Of The 347th Ordnance Depot Company
Chapter 4: Normandy
It was an uneventful crossing with no enemy sea or air action. There were so many vessels coming and going that you got the impression that you were on a main street. The LCTs transporting the company arrived off UTAH beach late in the afternoon of June 25th with the tide coming in rather than the desired ebb. Eight of them dropped anchor to await the tide change early the following morning. The ninth, whose skipper was anxious to return, pulled into the beach, dropped the ramp, and told them to drive off. The men looked at him, looked at their overloaded vehicles, then shrugged their shoulders and climbed in. The first van rolled down into the four feet of water, hesitated a second, then with its Federal tractor roaring defiance, ploughed on through to the beach. The second loaded with 13 tons of tools and instrument parts, had struggled about forty feet toward shore when it hit a crater. Forward motion stopped and the engine slowly died. The driver and assistant climbed onto the top of the van where a DUCK picked them up and returned them to the LCT.
After signaling the shore to take care of the van, the LCT pulled back out with the others to await the tide change. A bulldozer failed to come for the truck and the incoming water so submerged it that an LST landing in the morning cleaved the top of the van in and added to the damage already done by the salt water.
The next morning at low tide the LCTs all beached and dried out so that all the vehicles pulled out on solid ground. They had become separated and so landed at several sections of UTAH BEACH. Most of the day was spent consolidating into one marshalling area. Late in the afternoon Capt. McDonald contacted the 224th Ordnance Group and asked for instructions. An apple orchard near Orglandes, France was pointed out as the area, and he was told to be in and operating by the next morning. About 2100 hours that evening the convoy started out of the marshalling area down the narrow, winding French roads, through war torn villages. It was a dark night with the convoy completely blacked out and was constantly on the alert for the snipers they had heard so much about. But the area was reached without trouble. The exhausted men slept where they fell.
The next morning the depot was organized and operating by 0900. The men dug maneuver type slit trenches and pitched their pup tents right over them. A few days later, as the company was eating noon-chow, a large explosion caused all to stop what they were doing and listen. In the ensuing silence, the sound of a large artillery piece firing, and the high scream of the shell as it came towards us could be plainly heard. Many a man was cussing his laziness as he dove into his shallow hole. The barrage ended a half hour later with the only one casualty of the the man who made a flying leap into an already occupied hole and forgot to leave his messkit of stew behind. It was discovered that the enemy lines were only five miles away and that the front was very thinly held while the bulk of the army was up taking Cherbourg. The men's holes went much deeper and radical changes were made in the guard. A perimeter defense consisting of six tanks and three machine gun positions was organized.
The supply situation at this time was very difficult. The base depots had not yet arrived and the only source of supply was the phase shipments coming into the beaches. Huge quantities were being shipped but there was no control at the receiving end as to what the boxes contained. The result was that excesses would exist with certain items while others were seriously short. This, coupled with the fact that the 195th Ordnance Depot, which had been operating about two weeks without support, had to be restocked and that very few of the parts loaded on other unit's transportation were not yet received, put a strain on the depot's stock. In a very few days, however, the base depots arrived and the supply system reverted to normal with a few items in short supply.
The 347th was classified as an intermediate type depot in the 181st Ordnance Battalion under the command of Major Parker. The mission was to supply the four maintenance companies in the Battalion plus refitting the divisions coming down from the Cherbourg Campaign to go into the line again in the drive for Paris.
On July 30th, after the terrific bombing near Saint-Lô preceding the breakthrough, the company moved into bivouac near Saint-Clair. The move required three days of constant shuttling because of the size of the depot stock. This was cut down so that on the 13th of August the move from Marigny (had arrived here on August 5th) to Villedieu was accomplished in one day.
On the 15th of August orders were received transferring the company to the Third Army. Immediately upon learning of this, an officer from the 334th Ordnance Group came in to check the stock card balances and to transfer all critical items to other First Army units. He made the mistake of announcing his intentions and then taking time to eat chow. This gave the parts men an ample opportunity to change figures, so when the inspection team made their check they where met with a large number of zeros. They did, however, take all the vehicle pool and all vehicles in excess authorized by First Army leaving the company only their authorized T/O & E with which to move.
The Ordnance Section of the Third Army was contacted with the hard luck story and they referred us to the 70th Ordnance Group who assigned the 347th to the 26th Ordnance Battalion. Lt. Col. Charles M. Cross, the commanding officer, furnished ample transportation and so on the 21st of August the 347th was able to convoy over to the fast moving Third Army.