The Navy Department Library
Chapter 5: Naval Preparations for Cross-Channel Operations
Part 1 - U.S. Naval Preparations
A. COMNAVEU Organization and Action
1. Command of all Naval Forces in Europe was vested in Admiral Harold R. Stark, U.S.N., Commander 12th Fleet and Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe (COMNAVEU)1 The origins of COMNAVEU run back to the first World War. Admiral William Sims, U.S.N. then occupied the post of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces operating in European waters, Commander Harold R. Stark, served on his staff as Flag Secretary. Between wars the command went into abeyance, but a U.S. Naval authority in Europe was revived in London, in 1940-1941, under the title of "Special Naval Observer" (SPENAVO). The specific functions to be performed by Vice Admiral R. L. Ghormley, as SPENAVO, were defined in orders issued by C.N.O., 5 April 1941, based on the A.B.C.-1 agreement of 27 March, 1941. The instructions then issued to Vice Admiral Ghormley envisaged, in fact, his later designation as "Commander U.S. Naval Forces, North Europe", in the event of U.S. entry into the war.2
1 See Note 1; Part 6.
2 CNO letter of instructions to Vice Admiral R. L. Ghormley, USN, Special Naval Observer, London, defined the functions of this post. In paragraph 3, it was stated:
"3. It is suggested that you officially inform the American Ambassador and the Chiefs-of-Staff Committee that, if and when the United States enters the war, you may expect orders as the Naval member of the United States Military Mission in London, and as the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces in North Europe. In the latter office, you will have administrative responsibility for the United States Naval Forces in the United Kingdom and British Home Waters, as defined in Annex III of the Report of United States - British Staff Conference (ABC-1)".
He occupied the post of SPENAVO, from August 1940 until 17 March 1942, when he was designated "Commander U.S. Naval Forces in Europe" (COMNAVEU).1 He was relieved by Admiral H. R. Stark, U.S.N., who assumed this command 29 April, 1942.2
2. Preparation of bases ashore in England, to serve U.S. Naval Forces operating in European Waters, may be traced back to 1941 - before American entry into the war. In that year, by arrangement with the British Government, and under Lend Lease financing, construction of naval and air bases in the United Kingdom was begun. The two principle ones were Base I at Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Base II on the Clyde at Rosneath, Scotland. These bases were originally intended for R.N. use, but were to be later used by the U.S. Navy as points from which U.S. Naval escort forces engaged in defense of the transatlantic and Russian convoys could be supported. In 1942, when the ROUNDUP and SLEDGEHAMMER projects for a cross channel invasion were being considered, direct control of these two bases was taken over by the U.S. Navy. On July 16 a small amphibious force, the "Advance Group Amphibious Forces Atlantic Fleet", under the command of Rear Admiral A. Bennett, U.S.N., was formed and stationed at Base II.3 This force was transferred, October 1942, to U.S. Naval Forces in Europe as "U.S. Amphibious Forces, Europe".4
3. When it was decided to undertake landings in North
1 SecNav Despatch to SPENAVO 172019 March 1942.
2 See letter from the President of the United States dated 18 March 1942. This established U.S. Naval Forces Europe and designated Admiral Stark, COMNAVEU. See also orders from the Secretary of the Navy 17 March 1942, SecNav.
3 COMINCH Serial 00650 of 15 July 1942.
4 COMINCH Secret Despatch 221650 September 1942.
Africa instead of France, Rear Admiral Bennett and the greater part of his command was assigned to TORCH, and in due course went to Oran, Algeria. Effective 10 October 1942, the residue of this force, under the commander of J. O. Huse, U.S.N. was detached from the Atlantic Fleet and assigned to COMNAVEU, with the name Amphibious Forces Europe (PHIBSEU).1 Base II was later returned to the British (31 January 1943). From October 1942, until OVERLORD preparations were begun in earnest, PHIBSEU remained as a small technical organization associated with the British Combined Operations Headquarters.
4. During 1943, when plans for OVERLORD were being developed the status of COMNAVEU in the fleet organization of the United States Navy went through several changes. Before 15 March 1943, his status in the U.S. Fleet organization was that of Commander Task Force 99, of the 9th Fleet, which was under the direct command of Admiral King.2 On 15 March 1943, TF 99 was redesignated TF 92.3 On 15 August, the 9th Fleet was redesignated 11th Fleet, still under the direct command of Admiral King, and TF 92 was redesignated TF 112.4 On 16 September, Vice Chief of Naval Operations directed COMNAVEU to assume responsibility for the logistic support of all U.S. Naval Forces in Europe. He also required all authorities (the Royal Navy, the U.S. Army and all others) to make demands for U.S. Naval resources (vessels, equipment, personnel, etc.) for use in the European Theater on COMNAVEU, who was to screen all demands, to determine whether there was a real requirement for them, to arrange to meet requirements from local U.S. or British resources if possible, and if not, to submit demands to the Navy Department.5
1 COMINCH Despatch 221645 of September 45; COMINCH Serial 001068 of 25 September 42; COMNAVEU Despatch 232031 of September 45; COMADGRAMPHIBANT Despatch 011415 of 15 October 42.
2 COMINCH Despatch 192200 of 19 February 43; COMINCH Paper of 15 March 43 entitled "Revision of Task Force Numbers".
4 COMINCH Despatch 111312/12 of 9 August 43.
5 V.C.N.O. Serial 0141812 of 21 September 1943; V.C.N.O. Despatch 161627 September 1943.
B. Twelfth Fleet and Task Force 122
5. The Fleet Organization 7th U.S. Navy was revised in September 1943. The U.S. Twelfth Fleet was established, from 1 October 1943, to include all U.S. Naval Forces in Northwest European waters. Admiral Stark, as COMNAVEU, was designated, Commander Twelfth Fleet1. The commander was made responsible for:
a. Making the preparations in England for the reception and maintenance of the enormous U.S. Naval Forces which were to be sent over;
b. Providing for the vast logistic and administration support which these forces would require while in England;
c. Organizing and training U.S. Naval Forces in a manner which would meet the requirements of the Operational Plan;
d. Supervising the formulation of the operational plan, to be drawn up by a combined British and U.S. Army, Navy and Air planning organization, to exploit to the full the capabilities of the U.S. Navy and to preserve the essentials of the standard organization and methods of the U.S. Navy, without which its full capabilities could not be realized;
e. Delivering the U.S. Naval forces fit and ready to the Supreme Commander on the eve of D-day;
f. Providing for the upkeep and maintenance and for their logistic and administrative support, during and after the operation, and
g. Determining when they could be withdrawn from OVERLORD service to the other theaters where they were urgently required.
1 COMINCH Serial 001915 of 9 September 1943.
6. COMINCH provided, in establishing the Twelfth Fleet, that all U.S. naval Forces, assigned to OVERLORD operations, should constitute a Task Force of this Fleet. This Task Force would be under the command of one officer who would serve, during the operation, under the command of the Allied Commander-in-Chief. In this way, COMNAVEU as Commander Twelfth Fleet, with all his navy functions as representative of COMINCH and the Navy Department (logistics, administration, naval mission in the U.K., area Naval Commander, etc.) would not be subordinated to a Combined Allied Operational Command. This was specified in the COMINCH order of 29 October 1943, directing the Commander, U.S. Twelfth Fleet to establish such a Task Force under Rear Admiral A.G. Kirk, U.S.N.1 This Task Force was to include all U.S. Naval OVERLORD Forces and its commander was to serve under the operational control of ANCXF.
7. Prior to his appointment as CTF 122, Rear Admiral Kirk had been Commander of Amphibious Forces Atlantic Fleet and in this capacity he had served briefly in the Mediterranean as Commander of an Assault Force in the invasion of Sicily, under Commander 8th Fleet.2 Rear Admiral Kirk assumed duty as Commander Task Force 122 on 10 November 1943. During the pre assault period, he and his staff, with headquarters in London, were engaged in developing the U.S. Naval part of the NEPTUNE plan and operation orders. In accordance with the broad plans of COMINCH3 and COM 12th Fleet the responsibility of preparing U.S. Forces was delegated to Commander 11th Amphibious Force,4 subject to this broad supervision by CTF 122 of the organization, preparation and training these Forces, in accordance with the ANCXF plan. He assumed direct command on the eve of the invasion, May 27, 1944.
1 See Part 6; Note 2.
2 COMINCH Despatch 111902 of 12 August 1943.
3 Admiral Cooke's Memo to Admiral King of 7 October 1943.
4 CTF 122 Op plan 1-43 Serial 0043 of 11 December 1943
CTF Op Plan 1-44 Serial 00164 of 18 March 1944.
C. Establishment of Eleventh Amphibious Forces
8. During the Mediterranean interlude the assembly of U.S. Naval invasion forces in the United Kingdom has come almost to a standstill. In May 1943, preparations for a cross channel operation were again set in motion, the CCS having agreed, at the Washington Conference, that the build-up of U.S. Amphibious Forces in England should be begun. In order to provide the Amphibious Forces required for the cross Channel assault, COMINCH, on 15 July, revived the moribund Amphibious Forces Europe,1 redesignated it on 12 August 1943 the 11th Amphibious Force,2 and assigned it to the command of the 12th Fleet. At that time the 11th Amphibious Force was little more than a name. The bases and shore organization to support the sea going forces were yet to be provided, as forces became available they were sent to England to be organized, prepared and maintained by the Amphibious Force Commander. COMINCH selected Rear Admiral John L Hall3 for the task of building up the U.S.N. Amphibious Force and to command it during Operation NEPTUNE.
9. In October, 1943, Rear Admiral Hall was designated COM 11th Phib. He was then commander of the 8th Amphibious Force (all amphibious forces in the Mediterranean), under Vice Admiral Hewitt, U.S.N. Commander 8th Fleet, and COMNAVNAW. In that capacity, Rear Admiral Hall had organized the U.S. Amphibious Forces engaged in the invasion of Sicily and Italy, had commanded the Central Assault Force during the Sicilian invasion, and had also commanded the U.S Assault Force at Salerno. In October, 1943, when he was designated to Command the 11th Amphibious Force, under Rear Admiral Hall was still engaged in the final stages of the Italian Assault. He departed the Mediterranean in November, arrived in Plymouth, England, on November 27th and assumed command the same day.4
1 COMINCH Serial 001423 of 15 July 1943.
2 COMINCH Despatch 111902 of 12 August 1943.
3 See Part 6; Note 3.
4 V.C.N.O. Serial 0140212 of 25 June 1942; COMINCH Serial 001423 of 15 July 1943.
10. Before the arrival of the Amphibious Force Commander and the bulk of the U.S. Naval sea going invasion forces, a vast amount of preparatory work was required, particularly in the matter of building bases and caring for the first trickle of landing craft arrivals. In early June, COMINCH directed that bases in Southwestern England should be acquired, where U.S. Naval Forces could be assembled, trained and prepared for the operation.1 He required that while "command of U.S. Naval Bases for landing craft in the United Kingdom" was to be exercised by a U.S. Naval authority, "full use of existing (viz. British) facilities must be made in order that critical material may be conserved, and shipping space used to the best advantage.
11. COMNAVEU had already conducted a survey of possible bases in Southwestern England, and by 28 July, 1943, had ear marked nearly all the locations which the U.S. Navy was to use.2 On receiving instructions from COMINCH to go ahead with actual preparations, he soon completed negotiations with the British. In addition to agreeing on sites for U.S. bases, COMNAVEU obtained British agreement to a basic plan governing Anglo-American naval relations.
a. The Royal Navy was to be the sole British authority with which the U.S. Navy would be required to deal. The U.S. Navy would state its requirements, the Royal Navy would take the necessary steps to provide them. The Royal Navy would requisition land or buildings, negotiate for the supply of labor or materials, let contracts and so on. In this way the U.S. Navy was saved an immense amount of trouble and frustration.
b. In order to assure that U.S.N. assault and support forces would be required to deal with only one R.N. authority, ComNavEu secured an agreement from the Admiralty to enlarge C-in-C Plymouth's command area
1 VCNO Serial 0140212 of 25 June 43; and COMINCH Serial 001423 of 15 July 1943.
2 Base II, Milford Haven, Appledore, Falmouth, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Salcombe, Fowey, and Teignmouth (see ComNavEu Letter to COMINCH dated 28 July 43 and Landcrab History Page 5).
to include all the major U.S.N. bases.1
c. The C-in-C Portsmouth arranged that the bases acquired would be subject to U.S.N. command even though the R.N. provided them and a large part of their equipment and facilities.
d. COMNAVEU had arranged that, while the R.N. Home Commands would initiate and control the movements of ships in their waters, they would do so as required by the U.S. Naval Command.
12. These arrangements gave the U.S. Navy full freedom of action in the command, organization, training and support of their own forces, while at the same time they assured that local British resources would be employed to the maximum. On 28 July, Admiral Stark informed COMINCH that "the British (were to make) available to us (the U.S. Navy) nearly all the housing, office and ship facilities that we (would) need in Appledore, Falmouth, Fowey, Dartmouth, Salcombe, Teignmouth and Plymouth ----- (In addition) the Royal Navy (would) supply ----- about 65% of naval stores, port machinery, boats, moorings, etc., which we (would) require. The requests on the United States for material (would be) kept to an absolute minimum".2
13. In order to man the bases being prepared, and to provide care and maintenance for the craft which were beginning to arrive, COMNAVEU requested COMINCH to provide him with a suitable base maintenance organization. In response COMINCH established the Craft and Bases Component of the Amphibious force and sent it to England in advance of the arrival of the sea going forces and of the Task Force Commander. COMINCH outlined the functions which he intended this organization to serve as follows:3
1 The northern shores of the Severn ----- the coast of South Wales --- was normally in the C-in-C Western Approaches Home Command. But in order to allow U.S. Naval authorities to deal with a single Home Command, the Plymouth area was temporarily extended to the latitude of Milford Haven.
2 COMNAVEU Letter to COMINCH of 28 July 1943, see also LANCRAB History Page 5.
3 COMINCH Serial 001423 of 15 July 1943.
1. "------ [omitted]
2. As a first step in the build up for operations and prior to the later appointment of a U.S. Naval Commander for a future operations afloat, a new command is established of "Landing Craft and Bases, Europe". (Short title - LANCRABEU)
3. For the present this command will be under your (COMNAVEU's) general administrative control and support. The officer appointed to command will perform additional duty as Commander, Amphibious Forces, Europe, until such time as relieved of this duty. -----
5. The subject command will be established about 1 September 1943, with a flag officer in command. -----
6. It is expected that a Captain or Commander under Commander, Landing Craft and Bases, Europe (will act as officer-in-charge of each training establishment or base with a minimum of such other officers as required. -----
8. It is contemplated that the Commander, Landing Craft and Bases, Europe, (short title - COMLANCRABEU) will perform the following tasks: (a) Command U.S. Naval Bases for landing craft in the United Kingdom. (b) Provide for the reception and effective maintenance of U.S. Landing Craft in the United Kingdom. (c) Establish facilities as required for use of landing craft during the training phase, for the mounting of any operation, and for the follow-up. (d) Act in liaison with British authorities in charge of British bases used by U.S. Landing Craft in the care and operation of such craft. (e) Act as Commander Amphibious Forces, Europe, until relieved. (f) During combat operations, it is not expected that Commander, Landing Craft Bases, Europe, will have a tactical command afloat. It is considered that the development of maximum efficiency of landing craft and bases will require the full employment of his time on the tasks involved".
D. Landing Craft and Bases (LANCRABEU)
14. COMINCH, in approving COMNAVEU recommendations for the establishment of an amphibious base maintenance
organization in England, had designated Rear Admiral John Wilkes, U.S.N. as Commander Landing Craft and Bases, (COMLANCRABEU) under COMNAVEU.1 In August 1943, Rear Admiral Wilkes formed a nucleus staff and, after consultations in the Navy Department, reported to COMNAVEU in London for duty 1 September 1943. He was immediately directed to assume control of existing craft, port organization and bases and to proceed with the establishment and commissioning of such new bases, and with preparations for such logistic support of amphibious forces as might be required. Admiral Wilkes established his headquarters at Falmouth, on 13 October 1943 - in view of the special relationships established with C-in-C Plymouth, Admiral Wilkes transferred this headquarters to Plymouth on 3 January, 1944.
1 Bupers - 3-ARF, F915 - 28895 of August 1943 and Endorsement.
PREPARATIONS OF BASES FOR AMPHIBIOUS FORCES
A. Naval Bases and Training Areas In Southwest England: Relations With C-in-C Plymouth
15. The decision to mount the U.S. invasion forces in Southwestern England meant that the task of making British resources available for U.S. Naval use fell principally on the Plymouth Home Command.1 C-in-C Plymouth began preparation for mounting a cross-channel invasion in 1942. This early beginning was the result of Admiral Ramsay's survey and report,2 which indicated that Naval shore facilities in Southern England were utterly inadequate to mount an invasion. Until July 1943, when plans became sufficiently firm for Admiral Stark to begin listing specific requirements, C-in-C Plymouth's preparations were of a general nature and followed closely the lines laid down by Admiral Ramsay. With the arrival of ComLandCrab in the substantial beginnings made by C-in-C Plymouth were augmented to vast preparations through the joint efforts of the Plymouth Home Command and the LandCrabEu organization.3
1 Plans for SLEDGEHAMMER and ROUNDUP were based on the principle of Americans in the West, British in the East, (see Chapter II, Section 1, for discussions and references). At the RATTLE conference the COSSAC planners agreed that this would be the best policy for OVERLORD (see Chapter II, Section 3, for details and references). The proposal was incorporated into the COSSAC plan (Cos (43) 416 (O) of 30 July 1943 Part II Paragraph 40, pages 10 and 11) and was given the final stamp of approval when the President, Prime Minister and CCS approved the plan (2nd Citadal meeting, Quebec Conference of ... August 1943).
2 "Provisional Assessment of Naval Implications of ROUNDUP, 1943" Enclosure 3 entitled "Preliminary Forecast of Assault Stations for Naval Forces and Shipping Admiralty M.05404/42 of 16 July 1942.
3 The following account of the preparation of bases and shore establishments generally has been taken in general from the NEPTUNE Report of C-in-C Plymouth and from "A History of the U.S. Naval Bases in the U.K." (COMPHISUKAY Serial 00385).
16. Facilities prepared were of all types, including:
b. Docking, lighterage, and other facilities for loading and unloading ships and craft
c. Anchorages and berthing facilities
d. Protections of ships and ship movements in the area from enemy air and naval action
e. Repair and maintenance facilities
f. Shore accommodation including housing, office space, depot and storage facilities
g. Experimental stations and training areas.
17. C-in-C Plymouth had under his control all sailings and movements of ships and crafts in the area under his command. In general ship movements were planned to meet the desires of the U.S. Naval Commands while at the same time coordinating all such movements with operations of vessels engaged in routine movements in the area. Similarly, the C-in-C Plymouth, within whose command were stationed the bulk of all U.S. Naval Forces, was recognized as the authority to negotiate the acquisition of sites and property for use of U.S. Naval Bases. The appropriate U.S. Naval authority, usually COMLANDCRABEU, would inform C-in-C Plymouth of U.S.N. requirements, C-in-C Plymouth would make the arrangements, and the U.S. Navy would take possession and assume command. British labor and materials, so far as available, would be applied as directed by U.S.N. authorities. Labor and material not available in Britain were supplied from U.S. sources. During the sojourn of the U.S. Navy in the Plymouth Command, C-in-C Plymouth thus provided and COMLANDCRAB established and organized some 19 U.S. Navy bases and establishments of varying sizes.1
18. Outside the Plymouth Command some 14 U.S. Naval Bases and authorities were established.1 British resources, so far as they were employed, were made available through the C-in-C of the local home command on the same basis in the Plymouth Command.
19. The establishment of American bases with large staffs necessitated the provision of adequate living and office accommodation. Accommodation was also required for the crews of numerous Minor Landing Craft, and at a later date for the planning staffs of Forces "U" and "B". This was met by the requisitioning of houses and sites and the building of huts by the U.S.N. Construction Battalions (SEABEES). By the 1st June, over 22,000 U.S.N. officers and men were accommodated ashore in England. Of these 15,000 were stationed at ports in the Plymouth Command, about 8,000 were at Plymouth, 3,000 at Falmouth and 2,000 at Dartmouth). In addition some 2,700 were accommodated in the U.S. Naval Supply Depot at Exeter.2
20. In order to give the invading forces an opportunity to train for the real assault, suitable areas in Southwestern England were required of such a nature that realistic dress rehearsals including bombardment could be carried out. COMNAVUE, having surveyed a great many possible locations, requested an area in the vicinity of Appledore. The
A full and excellent account of the U.S. Naval Bases and other establishments in the United Kingdom will be found in a History of the United States Naval Bases in the United Kingdom issued by Commander Amphibious Bases United Kingdom, Serial 00385.
2 One requirement for shore accommodation was met when the Combined Operations Naval Training Establishment housed in the R.N. College at Dartmouth, was moved to the East Coast in December, together with its attached landing craft, and the college buildings turned over to the Americans for the accommodation of their personnel on 1st January.
flatness of the beaches and the other geographical features of this area closely approximated the characteristics of the designated points of assault on Normandy coast. After C-in-C Plymouth made the necessary arrangements, a training base was established and training begun in September 1943.
21. The Cabinet also authorized the Admiralty, in November 1943, to requisition an Amphibious Assault Training area at Slapton Sands for the use of American Forces. This area, about five miles square situated in Torbay on the Devon Coast was to be employed for the use of live ammunition, including heavy bombardment. It was a rich agricultural district containing many villages and a large number of farms. The evacuation of the people, arranged by the Regional Commission was accepted in good spirit by the inhabitants. They left their homes and means of livelihood realizing that their sacrifice was a necessary contribution to the success of the cross channel operation. The Admiralty delegated the Administration of the area to the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth. A U.S. Army Colonel, as Range Commandant, was installed in the area with a Range Party. To work with him, a British Naval Liaison Officer was appointed. The area was under the direct control of the Commanding General, 1st U.S. Army, who delegated his authority to the Corps Commander of whatever Corps happened to be training in the area at any given time. It was the latter's responsibility to coordinate Army and Navy practice programs. The first assault landing was made on Slapton Sands on the 2nd January.
B. Repair and Port Facilities
22. The ports of Southwest England were very inadequately provided with docks and wharves suitable for loading and accommodating the numerous landing craft which were to sail from them for the invasion. To make good this deficiency Hards were constructed in sheltered
water in all ports.1 Construction was substantially completed by the end of November 1943. In order to provide berthing requirements for the many U.S. assault craft (on the eve of D-day there were some 2,500 U.S. invasion vessels in the Plymouth Command) approximately 1100 moorings and the same number of anchor berths and berths alongside quays and wharves were specially
1 A Hard was a hard surfaced sloping causeway leading from a road ashore down the beach to a point well below the low water mark, and so arranged that a landing vessel could run its bows onto the Hard at any stage of the tide, open its ramp and load or unload vehicles by the simple process of driving them on or off. (It was in fact a simplified ferry slip.) The Hards were equipped with:
a. a pipeline for supplying vessels with fuel and water,
b. personnel for operating the Hards and their accommodation,
c. supplies, equipment, ammunition and light repair facilities for vessels at the Hards.
Hards were constructed at the following ports:
|L.C.T. HARDS||L.C.T. HARDS|
The army proposed using open beaches which looked attractive to them on a sunny day, and saw little use for sheltered Hards.
1 The table below shows the number of craft for which mooring were provided at the ports in the channel.
In order to repair vessels which would return from France with damage or defects beyond the capacity of the light maintenance facilities at the Hards, four special maintenance bases for major landing vessels, five sets of landing craft grids and four maintenance bases for minor landing craft were constructed.1
1. LCT Slips were built at the following ports:
|Slips at Queene Ann's Battery
Slips at Waddeton
Slips at Millbay
Slips at Silley Cox Yard.
2. Grids for major landing craft were constructed at Appledore, Falmouth, Fowey, Plymouth and Dartmouth in order to expedite repair work and hull examination which would not warrant slipping the craft at a maintenance base. The grids were operated principally by private firms, employing their own labor and equipment.
3. Maintenance bases for minor landing craft were established at Plymouth, (Calstock and Saltash), Falmouth, Dartmouth and Teignmouth. Suitable L.C.M. Slips or Trolleys were also constructed. L.C.M. Slipways were constructed at Plymouth, Falmouth and Teignmouth. At Dartmouth minor landing craft were placed on trolleys at the Hards and taken to the maintenance base Coronation Park nearby,
4. By invasion day maintenance facilities capable of dealing with 20% of the amphibious force (viz. some 300 vessels) at one time had been prepared.
23. The Plymouth command, acting in accordance with the stated requirement of U.S. naval forces, carried out the normal duties of port director in arranging the movement, protection, escort, berthing, etc. of U.S. naval vessels within the command. He followed the principle always of using the establishment facilities of his command to give effect to the wishes of the commander 11th Amphibious Force.1
C. Arrival and Organization of Amphibious Forces
24. On 27 November, 1943, Rear-Admiral Hall assumed command of the 11th Amphibious Force relieving Rear-Admiral Wilkes who had served temporarily pending the arrival of the permanent commander. At that time the 11th Amphibious Force consisted of:
1. The Landing Craft and Bases Organization.
2. 235 Landing vessels, and
3. A few miscellaneous special units (Shore Fire Control Parties, elements of beach battalions, and others).
Although COMINCH had drawn up tables of planned arrivals of landing ships and craft in June, they were not scheduled to arrive in quantity until the bases for their reception and maintenance were ready and until the force commander was present to organize them for future duty. In December the amphibious forces commenced to arrive in quantity. By the first of June there were 2458 ships and craft in the 11th Amphibious Force, plus 35 temporarily associated destroyers, cruisers, and battleships of the Atlantic fleet.
1 The only failure in the performance of these duties occurred at 0220 28 April when, as a result of C-in-C Plymouth having neglected to sail an escort (HMS Scimitar), an inadequately protected convoy of LST's engaged in an exercise were attacked by three German E-boats. Two were sunk (LST's 507 and 531) while a third (LST 289) was damaged. The casualties were 638 killed and 89 wounded. (See ANCXF War Diary of 28 April 1944.)
These many vessels did not come to England as an organized amphibious force. They arrived as they became available, a single vessel or division, group or flotilla at a time. They were organized into an invasion force by the Commander, Eleventh Amphibious Force.
25. COMINCH had laid down an organizational framework into which the vessels to be supplied were to be fitted. This followed the standard U.S. Naval organization of Amphibious forces - 6 vessels to a division, 2 divisions to a group, 3 groups to a flotilla. The COMINCH directive also laid down the designation of flotillas, groups and divisions (viz L.S.T. Flotilla II, or L.C.I. Group 29, or L.C.T. Division 21), With a very few exceptions, no vessels were assigned in advance either to divisions, groups and flotillas or to the 11th Amphibious Force. Vessels to be sent to England direct from the United States were assigned their place in the organization by Vice Chief of Naval Operations, those sent from the Mediterranean or elsewhere were assigned their place by Commander 11th Amphibious Force.1
26. Vessels arrived in the United Kindom, under orders to report to Com 12th Fleet for duty in the 11th Amphibious Force. On arrival, Com 11th Phib designated their position in the force organization, and assigned them to COMLANDCRABEU 11th Phib for assignment to bases and for logistics and administrative support. The latter, Commander in coordination with C-in-C Plymouth, provided berths, anchorages, shore headquarters, shore accommodation, repair and maintenance, and controlled their day to day movements. In addition LANDCRABEU supplied food, pay, medical treatment, spare parts, and all the other innumerable items involved in adminstrative and logistic support. He in turn drew his requirements direct from COM 12th Fleet.
1 COMINCH Serial 03303 of 24 September 1943. This directs COM 12th Fleet to make assignments of vessels not coming from the U.S. Com 12th Fleet delegated this responsibility to CTF 122 who delegated it to COM 11th PHIB. (See COM 12th Fleet Serial 03450 of 12 November 43 and CTF 122 of 13 December 1943.
27. In addition to the strictly amphibious forces (viz LST's, LCI's, LCT's, etc.), nearly all other ships and special parties required for an amphibious assault were turned over to the 11th Amphibious Force to be organized, trained and supported. Included among these were the transports, most of the destroyers, the minesweepers, PT's, SC's, and various far shore groups, and in fact everything except the Battleships, cruisers and some of the destroyers. Even the latter were supported, so far as they required support in the U.K., by LANDCRAB, and their movements scheduled by him. By 1 June, there were 2458 ships and craft in the 11th Amphibious Force and 35 associated destroyers, cruisers and battleships, a total of 2493 vessels.1
1 See Section 5 of this Chapter for details of (1) numbers of U.S. Naval vessels present in the U.K. by months, (2) The overall disposal of U.S. Naval OVERLORD Vessels before, during and after NEPTUNE, and (3) a case history of the movements and assignments of vessels.
ORGANIZATION AND TRAINING OF U.S. NAVAL FORCES
A. U.S. Naval Amphibious Force
28. The task of organizing the U.S. assault forces into battle array was carried out by the Commander 11th Amphibious Force. In December, when he began this work, OVERLORD had not yet been expanded to a five-divisional basis, and the U.S. Navy was expected to supply only one assault force with a follow-up component. During the assault phase, it was intended that Admiral Hall would command the amphibious assault,1 while one of his subordinates would command the follow-up component until its arrival in the assault area, and another of his subordinates, COMLANDCRABEU, would provide support and maintenance. In order to supply a follow-up force commander and additional assault or follow-up lift, CominCh assigned Commodore Edgar with three divisions of combat loading transports to the 11th Amphibious Force. Commodore Edgar2 had had wide experience as a follow-up force commander, having served in that capacity in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.
29. The organizing and training of U.S. Naval forces was carried out as one process. Since the duty of naval amphibious forces is to deliver the army in order of battle at the assault beaches, the organization and training of naval amphibious forces centers primarily on meeting army requirements. The basic organization of a U.S. naval amphibious force is designed to meet the "standard" requirements of the army when it assault in a "normal" manner. Since the enemy situation, the terrain and other essential factors are different in every assault, it is expected that the "normal" system will be varied in each invasion to meet the special requirements of the case.
1 For the reasons for having Admiral Hall act as both Amphibious Force Commander and as assault force commander see Admiral Cooke's memo to Admiral King; subject - Naval Command Set-Up in U.K. for Cross-Channel Operations, dated 7 October 1943. See also CominCh serial 03683 of 24 October 1943 and BuPers despatch 281439 of October 1943.
2 See note at end of Chapter.
30. The 11th Amphibious Force was organized as it arrived, along basically standard lines, with variations designed to meet the special requirements of NEPTUNE as stated:
a. By Commanders of Army Formations to be embarked;
b. by ANCXF when he found it necessary to do so to meet the requirements of the overall plan, and
c. by the Task Force and Assault Force Commanders when it was found necessary to meet special naval problems in the situation.
B. Coordination In Training With U.S. Army Formations
31. During the whole period of training and organizing, the 11th Amphibious Force acted in the closest coordination with the Army formations of parallel echelons of command. The American Army formation, scheduled to execute the initial phases of the invasion, was the FIRST U.S. ARMY under the command of Lt. General Omar N. Bradley, U.S.A. The First Army was composed of the following elements.
1. FIRST U.S. ARMY
a. U.S. Army V Corps. Attack on OMAHA
i. 28th U.S. Inf.Div. (early Build-up division).
ii. 29th U.S. Inf.Div. (OMAHA assault and follow-up division)
iii. 1st U.S. Inf.Div. (OMAHA assault division)
b. U.S. Army VII Corps. (Attack on UTAH)
i. 4th U.S. Inf.Div. (assault UTAH beach)
ii. 2nd U.S. Inf.Div. (UTAH follow-up and early build-up)
iii. 9th U.S. Inf.Div. (UTAH build-up)
iv. 82nd U.S. Airborne Div. (Airborne assault behind UTAH)
v. 101st U.S. Airborne Div. (Airborne assault and follow-up behind UTAH).
c. XIX U.S. ARMY CORPS Build-up.
i. 2nd U.S. Armored Div. (Build-up)
ii. 3rd U.S. Armored Div. "
iii. 30th U.S. Inf.Div. "
d. Army Troops including two Ranger Battalions.
32. Early in June 1943, the 29th Division of the V Corps U.S. Army had established itself in Tavistock (a suburb of Plymouth). Between then and April 1944, the following formations took up their positions in close proximity to the naval bases:
|1st U.S. Army H.Q.
V Corps H.Q.
VII Corps H.Q.
Maj.Gen. [left blank]
C. Amphibious Training Exercises - 1944
33. These Army formations engaged in specialized amphibious training and experimenting in conjunction with the navy. Prolonged and large-scale experimentation was carried out at the Advanced Amphibious Training Base at Appledore, Devon.1 Many problems in connection with landings on a hostile beach were investigated, and projects
1 Before this base was taken over by U.S. Forces, it was a British Combined Opererations Experimental Establishment.
tried out and solutions found. The experimental work was carried out on the beaches at Instow and Westward Ho! Some of the principal experiments and trials were:
a. Waterproofing of vehicles and tanks, and wading trials to ascertain maximum depth vehicles could wade ashore;
b. Design of and trials with LCT ramp extension.
c. Rhino ferry trials.
d. LCT beaching trials.
e. Trials with minor landing craft in surf.
f. Trials for suitability of LST as a Hospital ship.
g. Most efficient means of discharging stores from a Coaster.
h. Methods for clearing beach obstacles.
i The quickest way to refloat stranded landing craft.
34. Parties of U.S. troops were taken on special trips at sea aboard escorts, minesweepers, destroyers, and other ships engaged in routine naval duties. Constant practice in driving army vehicles on and off landing vessels was held. All army personnel, engaged in working army equipment while being loaded onto, carried in, or discharged from naval vessels, were given sound practice over many months. Conversely, naval personnel, required to handle army equipment during operation were given specialized practice in doing so. Strictly naval training in boat operation, beaching and retracting, discharging cargo into "ferry craft" from large ships, and all other aspects of amphibious duties was also carried out during the pre-assault period.
35. In addition to training of a purely "practice" type, a series of exercises and rehearsals were executed. The first large-scale amphibious exercise took place on 31 December - 2nd January 1944, with Rear-Admiral Hall, USN, in the U.S.S. Ancon (H.Q.Ship) commanding Force "O".
This exercise (Operation DUCK1) was mounted at Falmouth. The assault was made on Slapton beach by part of the 29th Infantry Division of the Vth Corps with Major General Gerhardt, U.S. Army in command. Naval bombardment was carried out by 4 HUNT class destroyers who, together with trawlers and minesweepers, acted as escort during the passage and while the assault forces were in the area. In this and in later exercises, all bombarding ships and escorts were placed under the direct operational control of the Assault Force commander, while covering forces of destroyers and coastal craft remained under the operational control of Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.
36. Exercise DUCK marked the beginning of the process of assigning vessels and amphibious parties their assault organization. Rear-Admiral Hall followed the policy of "marrying-up" the naval and army units as early as possible so that the army-naval personnel and commanders on all echelons would be able to work and train together for as long as possible. This could not be done all at one time, since not all the army formations nor all the navy vessels were available at so early a date, while those that were available had to be inter-changed so as to give training to all. Despite these handicaps the process of making definite assignments began early and proceeded as rapidly as the arrival of forces would allow.
D. Organization and Training of U.S. Naval Assault Forces
37. When the CCS authorized the increased scale of assault in March 1944, the U.S. Navy was required to provide a second assault force. CominCh designated Rear-Admiral D.P. Moon to act as commander of the new force.2 During the period of the Basic planning for OVERLORD and ANVIL, Captain Moon had served in the Atlantic Section of the C.N.O. Operational Plans Division. When Admiral Hall was transferred from the Mediterranean to England, another Assault
1 11th Phib. Serial 0023 of 26 December 1943, Op-Order A-43. 11th Phib. Serial 001 and 002 of 5 February 1943, Op-Order 1-44.
2 Note on Admiral Moon at the end of Chapter.
Force Commander was required for operation ANVIL, then scheduled to take place concurrently with OVERLORD. To fill this requirement Captain Moon was promoted to Rear-Admiral and reported to Com 8th FLEET for duty as Commander of a Task Group of 8th Amphibious Force, at the end of January. When ANVIL was postponed, he was transferred to England. On 4 March, 1944, he reported for duty to COM 12th Fleet, and was assigned to CTF 122, who in turn assigned him to Commander 11th Amphibious Force. The latter designated him Commander Group II, 11th PHIB, and second in Command.
38. The 11th Amphibious Force thus became the reservoir containing all the components from which the four separate forces were to be built. The Commander of this Force was, therefore, responsible for allocating vessels to each force, as required by the Naval Plan, and for directing the process of training and preparing of all the Forces to be used in the assault. This now included:
a. FORCE B, which, under the new arrangement was to bring up the follow-up formations to both assault forces;
b. LANDCRAB, which was to support all three forces;
c. FORCE U, under Rear-Admiral Moon; and,
d. FORCE O, under command of the Amphibious Force Commander himself - Rear-Admiral Hall.
39. With the arrival of Rear-Admiral Moon in early March, Rear-Admiral Hall re-oriented the program of training and organizing to fit the new requirements. As added vessels arrived and training progressed, the four parts of the 11th Amphibious Force gradually assumed their assault organization. Rear-Admiral Moon had a difficult task ahead of him as he had only two months to bring his force into being, to organize it, and to train it with the associated Army formations. The large program of successive exercises to be arranged with concurrent planning of Operation NEPTUNE, this force, working against time, had a formidable task to accomplish. Operation orders for exercises were often finished just prior to the sailing of the participating forces. The next exercise had to be planned before the previous one had even commenced.
40. The Amphibious exercise "Fox" was carried out by Force "O" soon after the arrival of Admiral Moon, while organization of Force "U" was being made. The troops embarked consisted of part of the V Corps with Major General Gerow, U.S. Army, in command. They were loaded at Weymouth and Portland, the ports which Force "O" was to use for Operation NEPTUNE. In the Operation "FOX", APA's were used for the first time. The bombarding force consisted of two cruisers and eight destroyers, the latter, with additional destroyers and trawlers, forming the escorts. As in DUCK, no attempt was made by the Germans to attack the assault forces by sea or air, either during the sea passage or while off the Slapton beach. Seldom can there have been more tempting targets for E-boats than this vast concourse of ships streaming across Lyme Bay at night with escorts of necessity not as numerous as desired. On conclusion of the exercise, the APA's were sailed to the Clyde to safeguard them from any possibility of air attacks.
41. Force "U" commenced intensive training with two medium sized exercises, MUSKRAT (24-27 March) and BEAVER (29-31 March). MUSKRAT I1 carried out in the Clyde, consisted of ship to shore training from APA of the 12th Regimental Combat Team of the 4th Division, U.S. Army. The APA's then sailed to the Slapton area. MUSKRAT II2 concluded this exercise with a landing and assault on the beach. Two cruisers bombarded and escorts were provided by destroyers, corvettes, and trawlers. Rear-Admiral Moon sailed with the Assault Forces in his flagship, USS Bayfield - a converted APA - but as a spectator only. Captain Maynard, USN, commanding the APA's of Force "U", was the Task Force Commander. The difficulties in planning with which Force "U" had to contend were illustrated by the fact that the operation orders of MUSKRAT II were written by officers lent from Force "O" without consultation with the Task Force Commander, who was then witnessing MUSKRAT I, and so out of telephonic communication. These same officers, assigned to Admiral Moon's staff, were working night and day preparing for exercise BEAVER, which was to take place shortly.
1 11th Phib Serial 00276 of 12 March 1944, Training Order R-44.
2 11th Phib Serial 00277 of 12 March 1944, Training Order S-44.
42. In exercise BEAVER (29th-31st March)1 the 8th R.C.T. of the 4th Division (Major General Barton) and attached units were loaded and sailed from Plymouth, Dartmouth, and Brixham, in LST's and LCI(L)'s. In order to make a good approach to the Slapton beach, the assault forces took a circular route around the western half of Lyme bay. Bombardment was carried out by two cruisers and four destroyers while all other available ships were used as escorts and covering forces. Two minesweeping flotillas swept ahead of the assault forces.
43. The last exercise in which Force "U" participated before NEPTUNE, was exercise TIGER2 (26th-28th April). Though conforming in principle to BEAVER, it was on a larger scale and was carried on, as far as possible, with those landing craft to be used in the actual operation. Army units embarked consisted of part of the 4th Infantry Division, VII Corps, and attached units with Major Generals Collin and Barton in command. The route of the assault force was taken well into the middle of Lyme Bay, so as to give a longer sea passage. The actual approach was marked by lighted dan buoys laid by the minesweeping units. Two cruisers and seven destroyers carried out both bombardment direct and indirect. As in the other exercises, the maximum number of destroyers, corvettes and trawlers available formed the escort group and covering force. The assault took place in the early morning of April 27th. The night before, while the follow-up convoys of LST was crossing Lyme Bay, E-boats succeeded in attacking this convoy. Two LST were torpedoed and sunk, and a third badly damaged, casualties were high. Survivors were landed at Portland.3
44. The last major exercise before NEPTUNE was FABIUS4 (3rd-6th May). This was a full-scale dress rehearsal, involving U.S. Assault Force "O" (FABIUS I) and British Assault Force "J" and "S" (FABIUS II and IV). ANCXF temporarily assumed operational control of the forces
1 11th Phib (Group 2) Serial 0039 of 21 March 1944, Training Order 1-44.
2 WNTF Force "U" Serial 0075 of 15 April 1944, Training Order 2-44.
3 See ANCXF Report Vol.1, Appx.2.
4 WNTF Assault Force "O", Serial 00556 of 24 April 1944, Op.Order 2-44.
involved and of the Channel during these exercises. NCETF and NCWTF took temporary command of their respective Task Forces, while command of Assault Forces was exercised by the Assault Force Commanders. D-day was considered to be 4 May, after a postponement of 24 hours for bad weather. Force "O", under Rear-Admiral Hall, executed FABIUS I. The landing force consisted of elements of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division commanded by Major Geberal Huebner. As in FOX, the exercise was mounted in the Portland area with the landing at Slapton. The bombarding force was composed of H.M.S. Glasgow, U.S.S. AUGUSTA, and nine U.S. destroyers. Escorts were particularly strong. The weather was not good, and, on the evening of D-day, the smaller landing craft sheltered in Dartmouth and Brixham. Further landings on the beaches were cancelled and when the wind and sea had moderated on the 6th May, forces were dispersed to their ports of final assembly.
45. In the middle of April, U.S. Rangers embarked in LSI(H) and LSI(S) carried out training off Woolacombe, North Devon. They took part in FABIUS I and after more training at Falmouth sailed to Portland for attachment to Force "O". On completion of the last exercises, the three forces returned to the ports in which they would be loaded and assembled for the final cross-channel operation. During the last month before D-day, U.S. Destroyers, Cruisers, and Battleships, arrived. Many of them took part in the last exercises and then were based either at Plymouth or at Belfast. They were to sail from these ports on the eve of D-day to keep their appointed rendezvous with the rest of the invasion forces.
READINESS OF THE U.S. NAVAL NEPTUNE FORCES
46. The task of maintaining the vessels of the 11th Amphibious Force (approximately 2500 vessels) was executed by Commander Landing Craft and Bases.1 During February, the Admiralty set up a combined British-U.S. committee styled COREP (Coordination of Repairs) to coordinate the activities of all agencies, civilian as well as naval, engaged in repair and upkeep of vessels. The agreed policy was that all work on U.S. ships and craft would be performed by U.S. personnel, using U.S. Base facilities, except in cases requiring dry-docking, when work would be performed by the joint efforts of personnel of the U.S.N., R.N., and British private firms.
[Footnote, from previous page.]
1 The following table shows the U.S.N. units egaged in the work:
|E6 #5||February||Penarth||Mediterrean 4 July 1944|
|*E6 #8||January||Exeter||Le Havre 10 October 1944|
|E6 #21||April||(Broken up. Personnel and material
divided between Falmouth, Plymouth, and
Dartmouth, as Build-up).
|**E6 #(Murk East)||December||(Broken up. Personnel transferred to
Appledore, Falmouth, Fowey, and
Salcombe. No equipment received with this Unit.)
|***E6 #(Murk West)||December||Base II||Deptford 3 Feb., Base II
10 August for further
transfer to France.
|E9 # A||August '43||Appledore||Poole, 13 May 1944,
Portland 6 June 1944,
Southampton 19 June 1944,
France 26 June 1944.
|E9 #B||October '43||Fowey||Brixham 8 March 1944
transfer to France
5 October 1944
|E9 #6||7 March 1944||Dartmouth||Exeter 4 October 1944 for
transfer to France.
|E9 #8||December '43||Salcombe||Lymington 10 May 1944,
Calshott 6 June 1944,
Lymington 17 August.
|E9 #15||16 Oct '43||Falmouth||France 6 June 1944|
|E9 #16||November '43||Milford
Poole 10 May 1944,
Exeter 31 July 1944,
Deptford 2 August 1944
Southampton 16 August 1944
|E9 #17||November '43||Plymouth||France 6 June 1944|
|E9 #18||November '43||Dartmouth||Newhaven 21 May 1944
Portland-Weymouth 30 August 1944
|E9 #31||1 April '44||Exeter||France 6 June 1944|
|E9 #32||1 April '44||Exeter||France 6 June 1944|
|E10 #2||October '43||Fowey||Broken up in June by
transfer to other units,
remaining personnel to
Salcombe 5 July 1944
|E10 #3||September '43||St. Mawes||Southampton 8 May 1944|
|E10 #4||December '43||Salcombe||October 1944 packed-
waiting assignment to
base in France.
|E10 #6||November '43||Teignmouth||Weymouth 28 April 1944|
|E10 #8||November '43||Milford
Penarth 27 March 1944
to France 10 June 1944
|E10 Mu31||August '43||Appledore||Portland 28 April 1944|
|USS Melville (Repair Ship)||23 Mar '44||Base II||Portland 18 April 1944|
|USS Adonis (ARL)||1 Feb '44||Milford Haven||Plymouth 3 Feb 1944
France 8 June 1944
|USS Atlas (ARL)||29 Mar '44||Falmouth||Plymouth 28 May '44
France 7 June 1944
* E6 #8 - held in reserve for transfer to LeHavre; personnel was transferred in groups to various bases for temporary duty.
** One of two maintenance units of approximate E6 size that were transferred from Mediterranean in accordance with agreement noted in Para.II (b); equipment was received equal to that for one E6 only.
*** One of two units received from Mediterranean. Held in reserve at Base II until Base at Deptford was established.
47. COMLANDCRAB arranged for a detailed inspection of all amphibious vessels upon their arrival in the U.K. Thereafter regular inspections were made and engine repairs were effected at regular intervals. In addition to this, a major program of alterations was completed.1
1 The principal work accomplished was as follows:
|LST||Number of Craft|
|Modification of Welin Davits||60|
|Installation for Casualty Evacuation||All LST's|
|Fit Rhino Mooring Pads||All LST's|
|Install Balloon Winches||All LST's|
|Modification of Guard Rails||120|
|Installation of Fair leads for Vehicle Loading||All LST's|
|Modification of Bow Doors||All LST's|
|Installation of Radio and Radar||All LST's|
|Alteration of steering gear||All LCI(L)|
|Installation of Radio and Radar||6|
|Modification of Heating Facilities||All LCI(L)|
|Longitudinal strengthening||All LCT(5)|
|Fitting Bulwark Doors for Side Loading||All LCT(5)|
|Modification for Fore and Aft Loading||All LCT(6)|
|Install Mulock Extensions to Ramps||All LCT|
|Install Radio and Radar||All LCT|
|Install DD Ramp Extensions||30|
48. Engine overhaul for LCI(L), LCT, and LCVP engines was accomplished at the U.S. Army overhaul depot at Tidworth under supervision of a Navy inspection staff. A salvage and recovery depot for spare parts was also set up. To avoid complete loss of repair facilities, in case of bomb damage to Tidworth, small engine overhaul shops were maintained at Falmouth, Plymouth, and Dartmouth. Adequate supplies of fuels and lubricants were made available at all times, in the quantity and of the quality required, and at the places where it would be needed. Necessary facilities and necessary stocks of lubricants were made available at all points where U.S. craft and ships were loaded. British lubricants and diesel fuels were carefully studied so that satisfactory substitutes for the U.S. standard fuels and lubricants could be determined. A careful check was maintained on the work of the various bases by reports and by frequent inspections and maintenance memoranda.
49. On D-day, 6 June, 1944, all ships and craft of the 2,493 assigned to the command of COMLANCRAB had been fully prepared for operation, with the exception of one destroyer recently damaged in collision, of one LST torpedoed off Dartmouth, and of twelve minor craft damaged during the last day of loading but quickly repaired. All bases were clear of repair work and all had been provided with necessary spare parts and materials. Repair establishments, recently set up, installed at Portland, Weymouth, Poole, Southampton, Deptford, and Newhaven, had been brought up to full strength and were ready for post action repairs. Organizations for supplying fuel lubricants and emergency repairs were ready at the loading yards.
50. As a result of these efforts, U.S. Naval forces were 99.3% operational on D-day. This compares to 97.6% for home-based British forces. For purposes of planning, ANCXF had estimated that 90% L.S.T.'s and 85% LCI(L)s and LCT's would be operational on D-day.1
1 ANCXF Report Vol. 1, p. 8.
BRIEF REVIEW OF ROYAL NAVY PREPARATIONS
51. Royal Naval Commands employed so far as possible, their existing home organization for assembling, training, organizing and supporting their forces. The general plan was to organize the British assault and follow-up forces in the Home Commands, one Naval Command area to each force. Each assault force and the follow-up force was so organized as:
a. to lift one assault division, plus such additional army formations as the army commander required.
b. to contain necessary fire support craft, communication sections, beach commander, and bombardment units.
c. to permit sub-division into assault groups, each group being sufficient to lift one Brigade Group.
d. Craft required for the Build-up, but not required for the assault, were also to be attached to the assault and follow-up forces.
52. The Admiralty designated the force commanders, their sub-commanders and staffs, and provided the naval units to be built up into assault forces. Landing craft were supplied as organized flotillas; other vessels and forces being supplied as individual units. These component elements as they became available were assigned to the command of the respective assault force commanders. The CinC of the Home Command, within which each assault force was stationed, provided accommodation, administration, discipline, fuel, stores, ammunition, repairs, maintenance, anchorages, berth, and general "logistic and administrative support". The assault force commanders exercised naval command over their forces, under command of the C's in C, Home Command, for day to day operations. At the same time they were responsible to ANCXF regarding broad policy.
During the assault, CinC Portsmouth, principally, and to a lesser degree CinC Plymouth, CinC Nore, and V.A. Dover, provided maintenance, repair, and also logistic and administrative support for the R.N. Assault Forces. 1
53. An Admiralty narrative has described the formation and preparation of the Royal Navy assault forces as follows:
"Of the five Assault Forces, Force "J" started its training with a decided advantage over the other four, its nucleus having been formed as far back as October, 1942, under Captain Hughes-Hallett, with headquarters at Cowes. In 1943 it took part in the landing in Sicily, after which it returned to the Isle of Wight, and was built up to lift a division. In November 1943, Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vian was appointed to command Force "J" and training with the 3rd Canadian Division, which had started in September, was carried out during the winter. This included twelve assault and three ferry exercises, as well as several beach reconnaisances - the latter in the actual NEPTUNE area.
During this training period there was another change in the command, Commodore G.N. Oliver relieving Rear-Admiral Vian on the appointment of the latter in February 1944, as Naval Commander, Eastern Task Force.
Force "S", commanded by Rear-Admiral A.G. Talbot, was based in Scotland for its training. Headquarters were set up in October 1943 at Inverness, and training with the 3rd British Infantry Division commenced in December.
1 ANCXF Report, Vol. 1, p. 7, Admiral Ramsay concurred with the opinion expressed by Rear-Admiral Vian that 5 to 6 months is the ideal period for a force to work up in". ANCXF Report, Vol. 1, page 56.
The training of this Force was seriously handicapped by the restriction in its assault training areas; not until the final exercise at the end of March, for example, could close support fire and the assault be practised at the same beach. Another great difficulty was the stormy winter weather of the Moray Firth, but this Rear-Admiral Talbot subsequently considered "a blessing in disguise". Putting aside the cancellation of exercises and losses of craft 1 and personnel, the experience gained under these conditions stood them in good stead in actual operations.
Five full-scale exercises were carried out at Burghead, which from a hydrographical point of view, closely resembled the beach which was to be assaulted in Normandy.
During most of this period the entire staffs of Force S, and the 3rd British Division were working together at Combined Force Headquarters in Cameron Barracks, Inverness, but the routine work in connection with the training was so intense that it was decided to seek a more peaceful atmosphere for the detailed planning of the operation, and from the month of March the Combined Planning Staff moved to Aberlour House on Speyside. The Rear-Admiral subsequently expressed the opinion that the results fully justified this step.
At the beginning of April, 1944, Force S commenced to move south to the Assembly Area (Portsmouth), an operation completed without incident by the end of the month. (Operation DOWNSTREAM)"
1 For the first three months there were no slipways or docks in the area to enable underwater repairs to be carried out to the craft and the weather prevented their being sent further afield. Rear-Admiral Talbot paid tribute to the Repair Staffs of the Northern bases under Captain J.I. Hallett, C.B.E., R.N., who "worked marvels by beaching the craft and working on them at low water".
"Force G started at a considerable disadvantage to the other two Forces, as it was not formed until 1 March 1944. Its task was to land the 50th (Northumberland) Division.
Commodore Douglas-Pennant established his headquarters (H.M.S. Purbeck) at the Royal Hotel, Weymouth, on 14 March 1 and during the ensuing six weeks four Brigade exercises were carried out in the Studland area. In this connection, the Commodore subsequently remarked that the Army possessed an advantage over the Navy in that its Training Staff was almost entirely separate from its operational staff, thus allowing the latter to concentrate on planning the actual operation. "it is hardly an exaggeration", he wrote, "to say that my staff were so occupied in planning the five major exercises ("SMASH 1 to 4, and "FABIUS") that they could devote little time to the operation until the beginning of May". 2
The disadvantage due to the shortness of the working up period was accentuated by the fact that the Headquarters Ship, H.M.S. Bulolo did not arrive in the United Kingdom till 17th April, and then required the fitting of extra communications. She was thus only available for the final exercise ("FABIUS"). The Commodore remarked that the collaboration of a Force Staff and the officers of the Headquarters Ship can contribute greatly to the success of an operation and regretted that the two did not have the opportunity of working together during the earlier exercises. 3
The Force was transferred from the Portland-Poole area to the Southampton - Solent area on 28 April."
1 Commodore Douglas-Pennant arrived in London from India on 17 February and took over the Naval planning staff which was already carrying out preliminary planning with the Advanced Headquarters of the 30th Corps and 50th Division in a Combined Force H.Q. in London. The Advanced H.Q. of the 50th Division accompanied the Naval Headquarters to H.M.S. Purbeck.
2 ANCXF Report, Vol. II, Report by Naval Commander, Force G, p. 5.
3 H.M.S. Bulolo had, however, already carried out the duties of Force Headquarters Ship at Oran, Sicily, and Anzio, and Commodore Douglas-Pennant subsequently stated that the experience gained by her ship's company in these operations was of great value.
LOADING AND ASSEMBLY1: NEPTUNE FORCES
54. The Assault and Follow-up Forces and the first Build-up divisions loaded and assembled as follows:-
|Force||Military||Leading Points||Assembly Points|
|First Br.||Build-up Div.||Thames||Thames|
|L||3 Brigades (including 22 Armored Brigade)||Tilbury
|L||3 Brigades of 3rd Division of 1st Corps British Army||Portsmouth
|J||3 Brigades of 3rd Canadian Division of 1st Corps, Br.Army Commandos||Southampton
|G||3 Brigades of 50th Division of 30th Corps British Army||Southampton||Southampton and
|O||2 R.C.T. of 1st Div., 2 R.C.T. of 29th Div. both of 5th Corps U.S. Army||Portland and
|U||3 R.C.T. of 4th Div. of VIIth Corps, U.S. Army.||Torquay, Brixham, Dartmouth and Plymouth||Torbay, Brixham Dartmouth and Salcombe|
|B||1 R.C.T. of 1st and 2 R.C.T. of 29th U.S. Div.||Plymouth
|First U.A.||Build-up Division||Bristol Channel Ports||Bristol Channel Ports|
1 Except where otherwise noted the materials in this section have been taken from ON-4.
55. The loading and assembly of assault convoys was primarily an administrative job. Responsibilities were divided as follows:
a. The C's-in-C Home Commands were responsible for providing the wharves, piers, and other port facilities required to load the ships.1
1 It will be seen from sketch ______ that all the Assault Forces except form "U" were loaded within the confines of the Portsmouth Home Command. Force "U", follow-up Force "B", and the 1st U.S. Build-up Force were loaded within the confines of Plymouth Home Command, British Follow-up Force "L", and the 1st British Build-up convoys in Nore command.
b. The Naval Assault Force commanders and the army Landing Force commanders were jointly responsible for determining the army formations to be loaded in each vessel.1
1 As between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, responsibilities for loading were divided as follows:
a. "The movement of personnel, vehicles, and supplies to ports (points) of embarkation as required by the Landing Force commander is the responsibility of the S.O.S. ETOUSA.
b. Personnel (1) the allocation of Army Units to ship and craft is the responsibility of the Army. The allocation should be made in consultation with the Navy to insure that the desired load and the loading schedules are practicable, and the craft suitable from a naval point of view. (2) The allocation to troop space aboard ship is the responsibility of the Army. The allocation should be worked out in consultation with the Navy to insure that it is within the capacity of the ship and that the troops are distributed to facilitate debarkation. (3) The embarkation of troops is the responsibility of the S.O.S. ETOUSA with agreement of the Naval representative.
c. Cargo-Vehicles. (1) The allocation of vehicles and supplies to ships for the Assault is the responsibility of the Army. The allocation should be worked out in agreement with the Navy in order to insure that the required capacity and battle trim of the ships is not exceeded and that safety precautions are complied with. (2) Priority for discharge of vehicles and cargo is established by the Army. (3) The stowage plan of cargo and vehicles is the responsibility of the Army. The stowage should be worked out in agreement with the Navy in order to insure that the capacity and battle trim of the ship is not exceeded and that safety precautions are complied with. (4) Loading is the responsibility of the Army, subject to overall supervision by the Navy and approval of the vessel's Commanding Officer, in order to insure that the capacity and required battle trim of the vessel is not exceeded and that safety precautions are complied with. (5) Stowage and securing of all vehicles and cargo is the responsibility of the Army, as directed by the Commanding Officer of the vessel. (6) The loading of cargo ships and/or craft is the responsibility of the S.O.S. ETOUSA.
d. Movement of vessels to and from berths, quays, or hards, is the responsibility of the navy.
e. Subsequent movement of vessels is the responsibility of the Navy." (See Kirk-Bradley Agreement, CTF 122 Serial 0066 of 23 February 1944.)
c. Assault Force Commanders, Landing Force Commanders, and C's in C Home Commands were jointly responsible for working out detailed loading schedules.1
d. The army was responsible for delivering its men and equipment to the right piers at the right time.
e. The C's-in-C Home Commands were responsible in accordance with the wishes of Assault Force Commanders, for assuring port availability, and for moving vessels so as to be ready to load and clear at the required times and places.
1 The production of loading schedules was a very intricate job. In view of the large number of vessels which had to be loaded from a comparatively few loading points, it was necessary that these schedules should be worked out to a high degree of detail. After they had been prepared on an Assault Force basis they were combined into an overall 'Master Plan' covering the entire invasion force. The initial draft of this 'Master Plan' was set out ON 4, Appendix I. The final detailed loading plan for British Forces was set out in the War Office NEPTUNE Outline Movement Plan Q.M. (6) 101, of 24 April 1944, and for U.S. Forces in Hq. Southern Base Section S.O.S. ETOUSA Administrative Order No. 6 and 7 of 10 April 1944. SEE ALSO "Landing Tables NEPTUNE FORCE "U" by VII Corps U.S. Army, "Landing Tables NEPTUNE Force "O" by V-Corps, U.S. Army, "Landing Tables NEPTUNE Force "B" by V-Corps, U.S. Army.
f. The M.W.T. and the W.S.A. were responsible for loading the numerous merchant ships, in the first Build-up convoys, but were required to make their ships available at the proper wharves and piers, at the time required by the movement plan.
g. A combined agency called Movement Control (MOVCO) was established, with representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Merchant Shipping Authorities, to coordinate movements by producing and executing the overall loading plan.
h. The Naval Assault Force commanders were responsible for developing the assembly plan for their own force.
i. The C's-in-C Home Commands, were responsible for providing suitable assembly areas and for moving vessels from their loading points into the appropriate assembly areas as required.
j. All ships were required to fill up with fuel, water, and lubricants before sailing to the loading and assembly areas, and to "top up" before sailing, the C's-in-C Home Commands being responsible for providing the fuel, water, and lubricants at appropriate points.
k. The defense of the areas in which NEPTUNE forces were berthed, loaded, and assembled, was the joint responsibility of local Army, Navy and Air authorities, who provided anti-aircraft defense and protection from enemy surface vessels and U-boats, while the Commanding Officer of each ship was required to use the armament of his own ship for its defense.1
1 Details of loading and assembly areas of each force are given in ON-4, Appx. 1, and II.
56. CTF 122 assigned to CTF 127 (ComLanCrabEu) the task of staging and mounting the operation of the Western Task Force.1 CTF 127, working in conjunction with the local R.N. Home Command organization and the appropriate Army authority, drew up a detailed loading schedule, assigning all ships and craft a time and a place to be loaded.2 He also assigned a U.S. Naval team under a "Loading Control Officer" to each pier, wharf, and hard, to control the loading of vessels. The Loading Control Officer had the responsibility for arranging that vessels were at the right loading point at the right time, that they were loaded in the time prescribed, and that they were sent to their assigned assembly areas at the time required. The loading and assembly of all ships was uneventful and proceeded basically according to plan.3
1 CTF 122 Op. Plan 2-44 Serial 00144 of 21 April 1944.
2 CTF 127 Op.Plan 1-44 Serial 000847 of 15 May 1944. These loading and assembly tables were incorporated in the CTF Op. Plan 2-44 Annex E.
3 The only major hitch which developed was that the Army found it hard to resist the temptation of overloading ships and craft. The planned loading schedules were carefully worked out on the basis of what each ship could carry and what the Army would require, but when the Army arrived on board it brought along considerably more weight than the agreed allowance tables permitted. The Allied Naval Commander in Chief thereupon issued a directive prohibiting this practice. (See ANCXF Report P.42 Para.69 and P.44 par. 89. The unwisdom of overloading was indicated in the case of LCT 2498 of Group U.2.A. which capsized and sank at 2300 4 June 1944, with 1e [sic: "13"?] vehicles and 70 men aboard. The allotted load was 11 vehicles and 55 men. ANCXF Report P.45 Par. 96.
[End of Chapter 5]