19 June, 2011

19 June, 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
19 June, 1944         0915

Wilma darling –

Still on V-mail ration, dear, but soon I may be able to find a spot to write an Air-mail. A wonderful thing happened yesterday when I got two letters from you – one written May 31st and the other June 5th – with a cute postcard enclosed. It sure was good to get – and the Army is doing a swell job in keeping the mail going. I’m sure you must be hearing fairly regularly by now, sweetheart.
Mobile Post Office near Cherbourg

News from here is scant. The radio must be keeping you up to date with what’s going on. We’re a part of the picture, all right, but it has not been bad. I’m getting toughened up in the hands and shoulders from digging in – wherever we go. That is absolutely the first thing we do.
Foxholes by a Stream in Normandy
The food situation hasn’t been too bad. Haven’t been able to spend any money. All our English money was turned into francs before we left. Each franc is worth two cents – so that we all have francs in the thousands. They come in paper notes, 5 francs, 50, 100, 500 1000 – etc. and all in different sizes – so you can’t get them into you wallet right. All for now, darling. Remember I love you terribly and miss you and think of you constantly. My love to the folks and remember – don’t worry!!

All my love, dear


about The Mulberry Harbors and the Storm

Mulberry Harbor B at Arromanches
To enable the forces already on the Normandy coast on D-Day to be reinforced and kept supplied with utmost speed it was necessary that two invasion ports be constructed in England, then be transported across 100 miles of sea and placed in position off the enemy occupied coast. It was estimated that about 12,000 tons, plus 2,500 vehicles of all kinds, would have to be unloaded each day for 90 days at least. The only possible plan was to have prefabricated sections which could be assembled at the spot where two vast invasion ports would be most useful - Mulberry A for the USA beaches of Omaha and Utah and Mulberry B for the British and Canadian beaches of Gold, Juno and Sword. Each harbor would have a capacity of 7000 tons of vehicles and supplies per day. Caissons would be towed across the Channel, each by a tug of about 1,500 hp. On arrival they were to be maneuvred into position with the help of small tugs, then special valves would be opened in each, allowing water to fill it and sink it where it was to remain. The designs would allow for the floating caissons to be secured in place in four days.

On D-Day blockships sailed to where this work was to be completed, to provide breakwaters for the immediate shelter of hosts of small craft. Sixty ships of various types and sizes were earmarked for this purpose, including old warships. These made the crossing close behind the assault forces and all arrived safely. They were sunk by explosive charges, and their crews were then brought back to England. To complete each port, internal equipment such as piers was essential. It was no easy matter to construct a pier hundreds of feet long on a flat beach, with a rise and fall of tide of over 20 feet, and which sometimes may be floating and at other times be resting on sand or, worse still, rock.

After severe sea tests the equipment went into production amounting to 7 miles of pier and all necessary appurtenances. Pier heads were built, as ships, in various ports on the coast of the UK, from Leith round to Glasgow. Most of the remaining equipment was prefabricated all over the country, and then assembled at the Army depots at Southampton and Richborough. About 240 contractors were employed on this particular task, and 50,000 tons of steel were used. The work of assembly-on-the-spot went on whilst the sinking of caissons was being completed. By D-Day plus 12 more than half of these were in position, and the harbors were already an impressive sight. Floating breakwaters, consisting of steel floats, had previously been moored end-to-end in a long line, to provide a damping effect on the sea in strong winds; 15,000 tons of steel were used in their construction. The Army Fire Service helped in sinking the pier heads to the correct level.

The two photos below show activity at Mulberry A.

And then, on 19 June, the biggest June gale for 40 years began. It blew for three days from the worst possible direction. The harbors, only half-way built, were exposed to its full force. The American harbor, Mulberry A suffered very severely and the breakwaters were largely broken up. The destruction was so great that the work on this harbor was discontinued. Mulberry A was in use for less than 10 days. Out of 31 caissons laid in position, 21 were damaged beyond repair by the storm, with broken backs and sides. Mulberry A was never used again and parts of it were scavenged to repair damage to Mulberry B. The Americans quickly reverted to the traditional methods of unloading from landing craft and DUKWs ("Ducks") directly onto the beaches, often coming in on one tide and leaving on the next. Such was their success that on occasions they exceeded the impressive performance achieved at Mulberry B.

The six photos below show the damage done to landing craft and pontoons.


All the pier equipment which was on the voyage across when the gale started was sunk, but only one caisson failed to weather the journey. After the gale subsided, the work of construction continued on Mulberry B, the British harbor at Arromanches, though a long spell of rough weather prevented pier equipment from being towed over, so that the remaining harbour was not unloading to maximum capacity until well into July. But even on the worst day 800 tons of petrol and ammunition, as well as many troops, were landed over the piers. Eventually it was completed, and a port bigger than many with famous names had been built in a few weeks against a lonely French beach.

Day after day, in all weathers, scores of ships of all sizes had moored within its shelter or berthed in unbroken lines along its quays. Never, even at the height of a peacetime trade boom, had so much shipping used such limited accommodation at one time. Each day around 9000 tons were landed via Mulberry B until the end of August by which time Cherbourg port became available for use, at least in part. Towards the end of the year, after the capture of Walcheren, the port of Antwerp also was made available. In all, Mulberry B was in use for 5 months during which time over two million men, half a million vehicles and 4 million tons of supplies passed through the harbor. During this period several additional caissons where used to reinforce weak points in the breakwater.

The following photos show vehicles and half-tracks
coming and going at Mulberry B.

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