To help the Infantry on D-Day, the Allies Headquarter decided to land amphibious tanks.
To do so, the M4 Sherman tanks were modified. A system of duplex drive propulsion was added to allow it to navigate in the sea, two propellers mounted at the rear allowed the tanks to move.
To prevent the tanks from sinking, a rubberised canvas was added. This system of Duplex Drive was tested on lakes in England and Scotland and the results were most than satisfactory. Unfortunately the Allied Headquarters didn't think to test them out at sea and this will be one of the reasons of the failure of the tanks to support the infantry at Omaha Beach on the 6th of June 1944.
The Duplex Drive Amphibious Tanks enter into battle
On D-Day two regiments of tanks were scheduled to land on Omaha Beach to help the Infantry. The 741st Tank Battalion to support the assault of the 1st Infantry Division and the 743rd Tank Battalion to support the 29th Infantry Division.
The tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion were launched 6000 yards off the coast at 0635 am with Companies "B" and "C" in the lead. Company "B" was scheduled to land on Easy red sector and Company "C" on Fox Green.
32 tanks of “B” Company were launched, only five landed on Easy Red and went into action in support of the troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment.
As for the tanks of "C" Company the rest of "B" Company sank in the sea due to the heavy waves.
On shore, one tank of Company "B" under the command of Sergeant Geddes destroyed two French guns of 75mm which were on the hill next to Exit 3.
At 0640 "A" Company landed astride the boundaries of Easy Red and Fox Green and engaged the enemy strongpoints and antitank gun positions on the beach, but this Company had "normal" M4 Sherman. Sergeant Coaker’s tank and Sergeant Ball’s tank with Lieutenant Klotz’ tank bulldozer fired about 10 shots on the first pillboxes in front of them.
Arriving from a LCT as the rest of "A" Company, 2nd Lieutenant Barcelona and Sergeant R. A Nichols started to clean out the way for the bulldozer.
During the afternoon other tanks will land on Easy Red sector to remove obstacles off the beach and move to the assembly area at the West of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. At the beginning of the evening some tanks from "A" and "C" Companies cleaned out the snipers they met on their way to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.
During the day the few tanks that didn't sink will put out of action many German strongpoints.
Altogether, 32 tanks were engaged but 27 were destroyed or sunk in the sea!
Contrary to the the 741st Tank Battalion, the 743rd Tank Battalion landed its tanks from LCT's directly on the beach.
"A" Company was composed of M4 Sherman, and "B" and "C" Companies of Duplex Drive M4 Sherman".
Due to the rough sea on the morning of the 6th of June, Captain Ned Eldar decided to launched his tanks not at 6000 yards off the beach but directly on the beach.
The Tanks were brought on shore on 8 LCT's at 0640 am, 15 minutes late. An LCT which landed tanks from "B" Company sunk due to the German artillery fire.
The 743rd Tank Battalion had more success in landing its tank on the beach than the 741st Tank Battalion.
Written by Pierre Fallet, WWII Trainee of Normandy American Heroes