating Tanks sank like stones!! their crews trapped, perished inside the vehicle.. Only six of these tanks reached the beach!!
Most of the heavy Artillery pieces never reached the beach, sinking in the heaving tides!
The first wave was completely overwhelmed and took tremendous casualties.
More and more troops were landing on the beach and the situation was becoming so serious that General Bradley observing the battle from the U.S.S. Augusta was making preparations to abandon the assault.
British and American Destroyers were sent in close to shore to literally blast at the German fortifications to try and relieve the situation on the beach.
The current of the sea was so strong that many men were landing up to two miles from their intended positions.
Men from the 2nd. and 5th. Ranger battalions, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Max Schneider landed on the beach along with 116th. Infantry. If anyone could help relieve the situation it was these men. It has to be remembered that a great number of the troops that landed on the Normandy beaches had never been in action before today, this did not stop some unbelievable displays of bravery.
Brigadier-General Norman (Dutch) Cota: Assistant Divisional Commander of the 29th. Division. led from the front along the Eastern sector of the beach, as did Colonel Charles Canham: Commander of the 116th.Infantry along the Western sector of the beach.
Colonel George Taylor: Commander of the 16th. Infantry was quoted as saying “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are about to die!! Now lets get the hell out of here.”
At this point of the battle the Heroism shone, small pockets of men started to make advances up the beach, supported with the men of the Ranger Battalions .
C Company of 1/116th. Infantry supported by Rangers fought their way to the top of the bluff at Les Moulins, this was a major breakthrough, simultaneously men of 3/116th. Infantry fought their way up the bluff toward St. Lauren.
12:00 Mid-day: The bluff overlooking the beach had been taken, but at tremendous cost!!
“As the first men jumped, they crumpled and flopped into the water. Then order was lost. It seemed to the men that the only way to get ashore was to dive head first in and swim clear of the fire that was striking the boats. But, as they hit the water, their heavy equipment dragged them down and soon they were struggling to keep afloat. Some were hit in the water and wounded. Some drowned then and there… But some moved safely through the bullet fire to the sand and, finding they could not hold there, went back in to the water and used it as cover, only their heads sticking out. Those who survived kept moving with the tide, sheltering at times behind underwater obstacles and in this way they finally made their landings.
Within ten minutes of the ramps being lowered, Company A had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and Sergeant had been killed or wounded… It had become a struggle for survival and rescue. The men in the water pushed wounded men ashore, and those who had reached the sands crawled back into the water pulling others to land to save them from drowning, in many cases only to see the rescued men wounded again or to be hit themselves. Within twenty minutes of striking the beach Company A had ceased to be an assault company and had become a forlorn little rescue party bent upon survival and the saving of lives.”
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