John Ahearn at
Lieut. John Ahearn commanded the second tank that landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, the 6th of June, 1944.
|The following is an edited transcript of John Ahearn talking about his experience. You can also listen to a recording if you have the right software on your computer.|
|I saw General Roosevelt on the beach and got out of my tank and reported to him. He told me to
go on with my mission to secure the lateral parts of the beach, and to get inland as fast as we
could. I had 14 tanks, and Lieutenant Yeoman took half and proceeded north. I took the rest south,
and found an opening farther down the beach. The opening in the wall had a tank-like object in it. I
had not been informed about anything like this and was concerned, but pushed through rapidly
since that was my mission. I found out later that this thing was called "Little Goliath" and was a
tank killer. During the bombing, the controls to this thing had obviously been severed.
We observed a German strongpoint, and although there seemed to be no activity, we fired some shells into it, and with that, a number of soldiers came out. There were about 30 impressed soldiers not of German origin. They came with their hands in the air warning us of mines. We turned these prisoners over to the infantry.
At the juncture of the road leading to the town of Pouppeville, I split my force and had Lieutenant Tighe proceed inland. I took the rest of the force down this narrow road, across the dunes and across the hedgerows to see if I could find any other strongpoints. Shortly after we split, my tank hit a mine, and we were immobilized. I radioed Lieutenant Tighe, and I proceeded on foot over several hedgerows to reconnoiter. I heard cries for help, and saw three paratroopers who were injured. I returned to the tank and got the large first aid kit. A hedgerow separated me from them, and I found an opening and crossed it.
I was trying to get as close to them as possible when an antipersonnel mine went off under me, and threw me into the bank of hedgerows and knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I yelled for help, and Sergeant Zampiello and Corporal Beard came looking for me. I was hard to find since I was rolled against the embankment. I warned them of the mines, and they threw me a rope and dragged me out from over the hedgerow. Despite heavy paratrooper boots, my feet were mangled. I was brought into this tent which was a medical station, and that night they amputated one of my feet.
Later when I could stand a second operation, they amputated the other. I received the Distinguished Service Cross for my action on D-Day.
Voices of D-Day: The Story of the Allied Invasion Told by Those Who Were There
A DD Tank of the 70th Tank Battalion
A Company, commanded by 1st Lieutenant De Witt C. Fair, landed with the first Battalion, on beach
Tare Green, immediately in front of the fortifications in and around La Madeleine. B Company,
commanded by 1st Lieutenant Francis E. Senger, landed with the 2nd Battalion, on beach Uncle Red,
about 1300 yards southeast of La Madeleine. It was also faced with fortifications upon landing. These
were field fortifications covering the causeway roads. They were reduced with little difficulty by company-size
forces. Other small groups cleared houses along the roads which parallel the beach. These fortifications were
much less formidable than these at the beaches where the landings were intended. This allowed much
greater early success than could have been obtained against the others. C Company, commanded by
1st Lieutenant John L. Ahearn, landed with the engineers on both Tare Green and Uncle Red beaches.
They cleared the beaches of enough obstacles to insure unobstructed landing of troops to follow. The
dozer tanks provided cover from small arms and artillery fire for the dismounted engineers while they placed
charges to blow those obstacles which could not be pushed aside by the tank dozers. The Battalion
Commander, the Communications Officer, and one liaison officer came ashore in two 1/4-ton trucks
with the assault waves.
Exit 3 was covered by 88-mm guns which prevented A Company from accompanying its infantry over the causeway through that exit. Instead, A Company and part of B and C, passed through Exit 2 with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry. Halfway over the causeway to Exit 2, directly inland from the landing sites, they found a culvert blown and the road covered by an antitank gun. The first tank, a DD, was stopped by a mine. Another was knocked off the road by the antitank gun. Still another moved up. This one silenced the enemy gun. The blown culvert was not serious in itself because, after the gun was knocked out, the troops and tanks were able to ford the stream and push on. They passed through Exit 2 and on to the area just southwest of La Houssaye. Here the tanks stopped for reorganization.
Meanwhile, elements of B and C Companies, with the C Company Commander, Lieutenant Ahearn, and the Second Battalion,. Eighth Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Carlton O. MacNeely, moved south along the beach toward Pouppeville. They encountered continuous small arms fire all the way. G Company received artillery fire and ran into a mine field as well, when it approached a strongpoint at Beau Guillot. Tank fire forced the enemy in the town to capitulate. The tank-infantry team pushed on toward Exit 1. As they passed the minefield, C Company's commander saw a wounded paratrooper lying in the minefield behind the sea wall. Lt. Ahearn stopped his tank, told his crew to stay in it, dismounted to rescue the wounded man. As he was picking his way through the minefield, he tripped one or more mines which blew his feet off. His crew dismounted and, with the aid of ropes, succeeded in getting both men out of the minefield without accident. They evacuated them to the beach for return to England.
from Armor in Operation Neptune (Establishment of the Normandy Beachhead).
Amphibious DD Tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion on Utah Beach
Lt. John Ahern in 1943
|70th Tank Batallion||Purple Heart||Silver Star||Distinguished|
Lt. John L. Ahearn
John Ahern at Walter Reed Hospital
This page copyright © 2001-2009 by Dennis Ahern.