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Memorial Day 2014

Lest we forget...

I had two uncles who were part of the invasion force at Normandy.
One came home, one didn't.

Pvt. John McKnight Served with the 741st Tank Battalion

For D-Day, the battalion was attached to the 1st Infantry Division to support the 16th Infantry Regimental Combat Team landings on Omaha Beach. Company A was equipped with M4 Sherman tanks, while Companies B and C were equipped with the amphibious Sherman DD tanks. Company D, equipped with M5 light tanks, and the battalion headquarters were not part of the initial landing force. The Company A tanks, along with a platoon of bulldozer-blade equipped Shermans, were brought ashore by LCTs, while the DD tanks were launched from about 6,000 yards offshore, which was considerably further out than originally planned, and in rougher seas than those in which the unit had trained, resulting in the loss of 27 of the 32 DD tanks before they reached shore. Only two of the launched DD tanks reached the beach; another three were carried ashore when their LCT was unable to lower its ramp at sea. By the end of D-Day, the battalion had three combat ready tanks; 48 had either been sunk or destroyed in combat. Personnel losses were nearly as high, with 45 men killed and another 60 wounded during the day’s action. For its actions on Omaha Beach on 6–7 June, the battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After its initial assault and consolidation of the beachhead with the 1st Infantry Division in Normandy, the battalion was detached from the 1st Infantry Division on 15 June and attached to the 2nd Infantry Division. The initial coordination of the tanks with the infantry units as they began to fight inland in the bocage country of Normandy was not well executed and both infantry and tanks suffered casualties until the tactics and procedures of operating together were put in place. The tankers practiced with infantry and engineers at the platoon and tank/squad level for the remainder of June to perfect their techniques in working together. During this period, the battalion suffered numerous equipment losses due to tanks mired in the soft boggy soil; and personnel casualties as well, due to artillery barrages when the crews had to abandon the mired tanks

The 741st led the 2nd Infantry Division’s assault on Hill 192 on 11–12 July in the breakout from Normandy. Hill 192, the dominant terrain east of St. Lô, had to be taken in order for the American forces to liberate St. Lõ and establish an organized front line from which to launch Operation Cobra. After taking Hill 192, the 2nd Infantry Division went on the defensive until the start of Operation Cobra. On 26 July, the 2nd Infantry Division, with the 741st Tank Battalion continuing to provide direct fire support, advanced slowly, anchoring the left flank of the main assault of Operation Cobra, which took place to the west of St. Lõ. The division and the 741st advanced together as far as Tinchebray before new orders temporarily sent them on divergent paths


John's grave
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Basse-Normandie, France
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Fallen, but not forgotten. A special thank you to all of our fighting and fallen family and friends who have sacrificed more than many will ever know.

Thank You!