Thursday, April 29, 2010

Night Assault.

This is coolbert:

Those very heavy, excessive, almost catastrophic casualties as suffered by the two American infantry divisions landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, 6 June, 1944, could have been avoided?

American troops, laden with too much gear, soaking wet, exhausted from seasickness, having to cross hundreds of yards of open beach into the thick of German machine gun, artillery, mortar, and sniper fire, entire units often instantly rendered ineffective due to combat losses, need not have had to endured such an ordeal.

There was an alternative?

NIGHT ASSAULT! Night time amphibious landing, under the cover of darkness, the element of surprise being achieved, as advocated by a number of U.S. military commanders.

Advice not heeded by the senior commanders [Eisenhower, Bradley, etc.]!

Norman Cota, deputy commander of the 29th Infantry Division [ID], in particular advocating the night assault concept as worthy of consideration. Norman NOT ALONE in his advocacy.

Norman Cota. Acknowledged hero at Omaha Beach. Even it was felt took too many risks.

"As a major advisor in Operation Overlord . . . [and as] Assistant Division commander of the 29th Infantry Division . . . he was opposed to daylight landings, believing pre-dawn landings would stand a better chance of success; he did not get his way."

"Cota was not alone in his opposition to daylight landings. [both] General Leonard T. Gerow . . . and Admiral John L. Hall, Jr. . . . pleading for a night time assault."

"A year before the invasion, at the Conference on Landing Assaults, Cota made his argument in favor of striving for tactical surprise:"

"It is granted that strategical surprise will be impossible to attain. Tactical surprise is another thing however... tactical surprise is one of the most powerful factors in determining success. I therefore, favor the night landing. I do not believe the daylight assault can succeed."

Those American units going ashore on Omaha Beach, an at-dawn assault, had expected little resistance. This was not to be the case. Strategic aerial bombardment by the massed allied air forces having been for naught, naval bombardment relatively ineffective, German strong-points and concrete emplacements fully manned by alerted troops, more or less unscathed, much to the consternation of those in the first-waves of the attacking force.

Very heavy casualties being the result - - the entire landing on Omaha beach being in doubt!!

Night-time attack, capture and consolidation of the beachhead, elimination of those German strong points, concrete emplacement, etc., being possible, an alternative, but NOT EXACTLY as conceived by Norman Cota?

A specially selected, trained and equipped ranger/commando type unit - - paddling ashore in rubber boats - - during hours of darkness, the early morning of 6 June, could have successfully assaulted and neutralized, rendered ineffective the German beach defenses of Normandy, capturing and securing the beachhead PRIOR TO THE LANDING OF THE MAIN FORCE!

AND such a select unit did exist at the time. A ranger/commando type unit, the First Special Service Force [FSSF], a unit who less than a year previous had actually accomplished such a beach landing during hours of darkness - - Kiska Island - - Aleutians.

Here with a description of the FSSF assault on Kiska Island - - 1943. Small rubber boats paddled ashore during hours of darkness. The assault force of special operations troops [FSSF] having the mission to seize the beachheads, prior to the arrival of the main force:

"the [assault of the] FSSF began on the early morning of 15 August 1943, when the 1st and 2d Regiments silently waded ashore on Kiska Island . . . under cover of darkness. This operation had been carefully planned and practiced. Furthermore, the FSSF had been assigned a mission appropriate to its capability, that of securing two separate beachheads on the island in advance of the landing of the invasion's main forces."

"The mission was fraught with danger. It demanded endurance and great
skill in the handling and control of small rubber boats, which would be paddled ashore in the dark, in very cold water. The mission also required exceptional stealth and silence to achieve surprise, which would be followed by the likelihood of a fierce, close-in battle against a tough enemy . . . All tasks had been accomplished on schedule with elan and steady confidence."

I would be remiss not mentioning that the Japanese garrison at Kiska had previously been evacuated, the FSSF NOT meeting any resistance when landing!!

Norman Cota. A cool customer under fire and a rather significant general officer from the Second World War [WW2]. Present as the deputy commander of the "green" 29th Division, landing on the first day at Normandy, Omaha beach.

Also, later as commander of the 28th Division, a unit very severely bloodied at the Battle of the Huertgen Forest. Reputedly the most difficult and intense combat action by American troops in the European Theatre [ETO].

And a commander who recommended/approved/forwarded the death sentence of Eddie Slovik!

Norman Cota was in the "thick of things", and very prescient!


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