Success on D-Day would not have been possible without the Allied naval operations on and off Utah Beach, the codename for the westernmost landing area between Pouppeville and La Madeleine, France. Minesweepers cleared the English Channel; battleships and cruisers hammered enemy defenses; and landing craft brought men, materiel, and killing machines onto the beach.
The 865 ships of Task Force U delivered more than 20,000 men across the Channel to Utah Beach on 6 June 1944, the first day of the invasion. Force U arrived offshore at 0125 after following beacons through mined waters, and opened fire in the predawn darkness. When German coastal artillery fired on the fleet, the ships responded with overwhelming firepower. The USS Nevada (BB-36) destroyed a German 210-mm gun in its concrete casemate, while the USS Quincy (CA-71) hit targets with precision, thanks to a naval forward observer who’d parachuted in with airborne troops during the night. The intense bombardment lasted less than an hour, opening the way for the landing troops.