Operation Neptune - Invasion of Normandy, France

6 to 18 June 1944

2nd of 3

 

PRELIMINARY  16 April to 3 June 1944

 

423,000 total miles sailed upon leaving Boston Navy Yard for Scotland on 1 April 1944.

16 April Arrives Greenock, Scotland completing a convoy escort across the Atlantic.   TEXAS continues preparing for her second WWII combat action, the invasion of Normandy, France.

Gunnery 16 - 28 April:  During the next 12 days, she carried out many 14" gun firing exercises with British battleships HMS RAMILLES and RODNEY. The firing was done in conjunction with RAF airplanes as spotters, which would provide the spotting during the invasion  

 

29 April - Relocates to Befast Lough:   TEXAS, NEVADA and ARKANSAS relocated to Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. In Belfast Lough final preparations were made, including the removal of the airplane catapult, additional radio equipment to communicate with airborne spotters for gunfire.  Also installed were radios to detect and jam radio guided missiles fired at Allied ships . Final exercises were carried out to the south in Dundrum Bay.

19 May - General Eisenhower Aboard, Belfast Lough

General Eisenhower came aboard, on 19 May, to address the crew 

31 May the ship was sealed and a briefing given to the crew about the upcoming invasion

 

Flagship - Omaha Beach Bombardment Force "O" 

Army 

Navy

Western Omaha
  • 29th Infantry Division 

Point du Hoe

  • 2nd Ranger Battalion - 
  • 5th Ranger Battalion  (diverted to Western Omaha)

Eastern Omaha

  • 1st Infantry Division 
Battleships Light cruisers Destroyers:
TEXAS  Western and Point du Hoe

ARKANSAS  Eastern 

British - western

GLASGOW

French - eastern

GEORGES LEYGUES   

MONTCALM 

FRANKFORD MCCOOK CARMICK DOYLE EMMONS, BALDWIN HARDING SATTERLEE THOMPSON

 

Fleet Sails for Normandy:  3 to 6 June 1944

On 3 June, at 0209, the Western Taskforce (to which TEXAS was assigned) sailed from Belfast Lough for Normandy. In sight, on a parallel course was a group of British ships, including the battleships WARSPITE and RAMILLES. 

On 4 June, at 0710, the taskforce had to reverse course due to unacceptable weather in the Normandy. Later that evening, off Lundry Island, the taskforce reversed course and headed for the invasion fleet gathering in Area Z. 

Joining up at Area Z, the invasion fleet headed south toward Normandy and the German minefield. Minesweepers had cleared channels through the mines and not a single Omaha Beach vessel was lost.

Fleet Deployment

Enters Fire Support Area 3

 At 0300 TEXAS and the British cruiser HMS GLASGOW entered the Omaha Western fire support lane and into her initial firing position, at 0441, 12,000 yards from the shoreline. 

 

 

 

The Invasion

6 to 18 June 1944

Of the five beaches on Normandy, Omaha was the most bitterly fought for with the highest casualties. Of the 2,500 allied troops killed on the 6th, over 1,000 were killed on Omaha. Omaha was the most heavily defended beach. American intelligence discounted the British intelligence that instead of a token German force a quality German division of 10,000 men defended it. The terrain of Omaha added to the carnage. The area along the shoreline rises to 150 feet above the waters edge providing the German with excellent field of fire. The allied plan called for German defenses to be neutralized by air strikes, but cloud over Omaha obscured the area and the bombs fell several miles inland. Though the allies retained the element of surprise; the terrain, intelligence errors, and ineffective bombing would prove disastrous when the first wave went ashore.

14inch shells fired

 

 

 

 

445 - 6 June largest single day firing during the war by BB35

Total shells fired during the invasion

  • 14inch - 690 rounds 

  • 5 inch - 272

 

Point Du Hoe - The 6th

 

The initial bombardment commenced at 0550, against the site of six 155mm gun, atop Point du Hoe. When TEXAS ceased firing at the Point, at 0624, 255 14" shells were fired in 34 minutes for a rate of fire of 7.5 shells a minute. This was also the longest sustained period of BB35 firing in WWII.  The The high point provided a commanding field of fire to hurl shells on the invasion. 225 men of the 2ND Ranger Battalion were to scale the cliffs of Point du Hoe immediately after the bombardment ceased. Once captured the rest of 2ND Battalion and the 5th Battalion were to follow. The Ranger mission was to destroy the guns.

Pilot error on the landing craft caused a late arrival at the cliffs. Because the rest of the Ranger force did not receive the prearranged signal from atop the cliffs, they assumed the assault failed and went ashore on Western Omaha. The late assault start also lost the element of surprise. The Germans were ready when the Rangers started their climb. In the face of murderous fire, the Rangers had no where to go but to cliff top. The crest was reached and they began to push in. The guns were not in the prepared position but hidden in nearby woods and were ready to fire. The decimated Rangers captured and destroyed the guns. By the end of the day only 90 of the 225 men were fit for battle.

What happened on the small scale at Point du Hoe was played out on a larger scale at Omaha.

 

Western Omaha Beach - 6th thru 18th

 

 

The 6th

While the 14" shells were hitting Point du Hoe, the 5" guns were firing on the area leading up to Exit D-1, the route to get inland from Western Omaha. At 0626 TEXAS shifted her 14" gunfire to the western edge of Omaha Beach, around the town of Vierville-sur-mer.

From the beginning, the 29th Infantry Division coming ashore on western Omaha was under murderous fire even before getting out of their landing craft. Landings were complicated by the current and landing craft pilot errors, which delivered many units to the wrong locations. None of the needed artillery got ashore and most of the tanks floundered in the heavy swell.  After several hours the troops still could not get off the beach and casualties were mounting. Command broke down with an unusually large quantity of officers being killed. The invasion had stalled. By noon, top allied commanders were considering pulling the remaining troops from Omaha and sending them ashore through Utah beach.

 

Flag Bridge - Port Side: Left to right, Cecil Carnes - correspondent, Admiral Bryant, 1st Lt Weldon James, USMC correspondent, Captain Baker

Mr Carnes moved to Houston after the war and worked for an advertising agency.

Firing At Omaha Beach 

Naval gunfire was the only effective means of support. The destroyers closed near the shoreline, almost grounding themselves to get at the Germans. TEXAS also closed to the shoreline. At 1223, TEXAS closed to only 3,000 yards from the water edge and firing 14-inch shells at almost 0 degrees of elevations to clear the western Exit D-1, in front of Vierville.

 Exit D-1 (the gap in the middle) - main route off of Western Omaha Beach

The church spiral in the background is in the town Vierville

By 1313, small ad hoc groups of infantry began to get off the beach and push inland. As the infantry pushed inland, TEXAS continued to fire until 2109.  By 2400, a beachhead about 1.5 miles deep was established. Omaha beach had survived.

After 2230, air attacks developed and several planes were seen to fall in flames. TEXAS did not engage in fire and was not attacked

7th: Aboard - Wounded Ranges and German POWs

The day started with a detection of several anti-ship missile radio signals and subsequent jamming.

Word was relayed by destroyers that the Rangers at Point du Hoe were still isolated from the rest of the forces ashore. They were running low on ammunition and provisions and had a number of casualties and prisoners to evacuate. Two personnel landing craft were obtained and filled with ammunition and provisions from the TEXAS and the destroyers and sent to the Rangers. 

At 1730, 34 wounded Rangers and the 29 prisoners were brought back aboard the landing craft to TEXAS. When the 34 wounded Rangers came aboard, every square inch starboard deck space was filled with TEXAS crew. The crew had gathered in an awe of respect. One wounded Ranger later died from severe abdominal wounds. 

14" shellfire continued throughout the day until 2110, expending 119 shells.

The Wounded Rangers

TEXAS Chaplain LeGrande Moody Jr,  with wounded Ranger

The POWs 

1 officer, 19 enlisted and 7 civilian labours) were interrogate and transferred the same day to an LST for transport to England. The POWs were brought aboard on the port side, just aft of the 40mm gun mount, outboard of the Crew's Galley. 

8th through 18th

8th:  

The day started as the 7th with the detection of several anti-ship missile radio signals and subsequent jamming. 

Immediately following the signal detection, enemy air activity was reported and at 0143, TEXAS fired on an enemy plane at an altitude of 500 feet. The plane sheared off and escaped.

At 0801, 14" shell resumed and continued till contact was lost with the spotter airplane at 1404. Total shells fired were 106. 

The 14" shell firing of the 8th would be the last until the 15th

9th thru 11th:  TEXAS departed for and arrived in Plymouth, England for more ammunition and fuel . Minor repairs were made due to the gun firing force exerted on the ship's structure and systems. She departed Plymouth and arrived back in the Omaha beach area on the 11th.

12th  destroyer NELSON was hit in the stern with a torpedo but did not sink

14th  a large bomb landed near the French Cruiser MONTCALM, anchored 1,200 yards away from BB35

15th:  The last 14" gunfire for TEXAS was on the 15th. By this time, the Army was pushing beyond the range of her guns. To get the needed range, the starboard torpedo blister was flooded with water too provide 2 degrees of list. The final number of 14" shells fired was 24.

16th thru 18th:  Heavy explosion heard - Departing on the 18th  for Plymouth, England, a heavy explosion was heard to the stern of escorting destroyer FORREST. No damage occurred to the ship