Reservist

ISS3 2018

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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with combat training in addition to their expertise in construction, engineering and heavy machinery operation. Walsh's task unit would serve with VII Corps of General Omar Bradley's First Army. After an initial postponement due to poor weather conditions, the D-Day invasion took place June 6, 1944. Walsh and his men landed on Saturday, D + 4, at Utah Beach and advanced westward toward the port of Cherbourg. Walsh's mission was to secure the harbor and prepare the port facilities to receive shipments of troops and supplies as soon possible. When Walsh's unit entered the city June 26 as part of the Army's 79th Infantry Division, he came under fire from machine gun nests still defending German positions, and his unit uncovered stubborn pockets of enemy resistance. By the following day, Walsh's men had fought their way through to Cherbourg's harbor. During this assault, Walsh moved his men quickly to occupy strategic parts of the port and take control the harbor. During the assault, the men in his unit experienced a twenty-five percent casualty rate. By the end of the day, Walsh's unit had advanced to the city's old naval arsenal, where he accepted the surrender of 400 German troops. After capturing Cherbourg's port facilities, Walsh learned that the Germans held American paratroopers in the city's old citadel at Fort du Homet. In the highlight of the Cherbourg operation, and likely his career, Walsh and one of his officers put themselves in harm's way to save the lives of the Americans. The two officers entered the fort under a flag of truce and met with the commanding officer of the German garrison. By greatly exaggerating the numeric strength of his small force of Sea Bees, Walsh convinced the commanding officer to surrender the stronghold. With the surrender of Fort du Homet, Walsh and his men disarmed another 350 German troops and liberated over fifty American prisoners. With Cherbourg secured, Cmdr. Walsh began preparing the port for operations. He established a naval operations center, surveyed the harbor and collected vital intelligence from German prisoners, free French partisans and slave laborers that had worked around the port. With this information, Walsh mapped underwater obstructions, navigable channels and minefields in the harbor and its approaches. He sent this information to Allied minesweepers using shallow-draft wooden sailing vessels, which were immune to underwater mines. By doing this, Walsh accelerated use of the port by forwarding intelligence directly to the minesweepers rather than going through slow-moving official channels. Within a few short days of entering Cherbourg, Walsh's fifty men had taken 750 German troops, liberated fifty American prisoners, captured Cherbourg's port and helped clear the harbor of enemy mines and obstructions. By his third day in Cherbourg, the Navy decommissioned his unit and designated him as Cherbourg's assistant port director. His unit had not only secured Cherbourg and saved American lives, it sped to the front lines thousands of troops and millions of tons of ammunition, equipment and war material. For his achievements and selfless devotion to duty, Walsh received the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest recognition for heroism beside the Medal of Honor. After a month of shipping operations, the Navy assigned Walsh to lead a naval reconnaissance party of 400 men to examine the French ports of Brittany, including the port of Brest. As part of VIII Corps of General George Patton's Third Army, Walsh's men completed this mission by the end of August 1944. Next, Walsh's unit joined forces with the First Canadian Army to open the Port of Le Havre. Once again, his men came under enemy fire as soon as they entered the city, but they completed the mission within two weeks. After Le Havre, Walsh contracted a severe case of viral pneumonia. He was hospitalized in London then he returned to the States. During the next year, he helped oversee the permanent transfer of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation from the Commerce Department into the Coast Guard. In the meantime, his health problems persisted, and, in 1946, the service placed him on the retired list due to physical disability. With the onset of the Korean War, he returned to active duty in 1951. He served as liaison officer between the Coast Guard and Treasury Department and later served as aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury overseeing Coast Guard affairs. Walsh finally retired as a captain in 1960. Quentin Walsh passed away in 2000. His career had spanned some of the most eventful years in Coast Guard history, including Prohibition, World War II and the post-war modernization of the service. Walsh was a member of the long blue line and he played an important role in the service's missions of law enforcement, fisheries management, combat operations, port security, and organizational change. � Cherbourg's bombed-out citadel overlooks the dockyards that Quentin Walsh's men captured. U.S. Navy photo Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh stands in his dress blue uniform bearing his recently awarded Navy Cross Medal. Coast Guard Collection "...Walsh convinced the commanding officer to surrender the stronghold. " Issue 3 • 2018 � RESERVIST 33

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