0300: Omaha first wave embark on assault craft

Men from the 1st Infantry Division in one of the early waves approaching Omaha Beach.

Men from the 1st Infantry Division in one of the early waves approaching Omaha Beach.

The invasion fleet had arrived on station and now began the difficult business of transferring to the smaller assault craft. It was supposed to be a moonlit night but the cloud cover was complete and the wind and rain made conditions difficult even without the heavy sea.

Pfc John Barnes, age 19, A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry:

About 3:00 A.M. we were called out to get ready. Instead of our regular packs, we had been issued assault jackets, a sort of vestlike garment with many pockets and pull-strap fasteners to yank off in a hurry. In the various pockets we stored K rations, a quarter pound of dynamite with fuses, hand grenades, smoke grenades, and medical kit (a syringe and morphine).

Besides our regular M-1 clips, we had two slings of ammo belts slung across our shoulders. On our backs, we carried an entrenching tool, a bayonet, and a poncho, and whatever else we could stuff in. As an assistant to the flamethrower, I carried his rifle and pack. Our rifles were wrapped in a protective cellophane wrap- per with an inflated tube to keep them afloat. Altogether, our equipment weighed about seventy pounds.

It was an awkward assortment, around which we buckled a rubber life belt, inflated by CO2. The buckle in my belt was defective, but I didn’t bother with it, since it was a last-minute addition and I had no thought of using it.

Up on deck, we were lined up in boat teams. Everyone checked each other’s equipment. I don’t remember any famous last words, but we shouted to friends in other boats. Since we were going to be first to land, we were first to get off the ship.

After climbing aboard the assault craft, we were lowered to the sea. Immediately, the boat began bobbing up and down in the high waves. It was still dark as we moved away and began circling in a holding pattern.

One by one, the men began to get sick, heaving their late-night meal over the side, or into their helmets, or anywhere. Gradually, we saw shapes of other boats, many small ones and many larger hulks, and planes were droning overhead by the hundreds, flying toward the coast.

This account appears in Russell Miller(ed): Nothing Less Than Victory: Oral History of D-Day

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: