Yes, I know: it should be a 48-star flag... The 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, 1943 to 1945

England (Part 6)

SOUTHAMPTON TO OMAHA BEACH

While the complicated and historic Allied landing assault on the Normandy Coast raged in its 96th hour, the mounting pre-invasion months of arduous training and waiting of the 115th merged into an apex of realistic events.

Processing of the "light scale" in the sprawling Marshalling Area of Winchester was terminated by our secretive and swift transfer to the scarred and blitzed Port of Southampton, a major Port of Embarkation to the battle holocaust of Normandy.

Terse orders, delays and suspense, coupled with the difficulty in loading our heavy and expensive equipment on the assigned Military Transports, proved to be a sure test of calmness that possessed our troops. The reality of the immense task, never before undertaken, and the critical importance of it registered keenly, as everywhere around us, there were hundreds upon hundreds of troops, too, who were loading their ships with their equipment for the same cause. D plus 3, D plus 4, still the ships were loading. D plus 4, at dusk, four Military Transports, the Elmer E. Sperry No. 38, the Edward M. House No. 39, the Joseph Story No. 40, and the Samuel Colt No. 42, laden with millions of dollars of new technical AAA fighting equipment, and hundreds of 115th helmeted personnel, heavy with full field packs and uniformed in gas-protective clothing, slid through the mined port, and nosed their way through the choppy waters of the English Channel. The sky was overcast, the air cold and the spray from the sea made the men shiver. Dawn, D plus 5. The shell-pocked, once fortified bluffs of the Omaha Beach loomed a few hundred yards ahead. A forest of ships of many and varied types, umbrellaed by a field of tugging, bloated balloons swept beyond the horizons. On the beaches the crack of sporadic black, explosions reminded us of the danger which lay ahead. The magnitude of the complicated mass the Allies were hurling against the enemy capsized our imaginations. We were seeing first hand what had preceded our landing and were the more eager and impatient now to throw our assigned weapons into the battle. But, so were thousands of others and there were thousands waiting their turns to unload so they too might take their places at the front lines. So, D plus 5 drifted into D plus 6 and we were still not unloading. During the night, the vast Armada had repulsed three air attacks and was being subjected to more. The nervous fingers of red tracers clawed skyward at their prey: The planes were everywhere, then vanished only to be followed by a strange, sudden, dark, silence intermingled with emotional excitement from within. Finally, D plus 7 the battalion unloaded its equipment into LCT's and after riding abreast of torn and shattered hulls of assault landing craft and demolished underwater obstacles, the 115th landed on Omaha Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer where the heaviest resistance and fighting had occurred. The ghastliness of what had taken place there was evidenced by the strewn lifebelts, pieces of clothing and equipment, wrecked tanks and vehicles, here and there an American helmet crushed or shot up, a broken rifle. Mines had not been completely cleared. Shell fire was coming in regularly. We had been thoroughly briefed for our initial mission; we had been made to realize the danger and risks of combat. We were not afraid. We knew the important thing was that a beachhead stretching west of Vierville to east of Colleville had been established, that strong forces had landed, and that the inflow of additional forces was going on hour after hour.


MANCHESTER BURTONWOOD-WARTON WINCHESTER
17 December, 1943
5 February, 1944
8 June, 1944
WHlTBY CAMP BLANDFORD SOUTHAMPTON
25 January, 1944
5 March, 1944
9 June, 1944
  STONEHENGE  
7 May, 1944
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leaves their Stonehenge bivouac 8 June 1944 (D-Day plus 2) to embark at Southampton for the Normandy beaches. At dusk on 10 June (D+4), in four Military Transports (the Elmer E. Sperry No. 38, the Edward M. House No. 39, the Joseph Story No. 40, and the Samuel Colt No. 42), the 115th sails for France. Arriving off the beaches dawn D+5, the 115th must wait until D+7 (13 June) to unload into LCTs and land at Omaha Beach.
 
Updated Tuesday June 07, 2005 09:10:15 PDT
The original text of The Story of the 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, published by the unit in 1945, is in the public domain. So how, you may ask, can I claim that the contents of these web pages are protected by copyright?

The answer is that it is my own transcription of the text and images into electronic format, and compilation into these web pages that is copyrighted. In addition, the web design, art, and annotations, plus all material from my father's personal albums are copyrighted original works. I reserve all rights to how all these materials are used. You may not copy them or store them in any retrieval system without permission.