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USN "Tin Cans" at Omaha

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by OSCSSW, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. OSCSSW

    OSCSSW Member

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    First off the real credit for taking Omaha beach goes to the US Army.

    That said, a case can be made that a few USN "Tin Cans" provided meaningful assiatnce to those gallant and hard pressed troops at a very critical time.




    US Navy Destroyers (AKA Tin Cans or just Cans) at Normandy

    [​IMG] [​IMG]



    Close-in fire support for the infantry at Omaha Beach was ineffective during the crucial early hours.
    Why?

    June 6, 1944, at H-hour 0630 real trouble started. Landing craft coxswains lost their bearings in the early morning mist, deepened by smoke and dust kicked up by the naval bombardment. Many of them missed their assigned landing sectors. Of the 64 DD tanks (amphibious) 27 made it to the Dog beaches but only five got ashore on Easy beaches; the rest foundered on the way in.

    0830 USS Carmick breaks the cease-fire order that had suspended supporting naval gunfire at H-hour. (Some 1 & 1/2 to 2 hrs of withering German cliff-top defensive firing w/o much, if any, U.S return fire support at all.) 1st and 29th Division assault waves - sitting ducks.

    USS Carmick action report:
    ..."Early in the morning a group of tanks were seen to be having difficulty making their way along the breakwater road toward Exit D-1 [the Vierville draw]. A silent coorporation was established wherein they fired at a target on the bluff above them and we then fired several salvos at the same spot. They then shifted fire futher along the bluff and we used their bursts again as a point of aim."...
    Captain Sanders, COMDESTRON 18 Commander was in the USS Frankfort, arriving off the beachead just before 0900. Concerned about increasing casualties on the beach, he ordered ALL destroyers to close on the beach as far in as possible and support the assualt troops.

    Close-in fire support by navy destroyers speeded up much improved conditions all along the beach at Omaha by 1000.

    After action report: (personal letter from Sergeant James E. Knight of the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion wrote to the crew of the USS Frankfort)..."There is no question, at least in my mind, if you had not come in as close as you did, exposing yourself to God only knows how much, that I would not have survived the night. I truly believe that in the absence of the damage you inflicted on Geman emplacements, the only way any GI was going to leave Omaha was in a matress cover or as a prisoner of war."...Sergeant Barton Davis, 299th Combat Engineer Battalion wrote to say: " How well I remember your ship coming in so close. I thought then as I do now that it was one brave thing to come in so close...Your ship not only knocked out the pillbox but the mortar positions above us...I always thought how great it would be to tell the Captain of this ship how grateful I am..." ( a personal letter to Captain James Semmes, CO of the USS Frankfort).

    Colonel S.B. Mason, USA, Chief of Staff of the 1st Division, wrote the following letter to Rear Admiral Hall after an inspection of the German defenses at Omaha. They should have been impregnable" "But there was one element of attack they could not parry...I am now firmly convinced that our supporting naval fire got us in; that without that gunfire we positively could not have crossed the beaches."...

    Almost scraping the bottom with destroyer keels off Omaha Beach were the: USS Frankfort; USS McCook; USS Doyle; USS Thompson; USS Carmick...D-Day - June 6th, 1944.

    Footnote:

    In his book, "The Longest Day", Cornelius Ryan so described German defenses of Omaha. The German 352nd Division's artillery batteries were only a part of what Ryan called "the deadly guns of Omaha Beach":
    There were 8 concrete bunkers with guns of 75 millimeters or larger caliber [75mm to 88mm]; 35 pillboxea with artillery pieces of various sizes/or automatic weapons; 4 batteries of artillery [presumably Pluskat's]; 18 antitank guns [37mm to 75mm]; 6 mortar pits; approximately 40 rocket-launching sites; each with four 38-millimeter rocket tubes; and NO LESS THAN 85 strategically placed machine gun nests


    My asumption is pre-landing bombardment was lifted as wave 1 got within 500 yds of the beach
    what we called in the trade (NGFS) "Danger Close." From that point on SOP is to shift to
    preplanned fire missions so as not to endanger our own people.

    The naval landing spotter teams would then, under the orders of the Army, place calls for fire on specific targets. It appears very few of these teams made it ashore or survivd long enough to
    set up shop. Lacking this direction SOP is not to fire danger close to our troops. Exactly how the
    "Tank spotting" was worked out is not clear but both the US cans and army signal corps types were trained in blinker light and signal flags.
     
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  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Don't forget that many of the tin cans off Omaha beach were manned by British RNVR sailors.

    In January 1944 when Ike came back from the Mediterranean there was only enough landing craft for a three division landing. Ike and Montgomery, the land force commander did not think that the invasion front was wide enough. Building and crewing an extra 60% landing craft was a major strain on the allied shipbuilding industry and navies. Much of the shipbuilding capacity was from the UK, switched from building small anti submarine ships and the manpower from the RN,

    When Saving Private Ryan was released it angered a lot of British Normandy veterans who had served the US Army off and on Omaha Beach.
     
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  3. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Member

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    Hi guys,were there any R.N. Destroyers off Omaha.? Thanks,4W.
     
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I played the huge SPI game on the Normandy landings (company /battalion level) a few times and seem to recall at least some UK support vessels working the American landing beaches.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Yes. The Bombardment group for Omaha Beach included the Cruiser HMS Glasgow and three Hunt class destroyers. HMS Tanaside, Talybont, Melbreak. I think HMS Talybont along with USS Slaterlee assisted the 2nd Rangers at Point du Hoc. The mine sweepers seem to have been mainly British.

    h. Bombardment Group 124.9 Rear-Admiral Bryant, USN
    2 BBs; 3 CLs; 9 US DDs; 3 Hunt DDs

    i. Sweeper Group 124.10 Commander Cochrane, RN.,
    9 MS; 3 Danlayers; 4 MLs; 8 BYMHs; 9 MMs.
    (source:

    Incidentally what was the nationality of the first three allied soldiers to be killed on Omaha beach? What is so special about the oldest of these three and the cap badge of the senior of the three? They are buried in St Laurent Sur Mer civilian cemetery at the top of the Les Moulins Draw.
     
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  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Sheldrake,

    you are correct, HMS Talybont and USS Slaterlee supported the Rangers at Point du Hoc. HMS Tanatside was off Fox Green beach, and HMS Melbreak was assigned to target the crossroads at the village of Sainte Honorine des Pertes.

    HMS Talybont departed for screen duty at 0730, HMS Tanatside departed for screen duty at 0850, and HMS Melbreak departed for screen duty at 0930.


    I haven't seen this linked yet, so here you go:
    "Destroyers at Normandy: Naval Gunfire Support at Omaha Beach"
    http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/destroyersatnormandy.htm
     
  7. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Given that the frontal assault plan went out the window and troops had to infiltrate between the draws, its hard to say what the NGFS could do. Keeping fire on the draws might help until the infiltrators had circled around to attack them from the rear. The army command had little idea that infiltration was the new plan so there was nothing they could tell the navy.

    IIRC recall one field artillery battalion lost all but one of its twelve guns. So for several days after the landing the destroyers filled in for the field artillery.

    Some accounts cite the existence of former LCI's equipped with 3-inch guns (some called gun boats). I wonder what happen to these guys. It seems the destroyers took their place with close-in fire.

    I also wonder if the destroyers could have used their 40mm AA on the top of the draws. That might have had more terror effect than real damage but worth trying (with hindsight).
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    AFAIK, the LCI(G) conversions were all done in the Pacific, and all the later Landing Craft Support(Large)(Mark 3)s - LCS(L)(3) - all entered service after D-Day, and all served only in the Pacific. The British did have a few American LCT(Mark 3)s which were modified into Landing Craft Guns(Large) and mounted one 4.7-inch deck gun - Navsource.com lists these as LCG(L)-424, -426, -449, and -811, and all saw action at Normandy for D-Day.

    Perhaps the British modified some of their LCIs with a 3-inch gun amd then lent them to the Americans for use at Normandy.
     
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There were lots of problems with the fire plan at Omaha Beach.

    One of the biggest problems was the design of the Atlantic wall bunkers which were designed with fields of fire along the beach and had 10 ft of earth and concrete to protect the defenders from shells fired from the sea. This rendered most of the NGS ineffective as a means for destroying the anti tank weapons sited to fire along the beach. Several of these bunkers survive, including the one under the 29th Division memorial at Vierville and those at WN 62 north of the 1st Division memorial. NGS would have to stop before the infantry landed, as would any artillery fired from LCTs. Once the allies were ashore the FOBs could bring down NGS and adjust fire, but again it didn't help unless the embrasure was facing the sea.

    The air forces could not be that effective either. There was a well founded fear heavy bombers could not be trusted to hit the Germans and not invasion force in their landing craft, and a concern that cratering the beach would make it difficult to land vehicles. Nor had the air-forces of 1944 the ability to hit precision hard targets. Precision guided munitions needed to wait for the laser.

    I do not believe the fireplan was a wholly ineffective. The accounts from the survivors make it clear that the bombardment caused casualties fear smoke, dust etc for some time , but once the survivors recovered they fought on.

    Whatever happened the last few hundred metres were going to be assaulted by the troops with the support that landed with them. I think 2nd Army were better served than 1st Army or V Corps. The Brigadier Royal Artillery of 2nd British Army H J "Hatchet Jack" Parham took a personal interest in solving the problem. One solution was to add 100 extra disposable assault guns just to cover the last few hundred metres to the shore. These were obsolete close support tanks crewed by RA and RM crews "spare" from the disbanded RM division. The British decision to use armoured engineers also added a lot more armoured firepower on the British beaches.

    .
     
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  10. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Yes, my faulty memory.

    I know these "In Action" series are prone to mistakes, in mostly minor details, and I certainly hope the "47-mm" is a mistake. I can't believe anybody would have thought a 47mm was going to do any good against entrenched or fortified targets.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-A-Omaha/USA-A-Omaha-2.html


     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I think its a misprint. 47mm isn't a British or US weapon calibre. I think they are referring to a LCG (L) like these http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lcg_(l)_680_FL5995.jpg

    The Overlord planning documents also describe mounting British 17 Pdr (76.2/77mm) anti tank guns on LCG (L) as it was hoped that these high velocity weapons would be more effective in bunker busting than 4" or 4.7" naval guns. Then it transpired that the 17 pdr wasn't that good at defeating concrete. So it was decided to implement the close in requirement by fitting the 95mm Close support gun turrets from obsolescent Centaur tanks (early model Cromwell fitted with the unreliable Liberty engine). But from an engineering POV it was easier to lash the chassis onto the landing craft than cut the turrets out and weld them onto a specially built deck. Then someone had the really bright idea of leaving the turrets in the tanks and allowing them to land in the surf, and rely on the armour plate of the tank to protect the gun detachment. The Gun detachments, RM gunners were pretty keen too to get to use the tanks as , err "armoured support vehicles" and drive them around on their own power. This solution also meant the landing craft could be returned to use as a tank landing craft after the first assault too.

    Thus the idea of creating a close support craft mounting tank turrets fitted onto a lank landing craft is implemented by....................
    ................loading tanks onto a landing craft, but this was a golden period of British ingenuity.

    This is how the Royal Artillery acquired a Armoured Support Group Royal Marines a disposable self propelled assault artillery. It was a unit designed for one mission . Twenty troops each of four centaurs and a Sherman "Gun Position Officer's " tank. No B vehicles and or admin, repair or supply echelon. The Navy weren't too happy about these troops swanning off with the British Liberation Army so there are sheaves of paper about the arguments of how far they were to be allowed to travel inland and all sorts of instructions for getting the 500 odd booties scattered across the D Day beaches back under naval command. In the event the unit is reorganised and supported 6th Airborne Division until August 1944., No one wanted the Centaurs , which is why two of them survive as memorials.

     
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