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Article #2 - WWII - "Utah Beach Revisited" by: James Burke


The D-Day activities of the 299th engineer (C) battalion at Omaha Beach has been well documented. the battalion was awarded a presidential unit citation for the brave performance of "A" & "C" companies under difficult conditions. the 146th engineer (C) battalion was equally cited for ot's performance at the same location.

Nothing is mentioned in any of the histories of Utah Beach about "B" company of the 299th that landed along with the 237TH engineer (C) battalion on that beach the same day. In addition to the Demolition teams, there were also teams of combined Navy/Army personnel responsible for the obstacles that might be underwater during the early part of the assault.

Much has been written about the comparative ease with which the 4th Infantry Division landed at Utah Beach about 6:30 AM on june 6, 1944. One reason cited is that the assault forces went ashore about 2000 yards from where they intended and found rather light fortifications to overcome. Never mentioned is the fact that this error applied to only the first two waves to land that morning.

The right flank of waves 3&4, which the 299th was a part of, landed straight into the original planned location. This put them into combat immediately with the Germans manning the fortifications between exits 3&4. Assault troops did not precede the demolition teams as planned. Before setting demolitions on obstacles, the first teams ashore had to overcome the machine gun and cannon fire coming from the German emplacements. Wlthin a short time about twenty five German prisoners had been rounded up and placed under guard by men from company "B" 299th engineers.

The few tanks that arrived in the right hand part of the third wave actually went in mixed with or behind the fourth wave. they could only busy themselves by firing at pill boxes far to the right down the beach. only later on when more infantry arrived at this location was the situation under control. the obstacles were all finally blown and a hole made in the seawall allowed the tanks to proceed inland with the infantry. company "B" of the 299th had several men killed and many more wounded on Utah beach that day.

Most historical reports mention that one landing craft was hit by artillery 1MRE killing six menadn wounding 16. What they fail to mention is that this craft was full of 299TH engineers and navy/army combined demolitioneers. The navy reported 4 killed and 11 wounded. In talking to people that survived that landing craft it is believed that a round of cannon fire was responsible for the dead and wounded and not artillery fire. The round went straight through the landing craft about hip-high.

A map taken from the corps of engineers: The War Against Germany. shows the Utah Beach landings as originally planned. The plan called for only the 4th infantry division with follow up by the 90th division to participate as assault infantry. Tanks and tank dozers were included from the 70th tank battalion and the 612th llght equipment co. which were to go in right after the assault infantry. following in the second wave were more infantry. Navy/Army demolition teams for underwater obstacles and combat engineers to blow gaps in high tide obstacle areas. The 237th engineer (C) battalion had the bulk of this assignment except 299th personnel were in the combined navy/army teams.

For this operation "B" company of the 299th engineer bn. was attached to the 237th engineer bn. and further assigned as a part of the 1106th engineer combat group. A third wave of more tanks was to be followed by a fourth wave of demolition teams similar to wave two but smaller in size and without infantry. This fourth wave was to be in effect a reserve wave to clean up remaining obstacles or replace earlier teams if they were for some reason unable to complete their assignments.

So much for a plan that was to land on beaches with code names uncle red and tare green. The exact location for tare green was to be between exits #3 & #4. There was actually a third beach planned for later operations further north and named sugar red. Most historical accounts correctly identify the navigational error that put the first two waves and the left flank of wave three and four 2000 yards off target. What is never reported, however, is that the right flank of waves three and four containing "B" company of the 299th engineers actually landed on target without assault infantry proceeding them.

You might ask how does the writer reach these conclusions after so many years. flrst of all the writer had a good view of all this as a corporal heading I of a squad on one of the combined navy/army demolition squads. Furthermore, he was positioned in a boat that had as its leader lt. cdr. petersen who was in command of all the combined teams that day. lt. Cdr. Petersen may be the reason that this wave went in on target as scheduled. I heard him giving instructions to the coxwain throughout the voyage in to the beach.

Further testimony was obtained from various members of "B* company 29th at reunions over the years. All claim that they were under intense fire immediately upon departing the landing craft. Furthermore/ most replied that they did not see a tank anywhere on the beach until after the obstacles were blown and a hole put in the seawall for passage of the tanks. The writer specifically recalls seeing a tank to the right of him and also seeing nothing else as far as the eye could determine farther down the beach.

Why was this little piece of information left out of most historical reports of action on utah beach that day? Probably the 299th report on Omaha Beach was of such volume that the "B" Company report of Utah was overlooked. Also being attached to the 237th Engineers and further assigned to the 1106th engineer combat group , "B" company of the 299th engineer combat battalion may not have been asked to report to anyone.


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