|29TH DIVISION - WWII DOCUMENTS|
|116th Reg., 3rd Bn., L Co. - Group Critique Notes - June 1944|
This critique was held at Brest, France, on 20 Sept. 44. The chief witnesses were Captain McGrath, who was not with L at that time, but witnessed the Company movements, Sgt John W. White, Sgt Herman E. Rowe, Pfc Goodwin P. Dallas, Pfc Tony J. Sokolowski, Pvt Willie J. Ortego, Sgt Joseph R. Daya and Pfc J. O. Davies. All these men were NCOs in the higher brackets by the time of the interview. They were in agreement as to facts.
"L" landed on schedule at 0720, coming in the 2nd Battalion beach and landing behind some its elements. (Note: The place is indicated on the overlay. "M", coming in at the same time, was to the left of "L"). The boats did not come together, but had become somewhat separated by the conditions of tide and the sandbars. The amount of fire against them as they neared the beach was not great. (On their left, "M"’s men were all keeping their heads down because of fire and could not see the beach.) The men of "L" stood up in their boats and had a complete view of the shoreline as they came to it, they wondered why the men they saw on shore weren’t going on. Looking beyond the men, they saw nothing that looked as they had expected it. "We were supposed to see the road coming down to the Beach and pillboxes on either side of the road. We looked for these and could not find them. We walked about it and decided we were going in at the wrong place." (Daya) "The outstanding thing on our beach was the fortified house." (Rowe) The guide boat, which the seven company boats were trying to follow, keptvon maneuvering left. To the men, it seemed that the current was carrying him leftward, but the impression of two men (Daya, White) was that the control boat had picked out the wrong line of flags and was following it in.
Arty fire fell among the boats as they neared the sand but no boat was hit and no men were wounded. (Daya, Rowe). Nevertheless, the intervening sandbars had separated the boats, and the company was well scattered as it came into the beach. N° 3 boat was far off to the left of the Company, and N° 7 (Hq) boat was with it ; the gap between these and the five others was such that the two teams did not rejoin until the Co had moved well inland. N° 6 Boat was first to land ; N° 1 was stopped by a sandbar and the men jumped off far out in the water. N° 6 was the right-hand element, and N° 3 the left. N°s 1, 2, 4 and 5 were to the left of N° 6. The landing experiences of this Co were not unusual. The water was knee-to-waist deep. In N° 1 boat, and at least two of the others, they got no fire when the ramps went down and the men were on the beach 5-6 minutes before they noticed any mg fire about time. (White, Daya). There was a "rock wall with broken rocks and debris" along it just ahead of them. The men went for it as fats as they could run. They were certain that they took this stretch at arun and that most got to the wall in 2-5 minutes. (Daya, White, Rowe.) They didn’t lose a man in so doing. Some of the men from these boat teams on the right recall looking back and noticing that not one man had dropped on the beach.
On getting to the wall, they found it already clogged with infantry.
They were men from "G". They had been there for some time and seemed to be in good condition. (Rowe). Lieut Donald C. Anderson of "L" came on up and asked: "Who in hell are you ?" they replied that they were from 2nd Bn. (Daya). He then turned to Daya and said : "Get the team on its way. We sure as hell are not staying here. This beach has too many people." There was a single apron on wire ahead of the Company. At Anderson’s order, Daya moved on and started cutting it, lying on his back as he did so. A man from 2nd Battalion came in on the right of him and tried to do likewise. But before he could find a low spot and partial cover, his clothing got hung in the wire, and the enemy mgs cut him apart. Daya had found partial cover among some boulders and completed his work. Anderson then left the team right on through the gap and up the hill. Near the crest he came to a dip which was brush-covered and partially defiladed to bullet fire. They stopped there for a few moments to gather themselves before going on. Two arty tree bursts found them there and two men were wounded. Daya yelled: "Get the hell out of here." They moved on up and over a slight knoll, and as they came out on the hilltop, they drew flanking fire from a pillbox on the right. They worked off in the other direction and took cover in a ditch screened with gorse. (Daya, White). By this time the men had forgotten about mines and as they continued on, they seemed to pay little attention to the possible danger from his source. (Daya). From the ditch, the team worked its way into a wheat field, drew mg fire from frd, and was brought to a halt. Anderson then oriented himself for the first time. He had started for the high ground knowing only that he was at the wrong place. On talking to his NCOs, he found that all were in agreement that the landing had been made far over to the left. He then decided that he would move against les Moulins – the objective – regardless. The team followed along a hedgerow to the right, finally emerged onto open ground and drew fire from three places simultaneously. Part of the fire was coming from the direction of the Beach, so Anderson decided that it was just as well to keep plugging ahead. (Daya). Anderson, Daya and the two scouts led the team on. They kept low, got frd one more field, and there met a mortar section from "I" under Lieutenant Davidson. At this time both groups came under heavy fire. Andreson, still certain that the thing to do was keep moving ahead, walked up to the HR and looked over to make a recon. A sniper drilled him through the head. Daya took over for a moment, then sent for Sgt Albert Odorizzi, the senior NCO who was with a group a little to the rear, and told him that he was in command. An "M" section with two mgs came into their fields ; with this fire, the fire of 2 of "I"’s mortars ond one BAR, they combined their efforts and reduced the emplacements which were holding them up, either destroying or driving out the enemy. This was a collaborative effort. No one man took command. The small groups simply worked out their action by agreement.
With the boat of "I", they then continued on another two HRs. At that point, they made contact with boat team #5, which had come up the hill under T/Sgt Louis M. Armstrong. Lieutenant Shreck, the boat team captain, had been killed in crossing the beach, and Armstrong had immediately taken command and brought the team along, on the right of the Daya – Odorizzi group. The teams moved across one more field, then drew fire from an enemy rocket battery, 600 yards ahead. Before they could take further action, they saw a large naval shell land in the battery and completely demolish it. It was then 1030, and within a few minutes, Major Malcom R. Weller, the Battalion Exec, got up to the high ground after collecting the Battalion 3 stragglers along the beach, made contact with these boat teams, and began the Battalion reorganization.