Archive for June, 2016

Clearing the Way: The 299th Engineer Combat Battalion

By: Jason Patrick, U.S. Army Engineer School Historian’s Office

299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha Beach (Easy Red

299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha Beach (Easy Red
sector) June 6th 1944, D-Day.

In the early morning hours of June 6th 1944, men and equipment were poised and waiting to begin their assault on the five predetermined landing points on the coast of Normandy, France. The day of days was getting underway and the combined Allied invasion force stared down the throat of a fate that would see the loss of many lives and many struggles laying before them.

One struggle faced in the operation was the presence of obstacles, both underwater and on the beaches themselves. These had to be cleared to allow the successful landing of men and equipment otherwise things at the shore would get delayed and on the beaches, delays meant death to those coming ashore and fighting to move inland.

One unit charged with the mission of breaching and clearing obstacles was the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion. The 299th was assigned the mission of clearing eight 50 yard wide gaps in the various underwater obstacles. They were the only Engineer Battalion to land on both beaches assigned to American forces and actually had personnel landed before any other American units had set foot on the beach.

At 0633 hours on the 6th of June, eight assault teams of the 299th had landed on Omaha Beach and set to work of clearing obstacles under heavy enemy fire with the help of eight armored bull dozers that had made it ashore in working order. By 0715 hours the teams had blown five of the eight gaps

Wounded soldier from the 299th Engineer Combat

Wounded soldier from the 299th Engineer Combat
Battalion in the Battalion CP Omaha Beach, June 6th 1944, D-Day.

and support vessels were landing while infantry elements remained pinned down behind the dune line. During the landing two of the assault teams were found to be missing in the confusion and chaos of combat. By 0900 hours the two missing assault teams were located and by 1000 hours the infantry was able to clear the beach defenses and move inland off the beach.

As the infantry and their support moved off the beach the 299th continued their mission of clearing the beach of all obstacles for the next three days. They would face mortar and artillery fire as well as strafing and bombing attacks from enemy aircraft until the 8th of June when anti-aircraft batteries could be put into action effectively shielding the beach from enemy aircraft. By 2300 hours on the 9th all standing obstacles on the beach were cleared. After having been among the first soldiers to land on Omaha, losing nearly a third of their personnel, paving the way for the assault force and ensuring that support vessels from the invasion fleet could bring their crucial supplies and equipment ashore, the men of the 299th were attached to the 336th Engineers of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade and would move inland by foot to a nearby village.
The actions and sacrifice of the men of the 299th on Omaha Beach in June of 1944 earned them the Presidential Unit Citation as well as a permanent place in US Army and US Army Engineer history.

299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha Beach (Most

299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha Beach (Most
likely taken on Easy Red sector) June 6th 1944, D-Day.

Soldier from 299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha

Soldier from 299th Engineer Combat Battalion on Omaha
Beach (Easy Red sector) taken at approximately 1500hrs from the Battalion CP
while the area was under artillery fire. June 6th 1944, D-Day.

 

 

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