I Company – 3rd Battalion – 116th Infantry Regiment
After Action Report
29th Infantry Division – June 1944 – Battle of Normandy
The company consisted of two assault sections and four boat teams. The boats were so heavy loaded that the men could not sit down during the trip. The men felt there would have been fewer casualties if they had not been so overloaded. One man at the critique pointed out that he had to carry three boxes (750 rounds) of machine gun ammunition in addition to his normal load. The men were sea sick as they hit the beach.
The time of landing was originally scheduled as 0620 for this company but was changed to 0720. The landing was made correctly for this new schedule but the craft came in about a thousand yards to the left of the designated area. The boats were closely grouped, about fifty to seventy-five yards apart. Perhaps a hundred yards from shore all craft came under some machine gun and rifle fire, but there seems to have been little artillery fire at this time. The beach was already crowded as the men arrived. The beach engineers were clearing mines and obstacles despite the fire, and Company G was on the beach behind the sea wall. Both of these previously landed groups were suffering casualties.
The first boat section touched in less than knee deep water. To the men it was familiar to hit a beach and they spread out immediately in a V formation. The beach was soft and the men went ankle deep in sand. The load plus the softness of the beach made the going very slow. There were no casualties up to the high water line.
The second section landed very close to the first and had about the same experiences on the beach. The men thought they had some casualties in crossing the beach but are not sure. There were so many bodies on the beach that they could not determine if any of them were from their unit.
The third section had no casualties to the high water mark. The water was knee deep where they unloaded.
The forth section (the second assault section) landed in waist deep water. Sgt. Wesley D. Sisson was hit in the shoulder by machine gun bullets while crossing the beach but made it to the sea wall. He died later on the beach at the wall. The lye in the beach saved many men who came under fire, for they ducked under water and worked their way forward.
The fifth section landed in knee deep water. The coxswain was so desirous of landing his men dry that when the boat touched bottom he refused to drop the ramp but let two or three rollers hit the boat and oush it father up the beach. The Army lieutenant in charge wanted to lower the ramp the instant the boat touched. Most of the men ran for the high water mark but one light machine gun was put in action by Sgt. Weston E. Carlson and Pfc William Boyd right in the water. They fired and floated toward shore. Sometimes the barrel was under water but the gun continued to operate. They gave good covering fire while the others made across the beach. No one was injured.
The sixth section landed in waist deep water. Pvt. Lewis Green was hit on the edge of the beach by machine gun bullet skimming the water but made the sea wall. Some of the men ran in bounds but mostly the trip was made in one try. The men found little comfort in lying flat on a fully exposed portion of the beach.
The third section (which was the first assault section) was the first of this group to leave the beach. As G Company had not moved forward or breached the wire it was necessary for this group to do it. The wall varied in eighth from two to five feet along this portion of the beach, but the wire on the top of the wall consisted on only two strands of barbed wire. Sgt. Clyde D. Sale cut this wire with cutters and in less than ten minutes from the time the high water mark was reached the men were leading out. Sgt. Mabrom B. Hudnell and a scout, Pfc Finley D. Whitlock, led the column single file thru a minefield and up the hill. They maintained contact with the headquarters section at first, then the radio failed. They were fired on by machine guns while climbing the hill but reached the crest within thirty minutes of the cutting of the wire and had no casualties during the trip. The mortar section got separated and came up later with company headquarters. The BARs were of no use to the party as they had become clogged with sand. When they reached the crest there were about twenty men in this section but it was not badly mixed as there were no others on its small stretch of beach.
The fourth section (second assault section) moved out almost at the same moment as the third. The wire was much thicker where they moved out and had to be blown. Sgt William C. Allen set four bagalores but was wounded in the leg before he could set the charge off. Pvt Daniel L. Wible set off the torpedo and led the section. The terrain before the hill consisted of low sand dunes and a marsh. These made fair cover but slow going. Going up the hill mines were encountered and the column swung over into the same trail the third section had taken. They arrived soon after the third section but did not attempt to join them as their orders were to move to the battalion assembly area by sections.
The fifth and sixth sections went thru the gap made by the fourth section while the first and second sections used the gap made by the third. This movement was not entirely orderly but small groups moving forward. No attempt to organize on the beach was made but some men left their boat sections and joined under the officer who was their platoon commander. A few men from other companies which were on the beach joined in. The sixth section lost one man killed on the beach, Pfc Samuel A. Whipsky, shot thru the chest by a machine gun bullet. It also had two accidental casualties while going up the hill as one man ran into another’s bayonet while a third man shot himself in the foot.
(Sgt. Vincent Corsini found on landing that his group was badly mixed with Company G. G made no attempt to move off the beach but the First Sergeant of Company K was seen moving up and down the beach trying to get men off the beach. Captain William G. Pingley (now KIA) was kneeling on the beach, smoking his pipe and looking to the front. Corsini made one trip across the beach and returned with a lieutenant from the engineers who had broken both ankles. Later he swam out and tried to help some others, but found only dead.)
Altho the men arrived at the top of the hill by the same path they seemed to split largely into two groups. No one seems to be able to explain just how this came about. Captain Mifflin D. Clowe had a small group and the other group had all of the other company officers in it. No one assumed command and the group as just small “bunches” of men. Each officer controlled a few men who either were in his boat section or platoon.
This larger group of men were pinned down by machine gun fire just beyond the crest of the hill. Pfc Boyd set up his machine gun in a position where he had to expose himself but could get a good field of fire. He found the enemy guns which were holding up the advance and killed between fifteen and twenty Germans. As the group advanced forward and completed the cleaning up job of this position many dead were seen. Six enlisted men and one German officer were captured.
After this action the group then moved forward and were again fired on. About a hundred of the men withdrew and dug in on the hill where they had their first fight. Another portion of the men, about forty men under Lieutenant Harry C. Parham continued to advance despite this fire. They had with them one machine gun, one mortar squad and seventeen riflemen. In addition there were two other officers from I Company and an officer from another company. During the fire when the large group made this further split, the machine gunner, Boyd, was killed while going action. This group moved forward about a mile, almost to the designated battalion assembly area, and could not rejoin their company until D+2.
The group under Captain Clowe did not come forward and join the majority of his company until about 1700. A check of the men was made but the company could not move forward. Snipers and machine gun fire immediately opened on anyone who tried to advance. The battalion commander and his executive were in this area and the battalion spent the night here.