60th Anniversary Of D-Day
Beaches Of Normandy

Port En Bessin:

Port en Bessin was the actual linkup point between the American and British forces on June 7, 1944. The American 16th Infantry Regiment had landed on the Easy Red Sector on Omaha Beach and fought its way along the coastal towns to link up with the 47th Royal Marine Commandos, which had struggled its way from Gold Beach. The Royal Marines fought a difficult battle to take the town and its eastern and western fortifications. The Royal Marines finally took the town after fighting house-to-house and knocking out the harbour defenses, which included pillboxes and a flak boat of the German Navy. The 16th Infantry Regiment took the part of town called Huppain and liberated the area now known as the Omaha Beach Golf Club.

After the town’s liberation, Port en Bessin/Huppain became a minor PLUTO Port. Large oil storage facilities were built near where the golf club is now located and tankers would offload their oil through pipelines at the harbour. In addition the port was expanded to handle 1,000 tons of cargo daily and was vital to the Allied effort until the Mulberry Harbours were built at Arromanches and Omaha Beach.

Pluto Origins:

A reliable supply of petrol for the advancing Allied forces following the D-Day landings was of the highest priority. Planners knew that the future invasion of Europe would be the largest amphibious landing in history and without adequate and reliable supplies of petrol any advance would at best slow down and at worst grind to a halt. A loss of momentum could jeopardise the whole operation as German forces would have time to regroup and counter-attack. Conventional tankers and 'ship to shore' pipelines were in danger of cluttering up the beaches, obstructing the movement of men, armaments and materials and, in all circumstances, were subject to the vagaries of the weather and sea conditions and they were easy targets for the Luftwaffe.

The idea of a Pipe Line Under The Ocean, (the English Channel), was an innovative solution. It was known that oil storage facilities located near the English Channel would be vulnerable to attack by the Luftwaffe. To reduce the risk of losses, a network of pipelines was, during early discussions about PLUTO, already under construction. This was designed to carry fuel from safer storage and port facilities around Bristol and Liverpool to the English Channel. This network would later be linked to the planned pipeline at Skanklin on the Isle of Wight and Dungeness further to the west. The terminals and pumping stations were heavily disguised as bungalows, gravel pits, garages and even an ice cream shop!

Soon after D Day, a continuous flow of petrol to meet the heavy demands of the liberation armies and air fleets was maintained by the 'Pipelines Under the Ocean.' These pipe-lines were vital arteries, which enabled the Allied Air Fleets and Land Forces to maintain the vital momentum needed to secure victory. Moreover Operation PLUTO made it possible to dispense with the fleets of tankers, which otherwise would have been necessary and spared them the ordeal of concentrated enemy attacks in congested waters, thus undoubtedly saving many hundreds of gallant lives.

Recommended website: Pluto - Pipeline Under The Ocean

View from a cliff top vantage point over looking the harbour town of Port En Bessin.
In the distance is Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc


View looking left towards "Fox Green& Fox Red" sectors
View looking north
Red ring (with two people inside) indicates perspective.
View looking east towards Arromanches

Not expecting a big opposition at Omaha, the 1st Infantry Division (also known as the Big Red One) and the 29th Infantry Division were given ambitious objectives. By nightfall on D-Day they were to secure an area 6 miles deep and nearly 18 miles long from the base of the Vire estuary at Isigny eastwards almost to Bayeux linking up with British from Gold Beach. What the Americans did not known was that the German 352nd Infantry Division had come forward to reinforce the 716th Static Division and many of its troops were dug in along the bluff, which rises to 170 feet and dominated the landing beaches. Between the sand of the beach and the bluff lay a strip of shingle impassable to vehicles, and the only exits from the beach were five draws or gaps in the bluff, all easily defended. To further add to the American's problems, the bad weather forced many of their aircraft to bomb by using instruments only, missing their targets. Deliberately holding their fire, so as not to give their positions away, the German batteries left naval gunners without a target, and in several places the final rocket salvoes (just prior to the actual landings) fell short. Together with the landing conditions and limited beach area, this was a recipe for disaster.

The first assault troops, 16th Regimental Combat Team of 1st Division and 116th Regimental Combat Team of 29th Division, ran onto the beaches at 6:30am. Some DD tanks (the DD tank, so named for its "duplex drive," was modified to allow the vehicle to travel on water as well as land.) could not be launched due to the weather and surf. Others launched from 6,000 yards offshore, sank like stones, and only five made it onto the beach. Nearly all the 105mm guns being ferried to the shore also went down, as did all but six of the armoured tankdozers. Atleast ten infantry craft floundered miles out from the beach and underwater obstacles ripped the bottoms out of others, leaving the infantry to drown. As at Utah, the current pulled the surviving assault craft eastward, putting troops ashore up to two miles out of position, with regiments becoming intermingled and without tank support or engineers and into the line of fire of the almost untouched German defenses. Within minutes of landing, the entire first wave was pinned on the beach.

As more troops landed on the beach the confusion and the losses grew worse, with units hopelessly mixed and huddled together. Radios and signalling equipment were lost in the surf, and those waiting offshore had little clear picture of what was happening. At 09:00, Bradley watching from the Augusta, started preparations for abandoning Omaha altogether. This was the moment, familiar in almost every battle, in which the issue comes down to firepower, determination and brute force. American and British naval destroyers ran in so close that they almost beached themselves, blasting German pillboxes with their guns. A lucky hit from the battleship USS Texas silenced one of the guns in the heaviest German battery.

Meanwhile, as delays and the weather made nonsense of the landing timetables, commanders held up less critical reinforcements to let the assault infantry go through. Just after 10:00, the second wave of troops began its landing, suffering the same losses and problems as the first however, well before noon the battle had swung in the American's favour.

In the face of of the unexpectedly strong German defences the troops at "Bloody Omaha" had done an incredible job, for which many were decorated. Even so, the landing was still very precarious. Although more infantry were landed during the afternoon, all suffered heavy losses, and it proved virtually impossible to land artillery. Lacking guns and tanks the Americans' progress inland was both slow and painful. By nightfall, 116th Infantry and 5th Rangers held a position about 1,000 yards inland from Vierville, separated by a long gap of nearly two miles from St Laurent and a more or less continuous front 2,000 yards inland and surrounding Colleville, which was still in German hands.

In the chaos, official American accounts admit that estimates both of troops landed and of casualties for Omaha are little more than guess work. The intention was to land 34,000 men and 3,300 vehicles on Omaha and of these something between 2,000-3,000 men became casualties. For a while, during the morning, the German commanders reported that they had stopped the invasion on the beaches as Rommel had intended. Many who landed on Omaha also believed that their landing had failed, and that they would be wiped out the next day.

Looking west on Omaha Beach
Dog Green Sector
Looking east on Omaha Beach
Dog Green Sector
When I was on the beach, one of the first things that became apparant to me, was how exposed you were. It was all too easy to imagine a German sniper or a machine gunner sat on the top of the hill firing down...