K Company – 3rd Battalion – 116th Infantry Regiment
After Action Report
29th Infantry Division – June 1944 – Battle of Normandy
The company was to come in as part of the reserve battalion. The boat loading therefore was different than the assault waves. Two boats were loaded in an assault manner in order that any emergency could be handle. The other four were loaded for troop transport. All boats were so crowded that the men could not sit down.
Five hundred yards from shore the boats received some artillery fire, and about a hundred yards out small arms fire struck the boat. There were, however, no casualties at sea except Lieutenant Ray G. Hellikson was accidentally wounded by a bayonet in the crowded boat. Despite this he continued with his unit.
The company was scheduled to land at H+50 and was ten minutes early. The naval personnel seemed very experienced and quite determined to land their men as dry as possible. Only the third section was wet as it hit a sand bar some little distance from the shore in over head water. The first man to leave the ramp disappeared from sight but soon managed to rid himself of his equipment and rise to the surface. The other men in the boat then abandoned their equipment in the boat and jumped into the water from the ramp or from the side of the boat and started swimming toward shore. Small arms fire played on the beach but no one is known to have been wounded while crossing to the sea wall in any of the sections.
The sections were landed very near together on a piece of beach which had no other personnel on it at that time. The sea wall was very low and with small arms fire continually firing above it, there was no desire on the part of the men to move to either flank to contact other boat sections. Beside, the sections had been instructed that they were to move to the battalion assembly area as boat sections rather than organize as a company. Such an organization might have been completed at this time, but as the men remained at the sea wall other troops landed and congested the area. Before the units moved off of the beach, it would have been difficult, if not impossible to organize. At least two men were killed and two wounded behind the sea wall.
An hour to an hour and a half after the troops reached the wall, the sections began to move out (0900). Each section made their own breach in the wire at the top of the wall and moved on its own initiative. The wire and intermingled mines made an obstacle about ten feet thick. Beyond this area were sand dunes which made for concealment as the men advanced. The sections kept no sectional contact on this march. Some hundred yards short of the hill a swamp was encountered. A few men were wounded in this swamp by machine gun fire.
The hill was fairly steep at this point and had many antipersonnel mines on it. By this time the boat sections were more or less together again in a single file formation. During the climb they mingled as the mine were so close that guides had to be left at various points to show the advancing troops exactly where they could step. The rocket ships had had helped much on this particular section of the hill as they had blown many of the mines and wires, and also had blown the grass so that other mines could be seen. Advancing up this hill about fifteen men were killed and wounded by machine gun fire and mine explosions.
It was 1230 to 1300 hours by the time the crest was reached. Other units and men began to follow K up the hill and the boat sections of K generally formed together again. The advance of all units continued for three hundred yards beyond the crest of the hill, they were pinned down by artillery and small arms fire. Here the battalion commander of Third Battalion and his staff were seen. The men remained here for a long time. At 1400 the battalion S-3 came to one group of men and told them to advance on a right oblique across a wheat field. The second and fifth sections moved on this order. Why the order was given was not known to the men but seemed to be understood by their officers. In the wheat field the groups met sniper and machine gun fire continued on thru to the Vierville road and turned right. Here they saw a German and shot him. The German was running down the road with a blanket over his shoulder. The men were much impressed as this was the first German they had seen. As they advanced, all the men kicked the body. A little further on they saw a detachment of men from another company move forward to receive some Germans who were giving up as prisoners. The Germans pulled the old trick of dropping to the ground while a machine gun behind them killed the three men. The men who observed this admitted that they had been taught never to advance toward prisoners. About 1600 hours these men from K met a number of men from the Second and Fifth Ranger battalions. Their senior officer asked if they’d care to join the Rangers. The senior officer of K replied that they would follow and support as far as Vierville. At Vierville sniper fire was received from the left side of the town but the men worked thru the town and turned left down a road just west of town. Here they met the regimental commander and his headquarters. He had lost the major portion of his headquarters security detachment so ordered these men to form his security detachment. The headquarters went down the road to a chateau and set up a CP for the night.
The other sections of the company later advanced (still as boat sections) to the Vierville road. Here a large portion of the Third Battalion was stationed. Advance was blocked by fire so all groups remained on a depressed section of the road for the night.