Naval fire support in Normandy

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rein
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Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by rein » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:53 pm

Im researching the hypothesis that the allies couldnt won in Normandy without naval fire support.
Im looking now for reports, books and eyewitnesses (especially those from naval observers) about the naval support on D-day and after.
Ofcourse the question: how effective were those bombardments.

had just one passage from the memoirs from Werner Kortenhaus, a tank commander in No 4 Company.
that day (june 9) for us was one of the hardest actions ever. We assembled with about ten tanks under the trees of the avenue south of Escoville. We drove with closed ports, one tank after the other, to the right past the chateau into a large meadow, which was enclosed by hedges. There we intended switching to broad wedge formation for attack, the grenadiers behind and alongside us.
Then everything happened very quickly: within a few minutes we had lost four tanks, knocked out by naval guns. On my tank (a Mk IV with the short barrel) the turret jammed, so that I could only shoot into the hedges with my machine gun. The fire became more intense, so that on orders from Major von Luck we had to withdraw, as did the grenadiers.
The artillery fire continued unabated. Some 30 or 40 grenadiers must have been killed by it.

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t-geronimo
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by t-geronimo » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:46 am

It would save a lot of time and work for people if you tell what literature you already have.

An account from "HMS Rodney at war" for a bombardement from 9th july, 1944 on Caen:
The story comes from a British who hided himself in Caen and was given food by a french family. He observed most attacks on Caen including that of an air attack of 400 bombers. But nothing was so demoralising than the fire of Rodney. It was very precise and the only solace was to see how the fleeing were chased by the shells.

Morison, "History of the United States Naval operations", Vol. 11, "The Invasion of France and Germany" for example has some accounts on the naval gunfire support.

rein
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by rein » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:50 am

t-geronimo wrote:It would save a lot of time and work for people if you tell what literature you already have.
about the ground war almost everything.
but none about the role of the navy.

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RF
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by RF » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:54 am

I'm not convinced of your hypothesis. The D-Day landings were not Dieppe - this nearly two years later, over a fifty mile front and where not all the German artillery emplacements had serviceable guns. If Rommel could say ''you could land an army of children here'' in May 1944 then even the Germans didn't consider the defences that formidable.

Lack of naval bombardment would mean higher Allied casualties - but the invasion I think would have been as successful as it was. German failure to send in their panzer reserves in the absence of naval firepower would have been a keypoint in that Allied success.
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by OpanaPointer » Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:09 pm

Both Rommel and von Rundstedt stated that naval gunfire, especially the BB guns, were very important in interdicting their efforts to reinforce the Heer at the beachhead. Sorry I don't have a reference for this, I remember it from my first class on military history at Purdue, back in 1991.

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by RF » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:17 pm

I don't think that the impact of the heavy gun bombardment is in dispute, it certainly did impede the Germans, as did the Allied airpower.

But as I say I am of the opinion that the invasion would have succeeded without the naval firepower but at greater cost.
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by Seekanone » Sat Jul 09, 2011 5:05 pm

Had Omaha Beach been inflicted with even greater casualties, I am not sure the Allies could have stayed ashore. It was a close thing as it was and the lack of sufficient naval bombardment could have made ALL the difference. The US and RN BBs and Monitors provided heavy deep cover to the Allied landings and could be sighted by ground observers more effectively than air strikes. Today that would not be true (perhaps) but on June 6, 1944, Allied warshis were indispensable to the landings. Of course, that is only my opinion and others have theirs but the assembly of such a large number of warships off of the coast was not done without purpose. :clap:

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by RF » Sun Jul 10, 2011 7:08 pm

But Omaha was only one of five landing beaches, and not located on either end flank of the landing sites. If Omaha had proved impossible to sustain then the US second wave destined for that beach would presumably have been reallocated to the other US landing beach.

Once the other four beaches were sustained, then as the Allies moved forward the Germans defending Omaha would gradually be outflanked, cut off and eventually taken prisoner.
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:59 pm

Gentlemen,
I am in the middle of reading a book on D-Day by Stephen Ambrose (of band of Brothers fame).
He maintains that the evidence on the remaining gun emplacements showed that even the heviest of shells had little effect on the incredibly thick walls, although the concussion of the busting shell had a tremendous effect on those inside. He also pays tribute to some of the US destroyers who came close to the shore to bombard the German positions after the initial attack by seaborn troops stalled on Omaha beach.
I get the impression that had it not been for the daring of the US destroyer captains the whole invasion of that beach might well have failed.
Has anyone else read this book?
One thing that puzzles me, the RN and US must have known that their shells would not penetrate let alone destroy a bunker, so why did they not send in the RAF with their 6 ton Tallboys? After all, if they can hit a reletivly narrow target like Tirpitz from a great hight, then the ought to be able to hit a large gun emplacement.

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by tommy303 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:22 pm

I haven't read Ambrose's book on the subject, but my uncle was a gunnery officer on a destroyer that went in close for fire support. He received a commendation from Admiral Stark for his ship's accurate shooting.

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by frontkampfer » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:36 am

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
I am in the middle of reading a book on D-Day by Stephen Ambrose (of band of Brothers fame).
He maintains that the evidence on the remaining gun emplacements showed that even the heviest of shells had little effect on the incredibly thick walls, although the concussion of the busting shell had a tremendous effect on those inside. He also pays tribute to some of the US destroyers who came close to the shore to bombard the German positions after the initial attack by seaborn troops stalled on Omaha beach.
I get the impression that had it not been for the daring of the US destroyer captains the whole invasion of that beach might well have failed.
Has anyone else read this book?
One thing that puzzles me, the RN and US must have known that their shells would not penetrate let alone destroy a bunker, so why did they not send in the RAF with their 6 ton Tallboys? After all, if they can hit a reletivly narrow target like Tirpitz from a great hight, then the ought to be able to hit a large gun emplacement.

I've read it and I remember that some US destroyers were as close as 600 yards to shore and would get as close as possible without grounding. I also remember reading one destroyer sighted a partially submerged Sherman tank that was blazing away at German emplacements. The destroyer spotted what this tank was shooting at and opened fire at the same target knocking it out. Right after that, the hatch of the tank opened and a head popped out, he saw the destroyer, waved and ducked back into the turret. This hero continued to fire on targets that he could see and by doing so directed the destroyers fire onto targets that would have otherwise been missed due to their concealment. I think this is a testament to naval gunfire support and as the invasion moved off the beaches it provided the close tactical support needed until the army FA units could get ashore and become operational.

Finally, the RAF and USAAF did not bomb the beaches as they should have because the planners did not want to have them pock-marked and holed which would have hindered cross beach vehicle traffic afterwards.
"I will not have my ship shot out from under my ass!"

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by Foggy » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:19 pm

It seems that naval gunfire support really did play a key role in supporting the landings, in direct support of the troops on the beach, but in the main that was from smaller DD-caliber guns. All that I've read tends to support the point that large-caliber (BB) guns were less effective in taking out the beach hard points--much like what was seen in the Pacific (although perhaps for different reasons: the German hard points were heavy emplacements that withstood gunfire, the Japanese were "softer" emplacements that you might say "absorbed" the gunfire--and in any event, tho a direct hit would take out anything, getting one was difficult for large, slow-firing guns). On the other hand, BB gunfire appeared to do much better behind the beaches, in indirect fire situations. Where the DD's excelled was the rapid saturation of targets they could, literally, get in close and see.

What I'm getting at was that the two aspects of naval gunfire support are, I believe, different animals. Perhaps the division is direct versus indirect fire? Then there is also a point made back in the days when the New Jersey was to be reactivated for Vietnam: If the reactivation was for troop support, rather than interdiction in the North, it would have been better to reactivate a rapid-firing cruiser. The cruiser could fire many more rounds down range, and 16" shells (they didn't have submunitions) would be (excuse the pun) "overkill".

I think direct naval gunfire was critical to supporting the landings, particularly at Omaha. Could aircraft have been as effective? Certainly, but were aircraft always on call, circling overhead to be immediately available? Could they be targeted as easily? Could they sustain fire on a target? I suspect not. And for the behind-the-lines support, interdiction, an aircraft mission has to be planned, loaded, flown off, arrive under AA fire, and hit their targets as briefed. The Rodney gets a call, retargets and fires. The latter support may not have been AS critical to the success of the landings as the direct support, but was certainly a key factor in the success of the mission.
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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by phil gollin » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:57 am

.

There are so many myths about D-Day, especially just how bad Omaha Beach was ( IT WAS BAD in one sector ).

Fire support was NOT essential, but the losses would have been much worse without it - so why not have it.

Whilst certain ships had specific missions, especially in the pre-bombardment, and whilst it was hoped that their argets would be destroyed, the main effect was hoped to be disruption of any effective German fire on the beaches. Later missions were both against specific points and general harrassing fire. Allied (not strangely enough just the relatively few American) ships were good at smothering areas, but not excellent at destruction. There was nothing "wrong" with that, it was what had been experienced elsewhere and what was expected at Normandy.

Too many Hollywood expectations, too little real life.

.

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by RNfanDan » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:44 pm

...naval gunfire support really did play a key role in supporting the landings, in direct support of the troops on the beach, but in the main that was from smaller DD-caliber guns.
What is "DD-caliber"? Did you mean AA caliber, such as 2-pdr, Oerlikons, and Bofors?

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Re: Naval fire support in Normandy

Post by tommy303 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:12 pm

DD = American designation for destroyer--hence DD guns would be guns in the 4in to 5in size range.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
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What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

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