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Basic:      Ltr Hqs 5th Engr Sp Brig, File 200.6
Subject:  Unit Citation, 6th Naval Beach Battalion
Dated:     12 Feb 45

A Proposed Citation

The 6th Naval Beach Battalion is cited for extraordinary gallantry in action against the enemy on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on 6 June 1944. For its part in breaching the defenses of Omaha Beach, a well-fortified and bitterly defended position, the 6th Naval Beach Battalion exhibited outstanding courage, determination and devotion to duty.

Omaha Beach is located in Normandy, France. The terrain consists of a flat, sandy beach about 400 yards wide at low tide backed by a steep bank of shingle 16 to 18 feet in width forming an effective barrier to the passage of vehicles. Inland of the shingle is a flat, open area about 200 yards wide from which the ground rises precipitously to a rolling plateau of about 100 feet elevation. Imbedded in the cliffs' sides was a long prepared and powerfully emplaced enemy. The beach was covered with intricate and almost impenetrable barriers of mine-capped underwater obstacles and an anti-tank ditch 6 to 10 feet deep and 20 to 30 feet wide. The enemy had excellent observation of the entire beach area. The weather was clear and visibility unlimited.

At 0730 hours on the morning of 6 June 1944, the first elements of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion reached the beach. Underwater obstacles and enemy artillery damaged or sank most of their landing craft losing valuable equipment and forcing personnel to swim for shore under hostile fire. Assault troops were pinned to the beach by murderous fire from enemy rifle, mortar, machine gun and artillery emplacements. Officers and men of the battalion worked along the side of gap assault teams in clearing obstacles so supplies and troops could cross the tidal flat of the beach. Other elements helped build up a firing line and set up control stations on the beach to direct the landing of craft. Safe lanes of approach were marked and ship-to-shore communication was established. Movement on the beach was made hazardous by enemy fire and mines which had become strafed by enemy aircraft and the imposed blackout hampered the battalion's activities.

The extraordinary gallantry, heroism, and determination displayed in overcoming unusual difficulties and hazardous conditions and the esprit de corps displayed by the 6th Naval Beach Battalion contributed materially to the capture of Omaha Beach and reflect highest credit on personnel of this organization and the Armed Forces of the United States.

Inclosure 1


APO 887, US Army

12 February 1945

SUBJECT: Unit Citation, 6th Naval Beach Battalion.

TO: Commander, Naval Forces, France

  1. Under the provisions of War Department Circular No. 333, 22 December 1943, it is recommended that the 6th Naval Beach Battalion be cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action while supporting the assault landings on Omaha Beach, Vierville-Colleville sector of Normandy, France, 6 June 1944.

  2. General Information:

    1. The 6th Naval Beach Battalion was a unit organized, trained and equipped for its role as a beach party in an amphibious landing. For the assault, elements of the battalion were attached as follows:

      Company A - 336th Engineer Combat Battalion
      Company B - 348th Engineer Combat Battalion
      Company C - 37th Engineer Combat Battalion
      Battalion Headquarters landed with the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion

      A platoon of the battalion was attached to each lettered company of the engineer combat battalions. The total strength was 42 officers and 362 enlisted men.

    2. Missions: The mission of this unit was to carry out all beach party functions for the assault landings of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division.

      These functions were:

      1. Mark hazards to navigation in the vicinity of the beach and determine the most suitable landing points by hydrographic survey.

      2. Direct landing, retraction and salvage of craft.

      3. Maintain communications with naval task groups and naval vessels.

      4. Care for beach casualties and control evacuation of all casualties to ships.

      5. Assist naval combat and demolition units in removal of underwater obstacles and continue clearance as required.

    3. Character of terrain and hostile observation and fields of fire:

      1. The Terrain:

        1. The action occurred over a flat sandy beach about 300 yards wide at low tide. At the high water mark, a steep pile of shingle formed an effective obstacle against the passage of vehicles. Inshore of the shingle is a low, flat area devoid of cover about 250 yards wide. Inshore of this area, the land rises precipitously to a rolling plateau of about 100 feet elevation. Three natural corridors in the 5th Engineer Special Brigade sector run inland. These corridors had unimproved roads and were to carry all traffic off the beach.

        2. The enemy had converted the beach into what he thought was an impregnable position by a series of obstacles and fortifications. Between the high and low water marks were several bands of obstacles consisting of hedgehogs, log ramps, jetted piles, and Element "C." The majority of these obstacles had activated tellermines attached to further damage incoming craft. The low ground behind the beach was protected by dense belts of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, by several bands of wire and by an anti-tank ditch. Defending troops were protected against the aerial and naval bombardment which preceded the assault by deep and elaborate underground shelters which had been constructed in the hills and cliffs overlooking the beach.

        3. Mutually supporting pillboxes mounting anti-tank weapons dominated the exits from the beach and were capable of enfilading the entire length of the beach. These positions were protected by numerous weapons pits on the low ground. On the high ground above the beach a continuous trench provided communication between observation posts, mortar positions, and weapons pits. An elaborate system of underground cable provided effective wire communication between positions and to artillery positions inland.

      2. Observation: From his well dug in observation posts on the ridge, the enemy could observe all that was taking place on the beach. These posts were not cleared until D+2. Our forces could see very little as the enemy positions were well camouflaged and the attackers held no commanding heights. The weather was clear and visibility unlimited.

      3. Fields of Fire: The low ground gave the enemy excellent fields of fire for his weapons ranging from machine guns to 88-mm artillery emplaced along the beach. The beach and the area behind it provided no cover whatsoever for the attacking troops. All of the enemy emplacements were fitted with panoramic views of possible targets, so that they could be fired without observation. Artillery had been accurately zeroed on the beach. Fields of fire of our troops were limited by the abrupt slope behind the beach and by the danger of hitting our own men landing in other sectors.

    4. Over 50 percent of this battalion's personnel had landed by H+4 hours on D-Day.

  3. Detailed Resume:

    1. The initial landings of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion began on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, H+60 minutes on the morning of 6 June 1944, in support of the 16th U.S. Infantry Regimental Combat Team and other units of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division.

    2. Instead of finding the enemy groggy from a sea, air, and tank bombardment as they had been briefed to expect, these initial elements on approaching the beach in landing craft were met by withering fire from rifles, machine guns, mortars, and 88-mm artillery, all of which were effectively employed at close range from enfilading positions in the cliffs commanding the beach. Landing craft were sunk and damaged by artillery fire and underwater mines. This necessitated debarking men in deep water forcing them to swim and wade ashore under hostile fire with the loss of valuable equipment. Much of the equipment reaching shore was rendered useless by enemy fire, salt water, and sand. Men on reaching shore found themselves leaderless and scattered because of the loss of key personnel. They were pinned down by annihilating hostile fire and blocked from advancing minefields.

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