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Amphibious Assault on the Riviera

By 0515 hours we had finished our fresh eggs and steak, the traditional "last breakfast" the Quartermaster gives invasion troops, and were assembled on deck. It was still dark and quiet except for the creaking of winches as the assault boats were lowered into the water. Already stowed in the boats was the heavier gear the machine guns, ammunition boxes, the waterproof radios, a few reels of light wire, beach demolitions, bangalores, bazookas, mortars and the waterproofed white cylinders containing the medical supplies that would be needed if the casualties were heavy. Individually we were stripped to the bare essentials — a couple of D Bars, a K ration, a canteen of water, a couple of bandoleers of ammunition slung around our necks and a few hand grenades hanging from our belts. Our rifles, carbines, BAR's and pistols had been carefully inserted into cellophane containers to keep the corrosive sea out of the vital parts during the ship to shore phase of the landing.

John E. Pretsch Drawing - 1945It was still dark as we climbed over the side of the ships and down the rope nets into the LCVP's. By the time we were loaded it was getting lighter, but it was still quiet except for the sound of the boats scraping the iron gray sides of the ships as the assault. boats rose and fell on the gently running sea. By six-thirty we were circling; at first just the nine boats from one ship, then the circle grew larger and larger as more and more LCVP's were filled with soldiers. By now it was broad daylight and the coastline was visible in detail as the great invasion force swung into action. Wave after wave of bombers came in low and began to saturate the beach with their loads. At 0650 hours the naval preparation started with the battlewagons Texas and Arkansas rumbling into action. Then the famed cruiser Marblehead opened up and was joined by a half dozen destroyers immediately in back of us, all spewing tons of shells on the concrete emplacements, the coastal guns and the wire entanglements along the beach.

Now our boats straightened out into a line of V's made up of five boats each. Suddenly the motors took on a new deep throated roar and the square prows rose higher out of the water as we headed into the beach passing the slower LCM's, rocket launching craft, amphibious six by sixes carrying 105 mm. artillery howitzers mounted in a firing position, patrol crafts and finally the tiny minesweepers. At 4000 yards we passed the last control boat and heard a young Navy officer on  the bridge yell something through a loudspeaker. The skipper of our boat, a Brooklyn lad who had landed troops on Omaha Beach, looked at his watch and muttered, "on de nose." To a GI landing in the assault wave it is very important to hit the beach with dry feet. The axiom that old invasion troops follow is "get off the beach fast", and it's tough enough trying to move fast when you're loaded down with 90 pounds of equipment without having 100 pounds of water sloshing around in your shoes and pants. We had lots of confidence in this kid from Brooklyn when he said, "I'll put you guys on land wid dry feet if I lose my boat doing it."

Now we were 2000 yards offshore and the great rocket ships began to send their screeching cargo into the air. The sea was rolling lightly and the increased speed threw a fine salt spray into our faces. At 1000 yards the din of thousands of rockets and the shells crashing into the beach ahead became a steady roar in which the concussion caused by no single shell or group of shells could be heard. Now the water became rough and the boat lurched violently from side to side. The shore disappeared completely behind a heavy curtain of smoke, fog and spray. By now the feeling of anticipation and fear that is in every soldier's heart and mind as he approaches an invasion was gone. Two minutes to eight o'clock. The skipper opened the throttle on the powerful marine motor all the way ... quieter, now … occasional chatter of a machine gun ... a small, fast and heavily armed navy scout craft cut in on our right with its fifty calibers going wide open at a bulky object, through the haze ... Ile d'Or ... the Navy was still throwing big shells farther inland beyond the beach. Suddenly a rocky coast loomed up ahead of us and the skipper yelled, "brace yourself!" as the boat crashed up on the rocky beach. There were machine gun bullets cracking over the gunwale and splintering the right side of the boat, but we didn't notice anyone getting hit. Within 40 yards of us two Sherman tanks, enclosed in a great boxlike canvas cover, churned up out of the water, instantly dropped the hood, like snakes leaving their skins, and rumbled off down the beach with their 75's blasting still belligerent minded German machine gunners out of existence.

So effectively had the Navy and Air Forces laid down their preparations that most of us dropped our demolitions and bangalores on the beach along with our unused lifebelts. We all had the same reaction that day — we were glad that we were Americans and fighting on a great winning team. Never before or since had we seen in one glimpse such an impressive demonstration of the combined might of arms that is America's Armed Forces — on land, on sea and in the air.

The task assigned the 1st Battalion is called a "scramble operation" by invasion soldiers because the Navy drops you on a beach that has cliffs and high hills all around it that won't permit the landing of any vehicles. It is strictly a job for the doughboy with his rifle.

 

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Copyright 1945, 1998 141st Infantry Regiment Association.
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