NAVAL GUNFIRE SUPPORT IN
Barbara Brooks Tomblin
Historians have devoted considerable attention to the planning and execution of Operation Neptune/Overlord, the Allied cross-channel invasion in June 1944. Although numerous books and articles have been written about the experience of Allied navies off Normandy on D-Day, naval gunfire support for the American beaches, code-named Utah and Omaha, deserves further examination, especially with regard to the experience of Allied warships in the Mediterranean theater during the years prior to June 6, 1944. For, as Captain Roger Hill, Royal Navy, has written in his memoirs of the war, “The invasion was the culmination of all the developments, inventions, organization and lessons learned, from the early commando raids, North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, the tragedy of Dieppe, and the failure at Anzio.”1
This study of naval gunfire support during Operation Neptune will focus on the two American sectors at Normandy endeavoring to reexamine the planning and execution of naval fire support in light of amphibious experience gained in the Mediterranean prior to June 1944. In planning and preparing for Operation Neptune, Allied planners had the advantage of important precedents as well as lessons learned and recommendations made by amphibious commanders in the Mediterranean. In action reports written after each of the four major invasions in the Mediterranean, senior commanders included assessments of naval gunfire support during each operation and made specific recommendations about mine clearance; naval bombardments; close-in gunfire support; anti-aircraft discipline; aerial reconnaissance and spotting of naval gunfire; and defense against air, submarine, and E-boat attacks.