Today, 14 June 1944, the 79th Infantry Division and the 313th Infantry Regiment land on Utah beach, beginning about 4 p.m. The beach has been cleared of enemy opposition, however sounds of enemy shelling and bombing echo in the distance. The units start inland along the main road towards Sébeville, just to the southeast of Ste. Mére Eglise near the center of the Cotentin beachhead. Along the road are signs: “Achtung! Minen!”
The 313th regiment and 79th Division are a part of US VII Corps, composed of the 4th, 9th, 90th, and 79th Infantry Divisions and the 82 and 101st Airborne Divisions. Earlier today the 101st Airborne Division took the strategic city of Carentan, securing the connection between the Cotentin beachhead and the rest of the Normandy beachhead. Also, Quinéville fell earlier today to 4th Division units, securing the northern anchor of the beach head.
Today was the 79th Division’s first contact with French civilians: while not hostile, neither were they friendly. The night is cold, the troops are still wet from the landing, German planes fly over to strike at the beaches and streams of ack-ack tracers move into the sky against the planes. The first bivouac is in the area where the 101st Airborne Division landed, and smashed gliders and planes dot the obstacle-covered fields. A few dead Germans, battered tanks and destroyed equipment provide evidence of earlier fighting.
Maps and additional material for this series of posts come from the U.S. Army’s excellent history: Utah Beach to Cherbourg, available online.