Near exit 1 from Utah Beach, along the road that leads to Pouppeville and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, a monumental plaquette can be found bearing a 4th Infantry Division- and 101st AB Division logo.
The text: 'The first meeting between the first troops of the 4th US (Infantry) Division that landed at Utah Beach and the 101st Airborne Division that parachuted during the night,
took place on 6th June 1944 at 11.00 (AM) by the bridge on the road leading to Poup(p)eville. In memory of 'Americans fighters graves for your liberty' - Juni 1944-2008'
The English translation is a 'bit off', but the message is still clear: the plaquettes commemorates the first contact of the beach invasion forces with the 101st Airborne Division.
First contact with soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division was made with a group of mostly 501st/502nd PIR men, from the General Taylor / Colonel Ewell / LTC Pappas force.
In the 'Medic Hohl/Major Legere' article in this menu, you have read about how the group of around 150 paratroopers secured the beach exit road and pushed on towards the twon of Pouppeville.
Here is an amazing June 6th 1944 NARA low altitude recon photo of the very area we are talking about. (1) is Pouppeville, (2) is the bridge where the Link Up was at. (3) Exit 1.
Looking at a section of a higher altitude NARA aerial image of June 6th 1944, below, we see: (1) Pouppeville (2) Hohl/Legere incident location (3) the bridge the plaquette refers to (4) direction Exit 1 Utah Beach.
Today, at the end of this road, you will find a nature preserve with a wooden lookout tower that gives a nice view towards Utah Beach (left) and Isigny-sur-Mer (other side of the tidal channel delta).
The plaquette is mounted to a stone wall at the right side of the road (50 meters before the wooden tower), sometimes (seasonal) almost hidden in the lush vegetation and undergrowth.
In the booklet 'The Story of the 101st Airborne Division' (printed in 1945), the missions of the 101st AB are clearly stated 'secure causeways leading from Utah Beach for assault troops to storm
ashore from landing barges at dawn' (the first task). The booklet also tells about Major Legeres grenade tossing action, and that 'Pouppeville' fell to Taylors small band (of AB troops).
On page 5 is printed: 'Early in the day (June 6th) the 4th Infantry Division marched up causeways without opposition. The first obstacle to the invasion had been overcome.' Causeway secure, Link Up succeeded.
In his 1946 study for the Advanced Officers Course, Captain John A. Kindig (C-Co 327/401 GIR) writes about a force of 'a total of about 85 men' taking over the 506th PIR mission to secure causeway nr. 1 & 2.
Kindig continues with the taking of Pouppeville (6 KIA's -medic Hohl being one of the KIA's- 12 WIA's -Major Legere being one of the WIA's). Kindig writes 'About 1200 hours troops of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry
a unit of the 4th Infantry Division, passed through and began the attack on St, Marie du Mont(e). This was the first link up of the seaborne and airborne forces and also the first relief of a 101st unit bij the 4th ID'
The 101st Airborne Division G3 logbook shows several messages to/by Colonel Pappas, logged on the 6th and 7th of June. 'Relayed through Beach Liaison signed CO KICKOFF (Kickoff - callsign of the 502nd PIR).
On the 7th of June an entry reads 'We are being relieved at 08.00 by Seaborne Units.' Signed Kickoff Orange (HQ 502nd PIR). LTC Pappas (pictured above) was the commanding officer of the 326th AB Engineer Battalion.
Only 4 officers of the 326th AEB left for France by C-47 (!!). Pappas was one of them. Once parachuted into Normandy he joined the paratroop-group of General Taylor. He was killed in action on the 13th of June 1944.
The rest of the 326th AEB left their Camp at Basildon on the 3rd of June by train. They boarded the MS Susan B. Anthony for Utah Beach, Normandy, France. But the ship ran into two mines (at sea) at 08.00 June 7th.
The sinking/beached ship was abandoned and the escort vessel helped landing the 326th AEB on Utah Beach. The 326th Engineers then marched to Hiesville. Two days later they left for mine field recon near Culoville.
June 26th 1944 it was reported that Major Hugh Mozley assumed command of the 326th Airborne Engineers Battalion as of June 14th. A week after the succesfull Link Up at Pouppeville. A day after Pappas was KIA.
The Link Up at that small bridge, just outside Pouppeville, in the direction of Utah Beach, was a D-Day success. Against the odds the US paratroops gathered and overcame the initial chaos and a totaly scattered drop
over Normandy. This plaquette is a marker close to a historical place. At a location that is now rather high and dry. But let's take a look again at that low altitude recon photo taken on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944.
At (1) you can see the little town of Pouppeville. (2) is the location of the bridge of the Link Up. (3) is the end of the road at Utah Beach. But the surface area of the land isn't clear enough. I'll zoom in some more.
That is better!. More details. Now you can see that the fields aren't just grass. It's one big marsh. Wetlands. Innundated. A challenge on it's own. But wait... do you see what I see? Almost at the bottom in the middle?
Zoomed in some more. To the right. THAT is a WACO glider...
And a later frame from this same recon flight confirms it... The invasion stripes clearly visible when we adjust the contrast of a section of the photo.
A rather intact WACO glider near Utah Beach. Along the road leading to the exit 1 causeway near Pouppeville. But I guess... that is another story...
© Paratrooper Research Team - Normandy 2023 - Link Up Monument 4th ID & 101st AB / WACO at Utah Beach
Special thanks to the US National Archives WWII Aerial Images (unrestricted use)
Capt. J.A. Kindig - G. Koskimaki & Max van den Wijngaard