Buried in Paper:

The D-Day Documents

Part 8: 16th Infantry Regiment's Distinguished Unit Citation


Capa had to face away from the German defenders to get this photo of a 16th Infantry soldier during the landing. This photo was taken on Omaha Beach by Robert Capa, the only photographer to land in the first wave on Omaha Beach. He landed with Company E of the 16th Infantry Regiment, whose Distinguished Unit Citation documents are shown on the following pages.
Read Capa's memories of landing with the 16th Infantry at Magnum Photos web site

The following documents summarize the 16th Infantry Regiment's experiences on D-Day. The 16th Regiment, part of the 1st Infantry Division, landed on Omaha Beach in the first wave and within a few hours a third of its soldiers were either killed or wounded.

The document describes a "7-yard beachhead." That's how far they initially were able to advance: 21 feet. As the citation reports: "By this time [early on D-Day] the beachhead was blocked by the crowding of personnel onto the 7-yard penetration. Shoulder to shoulder the men lay prone on the pebbles, stone and shale; some of the personnel on the beach lay in a prone position with bodies half inserted in the water."

As successive waves of soldiers landed, they added to the morass. "The third wave, fourth wave and fifth wave found the first wave assault infantry trapped on the beach. The 7-yard beachhead, jammed with personnel, remained under constant enemy artillery, mortar, AT [anti-tank], MG [machine gun], and sniper fire. Casualties mounted with each successing wave."

Then they started to fight back. "Officers and men gathered the remnants of their units and slowly, with groups being cut down almost as soon as formed, began to develop from a confused, hurt mass into a cohesive fighting force." On that one day, in that one regiment, 36 officers and 935 enlisted men were killed, wounded or missing in action.

For its actions that day, the 16th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Disinguished Unit Citation for "such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign."

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