Naval shore bombardment a key to victory at Normandy

June 06 11:23 2019 Print This Article

As the free world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landing that led to allied victory in World War II, consider that America’s naval dominance played a key role. Not only did America and her allies control the seas in the English Channel, but their naval firepower enabled tens of thousands of soldiers to land on the beachheads. Naval bombardment successfully wiped out the German machine gun nests located at the tops of the steep cliffs above the landing site.

In what remains the largest amphibious landing in history, more than 7000 ships escorted thousands of landing craft and 150,000 infantry troops to the Normandy beachheads. A great example of America’s shore bombardment capability was the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724). Now berthed at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Laffey, constructed in only six months, was equipped with six 5-inch diameter guns, each capable of firing 55-pound projectiles from a range of 13 miles.

American landing forces took heavy casualties from machine gun fire during the early hours of the operation. As the assault progressed, naval shore bombardment and aircraft sorties eventually wiped out the machine gun nests, and the infantry troops advanced into the French countryside. First-day casualties included an estimated 4400 American deaths and more than 9000 wounded or missing. The graves of 9938 Americans remain at Normandy.

President Donald Trump was on-hand in Normandy to observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day, surrounded by more than 60 Americans who participated in the landing. He told them, “You are the pride of our nation; you are the glory of our Republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” Naval bombardment helped keep those American heroes alive.