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Utah Beach was the codename for one of the invasion beaches during the World War II D-Day Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944. Despite being substantially off course, two divisions of the US First Army landed there with relatively little resistance, in contrast to Omaha Beach where the fighting was fierce. Utah beach was the westernmost of the five landing beaches, around Pouppevile and La Madeleine.
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 . 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.
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, had volunteered to coordinate the initial attack on the beach strong points until the arrival of the regimental commander, Colonel Van Fleet, and had landed with Company E. 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. These impromptu plans worked with complete success and little confusion. The errors in landing actually proved fortunate. Not only was the beach farther south less thickly obstructed, but the enemy shore defenses were also less formidable than those opposite the intended landing beaches.
- Much of this text is taken from the US Military History Utah Beach to Cherbourg, written by Roland G. Ruppenthal. This work is in the public domain.
- Utah Beach American Memorial on the American Battle Monuments Commission web site
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