Omaha Beach, H-hour+3minutes

146th and 299th ECB Assault teams

The 146ECB and 299ECB demolitioneers had the mission of hand-placing explosives on the anti-landing-craft beach obstacles, so as to clear sixteen 50-yard gaps for the following infantry landing craft. Each forty-three man demolition team came ashore with almost a ton of C-2 plastic and tetrytol explosives.

Sixteen primary Gap Assault Teams landing at H + 3minutes; were to be followed by 8 support teams that were to land immediately thereafter where needed, as directed by the sector commander. The 146ECB had the responsibility of the western beach sector that stretched from Dog Green at Vierville Draw (D-3), through Dog White, Dog Red, to Easy Green near les Moulins Draw (D-3). The 299ECB had a similar mission on the eastern sector which included subsectors Easy Red and Fox Green.

The demolition was intially planned to be done in-the-water by 21 NCDUs--(Naval Combat Demolition Units), augmented with five combat engineers per team about March 1944. When the obstacles began showing in ever greater numbers, it became obvious to the planners that additional demolition personnel were necessary.

It was then that the 146ECB and 299ECB were brought in and trained by the NCDUs. When the training was completed, the engineer augmented NCDU teams were attached to the larger army teams, whose officers then became the commanders of the combined teams. This was done because the demolition now became an army mission--to be done on dry sand as opposed as to the in-the-water demolition as originally envisioned. About 150 men from the 2nd Infantry Division were brought in to add to our teams.
Total navy demolition personnel--183
Total army demolition personnel--773

Upon arriving on Omaha, Gap Assault Team #8 immediately ran a ring main of primacord around the 50 yard wide group of wooden obstacles and blew them away. We then moved inland and attached 15lb Tetrytol satchel charges to the heavy steel "hedgehogs". Before we could destroy them, the second wave of infantry landed nearby, and we were forced to delay the demolition in order to keep from making mincemeat out of our infantry. The fast moving incoming tide soon covered the hedgehogs, and they were not cleared until after noon on the outgoing tide.

There were almost 100 fatalities among the engineers, and the NCDUs must have suffered similarly, but I have no accurate records of the navy killed. Although my Gap Team suffered only 3 army fatalities among the 31 total, about two-thirds of the rest were wounded--many not severely.

My critique of the operation is as follows:

  • In general, very well planned, even though there were a few intelligence goofs. Intelligence is not a rigid science!
  • Inadequate softening of the beach defenses by the Air Force bombing and the bombardment from the naval guns to silence artillery and machine gun emplacements at an early hour. The aerial bombing was ineffective because of the cloud cover. When it became apparent that the troops ashore were being decimated, the navy did a phenominal job of taking out the enemy positions.
  • Too optimistic as to the landing timetable. One of the reasons that more gaps were not blown on time, was the 30 minutes separation in the landing of the Gap Teams and the second wave of infantry. The infantry were within and around the obstacles to be blown. Steel fragments are deady for several hundred yards, so it was impossible to detonate the charges.
  • There are always those with 20/20 hindsight, who after the fact level criticism at those in charge--but it is not contested that the invasion did succeed!

Wes Ross OIC Gap Assault Team #8

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146th Eng. Combat Bn.


Wes Ross


Beach obstacles

Obstacles like this hedgehog had to be blown by the men of the ECB.



The monument for the 5th Engineer Brigade, on top of a bunker overlooking Omaha Beach.

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