Friday, June 6, 2014

USS Texas's Role in the D-Day Landings

Three American battleships supported the Allied landings at Omaha and Utah Beaches on June 6, 1944. One of them was the Newport News-built USS Texas (BB-35). An old “battle wagon” commissioned in 1914, Texas was the flagship for Rear Admiral Carleton F. Bryant’s group of battleships and cruisers supporting the American beaches.
USS Texas (BB-35)
All along Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, the Germans constructed gun emplacements. At Pointe du Hoc, six large 155mm guns capable of covering both Omaha and Utah Beaches made it a prime target. As part of the preparations for D-Day, the Allies bombed Pointe du Hoc in April 1944. Unsure of the results of this bombing and regarding the guns as a great threat, the Allies assigned the US 2nd Ranger Battalion to secure them on D-Day. Before the Rangers went in, however, Texas would get her chance to knock out these cannon. 
Guns on Hitler's Atlantic Wall
Beginning at 5:50 A.M. on June 6, Texas fired over two hundred 14” shells at Pointe du Hoc. This fire gouged craters into the landscape, turning it into something resembling the surface of the moon.  The shells hit several gun emplacements, but there was no return fire from these positions. When the Rangers captured Pointe du Hoc, they found the emplacements empty. They later discovered the guns in a field and destroyed several of them.

Pointe du Hoc. Note the crater-like surface of the land.
Two minutes after the first barrage, Texas' main guns shifted to targets at the western edge of Omaha Beach. The ship's secondary guns targeted key areas defending the beach exits, including trying to destroy the anti-tank wall. Just past noon, Texas came closer to shore (about 3,000 yards out) and added her firepower to the fight around exit D-1.

USS Texas stayed on station for most of the next two weeks, providing fire support until the main fighting moved beyond the range of her guns. Although she did not destroy all the gun emplacements, this naval vessel and others helped clear obstacles, kept the enemy seeking cover, and helped get the Allied soldiers off the beach.

(Note: This blog post was written by HRNM Educator Elijah Palmer.)

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