Utah Beach - American Landing Sector - WWII
Utah Beach - The westernmost of the landing beaches
Utah Beach was the westernmost of the five landing beaches.
Gal Dwight Eisenhower included Utah Beach to the original D-Day plan to capture Cherbourg, a harbour of prime importance situated on the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula.
Taking control of the harbour would therefore allow the off-loading of the vast amounts of equipment needed for the advance of the Allied troops in France.
Utah Beach stretched on a 5km long strip on the left bank of the river Douve estuary, between the villages of St-Germain-de-Vareville to the west and La Madeleine to the east.
Utah Beach - Tare Green, Uncle Red and Victor sectors
The landing on Utah Beach was assigned to the US 4th Infantry Division and was divided into three sectors: Tare Green, Uncle Red and Victor (from west to east).
The landings were to concentrate on Tare Green and Uncle Red (Dunes de Vareville area).
German batteries at Saint-Marcouf and Azzeville defended these two sectors, situated opposite the Merderet marshes.
Marshes and lowlands indeed spread along the Merderet and Douve rivers and 3km inland and followed the layout of Utah Beach.
Four causeways, which linked the beaches to the inland, traversed them. Three of them led directly onto Tare Green and Uncle Red.
However, the German coastal defence were lighter on Utah Beach than on the other four landing beaches.
The Germans had indeed taken advantage of the natural line of defence formed by the marshes, which they thought was sufficient. As a result, they had only installed a series strongholds equipped with automatic weapons on the causeways.
However, they were also in control of La Barquette. The lock, situated on the estuary of the Douve River, controlled the water level in the marshes. They opened the flow valves at high tide and closed them at low tide, to flood the entire area.
Capturing the area was essential for the Allies as the causeways were the only access to the inland. They linked to the roads leading to Carentan and Sainte-Mère-l'Eglise, the two main crossroads towns of the region.
A major road ran through Carentan and led eastwards towards Bayeux.
It would secure the beachhead of Utah Beach and allow the landing troops to link up with those landing on Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
The western side of the road led to Valognes, a city situated only 13km from Cherbourg.
Capturing the area would also block off any reinforcement of German troops coming from the south and seal off the Cotentin Peninsula.
Landing on Utah Beach - Gal Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
The landing troops' objective on D-Day was to secure the beach, capture the causeways and roads and link up with the paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions who had been dropped inland five hours prior to the landing.
The landing on Utah Beach (Tare Green and Uncle Red) was scheduled for 6.30am to take advantage of the rising tide.
The initial assault was assigned to the 8th Infantry Regiment supported by thirty-two amphibious tanks.
A reconnaissance team swam from the Landing Craft Assault towards the Saint Marcouf Islands, which were thought to be an enemy observation point, but were in fact deserted.
The first Higgins boats were supposed to come ashore in the Dunes de Varreville and Saint-Martin-de-Vareville beaches. The Landing Crafts transporting the 32 amphibious tanks were to follow them closely.
The three subsequent waves were to land within 30mn with more troops and soldiers from the engineering and naval demolition teams to clear the beaches from obstacles.
However, the disastrous weather conditions - the stormy sea and the smoke generated by the bombing - resulted in the loss of three out of the four anti-mine crafts. They indeed struck mines and slowed the progression of the landings.
However, the major handicap was the strong currents, which had the unexpected consequence of deporting the landing crafts some 1800m farther away of their scheduled landing area.
The US troops landed therefore on Victor, a lesser-defended sector, because the Germans were expecting the Allies farther north.
General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (the then Asst. Commander of U.S. 4th Division) who had wanted to be part of the first wave of assault landed with his men at 6.40am.
He gave the order to begin the attack at this point and gave his famous address:
"We will start the war from here! "
It was indeed impossible to walk back to the scheduled landing zone!
Advantage had indeed to be taken from this unexpected turn of event!
Roosevelt was the only General to land at the beginning of the attack.
He therefore coordinated the reorganisation of the deployment of regiments with expertise, confidence and unique composure after addressing the men in person as they landed on Utah.
He was later awarded the prestigious Medal of Honour.
Within an hour, the engineers had cleared the obstacles off the beach and neutralised the German defence.
The Liberty Road - Milestone 00 - Borne 00 - Voie de la Liberté today stands on the breach where Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and his men landed and exited Utah Beach.
Outcome of the landing on Utah Beach
The US 4th Division was able to move inland relatively quickly via in the exits that had been cleared by 502nd and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiments of the 101st Airborne Division during the night.
By noon they had linked up with the paratroopers. By late afternoon, they had progressed 6km inland.
Some units were within 2km of the 82nd Airborne's perimeter near Sainte-Mère-l'Eglise, about 10km north of Carentan.
Unlike Omaha, which was a true carnage, the landing of the 23,250 men and 1,700 vehicles on Utah Beach was "relatively" easy and the level of casualties 'relatively low' (200+).
The key elements in this highly successful landing were the unexpected change of landing zone and the outstanding fight put up by the 13,000 paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, who had been dropped off behind the enemy lines, captured Sainte-Mère-l'Eglise and secured the Utah Beach's exits during the night.
Utah Beach Memorials in La Madeleine - Audouville-la-Hubert
1- The contemporary silhouette of the Utah Beach Museum overlooks the seashore, where the U.S. 4th Infantry Division landed on D-day.
There is much to see inside, but also outside. You'll indeed find an amphibious tank, a Sherman Tank M4, a LCVP boat and various equipments.
2- The impressive 4th Infantry Division Monument stands in front of the entrance to the museum. General Bradley unveiled it in 1967.
It pays tribute to the soldiers of the Division who landed on D-Day.
Utah Beach breach-exit, to the west of the museum, is lined with several monuments.
3- The Borne 00 de la Voie de la Liberté - Liberty Road was installed in 1947 and links Utah Beach to Bastogne in Belgium.
It stands in the breach used by the 4th Infantry Division.
4- Row Road Pane pays tribute to Private J.T. Rowe of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment who was killed in action on D-Day.
5- The Eisenhower Way Stele honours the memory of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces on D-Day and President of the United States of America from 1952 to 1961.
A few steps cut into the dune climb up to the platform that overlooks the beach. You'll find several memorials on the platform.
6- A splendid bronze sculptural group, that pays tribute to the Officers and Sailors of the U.S. Navy, stands in its center.
7- Several smaller black granite columns, dedicated to the various units who participated to the landing, were placed all around the platform.
8- Two steles of the Free French Air Forces were embedded in the parapet of the platform.
They honour the memory of a crew member of a bomber of the 342nd Lorraine Group Squadron and of the pilot Jacques Joubert des Ouches, both killed in action on D-day.
9- The 1st Engineer Special Brigade Monument was erected on a second platform, which in fact is a bunker.
The monument looks like a small pyramid and stands in front of a German anti-aircraft gun that is still on its place of origin.
9- Commemorative Plaques of the Allied Navy were embedded in its shaft.
You'll find other memorials farther along.
10- General Landrum unveiled the 90th Infantry Division Monument on 1974. He was the Division's Commander.
11- The American Soldiers Monument is a tall square column in pink granite. The U.S.A. erected it in 1984 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the landings.
The memorial pays tribute to all the American soldiers, who died during the Battle of Normandy.
12- The Coast Guard Plaque was embedded in a German bunker.
It pays tribute, not only to the units who supported the landing on D-Day, but to all the U.S. Coast Guards who served worldwide during WWII.
13- Finally, as you walk along the restaurant Le Roosevelt – the only building in the area other than the museum- you'll see the outer wall of a bunker.
A US Navy Plaque was affixed to its wall. It pays tribute to the units, which were in control of the traffic on the beaches from June,8 to October, 31 1944.
War Memorials in:
Juno Beach: Bernieres-sur-mer - Corseulles-sur-mer - Graye-sur-mer - Douvres-la-Delivrande
Gold Beach: Arromanches - Ver-sur-mer
Sword Beach: Ouistreham-Riva Bella
Department of Manche
Coordinates: Lat 49.415558 - Long -1.175446