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Photo Album

US Beach Landing Operations, 1943-45

Part 2

n Text by Martin Waligorski
n Photos: Center of Military History, US Navy; Air Force Historical Research Agency



"Ever since the days of the Phoenicians, the ability to land on defended shores has been a source of strength for those who possess it and a source of concern for those who must oppose it."

General Robert H. Barrow

This photo album is a continuation of last month's Photo Album: US Beach Landing Operations, 1943-45 (Part 1). As a whole, the album forms an illustrated review of the different stages of a World War II amphibious landing operation. In the first part, we covered naval activities from the embarkment of the forces in a friendly harbour to  the assault on the beach. By doing this we have covered but a half of the story.  Like a tadpole, any succesful amphibious operation must make a transition from sea to land and, in so doing, undergoes a transformation from naval power to land power. It is then that the attacking force is most vulnerable, as has been painfully proven by the British at Dieppe or the Germans in Crete. The Allies realized that the quick build up of ground combat power was essential for success, and towards the end of the conflict, excelled in naval vessels, land vehicles and logistics especially designed for the purpose. All this is the subject of the gallery's second part.  

Stage 3. The buildup


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Abandoned landing craft litter the beaches as beach parties moved further inland. Smaller craft of the assault wave like the LCVPs shown here were left to their own devices as soon as the troops went ashore. In bad weather, many of  the abandoned craft would be thrown around, swamped or jammed together, blocking the access to the beach. Sicily, July 1943.
  

 


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With the beach secured, unloading troops and equipment continues at the calmer pace. Carrying a full equipment, American assault troops move onto Omaha Beach. Note how landing craft in the background jam the access to the beach. June 6th, 1944.
  

 


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Nothing helped the Allied naval landing operations better than the entire fleet of purpose-designed landing craft - something that Germany was painfully short of  during the summer months of 1940 when they could have invaded Britain. Smaller craft like this were designed to unload directly at the beach at the same time being large enough to to carry vehicles. USS LST-1 is in the background at left.
The Jeep has serial no. 2039078. Salerno, September 1943.
   

 


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Unloading troops and supplies on the Gela invasion beaches on 10 July 1943 shows a variety of employed craft. Broached LCVP at right is from USS Barnett (APA-5). Next LCVP to the left is from USS Monrovia (APA-31). In the background are USS LST-338 (right) and USS LST-344 (left).
  

 


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Stretches of loose sand and dunes need to be paved to enable movement of vehicles. Here, US Army Engineers haul a roll of steel wire mesh into position to make a beach roadway. Salerno, September 1943. USS LST-1 is in the center background.
 

 


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Beachhead is now secured. Merchant ships can now approach the shore safely to unload men,  equipment and supplies. The abandoned landing craft and destroyed vehicles will continue to litter the beach for the months and years to come.  
  

 

Stage 4. Resupply


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Early in the war, this is how the resupply of landed forces looked like. The date is December 1942 at Guadalcanal. Supplies are unloaded from merchant ships at sea and carried ashore using landing craft and barges. Then they would be reloaded again to be transported inland. The LCP in the center, just beyond the barge full of piled boxes, is from USS American Legion (AP-35). One of the LCVs in the background is from USS Hunter Liggett (AP-27). 

As we will see below, by 1944 this picture would have been an anachronism.

 

 


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One piece of military equipment which made a decisive contribution to the Allies' impressive effectiveness at the beachheads was of course the DUKW, an amphibious 2.5-ton 6x6 truck. Its primary use was to ferry ammunition, supplies, and equipment directly from supply ships in transport areas offshore to supply dumps and fighting units at the beach. DUKWs were employed (albeit in limited quantities) as early as the invasion of Sicily, as shown in this photograph taken at Scoglitti area, July 11th, 1943.
  

 


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Although this photo has been taken at the training facility rather than during real field operation, it is interesting as it shows the DUKW's best feature: driving up directly from the water on the unprepared shore.
  

 


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Landing reinforcements to the beachhead would initially be performed through prefabricated causeways. Here, troops, army trucks and field guns are unloaded from USS LST-1 on an Italian beach near Salerno, September 1943.
  
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This picture gives an idea of how massive was the force engaged in support of Normandy beachhead after the D-Day landings. 
  

 


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LST (Landing Ship, Tank) naval ship was specially designed to transport and deploy troops, vehicles, and supplies onto foreign shores. LSTs were designed during World War II to disembark military forces without the use of dock facilities or the various cranes and lifts necessary to unload merchant ships. The design is said to have its roots in the fertile imagination of Winston Churchill. Initially designed in Britain and mainly built in the US, the Allied invasions from late 1942 relied heavily on them.

The moored together ships in this group include (from left to right): An unidentified LST-85?, LST-461, USS Yavapai (APB-42), a barrack ship based on the LST hull design, LST-662, LST-672 and LST-733.

   

 


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Excellent detailed photo illustrating that in service, the diversity of equimpent, defensive weapons etc. made no two LSTs alike. Here, USS LST-646 and USS LST-662 are entering  the floating dry dock in Apra Harbor, Guam, May 1945
 

 


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The outsanding usefulness of the LST design was visibly proven in France, where the high Atlantic tide was used to ease the unloading of supplies. The flat-bottomed LSTs would simply approach the shore at high tide, anchor and wait to get stranded as the tide lowered. Then the cargo could be unloaded directly to the ground and the ship returned at the next high tide.

Above, the LST-325 is shown stranded at low tide during resupply operations in Normandy, June 12th, 1944. Note the sand ramp constructed to permit unloading through her bow doors. Amazingly, the ship's forward hull is supported only by the lowered ramp!
  
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USS LST-325 (left) and USS LST-388 unloading on the same day. Propellers, rudders and  the "Danforth" style kedge anchor at LST-325's stern protrude in the air.
  

 


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USS LST-1 and LST-292 "high and dry" on a Brittany beach, September 1944.

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 USS LST-325 (right) and USS LST-72 unloading directly onto trucks at Morlaix, France, 5 September 1944.
 

 


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Return home.  Ambulances advance on a "Whale" floating pier of the Mulberry artificial harbour near Arromanches, Gold Beach, carrying wounded to be transported back to England.

With its massive scale, the invasion in Europe was in immediate need of harbours for supply logistics. With the risk of Germans destroying the Channel ports  as they withdrew, the Allies opted for the unprecedented solution - the erection of artificial harbours. The Allies built two Mulberries and five Gooseberries as substitute ports, using prefabricated pier segments and rows of deliberately sunken ships as breakwaters.
  

n


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