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D-Day: 11 things to know about Utah Beach
First Published May 31 2014 10:41 pm • Last Updated May 31 2014 10:46 pm

• 1. The five beachheads for the invasion of Normandy, France, from east to west, were code-named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.

• 2. The British and Canadians were primarily responsible for the three eastern beaches, while the Americans had responsibility for Omaha and Utah.

At a glance

11. Utahns were there

At least a few Utahns served at Utah Beach in Normady, France.

Don Buswell, of Ogden, was a U.S. Navy officer aboard a landing craft infantry ship that carried 300 troops in the second wave of the Utah Beach invasion. In a 2005 interview with KUED, Buswell described the scene as his ship approached Utah Beach.

“What we could see was our big ships, our battleships and cruisers pounding that beach and literally it’s hard to believe but I saw that beach bounce. I could just see it vibrating.”

Buswell said his crew could see men getting killed in the water.

“We would see these soldiers floating in the water after we had landed,” Buswell told KUED, “and the following day we were assigned to stay on the beach and patrol and when we’d see these dead soldiers, we would notify someone to come pick them up.”

Buswell died in 2009.

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• 3. Utah Beach included an inlet on its left flank. The eastern edge of the Cotentin Peninsula was on the right.

• 4. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower added Utah Beach to D-Day because he worried that, without it, the Allies would have difficulty eventually capturing the city of Cherbourg on the north end of the peninsula.

• 5. Eisenhower wrote: "Rapid and complete success on Utah Beach was, we believed, prerequisite to the real success in the whole campaign."

• 6. Because of the inlet and dunes lining the shore, the Germans did not think Utah Beach suitable for an amphibious assault and did not defend it as heavily as other beachheads, especially Omaha Beach.

• 7. Strong currents pushed ships and the 4th Infantry east of their intended landing zone. This proved to be a blessing. The Americans went ashore at a lesser-defended section of Utah Beach.

• 8. About 21,000 men landed on Utah Beach.

• 9. Casualty numbers at Utah Beach depend on the method of counting. The most-complete number of casualties suffered there June 6, 1944, may come from historian Joseph Balkoski. In his 2005 book, "Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-Day," Balkoski placed the casualties at 3,510. Of those, at least 242 troops, sailors and pilots died at Utah Beach or the Cotentin Peninsula.

• 10. Eisenhower wrote that the invasion at Utah Beach went "satisfactorily."

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Sources: "The D-Day Atlas" by Charles Messenger, "Crusade in Europe" by Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-Day" by Joseph Balkoski.


Twitter: @natecarlisle

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