A World War II historic guide to discover the D-Day Landing Beaches in Normandy

Travel Normandy guide François Gauthron offers tours of the Normandy landing beaches, World War II battlefield. Come and discover the most famous part of Normandy where took place the Landing and the battle of Normandy in June 1944 to liberate France and Europe. You will be escorted by a qualified bilingual guide who will show you round the major sites of the beaches. Visit the highlights of World War II sites in Normandy with an expert license guide, first the most important sites of the landing beaches.

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The American planning

Landing Planning

H-Hour was 6.30 am on June 6th 1944. The landing window had to consider the availabilities of landing craft, Navy and air support. Plus the combination of daylight, tide and moonlight. Low tide was at 05.30 am, sunrise was at 05.58 am. The D-Day planners decided to land at 06.30 for several reasons: LCA's could come closer to the bluff, minimizing the uncovered distance for the GIs, and all the obstacles would be exposed. The sunrise hour permitted the Navy and the Air Force to optimize their shelling and Bombardment.

Landing Units

Two Infantry Divisions landed on D-Day, each strong of 14men, 1st and 29th ID, attached were two Tank Bn (741st and 743rd) with 45 tanks each, two Engineers Special Brigades (5th and 6th) strong of 4.188 men each, 5th Ranger Bn strong of 550 men and half of 2nd Ranger Bn strong of 225 men.
The fist wave was composed of Infantry, Armor and Combat Engineers who had to face the enemy fire, 1,450 men were schedule to land at 06.30 am.

American Infantry details

Each Coy contained 3 platoons (41 men) and a platoon of heavy weapons: 60m/m mortars and M 1919 Browning machine gun (36 men) and a HQ (6 men) which gives a total of 165 per Coy.
There were 4 Coy per Bn:

  • First Bn was composed of Coys A, B, C, D;
  • Second Bn was composed of Coys E, F, G, H;
  • Third Bn was composed of Coys I, K, L, M; there is no J Coy for unexplained reason.

Coys D, H, M were the heavy weapons of each Bn. The heavy weapon Coy had longer range mortars such as 81 m/m, longer range calibre. Rich from Sicily experience the 16th Regiment split their heavy weapons coys in the other ones to reduce the number of men losses but didn't share that knowledge with the 116th Regiment who no combat experience. LCVP and LCA carried 31 men and one officer; there were 6 landing craft per Coy. The Coy HQ was the seventh one and would land with the second wave.
Each craft had men for infantry support, engineer task, as cutting the wire, de-mining and clearing the bunkers as well M-1 rifle, bazookas, flamthrowers, explosive loads, BAR and 60 m/m motars.

Armor battalions details

741st and 743rd tanks Bn had 90 tanks, each Bn had 32 DD (amphibious tanks), which were to be launched 6,000 yards off shore. On 32 tanks of the 741st Bn, 27 were sunk right away, 2 made the beach and the 3 last one landed from LCT's. In front of such a disaster the 743rd Bn decided to transport their tanks to shore. 743rd Bn reinforce 116th Regiment from Les Moulins to Le Ruquet (Easy Green) and to Vierville (Dog Green).

Special Engineer Brigades details

5th and 6th Special Engineer Brigade job was to clear the beach from obstacles: anti-personal and anti-vehicle mines, barber wire and opening the different exits.
5th SEB was composed of 37th, 336th and 348th Engineer Combat Bn and 6th Naval Beach Bn.
6th SEB was composed of 147th, 149th and 203rd Engineer Combat Bn and 7th Naval Beach Bn.
Engineer Combat Bn (634 men) was the base of beach Bn, it was added transportation assets, quartermaster units, ordnance ammunition Company, motor repair platoon, medical Coy, MP chemical decontamination, signal platoon and two surgical teams, A Combat Engineer Bn would support one Infantry Regiment. The SEB were organize in 16 assault teams, five of them reach the beach first, the sea current was the major problem; another 8 were delayed.
16 Bulldozers were to land with the first wave, only 6 did and 3 were immediately destroyed by enemy artillery. In despite of all the troubles they finally open 6 gaps totally and partially open another 3.

Movement to target (Scheme of Manoeuvre)

DD Tanks, were to be launched from off shore at 6,000 yards. These were scheduled to land before infantry that would arrive by craft at the end of low tide. Craft would drop their ramp down and troops would rush out and fighting their way inland. Tanks task was to support the infantry and silence the enemy fortifications. The SEB who were to land 3 minutes after the infantry would place explosive charges on the beach obstacles then clear the beach while the infantry was clearing the bluff. They would penetrate the enemy line all to Treviéres, final target on D-Day.

Time Schedule

In military times are discussed from the moment an operation begins thus: D-Day for the invasion of France in 1944 was June 6th. H-Hour is the beginning hour and minute of an operation. For the 29th, 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions H-Hour was 06.30 am, for the paratroopers 82nd and 101st H-Hour was 01.30 am on D-Day June 6th 1944.