Utah Beach

It is the western side of the American sector, from the mouth of the Vire to the beaches of Sainte-Marie du Mont.

Let us call back that initially, this sector was not supposed to be part of landing beaches. Originally indeed, the project ” spreads out ” if we can say, simply from Courseulles, in the East, until Grandcamp, west end, on the banks of the Vire.

It is in January, 1944 when General Utah-beachMontgomery, just promoted as first assistant of Eisenhower, proposes in the latter a modification of scale: the extension of the front from 55 to 90 kilometers. He indeed thinks that, considering the titanic volume of men and material which the allies are going to pour in the first days of the operation, the sector such as it is then defined, risk of ending in annoying congestions . The decision is made to widen to the beaches of Cotentin on the West, and to the Orne in the East.

Commemorative-MonumentThe American troops which are going to land belong to the 1st US army, commanded by General Omar Bradley. For Utah, it is the VIIth army corps of General Collins, and the first wave is constituted by the 4th Infantry division, with at its head – he is assistant commander of the division – General Théodore Roosevelt Jr, son of the president of the same name and great-nephew of the current president *. Although severely decreased by the degenerative osteoarthritis, he was worried to go among his men during the assault (this episode can be seen in particular in ” The longest day ” when Henry Fonda, with whom he had nevertheless no resemblance, plays his role- assault where he is the oldest assaulting (57 years) and the only general officer of the first wave. The anecdote will also retain that at the same moment, his son, captain Quentin Roosevelt, is landing at Omaha beach.

utah-museum-bomberIn spite of initial misfortunes (The destroyer USS Corry hits a mine and sinks, a patrol boat is sunk by the German defenses), the luck is going to smile to the Americans : carried by a powerful flow, landing crafts are going to drift and lead to the beach of La Madeleine, two kilometers further south that in the planned point, so avoiding the best defended parts of the beach. It will need several hours to the Germans, who, without visibility, continue to shot on an empty beach, to understand their error, at the time they met the first american foot soldiers.

theodore-roosevelt-graveIt is on a “cleaned” beach that the barges of the second wave can land, with General Barton, commanding the division, whose men begin to penetrate inside lands: the junction is made by the road with the paras of the 101th “Airborne” (see the article: ” airborne operations “), even if the German resistance prevents at first from making it also with those of the 82nd. All the targets of the first day were not met, but the landing to Utah beach is an indisputable success : the losses are small (but real: 43 deaths, essentially by drowning, about sixty wounded persons), lower than those of the trainings, and, during the first day, more than 23 000 men, more than 1700 vehicles and 1700 tons of material will have been landed.

* Victim later of a heart attack, he dies on July 12th. According to his wish, he rests among his men in the American cemetery of Colleville (Carré D, last row), beside his brother Quentin, airman shot down in France during the first world war and transferred then to Colleville (to see the article “Omaha Beach“).

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