Moody DD- 277 - History

Moody DD- 277 - History


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Moody
(DD-277: dp. 1,308; 1. 314'3"; b. 30'11"; dr. 9'4"; s. 34.7 k.; cpl. 122; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt.; cl. Clemson)

Moody (DD-277) was hid down by Bethlehem Ship building Corp., Squantum, Mass, 9 December 1918 launched 28 June 1919; sponsored by Miss Mary E. Moody sister of Justice Moody, and commissioned at Boston 10 December 1919; Comdr. James D. Wilson in command.

Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Moody departed Boston 9 February 1920, loaded torpedoes and ammunition at Newport, R.I., and steamed via New York, Guantanamo and the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving San Diego on the 31st. The flush-decked four stacker operated along the California coast through June and then departed San Francisco 1 July for Washington where on the 10kh she Joined the cruise of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Interior Secretary John B. Payne, and Adm. Hugh Rodman, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, to Alaska. On an inspection tour of Alaskan coal and oil fields and looking for possible fleet anchorage, the cruise touched at nine ports including Sitka, Duncan Bay, and Juneau, and lasted for nearly 1 month. Moody returned to San Diego 31 August to operate oft the California coast in training and in battle exercises for 2 months. She put into San Diego 10 October, remaining there and decommissioning 15 June 1922.

The destroyer recommissioned 27 September 1923, Lt. E. A. Zehner in command. Assigned to Destroyer Squadrons. Battle Fleet, the ship operated along the Pacific coast for the next 19 months and then on 27 May 1925 departed Bremerton for fleet exercises in the Hawaiian Islands. Operating out of Pearl Harbor and Lahaina Roads for 1 month, she then departed Pearl 1 July for the Sonth Pacific, stopped at Pago Pago, Samoa, and then made good will visits to Melbourne, Australia, and Dunedin and Wellington, New Zealand. Returning via Honolulu to San Diego 26 September, Moody then resumed west coast operations into 1927, including a voyage to Panama betv.een February and April 1928.

On 17 February 1927, she sailed from San Diego for tactical maneuvers with the U.S. Fleet in the Caribbean. Proceeding through the Panama Canal 4 March, she arrived Guantanamo 18 March and operated out of that port and Gonaives on Fleet Problem 7, involving the de fense of the Panama Canal until 22 April. She then proceeded to New York for repairs, sailing for home 16 May, arriving San Diego 25 June.

The destroyer remained in service with the battle fleet through mid-1929. From April to June 1928, she made another cruise to Hawaii with the fleet for the extensive exercises of Fleet Problem 8. She sailed to Mexico and Panama in early 1929 and then in July cruised to the Pacific Northwest, as far north as Ketchikan.

Moody decommissioned at San Diego 2 June 1930. She was towed to Mare Island Navy Yard arriving on the 8th. The destroyer was struck from the Navy list 3 November and scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty limiting naval armaments. Most of her superstructure was sold as scrap metal 10 June 1931 and her hulk was sunk off the California coast February 1933.


DD-Moody

Moody (DD 277) was laid down by Bethlehem Ship building Corp., Squantum, Mass, 9 December 1918 launched 28 June 1919 sponsored by Miss Mary E. Moody sister of Justice Moody, and commissioned at Boston 10 December 1919 Comdr. James D. Wilson in command.

Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Moody departed Boston 9 February 1920, loaded torpedoes and ammunition at Newport, R.I., and steamed via New York, Guantanamo and the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving San Diego on the 31st. The flush-decked four stacker operated along the California coast through June and then departed San Francisco 1 July tor Washington where on the 10th she Joined the cruise of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Interior Secretary John B. Payne, and Adm. Hugh Rodman, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, to Alaska. On an inspection tour of Alaskan coal and oil fields and looking for possible fleet anchorages, the cruise touched at nine ports including Sitka, Duncan Bay, and Juneau, and lasted for nearly 1 month. 1Moody returned to San Diego 31 August to operate oft the California coast in training and in battle exercises for 2 months. She put into San Diego 10 October, remaining there and decommissioning 15 June 1922.

The destroyer recommissioned 27 September 1923, Lt. E. A. Zehner in command. Assigned to Destroyer Squadrons. Battle Fleet, the ship operated along the Pacific coast for the next 19 months and then on 27 May 1925 departed Bremerton for fleet exercises in the Hawaiian Islands. Operating out of Pearl Harbor and Lahaina Roads for 1 month, she then departed Pearl 1 July for the south Pacific, stopped at Pago Pago, Samoa, and then made good will visits to Melbourne, Australia, and Dunedin and Wellington, New Zealand. Returning via Honolulu to San Diego 26 September, Moody then resumed west coast operations into 1927, including a voyage to Panama between February and April 1928.

On 17 February 1927, she sailed from San Diego for tactical maneuvers with the U.S. Fleet in the Caribbean. Proceeding through the Panama Canal 4 March, she arrived Guantanamo 18 March and operated out of that port and Gonaives on Fleet Problem 7, involving the de fense of the Panama Canal until 22 April. She then proceeded to New York for repairs, sailing for home 16 May, arriving San Diego 25 June.

The destroyer remained in service with the battle fleet through mid-1929. From April to June 1928, she made another cruise to Hawaii with the fleet for the extensive exercises of Fleet Problem 8. She sailed to Mexico and Panama in early 1929 and then in July cruised to the Pacific Northwest, as far north as Ketchikan.

Moody decommissioned at San Diego 2 June 1930. She was towed to Mare Island Navy Yard arriving on the 8th. The destroyer was struck from the Navy list 3 November and scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty limiting naval armaments. Most of her superstructure was sold as scrap metal 10 June 1931 and her hulk was sunk off the California coast February 1933.


Moody được đặt lườn vào ngày 9 tháng 12 năm 1918 tại xưởng tàu Squantum Victory Yard của hãng Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation ở Squantum, Massachusetts. Nó được hạ thủy vào ngày 28 tháng 6 năm 1919, và được đưa ra hoạt động vào ngày 10 tháng 12 năm 1919 dưới quyền chỉ huy của Hạm trưởng, Trung tá Hải quân James D. Wilson.

Được phân về Hạm đội Thái Bình Dương, Moody khởi hành từ Boston, Massachusetts vào ngày 9 tháng 2 năm 1920, nhận đạn dược và ngư lôi tại Newport, Rhode Island, rồi di chuyển ngang qua New York, vịnh Guantánamo, Cuba và kênh đào Panama để đi sang vùng bờ Tây, đi đến San Diego, California vào ngày 31 tháng 3. Nó hoạt động dọc theo vùng bờ biển California trong suốt tháng 6, rồi khởi hành từ San Francisco, California vào ngày 1 tháng 7 để đi Washington nơi vào ngày 10 tháng 7, nó tham gia chuyến đi của Bộ trưởng Hải quân Josephus Daniels, Bộ trưởng Nội vụ John B. Payne và Đô đốc Hugh Rodman, Tư lệnh Hạm đội Thái Bình Dương, đến Alaska. Nhằm mục đích thị sát các mỏ than đá và dầu hỏa của Alaska đồng thời khảo sát địa điểm tiềm năng neo đậu hạm đội, chuyến đi đã ghé qua 9 cảng tại khu vực bao gồm Sitka, Duncan Day và Juneau, và kéo dài trong gần một tháng. Moody quay trở về San Diego vào ngày 31 tháng 8 để tiếp tục các hoạt động huấn luyện và thực tập dọc bờ biển California trong hai tháng tiếp theo. Nó đi đến San Diego vào ngày 10 tháng 10, ở lại đây, và được cho xuất biên chế vào ngày 15 tháng 6 năm 1922.

Moody được cho nhập biên chế trở lại vào ngày 27 tháng 9 năm 1923 dưới quyền chỉ huy của Hạm trưởng, Đại úy Hải quân E. A. Zehner. Được phân về Hải đội Khu trục trực thuộc Hạm đội Chiến Trận, nó hoạt động dọc theo bờ biển Thái Bình Dương trong gần hai năm tiếp theo, và đã khởi hành từ Bremerton, Washington vào ngày 27 tháng 5 năm 1925 để thực hành hạm đội tại khu vực quần đảo Hawaii. Hoạt động ngoài khơi Trân Châu Cảng và Lahaina Roads trong một tháng, nó rời Trân Châu Cảng ngày 1 tháng 7 để đi đến khu vực Nam Thái Bình Dương, ghé qua Pago Pago, Samoa, và thực hiện chuyến viếng thăm hữu nghị đến Melbourne, Australia cùng Dunedin và Wellington, New Zealand. Quay trở về San Diego ngang qua Honolulu vào ngày 26 tháng 9, chiếc tàu khu trục tiếp nối các hoạt động thường lệ dọc theo bờ Tây cho đến năm 1927, bao gồm hai chuyến đi đến Panama vào tháng 2 và tháng 4 năm 1926.

Vào ngày 17 tháng 2 năm 1927, Moody khởi hành từ San Diego cho đợt cơ động chiến thuật cùng Hạm đội Hoa Kỳ tại vùng biển Caribe. Băng qua kênh đào Panama vào ngày 4 tháng 3, nó đi đến vịnh Guantánamo vào ngày 18 tháng 3, và hoạt động từ cảng này cũng như từ Gonaïves cho cuộc tập trận Vấn đề Hạm đội VII, một kịch bản bao gồm việc phòng thủ kênh đào Panama, cho đến ngày 22 tháng 4. Sau đó nó đi đến New York để sửa chữa, rồi lên đường vào ngày 16 tháng 5 để quay trở về nhà, về đến San Diego vào ngày 25 tháng 6. Chiếc tàu khu trục tiếp tục phục vụ cùng Hạm đội Chiến Trận cho đến giữa năm 1929. Từ tháng 4 đến tháng 6 năm 1928, nó cùng hạm đội thực hiện một chuyến đi khác đến khu vực Hawaii để tham gia cuộc tập trận Vấn đề Hạm đội VIII. Nó lên đường đi Mexico và Panama vào đầu năm 1929, và đến tháng 7 đã thực hiện chuyến đi đến khu vực Tây Bắc Thái Bình Dương, về phía Bắc đến tận Ketchikan.

Moody được cho xuất biên chế tại San Diego vào ngày 2 tháng 6 năm 1930, được cho kéo đến Xưởng hải quân Mare Island, đến nơi vào ngày 8 tháng 6. Tên nó được cho rút khỏi danh sách Đăng bạ Hải quân vào ngày 3 tháng 11 nhằm tuân thủ những điều khoản hạn chế vũ trang của Hiệp ước Hải quân London. Hầu hết cấu trúc thượng tầng của nó được tháo dỡ và bán sắt vụn vào ngày 10 tháng 6 năm 1931, và lườn tàu được bán cho hãng phim Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer với trị giá khoảng 35.000 Đô la Mỹ nhằm phục vụ cho cảnh quay đắm tàu.

Nó được tân trang nhằm mô phỏng một tàu khu trục Đức, và các khối chất nổ được đặt cẩn thận bên trong lườn tàu. Vào xế trưa ngày 21 tháng 2 năm 1933, khối chất nổ đặt giữa các khoang kín nước được kích hoạt, làm tách đôi con tàu trong khi tiếp tục nổi sau đó hai khối thuốc nổ khác được kích nổ phá tung các ngăn kín nước, đánh đắm con tàu vào chiều tối hôm đó. Các cảnh quay này nhằm mô phỏng sự phá hủy của ngư lôi phóng từ chiếc tàu ngầm hư cấu Hoa Kỳ AL-14 (do chiếc USS S-31 (SS-136) thể hiện) trong bộ phim Hell Below năm 1933 của hãng M-G-M.


Fate [ edit | edit source ]

Moody decommissioned at San Diego 2 June 1930. She was towed to Mare Island Navy Yard arriving on the 8th. The destroyer was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 3 November in accordance with the London Treaty limiting naval armaments. Most of her superstructure was sold as scrap metal 10 June 1931 and she was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for about US$35,000. Ex-Moody was altered to represent a German destroyer, and charges of dynamite were set at carefully planned locations. On the afternoon 21 February 1933, the first charge was detonated, splitting ex-Moody between two watertight compartments so she continued to float after breaking up. Then two other detonations breached the watertight bulkheads, sinking the hulk later that evening. The explosions and sinkings were filmed as the destruction caused by torpedoes from the fictional American submarine AL-14 (played by USS S-31 (SS-136)) in the 1933 submarine movie Hell Below.


Moody DD- 277 - History

DD 277, USS Moody

The Moody was sunk for the 1933 MGM production of "Hell Below" starring Jimmy Durante and Robert Montgomery. You're about to see a few scenes of the movie edited together to show the Moody blown in two and the wreckage taking the final plunge to the bottom.

The American sub has just fired torpedoes at the German destroyer during the first World War.


The USS Moody (DD 277) was laid down by Bethlehem Ship building Corp., Squantum, Mass, 9 December 1918 and launched 28 June 1919, within a half hour of the Henshaw, another four stack destroyer. The launch was sponsored by Miss Mary E. Moody, sister of Justice Moody, a former US Supreme court justice and Secretary of the Navy.

Commissioned at Boston 10 December 1919 with Comdr. James D. Wilson in command, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and the Moody departed Boston 9 February 1920, loaded torpedoes and ammunition at Newport, R.I., and steamed via New York, Guantanamo and the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving San Diego on the 31st. The flush-decked four stacker operated along the California coast through June and then departed San Francisco 1 July for Washington where on the 10th she went on an inspection tour of Alaskan coal and oil fields and looking for possible fleet anchorages, touching nine ports including Sitka, Duncan Bay, and Juneau. Returning to San Diego 31 August, she operated off the California coast in training and in battle exercises until her decommissioning 15 June 1922.

The destroyer was decommissioned 27 September 1923, with Lt. E. A. Zehner in command. Assigned to Destroyer Squadrons, ship operated along the Pacific coast and fleet exercises in the Hawaiian Islands, Pago Pago, Samoa, and then made good will visits to Melbourne, Australia, and Dunedin and Wellington, New Zealand. Returning to San Diego 26 September, Moody then resumed west coast operations into 1927, including a voyage to Panama between February and April 1928.

On 17 February 1927, she sailed from San Diego for tactical maneuvers with the U.S. Fleet in the Caribbean. Proceeding through the Panama Canal 4 March, she arrived Guantanamo 18 March and operated out of that port and Gonaives on Fleet Problem 7, involving the defense of the Panama Canal until 22 April. She then proceeded to New York for repairs, sailing for home 16 May, arriving San Diego 25 June.

In March 14, 1928, the Moody was chasing down a torpedo during practice off Pt. Loma when it suddenly turned into the starboard side and struck the Moody. Although the torpedo was not armed, an explosion took place, severely denting the hull and damaging the starboard strut. Soon after, the disabled destroyer was taken back to Mare Island for repairs.

The destroyer remained in service with the battle fleet through mid-1929. From April to June 1928, she made another cruise to
Hawaii with the fleet for the extensive exercises of Fleet Problem 8. She sailed to Mexico and Panama in early 1929 and then in July cruised to the Pacific Northwest, as far north as Ketchikan.

The Moody was again decommissioned at San Diego 2 June 1930 and was towed to Mare Island Navy Yard arriving on the 8th. The destroyer was struck from the Navy list 3 November and scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty limiting naval armaments. Most of her superstructure was sold as scrap metal 10 June 1931.

She was headed for the breaking yard when MGM purchased her for about $35,000 for a movie based on the Commodore Edward Ellsberg's "Pig Boats" which became the 1933 movie "Hell Below" starring Robert Montgomery and Jimmy Durante.

She was towed from Mare Island into Craig shipyard and reworked to represent a German destroyer for the movie. To simulate her sinking by "torpedoes" by the American submarine, AL-14 (played by sub S-31), Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation, were hired for the sinking. A charge of dynamite was placed on board just aft of the bridge. Shortly after noon on February 21, 1933, the Moody was blown in two. The explosion was placed between two water tight compartments so she would continue to float after the explosion. Two other explosions took out the water tight bulkheads and the Moody finally sank at 5:30 that evening. Some dozen boats, many with newsmen hoping to film the sinking destroyer hovered around the film crew, creating a nuisance. Threats were exchanged, but the filming was done. The following day, with bubbles and oil still coming to the surface, the wreck was wire dragged and found that the minimum depth exceeded 90 feet.

Basic Wickes/Clemson Class hull/deck lines.

Diving the Moody

Rediscovered by local wreck divers in 1973, the Moody, resting in 140 fsw, is strictly a dive for the experienced diver. The wreck is broken in two sections. Given the depth, the Moody has remained protected from any surf, however, the once intact hull sections have collapsed downward. The bow, twisted and lying on its side, has formed a bowl in the sand down to 150'. The stern lays upright, complete with propellers intact, but buried in the sand. The two sections lay parallel about 100 feet apart and divers sometimes tie a line between the two sections.

A diver explores the wreck.


Lying several miles from the shore, the waters are unprotected and strong currents can arise. Visibility at this remote site is usually good, averaging over 25'. However, the tall water column above absorbs most of the light, and the use of a dive light may be necessary. On some occasions, visibility may exceed 50' and there are even stories about divers being able to see both sections at once--over 100' of visibility!

The four-stack destroyers were virtually made of brass--its main attraction for wreck divers. Others found it to be one of the few areas in Southern California with a dense population of tall, white stalks of Metridium anenemes. Whatever its lure, the depth, limited visibility, and sudden strong currents have claimed more than one over confidant diver's life. But it's a thrill of a wreck dive, guaranteed.

Also see the Honda or Hogan pages for other local four-stack destroyer wrecks.


Paul Dwight Moody

Paul Dwight Moody (1879-1947) was tenth president of Middlebury. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he was the son of Emma Revell Moody and the well known evangelist Reverend Dwight Lyman Moody. He graduated from Yale College in 1901. He studied in Scotland at New College, Edinburgh, and Glasgow College, and in Connecticut at Hartford Theological Seminary. Moody taught school for six years in Northfield, Vermont, worked at the publishing firm of George H. Doran in New York, and was ordained as a congregational minister in 1912.

As pastor of the South Congregational Church, he was in St . Johnsbury, Vermont, until 1917, when he enlisted in the army as a chaplain and served in France, attached initially with the Ist Vermont Infantry until his promotion to senior chaplain. After the war, he was called to the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City he stayed two years, until 1921. Then he was chosen by Middlebury trustees as president. Moody joined Middlebury, when its 464 students was the largest student body in the College’s history, and when the faculty had just been enlarged by ten new members. But undergraduates were struggling with the social forces of the 1920s, as well as the demands of a war-veteran population eager to resume their lives student housing and classroom space were stretched beyond limit and his predecessor’s million-dollar endowment drive faced a one-year deadline. Moody convinced the donor to postpone its date, and in late spring of 1922, after a frenetic and high-spirited campaign, the president met the challenge. Moody was not a gifted fundraiser, however, compared to John M. Thomas, and this early success would not be followed by many others, though the campus did see some expansion. The Chateau and a music hall were the first buildings constructed during the Moody administration. Forest Hall would follow in 1936, with Gifford Hall and Munroe Hall being constructed in 1940 and 1941.

Moody moved Middlebury toward a solidly grounded liberal-arts tradition, but he was a firm believer in gender-segregated education, announcing that the freshman class in 1922 would follow a separate-but-equal doctrine, a move many trustees applauded. Though a women’s college at Middlebury was formally established between 1930 and 1931,the Depression and the onset of the second World War hampered efforts to solidify the institution.

Paul Dwight Moody had planned to retire in 1944, when he reached sixty-five, but the board decided it needed a stronger executive should the country be drawn into war. After secret trustee meetings in December and January of 1942 called for the president’s dismissal, Moody conveyed a special faculty meeting and emotionally announced he was resigning as of July 1, 1942. The College and town community was shocked, saddened, and angered.

Paul Dwight Moody became an assistant pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, but health and age urged him toward retirement, and in 1946 he and his wife, Charlotte Hull Moody, whom he had married in 1904 and with whom he had two daughters, moved to Shrewsbury, Vermont, where he died just over a year later, in August 1947.

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Present and Future Generations

Northen continued the work of the Moody Foundation, which W. L. Jr. established “to benefit in perpetuity present and future generations of Texans.”

The Moody Foundation grew to be one of the largest private foundations in Texas, awarding grants across Texas to private colleges and universities, children’s health projects, preservation projects and libraries.

Northen served as a foundation trustee until her death in 1986. Since then, the Moodys’ businesses have remained in family hands. Northen’s nephew, Robert L. Moody Sr., has continued to direct the family’s Foundation along with his children, Ross R. Moody and Frances Moody-Dahlberg.

Currently, all three serve as trustees of the Moody Foundation, which continues to provide grants primarily in Austin, Dallas, Galveston and Houston with an emphasis on education, social services, children's needs and community development.


The Courageous General Who Led the Way to D-Day’s First Successful Assault

W hen Brigadier General Norman “Dutch” Cota landed on Omaha Beach at 7:25 a.m. on June 6, 1944, he saw death, destruction, and defeat. From the bluffs overlooking the shore, German machine guns and rifles raked the beach, and artillery and mortar shells added to the mayhem. Dead and wounded American soldiers lay sprawled on the sand and floating in the water. Discarded weapons, life vests, and personal effects were strewn about, and disabled tanks burned fiercely.

The dazed, dispirited, and exhausted soldiers who had made it across the beach huddled by the seawall beneath the bluffs, “inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action,” as a U.S. Army after-action report described, their weapons fouled by sand and water and their resolve shaken by the horrors they had seen. “The crusade in Europe at this point was disarmed and naked before its enemies,” Captain Charles Cawthon of the 29th Infantry Division recalled.

What Cota saw didn’t surprise him. He knew that landings rarely follow the script, and this was no ordinary landing. It was the largest, most complex invasion ever attempted and was, the planners conceded, “fraught with hazards, both in nature and magnitude.” As Cota scanned the beach, he saw that everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. He knew that it was up to him—and the men by the seawall—to somehow make the landing work.


Brigadier General Norman “Dutch” Cota called on experience, guile, and raw bravery to overcome the deadly obstacles facing assault troops at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. U.S. ARMY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES

THE ALLIES HAD BEEN PLANNING the invasion of France, dubbed Operation Overlord, for more than a year. They targeted spring of 1944 for the assault phase, Operation Neptune, choosing a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coastline as the landing site. British and Canadian troops would assault three beaches—Juno, Sword, and Gold—while American troops would hit two to their west, Utah and Omaha.

Four-mile-long Omaha Beach, also known as Beach 46, shaped up as the toughest nut to crack. Its terrain was ideal for defense. At low tide, invading troops would have to cross 300 yards of open beach to reach the cover of a four-foot-high seawall. Steep sandy bluffs, rising 100 to 170 feet, overlooked the shoreline and dominated the landscape. The Germans heavily fortified these bluffs, focusing maximum firepower on the beach. Gunners in eight casements— with concrete walls three or more feet thick and housing guns 75mm or bigger—85 machine-gun positions, 35 pillboxes, 38 rocket pits, and six mortar positions all trained their sights on the shore, while ditches, walls, barbed wire, and minefields blocked Allied troops and vehicles from climbing the bluffs. But Omaha Beach had to be taken to avoid leaving a vulnerable gap between Utah Beach directly to the west and the three British-Canadian beaches to the east.

In February 1943, Norman Cota, a 1917 West Point graduate, was given his first star and assigned to the Allied invasion-planning staff at Combined Operations Headquarters. As chief of staff of the 1st Infantry Division, he had helped plan and execute the successful North Africa landings in November 1942. He was all infantryman, as skilled at leading a squad as at planning an invasion.

As the planning for Neptune shifted into gear in June 1943, Cota warned his colleagues that the invasion plan must be “thoroughly honest and simple” and rely “on the experience of those who have tried this thing before.” Above all, he warned, it must include a sufficient margin of error—what he called “factors of safety”—for the unexpected mishaps that inevitably occur. The greatest danger, he believed, was overthinking the plan. A multitude of British and American army, navy, and air force officers had a finger in the invasion pie and, Cota said, “nothing can move so fast from the simple to the complex as a Combined Operation.”


Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower (seated, center) and other leaders of the Allied Expeditionary Force organized history’s largest invasion.© IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS, TR 1631

THE RESOURCES COMMITTED to the operation were staggering—132,000 soldiers and 23,000 paratroopers would land on D-Day alone, supported by nearly 12,000 planes and more than 6,000 ships. If the invasion failed, it would be many months, at least, before the Allies could gather the resources to try again. “We cannot afford to fail,” Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower emphasized.

The Allies had made successful landings in North Africa and Italy, but none had involved beaches as heavily defended as those in Normandy. The only attack on a well-fortified coast—the raid on the French port of Dieppe in August 1942—had failed, with more than half the attackers killed, wounded, or captured. No strong pre-invasion bombardment had preceded the Dieppe operation, and planners pegged that as the fatal flaw. In any future assault on France, warned British commodore John Hughes-Hallett, naval commander at Dieppe, “intensive preparations by means of air and sea bombardment are essential in order to soften the defences.”

The invasion architects had considerable firepower at their disposal, and they intended to use it. At Omaha Beach, the battleships USS Texas and USS Arkansas, three cruisers, and a dozen destroyers would blast the defenses, and 480 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers were assigned to pound the German positions. The assault would also rely heavily on a new but unproven weapon: 64 duplex-drive (DD) amphibious Sherman tanks that would swim to shore to provide critical troop support.

The planners knew that firepower had limitations. U.S. Army Air Forces Brigadier General Robert C. Candee stressed that it would be “highly dangerous for me to promise in any way” that bombing could destroy the beach defenses. Likewise, U.S. Navy Commander Elliott B. Strauss warned that naval gunfire “cannot be depended upon to permanently reduce well emplaced and protected shore batteries.” The most that could be expected, the brass were told, was stunning the defenders with blast concussions, temporarily neutralizing them as the first waves of infantry stormed ashore.

These limitations steered the planners toward what Cota had warned of: a complex plan with little margin for error. On Omaha Beach, the first wave had to land before the dazed Germans regained their wits. To accomplish this, the 40-minute naval bombardment and the 25-minute bomber strike would end at 6:25 a.m., and the first assault troops would land at 6:31 a.m., only six minutes later. If the first wave of troops arrived too late, the defenders would be ready to meet them with withering fire, but an early arrival risked friendly casualties from bombs or naval shells that fell short. The air force estimated that as many as 8 percent of its bombs would drop in the water among the landing craft.

BY THE TIME THE PLANS were finalized, Cota was no longer part of the process. In October 1943, he was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division—with the 1st, one of the two divisions slated to hit Omaha Beach—as assistant division commander. Cota spent the rest of 1943 and early 1944 training the 29th, which had yet to see action. A rugged and stocky man, Cota was a ubiquitous presence on training exercises, encouraging and instructive. He was universally known as “Dutch,” a nickname he picked up playing high-school football in his native Massachusetts.

On April 9, 1944, two months before D-Day, an unexpected development complicated a plan that already had little room for error. Aerial reconnaissance showed the Germans constructing beach obstacles concentrated off Omaha Beach, something the invasion planners had previously believed the enemy lacked the resources to do.

By D-Day, these obstacles were many and varied. Farthest from the shore were about 200 Belgian gates, seven-by 10-foot iron barricades, many with mines attached. Next were about 2,000 wooden or concrete poles pointed seaward, again with mines or artillery shells often attached. The finishing touch was 1,050 hedgehogs—six-foot steel bars welded together at right angles—placed near the shoreline.


In a Wehrmacht propaganda photo, a German soldier surveys coastal beach defenses in northern France prior to D-Day. The Germans erected multiple barricades in anticipation of an amphibious Allied attack. BUNDESARCHIV, BILD 101I-299-1809-14/PHOTO: SCHECK

These obstacles posed a serious threat because they could damage any landing craft that hit them, and those armed with mines or artillery shells could blow boats apart. At the very least, the barriers could delay or prevent landing craft from reaching the shore, upsetting the split-second timing needed for the men to land before the enemy had recovered from the bombardment. Until these obstacles were removed, troops under fire would have to wade more than 50 yards through water knee-deep or higher to reach the shore. Then, soaked, exhausted, and still under fire, they would have to cross the beach to the seawall.

To meet this threat, the planners assigned 24 demolition teams to blow 16 50-yard-wide gaps through the obstacles, but the timing was tight—perhaps too tight. The demolition teams would land at 6:33 a.m., only two minutes after the first wave, and would have to finish their work in less than half an hour, before the bulk of the assault troops began landing at 7 a.m. and before the rising tide submerged the barricades.

Nevertheless, Eisenhower was confident. “If our gun support of the operation and the DD tanks during this period are both highly effective, we should be all right,” he wrote on June 3, 1944. “The combination of under-sea and beach obstacles is serious but we believe we have it whipped.”

Cota had his doubts. His experience had taught him not to count on any landing going according to plan, and he was skeptical of this plan’s split-second timing because he knew “confusion and chaos are inherent in the very nature of the operation.” He wasn’t alone in this thinking. Colonel Paul R. Goode of the 29th Infantry Division briefed his regiment by tossing aside the bulky invasion plan. “Forget this goddamned thing,” he told his men. “There ain’t anything in this plan that is going to go right.”

On June 5, 1944, aboard the attack transport USS Charles Carroll, Cota gave his staff, self-dubbed the “Bastard Brigade,” a no-holds-barred briefing on what to expect the next morning. Cota anticipated that the air and naval bombardments wouldn’t meet expectations, and he assumed the landing craft would arrive late. Gaining a beachhead would be no easy task, he believed, but leadership, courage, and quick thinking would carry the day. “We must improvise, carry on, not lose our heads,” he emphasized. He knew that soldiers, not plans, win battles.

BY THE TIME COTA and his aides landed on the Dog White section of Omaha Beach the next morning, his predictions had come terribly true. The invasion plan had gone hopelessly awry, and the landings had become, said Neptune’s ground commander, British General Bernard Law Montgomery, a “very sticky party.” What began as an organized assault had “deteriorated into a struggle for personal survival,” according to one 29th Infantry Division after-action report.

Strong winds, rough seas, and overcast skies played havoc with the landings. Because cloud cover prevented bombardiers from seeing their targets, they had to bomb by radar. Air commanders lacked confidence in this method for close support of ground troops, so they ordered bombardiers to hold their payloads for an extra five to 30 seconds to avoid hitting friendly landing craft, which would be as close as 400 yards from the shore. This caused the B-24 Liberators’ 1,286 tons of explosives to fall far beyond the Germans’ beach defenses. A later investigation confirmed that there was “no evidence of bomb strikes on or near the target areas or anywhere in the vicinity of the beach,” something angry soldiers already knew.


A medic of the 1st Infantry Divison tends to wounded soldiers taking shelter at the seawall fronting Omaha Beach. NATIONAL ARCHIVES

“The Air Corps might just as well have stayed home in bed for all the good that their bombing concentration did,” Lieutenant Colonel Herbert C. Hicks Jr. complained in his after-action report, and one infantryman wrote home that the airmen “might have done better if they had landed their planes on the beach and chased the enemy out with bayonets.” The air force later conceded that the pre-invasion bombardment had “afforded little support to the landing operations.”

The Texas had fired nearly 700 14-inch rounds and the Arkansas more than 700 12-inch shells, but the navy neither destroyed nor neutralized the defenses. The thick concrete casements survived all the navy threw at them, and most “did not show signs of direct hits nor of any shells exploding sufficiently close to be effective,” noted Colonel E. G. Paules of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the following month. Many fortifications were so cleverly hidden that they were invisible to aerial or seaward observation, and all were “exceedingly difficult to detect,” wrote Admiral John L. Hall Jr., the naval commander at Omaha Beach, in a report directly after the assault.

Choppy seas caused the untried DD tanks to fail. Only about half of the 64 DD tanks made it ashore the others sank or were knocked out by artillery fire. The German defenders, thought to be of low quality, had been augmented with veteran troops. The beach obstacles remained in place because they were “much more numerous than Intelligence reports had indicated,” Admiral Hall reported, and because nearly half the demolition men became casualties. The biggest impediment to demolition, however, was that soldiers—many severely wounded—clustered behind the barricades to shelter themselves from the deadly small-arms fire.

Strong currents had prevented the first waves from landing as planned. “All semblance of wave organization was lost,” Admiral Hall noted, and boats landed individually—often late—giving the Germans time to regain their wits after the naval bombardment and focus their fire on the men leaving each craft. The first waves were slaughtered, with “men being killed like flies from unseen gun positions,” reported Major Stanley Bach, a member of the “Bastard Brigade.”

COTA ALMOST DIDN’T make it ashore. His boat, LCVP 71, hit a mined wooden pole. “Kiss everything goodbye,” he thought as he braced for the explosion, but the mine fell harmlessly into the water. Cota and his staff landed 50 yards from shore in knee-deep water and quickly came under fire. After briefly taking cover behind a tank, Cota made it to the timber seawall, where he found disorganized groups of soldiers taking cover. The seawall protected them from small-arms fire, but not from mortars shrapnel the size of a shovel blade killed a man near Cota.

Huddled by the seawall, Private William Stump craved a cigarette, but his matches were soaked, so he asked the soldier next to him for a light. When that soldier turned towards him, Stump was startled to see he was a general. “Sorry, sir,” he stammered. “That’s OK, son, we’re all here for the same reason,” Cota said as he lent Stump his Zippo lighter.

Staying by the seawall was suicide, so Cota looked for a way to get the men on the move. Although admittedly “scared to death,” he walked along the beach, seemingly oblivious to enemy fire while encouraging the troops forward. The prone soldiers took notice. “I guess all of us figured that if he could go wandering around like that, we could too,” said Sergeant Francis Huesser.


In one of the few photographs of troops in battle on D-Day, a U.S. Army Ranger who landed at Omaha Beach takes aim at the enemy. U.S. ARMY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Cota knew he, too, had to lead. He crawled past the seawall, found a good position, and put a soldier with a Browning Automatic Rifle there to provide covering fire. He had another soldier use a Bangalore torpedo to blow a hole in the double-apron barbed wire blocking access to the bluffs. The first soldier through the gap was hit by machine-gun fire, writhing on the ground screaming for a medic and his mother until he died. This rattled the already-jarred troops Cota knew something dramatic was needed, so he charged through the gap and made it. Others followed. A mortar shell landed nearby, killing two men near Cota and throwing him up the bluff. At 51, Cota was perhaps the oldest man on Omaha Beach, but he popped up unharmed.

Using a communications trench for cover, Cota led a small group up the bluff. At the top, machine-gun fire from across a field stalled the advance. Cota had several men lay down covering fire, and he tried to find a sergeant or lieutenant to lead an attack. “None of the leaders seemed to be in evidence, and his exhortations were not too successful,” noted Cota’s aide, Lieutenant Jack Shea. So Cota himself led the charge, and the Germans fled. This was, historians Stephen Ambrose and Joseph Balkoski believe, the first successful infantry assault of the Allies’ Normandy campaign.

Cota’s party advanced to the nearby town of Vierville-sur-Mer. About 500 yards from town, a machine gun opened up. Cota sent a patrol to flank the gun, and the Germans ran away. By 10 a.m., a few other troops had come up the bluffs. “Where the hell have you been, boys?” was Cota’s cheerful greeting.


Wehrmacht soldiers surrender to the advancing Allies. Cota and the men who followed him up Omaha’s bluffs took the first of thousands of German prisoners on D-Day. THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

By noon, Cota was concerned that no vehicles had come up from the beach to Vierville, so he led a five-man patrol back to the shore to investigate. Germans fired on them from a nearby cavern in return, a “dozen rounds of carbine and pistol fire sufficed to bring five Germans down,” Lieutenant Shea said. The prisoners were, one observer noted, a “sorry looking bunch in comparison to our well-fed and equipped men.” Continuing toward the beach, the patrol encountered mines. Cota had one of the prisoners lead his men through the minefield, with the Americans careful to follow the German prisoner’s footsteps. Cota’s patrol passed the bodies of more than 30 29th Infantry Division men killed trying to advance up the bluff.

Cota saw the reason for the hold-up: a thick concrete antitank wall blocked the road. Engineers said they lacked explosives to demolish it, but Cota noticed a bulldozer tank nearby loaded with TNT. When no one volunteered to drive the bulldozer to the antitank wall, he challenged the men. “Hasn’t anyone got guts enough to drive it down?” he asked. A young soldier came forward, and Cota slapped him on the back with a hearty “That’s the stuff,” adding, “Goddamit, get moving.” Soon, the wall was gone. Cota regretted not getting the volunteer’s name so he could put him in for the decoration he deserved.

On the way back toward the front, Cota had his first chuckle of the day when he came across a sailor—whose landing craft had been shot out from under him—carrying an unfamiliar rifle in his hands. “How in hell do you work one of these?” he asked, complaining that this was just why he had joined the navy, to avoid “fighting as a goddamn foot-soldier.”

By late afternoon, the acute crisis had passed. Troops, vehicles, and supplies were streaming ashore and advancing up the bluffs. By the end of the day, 34,000 men had landed on Omaha Beach and the crusade in Europe was back on track. The price, however, was high: 2,400 dead, wounded, or missing.


Within days of the first assault, tens of thousands of Allied troops and weapons came ashore the hard-won beaches of Normandy. U.S. COAST GUARD/NATIONAL ARCHIVES

THE SOLDIERS who were at Omaha Beach knew what had made the high command’s plan work. “Navy can’t hit ’em—air cover can’t see ’em—so infantry had to dig ’em out,” Major Bach wrote in notes scribbled that afternoon. To Colonel Paules, “those bluffs were captured and those exits opened solely through the plain undaunted heroism of those infantry teams of the 1st and 29th divisions and their attached engineer units…. The two cemeteries at Omaha Beach speak eloquently of the type of men who were there that day.”

What tipped the scales, Captain John C. Raaen of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion wrote in a letter home, was the “magnificent leadership of a few officers like General C.,” who put their lives on the line “when the chips were down.” Cota had improvised, carried on, and kept his head. On June 29, 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his “superb leadership, personal bravery, and zealous devotion to duty” in rallying the troops and leading them up the bluffs. But to Cota, it was the men on the beach who deserved the credit. “Believe me,” he wrote to a friend in 1949, “they were the only reason that enabled an old crock like myself to shake fear loose and ‘Roll On.’” ✯

This story was originally published in the June 2019 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.


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