In 1943 its formation came about through sheer necessity, following an unforgivable oversight at the very highest level of American war planning which had assumed troops destined to lead the invasion of Europe would arrive in Britain already trained for their task.
Realisation this was not the case created a tense situation that had to be urgently rectified as the date for the invasion of Europe was only a few months ahead.
At the time of ATC formation no principle existed within the U.S. Army for assaulting a heavily fortified and defensively prepared coastline, and the only published advice in a U.S. Army Field Manual was … “Fortified areas are avoided in the initial assault and taken from the rear … “.
Therefore assaulting the enemy held coastline of Normandy required not only the creation of a new and unique doctrine but also the training of thousands of troops in those principles, and time was short. British and Canadian troops were already well advanced in their training programmes and Allied war planners were steadily evolving logistical solutions for the greatest amphibious assault in military history, except American troops weren’t ready.
The Assault Training Centre’s assault doctrine was developed by a month-long conference by military experts seconded from every Allied service to thrash out a workable method for the Americans to neutralise German defences on their assigned beaches in Normandy. Their conclusion was unconventional and dramatic. Infantry were to be reorganised into “Assault Sections” with flamethrowers and high explosive teams at their centre, their size of those teams dictated by the 30-man capacity of an LCVP.
By the end of April 1943 the doctrine was finalised together with a three week training schedule to train troops to break through enemy beach defences and take the fight inland to establish a beachhead.
Where the Americans could put this into practice was a problem. The British had already claimed all suitable training beaches, discarding Woolacombe as far too stormy and rough for amphibious training so the Americans had no choice but to accept it. Unknown to them at the time Woolacombe was almost identical to “Omaha” beach in Normandy in topography, tides, size and sand consistency.
Establishing the ATC to fulfil it's mission of neutralising enemy beach defences and establishing fighting inland far enough to establish a firm beachhead involved evacuation of the picturesque Devon villages of Georgeham, Putsborough, Croyde and Saunton. This was refused by the Britgovernment ish so the Centre’s mission was reduced to deal only with enemy beach defences, a refusal that had a profound effect upon the days immediately after D-Day when American troops encountered the “Bocage”, with no idea how to overcome it.
U.S. Assault Training Center