Army Transportation During The Invasion Of Normandy in WWII

Army Transportation During The Invasion Of Normandy in WWII

The Battle of Normandy, which occurred in 1944, was the most famous battle of World War II. The massive Allied campaign first began as “Operation Overlord” and underwent over two years of planning before it finally culminated in the invasion of Normandy, which has also come to be known as “D-Day”. It is considered the largest amphibious operation in military history, with over a million soldiers being deployed to the coast of France during the course of the battle. The battle not only ended in victory for the Allied forces, but it also gave them a major foothold in Europe. It was also an important turning point in the war which first cost Germany control of France, and a year later, ended in Germany’s total defeat. The success of the entire operation depended on the mass mobilization of soldiers from England to France. Sea transport ships were primarily responsible for placing troops and military vehicles on the five beach heads known as Utah, Sword, Juno, Gold, and Omaha Beach, the latter being the most famous. After that, various army transport vehicles were essential for moving and protecting troops on land.

Landing Ship, Tank (LST)

The LST was a type of American and Royal Navy amphibious landing craft. Infantry and tank units alike depended on this type of transportation ship for transportation to the shores of Normandy. It was designed to land vehicles on beach areas that had not been optimized for landing operations. Over a thousand of these nearly 400 foot-long, steam-powered ships were built during the war, each carrying up to twenty tanks or over thirty military trucks, plus over 200 soldiers. They carried fifty ton cranes, and were armed with 20mm and 40mm guns, machine guns, and mortars. Like other landing craft, they off-loaded vehicles and troops through a ramp at the bow of the ship. The first LSTs were ships that had been repurposed, while later versions were built specifically for their task.

Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI)

Also known as “Elsie Items”, the Landing craft, infantry transports were smaller than the LST army transport units, and were suited solely for the deployment of soldiers onto beach-heads. Over 900 of these ships were built in the United States and England, each over 150 feet long and capable of deploying between 180 and 200 troops to the shores of Normandy and other locations. These army transportation vessels used four diesel engines for the purpose of redundancy, and could reach a top speed of sixteen knots. The LCI vessels came armed with four 20 mm cannons for defense on all sides. They were put in service by the United States, Great Britain, the USSR, and Canada.

Landing Craft Assault (LCA)

The LCA was a small craft capable of carrying up to thirty-six soldiers from larger landing craft and troop transports directly to shore. The Allies built 2,000 of these ships, of which over 250 were lost during the D-Day operation. They came armed with light mortar and machine guns, and carried minimal armor to protect against rifle fire. These 41 foot long short-range transport units were the workhorse of the Normandy landing operation.

Duplex Drive Tanks

Amphibious army transportation tanks, also known as duplex drive or “Donald Duck” tanks, were developed by Britain and used by the Allies during the Battle of Normandy. Duplex drive tanks were tanks that used two types of propulsion, one in the water, and another while on land. Typically they used a flotation system to avoid sinking, as well as a propeller powered by its engine, to get to land. The maximum speed of an amphibious tank was four knots while in the water. Examples of tanks retrofitted for duplex drive includes the Valentine and Sherman tanks.

Centaur Tank

Another tank used to support the troops during the invasion of Normandy was the Centaur tank. This tank, related to the Cromwell tank, was a cruiser tank, or a fast and light-armored tank meant to replace the obsolete Crusader class. For the most part, they used the less efficient Liberty engine, and were not useful until the Type IV variant went into production. The Centaur IV was deployed for combat duty during D-Day with Howitzer guns. These Centaurs were eventually upgraded with a superior Meteor engine to function on par with the Cromwell tanks.