US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

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US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  Dantheman on Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:39 am

Portraying the 8th Infanfry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, the group attended the 70th Anniverasry Commemorations of the US Assault Training Centre at Woolacombe Bay Devon.

Here are a few highlights of the weekend -







































Last edited by Dantheman on Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:12 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  Dantheman on Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:10 pm

Part 2 -

Heading out for the evening to the Red Barn Cafe, which was the home of American Red Cross back in 1943/44 -


THEN -





NOW -





Then a stroll over to the Woolacombe Bay Hotel which was the Headquarters of the Centre -










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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  dragoon_44 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:19 pm

Well done guys!! Great job indeed... Great display with lots of public interaction it seems. Really gutted me and Helen missed out on this one. Look forward to hearing more about it.
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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  samharris45 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:19 pm

Some great pics lads well done! Looked llike a great weekend and lots of interest. Is this still gonna be just a one off event?
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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  murph on Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:15 pm

Thanks for posting Dan. We had as much public interest as we normally get at Trowbridge on the Sat. despite the fact a lot of folks said that they did not know the event was taking place.

It is likely to have been a one off event and with the distance involved getting to and from it I don't think it is one we would be likely to do again.

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  TonyM on Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:47 pm

I've put most of mine on FB but here are some of the best of the memorial service.

Here's Murph presenting our wreath




And a close up of the wreaths, the 4ID one is ours



Here is the dedication on the memorial

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  Gina_Costina on Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:47 pm

Excellent!! You did the IV Division proud!!! Some great photos there.

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  Pat on Thu Sep 05, 2013 1:20 pm

Excellent pictures mates, I'm looking forward to the report!! I really regret not having been able to attend Sad. You did a great job portraying 4th Inf. Div. mortar section !! I think we can be proud of all the different impressions we manage to do around the 4th Inf. Div !

Again, good job to all who attended !

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  murph on Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:17 pm

On the 31st of August 2013 members of GI 44-45 had the honor of deploying to the former site of the US Army Assault Training Center located overlooking the magnificent beach at Woolacombe Bay, Dorset on the West Coast of England.

It was almost 70 years to the day when the center was established by the US Army in recognition of the need to train soldiers and sailors in the techniques that they would need to land successfully on the Beaches of France.





Extensive aerial reconnaissance and local espionage by members of the French resistance meant The Army knew that the troops would face formidable opposition from dug in and well established German units who had the benefit of several years to plan and prepare defense in depth.  Those defenses ranged from fixed fortifications equipped with heavy artillery, anti aircraft and anti tank guns protected by well equipped troops firing everything from mortars to heavy machine guns.   In addition the the defense incorporated ingenious and fiendish devices such as Belgian Gates and more simple ideas such as attaching land mines to heavy wooden poles all designed to make it more difficult for landing craft to actually approach the beach.

The training was undertaken by almost 10,000 men from the 1st, 4th and 29th U.S. Infantry Divisions backed up by the sailors manning the various kinds of landing craft employed.   The Army had decided that the surest way of securing a foothold rested with the Infantry organised into thirty man 'Assault sections'.   The men were trained in a variety of methods in order to destroy or capture the German pill boxes.   To achieve this they needed to be trained in the use of weapons as simple as the satchel charge all the way up to the use of Bazooka rockets and Flame throwers.






The training needed to be as realistic as possible and took place in all weathers and sea conditions often making use of live firing and smoke screens to simulate the heat of battle.   The men also had to get used to the descending over the side of assault ships into their landing craft,not something that was easy to do in a flat bottom boat pitching about on a heavy sea.




There are no definitive figures for the number of men who were killed during the training but locals who were children at the time who remembered the Yanks recalled that on one occasion two landing barges transporting troops and Sherman tanks were blown off course by a heavy South Westerly gale and overturned.  Official figures at the time put the death toll for this one incident down as fourteen but a local man whose sister actually married one of training staff recalled that he was responsible for dealing with the dead men's personal effects and he recovered over sets of thirty dog tags from this one incident.



Irrespective of the risks associated with such realistic training there can be no doubt that the men would not have fared as well as they did on D-Day itself without being given this chance to practice their skills.

The event itself involved the creation of a small encampment nest to the beach itself made up of members of GI 44-45, Red One and the 29th Infantry living History Groups.  In addition local members of the Military Vehicle Trust and others contributed static displays including a life size model of the Landing Craft Infantry marked up with the training centers NATB or Naval Amphibious Training Base as used at the time.







As always the weather was going to be a crucial element.   Friday was ominously wet and foggy but Saturday and Sunday proved to be glorious with beautiful warm sunshine and very little wind.   Members discovered just how hot the sun had been when the took off their Garrison caps on Sunday evening to find that they each had a distinctive tan line across half of their foreheads.

Since the show itself was free to the public and right next to the beach there was understandable interest shown by the local and visiting public.   The group decided that an 'open display' was the way forwards and this meant that Saturday in particular saw several hundred guest take a close look at what the lifestyle of a typical GI might have been like at the time.  

It was particularly gratifying to be visited by two of Woolacombes more senior residents who were by their own admission 'little tearaways' at the time the U.S. servicemen were present.



Little remains to show it but the whole area and the town itself were virtually turned into a military barracks to accommodate the large numbers of training staff and visiting units. One building does remain pretty much as it was so on Saturday evening members donned their class A uniforms and headed to the the 'Red Barn Pub' located less than 150 meters from their encampment.   They were joined by their better half's who had also made the trip down to Dorset in order to get together and explore the local area.  It transpired that the Red Barn had in fact been used by the American Red Cross during the training and several pictures located within provided a useful then and now comparison.










Sunday morning was allocated over to a ceremony held next to the Woolacombe memorial that was dedicated in 1992 by Brigadier General Paul W Thompson who actually commanded the center during the war years.   Members of the unit paraded along with their colleagues to lay a wreath in honor of the 4th U.S. Infantry Division and observed a minutes silence following the playing of Taps by a lone bugler.








All in all the weekend proved to be very enjoyable and successful for the unit and grateful thanks to the members of Braunton and District Museum who invited us to display.

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  Gina_Costina on Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:39 pm

Great stuff!

Ta

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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  messkit on Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:14 pm

This is incredible and an aspect of the war that no one really gives much thought. The intense training and preparation that these G.I.s did is what made the operation itself a success. Well displayed and hope to make it out next year!
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Re: US Assault Training Centre 70th Anniversary - Woolacombe Bay

Post  samharris45 on Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:53 pm

That's an excellent report Ian well done! Nicely complimented with the pictures.
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