E Company – 2nd Battalion – 116th Infantry Regiment
After Action Report
29th Infantry Division – June 1944 – Battle of Normandy
E company arrived on schedule on the beach but was unloaded about 1100-1400 yards to the left of their objective. The assault wave was contained in six landing crafts, the headquarters section was divided between the assault sections. A machine gun platoon was to land in support of this company at H+30 but contact was never established between the two units on D-Day. This company was the first infantry to land on this section of the beach but found that there were already four DD tanks there when they arrived. Several of these tanks were knocked out immediately, but one tank moved up and down the beach firing for some little time.
About a hundred yards from shore the boats received small arms and artillery fire. There were no casualties until the boats reached the beaches.
The 1st section lit a sand bank about a hundred yards from the beach. The men jumped into neck deep water, wading and swimming to shore. There was no fire on the men in the water but as they hit the beach mortar and small fire came their way. It was from two to three hundred yards to the protective high water mark on the beach. Only one man was hit on the beach and then he was within fifty yards of the bank. A medic crawled out and pulled him in.
The second section landed fifty to sixty yards left of the first section. The coxswain was an experienced man and announced in advance that it was going to be a dry landing – which it was. The men deployed on the beach and headed for the high water mark. After the unit was deployed an artillery shell hit among them, several wounding the BAR man, Pvt. Alex Bereski, and stunning several others. The stunned men quickly recovered and moved on. Bereski was left on the beach, but some of the men believe that a medic moved him forward.
The 3rd section came in close to the shore. Just as the bow touched the bottom an artillery shell struck the right side of the boat near the front. The shell penetrated the hull end exploded inside of the craft. Three men were killed and three men severely wounded. Two of severely wounded men later reached the beach. The explosion blew the ramp open on the boat but the men were frozen by the effect of the explosion. Suddenly the men came to life and jumped from the front and also over the sides. A machine gun sprayed the ramp wounding several men. Pvt. Herbert Kaulman was hit in the leg while yet on the ramp and was carried under the boat by a wave. The equipment of several of the men caused them to flounder and the wounded had a very difficult time getting to the shore. When they reached the beach they were not safe for the fire continued and the tide rose very rapidly. About 24 or 25 men made the sea wall, at least five or six of these were wounded.
(The 4th section was not represented. Little if any data can be given about them.)
The 5th section beached 25 yards from the shore. There were no casualties in the water but machine gun, sniper and artillery fire fell on the beach. The first men ran all the way to the wall, the center group of the section caught the bulk of the fire and had many casualties. The last men dropped on the beach and worked themselves forward in several bounds. At least five men were killed on the beach including the company commander. A number of men were wounded. About fifteen men reached the protective wall, two or three of these died soon after.
The company commander, Captain Lawrence A. Madill, was wounded in the trip across the beach. He found that Pfc. Walter Masterly was the only remaining man of the mortar squad and tho he had the mortar he had no ammunition. Masterly volunteered to go back on the beach and salvage some ammunition but the Captain told him to set up his gun while he went for the ammunition. He picked up the ammunition but on his return trip he was hit twice gun bursts and went down. His last words were, “Senior non com take the men off the beach.”
The 6th section landed before “E” company of the 16th Infantry but in the same area. The boat struck a sand bar about fifty yards from shore but the ramp would not go down. The men had to push against it with their shoulders to get it to go down at all. Immediately mortar and small arms fire struck the boat. Pvt. Charles Comancho was blinded by the fire and drowned. The flame thrower was so heavily loaded that he had to be helped out of the water. Three or four men were wounded in the water and several were killed on the beach. Almost every man had his clothing and equipment torn by the fragments and bullets. Only 18 to 22 men reached the high water line, but all of these men were the unwounded.
The 1st and 2nd sections were landed closely together. The 3rd was alone. The 4th, 5th, and 6th soon made a juncture.
Lieutenant James E. Knight took charge of the first two sections. An LCVP tried to give overhead fire with machine gun but due to the swell it often fired into our men. Several were wounded in this way.
To the left was an enemy pill box. Sgt Maurice Hatchett fired two rounds into it from his bazooka. Despite the fact that the ranger was three hundred yards, these rounds completely silenced the box. Later some men went up to this position and found that it contained a 75 mm gun. After about ten minutes Pfc Porter Boggis started cutting the wire in a gap in the sea wall. The wire was a single strand type and caused little delay. Thos several men were wounded on the beach, approximately 55 men crouched low and ran thru the beach in the wire. Some 75 yards beyond the wire was an AT ditch which the men used for cover. One man was killed by MG fire while still in the fitch but the men could not advance as a heavy mine filed blocked their path. An hour passed then Pvt. Kerber went forward to attempt to blow a path thru the filed with a bangalore torpedo. Unfortunately, he set off a mine and was killed. Shortly after this a strand of wire was found and the men realized from their previous training that this marked the boundary of the field. The BAR gave covering fire while the men went forward by leaps and bounds. There was little trouble until the crest of the hill was reached. This was about 0930 hours. Here the group met sniper and machine gun fire. Sgt. Lionel Patterson exposed himself while getting observation for his mortar. He knocked out two machine guns. For this he was awarded the DSC. It was now about 1030 hours.
While this fire on the machine guns was going on G Company of the 16th Infantry came along. They had a group of 50 to 55 men and two Pole prisoners who were leading them thru the mine fields. This contingent from E company of the 116th joined the group from the 16th and remained with them for the next three days.
The 3rd section was badly scattered by the time they reached the high water point. The fire on the beach was so intense that no attempt was made by the men to close together. As other units came to the beach the casualties began to mount. It was felt that the first wave had an easier time of it than the succeeding waves. Part of the 16th Infantry landed at this point. The section made no real attempt to get off the beach until 1100 hours. A few men went to the right to contact any other section which they might find. They met no one so returned and went slightly to the left. Here they met a small group of the 16th Infantry, probably E or F company, and went toward the hill. They encountered wire en mines but fortunately no casualties occurred. Some sniper fire came from the right. The men from the 16th took the initiative and the men of the 116th were glad to follow soldiers who had combat experience and who “who seemed know what they were doing.” The top of the hill was reached about 1200 hours. Some casualties occurred at the crest of the hill as one man carelessly handled a hand grenade. Here the section reorganized with a few strays which they found. There were three officers present from the company, Lieutenants Ferguson, James Corry, and Evermonte Huffman. The group then started to advance inland in single file, about twenty yards between men. Soon they received mortar fire from their right front. When stopped all men fell flat, remaining about thirty minutes to allow a naval fire party to bring fire on the mortars. After the naval fire the mortars were not heard from. About 1300 the column moved on a right oblique for about 150 yards to the top of small rise. Here they received artillery fire which the men believe was from an 88. They ducked a ditch and remained for two hours. Friendly tank were heard on their right flank and as they later advanced about four tanks were seen. The men continued to try to find their company. About 2000 hours a group of the company composed of the 4th, 5th, and 6th sections was met. At this time they were still no over 2500 yards from the beach, but as to the exact or approximate location, none of the men know.
Immediately after the 6th section reached the high water line they tried to get forward to the hill. Sgt. Marcus Little put five bangalore torpedos into a double apron wire entanglement and blew a hole about six feet wide thru it. Just as the gap was opened, a round of mortar shell fell in the center of the gap. Although no one was injured, there was a good deal hesitation to move forward. Sgt. James Herndon went first and the others followed. The wire was near the foot of the hill but on the right of the section was a pill box. Two rounds were fired at this by the bazooka but missed. An artillery shell landed in the group of men at this time and one man was wounded. The men then decided to move in behind the emplacement to a higher level of the hill. When behind the position it was found to be much more extensive than previously imaged. There were several machine guns, and anti-tank gun, and a mortar position. The mortar position was the nearest so Sgt. Amos Buchanan killed one man with an M1 shot, the other man was killed with a hand grenade. Other groups were by this time working on the position from below. Together it was soon finished off.
The 6th section tried to advance further up the hill but six men were killed by sniper and machine gun fire. Later a naval fire control party ordered the group to get off the hill as a naval bombardment was going to take place. The men returned to the beach and here met the 4th and 5th sections. They learned that the 4th and 5th sections of the 116th plus men from the 16th had been the ones who fired on the enemy emplacement from the bottom.
On the beach the men of the 116th particularly noticed and efficient little hospital which the 16th Infantry medics had set up. It was carrying for all of the wounded which were on the beach.
The beach was congested with the men. Naval, engineering, and armored were taking cover. The three sections joined a group behind E, 16th Infantry and continued to the top of the hill. The men were emphatic that they followed the leadership of the 16th, who took the initiative. These three sections remained with the 16th for the remainder of the day, and about dark were joined by the 3rd section. At this time they had between fifty and sixty men.
This story ties in with that given by F Company, 16th Infantry. The enemy strong point was the same as mentioned in the account of the 5th section of F, 16th. The men of the 5th section 116th were those which operated with the 5th of the 16th. Neither group knew the exact identify of the other, but the stories of the two, plus descriptions of each other is identical.
Statement of the Detachment of H Company 116th Infantry which was to support E, 116th.
This detachment came in to the beach at H+30 but failed to find the unit it was to support. The detachment consisted of 38 men in two boats with one machine gun section and one squad of mortars. The men reached the high water line alright but here the machine gun sergeant was killed and the detachments officer, Lieutenant Saracin was wounded. The detachment remained on the beach for three or four hours. One gun opened fire on an open emplacement on the hill but the results are unknow. Later this group moved down the beach to the left, past the hospital set up by the 16th Infantry. They climbed the hill thru and exit opened by the 16th. They joined in firing on an enemy machine gun and mortar position. As C, 16th went by toward St. Laurent sur Mer the detachment joined them but returned to 2nd battalion, 116th Infantry that evening about 1600-1700.