CHAPTER IV INVASION PERIOD - 6 TO 25 JUNE 1944 Ships and invasion barges departed from the U. K. on 5 June, moving towards the east shore of the Normandy Peninsula, which was then under heavy aerial attack. Allied Naval batteries began shelling the beachheads and installations lying immediately in the rear. All pontoon units were under tow by LST's and departed from Portland, Fowey, Falmouth and Weymouth for OMAHA, and from Dartmouth, Salcombe, Falmouth, Weymouth and Helford for UTAH. (Appendix A). MULBERRY units were towed by the British craft from Selsey Bill and the Isle of Wight. The landings on the beaches were made simultaneously at OMAHA and UTAH by U. S Forces and at three beachheads to the eat by British and Canadian units. Both of the American beaches were well defended and were provided with a network of beach obstacles, tetrahedrons, mines and demolition tanks. OMAHA The first LST's towing five Rhinos, operated by the 111th Construction Battalion, arrived off the beach at 0530 on 6 June and the Rhinos were cast off - each Rhino proceeded to marry the designated LST's, which was accomplished under difficulty, as the seas were rough, with wave crests of about six feet. The Rhinos, after loading, proceeded to beach, but were ordered to stand off until such time as the beach obstructions were removed. Rhino #10, however, landed between two beach obstacles six hours after the landing had begun. Other Rhinos arriving were held off until 1130 on 7 June - at which time a Rhino unloading area was designated. During the first two days, the Rhinos were damaged by mine explosions, hit submerged vehicles and other objects at high water, and at all times during the initial stage were subjected to enemy fire from shore installations. The Rhino Repair Barge arrived on 7 June. On the second day of the landing, and during the critical hours when the Army was expanding the beachhead, an urgent request for heavy guns was filled when the Rhinos delivered the required armament to the beach. Twenty Rhino units were employed on OMAHA Beach, of which nineteen remained in service until the beginning of the storm. During the period 8 to 16 June, Rhino Ferries delivered 14,749 vehicles and 33,091 tons of bulk cargo to the beach. The Causeways were delivered off OMAHA Beach on 7 June, and the installation was held off until 9 June, awaiting decision from the Army General Staff and the Naval Officer in Charge as to its final position. The first structure was placed by the 1006th Construction Battalion Detachment on 9 June. Causeway No. 1 was constructed four wide (28' x 1456') with blisters spaced at approximately 300'. Causeway No. 2 was begun on 13 June, four wide (28' x 1050'), with three blisters on either side. Each causeway took approximately three days to construct and were in full operation on 13 and 16 June, respectively. From 11 to 17 June, Causeway No. 1 operated 110 hours, unloading 12 LCT's, 14 RHF and 95 miscellaneous craft, which included LCM's, LCVP's and British small craft. The number of vehicles unloaded during this period totaled 746, with bulk cargo tonnage 3,500, and 8,695 personnel. Causeway No. 2, in operation on 16 and 17 June, for a total of 32 hours, unloaded 49 LCT's, 139 smaller craft, discharging a total of 4,700 personnel.
MULBERRY units began to arrive off OMAHA and the blockships (GOOSEBERRIES) were moved into position on the two fathom line previously designated. The HMS "Centurion" was sunk as the key ship for the harbor entrance - with the location of the first PHOENIX unit approximately 700 yards in a north-easterly direction. The GOOSEBERRIES were located and sunk by the British Naval forces. A Seabee hydrographic crew was utilized by these forces in making soundings, taking sights for the purpose of spotting and placing the GOOSEBERRIES and PHOENIX units. BOMBARDONS, steel hulls which were cross-shaped in sections, were placed outside of the line of PHOENIXES and GOOSEBERRIES, for the purpose of breaking wave action. The work of sinking the PHOENIXES was carried on in an expeditious manner by the 108th Construction Battalion. Bridge trains and pierheads began to arrive on schedule and were anchored - one bridge train being damaged by seas about ten miles off the Normandy Coast due to failure of the concrete beetles. The bridges over the damaged beetles were cut away to save the remaining part of the string. On 11 June, the shore ramp of the Mark I bridge unit was installed, and on 14 June two Pierheads were moved in place - completing the 25-ton bridge and pier installations. Work was then concentrated on the Mark II Bridge unit, which was completed on 18 June. During the 16, 17 and 18 June, 15 LCT's and 22 LST's were unloaded - delivering, 1,168 vehicles to the beach over this installation. On 18 June, a north-easterly wind arose, commencing with a velocity of ten knots, which increased to 25 knots the following day, necessitating the abandonment of all unloading operations on the beach. As the intensity of the storm increased, small craft were thrown upon the beach, and in some cases directly on the causeways. Landing craft of all types collided with the bridging units, causing extensive damage thereto. Many of the PHOENIXES, forming the outer harbor, began to crack up and crumble, thereby removing protection from the MULBERRY unit. Several GOOSEBERRIES' backs were broken by the wave action and the erosion of the bottom that occurred before and after of the blockships. Two pierheads broke spud cables and became unmanageable - the crews being removed. The Rhinos were thrown high on the beach as the velocity of the wind increased to 30 knots, with wave action of eight to ten feet on the exposed portion of the beach, and six to eight feet in the sheltered harbor. The storm continued through 21 June - the wind reaching a maximum velocity of 35 knots. The weather cleared on 22 June and the seas subsided to such an extent that it was possible to commence limited unloading of cargo. None of the Rhino Ferries were operative, but repairs were immediately effected. After the storm, the beach was cluttered with ships and boats of all descriptions that had broken their moorings, had been damaged and forced adrift, and those that sought shelter by beaching. The beach was strewn with debris. Working parties were organized to inventory the damage, to clean up the beach and to salvage operative units. A total of 286 craft was counted on the beach, as follows: CRAFT NO. CRAFT NO. LST 2 LCVP 34 LCT 43 LCVP Br. 5 LCI 4 Liberty 3 LCT Br. 35 LBV Br. 17 LCI Br. 4 BVD Br. 6 LCF 1 SC 2 LCM 82 Control Ship 1 LCM Br. 1 Rep. Barge Br. 2 RHINOS 19 Petrol Barge Br. 1 RHINO Tugs 22 Food Barge Br. 1 RHINO Rep. Barge 1 --- TOTAL: 286 Sand bars had been built up by tide action at three places along the causeways. The majority of the BOMBARDONS were broken loose during the storm and in drifting shoreward, collided with the PHOENIXES subjecting the walls thereof to excessive punching stresses that contributed greatly to the failure of the PHOENIX units. In addition, the drifting BOMBARDONS caused damage to vessels and considerable structural damage to midsection of Causeway No. 1, over which several BOMBARDONS broached. The blockships (GOOSEBERRIES) were thrown out of alignment by wave action. The damage done to the WHALE installation was so extensive that only sufficient bridging and beetles remained to reconstruct one Bridge Unit. Of the 35 PHOENIX units, 27 had been damaged beyond repair. A camp construction party of the 111th Naval Construction Battalion arrived on 9 June and immediately began installation of a temporary pup tent and fox hole camp. This camp was poorly located as it was in a direct line of fire from the anti-aircraft batteries of the ships and was also subject to strafing as well as bombing. Land mines were encountered and accounted for some casualties. Subsequently, the camp was transferred to three more desirable areas offering dispersion. During the storm period, the initial camp provided food and housing for 2,000 Allied casuals, principally from small boats stranded, sunk or wrecked by the storm or combat activity. Medical facilities were provided by Seabees for all personnel on the beach. By 22 June, the beach was cleared sufficiently and LST's were dried out on the beach and unloaded directly. Ammunition was moved by DUKW's from coasters. Seven Rhinos were in service, with the remainder awaiting arrival of replacement engines from the United Kingdom. Causeway No. 2 (westerly one) was repaired and placed in service on 23 June, and began unloading of troops and cargo from LCM's and LCT's. Work was begun on the retrieving of sufficient bridging and pierheads to reconstruct one bridge span. P.O.L. A 146th Construction Battalion Detachment arrived on 9 June and began the unloading of construction materials and supplies and proceeded to construct POL facilities. This included one 6-inch Diesel lines, one 4-inch gasoline line and one 4-inch water line, which were completed on 19 June. The sea connections were, unfortunately, located in an exposed area, not protected by the GOOSEBERRIES. A 4 x 12 pontoon barge floating station was outfitted and provided service for the smaller craft. This services was later discontinued due to the wrecking of the barge during the storm of June 19-21. A 475-ton drydock was installed within the harbor, and during the storm the drydock was critically damaged and rendered unfit for use. UTAH The first LST's towing Rhinos arrived on 6 June, in a rough sea. Four Rhinos completed the marriages to LST's and proceeded to the beach, approximately ten miles distant, and proceeded to unload cargo. Six additional Rhinos arrived on the early morning of 7 June and were pressed into operation. Between 8 and 16 June, 4,307 vehicles and 31,580 tons of bulk cargo was delivered to the beach by Rhino Ferries. The artificial harbor was formed by the installation of the blockships (GOOSEBERRIES), which were placed and sunk by British Naval units, utilizing a Seabee hydrographic crew for making soundings and taking sights for the placing of each GOOSEBERRY on a predetermined line. No PHOENIXES or WHALE elements were included in this installation. The 1006th Causeway-Pontoon Detachment arrived on 7 June and began the assembling of Causeway No. 1, which was completed on 9 June. Causeway No. 2 was completed on 15 June. Both causeways were two pontoons wide and 2,250 feet in length - No. 1 having eight blisters, and No. 2 having five. As early as 8 June, personnel and vehicles from LCM's, LCT's, LCI's and Rhinos were off-loading infantry, vehicles and supplies on the two causeways. Between 6 and 13 June, 85% of all vehicles and cargo was brought ashore over Rhinos or causeways. It was found that the Rhino tugs were not required to retract from the beach and were therefore used to handle cargo that was too heavy or unwidely for DUKWs. During the initial invasion period, the Rhinos handled 33% of all vehicles unloaded on the beach. The Rhinos Repair Barge arrived on 7 June and began servicing of Rhinos and other types of craft. During the invasion phase, the Repair Barge maintained the Rhinos at 80% efficiency, with 8 to 9 of the 11 units being operative at all times. During the initial stage, all Rhino Ferries were subjected to enemy fire from the beachhead. In one instance, a Rhino tug was sunk by enemy dive bombing attack, with 12 Seabee casualties resulting. On 18 June, the storm, described previously, began to effect the operations on this beach. Up until this time, eleven Rhino Ferries had made 175 trips to the beach, bringing ashore 50,000 tons of cargo. As the storm increased to an intensity of about 35 knots, all operations were secured. Soon after the storm subsided, crews from the 1006th began salvage work on the beach. An inventory taken on 22 June, of the craft up on the beach, is as follows: CRAFT NO. CRAFT NO. LCI 1 LCVP Br. 10 LCT 33 RHINO Ferries 10 LCT Br. 12 RHINO tugs 11 LCF 3 Brit. Petrol Barge 1 LCM 64 Liberties 5 LBV Br. 25 Br. Repair S. 2 LCVP 35 --- TOTAL: 212 On 23 June, three Rhinos were in operation unloading Liberty ships. One causeway was damaged by ships broaching, and Causeway No. 1 was canted severely. Both causeways were widened to four-wide and refloated and relocated after preparing new sites with bulldozers. The camp construction detail of the 81st Naval Construction Battalion arrived on 9 June and constructed a pup tent and fox hole camp, dispersed over several areas, sufficient to accommodate 1,500 men and 70 officers. These facilities included six galleys, nine hospital tents, Quonset or headquarters hut, radio and visual communications and an equipment repair shop. Subsequently, the temporary camp was relocated in three areas. Over 1,600 Allied survivors from ships and small craft damaged by the storm and enemy action were housed and fed in the Seabee camp.
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