The Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) Battery

Three 210-millimeter guns (Projectiles 8.25 inches in diameter). 

Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq)

(Pronounced "
san mar-KOOF " and "KRIZ -beck") 

The Saint-Marcouf battery, located next to the village of Saint-Marcouf, is also known as the Crisbecq battery, since it is also situated just outside the hamlet of Crisbecq. The Americans tended to call it Crisbecq, and the Europeans called it Saint-Marcouf.  Pre-D-Day Intelligence reported six 155-millimeter (6-inch) guns in the battery, but those six guns were moved and three long-range 210-millimeter guns were installed. Located 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) inland from Utah Beach, the battery is credited with sinking an American destroyer on D-Day as troops were landing on Utah Beach. The Corry was the only U.S. destroyer sunk on D-Day and the U.S. Navy's only major loss that day. 

210 mm Skoda K39/K41 Gun (Czech made)

Shell Diameter: 8.267 inches (210 mm)
Shell Length: 2.62 feet, or 31-1/2 inches long (80 cm)
Shell Weight: 300 pounds (135 kilos)
Shell loading/firing capacity: every 40 seconds

Range: 18.5 miles (30 kilometers)


Source: Saint Marcouf Battery Museum

Note that some accounts say that a fourth gun of lesser caliber from a nearby battery may have been firing in unison with St. Marcouf/Crisbecq's three guns. This would explain accounts that describe salvos of four shell splashes being seen near the Corry.  

While the final official loss of ship report for the USS Corry states that the Corry struck a mine on D-Day, other evidence including input from several of the Corry's crew has indicated that the USS Corry was sunk by heavy enemy artillery fire alone; that there was no mine involved in the sinking of the USS Corry. From D-Day morning on, input from the commanding officer, surviving officers, chiefs and other crewmembers explained how heavy artillery fire had caused the sinking of the Corry

Initial action reports (click here to read) and accounts of the sinking of the Corry stated that the loss of the ship was due to a salvo of heavy-caliber projectiles that hit the Corry amidships below the water level and broke the ship's keel at about H-Hour (6:30 am). These reports identify and detail what kind of projectiles detonated, and where they detonated, and the damage they caused -- projectiles entered in the forward fire room and forward engine room which are aft of the bridge area below the first smoke stack and the torpedoes, under the water level. Additionally, the Corry's commanding officer, in a June 9, 1944 CBS radio interview with Edward R. Murrow (click here to read / listen), gives a detailed description of how "three large projectiles entered almost simultaneously.

German battle reports also concur with the American reports: At 06:35 on D-Day, the Saint Marcouf battery reported scoring direct heavy hit on a warship off Utah Beach. The Germans initially believed that they had sunk a light cruiser, but the silhouette of a destroyer can look similar to that of a light cruiser at a distance. Click here to view the German D-Day reports with English translations


About two weeks after D-Day, at a survivor camp in Scotland a final report that detailed how heavy enemy artillery fire had sunk the Corry was about to be submitted by the commanding officer as the official loss of ship report for the Corry. However, after a meeting of the surviving commanding officers of the USS Corry, USS Meredith (DD-726), and USS Glennon (DD-620) took place, the Corry's battle report was suddenly discarded and a new contradictory report was written up by the Corry's commanding officer, stating that the Corry had struck a mine on D-Day. (The Meredith and Glennon were also declared sunk by mines off Utah Beach following the survivor camp meeting -- see below for details on how the Meredith was not sunk by a mine but was officially declared to have struck one.) 

Following the survivor camp meeting, none of the other Corry officers or crew were consulted for input on the re-written Corry mine report, which then became the final official loss of ship report for the Corry. While initial reports and accounts had detailed how heavy artillery projectiles sank the Corry, the new official report, from its front cover onward, stated outright several times that the Corry struck a mine and sank. Only on its very last page does it dislose that a mine was believed to have exploded simultaneously with some kind of now unidentified artillery fire. The final official report hides the fact that heavy-caliber projectiles hit the Corry and detonated in the engineering spaces as was clearly detailed in the initial action reports. Further, while all initial input from the commanding officer and crew sited the cause of the sinking to be artillery damage to the port side of the Corry which was the side facing the shore, the damage in the official report was declared to be a mine exploding on the starboard side of the Corry, completely contradicting damage assessment input by officers and crew. 

One Corry officer stated that the tightness and regularity of the shell splashes around the Corry just before the big hit "indicated first class gunnery. The shells were perhaps 10 or 15 yards apart, in a neat, straight row." His statement is consistent with the fact that the commanding officer of the St. Marcouf battery was a former chief instructor of the German naval artillery school at Sassnitz, Germany. In addressing the change to the Corry's battle report from artillery fire to a mine, the Corry officer stated, "We considered that the evidence of gunfire was overwhelming, and none of us had experienced anything that could be taken for the blast of a mine."  

The fact that there was a strong concussion effect when the ship was hit was the sole basis for the mine hypothesis on the last page of the final official report. Moreover, on the last page of the official report, the 300-pound heavy-caliber projectiles that exploded amidships and at the exact same instant as the hypothesized mine, were now officially reduced to having caused "merely incidental damage" to the Corry. Because projectile size details are not given in the official report, anyone reading only the official report is unaware that these heavy artillery shells that hit the Corry amidships measured 8.25-inches in diameter and weighed 300 pounds -- bigger than those fired from heavy cruisers. The projectiles were fired by guns capable of shooting more than 18 miles, and they blasted the Corry at virtually point-blank range. A salvo of these  8.25-inch, 300-pound projectiles does not cause "merely incidental damage" to a tin can destroyer as alluded to in the final report; it causes significant, considerable damage, and produces a substantial concussion effect when detonating below the water level near the keel of a destroyer at very high velocity. 

As to why the final official report stated a mine caused the sinking of the Corry, some speculate that Allied Command may have ordered the change because they wanted to discredit the marksmanship of the German gunners in the invasion. That the USS Meredith's report was changed from a rocket-powered, radio-controlled glide bomb to a mine after a meeting of the commanding officers of the Corry, Meredith, and Glennon, gives credence to contradiction between actual battle activity and "officially reported" activity for the Corry

In any event, with first-hand input from survivors, noting the direction men were thrown on the ship, a mine could not have exploded under the USS Corry as is reported in the final official report. See below where the physics of the explosion contradict a mine detonation. 



To note: When the Corry was hit amidships, men were thrown toward the center of the ship, with the bow and stern rising upward due to the explosion.  Men and equipment on the bridge were thrown backwards, consistent with heavy-caliber shells entering the engineering spaces aft of the bridge below the water level, and detonating downward, driving the middle of the ship downward like a "V", pulling the bridge and everyone on it backward. However, a mine exploding under the engineering spaces as reported in the final official report would have caused the exact opposite of what happened: it would have driven the middle of the ship upward, throwing men and equipment on the bridge forward; and if a mine had detonated amidships, men positioned aft of the explosion area would have been thrown toward the stern. But from first-hand accounts the men who were aft of the explosion were thrown forward, toward the center of the ship. 

Ensign Robert Beeman was out on the wing of the bridge when the Corry was hit, and he was thrown backwards toward the forward smoke stack. CPO McKernon was on the bridge at the back of the pilot house holding on very tightly to a railing behind him, and he was pulled backwards by the explosion, his legs going airborne out from under him.  

Further, one Corry survivor described how the explosion caused the ship to be driven sideways away from the beach, keel first, with the ship's upper superstructure moving downward toward the shore. Such movements are consistent with heavy artillery projectiles hitting the Corry on the shore side below the water level at point-blank range, driving the ship away from the shore. The official report states that a mine exploded on the Corry's starboard side, which was the seaward side. Such a mine explosion would drive the ship toward the shore, not away from it. 

Another survivor who was stationed aft of the explosion area was outside on the upper deck of the Corry between the ship's second smokestack and Gun 3. He explained how he was thrown upward into the air by the jolt when the ship got hit.  After rising into the air, just as he began to come down, the ship rose back up and hit him. These physical movements are consistent with the middle of the ship being driven down into the water when it got hit, where the great extra volume of air below deck not normally beneath the water level would then cause the ship to launch abruptly back upward out of the water and hit the crewman while he was still in the air. (A Corry officer gave the analogy of pressing down on a toy boat and then quickly letting go: the boat will quickly pop up out of the water due to extra air below the water.) 

Some crewmembers have stated that the Corry hit a mine largely because that is what they were told happened after the sinking. While unfortunately, the final official report is usually what is considered history, again, read below how the USS Meredith's official report of a mine sinking the Meredith is not true.  

All in all, however, Corry survivors are not so much concerned with how the USS Corry was sunk. For them, the fact the USS Corry was sunk on the front lines on D-Day while blasting enemy positions and attempting to eliminate the heaviest artillery battery on the shore during the invasion to break Adolf Hitler, is what is important. 

For specific details about mine vs. gunfire, read D-Day accounts of Corry survivors Ensign Robert Beeman and Chief Petty Officer Francis "Mac" McKernon on the D-Day accounts page.  

BELOW: Cruiser Division 7 battle summary noting changed report for the loss of the USS Corry


Note above: Pre-D-Day Intelligence reported six 155-millimeter (6-inch) guns in the Saint Marcouf battery, but those guns were moved elsewhere before D-Day and three heavy, long-range, 210-millimeter (8.25-inch) guns were installed.    


BELOW: June 7, 1944 entry of COMDESDIV 34 Report acknowledging USS Corry sunk by artillery fire.
BELOW: June 6, 1944 entry indicating USS Gherardi under fire from vicinity of Target 3 (St. Marcouf/Crisbecq battery) 

Above reports declassified NARA.

Read about the concussion effect
of a salvo of heavy caliber projectiles.


Read about how the USS Corry
and USS Meredith (DD-726)
were declared sunk by mines
off Utah Beach after their initial reports
were changed
, following a meeting
of their commanding officers

        USS Meredith (DD-726)                    USS Corry (DD-463)

Oberleutnant Walter Ohmsen, Commander of the Saint Marcouf Battery, which had a garrison of 400 men.

Born on June 7, 1911. Joined the German Navy in April, 1929. Prior to commanding Saint Marcouf, he was German Navy chief of instruction in telemetry at the marine artillery school of Sassnitz. Wounded during the invasion, he received the Knights Cross for his efforts in repelling the attack. He was captured in late June 1944. 


Below: The plaque at the Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) battery.
The third paragraph is in reference to the Corry. The Corry was hit at about 6:30 a.m., after a heated artillery duel with the battery that lasted several minutes.




        The only heavy battery on the eastern coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, the Crisbecq Battery, was located 2.5 kilometers from the shore on a crest overlooking all of Utah Beach. From Crisbecq, the Germans could see and defend the entire coastline from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue to Grandcamp.

        Although it was never completed, the Crisbecq battery was the keystone of this portion of the German Atlantic Wall with three, long-range 210 mm cannons and a garrison of 400 men. The Allies dropped over 800 bombs on Crisbecq between April 19 and June 6, 1944. This unrelenting aerial attack climaxed on the night of June 5 when 101 four-engine bombers unleashed 598 tons of explosives on the battery. On June 6, the surroundings were unrecognizable, but the guns were still intact.

        At 6 am on D-Day, as GI’s were landing on Utah Beach, Crisbecq opened fire, sinking an American destroyer.

        The battery held out for several days, despite shelling by U.S. battleships and attacks from the American Infantry in hand-to-hand trench combat.

        To repel the Allied assault, the German commander of Crisbecq radioed to the Azeville battery and requested that it fire on his position. Crisbecq was finally taken at 8:20 am on June 12, after the German commandment ordered its troops to evacuate to La Pernelle, between Quettehou and Barfleur. The fierce German resistance momentarily halted the Allied Advance to the north.


One of Saint-Marcouf's three 210-millimeter (8.25-inch) guns
June 21, 1944

Two concrete-reinforced casemates of the Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) battery.
Fifty-foot flames spewed from the gun barrels when they fired. 
The battery's third 210-mm gun was free-standing outside with no casemate housing. 

View toward Utah Beach from Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) battery.  1944
(Houses along the beach, 1.5 miles distant from the battery.)

[National Archives photos]

Modern Look Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) Battery (2004)

With a garrison of 400 men, the Crisbecq (Saint Marcouf) battery was one of the most important on the East Contentin coast. The position contained two 210-mm (8.25 in.) guns in casemates, one 210-mm in an open emplacement, and six 88-mm dual purpose guns in open emplacements. The casemates had roofs of reinforced concrete 12-1/2 feet thick and walls ranging from 10 to 16 feet thick. One of the three 210-mm guns was destroyed on D-Day by a direct heavy-caliber hit. All the other guns in the battery which were not enclosed were eventually destroyed or nearly so. There were ample bomb-proof personnel shelters in the area which afforded complete protection to the gun crews. In 2004 the entire site was excavated. It is now a museum. 

Destroyed Saint-Marcouf encasement. Roof nearly 13-feet thick collapsed when demolition engineers destroyed it after capture.

Close-up view of destroyed Saint-Marcouf battery encasement.



Inside battery's bomb-proof personnel shelter.

Fragmentation scars at Saint-Marcouf battery.

[Photos: S. Voskuil, The Netherlands, 2004] 

View Maps and Reports of Utah Beach Enemy
Batteries / Targets including Saint-Marcouf / Crisbecq


View Full Corry Loss of Ship / Action Report - Text - (Loads Quickly)

View Full Corry Loss of Ship / Action Report - 13 Scanned Images

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