Vierville Draw - Artificial Port

Vierville Draw - Artificial Port Visual Arts Famous Historical Events World War II

To aid in the capture of Cherbourg, an important French port where Germany had radar stations, the Allies had to create an artificial harbor which they called a "Mulberry." 

Americans, landing at Omaha Beach, had to complete this task.

We can see a view of this artificial harbor, in operation, from a picture included in Chapter X ("Launching the Invasion: Organizing the Beaches") from the US Army in World War II - European Theater of Operations - Logistical Support of the Armies:  May 1941-September 1944, at page 405.  Here is the military's caption for this image:

COMPLETED PIER OF THE MULBERRY in operation. Loaded vehicles coming ashore, above, and leaving Lobnitz pierhead, below.

What, exactly, is a Mulberry? To begin, we can use the words of Winston Churchill who apparently ordered them:

Piers for the use on beaches: They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered...let me have the best solution worked out. Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves.

Not everyone agreed that "piers for the use on beaches" was a good idea. Admiral John Leslie Hall, from the U.S. Navy, expressed his doubts:

I think it’s the biggest waste of manpower and equipment that I have ever seen. I can unload a thousand LSTs at a time over the open beaches. Why give me something that anybody who’s ever seen the sea act upon 150-ton concrete blocks at Casablanca knows the first storm will destroy? What’s the use of building them just to have them destroyed and litter up the beaches.

Despite the challenges of creating such a product, people in Britain went forward with the idea. The UK Learning Site tells us that mulberries were one of the most-important engineering achievements in WWII:

The Mulberry Harbour was built for D-Day in June 1944. The Mulberry Harbour’s purpose was to ease and speed up the unloading process so that Allied troops were supplied as they advanced across France after breaking out from Normandy. The success of D-Day could only be maintained if the advancing troops were supplied and more men landed. The Mulberry Harbour was one of the greatest engineering feats of World War Two.

Where were the mulberries made?

The various parts of the Mulberry harbours were made around Britain in the greatest of secrecy. The many various parts were moved to Normandy immediately after June 6th – D-Day. By June 18th, both harbours were in use. They were meant to stay in use until the capture of Chebourg in the north of the Cotentin Peninsula.

How were these artificial harbors made?

The Mulberry Harbour was actually two artificial harbours, which were towed across the English Channel and put together off the coast of Normandy. One, known as Mulberry A, was constructed at Omaha Beach and the other, known as Mulberry B (though nicknamed ‘Port Winston’), was constructed off Arromanches at Gold Beach. Put together like a vast jigsaw puzzle, when both were fully operational, they were capable of moving 7,000 tons of vehicles and goods each day.

Each of the two artificial harbours was made up of about 6 miles of flexible steel roadways that floated on steel or concrete pontoons. The roadways were codenamed “Whales” and the pontoons “Beetles”. The ‘Whales’ ended at giant pier heads that had ‘legs’ that rested on the seabed. The whole structure was protected from the force of the sea by scuttled ships, sunken caissons and a line of floating breakwaters. The material requirements for any part of either Mulberry A or B were huge – 144,000 tons of concrete, 85,000 tons of ballast and 105,000 tons of steel. 

Admiral Hall did have a point, though. He was right about what the sea and a bad storm could do to an artificial harbor.

A major storm hit the Normandy beaches on the 19th of June, 1944. By the time it was over, three days later, the mulberry at Omaha Beach was in ruins. Parts of it were used to repair the Mulberry at Gold Beach, where the Brits used it for another ten months.

How much equipment, and how many men, traveled over these two artificial harbors? According to war records:

  • 2.5 million men
  • 500,000 vehicles
  • 4 million tons of goods 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 18, 2016

Media Credits

Image described above, online courtesy HyperWar Foundation and iBiblio - The Public's Library and Digital Archive at University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).



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"Vierville Draw - Artificial Port" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 15, 2019.
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