Hunt class destroy fires on the D-Day beaches

Hunt class destroy fires on the D-Day beaches

The D-Day Companion, ed. Jane Penrose. A selection of thirteen separate essays on different aspects of the D-Day lands, from the initial planning to post-war memorials; this is an excellent piece of work that sets the D-Day landings firmly in context. An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about Operation Overlord, but its wide range of topics means it is likely to be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject. [see more]


Hunt class destroy fires on the D-Day beaches - History

After shakedown off Bermuda and final alterations in New York Navy Yard, Hunt cleared Norfolk for the Pacific 2 December 1943. She entered Pearl Harbor 24 December 1943 and joined Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher&rsquos Fast Carrier Task Force 58 operating as a part of the antisubmarine screen for a task group which included Essex (CV-9), Intrepid (CV-11), and Cabot (CV-25). She sortied with the carrier task force 16 January 1944 to support the invasion of the Marshall Islands, the operation which, in the words of RAdm. Richard L. Conolly, &ldquo. . . really cracked the Japanese shell. It broke the crust of their defenses on a scale that could be exploited at once.&rdquo At dawn 29 January, Mitscher&rsquos planes opened the operation with strikes against enemy-held airfields on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, while Hunt protected the carriers from which they were launched. The next day she joined battleships North Carolina (BB-55), South Dakota (BB-57) and Alabama (BB-60) in shelling pill boxes and other targets on the northern beaches of Roi and Namur Islands. After two days on bombardment station she rejoined the screen of the carriers who were furnishing planes to support landing operations on the small islands adjoining Roi and Namur. She entered newly won Majuro Lagoon in company with Essex 5 February 1944 for replenishment.

On 12 February Hunt sailed with most of the Fast Carrier Force for Truk Atoll to neutralize that reputedly impregnable enemy air and naval base which threatened both General MacArthur&rsquos forces then encircling Rabaul and Rear Adm. H. W. Hill&rsquos amphibious vessels preparing to assault Eniwetok. In the early morning darkness of 17 February, Hunt arrived off Truk with the rest of the force which began the systematic destruction of the Japanese ships and planes caught in the area. A group of heavies&mdashtwo battleships, two heavy cruisers, and four destroyers&mdashcircled the atoll to catch enemy ships attempting to escape, while carrier-based planes attacked targets on the islands and in the Lagoon. Hunt&rsquos role in the operation was to protect Admiral A. E. Montgomery&rsquos carrier group from submarine or air attack. When her task force steamed away the following evening, its planes and ships had sunk two light cruisers, 4 destroyers, 3 auxiliary cruisers, 6 auxiliaries of different types, and 137,091 tons of merchant shipping. Moreover, the destruction and damaging of between 250 and 275 enemy planes was especially gratifying to the Navy which, by this successful raid, had forced the Japanese Combined Fleet to shun Truk, its base since July 1942, in favor of safer areas closer to home.

After clearing Truk, Hunt, in company with carrier Enterprise (CV-6), cruiser San Diego (CL-53), and five other destroyers, left the main body of the task force to raid &ldquoleapfrogged&rdquo Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands, 20 February 1944. The next day she anchored in Majuro Lagoon from which, after a brief visit to Pearl Harbor, she put to sea as a part of the screen of the Bunker Hill carrier task group bound for the Palau Islands 22 March. She steamed on station as the first air strikes at Peleliu were launched 30 March. Intense and accurate antiaircraft fire from Hunt and her sister ships drove off three flight groups of Japanese torpedo bombers as strikes continued during the next 3 days. On 1 April she left the formation with destroyer Hickox (DD-673) to destroy two 125-foot patrol craft which had been firing on American planes.

She returned to Majuro on 6 April for replenishment, then set course with the Bunker Hill carrier task group to lend support to the invasion and occupation of Hollandia, D.N.G. Planes from the carriers repeatedly struck enemy emplacements in the area, and night fighters successfully repelled all enemy planes which approached the warships. On the passage returning to Majuro Hunt&rsquos carriers paused off Truk 29 and 30 April for another raid on that weakened but reinforced enemy base. Thereafter Truk was almost useless to the Japanese.

May was a welcome interlude devoted to training exercises in the Marshalls enlivened by a diversionary raid on Wake Island 24 May to draw attention away from the Marianas. Hunt put to sea with the Bunker Hill carrier task group 6 June for the invasion of the Marianas. The first air strikes of the operation against the Island Group were launched on 11 June and continued until 15 June when the marines hit the beaches, and attention shifted to providing close support for troops ashore. On that day, Admiral Spruance received a warning from submarine Flying Fish that an enemy carrier force was approaching from San Bernardino Strait. In the early hours of 19 June it arrived within striking distance of the fast carrier force which guarded the amphibious forces off Saipan. The Battle of the Philippine Sea began in a series of dogfights over Guam, where American planes were neutralizing Japanese land-based air forces. About an hour and a half later, the major phase of the battle, nicknamed &ldquoThe Marianas Turkey Shoot,&rdquo opened when the American flattops launched their fighters to intercept the first of four raids from the Japanese carriers. During the ensuing 8 hours of fierce, continuous fighting in the air, Japan lost 346 planes and 2 carriers while only 30 U.S. planes splashed and 1 American battleship suffered a bomb hit but was not put out of action. Hunt then steamed westward with the carriers in pursuit of the fleeing remnants of the enemy fleet. The following afternoon planes from the carriers caught up with their quarry and accounted for carrier Hiyo and two oilers while damaging several other Japanese ships. This carrier battle, the greatest of the war, virtually wiped out the emperor&rsquos naval air power which would be sorely missed in the impending battle for Leyte Gulf.

The next evening the task force gave up the chase and set course for Saipan. On the return passage, Hunt rescued four pilots and seven crewmen from planes which had been unable to land on their carriers. Once back in the Marianas, Hunt and her sister ships resumed the task of supporting the American forces which were taking Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. They continued this duty until fighting in these islands ended early in August.

After voyage repairs at Pearl Harbor, she departed 30 August as part of the screen for Admiral Halsey&rsquos flagship, New Jersey. Hunt joined the Bunker Hill Carrier Group off the Admiralty Islands 6 September for operations south of the Palau Islands. On 11 September she carried Admiral Halsey from New Jersey to carrier Lexington for a conference and returned him to his flagship. In the following days she guarded the carriers which were repeatedly raiding the Palaus to soften them up for the invasion. When marines landed on Peleliu 15 September, planes from these carriers supported the efforts on shore until the determined leathernecks finally stamped out the last organized resistance of the dogged Japanese defenders. Hunt entered Kossol Passage 30 September to embark Admiral Halsey and his staff for passage to Peleliu. Hull put him ashore that afternoon and steamed off shore as stand-by flagship until the following afternoon when he again came on board to be returned to Kossol Passage.

On 6 October, she cleared port with the Bunker Hill carrier task group for air strikes against Okinawa Jima. Hunt rescued a pilot and two crewmen of a splashed Bunker Hill plane 10 October. She repeated this feat 2 days later when she saved a pilot and two crewmen whose plane had been downed during an attack on Formosan airbases.

Hunt accompanied the carriers off Northern Luzon during the landings on Leyte 20 October while they struck again and again at Japanese airfields throughout the Philippines to eliminate enemy airpower during General MacArthur&rsquos long-awaited return. During the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf they went after the Japanese northern force and sank four carriers and a destroyer besides damaging several other ships.

For the rest of the year, Hunt continued to serve as a screening unit for the carrier strikes against Formosa and Japanese-held areas in the Philippines. On 16 February 1945, her fast carrier task force hit hard at the Tokyo Bay area in a furious 2-day attack. Then the flattops turned their attention to support the landings on Iwo Jima which began 19 February. That day her guns brought down an enemy plane as they repelled the first of the air raids against American ships off that bitterly-contested island. Hunt sailed from Iwo Jima 22 February for waters off Honshu, Japan and another swipe at Tokyo Bay, 25 February. On the way to Ulithi the carriers paused to strike Okinawa 1 March.

Hunt departed Ulithi 14 March for rendezvous with carrier Franklin (CV-13) off the Ryukyu Islands 18 March. The next day Franklin maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier up to that point in the war to launch a fighter sweep against Honshu and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor. Suddenly a single enemy plane broke through the cloud cover and made a low level run to drop two semi-armor-piercing bombs on the gallant ship. The carrier burned furiously as the flames triggered ammunition, bombs, and rockets. Hunt closed the stricken ship to assist in picking up survivors blown overboard by the explosions. After rescuing 429 survivors, she joined three other destroyers in a clockwise patrol around the stricken ship which had gone dead in the water within 50 miles of the Japanese Coast. Cruiser Pittsburgh (CA-72) took the ship in tow and, after an epic struggle, managed to get her to Ulithi 24 March. Hunt put the survivors ashore and sped to the Ryukyus 5 April to support troops who were struggling to take Okinawa.

Hunt took up radar picket station off Okinawa 8 April. On 14 April a kamikaze roared in toward Hunt and was riddled by her guns during the approach. It struck the destroyer at deck level shearing off the mainmast and slicing into the forward stack where it left its starboard wing. The fuselage of the suicide plane splashed into the water about 25 yards from Hunt whose crew quickly doused the small fires which had broken out on board. A second kamikaze which approached Hunt that day was knocked down by her alert gunners before it could reach the ship.

Hunt continued to guard the carriers as they gave direct support to troops on Okinawa, taking time out on 4 separate days for radar picket duty in dangerous waters. When she departed Ryukyus 30 May for tender overhaul in Leyte Gulf, her crew had been to general quarters 54 times.

Hunt sailed for the United States 19 June 1945, arrived in San Francisco for overhaul 6 July, and decommissioned 15 December 1945 at San Diego.

Hunt recommissioned at San Diego 31 October 1951, Comdr. Lynn F. Barry in command. After refresher training in local areas, she departed 14 February for Newport where she arrived 3 March 1952. She cruised from that port for the next 2½ years conducting antisubmarine and plane guard duty. She departed Newport 1 June 1954 for Yokosuka where she arrived 7 July and was underway again 16 July for task force maneuvers off the Philippine Islands. On 21 October she cleared Sasebo, Japan, on the second leg of a world cruise which took her to Hong Kong, Singapore, the Suez Canal, and Naples which she reached 20 November 1954. She passed through the strait of Gibraltar 12 December 1954 and arrived back in Newport 18 December.

The next 2 years were filled with intensive antisubmarine warfare and convoy exercises. Hunt departed Newport 6 November for patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Revolution. She returned to Newport 27 February 1957 where more antisubmarine warfare and convoy exercises awaited. She embarked midshipmen at Annapolis for a training cruise which included the International Naval review in Hampton Roads on 12 June, and a visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She departed Newport for Belfast, Northern Ireland 3 September to participate in Operation &ldquoSeaspray&rdquo, maneuvers with the combined forces of NATO. From 22 October 1957 through 1 August 1958 Hunt operated out of Newport. On the latter date while on a cruise to the Caribbean she sped from San Juan, Puerto Rico to join attack carrier Saratoga (CVA-60) in the Mediterranean to augment the 6th Fleet during the Near Eastern crisis which had necessitated the landing of marines in Beirut, Lebanon to check aggression. She reached that port 28 August and 3 days later was underway for the Red Sea. She completed transit of the Suez Canal 11 September for Massawa, Ethiopia, and after calling at Aden, Arabia, set course 14 October for the Mediterranean and maneuvers with the Sixth Fleet en route home to Newport, arriving 13 November.

Hunt operated out of Newport with occasional cruises in the Caribbean conducting exercises in antisubmarine warfare and battle practice. She won the Battle Efficiency Award for the fiscal year 1957 to 1958 and repeated the feat for the 1958 to 1959 period. She decommissioned 30 December 1963.


  • HMS Bellona. Bellona-class light cruiser, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Glasgow. Southampton class, commissioned 1937.
  • FFL Georges Leygues (French). La Glossonairre–class light cruiser, commissioned 1937.
  • FFL Montcalm (French). La Glossonaire–class light cruiser, commissioned 1937.
  • USS Baldwin (DD 624). Livermore class, commissioned 1943. • USS Carmick (DD 493). Livermore class, commissioned 1942.
  • USS Doyle (DD 494). Livermore class, commissioned 1942.
  • USS Emmons (DD 457/DMS 22). Ellyson class, commissioned 1941/44, sunk off Okinawa 1945.
  • USS Frankford (DD 497). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Harding (DD 625/DMS 28). Ellyson class, commissioned 1943/44.
  • USS McCook (DD 496). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Satterlee (DD 626). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Thompson (DD 627). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.

Preparing for the Assault on Normandy

The assault force comprising armored and infantry elements of the U.S. First and British Second Armies neared five landing beaches: two American, two British, and one Canadian. At the western end, Utah Beach was the objective of the 12th, 22nd, and 8th Regiments of Maj. Gen. Raymond O. “Tubby” Barton’s U.S. 4th Infantry (Ivy) Division, while Omaha Beach was the objective of the 115th and 116th Regiments of the U.S. 1st Infantry (Big Red One) Division led by Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner. Farther east, brigades and Royal Marine Commandos of Maj. Gen. Douglas A.H. Graham’s British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division made for Gold Beach, and brigades, Royal Marine Commandos and the 4th Special Service Brigade of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, led by Maj. Gen. Rodney F.L. Keller, approached Juno Beach. At the easternmost section of the assault area, Sword Beach was the objective of Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Rennie’s British 3rd Infantry Division, comprising the 27th Armored Brigade, several infantry brigades, British Commandos, Captain Philippe Kieffer’s Free French Commandos, and Lord Lovat’s brigade.

The 1st Special Service Brigade comprised Nos. 3, 4, and 6 Commandos of the British Army, No. 45 Royal Marine Commando, and elements of No. 10 Inter-Allied Commando, most of whom were Free French troops. Although Lovat’s men were wet, seasick, and nervous, their morale was high. As their landing craft drew abreast of the cruiser HMS Scylla, the flagship of Rear Admiral Philip Vian, commander of the Eastern Task Force, the Commandos gave thumbs-up salutes. Looking down on them, 18-year-old Able Seaman Ronald Northwood pronounced them “the finest set of chaps I ever came across.”

Covering almost 20 miles along Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches, from Ouistreham near the mouth of the River Orne to the village of Le Hamel on the west, the British and Canadian infantry swarmed ashore starting at 6 am that Tuesday. The beaches were choked with landing craft disgorging troops, negotiating underwater obstacles, and braving German machine-gun and mortar fire.

Bucking in heavy seas, the landing craft carrying the assault troops of the British 3rd Infantry Division moved into the three-mile-long Sword Beach shortly after 7 am. The division’s main objective was to link up with the men of Maj. Gen. Richard “Windy” Gale’s British 6th Airborne (Red Devils) Division, who had dropped just after midnight to secure two strategic bridges at Benouville, six miles inland. The bridges were codenamed Pegasus, over the Caen Canal, and Horsa, on the River Orne. The red-bereted paratroopers, the first Allied troops in action on D-Day, were holding the spans against German counterattacks. The task of reaching the bridges—crucial links between the beachhead and the airborne troops—fell to Lord Lovat’s brigade.

Supported by naval gunfire and duplex-drive amphibious Sherman tanks of the 13th and 18th Hussars, infantrymen of the South Lancashire and 2nd East Yorkshire Regiments overwhelmed German shore batteries and machine-gun nests and charged across Sword Beach. Flail tanks from the 22nd Dragoon and the Westminster Dragoon Regiments cleared paths through minefields, and exits from the beach were opened more quickly than in any other landing sector on that fateful morning. During the day, 28,845 men would cross Sword Beach, with about 630 casualties.


Hunt class destroy fires on the D-Day beaches - History

By Nathan N. Prefer

Most students of World War II know that there were five invasion beaches included in Operation Overlord, the invasion of northwestern Europe, on June 6, 1944. There are numerous writings concerning Omaha Beach, where the 1st and 29th U.S. Infantry Divisions suffered heavily at the hands of the German defenders. The successful landings by the 4th U.S. Infantry Division at Utah Beach are also well covered. But far less has been written about the other North American beachhead that day, Juno Beach, which was assigned to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade.

When Great Britain was drawn into World War II in September 1939, her various dominion nations were drawn in as well. Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand immediately offered troops in defense of the British Empire. Australian, Indian, South African, and New Zealand troops were to distinguish themselves in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and later in the Pacific and Far East. But Canada’s troops were destined for the United Kingdom itself, originally to defend the islands against the very real threat of a German invasion after the fall of France.

But Germany turned east instead, and Canadian troops languished in England training and preparing for operations that never seemed to materialize. The Canadians, who had earned a reputation as excellent combat soldiers in World War I, were anxious to participate in active operations. One result of this impatience was the assignment of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division to the disastrous raid on the French port town of Dieppe, Operation Jubilee, which savaged that division in August 1942.

To placate the Canadians and bolster his own preferences for operating in the Mediterranean, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill “invited” the Canadian government to commit forces to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. As a result, the Canadian I Corps, consisting of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and supporting units, was sent to the Mediterranean and participated in the invasion of Sicily and the Italian campaign. Later, the 5th Canadian Armored Division would join the Canadian I Corps in Italy.

The decimated 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions remained in England, training for the expected cross-Channel invasion that was to come sooner or later. Soon, another Canadian formation, the 4th Armored Division, was established in England. These were all within the First Canadian Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Andrew McNaughton. In July 1943, General McNaughton advised the commanders involved that the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division should begin assault training for the possible inclusion in the cross-Channel invasion assault force. With the departure of the Canadian I Corps to Italy, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was transferred to the command of the British I Corps for assault training.

In January 1944, the senior officers who would command the cross-Channel attack arrived in England and reviewed the tentative plans for the invasion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the overall commander, and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, the ground forces commander, agreed that the invasion forces needed to be strengthened to ensure the establishment of a beachhead. One of the forces added to the Allied invasion contingent was the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

Attached to the Canadian 3rd Division, Orville Fisher was the only combat artist to come ashore with the Allied assault troops on D-Day. After sprinting from a landing craft and finding cover, he made quick sketches of the action at Juno Beach. These sketches formed the basis of this compelling painting that depicts the explosions of German shells while Canadian troops struggle toward shore amid a tangle of beach obstacles.

Commanding that division was Maj. Gen. Rod F.L. Keller. Born October 2, 1900, he was barely 42 years old when he was promoted from command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade to lead the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. He was the youngest division commander in the Canadian Army at that time. Born in England, he had been raised in British Columbia and had graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1920. He served in Canada’s Permanent Active Militia in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battalion in Winnipeg. His outstanding service led him to be selected for the prestigious British Staff College at Camberley, assuring him of a fast track to promotion to higher rank. Those who served with him later described him as “young and energetic … a forceful leader whose judgment can be relied upon” and “very much a spit and polish officer who cut quite a figure in his battle dress.” Appointed to command the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on September 8, 1942, he had developed a close relationship with his command. His quartermaster general, Lt. Col. Ernest Côté, remembered, “He cared for his division and was sensitive to any slight on its reputation. He was a very proud man and always on top of the division’s training.”

Canadian units followed the British Army’s structure. In the 1944-1945 period, British and Commonwealth infantry divisions consisted of a division headquarters with three infantry brigades under its command. Each brigade contained three infantry battalions, making them similar to the U.S. Army’s three-regiment divisional structure. The division also included a reconnaissance regiment, three field artillery regiments, an antitank regiment, and a light antiaircraft regiment, each of which were equivalent in size to a U.S. Army battalion. Additionally, each division had an engineer component divided into three field companies plus one field park company. The total number of officers (870) and enlisted personnel (17,477) in the British infantry division was 18,347, slightly larger than the standard American infantry division of the period. Armament included 1,262 light machine guns, 40 medium machine guns, 359 mortars, 72 25-pound field artillery guns, 110 antitank guns, and 125 antiaircraft guns. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, though, had recently converted its artillery battalions to the American M7 self-propelled 105mm gun commonly known as the “Priest,” a reference to its pulpit-like machine-gun mount.

This aerial view of Juno Beach on the morning of D-Day reveals landing craft crowding the Normandy coastline as soldiers of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division run the gauntlet of German fire and wade ashore.

The standard maneuver element of both the British and American infantry divisions was the infantry battalion. In the British organization, the infantry battalion consisted of a headquarters company, a support company, and three rifle companies, nearly identical to the American infantry battalion. There were, however, some differences. The headquarters company consisted of a signals platoon and an administrative platoon. The support company, like the heavy weapons company of the American infantry battalion, included a mortar platoon and a carrier-mounted Bren machine-gun platoon. But the British support company also included a platoon each of 6-pound antitank guns and an assault pioneer (engineers) platoon. The rifle companies had three rifle platoons, each consisting of an officer and 36 enlisted personnel and including two light 2-inch mortars, while platoon headquarters included a light machine-gun squad. The division’s 3,347 vehicles included 595 armored tracked carriers, 63 armored cars, and 1,937 trucks of various sizes.

Those independent armored brigades not belonging to an armored division like Brigadier R.A. Wyman’s 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade consisted of three armored regiments and associated support and signal services. They numbered 3,400 officers and men and contained 1,200 vehicles, including 190 medium tanks and 33 light tanks. Nearly all these brigades were armed with the American M4 Sherman medium tank and the American M5 Stuart light tank. Unlike American combat commands, they contained no infantry but were trained to operate in cooperation with infantry divisions. By the time of the invasion, they were also expected to be able to cooperate with armored divisions.

The Canadians also had a further addition for D-Day: the 2nd Royal Marine Assault Squadron. These British Royal Marines were armed with 32 95mm howitzers mounted on Centaur tanks. These guns were capable of both direct and indirect fire support during the critical stages of the landing. The Royal Artillery’s 62nd Antitank Regiment, armed with 48 antitank guns, was also to land with the division on D-Day, adding firepower to the organic 3rd Antitank Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. In total, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had more guns assigned to it on D-Day than any other assaulting formation.

The British Second Army was to assault the Normandy coast alongside the American First Army. The British were assigned three assault beaches, codenamed Gold, Juno, and Sword. Lt. Gen. J.T. Crocker’s I (British) Corps, with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade under its command, was assigned the center beach, Juno. That beach was a five-mile strip of low, flat, sandy countryside. It ran from the town of St. Aubin-sur-Mer in the east to the Château Vaux a mile west of the Seulles River. Two small villages, Berniêres-sur-Mer and Courseulles-sur-Mer, were located within that beachhead area. In places, there were 10-foot-high dunes behind the beaches. The villages along the beach were all protected by concrete seawalls that would prove an obstacle to assault troops. So too would the underwater offshore reef that ran in front of the beach.

Churning surf impedes the progress of Royal Marine Commandos as they struggle ashore at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. These Commandos came ashore at St. Aubin-sur-Mer to capture preassigned objectives.

The assault plan was a basic two-up-front, one-in-reserve plan. Brigadier Harry W. Foster’s 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade would land west of the Seulles River with a battalion landing in front of Courseulles. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, reinforced with a rifle company from the 1st Battalion, Canadian Scottish Regiment, would land at the river, while the Regina Rifle Regiment took on Courseulles. The balance of the 1st Battalion, Canadian Scottish Regiment would be in brigade reserve. These troops would be supported by the tanks of the 1st Hussars (6th Armored) Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade and the 12th and 13th Field (Artillery) Regiments. The adjoining assault brigade, Brigadier K.G. Blackader’s 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, would land The Queen’s Own Regiment of Canada at Berniéres and The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment at St. Aubin. They were to be supported by the Fort Garry Horse (10th Armored Regiment) and the 14th Field (Artillery) Regiment along with the attached 19th Field (Artillery) Regiment. The third battalion of the brigade, Le Régiment de la Chaudiére, would be in reserve.

To cover a wide gap between the Canadian beaches and the adjoining British 3rd Infantry Division on Sword Beach, General Keller was given the attached 48th (Royal Marine) Commando. Their job was to capture the town of Langrune-sur-Mer and then link up with another commando group coming from Sword Beach. Brigadier D.G. Cunningham’s 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade was in reserve, scheduled to come ashore once the beach was secured.

Manning Adolf Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” along Juno Beach was the German 716th Infantry Division. Formed from older personnel in April 1941, the division had been sent directly to the Caen area in Normandy and remained there until D-Day. It consisted of the 726th and 736th Infantry Regiments and the 716th Artillery Battalion along with the usual supporting elements. The Canadians would face the 736th Infantry Regiment and one of these supporting elements, the 441st Ost (East) Battalion made up of Eastern European conscripts and former Russian prisoners of war, volunteers of doubtful loyalty to Germany. All personnel had been trained in coast defense tactics, some for years, but the division was not highly rated by Allied intelligence. It was believed to be overstrength, normally at 13,000, with the attachment of some Ost Battalions.

While his fellow SS panzergrenadiers of the 12th Ss Panzer Division Hitlerjugend watch, a young German soldier receives medical attention for a wound after fighting near Juno Beach. By the end of the Normandy campaign weeks after D-Day, the 12th SS Panzer Division was decimated.

Nevertheless, the least motivated troops sheltered within concrete emplacements and, armed with automatic weapons, mortars, and artillery, had often given a good account of themselves against attacking troops coming at them across open beaches with little or no protection. Allied intelligence had identified at least nine such strongpoints along Juno Beach. These strongpoints were backed up by fieldworks that protected additional machine guns and mortars behind the beach itself. Finally, Allied intelligence reported a first-class assault division, the new 12th SS Panzer (Hitler Youth) Division, within a day’s march of the beach and, even worse, the presence of the experienced and fully operational 21st Panzer Division less than half a day’s travel from Juno Beach. Some of the latter’s artillery command were within supporting distance of Juno Beach on D-Day.

On a cloudy morning with a wind from the west-northwest and moderate waves reaching nearly a foot high, the bombardment of Juno Beach began. As would happen on other beaches, particularly Omaha Beach in the American sector, the aerial bombardment largely missed Juno Beach due to cloud cover and increasing dust from the bombing itself. But planners had foreseen such a possibility and planned what the British command called “drenching fire.” This was to be an overwhelming naval barrage designed to neutralize the German defenses. General Keller would later report that this was “accurate and sustained.” But the naval guns did not have the power to destroy the thick concrete defenses built by the Germans on the beach. Instead, it was hoped that the bombardment would stun those defenders long enough for the Canadian infantry to get close enough to destroy them once the barrage lifted.

Eleven British and Canadian destroyers and several gunboats maintained this fire directed at the identified strongpoints along the beach. The division’s field artillery battalions, aboard landing craft approaching the beach, also fired on the strongpoints as the craft sailed at a steady six knots toward that same beach. Each of the “Priests,” for example, fired 120 rounds over the heads of the infantry while they approached the beach. Again, General Keller believed that they “put on the best shoot that they ever did.”

Despite the impressive sound and fury of the bombardment, little was accomplished. A post-battle assessment by a special British observer group reported, “Except in a few isolated cases where weapons had been put out of action by direct hits through the embrasures (it is not possible to establish the actual time when these were made) the beach defenses were unaffected by the fire preparation. Reports have been received from all except S Beach that the defenses generally were still in action when the fire plan had been completed, and while troops were being landed. Any neutralization during the run in may have been due either to the morale effect of the bombardment or to the fact that until the leading waves were close in shore the defenses could not bear or had insufficient range. All evidence shows that the defenses were NOT destroyed.”

In this still frame from a D-Day newsreel, Canadian soldiers of the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment leave the cover of their LCA (Landing Craft, Assault) at about 8:05 AM on June 6, 1944. These troops came ashore in the Nan Red sector of Juno Beach at La Rive, near the seaside town of St. Aubin-sur-Mer.

Because of tide and beach conditions, the landing times for each assault beach varied slightly. On Juno Beach, the conditions, including the need for sufficient water over the offshore reef to allow the assault craft to sail over it, made the Canadian landing the last scheduled. Even this was delayed somewhat when assault craft arrived late due to weather delays. This caused additional difficulties since these delays allowed the tide to rise, covering many of the beach obstacles planted by the defenders. Yet enemy fire as the landing craft approached the beach was less than feared, largely because most of the German defenses were sited to fire across the beach, not out to sea.

The British Army had a unique organization in the 79th Armored Division, also known as “Hobart’s Funnies” after its commander, General Percy Hobart. This was a collection of specialized armored formations, and included DD (“swimming”) tanks, mine-clearing tanks, flame-throwing tanks, and several other specialized armored units that were attached to British and Canadian units as needed. The British had offered these to the American First Army, and General Omar N. Bradley, its commander, had agreed, but for reasons never explained, the Americans accepted only the DD tanks. On Juno Beach, these “funnies” would prove their worth.

The DD tanks were to be the first to land on Juno Beach, but once again, weather and tide caused some delays. With the rough seas, the naval group carrying the DD tanks with the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade decided not to launch them at the planned 7,000 yards from the beach, and instead launched them from much closer. Major J.S. Duncan, commanding B Squadron, 1st Hussars (6th Armored Regiment) agreed to launch at 4,000 yards from Juno Beach. Nineteen tanks launched, and 14 made it to the correct beach, landing about 15 minutes before the Regina Rifle Regiment. Major W.D. Brooks, commanding A Squadron, had more trouble. His landing craft approached to within 1,500 yards of the beach, but they were disorganized and out of position. One landing craft had its bow door chains shot away after one tank launched. Another landing craft unloaded directly on the beach. Ten other tanks were launched, but only seven reached the shore, where the Royal Winnipeg Rifles welcomed them. In the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade sector, all the tanks were carried ashore by their landing craft. Most of the tanks stopped on the beach, deflated their waterproofing, and then opened fire in support of their infantry.

Major Desmond Crofton’s Company C of the 1st Canadian Scottish Regiment had been attached to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles to extend their front. Landing on the extreme western end of Juno Beach, in Mike Sector, their immediate objective, a concrete casemate housing a 75mm gun, was found to have been knocked out by the bombardment. But the rest of the assault force had no such luck. Companies B and D, Royal Winnipeg Rifles were assigned the Courseulles strongpoint. They soon realized that the bombardment had not touched this position, leaving them no option but to storm the position in a frontal attack. Faced with machine guns and mortars, which opened fire while the Canadians were still 700 yards from the beach, many fell as they struggled to exit the landing craft. Joined by the tanks, the infantry soon cleared the opposition. Then they attacked across the Seulles bridge and cleared out the enemy on a little “island” between the river and the harbor. At the end of the battle, D Company had only one officer, Captain Philip E. Gower, and 26 men left standing. Landing with them in support, the 6th Company, Royal Canadian Engineers lost 26 men during the morning.

This photograph of a damaged structure that once housed German defenders at Juno Beach was taken on June 11, 1944, five days after the successful Canadian assault of Juno Beach on D-Day. This concrete defensive position, disguised to look like a house, was located at Courseulles-sur-Mer.

Companies A and C had meanwhile pushed inland against weak opposition until Company A came to the village of St. Croix-sur-Mer, where machine guns held up its advance. A call to the 1st Hussars (6th Armored) soon eliminated this opposition despite mines and antitank guns, the battalion pushed ahead. By 5 PM, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles reached the village of Creully and consolidated a defensive position for the night.

Across the river, the other half of the Courseulles strongpoint was the responsibility of the Regina Rifle Regiment. In this sector, the tanks had arrived before the infantry as planned they found that the bombardment in this area was as disappointing as across the river. But Lt. Col. F.M. Matheson’s battalion had been well trained for this objective, with each block of the village numbered and studied by the troops that would clear it. Landing shortly after 8 am, Company A ran into fierce opposition when it disembarked on Nan Green Beach directly in front of the strongpoint. The company commander, Major Duncan Grosch, had barely left his landing craft when he was shot in the knee. Men all around him were falling killed or wounded. His radioman was killed at his side. Unable to walk, Major Grosch saw the tide coming in and knew he would drown if he did not move. Struggling, he crawled toward the seawall, but the tide kept rising. Finally, two of his men grabbed him and pulled him to the dubious safety of the seawall.

The company’s second in command, Captain Ronald Shawcross, now took command. As he landed, the six men in front of him were cut down by enemy fire. He grabbed each man and pulled him back into the landing craft to save them from drowning, then ran ashore to join his company. He soon realized that only one mortar was firing and timed the fall of the shots. He sprinted forward in the interval between incoming mortar rounds, reaching the seawall with only four other survivors of his platoon. Now he tried repeatedly to attract the attention of the supporting tanks, which were firing randomly and unaware of Company A’s plight. They failed to respond, and the Reginas remained pinned down on the beach, kept from moving inland by enemy pillboxes shielded by a double apron of barbed wire and machine guns.

The Canadian landings on Juno Beach achieved significant progress inland from the beachhead on D-Day however, major Allied objectives such as the crossroads town of Caen proved much more difficult to capture.

One of Company A’s platoon leaders, Lieutenant William Grayson, found a gap in the wire and maneuvered to the rear of a house where he found himself behind the enemy. But here too, he was blocked by barbed wire and a machine gun. But like Captain Shawcross, he soon realized that the machine gun was firing in some sort of time sequence. Once he figured out the schedule, Lieutenant Grayson raced forward, only to be caught in the barbed wire. As he waited for the machine gun to finish him off, nothing happened. Realizing that the gun crew must be changing ammunition belts or clearing a jammed gun, he tore himself free and raced to the concrete pillbox where he tossed a grenade inside, eliminating the opposition. The survivors fled, followed by Lieutenant Grayson. They led him to the next fortification, an 88mm gun that was also holding up the Canadians. He followed the fleeing Germans into the gun position armed only with his pistol and was greeted by 35 enemy soldiers with their hands raised.

With the machine-gun and antitank cannon out of operation, Captain Shawcross had his men jump the barbed wire and begin a deadly race through the extensive German trench system, clearing it before moving on to clear the town itself. Grayson had to later fight his way back to the beach to eliminate infiltrating Germans who had manned the abandoned machine-gun positions he had overrun earlier. For his gallantry, Lieutenant Grayson would receive the Military Cross. At the end of the day, Company A had only 28 men left of its original 120.

Although the Regina Rifle Regiment did not appreciate it at the time, the tanks of the 1st Hussars (6th Armored) had been busy on Nan Green as well. Sergeant Leo Gariépy landed and immediately fired several rounds into a pillbox. He then moved 50 yards inland and repeated his action, finally knocking it out. He then attacked a series of machine-gun positions that “were playing merry hell along the water line.” Other tanks knocked out a 50mm gun that was later found to have fired more than 200 rounds before being silenced. A nearby 88mm gun position suffered the same fate.

On the hunt for deadly German snipers concealed in the surrounding buildings, Canadian soldiers proceed warily through a French coastal town in Normandy. The blazing hulk of a Sherman tank destroyed in earlier fighting provides a bit of concealment.

Even while the infantry and armor struggled to clear the beach, the Royal Canadian Engineers were trying to bridge an antitank ditch in front of Courseulles that prevented the tanks from getting into the town. Using their specialized armored vehicles, they worked under constant enemy fire. They also came under fire from German troops who, after Lieutenant Grayson had cleared the enemy trenches the first time, infiltrated back into them and resumed fire on the beach. Major J.V. Love’s Company D suffered the most from this fire: its commander was killed, and dozens of men were cut down as they exited the landing craft onto the beach. In fact, the company lost two landing craft to mined obstacles in the surf before even reaching shore. Lieutenant H.L. Jones reorganized the 49 survivors of D Company and moved to Courseulles, where they joined Company C, which had come ashore with little difficulty.

Even the brigade’s reserve, Lt. Col. F.N. Cabeldu’s 1st Battalion, Canadian Scottish Regiment found resistance still heavy when they came ashore. Mortar fire held them up for a while, and one company had to wait for an exit to be built before it could leave the beach. On the way to its objective, St. Croix-sur-Mer, it picked up its detached Company C and then pushed ahead against machine-gun and mortar fire. Passing through the Regina Rifles, the battalion continued advancing until the order came to halt for the night.

Struck by an Allied bomb on D-Day just moments earlier, a building burns furiously and belches smoke in the background of this photo depicting German prisoners captured by Canadian forces during the heavy fighting at Juno Beach.

The Royal Marine Centaurs had little business on the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s beaches. Some were lost at sea, and others came ashore late. They answered calls for assistance, knocking out several enemy pillboxes and field positions during the day. Behind them, the plans for clearing beach obstacles and building beach exits were seriously delayed. The tide rose faster than anticipated and came up higher than expected. The Army engineers and naval beach parties were forced to wait out the rising tide before accomplishing their tasks.

On the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s beaches, Lt. Col. J.G. Spragge’s Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada landed on Nan White Beach. Company B landed directly in front of the Berniéres strongpoint and lost 65 men in the first few minutes ashore. Because of the delay in getting the tanks ashore, no armor support was immediately available. Lieutenant W.G. Herbert and two enlisted men attacked the most troublesome pillbox with grenades and Sten gun fire, knocking it out. As the battalion moved inland, it came under mortar fire that caused several casualties, in addition to those lost when mined obstacles exploded against their landing craft on the run to the beach.

The tanks of Lt. Col. R.E.A. Morton’s Fort Garry Horse (10th Armored Regiment) had been divided among the two assault battalions of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. The regiment’s B Squadron had been assigned to support the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, while C Squadron supported Lt. Col. D.B. Buell’s North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. Although Colonel Morton would report that his tanks landed alongside the infantry, the infantry commander’s reports indicate that the infantry landed first, followed shortly by the supporting tank squadrons. Since the tanks were carried directly to the beach and not launched at sea, they all arrived safely, although one landing craft missed the beach and landed at a distance.

After their successful landing at Juno Beach on D-Day, Canadian troops and tanks advanced into Normandy, liberating small towns such as St. Lambert. The Canadian performance during the D-Day operation proved outstanding.

Company A of the Queen’s Own landed west of the strongpoint under mortar fire, but resistance was light, and the troops moved inland. The reserve companies, C and D, suffered somewhat from mines attached to obstacles on their way into the beach, but this did not impede their progress, and by the end of the day they had captured the battalion’s objective, Anguerny. On the beach, the 5th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers suffered casualties from two 50mm antitank guns within the Berniéres strongpoint before the infantry captured the guns.

Next in line along the beachfront, Lt. Col. Buell’s North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment found that the St. Aubin strongpoint “appeared not to have been touched” by the bombardment. Reducing that strongpoint fell to Company B, supported by Centaurs and Armored Vehicles, Royal Engineers (AVRE), who used their heavy mortars to clear the way. “The cooperation of infantry and tanks was excellent, and the strongpoint was gradually reduced,” states the official Canadian history. Enemy holdouts continued sniping at succeeding assault waves, however, until 6 that evening. Company A, landing alongside, suffered casualties from booby-trapped houses but otherwise made good progress off the beach. Reserve Companies C and D met only light opposition and were soon inland.

In the initial landing, Lieutenant M.M. Keith led his platoon of the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment ashore and rushed toward the seawall for protection from enemy fire. As they ran, three noncommissioned officers stepped on mines and were killed. Realizing the seawall was heavily mined and a deathtrap for his platoon, Lieutenant Keith veered toward a gap in the enemy barbed wire. Private Gordon Ellis shoved a Bangalore torpedo into the wire and ducked for cover. The resulting explosion also detonated a buried mine, and the force of the combined explosion killed Private Ellis and severely wounded Lieutenant Keith. Lance Corporal Gerry Cleveland, followed by the rest of Company A, dashed through the gap and began clearing the fortified houses beyond. Rifles, grenades, bayonets, and Bren guns were used to clear the enemy from St. Aubin.

A German mortar attack halts the progress of a column of Canadian infantrymen and Commandos on June 6, 1944. Shrapnel from exploding shells was deadly, and the troops have crouched along the roadside seeking cover.

Company B encountered a major concrete emplacement with a 50mm gun, machine guns, and 81mm mortars that commanded the beach. Steel doors barred entrance, and every conceivable approach was covered by fire. Using a series of tunnels, the Germans could easily move from position to position without exposing themselves to injury. Lieutenant Charles Richardson’s platoon was barely out of the surf before they encountered this monster. With only small arms and two small mortars, the platoon was ill equipped to tackle the Germans. Lieutenant Richardson decided to outflank the position and gain safety in the houses beyond the emplacement. Lieutenant Gerry Moran had led his platoon to the seawall but found that the massive enemy emplacement had a direct line of fire down the beach, the seawall exposed to its gunfire. Seeing Companies C and D about to land, he stood in the open shouting orders to his men to get off the beach. He lasted but a moment until a sniper shot him in the arm. As he was falling a mortar round exploded nearby, giving him further wounds. Tanks were needed, but none had yet landed in this area.

The Fort Garry (10th Armored) Horse’s C Squadron soon answered the call for help. The squadron had already lost four tanks—two drowned in the surf, another lost its crew to snipers, and the fourth was set afire by an antitank shell. Undaunted, squadron commander Major William Bray formed up his 16 remaining tanks along the beach while he waited for the engineers to clear a path through a minefield. But Major Bray’s patience soon lapsed, and he led his command into the minefield, losing three tanks to but bringing the rest into St. Aubin and providing much needed armor support to the struggling North Shore (New Brunswick) infantrymen. An AVRE “dustbin” tank carrying a short-barreled 12-inch demolition gun lobbed several of its 40-pound shaped charges at the concrete emplacement, while the North Shore (New Brunswick) Infantry flanked the position, shooting any German who showed himself.

The 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s reserve unit, Lt. Col. J.E.G.P. Mathieu’s Le Régiment de la Chaudiére, suffered casualties even before it reached the beach. As one company commander described it, “The LCAs of the 529th flotilla (HMCS Prince David) struck a very bad patch of obstacles and mortar fire on Nan White, and all foundered before touching down. The troops, however, discarded their equipment and swam for the shore. They still had their knives and were quite willing to fight with this weapon.” The battalion reorganized just beyond the village of Berniéres, where the French Canadians surprised the locals by speaking to them in French. Supported by Squadron A of the Fort Gary Horse (10th Armored Regiment), the battalion pushed inland, capturing some enemy gun positions as they moved.

On the beach, the Royal Marine Centaurs supported the 48th Royal Marine Commando as it cleared the village of Langrune-sur-Mer to the east of the beachhead. They also were assigned targets in St. Aubin. Here, as in the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s sector, the tide came in too fast and too high for the engineers to complete their work of clearing the beach obstacles and exits. The high seawall in front of Berniéres delayed clearing one of the exits until late in the day. Before dark, the four planned exits had been opened, although work on them continued. An AVRE placed a small box girder bridge over the seawall at Berniéres, enabling that exit to be used. Flail tanks, equipped with chains on a rolling bar in front, were used to clear routes through minefields.

While the assault brigades were clearing their respective beaches, Brigadier D.G. “Ben” Cunningham’s 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade circled offshore waiting for orders to land. These orders came at 10:50 am. Because of the untouched beach obstacles and cleared exits, it was decided to land the brigade over the Nan White beaches, behind the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. Assault craft that had been waiting off Nan Red Beach and taking casualties from the St. Aubin strongpoint were diverted to Nan White. Initially, the brigade waited due to overcrowding on the beach, but shortly afterward the assault battalions landed, only to be delayed once more by overcrowding. Lieutenant Colonel C. Perch’s North Nova Scotia Highlanders could not get moving until after 4 that afternoon. They were supported by the Sherbrooke Fusiliers (27th Armored) Regiment under Lt. Col. M.B.K. Gordon. Lt. Col. G.H. Christiansen’s Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry Highlanders followed, as did Lt. Col. F.M. Griffith’s Highland Light Infantry of Canada.

The leading landing craft commander thought things “looked pretty chaotic. It was apparent that the planned clearance of beach obstacles had not been carried out.” Carefully weaving his way through obstacles with unexploded mines on them and avoiding sunken and damaged landing craft, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders had been safely landed, even though several of the Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI) ships were severely damaged. Ninety landing craft, one in four, had been damaged or destroyed by mines, obstacles, or enemy gunfire. By the time the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade had finished unloading, the incoming tide had narrowed the actual beach to about 25 yards.

As the Highland Light Infantry struggled ashore carrying their bicycles and equipment, they found the beach “jammed [with] troops with bicycles, vehicles and tanks all trying to move towards the exits. Movement was frequently brought to a standstill when a vehicle up ahead became stuck. It was an awful shambles and not at all like the organized rehearsals we had had. More than one uttered a fervent prayer of thanksgiving that our air umbrella was so strong. One gun ranged on the beach would have done untold damage, but the 9th CIB landed without a shot fired on them.”

A Canadian Sherman flail tank, one of General Percy Hobart’s Funnies, nicknamed the Crab and fitted with chains to detonate land mines, moves forward in Normandy, clearing the way for armor and infantry to follow.

The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s ultimate objective was Carpiquet Airfield outside Caen. The North Nova Scotia Regiment boarded the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers (27th Armored) Regiment and set off for that objective. Their late start was compounded when they met resistance at Colomby-sur-Thaon, which further delayed the advance. Le Régiment de la Chaudiéres was also held up by direct fire from an 88mm antitank gun. The supporting artillery could not locate the gun, so it was left to the infantry to overcome the opposition. Lieutenant Walter Moisan led his Number 8 Platoon of Company A to attack. They got to within 200 yards of the gun when German machine guns held up the advance. Lieutenant Moisan led his men into a thicket that offered some concealment about 30 yards from the enemy gun. Accompanying a section led by Corporal Bruno Vennes, he advanced to take the gun with rifle fire when an enemy bullet ignited a white phosphorous grenade attached to his web belt. The lieutenant’s clothing was set aflame, and he suffered severe burns but refused medical treatment until the gun was secured. Corporal Vennes and his men raced into the enemy trenches and began a hand-to-hand fight, which ended when Corporal Vennes killed the gun crew with rifle fire. Lieutenant Moisan received the Military Cross and Corporal Vennes the Military Medal for the afternoon’s work.

By this time night was approaching, and it was too late to continue the advance. The Canadians settled into night defensive positions. On the beach, General Keller had come ashore with his advanced division headquarters and set up in a small orchard near Berniéres. The Canadians had achieved a lodgment with the landings at Juno Beach, although the battle to secure it would take several more days and require the defeat of several strong German armored counterattacks.

It is well known that the deadliest of the five invasion beaches on D-Day was Omaha, where the Americans suffered heavy casualties. But what is not so well known is that the next deadliest beach was Juno. Casualties sustained on the beach alone totaled 1,204 Canadian and British soldiers, and they increased as the troops moved inland. Of the five invasion beaches, the North Americans suffered on and secured the two most heavily defended on D-Day.


This ‘demi-brigade’ is the Foreign Legion’s World War II pride

Posted On September 12, 2019 02:53:04

The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.

From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.

Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.

The 13th was formed in 1940 as a light mountain unit to fight in the Winter War, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Winter War ended before the 13th could get into the fight, but an invasion of Norway by Germany soon followed, so the 13th went to fight them instead.

The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.

While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.

The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.

France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.

But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.

It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.

They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.

The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.

The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.

The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.

Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.

Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.

They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.

The 13th was then sent to Bir Hacheim, where approximately 3,700 men faced about 37,000 attackers. The Italian armored commander leading the first assault was assured by Rommel himself that the Allied soldiers, mostly French forces, would fall within 15 minutes.

Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.

Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.

They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.

During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.

The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.

While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.

The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.

Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.

13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or 󈨀s.

(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)

The Legion wasn’t called up for the D-Day invasion, but it was for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, the lesser-known, second amphibious landing in France — this time, in the south. They landed in Provence and made their way through Toulon, Hyeres, Avignon, Lyon, Autun, Dijon, Besancon, and Vosges, slowly pushing the Nazis out and liberating the French people.

Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.

It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.

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Quiz questions i got wrong

(1) Air CIRCULATES outward between the top of the thunderstorm and converges near the ground.

(2) Air SPREADS OUT horizontally at the top of the thunderstorm.

(3) Sunlight ABSORBED at ground adds energy to boundary layer air.

(4) Air continues to RISE within the cloud, releasing latent heat.

(5) At the TOP OF THE STORM, the updraft hits the base of the stratosphere.

A. We are now capable of monitoring actual plate motions in real time.

B. With careful geological work, we can determine the times and magnitudes of earthquakes that occurred before written records were kept.

C. Different soil types respond differently to seismic waves.

D. Building behavior in response to actual ground motion can be very well characterized.

A. firmly fix the building's base to the ground

B. increase the depth of the building foundation

D. remove all installed dampers

A. Shorter buildings collapse more easily in a lower frequency earthquake and higher buildings collapse more easily in a higher frequency earthquake.

B. Both high and short buildings collapse easily in low frequency earthquakes.

C. Shorter buildings collapse more easily in a high frequency earthquake and higher buildings collapse more easily in a low frequency earthquake.

D. No relationship exists between building height and earthquake frequency.


Hunt class destroy fires on the D-Day beaches - History

D Day Landings
Gold Beach
D Field C/JX319894
H.M.S. Eglinton

My memory of the D-Day invasion begins three weeks before June 6th 1944. I had joined my ship H.M.S. Eglinton a Hunt Class Destroyer in 1942 and spent my war service on her until demobilisation in 1946.
Eglinton was one of many Hunt Class Destroyers in the 16th Destroyer flotilla.
Early in May 1944 we joined a convoy of merchant ships escorting them through the English Channel and left the escort and entered Portland Bill where we remained anchored for the next few weeks. During the period we witnessed a huge build up of merchant ships, army invasion craft etc. We were aware of a forthcoming attack, but during these few weeks of waiting we were not allowed any contact or given any information. This resulted in a feeling of boredom, but at the same time exciting anticipation! On the late evening of June 5th the whole ship's company were 'stood to' and a printed document issued to all of us bearing Dwight Eisenhower's proclamation of invasion.
We left harbour at dusk and took position as escort to hundreds of ships and craft as far as the eye could see! Columns and columns of ships! As the night drew on we could hear and see huge waves or aircraft passing overhead and the adrenaline started running as we knew this was it!
As we approached the Normandy coast we left the escort and took up our allotted attack positions. H.M.S. Eglinton was a destroyer with a very small draught as were all the Hunts and we were able to get close inshore. We were the first ship to open fire (according to a report in 'Navy News' at a later date). As we opened fire all the naval ships fired at their allotted targets and we could hear the shells of the heavy guns from the cruisers and battleships roaring over the thunder of our own guns.
Whilst this continued, the landing craft, tank landing craft, rocket barges etc. made their landings. The crescendo of noise and the vigorous movements of all involved are indescribable.
As the morning progressed we were firing our guns on prescribed positions from the spotters ashore. Rocket barges were pounding the beaches - serried rows of 60Lb shells fired en masse onto the beaches. From our observation we could literally see the trajectory of shells as they arched over before striking their targets. At one such strike a gaggle of five spitfires were flying across the area, when another rocket barge fired its shells and the end plane of the spitfire formation exploded in a puff of smoke, hit by one of the shells.
At approximately 11am we started protective escorts to the outer flanks of the invasion area. Whilst patrolling we were subjected to a torpedo attack and took evasive action, but unfortunately another Hunt Destroyer was hit and sunk a few miles from us.
Late on June 6th we took on board several badly wounded and shell-shocked troops to transfer them to hospital ships. We then returned for replenishments and for many weeks after we were employed in constant patrols and skirmished including the escorting of the formations of 'weird vessels' to form the 'Mulberry Harbour' and the Pluto (pipeline under the ocean). which is another story after D Day.

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Juno Beach: Canada's Bloody Sacrifice on D-Day

It is well known that the deadliest of the five invasion beaches on D-Day was Omaha, where the Americans suffered heavy casualties. But what is not so well known is that the next deadliest beach was Juno.

To cover a wide gap between the Canadian beaches and the adjoining British 3rd Infantry Division on Sword Beach, General Keller was given the attached 48th (Royal Marine) Commando. Their job was to capture the town of Langrune-sur-Mer and then link up with another commando group coming from Sword Beach. Brigadier D.G. Cunningham’s 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade was in reserve, scheduled to come ashore once the beach was secured.

Manning Adolf Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” along Juno Beach was the German 716th Infantry Division. Formed from older personnel in April 1941, the division had been sent directly to the Caen area in Normandy and remained there until D-Day. It consisted of the 726th and 736th Infantry Regiments and the 716th Artillery Battalion along with the usual supporting elements. The Canadians would face the 736th Infantry Regiment and one of these supporting elements, the 441st Ost (East) Battalion made up of Eastern European conscripts and former Russian prisoners of war, volunteers of doubtful loyalty to Germany. All personnel had been trained in coast defense tactics, some for years, but the division was not highly rated by Allied intelligence. It was believed to be overstrength, normally at 13,000, with the attachment of some Ost Battalions.

Nevertheless, the least motivated troops sheltered within concrete emplacements and, armed with automatic weapons, mortars, and artillery, had often given a good account of themselves against attacking troops coming at them across open beaches with little or no protection. Allied intelligence had identified at least nine such strongpoints along Juno Beach. These strongpoints were backed up by fieldworks that protected additional machine guns and mortars behind the beach itself. Finally, Allied intelligence reported a first-class assault division, the new 12th SS Panzer (Hitler Youth) Division, within a day’s march of the beach and, even worse, the presence of the experienced and fully operational 21st Panzer Division less than half a day’s travel from Juno Beach. Some of the latter’s artillery command were within supporting distance of Juno Beach on D-Day.

On a cloudy morning with a wind from the west-northwest and moderate waves reaching nearly a foot high, the bombardment of Juno Beach began. As would happen on other beaches, particularly Omaha Beach in the American sector, the aerial bombardment largely missed Juno Beach due to cloud cover and increasing dust from the bombing itself. But planners had foreseen such a possibility and planned what the British command called “drenching fire.” This was to be an overwhelming naval barrage designed to neutralize the German defenses. General Keller would later report that this was “accurate and sustained.” But the naval guns did not have the power to destroy the thick concrete defenses built by the Germans on the beach. Instead, it was hoped that the bombardment would stun those defenders long enough for the Canadian infantry to get close enough to destroy them once the barrage lifted.

Eleven British and Canadian destroyers and several gunboats maintained this fire directed at the identified strongpoints along the beach. The division’s field artillery battalions, aboard landing craft approaching the beach, also fired on the strongpoints as the craft sailed at a steady six knots toward that same beach. Each of the “Priests,” for example, fired 120 rounds over the heads of the infantry while they approached the beach. Again, General Keller believed that they “put on the best shoot that they ever did.”

Despite the impressive sound and fury of the bombardment, little was accomplished. A post-battle assessment by a special British observer group reported, “Except in a few isolated cases where weapons had been put out of action by direct hits through the embrasures (it is not possible to establish the actual time when these were made) the beach defenses were unaffected by the fire preparation. Reports have been received from all except S Beach that the defenses generally were still in action when the fire plan had been completed, and while troops were being landed. Any neutralization during the run in may have been due either to the morale effect of the bombardment or to the fact that until the leading waves were close in shore the defenses could not bear or had insufficient range. All evidence shows that the defenses were NOT destroyed.”

Because of tide and beach conditions, the landing times for each assault beach varied slightly. On Juno Beach, the conditions, including the need for sufficient water over the offshore reef to allow the assault craft to sail over it, made the Canadian landing the last scheduled. Even this was delayed somewhat when assault craft arrived late due to weather delays. This caused additional difficulties since these delays allowed the tide to rise, covering many of the beach obstacles planted by the defenders. Yet enemy fire as the landing craft approached the beach was less than feared, largely because most of the German defenses were sited to fire across the beach, not out to sea.

The British Army had a unique organization in the 79th Armored Division, also known as “Hobart’s Funnies” after its commander, General Percy Hobart. This was a collection of specialized armored formations, and included DD (“swimming”) tanks, mine-clearing tanks, flame-throwing tanks, and several other specialized armored units that were attached to British and Canadian units as needed. The British had offered these to the American First Army, and General Omar N. Bradley, its commander, had agreed, but for reasons never explained, the Americans accepted only the DD tanks. On Juno Beach, these “funnies” would prove their worth.

The DD tanks were to be the first to land on Juno Beach, but once again, weather and tide caused some delays. With the rough seas, the naval group carrying the DD tanks with the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade decided not to launch them at the planned 7,000 yards from the beach, and instead launched them from much closer. Major J.S. Duncan, commanding B Squadron, 1st Hussars (6th Armored Regiment) agreed to launch at 4,000 yards from Juno Beach. Nineteen tanks launched, and 14 made it to the correct beach, landing about 15 minutes before the Regina Rifle Regiment. Major W.D. Brooks, commanding A Squadron, had more trouble. His landing craft approached to within 1,500 yards of the beach, but they were disorganized and out of position. One landing craft had its bow door chains shot away after one tank launched. Another landing craft unloaded directly on the beach. Ten other tanks were launched, but only seven reached the shore, where the Royal Winnipeg Rifles welcomed them. In the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade sector, all the tanks were carried ashore by their landing craft. Most of the tanks stopped on the beach, deflated their waterproofing, and then opened fire in support of their infantry.

Major Desmond Crofton’s Company C of the 1st Canadian Scottish Regiment had been attached to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles to extend their front. Landing on the extreme western end of Juno Beach, in Mike Sector, their immediate objective, a concrete casemate housing a 75mm gun, was found to have been knocked out by the bombardment. But the rest of the assault force had no such luck. Companies B and D, Royal Winnipeg Rifles were assigned the Courseulles strongpoint. They soon realized that the bombardment had not touched this position, leaving them no option but to storm the position in a frontal attack. Faced with machine guns and mortars, which opened fire while the Canadians were still 700 yards from the beach, many fell as they struggled to exit the landing craft. Joined by the tanks, the infantry soon cleared the opposition. Then they attacked across the Seulles bridge and cleared out the enemy on a little “island” between the river and the harbor. At the end of the battle, D Company had only one officer, Captain Philip E. Gower, and 26 men left standing. Landing with them in support, the 6th Company, Royal Canadian Engineers lost 26 men during the morning.

Companies A and C had meanwhile pushed inland against weak opposition until Company A came to the village of St. Croix-sur-Mer, where machine guns held up its advance. A call to the 1st Hussars (6th Armored) soon eliminated this opposition despite mines and antitank guns, the battalion pushed ahead. By 5 PM, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles reached the village of Creully and consolidated a defensive position for the night.


'Tally Ho!', Issue No.16, the newsletter of H.M.S. Goathland, undated but presumably dating from around 22.6.1944. It contains short news articles about the progress of the Normandy campaign to date, plus some short humorous accounts. This ship was a Hunt class destroyer and headquarters ship for the assault forces on Sword Beach on D-Day. This is part of a group of eight original newsletters.

'Tally Ho!', Issue No.6, the newsletter of H.M.S. Goathland, dated 12.6.1944. It contains short news articles about the progress of the Normandy campaign to date, plus some short humorous accounts. This ship was a Hunt class destroyer and headquarters ship for the assault forces on Sword Beach on D-Day. This is part of a group of eight original newsletters.

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