C Company – 1st Battalion – 116th Infantry Regiment
After Action Report
29th Infantry Division – June 1944 – Battle of Normandy
C Company, 116th Infantry, was brought to the beach in six boats. There were a headquarters boat, and five assault sections. The time of arrival was scheduled for H+50. Each of the boats arrived ten minutes early, except the 5th assault section which arrived twenty minutes after the others. In this boat the lookout did not perform his duty. As the result this craft ran into a mine, which fortunately did not explode. In the careful maneuvering to with draw from this perilous position, a good deal of time was consumed.
There was artillery fire near the boats as they approached the beach but none were hit. Only the headquarters craft reported being under small arms fire prior to beaching. There were no casualties on any of the boats before the ramps were lowered.
The headquarters craft contained Captain Bertier B. Hawks and thirty men. This craft came behind three British LCM’s and lowered the ramp behind them. The captain and one man stepped off into water over their heads. The coxswain then decided that no others should disembark. While raising the ramp two men, Pfc. Charles W. Hamm and Pvt. Tom Montoya, became entangled in the mechanism and were injured. The difficulty in raising the ramp caused a five minute delay. The boat shipped much water but was able to pull off and make another reaching. Captain Hawks made his way to shore but his foot was crushed between one of the LCM’s and a beach obstacle. Despite this serious injury he continued his command for the critical part of the day. The enlisted man reached the shore safely.
On the second beaching the craft came within ten to fifteen yards of the shore. The water was not deep and all men jumped from the craft without urging and ran for the sea wall. It was only some fifty yards from the sea to the wall but shallow water filled a runnel part way in between. None of the men were wounded on this run despite the small arms fire. Men from this craft did see others injured. The men’s initial impression of the beach was disappointment for they did not find the promised bomb and artillery crater which had been promised.
Unfortunately no account of the beaching activities of the first, second, and third assault sections was obtainable. It was asserted by 1st Sgt. Alfred B. McClure than these sections arrived almost if not entirely intact.
The fourth section hit a beach obstacle about forty yards from the shore and the men unloaded at that point. The water was about waist deep. Small arms fire was received but there were no casualties between the boat and the sea wall.
The fifth assault section beached in very shallow water. Only one casualty was incurred enroute to the sea wall. Pfc. Cecil F. Randolph was hit in the leg by a machine gun bullet and went down in the water. Later a medic returned and pulled him up under a tank. The medic, T/5 William H. Campbell, was under fire during this act and was later awarded a silver star for his bravery.
In the company area Chaplain John H. Kelly made several trips to aid wounded get off the beach. For his action he was awarded a silver star.
The company landed a thousand yards to the left of their objective, but in a very compact group – not over a hundred yards between their flank men. The sea wall was about four feet high at this point and provided fair protection. Only a rough check was made of the men present, but the section leaders believe that not over four to six men were absent at this time. The men and their equipment were dry and in good shape.
In five minutes the head of the column started moving. To the right of the company was a gap in the sea wall. Pvt. Ingram E. Lambert led off by crawling thru this gap, then raised up, jumped a strand of barb wire, crossed a road and stopped at a barbed wire entanglement on the far side. This wire was of the double apron type and had to be blown. Pvt. Lambert set a bangalore torpedo but was killed by machine gun fire before he could set it off. Lieutenant Stanley H. Schwartz followed and set off the charge.
After the hole in this second wired area was blown the company started to come forward on the run. After a first group had made the dash across the road and thru the wire intense artillery and machine gun fire was laid down on this point. The men ducked into some square trenches which they found there and remained for almost ten minutes. By that time they decided it was better to try to cross the swamp which faced them and make for the hill. The remainder of the company followed thru the swamp and to the hill. This was not done entirely without casualties, however, for Pfc. Ralph Hubbard and Pvt. George R. Losey were killed by machine gun fire while crossing the road, and Sgt. Ottawa O. Fore and Pfc. Raymond Scheurer were wounded crossing the swamp. Possibly a few others were wounded in the swamp but it is not thought that more than five or six casualties were incurred in this trip from the sea wall to the rest of the hill. This was due in part to less heavy opposition than at some other points on the beach, and also to the good fortune of a natural smoke screen on the hill. The latter was the result of naval fire which had set some grass afire, plus favorable breeze to carry the smoke parallel to the hill.
At the top of the hill a mine field was found and by-passed. About three hundred yards beyond the crest a road was reached. Here the organization stopped while a brief orientation was made and an informal reorganization from assault sections to platoons was made. The entire delay was perhaps five minutes.
The company then moved on inland in a column of platoons toward another road. The scouts were out and the company advanced in an upright marching position. Just short of the road some sniper fire was received, but no casualties were incurred. When the road was reached the company turned to the right. The men remained on the road while marching, went thru Vierville sur mer without receiving fire and advanced down the road some three hundred yards beyond the town. The passage thru the town was at about 10000 hours. While in town the men encountered Brigadier General Normand D. Cota who was calmly twirling his pistol on his finger. He said to them, “Where the hell have been boys?”
About three hundred yards beyond the town the company was fired on by two machine guns. The first platoon and an attached mortar squad deployed to the left to outflank them. The third platoon came forward to give covering fire. They did not see a target, however, so did not fire a shot. This was according to the training which the men had previously been given. The first platoon fleet that covering fire, regardless of the accuracy, would have been of real assistance.
When the first platoon was within thirty yards of the gun without seeing it, the machine gun opened up. Lieutenant Schwartz, S/Sgt. Ted F. Mouray, and Pfc. Leo King were killed and Pfc. James Page was wounded. The remainder of the platoon fired into the hedge. When the machine gun ceased firing the men moved forward to find the German gunner dead. Four other Germans tried to flank the platoon, but several grenades were thrown at them – killing two and causing the remaining two to surrender.
The capture of the machine gun occupied about thirty minutes. Just at the conclusion of this time a company of the 5th Ranger Battalion joined C Company.
Lieutenant Colonel Metcalf, Battalion. C.O. sent word forward for the company to remain in their present position while the battalion reorganized. The company remained here until dark then dug in.
During the day there was some small arms fire and artillery. About three platoons of tanks and some motor vehicles moved into the position.
Casualties for the day were about one officer killed, one wounded. Ten to fifteen enlisted men were wounded, five were killed.