Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]
[image ALT: a blank space]

This webpage reproduces a section of

Force Mulberry
Alfred Stanford
[Commander, U. S. N. R.]

published by
William Morrow and Company
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p7  Introduction

In this book Commander Stanford has made a very important contribution to the history of World War II, and in the writing of it he has recaptured the sense of excitement, almost desperation, of planning and executing the landings in Normandy. The "Mulberries," the two artificial harbours established immediately after the initial landings, were absolutely essential for the success of Operation Overlord. For, as we found out in World War II, the most difficult thing in an amphibious operation is not to establish the initial beachhead — that can almost always be done if sufficient force is employed and tactical surprise is obtained — but to sustain and reinforce the ground troops against the beachhead, and attain the objective.

Massive as was the Anglo-American assault on the Normandy beaches, it had to be followed up immediately by even greater increments of men, armor, vehicles and supplies to make it succeed. There was no possibility of getting all this ashore over wave-lashed beaches where spring tides rose twenty‑one feet. One or more ports were essential to maintain an even flow of men and matériel. But all the French ports, notably the nearest ones at Cherbourg and Le Havre, were so strongly held by the enemy that the capture of one would employ forces badly needed elsewhere for at least six weeks, during which the Germans would be unexpectedly weak or very stupid if they did not succeed in rubbing out the initial beachhead.

 p8  The only possible way out of this dilemma was the apparently impossible task of providing sheltered water off the beaches within a matter of three days. Since speed was of the essence, all elements of the artificial harbors would have to be constructed in England, towed across the Channel under danger of wind, weather and enemy air attack, and sited under fire.

Commander Stanford, who was Deputy Commander Mulberry A under the hard-driving Capt. A. Dayton Clark, participated in the planning, the training and the execution. He has told a fascinating story of all three phases. The need of secrecy was so paramount that very few men among the detailed planners could know what the whole thing was about. The Phoenixes — enormous concrete caissons as big as a five-story apartment house; the Whales — pontoon-supported ramps capable of handling heavy armor; and the Gooseberries — vessels to be sunk as an outer line of protection — had to be built or procured at a dozen different ports of the United Kingdom. Men had to be specially trained to operate them, tugs procured to tow them, combatant ships found to escort them, salvage or towboat experts engaged who were capable of solving these new and unprecedented problems. There were difficulties due to Anglo-American rivalry, to the indifference of top commanders to subjects they did not quite understand, to the scarcity of labor and materials, to the crowded ports and overcharged communication channels.

The American Mulberry A was assembled off Omaha Beach on D‑plus‑8-day (14 June 1944), twenty-four hours ahead of the expected time. That in itself was a marvelous achievement, and it functioned so smoothly that on 14‑18  p9 June inclusive an average of over 8,500 tons of cargo poured ashore over it daily. Then, on 20 June, there blew up the strongest summer gale known in the English Channel for forty years. At the end of two days' bashing by wind, waves, and vessels that dragged anchors and pounded against it, Mulberry A looked like a complete wreck. But the officers and men responsible for it managed by extraordinary energy, resource­fulness and a complete disregard for common necessities of food, shelter and sleep, to repair Mulberry A so that on 23 June the tonnage landed rose to 10,000 tons, and on the 26th to 14,500. The other U. S. installation off Utah Beach, which had some natural protection from the Cherbourg Peninsula, came through the storm almost intact and the British Mulberry B behind Calvados Reef survived.

Thus the Mulberries were the most vital logistic factor in General Eisenhower's shattering of Festung Europa and breaking through the German wall of steel. Just how many months nearer they brought victory over Germany is anyone's guess. It is right and proper that the men who contributed to this result should be remembered and honored as much as those who did the fighting ashore, afloat and in the air. Commander Stanford was one of these men; he has modestly kept his own contribution in the background, but has not spared praise to his fellow workers, or blame for those who did not rise to their responsibilities. The story is one which every American and Englishman should know; and the reading of it will enhance their pride in national achievements.

Samuel E. Morison

Harvard University
August, 1951

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 9 Feb 22