USCG ResFlo-1: History




In the months preceding D-Day, military planners recognized the need for a rescue service to support the invasion fleet. This need was reinforced by the tragedy of Exercise Tiger, where, less than 6 weeks prior to D-Day, more than 800 servicemen died after an attack by German torpedo boats during an invasion practice landing. Almost all the deaths occurred when landing craft sank and the soldiers on board drowned.

The United States Coast Guard gathered a flotilla of 60 cutters tasked with supporting the invasion fleet and rescuing personnel from the water. The cutters were carried piggy back on transports and were ferried with their crews to the port of Poole, in Dorset. Each of the patrol boats was an 83 foot wooden craft with minimal armament and no significant armoring. Capable of great speed, each 83-footer was nevertheless susceptible to enemy fire. Given the official name Rescue Flotilla One, ResFlo-1 was nicknamed the Matchbox Fleet reflecting its vulnerability to incendiary rounds.


During the Normandy invasion ResFlo-1 was responsible for saving more than 1.400 lives. Most were Allied forces whose craft had been sunk by shore batteries and German naval forces. Estimated Allied deaths on the first day of the invasion are just over 4,400. Without the efforts of ResFlo-1, the number of deaths would have been much higher.