A deviation from doctrine put more Allied emphasis on bombers and less on naval gunfire from ships (such as HMS Nelson ) on D-Day at Normandy. The troops on the beach were the ones who suffered.
If the naval guns have not properly done their part, the troops will be caught at the mercy of machine guns and other rapid-fire weapons." 1 Lieutenant Walter C. Ansel, U.S. Navy, wrote these words in 1932 in his critique, "Naval Gunfire in Support of Landings: Lessons from Gallipoli." On 6 June 1944, Lieutenant Ansel's words proved true. At Omaha Beach, the soldiers of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division were caught in daylight, on open stretches of terrain, facing a deliberate defense. Naval and air preparatory fires had failed to neutralize the German defenses, and the resulting casualties were high. By 1200 on D-Day, Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, commander of the First U.S. Army (FUSA), was almost ready to accept defeat in the battle for Omaha Beach and to shift follow-on forces to other beaches. 2 The fire-support plan for the Normandy invasion failed at Omaha Beach. 3
The inability of the Navy and Army Air Forces to pave the way for the assaulting troops brought sharp criticism. 4 The lessons of Dieppe, Tarawa, Sicily, and other hard-fought amphibious campaigns appeared to have been forgotten by the planners of the Normandy invasion. These criticisms later were refuted by professional soldiers, sailors, and historians to the satisfaction of most observers. 5 Ansel's work, U.S. Marine Corps amphibious doctrine, and the FUSA's own modified amphibious doctrine, however, show conclusively that the planners of the Normandy invasion violated their own doctrine, and by doing so rejected the cumulative body of knowledge gained in amphibious warfare since the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. The mission to reduce German defenses with bombs and naval gunfire failed at Omaha Beach because the operational commanders opted to employ new, untested procedures that were flawed in too many ways. 6 Had the German defenses at the other beaches been of the quality and character of those at Omaha, the weaknesses in Allied planning and doctrine would have been revealed on these beaches also, making the cost of taking them substantially higher and the possibility of complete failure more likely. 7 What caused the Allied operational commanders to disregard tried and tested practices and seek new solutions to old problems? What was the joint, combined doctrine for the conduct of the subsidiary mission of beach preparation, and how were the methods and techniques employed at Normandy violations of those practices?
Ansel's study of the Dardanelles Campaign of World War I led him to conclude that "the attacks succeeded in almost the same proportion as the naval artillery support allotted; that is, success followed the strongest artillery." Ansel's conclusions and method of analysis, with modifications for air power, were still valid in World War II for a daylight assault against a defended beach. The problem was to determine the types and amount of naval gunfire necessary for soldiers to overcome a given defense. The doctrinal approach of daylight assault based on firepower was not at issue. 8 The problem was making firepower-based assaults work by deploying sufficient numbers of forces and by employing naval gunfire more effectively. Ansel concluded that assault landings adequately supported by naval gunfire could and did succeed, which was consistent with the thinking of other Navy and Marine Corps officers who were developing the amphibious doctrine that would be employed in the Pacific. It was this type of thinking that formed the basis for the Navy and Marine Corps' Tentative Manual for Landing Operations , first published in 1934.