THE ANN ARBOR NEWS, ANN ARBOR, MICH.
Lt. Branchfield Writes His Reactions On D-Day
A bloody path of fire made by the sun’s reflection on the ocean seemed a strangely appropriate lighting scheme to Lt. Edward Branchfield as he stood at the bow of his ship on D-day morning and strained his eyes for a glimpse of the French coast.
The atmosphere "would have seemed gruesome had I not had my mind full of maps and plans,” said the lieutenant, writing some weeks later to his wife, Lola Branchfield, who Is living in Ann .Arbor at present.
Having been awakened by the low thunder of distant guns that morning the lieutenant was up before daylight, collecting and burning all secret documents, to prevent them from being seized and turned to use by the enemy.
l-ater. while standing on deck, he noticed what appeared to be an island but what, upon closer inspection, proved to be a mass of invasion ships slowly approaching the coast. Before long, he was able to pick out landmarks which he had previously studied from aerial photos.
Before boarding the assault boats, he had time for a little thought. "Strangely enough." he wrote, “I was neither frightened nor excited. My only emotion, if any, at that moment, was a vague dread of the long time I knew we would have to remain in the assault boats.
"I had gotten seasick the day we had practiced the assault, and was afraid of a repetition. My fears were groundless, however, probably because I had so much else to think about.”
The months of study and planning stood our men in good stead, the lieutenant said, adding "I could close my eyes and see our section of the coast, complete with every building, barbed wire fence, machine gun and almost every enemy soldier.
"We found machine guns and artillery exactly where we expected them. On that day and the next day, we didn't hit a single thing that I hadn't exacted to find exactly where It was."
Trip Not Thrilling
Lt. Branchfield spoke of the trip in the assault boat as interesting, though not thrilling. He and his men saw many different types of boats, including some that would surprise the Jerries even yet.
The traffic control was amazing, he reported. Small Navy boats were posted like traffic officers on comers, while other boats roved around the waters like motorcycle policemen.
When, the Allies approached the shore, they saw their warships "standing shoulder to shoulder slugging it out with the enemy,” in the lieutenant's words.
"Our tremendous firepower had smothered practically everything that could fire on our incoming boats,” he said, explaining that even our own shells which were falling on the beach, ceased just as their wave landed.
Not In Assault Wave
"We hit running, without even getting our feet wet. There was some machine-gun fire, but it was all ours," he said, explaining that although he didn’t hear the crack of a single enemy bullet that day, he probably would have heard plenty of them had he been In the assault wave.
All that night the lieutenant and his companions marched, trying their favorite "stick out your neck" trick of operating large bodies of troops behind the enemy lines.
"I went on patrol through an entire cavalry troop that night, without anyone apparently dreaming of our presence,” the lieutenant said. "Hours after the landing, Jerry was still not alert. No wonder we achieved complete tactical surprise.”
Lt. Branchfield was awarded his commission from the infantry officers' training school of Fort Benning, Ga., in April, 1943, following which he was stationed at Camp VanDorn, Miss., until going overseas.
Before entering service, he had been awarded his degrees from the University Literary College and Law school.
Lt. Edward Branchfield