In observing the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, the first things that come to mind for many are the landings at Omaha Beach by the U.S. 1st and 29th Infantry divisions, or perhaps the night drops by the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions behind the invasion beaches. While some history enthusiasts may know the U.S. Coast Guard’s important D-Day role operating LCI(L)s—large infantry landing craft—relatively few are aware that a naval reconnaissance unit led by a Coast Guard officer participated in the liberation of the major Normandy port of Cherbourg.
Breaking with the traditional roles played by Coast Guard officers, Commander Quentin Walsh led his men in ground combat, helping to defeat Cherbourg’s German garrison and capturing hundreds of prisoners. Moreover, Walsh and his reconnaissance team admirably fulfilled their chief assigned roles: to assess and promptly report to Navy headquarters on the extensive damage to the port and to oversee its repairs so that the Allies could maintain their offensive in France.
William B. Breuer, Hitler’s Fortress Cherbourg: The Bloody Battle that Saved the Normandy Invasion (New York: Stein and Day, 1984).
Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millet, A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
Personnel records of Quentin R. Walsh, Military Personnel Records Center, National Archives and Records Administration, Saint Louis, MO.
“Quentin R. Walsh: Captain in Coast Guard, Whaling Expert,” Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2000.
W. H. Thiesen, “The Long Blue Line: Quentin Walsh’s Long, Colorful Career,” U.S. Coast Guard Compass: Official Blog of the US Coast Guard, 7 July 2016.
U.S. Coast Guard, Public Information Division, The Coast Guard at War: Landings in France, vol. 11 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1946).
CAPT Quentin R. Walsh, USCG (Ret.), “The Capture of Cherbourg,” in Assault on Normandy: First-Person Accounts from the Sea Services, Paul Stillwell, ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994).
Quentin R. Walsh, Little Known Facts of a Well Known War (self-published, reprinted July 1992).
Quentin R. Walsh, The Whaling Expedition of the Ulysses, 1937–38 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2010).
Malcolm F. Willoughby, The U.S. Coast Guard in World War II (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute, 1957).