Utah Beach was the westernmost landing zone of D-Day, added towards the end of the planning process when more landing craft became available. It was located between Pouppeville and La Madeleine, and so became the right flank of the Allied offensive. The actual landing was conducted by the Fourth Infantry Division.

The landing plans called for assault teams from the 8th Infantry Regiment to make up the first wave of twenty landing craft. These would hit the beach at 0630, followed closely by 32 amphibious tanks in the second wave along with another 32 assault teams, combat engineers, and naval demolition teams whose job was to clear the beach's underwater obstacles. The third wave, coming in fifteen minutes after the first wave, contained more tanks, and would be followed a couple of minutes later by more combat engineers, who would clear the obstacles between the tide marks.

The assault waves hit the beach against light opposition, which was just as well since both battalions of the 8th had landed almost half a mile south of their objectives, and instead of being in position to attack off the beach toward Exit 3 and the strongpoint at the dunes of Varresville. Fortunately, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had successfully pestered his division commander into allowing him to land with the assault teams, making him the oldest soldier on the beach and the only general to land with the first wave. Seeing that the original detailed plans had gone straight in the crapper, he took charge of the situation. Personally scouting the area immediately to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways that were the Fourth Division's objectives, he returned to the beach, briefed the two battalion commanders of the 8th Regiment, and coordinated the attack, declaring (much in the spirit of his father) "We'll start the war from here!" His impromptu plan worked smoothly and with little confusion; with artillery falling all around on the beach, Roosevelt welcomed the follow-on regiments and personally directed them to their new objectives while remaining cool, calm, and collected. For this bravura performance, Roosevelt was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

By the end of the day, over 23 thousand troops had come ashore with their 1700 vehicles, and taken only 200 casualties. They had been fortunate; in contrast to the bloody fight at Omaha Beach, they had had to face far fewer fortifications, since the primary German defense in the area had been the flooding of the coastal plain behind the beaches. The amphibious tanks were more successful at Utah, as they had been launched closer to the beach and therefore more of them made it ashore to lend fire support. The pre-invasion bombardment by the Navy and the Army Air Force had been very successful, destroying many of the larger bunkers; the 9th Air Force also provided aggressive close support with B-26 Marauder medium bombers. The invasion force also lucked out in landing at the wrong beach opposite Exit 2, as the other exits were more heavily defended. Finally, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had dropped behind Utah Beach five hours before H-Hour, attacking toward Utah and causing chaos while blocking any significant counterattacks. The paratroopers paid heavily for this; the 101st alone lost almost 40% of its men on D-Day.

IN2K11

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