The following article on naval artillery is an excerpt from Barrett Tillman’ D-Day Encyclopedia. It is available for order now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 


Naval artillery has been a primary feature of naval power since cannons were mounted to war vessels. But they were a critical component of Allied victory in World War Two, particularly at D-Day. This article will describe the naval artillery available to America on June 6, 1944.

Lacking sufficient land-based artillery in the assault divisions on D-Day, the Allies brought powerful naval artillery to Normandy. It was provided by seven battleships, twenty-three cruisers, ninety-three destroyers, two monitors, and two gunboats. Supporting vessels included 142 escorts or corvettes and fifteen sloops.

The Germans kept their reserves well inland, away from the landing beaches and landing ships, having experienced Allied NGF in Sicily and Italy.

Because most gunfire support ships could not see their targets, indirect fire was required. Aerial observation was an important aspect of effective NGF, though weather conditions on 6 June tended to obscure targets. Both infantry and airborne forces had gunfire spotters down to the battalion level, and some naval officers jumped with the paratroopers to provide an organic spotter capability.

Some destroyers slid within a few hundred yards of their assigned beaches to support the army, and though communication problems frequently arose, the overall effect was largely beneficial. The chief of staff of the First Infantry Division later stated that the ‘‘Big Red One’’ would not have been able to move off Omaha Beach without effective naval gunfire.

Bombardment ships in the American sector were:

Omaha Bombardment Group

Battleships

  • USS Arkansas (BB 33). Wyoming class, commissioned 1912.
  • USS Texas (BB 35). New York class, commissioned 1914.

Cruisers

  • HMS Bellona. Bellona-class light cruiser, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Glasgow. Southampton class, commissioned 1937.
  • FFL Georges Leygues (French). La Glossonairre–class light cruiser, commissioned 1937.
  • FFL Montcalm (French). La Glossonaire–class light cruiser, commissioned 1937.

Destroyers

  • USS Baldwin (DD 624). Livermore class, commissioned 1943. • USS Carmick (DD 493). Livermore class, commissioned 1942.
  • USS Doyle (DD 494). Livermore class, commissioned 1942.
  • USS Emmons (DD 457/DMS 22). Ellyson class, commissioned 1941/44, sunk off Okinawa 1945.
  • USS Frankford (DD 497). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Harding (DD 625/DMS 28). Ellyson class, commissioned 1943/44.
  • USS McCook (DD 496). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Satterlee (DD 626). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Thompson (DD 627). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.

Destroyer Escorts

  • HMS Melbreak. Hunt class, commissioned 1942.
  • HMS Talybont. Hunt class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Tanatside. Hunt class, commissioned 1942.

Utah Bombardment Group

Battleship

  • USS Nevada (BB 36). Nevada class, commissioned 1916.

Cruisers

  • HMS Black Prince. Bellona-class light cruiser, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Enterprise. E-class light cruiser, commissioned 1926.
  • HMS Hawkins. Hawkins class, commissioned 1919.
  • USS Quincy (CA 71). Baltimore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37). Astoria class, commissioned 1934.

Monitor

  • HMS Erebus. Erebus class, commissioned 1916.

Destroyers

  • USS Butler (DD 636/DMS 29). Ellyson class, commissioned 1942.
  • USS Corry (DD 463). Gleaves class, commissioned 1942, sunk 6 June.
  • USS Fitch (DD 462/DMS 25). Ellyson class, commissioned 1942/44.
  • USS Forrest (DD 461/DMS 24). Ellyson class, commissioned 1942/44.
  • USS Gerhardi (DD 637/DMS 30). Ellyson class, commissioned 1942/44.
  • USS Herndon (DD 638). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Hobson (DD 464/DMS 26). Ellyson class, commissioned 1942/44.
  • USS Shubrick (DD 639). Livermore class, commissioned 1943.

Destroyer Escorts

  • USS Bates (DE 68/APD 47). Buckley class, commissioned 1943.
  • USS Rich (DE 695). Buckley class, commissioned 1943, sunk 8 June.

Sloop

  • HNMS Soemba (Dutch). Flores class, commissioned 1926.

Gold Bombardment Group

Light Cruisers

  • HMS Argonaut. Dido class, commissioned 1942.
  • HMS Ajax. Leander class, commissioned 1935.
  • HMS Emerald. Emerald class, commissioned 1926.
  • HMS Orion. Leander class, commissioned 1934.

Destroyers

  • HMS Cattistock. Hunt class, commissioned 1940.
  • HMS Cottesmore. Hunt class, commissioned 1940.
  • HMS Grenville. G class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Jervis. J class, commissioned 1939.
  • ORP Krakowiak (Polish). Hunt class, commissioned 1941.
  • HMS Pytchley. Hunt class, commissioned 1940.
  • HMS Ulster. U class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Ulysses. U class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Undaunted. U class, commissioned 1944.
  • HMS Undine. U class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Urania. U class, commissioned 1944.
  • HMS Urchin. U class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Ursa. U class, commissioned 1944.

Sloop

  • HNMS Flores (Dutch). Flores class, commissioned 1926.

Bombardment and gunfire support ships in the British and Canadian sectors were:

Juno Bombardment Group

Cruisers

  • HMS Belfast. Edinburgh class, commissioned 1938.
  • HMS Diadem. Bellona class light cruiser, commissioned 1944.

Destroyers

  • HMCS Algonquin. V class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Bleasdale. Hunt class, commissioned 1942.
  • FFL La Combattante (French). Hunt class, commissioned 1942, lost in 1945.
  • HMS Faulknor. F class, commissioned 1935.
  • HMS Fury. F class, commissioned 1934. Sunk 21 June 1944.
  • HNoMS Glaisdale (Norwegian). Hunt class, commissioned 1942.
  • HMS Kempenfelt. W class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMCS Sioux. V class, commissioned 1944.
  • HMS Stevenstone. Hunt class, commissioned 1943.

Sword Bombardment Group

Battleships

  • HMS Ramilles. Royal Sovereign class, commissioned 1917.
  • HMS Warspite. Queen Elizabeth class, commissioned 1916.
  • U.S. Navy battleship Nevada bombarding the invasion beaches: Martin K.A. Morgan.

Cruisers

  • HMS Arethusa. Arethusa class light cruiser, commissioned 1935.
  • HMS Danae. D-class light cruiser, commissioned 1918.
  • OPD Dragon (Polish). Dragon-class light cruiser, commissioned 1917, torpedoed 8 June.
  • HMS Frobisher. Hawkins class, commissioned 1924.
  • HMS Mauritius. Fiji-class light cruiser, commissioned 1941.

Destroyers

  • HMS Eglington. Hunt class, commissioned 1940.
  • HMS Kelvin. K class, commissioned 1939.
  • HMS Middleton. Hunt class, commissioned 1942.
  • HMS Saumarez. S class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Scorpion. S class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Scourge. S class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Serapis. S class, commissioned 1943.
  • ORP Slazak (Polish). Hunt class, commissioned 1942.
  • HNoMS Stord (Norwegian). S class, commissioned 1943.
  • HNoMS Svenner (Norwegian). S class, commissioned 1944, lost 6 June.
  • HMS Swift. S class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Verulam. V class, commissioned 1943.
  • HMS Virago. V class, commissioned 1943.

Monitor

  • HMS Roberts. Roberts class, commissioned 1941.

Abbreviations

BB: battleship

CA: heavy cruiser

DD: destroyer

DE: destroyer escort

DMS: destroyer [high-speed] minesweeper

Most of the U.S. Navy destroyers off Normandy were Livermore (DD 429) class ships. Sixty-four were commissioned from 1940 to 1943; the nameship remembered a Connecticut captain of the Continental Navy. Originally mounting five five-inch .38 caliber guns and ten torpedo tubes, they were reduced to a more manageable four turrets and five tubes. They were rated at 1,630 tons standard displacement, 348 feet length, and thirty-six-foot beam.

Their fifty-thousand-shaft horsepower delivered thirty-seven knots.

Twelve destroyers were converted to destroyer (i.e., high-speed) minesweepers (DMS) in early 1944 with all tubes and one five-inch turret removed, yielding the new Ellyson class.


This article on naval artillery is from the book D-Day Encyclopedia, © 2014 by Barrett Tillman. Please use this data for any reference citations. To order this book, please visit its online sales page at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

You can also buy the book by clicking on the buttons to the left.