Tanks on Omaha Beach

The first units scheduled to land on Omaha Beach were four companies of M4 Duplex Drive (DD) Sherman tanks, which were transported by 16 LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) across the Channel to their designated launch points. The DD tank is a standard Sherman medium tank modified with a large canvas screen around it. “That is what made them float, and they weighed thirty tons, which was a whole lot of weight,” a tank commander explained. Thirty-two of these modified Shermans from Companies B and C of the 741st Tank Battalion were to land on the Easy Red and Fox Green sectors, respectively. “At approximately H-60 minutes the LCTs bearing the DD tanks of Companies B and C were in position of beach Omaha at a distance of 6,000 yards from the beach,” an after action report stated. “Company B was commanded by Capt. James G. Thornton, Jr., Company C was commanded by Capt. Charles R. Young. Capt. Thornton succeeded in contacting Capt. Young by radio and the two commanders discussed the advisability of launching the DD tanks, the sea being extremely rough, much rougher than the tanks had ever operated in during their preparatory training. Both commanders agreed that the advantage to be gained by the launching of the tanks justified the risk of launching the tanks in the heavy sea. Accordingly, orders were issued for the launching of the tanks at approximately H-50 minutes.” Almost immediately after entering the choppy waters, the inflatable canvas screens were ripped off causing the tanks to sink immediately. Of the 29 DD tanks that were launched into the sea, 27 quickly disappeared below the waves. “At thirty tons, they went down fast,” 1st Lieutenant Jack Browder of the 741st Tank Battalion later said in an interview. Only 2 tanks managed to swim ashore on their own power and LCT-600 later carried three more tanks directly to the beach after the unsuccessful launch of its first DD. As a result, only 5 of the 32 DD tanks from Companies B and C of the 741st Tank Battalion landed on Omaha Beach that morning.

Three Sherman medium tanks from the 741st Tank Battalion on the shingle in front of the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach in the morning on June 6th. The tank at left is a Duplex Drive Sherman from Company B while the other two are Shermans with wading trunks from Company A.

As if things couldn’t get any worse for the 741st, LCT(A)-2049, destined for Easy Red beach, carrying two standard M4A1 Sherman tanks and an M4 dozer-tank from Company A, struck a mine and sank at 0200 hours the night before, and another was delayed by the poor weather. In total, Assault Force O-1 managed to deliver 18 out of its original 48 Sherman tanks. Three of these were knocked out by anti-tank guns from German strongpoints WN 61 and 62 just minutes after touchdown. In spite of the heavy losses during the initial phases of the landings, the remaining tanks immediately engaged the enemy strongpoints and anti-tank gun positions.

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