618th Ammunition Co., 74th Ordinance Bat., 6th Eng. Special Brigade
Ralph Fancher and Lester Leonard McLean
When the first troops had landed and the enemy had been driven off the beach, it was time to start arranging the re-supplying of these troops. The men were only carrying a limited amount of ammunition. The ammo they had carried themselves onto the beach, in their assaultvests. The first supplies came in on duwks, that had already been packed with ammo in England and they drove off the LST's and swam to the beach. They dumped their cargo on the beach. Especially on Omaha Beach it was a real mesh. Many men in the first waves had been killed and were still floating in the water or lying on the beach. Burning Tanks and other material were all around and ammunition and all other supply had simply been dumped on the beach. In the American sector there were three Engineer Special Brigades that had to make sure that the three divisions got their supplies. The 1st Brigade landed with the 4th Division on Utah Beach. The 5th Brigade( to which Jack Mills was attached) landed with the 1st Division on in the Colleville-area, on the left side of Omaha Beach. The 6th Brigade of which Ralph Fancher was part, landed with the 29th Infantry Division near Vierville-sur-Mer.
The 618 th Ammo company’s original mission was to establish a beach dump near Vierville-Sur-Mer near the D-1 Exit. Rough winds and heavy seas had created confusion in the landings, so the dump they created ended up being near Les Moulins, near the D-3 Exit. This area was basically the dividing line between the 1 st Infantry Division and the 29 th Infantry Division. They were in charge of supplying ammunition to the infantry on the beach. Ordnance also does quick repair jobs. They would take good parts off one gun and place them on another, making a good rifle – ready to be taken to the front. In essence, they made it possible for the infantry to fight the Germans.
Ralph landed on Easy Red at 10:00, this was the around the same time as Joe Manzella landed with the 115th Infantry Regiment in the same sector. Artillery was still falling on the beach and from gathering and sorting boxes came not much at first. When Ralph landed he heard his buddy shouting "Start digging, this is terrible". Ralph says the shells where going right over their heads. They rained down, exploding and sending water up into the sky. Tracer bullets bounced off of the landing boats. Ralph’s buddy Lester Leonard McLean who was a supply sergeant in Ralph’s company says that he just knew the next shell was going to hit their boat, since shells where landing left and right of their landing craft as they made their way towards the beach.
The scene at the beach at that time was described by a lieutenant in the 6 th Engineer Special Brigade as follows: "I noticed that nothing moved on the beach except one bulldozer. The beach was covered with debris, sunken craft and wrecked vehicles. We saw many bodies in the water... Then we saw that the beach was literally covered with the bodies of American soldiers wearing the blue and gray patches of the 29 th Infantry Division."Picture courtesy Kim Johnston, Granddaughter of Staff Sergeant Lester Leonard McLean