28Der Vorstoss ins Landesinnere
vom 7. bis 30. Juni
Auch hier beschränke ich mich auf die Vierte, die auf der Halbinsel Contentin operiert
Die Bewegungen des Divisionsschwerpunktes erkennt man am leichtesten an den Verschiebungen des Divisions-Kommandopostens:
"Utah Beach to Cherbourg" ist das Werk von Major Roland G. Ruppenthal, Angehöriger des 2. Informations- und Geschichts-Dienstes, welcher der 1. Armee zugeteilt war. Das Manuskript wurde unter der Supervision von Leutnant Gordon Harrison der Gesschichtssektion European Theater of Operations der Historical Division des Spezialstabes des Verteidigungsdepartementes bearbeitet.
Die meisten Aktionen am D plus 1 zielten auf die Vernichtung verstreuter feindlicher Gruppen, die noch immer Positionen im Umkreis des Brückenkopfes innehatten. Am Ende des D-Tages gab es keine Frontlinie (Karte unten). Die Luftlandeoperationen hatten grosse gegnerische Streitkräfte eingekesselt, die eliminiert werden mussten, bevor Kommunikations- und Versorgungsleitungen gesichert werden konnten. Diese Aufgabe wurde am 7. Juni erfüllt. Am Ende dieses Tages hatte der Brückenkopf des VII. Korps eine definitivere Form angenommen.
The 82d AirborneDivision at Ste-Mère-Église
In der Morgendämmerung des D plus I wurde die 82d Airborne Division mit den ungelösten Problemen des Vortages konfrontiert. Die Brücke von La Fiére und Ste-Mère-Église blieben die kritischen Bereiche im westlichen Sektor. Bis 0900 war die Division immer noch nicht mit dem höheren Hauptquartier verbunden. D Day hatte alle Divisionseinheiten unter Druck gesetzt, und General Ridgway's Hauptanliegen war die Ankunft der erwarteten Panzer- und Infanterieverstärkungen. Am Ende des Tages hatte er seine Position, seine Verluste an Männern und Material und seinen Bedarf an Artillerie, Panzerabwehrkanonen, Munition und medizinischer Ausrüstung gemeldet. Er hatte erklärt, dass er vorbereitet sei, seine Mission fortzusetzen, wenn Verstärkung käme. Aber die Kommunikation war einseitig und General Ridgway wusste nicht einmal, ob seine Botschaften durchgekommen waren.
Fruchtbarer war ein D-Day-Kontakt durch Patrouillen mit der 4. Division. Am späten Abend fand sich Lt. Col. W. F. Winton, Zugeteilter des Unterstabschefs G-3 (Planung), auf einer Patrouille nordöstlich von Beuzeville-au-Plain ein. Er kontaktierte Elemente des 12. Infanterieregiments und ging weiter nach Süden zum Divisionskommando in Audouville-la-Hubert. Um Mitternacht sprach er mit General Barton, von dem er zum ersten Mal Informationen über die 4. Infanteriedivision erhielt. Am nächsten Morgen um 8.00 Uhr kehrte er zu seinem eigenen Kommandostand zurück, mit der Zusicherung der Unterstützung des 8. Infanterieregiments und der Truppe von Oberst Raff, der Vorhut der von der See her gelandeten Howell Force, die in der Nacht zuvor versucht hatte, zur 82. Division durchzubrechen.
Zwischen dem Hauptteil der 82d Airborne Division in Ste-Mère-Église und dem 8. Infanterieregiment bei les Forges hatte der Feind noch immer eine grosse Truppe, die den Grat zwischen Fauville und Turqueville hielt und die Autostrasse südlich von Ste-Mère-Église (Karte unten). Eine weitere feindliche Truppe bedrohte die 82d Division aus dem Norden. Die Eliminierung dieser feindlichen Kräfte wurde zum Hauptanliegen sowohl des 8. Infanterieregiments als auch des 505. Fallschirm-Infanterieregiments am D plus 1.
Securing Ste. Mère-Eglise D+1
Das 8. Infanterieregiment griff am Vormittag des 7. Juni die hervorstechende Turqueville-Stellung an mit dem Ziel, Kontakt mit der 82d Airborne Division in Ste-Mère-Église aufzunehmen. Der Angriff des 1. Bataillons auf Turqueville selbst war die erste Attacke; sie begann am späten Vormittag. Es gelang, die östlichen Vorposten des Feindes zu eliminieren. Turqueville wurde von einem Bataillon von Georgiern (795.) gehalten, das zunächst einen harten Kampf lieferte, aber schliesslich zur Kapitulation überredet wurde.
Der Unterstabschef G-l (Personal), Oberstleutnant Gorlan A. Bryant, Sergeant John Svonchek und ein Fahrer hatten am Vormittag den Divisionskommandoposten verlassen, um das 22. Infanterieregiment zu besuchen. Sie waren in Audouville falsch abgebogen und nach Westen in die feindliche Position in der Nähe von Écoquenéauville gefahren, wo sie gefangen genommen wurden. Sie wurden in ein Haus südlich von Turqueville gebracht und dort zusammen mit 23 amerikanischen Fallschirmspringern festgehalten. Als man erfuhr, dass die feindliche Einheit georgisch war, überredete Sergeant Svonchek, der russisch sprach, einige von ihnen zur Kapitulation, und etwa fünfundsiebzig gaben auf. Dann erteilte der deutsche Hauptmann den Befehl, das Feuer einzustellen und ungefähr zur gleichen Zeit gab er auf, als nämlich das 1. Bataillon des 8. Infanterieregiments Turqueville angriff. Als das Bataillon den Ort betrat, wurden 174 Gefangene zusammengetrieben.
Unterdessen hatten das 2. und das 3. Bataillon des 8. Infanterieregiments von ihren Positionen in der Region Les Forges aus nach Norden angegriffen, um sich mit der 82d Airborne Division in Ste-Mère-Église zusammenzuschliessen. Das 3. Bataillon rückte auf der Landstrasse vor, während das 2. Bataillon in Richtung Écoquenéauville angriff. Als die beiden Bataillone ein Bachbett vor den feindlichen Linien erreichten, erhielten sie schweres Maschinengewehr- und Artilleriefeuer von feindlichen Positionen entlang des Kamms Fauville-Écoquenéauville. Das 3. Bataillon wurde aufgehalten und hatte einen der schwersten Kämpfe dieser ersten Tage, aber als das 2. Bataillon Écoquenéauville eingenommen hatte, setzten beide Bataillone ihren Vormarsch in Richtung Ste-Mère-Église fort. Südlich der Stadt führte die feindliche Strassensperre dazu, dass das 2. Bataillon nach Osten ausweichen und sich der Stadt von Nordosten her nähern musste. Aber fast unmittelbar nach der Kontaktaufnahme mit dem 505. Fallschirmjäger-Infanterieregiment innerhalb der Stadt wurde sie vom Feind nördlich von Ste-Mère-Église angegriffen. Die wichtigste deutsche Position befand sich westlich der Landstrasse. Oberst MacNeely (2. Bataillon, 8. Infanterieregiment) und Oberst Vandervoort (2. Bataillon, 505. Fallschirmjäger-Infanterieregiment) planten, den Angriff zu koordinieren. Das 2. Bataillon des 505. Regiments rückte auf der Strasse vor und griff, unterstützt von Panzern, an, während das 2. Bataillon des 8. Infanterieregiments die Strasse hinter dem 505. Regiment überquerte. Es griff auf seiner linken Seite an. Am Ende des Tages hatten die beiden Bataillone 300 Deutsche getötet oder gefangen genommen und den Feind von seinen Positionen westlich der Landstrasse vertrieben.
Am frühen Nachmittag war am Rande von Ste-Mère-Eglise ein feindlicher Panzerstoss aus dem Norden von einer amerikanischen Panzertruppe zurückgeschlagen worden. Diese war auf Befehl des Korps-Kommandeurs persönlich entsandt worden, der vom Unterstützungsgesuch der 82d Airborne Division erfahren hatte, als er am späten Morgen nach seiner Ankunft auf dem Kommandoposten des Korps von der See her eintraf. Auf dem Kommandoposten der 4. Division auf der anderen Strassenseite traf General Collins einen der Stabsoffiziere von General Ridgway, der dessen Situation skizzierte und den Wunsch des Kommandanten der 82. Division nach Panzern für einen drohenden Panzerangriff wiederholte. General Barton hatte noch Panzer des 746. Panzerbataillons bei (dem Château de) Reuville [im Link wird die Invasion aus französischer Sicht geschildert] in Reserve, und General Collins befahl, diese unter der Führung des Offiziers an General Ridgway zu entsenden.
In Ste-Mère-Eglise angekommen drehte die Tanksäule nach Norden. Nachdem sie sich ein paar hundert Meter bewegt hatte, erhielt sie schweres Artillerie- und Mörserfeuer von einer feindlichen Panzergruppe, bestehend aus fünf Panzern und einigen anderen Fahrzeugen, die etwa 300 oder 400 Meter entfernt lagen. Lt. Houston Payne im ersten amerikanischen Panzer schoss auf den ersten feindlichen Tank, setzte ihn in Brand und vernichtete dann eine Panzerabwehrkanone am Strassenrand. Da sowohl die amerikanischen als auch die feindlichen Panzer sich in einer Linie befanden, hatten nur die Spitzenpanzer Ziele vor sich. Leutnant Payne zerstörte einen weiteren feindlichen Tank, bevor seine Munition erschöpft war; er zog sich dann zurück, um dem zweiten Fahrzeug zu erlauben, an die Spitze zu gelangen.
Auf der Suche nach einer Möglichkeit, die Flanke der feindlichen Kolonne anzugreifen, hatte Oberstleutnant C. G. Hupfer, Kommandant des 746. Panzerbataillons, inzwischen im Osten und Norden aufgeklärt und rechts von der Autostrasse einen Weg gefunden, der etwa eine Meile nach Norden wies und auf eine Nebenstrasse traf, die Richtung Neuville-au-Plain führte. Einige der amerikanischen Panzer stiessen auf diesem Weg nordwärts vor und erreichten Neuville-au-Plain. Sie zerstörten zwei feindliche Tanks, nahmen 60 Feinde gefangene, befreiten 19 amerikanische Fallschirmspringer und zwangen die deutsche Panzersäule zum Rückzug nach Norden. Sie blieben in Neuville-au-Plain bis 21.00 Uhr, mussten sich aber dann mangels Infanterieunterstützung zurückziehen.
Map No. 12: 12. und 22. Infanterie-Regiment am D+1
Es ist nicht klar, ob die deutschen Panzer, die den Infanterieangriff entlang der Autostrasse unterstützt hatten, aus Neuville-au-Plain kamen, aber die beiden Aktionen waren offenbar nicht koordiniert. Worin auch immer die Absichten des Feindes bestanden hatten, Lieutenant Paynes Engagement mit den deutschen Panzern und Colonel MacNeelys und Colonel Vandervoorts späterer Angriff westlich der Autostrasse beseitigten die feindliche Bedrohung der Stadt und erlaubten den Einheiten der 82. Division in Ste-Mère-Église, mehr Aufmerksamkeit auf die Entwicklungen entlang des Flusses Merderet zu richten.
Noch bevor die deutsche Bedrohung nördlich von Ste-Mère-Église sich aufgelöst hatte, war die Sorge im Kommandoposten der 82d Airborne Division abgebaut und General Ridgway berichtete dem Korps, dass die Situation unter Kontrolle sei. Truppen des 8. Infanterieregiments waren südlich von Ste-Mère-Église kontaktiert worden und das 325. Gleiter-Infanterie-Regiment war eingetroffen und bereit für den Einsatz gegen den Feind im Westen. Kurz darauf nahm General Collins seinen ersten persönlichen Kontakt mit General Ridgway im Kommandoposten westlich von Ste-Mère-Église auf.
Das 325th Glider Infantry Regiment war in zwei Serien angekommen, eine um 0700 und eine um 0900 Uhr. Obwohl die Landungen etwas verzettelt erfolgten, wurden die meisten von ihnen in der Gegend von Les Forges getätigt. Eine Welle erhielt Bodenfeuer von feindlichen Positionen im Norden und es gab insgesamt 160 Landungsopfer. Aber das Regiment wurde durch die Angriffe des 8. Infanterie-Regiments geschützt und besammelte sich in der Nähe der Kreuzung von Les Forges (Film, Luftaufnahme).
Das 325th Glider Infantry Regiment hatte die Aufgabe, als Divisionsreserve nach Chef-du-Pont vorzurücken. Aber als Oberst Harry L. Lewis (kommandierender Offizier) das Hauptquartier der Division um 1000 Uhr per Funk
kontaktierte, wurde er angewiesen, zumindest einen Teil seiner Kräfte einzusetzen, um die feindliche Truppe im Gebiet von Carquebut zu eliminieren, wo die Deutschen die Sicherheit der Brücke von Chef-du-Pont und die des Dammes bedrohten. Das 1. Bataillon des 505.
Fallschirmjäger-Infanterie-Regiments war nicht in der Lage, die Feinde abzulenken und so dieser Bedrohung zu begegnen. Zur gleichen Zeit erhielt Colonel Raff den Befehl, seine seetransportierten
Truppen nach Chef-du-Pont zu bringen und dann zum Kommandoposten der 82d Airborne Division zu kommen. Während Colonel Raff seine Befehle ausführte und mittags auf dem Divisionskommandoposten
eintraf, brachte Colonel Lewis sein 3. Bataillon in das Gebiet von Carquebut; er schickte die beiden anderen Bataillone nach Chef-du-Pont. Er fand Carquebut vom Feind evakuiert und schloss sich
den beiden anderen Bataillonen an. Das 1. Bataillon wurde dann auf Befehl von General Gavin nach La Fière und das 2. Bataillon nach Ste-Mère-Église geschickt, wo es dem 505. Fallschirmjäger-Infanterie-Regiment für die Operationen im Norden
auf der linken Seite des 8. Infanterie-Regiments zugeteilt werden sollte.
Unterdessen entwickelte sich die Aktion an der Brücke von La Fière in eine anhaltende Pattsituation. Feindliche Gegenangriffe wurden zwar abgewehrt und die amerikanische Position durch Reorganisation leicht gestärkt. Bei der Errichtung eines Brückenkopfes am Westufer wurden jedoch keine Fortschritte erzielt. Am Abend wurde das 1. Bataillon des 505. Regiments, das tagsüber in La Fière unter schweren Verlusten gegen den Feind gekämpft hatte, für den Einsatz am nächsten Tag ins Regiment zurückbeordert. Die Kräfte der 82d Airborne Division westlich des Merderet blieben isoliert. Im Allgemeinen war die Situation der 82. Division am Ende von D plus 1 wohl gefestigt, besonders um Ste. Mère-Eglise, aber die D-Day-Mission war noch nicht erfüllt.
The 12th and 22d Infantry Reegiments pursue their D-Day objectives
Die 4. Division dehnte den nördlichen Bogen des Brückenkopfes am D plus 1 etwa zwei Meilen mit seinem Vormarsch in Richtung seiner D-Day-Ziele aus und schob den Feind gegen seine Hauptfestungen in Azeville und Crisbecq zurück. Am Strand setzte das 3. Bataillon des 22. Infanterieregiments die systematische Zerstörung der deutschen Strandabwehr fort.
(s. oben Karte Nr. 12)
Das 12. Infanterieregiment war links vom 502d Parachute Infanterieregiment spät am D-Day, südlich von Beuzeville-au-Plain, aufgetaucht. Am 7. Juni griff es in nordwestlicher Richtung, dort wo die Höhenkurve die Landstrasse Ste. Mère-Eglise- Montebourg kreuzte, nördlich von Neuville-au-Plain, an. Das 1. Bataillon nahm einen wichtigen Punkt südwestlich von Beuzeville-au-Plain ein; das 2. Bataillon kämpfte am östlichen Ortsrand von Neuville-au-Plain, nahm die Ortschaft aber nicht in Besitz, so dass sie später am Tag von anderen Einheiten erobert werden musste.
Mitten am Vormittag griffen die beiden Bataillone in Richtung Norden an. Am frühen Nachmittag wurden sie an den vorderen Hängen der Hügel zwischen Azeville und le Bisson angehalten, wo sie sich für die Nacht reorganisierten. Die Lücke zwischen der linken Flanke des 12. Regiments und dem 8. Infanterieregiment wurde durch Geschütze der Kompanie A des 899. Panzerjägerbataillons abgedeckt. Die wohl schwierigsten Missionen der 4. Division waren die des 22. Infanterieregiments an der rechten Flanke der Division. Das Regiment hatte die Aufgabe, sowohl die Stützpunkte entlang der Strände als auch die stark befestigten Vorlandbatterien, zwei bis drei Meilen landeinwärts und westlich der Überschwemmungen, zu beseitigen. Am D plus 1 wurden die ersten Angriffe gegen die gegnerischen Binnenpositionen durch das 1. und 2. Bataillon unternommen.
Die beiden Bataillone hatten den grössten Teil des D-Tages damit verbracht, sich durch das überschwemmte Gebiet zu bewegen, waren aber fast ohne Verluste durchgekommen. Von ihren Positionen in St. Germain-de-Varreville, wo sie das 502. Fallschirmjäger-Infanterieregiment abgelöst hatten, starteten sie am 7. Juni um 7.00 Uhr, wobei das 1. Bataillon auf der rechten Seite die parallel zur Küste verlaufende Landstrasse und das 2. Bataillon die Wege nach Westen benutzte. Sie bewegten sich schnell, bis sie sich dem höher gelegenen Boden zwischen Azeville und de Dodainville näherten, wo sie von den Forts von Crisbecq und Azeville beschossen wurden. Das 1. Bataillon drängte nach St. Marcouf vor.
Die beiden Bataillone standen nun den beiden mächtigsten Küstenfestungen des Feindes gegenüber. Mit ihren schweren Geschützen (die Crisbecq-Geschütze hatten ein Kaliber von 210 mm) bedrohten sie sowohl die Strände als auch die Schifffahrt und standen als letzte ernsthafte Barriere vor den D-Day-Zielen des Regiments. Jede Stellung bestand aus vier massiven Stahlbetonblockhäusern in einer Linie; sie wurden mittels unterirdischer Munitionsdepots versorgt, die durch Verbindungsgräben miteinander verbunden und durch automatische Waffen und Draht gegen Bodenangriffe geschützt waren. Ein Bogen von Betonbunkern überragte die südlichen Zufahrten nach Azeville. Crisbecq hatte die grösseren Geschütze montiert und besetzte mit Blick auf die Strände eine dominantere Position über der Landzunge.
Immediate attacks were launched against both forts. The 2d Battalion tried for several hours to move forward against the Azeville position, but a counterattack drove it back to its line of departure with considerable losses. The 1st Battalion attack on Crisbecq was even more fiercely contested. As the battalion passed through St. Marcouf, it received heavy artillery fire from the Azeville battery to the southwest. Company C was organized into assault sections, in the same manner as the units had been organized for the assault on the beach on D Day. It was ordered to move up a narrow trail, along with the two other rifle companies of the battalion, to blow the blockhouses. This was the only approach the battalion could make, for to the east the ground dropped off to the town of Crisbecq and the swampland, and to the west the ground was high and open. As the three companies moved forward they suffered heavy casualties from shell fire. They inched ahead, up the thickly hedged trails, but as they reached the trail block and the wire obstacles on the perimeter of the position the Germans counterattacked their left flank.
THE APPROACHES TO THE CRISBECQ FORTIFICATIONS. Attacks by the 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry, on 7 and 8 June were launched from the town of St. Marcouf, seen in the foreground, up the two tree-lined trails leading directly to the forts, the ruins of which are visible in this photo. Enemy counterattacks came down on the left.
To contain the counterattack the 3d Platoon of Company B was moved behind Company A to the left. In the fields northwest of St. Marcouf it met a strong enemy force supported by at least one tank. Capt. Tom Shields of Company A, who took command of the battalion when its commanding officer was wounded, decided that the position was too dangerous to hold and at 1600 he ordered a withdrawal. The battalion became increasingly disorganized as it retreated, still under heavy fire. Nineteen men of Company A were cut off on the left and probably captured. Another platoon on the right lost its way and wandered as far as the beach, which was still in enemy hands. Late that night these men found their way to the battalion, bringing with them 113 prisoners. The battalion withdrew to a line 300 yards south of de Dodainville. After dark the Germans counterattacked again but were routed by accurate naval fire.
On the extreme right flank of the 22d Infantry, separated from the rest of the regiment by the inundations, the 3d Battalion meanwhile proceeded against the string of beach fortifications which extended all the way up the coast. Those which posed an immediate danger to the Utah landings lay between les Dunes de Varreville and Quinéville, on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the inundations, and could be approached only by movement along the sea wall. The strong points were reinforced concrete blockhouses, armed with artillery pieces and turreted machine guns. Most of them had the additional protection of wire, ditches, mines, and outlying infantry pillboxes and had communication with supporting inland batteries by underground telephone cable.
The 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. Arthur S. Teague) had been constituted as a task force with the mission of reducing these beach fortifications.1 The method of attack followed the pattern taught at the Assault Training Center in England. Naval gunfire adjusted by the Naval Shore Fire Control Party laid down a preparation. Then tanks and 57-mm. anti-tank guns approached within 75 to 100 yards of the fort to fire point-blank, while infantrymen moved, often through waist-deep water, to the rear of the strong point under the cover of mortar fire. The enemy, however, would allow the men to come near the fort before opening up with small- arms fire, and in addition subjected the assaulting troops to artillery fire from inland batteries. The reduction of the forts thus turned out to be slow and costly.
On D Day the 3d Battalion had advanced 2,000 yards beyond Exit 3 and destroyed one fort. On D plus 1 it advanced another 2,000 yards and captured two more. As it faced the fort at Hamel de Cruttes on the evening of 7 June, it received orders to move inland as regimental reserve, since a counterattack was feared against the shattered 1st and 2d Battalions of the 22d Infantry. Colonel Teague left Company K, supported by the chemical mortar company, a machine gun platoon, an antitank platoon, and one-half of the NSFCP, to contain the strong point, and moved the remainder of the battalion inland to the vicinity of Ravenoville. That same evening, in the one gain of the day for the 22d Infantry, the battalion recrossed the inundation to capture the beach fort at Taret de Ravenoville. The fort had been shelled by the Navy, and a number of Germans had slipped out to surrender. One of them reported that many of the Germans still inside the fort wished to surrender but until this time had been prevented from doing so by their officers. On the strength of this information Colonel Teague obtained permission to move the bulk of his battalion from Ravenoville northeast across the inundated area and close in on the rear of the fort. A prisoner who was sent ahead returned with the entire garrison of eighty- two Germans. Colonel Teague and his men billeted themselves in the fort for the night. Between Taret de Ravenoville and Company K to the south three enemy strong points still held out. One of these surrendered the following day.
THE CRISBECQ FORTIFICATIONS, on the coastal headlands overlooking the sea northeast of Ste. Mère-Eglise, were among the most heavily defended positions in the entire peninsula. Just beyond the most prominent casemate is one of the blockhouses destroyed by demolitions, and to the left is the reinforcing iron and steel framework of another under construction.
FORTIFICATIONS ALONG THE BEACH, on the narrow strip of land northward toward Quinéville, were the objectives of the 22d Infantry. Above, a tank trap and wire obstacles of the type found surrounding beach fortifications north of the landing beaches. Below, a concrete pillbox, typical of those found along the entire invasion coast.
Map No. 13: 101st Airborne Div on D+1
The Southern Flank on D plus 1
On the southern arc of the beachhead the leading elements of the 101st Airborne Division converged on St. Côme-du-Mont on D plus 1 in preparation for an attack on the bridges which span the Douve and its tributaries northwest of Carentan (Map No. 13). The enemy held stubbornly to the ground commanding the approaches to the Douve, and it was feared that, unless he was dislodged, he would bring up reinforcements over the bridges. It was here that the main effort of the 101st Division was made on D plus 1. Farther east, Captain Shettle's men of the 506th Parachute Infantry and Colonel Johnson's miscellaneous forces continued to hold their positions at the la Barquette lock and the le Port bridges.
After dark on D Day Captain Shettle's engineers had prepared the two le Port bridges for demolition, but on the morning of D plus 1 the Germans made no attempt to cross the river. At noon a flight of P-47's came overhead and Captain Shettle, with improvised panels, requested the bombing of the enemy on the opposite beach. At 1430 a dozen bombs were dropped over the bridges. Later in the afternoon about three hundred Germans were seen approaching Captain Shettle's position from the north. One of the patrols he sent out against them demonstrated so successfully that, overimpressed with American strength, some of the Germans began to surrender. Between 30 and 50 enemy troops were killed in the next few hours and groups of 30 and 40 came in to surrender. By the end of the day Captain Shettle had 255 prisoners. That night an enemy force made an attempt to reach the bridges from the east but was driven back by small-arms fire. The American position was still secure at the end of D plus 1.
The enemy force which Captain Shettle's patrols dealt with that afternoon turned out to be elements of the 6th Parachute Regiment. The bulk of this force attacked Colonel Johnson's group of some 250 men at the la Barquette lock that same afternoon. Colonel Johnson had improved his position the night of D Day but he was short of ammunition and still isolated. Patrols which he had sent out during the day to look for the 506th Parachute Infantry did not return. In the hope of getting a resupply of ammunition, Colonel Johnson laid out an orange panel. Shortly after dawn a plane passed over, and a drop was made at 0630, but the bundles landed in marshes covered by enemy fire and could not be retrieved.
At about 1500 Colonel Johnson saw the German troops approaching his position from the northeast. At first he was not sure whether they were friendly or hostile. They came straight through the fields and marshes and seemed headed directly for the river. Colonel Johnson's position faced south and he had to redispose his men and machine guns to meet this threat from the north. The Germans moved carelessly, bunched together without advance security. When they approached within 350 yards, all of Colonel Johnson's men, at a signal, opened fire. The Germans took cover, returned fire, and sent up a rocket signal, which shortly brought mortar and artillery fire on Johnson's men. It was difficult to spot the Germans in the clumps of tall grass, and after the fire fight had gone on for a while Colonel Johnson became worried about the expenditure of ammunition. At that time several cries of "Kamerad" from across the fields indicated that he might possibly get the whole enemy force to surrender. He gave the cease fire order and went forward with two volunteers.
As the three men walked forward carrying an orange flag, the firing on both sides stopped. But shortly it broke out again, wounding the colonel and one of his men. They crawled back 125 yards to their own lines and the fight continued. In about half an hour the German fire slackened and Colonel Johnson decided to try again. This time he and the two enlisted men were met halfway by two wounded German privates, who said that they wanted to surrender but that their officers were shooting men who talked about it. Colonel Johnson sent one man back to the German lines with the message that the Germans were to surrender in thirty minutes or be annihilated by "our superior forces." The firing was resumed at that time, but exactly thirty minutes later the first small group of Germans formed a column and came into the American lines. It was the beginning of a procession of 350 Germans which continued until after dark. At the end came the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel, who wanted to "talk over" his surrender. About 150 Germans had been killed or wounded; the rest escaped to Carentan. Colonel Johnson's force had lost ten killed and thirty wounded.
The appearance of enemy paratroops in this area was not entirely expected. While the 91st Division was known to have two or three regiments in the Cotentin, the 6th Parachute Regiment had not been identified. It has since been learned that the bulk of the regiment occupied a reserve position just north of Périers at the time of the invasion. But captured prisoners revealed that one battalion had been in the Vierville area for some weeks, engaged in anti-airborne defense preparations and exercises. On D plus 1 this battalion found itself hemmed in on three sides by American paratroop forces and was moving south with no apparent plan, direction, or resolution when it encountered Colonel Johnson's and Captain Shettle's forces just north of the Douve. The Germans had a strength of well over eight hundred men. By the end of the day the bulk of the force had been captured and its defensive mission thus nullified.
Meanwhile, Colonel Johnson had not abandoned the plan to reach the Douve bridges along the Carentan causeway and had been trying to get Colonel Ballard's force at Bse. Addeville to join him. But Colonel Ballard was still engaged and could not shake free at that time nor on the following day. Consequently Colonel Johnson's men remained in position at la Barquette during all of 8 June.
Communications had been so poor on D Day that only Colonel Johnson knew definitely that the bridges had not been blown. General Taylor and General McAuliffe, lacking that information, conferred with Colonel Sink of the 506th Parachute Infantry at the latter's command post at Culoville late in the afternoon of D Day and decided to send the 506th on a reconnaissance in force southward. It was to pass through Vierville and Beaumont and then continue southward to the west of Colonel Ballard's 2d Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry, which had been engaged at les Droueries throughout D Day.
The 1st Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry led the regimental column on the morning of D plus 1 down the road from Culoville to Vierville. From the beginning the column was harassed by snipers firing from the front and the flanks. Finally, at Vierville it stopped long enough to clear the houses. From that town Colonel Sink and General Taylor saw several hundred men moving about in the open field some 2,000 yards to the southeast. It was the battalion of German parachutists which later attacked the rear of Captain Shettle's and Colonel Johnson's positions on the Douve. Bunched as they were, the Germans would have made an excellent target, but Colonel Sink hesitated because he was not sure they were enemy. A patrol was sent out to investigate, but before it reported back the column was out of sight.
At Vierville, Colonel Sink's column split. The 1st Battalion proceeded down the highway toward Beaumont, while the 2d Battalion swung off to the left with the intention of advancing on Angoville-au-Plain. Both battalions were pinned down by machine-gun and small-arms fire soon after they came out of Vierville. They moved on again when a platoon of medium tanks (Company A, 746th Tank Battalion) came up to support them. The 1st Battalion was harassed on its right flank by Germans who moved behind trees and hedges along the ridge which paralleled the road, but it finally fought its way into Beaumont. There it reorganized, but further advance was blocked by two enemy counterattacks, repulsed only after hard fighting.
Thereupon Company D and a platoon of light tanks, which had been detached from the 2d Battalion, and ordered to join the 1st, crossed to the latter's right flank. With this new power the battalion pushed ahead to the crossroads 500 yards east of St. Côme-du-Mont. Company D went on to the junction of the two highways south of St. Côme-du-Mont, where it ran into a convoy of eight American trucks loaded with quartermaster supplies, which had inadvertently come through German-held St. Come-du- Mont. In the meantime the 1st Battalion moved back to higher ground east of St. Côme-du-Mont, where it was later joined by Company D and the truck convoy. The intention was to bivouac there, but with both flanks of the main column retarded, the small force was in effect alone in enemy territory; it had made no contact with Colonel Ballard's force to the east, although it had heard firing in that direction. It therefore withdrew on Colonel Sink's order to Beaumont.
Early in the afternoon Colonel Ballard had conferred with Colonel Sink at the latter's command post on coordination of the southern advance of the 506th Parachute Infantry with attacks by the 2d Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry, in the les Droueries area. As a result, Colonel Ballard was ordered to continue the attack south, which he had launched that morning, so that the 2d Battalion of the 501st might come abreast of the 506th Parachute Infantry in the vicinity of St. Côme-du-Mont. At the time Colonel Ballard's force was stopped on the sunken road east of les Droueries, but he was given six medium tanks to pace his renewed attack. It was at this time that the German paratroops began crossing the marsh to the east of Colonel Ballard's command post. The enemy force might have become a serious threat, but most of it passed out of range across the marsh; only about twenty Germans came near Ballard's flank. Of these, twelve were shot and the rest surrendered.
The tanks enabled Colonel Ballard to advance by taking care of the enemy machine guns which had been the chief obstacle. Two tanks moved out in column on the road, while two others on the left advanced abreast across the fields. The tanks attacked boldly, turrets open, spraying the hedgerows with machine-gun fire, and using 75-mm.guns against buildings and other suspected strong points. The infantry followed, taking the road junction to the southeast and capturing eight enemy machine guns on the left flank. Colonel Ballard was ordered by Colonel Sink to hold there for the night and the battalion reorganized dug in. The two commanders then made plans for resumption of the attack on 8 June.
By the evening of 7 June a considerable force of the 101st Airborne Division had gathered in the area for the next day's attack. The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 506th Infantry and the 2d Battalion of the 501st Infantry already engaged, there now were added battalion of the 401st Glider Infantry (which had arrived by sea), the 3d Battalion of 501st Infantry, nearly two battalions of artillery, and some additional light tanks.
Map No. 14: VII Corps Beachhead End of D+1
The Beachhead at the end of D plus 1
By the night of D plus 1 VII Corps Ached had rounded out a beachhead 12,000 yards deep, and it was clear that the initial assault on the East Cotentin had succeeded (Map 14). At the same time, however, it was obvious that the operation had not gone entirely according to plan. At the end of the second day elements of the 82d Airborne Division( the forces of Timmes, Millett, and Shanley) still remained isolated west of the Merderet. East of the river the Germans still held strong positions in both the north and south. The corps had not attained its D-Day objectives as rapidly as hoped.
To be sure, the enemy was too weak at the moment to make more than piecemeal counterattacks, and his confusion was epitomized by the parachute battalion which had wandered through American positions and surrendered to the small forces of Colonel Johnson and Captain Shettle. But the danger of a major counterattack had not passed. In the initial assault plans the enemy had been judged capable of a major counterattack on D plus 2. So far as the Americans knew at the close of D plus 1, the way was still open for such an attack to develop on 8 June. The southwest corner of the bridgehead remained unsealed. It was conceivable that German reinforcements might push up from Carentan and overwhelm the weak American forces clinging to the rim of the Douve marshes. As a matter of fact, on 7 June Field Marshal Rommel had taken the first step toward committing reinforcements when, convinced at last that there was no danger of Allied landings in Brittany, he ordered the 77th Division, which had assembled there, to move to St. Lô.
Furthermore, the situation at the beaches, where the American build-up was proceeding far from smoothly, was not reassuring. Enemy guns, some in the coastal forts and some probably mobile, continued to harass the unloading, which had already fallen behind schedule. Admiral Moon found that the congestion of shipping was causing a constant loss of time, and considered delaying the convoys. The transshipment of materiel by small craft was so slow that Brig. Gen. Williston B. Palmer, Corps artillery commander, urged the Admiral to beach LST's at full tide to permit the landing of vehicles directly. On D plus 1, 10,735 men, 1,469 vehicles, and 807 tons of supplies were landed at Utah Beach, making a total of 32,000 men, 3,200 vehicles, and 2,500 tons of supplies for the first two days. But the schedules had called for the landing of 39,722 men, 4,732 vehicles, and 7,000 tons of supplies.
The continued failure of the 82d Airborne Division to establish a bridgehead over the Merderet and the 4th Division's slow progress toward its D-Day objective on the northern flank forced the first modification in the VII Corps plan. It was originally planned that part of the 4th Division would cross the Merderet and that the entire division would then attack northward astride the river, capture Valognes, and continue northwest to Cherbourg. The 90th Division, part of which started landing on D Day, was to pass through elements of the 4th east of Montebourg and drive toward Cherbourg on the right. The implementation of these plans was predicated on the rapid attainment of the D-Day objectives. But both the 82d and the 4th had made only slow progress during the first two days. Rather than disengage the 4th Division, which had become involved along the entire northern flank, General Collins on 7 June ordered the 4th to continue its northward attack east of the Merderet and to seize the coastal forts and the line Quinéville-Montebourg Station. Elements of the 82d Airborne Division (the 505th Parachute Infantry reinforced with the 2d Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry) were to take over the left flank of this northward drive and seize the line Montebourg Station-le Ham. The remainder of the 82d was to continue on its D-Day mission of establishing a bridgehead over the Merderet. The 90th Division was given another mission a few days later. In the southern sector the 101st Airborne Division was to continue its mission of securing the southern flank of the beachhead by seizing the causeway approaches to Carentan. These tasks were to require the major efforts of VII Corps for nearly a week.
Map No. 15: Attack on St. Cô-du-Mont, 8 June 1944
The Battle of Carentan
8. - 15. Juni 1944
For several days special attention had to be given the southern flank of the VII Corps sector. The early joining of the UTAH and Omaha beachheads had acquired an added urgency as a result of the difficulties in the V Corps area. Neither corps had made as rapid progress as hoped. Considerable anxiety existed, especially in the V Corps sector, where only a precarious foothold had been won on Omaha Beach on D Day and determined enemy resistance prevented an early consolidation of the beachhead. There was serious danger that the enemy would attempt to drive a wedge into the gap between V and VII Corps, particularly if he were allowed time to bring up reserves. General Eisenhower, viewing the situation on a visit to the Omaha area on 7 June, ordered a concentrated effort to close this gap. General Bradley accordingly gave first priority to this mission of linking the two beachheads and issued the necessary directives to the two corps. V Corps was ordered to thrust westward through Isigny; VII Corps was to seize Carentan.
The latter mission fell naturally to the 101st Airborne Division, already engaged along the southern flank of the UTAH sector. In temporarily diverting the main effort of the VII Corps, General Bradley even suggested to General Collins that the 101st Airborne Division be reinforced should it be unable to break through to join up with units from V Corps, and indicated his immediate concern over the fusion of the two beachheads by specifically assigning first priority to this mission.
The 101st Airborne Division was already engaged in efforts to dislodge the enemy from St. Côme-du-Mont when these new orders were received by the VII Corps commander. The new attack on St. Côme-du-Mont was scheduled for 0445 on 8 June. It was to be led by Colonel Sink of the 506th Parachute Infantry and was to be made by four battalions (Map No. 15). On the right the 1st and 2d Battalions, 506th Parachute Infantry, were to drive directly from Beaumont to St. Côme-du-Mont. In the center the 3d Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry, was to advance from north of les Droueries to the main highway south of St. Côme-du-Mont. On the left the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, was to move through Colonel Ballard's force east of les Droueries, and as the entire attack approached St. Côme-du-Mont it was to slant off to the south and go down the highway to blow the causeway bridge.
Preceded by effective preparatory fires on fifteen registered targets, the attack got off to a good start. The 3d Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry, cleared les Droueries and advanced rapidly southward. As it approached the intersection east of St. Côme-du-Mont, it was threatened with being pinched off by the convergence of the 506th Parachute Infantry units on the right and the glider battalion on the left. A reorganization was effected and the 1st and 2d Battalions, 506th Parachute Infantry, were ordered to move to the west and set up defensive positions on the east of St. Côme-du-Mont. The glider battalion lagged behind on the left, while the 3d Battalion of the 501st went on and reached the Carentan highway, just north of the Beaumont road intersection, about midmorning.
Colonel Ewell, commanding the 3d Battalion, thought he saw signs of the enemy's withdrawal westward from St. Côme-du-Mont, and he decided to go south along the Carentan highway to seize the causeway and the bridges. But as his men moved onto the highway they were met by small-arms, machinegun, and antitank fire from the buildings near the first bridge, and 88-mm. guns in Carentan began to shell them. Since no communications with the American artillery were available, Ewell's battalion pulled back to the east of the highway. As it withdrew, the battalion was suddenly faced by a German counterattack from the north. The counterattack was repulsed, but an additional effort was needed to clear the enemy from a small hill which dominated the highway on the west. With this hill as an anchor, the battalion built up an east-west line facing north. From this line Colonel Ewell's men beat back five successive German thrusts, each of which approached within one hedgerow of the American positions.
In the middle of the afternoon, the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, was ordered by Colonel Sink to go in between Colonel Ewell and the 506th Parachute Infantry. But by the time it had moved up, the enemy had begun to withdraw. The two American battalions started in pursuit, but did not regain contact, although the enemy could be seen moving south between the railroad embankment to the west and the highway. About forty loaded wagons were captured on the highway.
A patrol found that the enemy's withdrawal had left St. Côme-du-Mont completely clear. The 101st Division could now prepare to move south to attack the four causeway bridges, the second of which had been blown earlier in the afternoon by the enemy.
The Causeway Attack
By evening of 8 June, the 101st Airborne Division had occupied a defensive arc on the southern flank of the VII Corps from Chef-du-Pont to the mouth of the Douve. The 502d Parachute Infantry, after accomplishing its missions in the Foucarville area, had taken positions on the right flank of the division, from Chef-du-Pont to the vicinity of Houesville. The 327th Glider Infantry, which had arrived by sea, relieved Colonel Johnson's and Captain Shettle's men in the vicinity of the lock and the le Port bridges. The 506th Parachute Infantry held the center, astride the Carentan highway, while the 501st Parachute Infantry was assembled near Vierville as division reserve.
The plan of the 101st Division provided for two crossings of the Douve. The left wing, starting at 0100 on 10 June, was to cross in the vicinity of Brevands; part of this force was to join V Corps near the Vire River bridge southwest of Isigny, while the main force was to drive southwest to seize Carentan. The right wing was to cross the causeway northwest of Carentan, bypass Carentan, and seize Hill 30, southwest of the city. Capture of Hill 30 would put the Americans astride the principal German escape route from Carentan, as movement to the south and east was hindered by the Vire-Taute Canal and extensive swampland. As the battle for Carentan developed, the left and right wings of the division were coordinated to form a ring about the town, and within this ring a pincers closed in on the town itself.
With St. Côme-du-Mont clear, the division's right wing was ready to begin its attack across the causeway. There were indications that Carentan was not heavily defended. On 18 June Colonel Sink of the 506th Parachute Infantry had outposted the first two bridges across the causeway after the enemy's withdrawal from St. Côme-du-Mont, and on the following day he made a reconnaissance to the outskirts of Carentan; in the vicinity of the fourth bridge he drew fire (Map No. 16). Airplane reconnaissance reported that Carentan had been evacuated and also that a big gap had been blown in the railway embankment, thus making the causeway the only practicable approach to Carentan. Straight and narrow, the causeway rises some six to nine feet above the marshes and spans the Douve and Madeleine Rivers and the two Douve canals. Any attack would thus be canalized and expose the infantry to fire from the front and both flanks. On either side the marshes extend out of rifle range. With the western bank of the causeway falling away sharply to the water's edge, only the more gradually sloping eastern bank offered an opportunity to dig in.
The attack was to be carried out by the 502d Parachute Infantry. The 3d Battalion (Colonel Cole) started out shortly after midnight, 9-10 June. But the inability of the engineers, working under fire, to repair Bridge No. 2 caused the attack to be postponed. Shortly after midnight a patrol, led by Lt. Ralph B. Gehauf, set out to reconnoiter the road. The patrol crossed the canal at Bridge No. 2 in a boat and proceeded to Bridge No. 4. At this point the men were forced to edge single file through a narrow opening left by a heavy Belgian Gate which had been drawn almost completely across the bridge, and which they could budge only about eighteen inches. When they had gone about fifty yards beyond the bridge a mortar shell dropped near them, flares went up, and then machine guns and more mortars fired on them. The fire came from the front and right front, the first indication that the Germans were in positions on the highway and on the higher ground directly south and west of the highway. At about 0530 the patrol withdrew.
THE CARENTAN CAUSEWAY, looking south toward Carentan, was the scene of the 502d Parachute Infantry's action of 10-11 June. The network of canals and drainage ditches along the lower Douve is clearly visible, and, with the surrounding fields flooded, the attack was channelized down the narrow causeway road.
Map No. 16: The Attack on Carentan
The Causeway Fight, 10-11 June 1944
SCENE OF THE CAUSEWAY FIGHT. This air view of the St. Côme-du-Mont--Carentan highway and the farmhouse area affords an excellent idea of the terrain in which the 502d Parachute Infantry broke German resistance north of Carentan. The fields on either side of the highway had been drained at the time this photo was taken.
The battalion was then told that the attack would be launched in the afternoon, with considerable artillery support, principally from the 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. self-propelled guns) and the 907th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75-mm. pack howitzers). Most of the artillery fire was laid on the suspected and known enemy positions southwest of Bridge No. 4. At noon the engineers had still not spanned the 12-foot gap at Bridge No. 2, but Colonel Cole and three other men improvised a footbridge with engineer planking, enabling the battalion to start crossing in single file in the middle of the afternoon. From Carentan an 88-mm. gun continued to interdict the causeway, but it did not stop the movement and caused no casualties. The men moved low or crawled along the embankment. At the end of three hours, when the point of the battalion had crossed three of the bridges and most of the men were beyond Bridge No. 2, the enemy opened fire from the hedgerows and a large farmhouse to the right front. The men in the point hit the ditches. As they attempted to move forward, an enemy machine gun behind a hedgerow only a hundred yards away searched the ditches, and, after three men were hit, the group withdrew.
The battalion, extended in a long thin column on the road and, unable to maneuver to either flank, was under enemy small-arms fire along its whole length. To advance, it had to send one man at a time to rush the Belgian Gate at Bride No. 4 and slip through the narrow opening under direct enemy fire. The whole precarious maneuver would have been impossible without artillery support, which worked over German positions from 1600 to 2330 and undoubtedly reduced the effectiveness of enemy fire. Part of Company G, which was leading the battalion, deployed to the left of Bridge No. 4, while the rest of the company tried to cross the bridge through the narrow opening. Six men edged through; the seventh was hit and the company stopped to build up a fire position. Three mortars were also brought up and they worried over the German-held ground.
Still the battalion could not advance. Company I, exposed on the right bank near Bridge No. 3 where men had no grass for concealment and could not dig in, was hard hit, first by enemy rifle fire and later (at 2330) by two planes that bombed and strafed its positions. The strafing in particular took a heavy toll and, when it was over, 21 men and 2 officers of the company's original 80 moved back behind Bridge No. 2. About midnight, during a lull in the firing Company H started moving men through the gate at Bridge No. 4.
At 0400 on 11 June, Regiment ordered the 3d Battalion to continue the attack, and in the darkness Company G and Headquarters Company followed Company H across Bridge No. 4. The battalion deployed along both sides of the highway. The center of the enemy's positions appeared to be a large farmhouse, flanked by hedgerows, on the higher ground which rises out of the marshes on the right-hand side of the road.
When the leading scouts on the right approached the farmhouse, they were fired on by rifles, machine guns, and mortars. In an attempt to neutralize the position, an artillery concentration was placed on the area but had no perceptible effect. Colonel Cole then ordered a bayonet charge on the farmhouse and called across the road to Maj. John P. Stopka, the battalion executive officer, to have the order passed along. Artillery put down smoke in a wide arc around the objective. At 0615, as the artillery fire was lifted, Colonel Cole blew his whistle and led the charge. Of the 250 men who should have followed him only 20 got up to go; another 50 followed Major Stopka. In the confusion and excitement, with the men widely distributed and hugging the ground, the order had not been passed around. Some of the men never received it; others had only a vague idea by hearing a word or two. In addition, parts of Company G, in the meadow east of the road to Carentan, became involved with enemy troops, armed with machine pistols. The commanding officer of the company was hit by an artillery short during the action. Most of the men of Company G did not hear the whistle at all, but when they saw the attack they ran after the others, trying to catch up.
Despite the initial disorder, the men charged across a ditch into the fire-swept field east of the farmhouse. The men, closely bunched, followed Colonel Cole and Major Stopka, and Colonel Cole stopped several times to get them to fan out. Two men of Company H reached the farmhouse first and found it abandoned, but to the west on higher ground the enemy still occupied rifle pits and machine-gun emplacements along a hedgerow running at right angles to the road. Under the momentum of the charge the men also secured this objective and eliminated the Germans with grenades and bayonets. The enemy's main defense was thus broken, but he still held ground to the south from which he continued to fire on the American positions. Colonel Cole wished to take advantage of the enemy's disorganization and keep the attack moving, but the 3d Battalion was in no condition to push on. All of the men in the battalion managed to cross the causeway and assemble near the farmhouse, but units were badly mixed and had suffered heavy casualties. Word was therefore sent to the rear to ask the 1st Battalion, 502d Parachute Infantry, to come up and pass through the 3d and continue the attack south to the high ground at la Billonerie (Hill 30).
The 1st Battalion (Colonel Cassidy) was north of Bridge No. 4 when it received Colonel Cole's message. It crossed the bridge under heavy fire and deployed across the fields toward the house. Instead of relieving the 3d Battalion, however, it reinforced it to help secure the ground gained. The 1st Battalion had been hard hit, especially by mortar fire, and was as disorganized as the 3d. Colonel Cole commanded the positions on the right from his command post in the farmhouse and Colonel Cassidy stayed on the left; there was little consultation or communication between them.
On the right flank the defensive position was improved when a group of men, after routing a few remaining Germans from the ridge, pursued them down the side road which ran between the farmhouse and the ridge. These men set up a machine gun at the crossroads and, together with others who joined them later, engaged the Germans who had returned to take up positions in the houses south of the crossroads. For the rest of the day they remained there, virtually isolated, some 150 yards out ahead of the other American positions. Another small group set up two machine guns in the corner formed by two hedgerows behind the farmhouse; these guns could fire into the hedgerows to the east, into the orchard, and down the road to the crossroads.
The defense, however, was not coordinated, and in the farmhouse Colonel Cole remained apprehensive. He did not know the situation on his flanks, his communications were out, and he thought that the supporting artillery was not effective. With their backs against the river, the troops had no rear area and hence no local reserve. The artillery observers could not see where their shells were landing because of the hedgerows and had to adjust fire, in the manner of jungle warfare, by sound. Very few of the men saw the enemy, who moved low behind the hedgerows; they judged his closeness by the sound of his fire.
In the middle of the morning enemy artillery and mortar fire increased in intensity, and the Germans began a counterattack. One of the strongest thrusts came through the orchard and threatened to rout the Americans south and east of the farmhouse. But machine guns south of the house broke up the attack and the position was restored. It held throughout the morning.
Shortly before noon an unexplained lull occurred in the fighting. The 502d Parachute Infantry took advantage of this to re-form its left flank positions. Company C moved forward from Bridge No. 4 to a cabbage patch between the second and third hedgerows where they could fire down along the forward hedgerow as well as along the highway. Company A took positions just behind Company C and extended its line across the road.
At noon Regiment notified the battalions that the enemy had requested a truce and ordered cease firing. It was a garbled message. The fact was that General McAuliffe, who was directing the operation for the 101st, was requesting this truce of the enemy. McAuliffe wanted time to clear the lines of his own casualties. Maj. Douglas T. Davidson, regimental surgeon, escorted by two Germans, went through the enemy lines to ask the military commander of Carentan for a breathing space to evacuate the wounded. When Major Davidson returned to Bridge No. 4, having been denied an interview with the German commander, the enemy opened fire--with rifles, machine guns, mortars, and artillery--in the most intense concentration of the day. Colonel Cole called Regiment and asked permission to return fire. He was ordered to wait, for Major Davidson had not yet returned to the regimental command post with definite word of the end of the truce. But the men in the line made their own decision and opened fire with all they had. They were convinced, not only by having observed the movements of the enemy during the truce, but also by the effectiveness of his renewed fire, that he had used the interlude to strengthen his small-arms positions and to prepare an artillery attack.
The renewed German attack strained the American positions almost to the breaking point. The group at the crossroads on the right flank had not received the cease fire order and had continued to fire on the Germans whom they had observed moving about to their left. When the truce ended and the enemy struck at the crossroads, some of the groups were forced to give ground. One of the machine guns behind the farmhouse, by interdicting the crossroads, helped the others to hold. The positions on the left, in the cabbage patch and along the hedgerows, managed to hold throughout the afternoon against repeated German attempts to come down the ditches beside the highway and along the hedgerows. At times they came so near that the men could hear the Germans working their bolts. The enemy gave the two battalions no respite and no opportunity to reorganize or evacuate the wounded. His artillery was weak, but his mortars never stopped firing.
Colonel Cole, looking out from a second-story window in the farmhouse, expected his line to crack. At 1830 he informed Regiment that he planned to withdraw and asked to have covering fire and smoke ready when the time came. He believed that only closer and heavier artillery support would enable him to hold out. But the radio of his artillery liaison officer, Capt. Julian Rosemond, had been jammed. When Captain Rosemond finally managed to get through to the artillery command post, the situation improved rapidly. During most of the day only two battalions had been firing in direct support. Now every gun in the command was brought to bear. To be effective it was necessary to adjust the fires very closely, with the result that two Americans were killed. The shells arched high over the American positions and fell in the field directly beyond the farmhouse. It lasted only five minutes, but when the fire lifted the sound of German firing was receding southward. Patrols sent out ascertained that the enemy had fled. At about 2000 the 2d Battalion came up to take over the now improved positions, and the 1st and 3d Battalions withdrew. The enemy defense barring the way to Carentan from the north was broken, but the 502d Parachute Infantry was too exhausted to continue the attack. It requested relief, and the 506th Parachute Infantry was sent in to finish the job.
CARENTAN fell on 12 June, when the 2d Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry, drove into the city from the southwest to join with the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, which entered from the northeast. Above, Carentan, looking north along the highway. Below, airborne infantry occupy the city.
Soldaten marschieren in eine Stadt ein, um sie zu besetzen (bzw. zu befreien). Sie gehen dem Auftrag gemäss ihren Weg.
Unbehelligt tut das auch eine unbegleitete Frau. Sie geht unangepöbelt, unangesprochen ihres Weges.
Bild eines Kriegstages, der fast so alt ist wie meine Generation.
Wäre in irgend einem der vielen Kriege, die derzeit ablaufen, ein gleiches Bild denkbar? Ich bin nicht naiv: unzählige Frauen wurden auch damals vergewaltigt, getötet und belästigt.
Aber ich bin überzeugt, dass heute keine einzige vergleichbare Foto mehr aufgenommen werden könnte.
[Kaum mehr in einer Sylvesternacht in Köln.]
Weit hats die Menschheit gebracht.
(CARENTAN fell on 12 June. - Airborne infantry occupy the city.)
The Left-Wing Attack on Carentan
Map No. 17: The Attack on Carentan--The Left Flank, 10-11 June 1944
During the two days of the fight across the causeway the 101st Airborne Division's left wing had also been pressing southward. The first mission of the 327th Glider Infantry was to cross the lower Douve and secure the high ground around Brevands (Map No. 17). At 0145 on 10 June, Company C silently crossed the river and established a small bridgehead. The artillery and mortar barrage which prepared for the crossing of the rest of the regiment was so successful that all three battalions were across by 0600, and Brevands was occupied shortly thereafter. At noon Company A of the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry,2 was ordered to reconnoiter southeastward from Brevands toward Auville-sur-le-Vey on the west bank of the Vire River. About a mile and a half from its destination the company encountered a strong German force, and in a running battle it broke the enemy line and knocked out twelve machine guns. It then proceeded to Auville-sur-le-Vey, where it made contact with the 29th Reconnaissance
Troop and Company K of the 175th Infantry (29th Division). The assistant G-3 of the 101st Airborne Division, who had accompanied Company A, went to the 29th Division headquarters to report the situation of the 101st, while Company A mopped up the enemy force which it had just broken up and which had constituted the last obstacle separating VII and V Corps. This done, it rejoined the 327th Glider Infantry for the advance on Carentan.
The approach to Carentan from the east is cut by the Vire-Taute Canal. The 327th Glider Infantry was ordered to block the eastern exits from the city by securing the railroad bridge and the Isigny highway bridge over the canal. Throughout the afternoon the regiment advanced rapidly, but it was stopped at 1800 some 500 yards from the canal by enemy fire from the houses and hedgerows on the east bank. The regiment reorganized to gain these 500 yards. The 2d Battalion moved north of the highway on the right, the 1st Battalion south of the highway; the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, was in reserve. The attack drove the enemy across the canal and by midnight the two battalions had reached the last hedgerow and dug into positions behind it. They could now fire into the city and control the highway bridge, the only bridge still intact.
Both the railway bridge to the south and a footbridge to the north near the junction of the canal and the Douve had been blown. The footbridge, however, could be repaired to permit troops to cross. On the west bank, the wood bordering the Bassin à Flot provided a covered approach to Carentan. Col. Joseph H. Harper, who had assumed command of the 27th Glider Infantry that afternoon, decided to use this approach when he was ordered to continue the advance on Carentan. At dawn on 11 June a patrol repaired the footbridge, and at about 1000 two companies of the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, and Company G, 327th Glider Infantry, crossed under German mortar fire. Company G was to attack along the right side of the Bassin à Flot, Company A along the left, while Company C was to be in reserve. The 1st and 2d Battalions were to hold their positions to the south along the canal and support the attack by firing into the city.
The companies advanced several hundred yards through the woods toward Carentan, but when they were about half a mile from the city they were pinned down by machinegun and small-arms fire from the houses on the northeastern outskirts. American artillery was unsuccessful in checking the German fire, and the companies remained in the woods all day, unable to advance.
At about 2000 on 11 June, Colonel Harper was called back to the regimental command post. Here Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges (Deputy Commander, First Army), General Taylor, General McAuliffe, and Colonel Johnson (501st Parachute Infantry) had gathered to plan the next day's attack on Carentan. General McAuliffe was given the command of the task force which was to make a coordinated attack; it consisted of the 501st and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiments and the 327th Glider Infantry. The 501st was to move from its defensive position north of the Douve, cross the river near Brevands, where a treadway bridge had been built, and swing southwest to join Colonel Sink's men of the 506th near Hill 30, thus completing the division's ring around the city. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 327th Glider Infantry, were to continue to hold the canal. while the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, and Company G, 327th Glider Infantry, were to press their attack into Carentan from the northeast.
During the night of 11-12 June Carentan was set ablaze by artillery, naval guns, 4.2-inch mortars, and several tank destroyer guns which fired on point targets from the 327th Glider Infantry's positions along the canal.
Map No. 18: The Fall of Carentan, 12 June 1944
The 1st and 2d Battalions, 506th Parachute Infantry, moved out at 0200 on 12 June. Near the farmhouse which had been Colonel Cole's command post they left the highway and moved cross country directly south to Hill 30 (Map No. 18). Neither battalion met serious resistance; the 1st drove in a German outpost line and occupied Hill 30, the 2d bivouacked on its right. Colonel Sink (506th Parachute Infantry) moved his command post group over the same route which the battalions had followed, but after leaving the highway he missed the way and swung to the south of Hill 30, where he dug in forward of the two battalions. At 0500, while still unaware of his own position, Colonel Sink ordered the 2d Battalion to attack toward Carentan. At dawn, when enemy fire made it apparent that the command post position was isolated and surrounded, the 1st Battalion was ordered to attack south from Hill 30 through the hamlet of la Billonerie toward the command post. As the 1st Battalion started out it was counterattacked near la Billonerie. It took heavy fighting through the hedgerows and houses to break through and extricate Colonel Sink's group.
The 2d Battalion, meanwhile, had moved out astride the main road leading into Carentan from the southwest. It received harassing machine-gun fire and interdictory artillery fire from the south most of the way into town. As the battalion entered, it met the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, which had already come in from the northeast. This unit had pushed a patrol to the edge of the town before dawn, but it still faced the enemy rear guard and was temporarily stopped. At 0600 it attacked out of the wood at Bassin à Flot and drove rapidly into the center of Carentan. The meeting with the 2d Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry, occurred about 0730 after a short fight with enemy stragglers around the railroad station.
While the inner pincers thus squeezed shut in the town, the wide envelopment on the left intended to cut the enemy's southern escape routes was also closing. At dawn the 501st Parachute Infantry crossed the canal south of the 327th Glider Infantry, fought its way to Hill 30, and made contact with the 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry, about half an hour after the entry into Carentan. The double maneuver succeeded in capturing Carentan, but the trap closed too late to catch the bulk of the German defenders, who evidently had escaped south during the night.
With the capture of Carentan, VII Corps had acquired the vital link for its communication with V Corps. It now remained to solidify the junction of the beachheads and secure the approaches to the city by seizing additional ground to the southwest and east. This was included as part of the mission of the 101st Airborne Division, as outlined the day before, and the division set about this task immediately. The 501st and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiments were to push out southwestward to the Prairies Marecageuses de Gorges, while the 1st and 2d Battalions, 327th Glider Infantry, were to secure the ground to the east and, on General Taylor's orders, to go beyond the railroad and seize the high ground south of Montmartin-en-Graignes, in order to insure the security of the intercorps boundary.
The 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, remained in Carentan.
Reinforced by five tank destroyers, the two battalions of the 3 27th Glider Infantry set out along the Isigny highway early in the afternoon of 12 June (Map No. 18). At le Mesnil they turned south, the 2d Battalion advancing on the right, the 1st Battalion on the left. Shortly after crossing the railroad they ran into strong resistance, and at about 2100-2200 they were held up, the 2d Battalion in the vicinity of Rouxeville, the 1st in the vicinity of Lenauderie. The 2d Battalion was unable to break through the German positions but the 1st penetrated the enemy defenses and contacted a force of about eighty men from the 29th Division, including Brig. Gen. Norman D. Cota, assistant division commander, which had been surrounded by the enemy. This force joined the 1st Battalion to continue the attack,
Map No. 19: German Counterattack on Carentan, 13 June 1944
GERMAN ARMOR, including these Mark IV's knocked out along the Baupte road, supported the counterattack on Carentan. Elements of the 2d Armored Division assisted the 101st Airborne Division in repulsing the attack.
Und noch ein kleiner Exkurs:
Quelle: Fussnote 4
On the night of 12-13 June General Cota reported that he had observed, from the high ground south of Montmartin-en-Graignes, some 150 German troops reentering the town. The message had been garbled to read "150 German tanks" and had induced General Bradley to send Colonel Harper armored support. When a major from General Bradley's headquarters walked into Colonel Harper's command post with the news that a company of medium tanks, a company of light tanks, and a battalion of armored infantry were on their way, Colonel Harper in surprise called Division to say that he would have enough strength with the armor to push on to St. Lo, if that was desired. But General Taylor called Corps and learned that because the Germans were threatening Carentan from the southwest he was to move the armor to Carentan. This armor was part of the force which arrived in Carentan in time to break the German attack. Colonel Harper called for artillery and naval barrage on Montmartin-en-Graignes.
Breaking the German Line in the North
Map No. 20: Ecausseville and Le Ham, 8-11 June 1944
The terrain in the northern one of the beachhead did not offer the enemy as strong a natural barrier as the swamps and rivers in the south, but it still favored him over VII Corps. The ground generally rises to the north, giving the defender commanding heights, and it is liberally crisscrossed with hedgerows (Map I).
Fortifications in the fields and along the beaches, as well as the large forts at Azeville, Crisbecq, and Ozeville, supported the German defense in depth. A backstop line for the forward defensive positions was anchored to the coast at Quinéville; it stretched inland along a high ridge to Montebourg and then bent southwestward along a salient of solid ground which points down between the Merderet and two of its tributaries. The backstop line roughly paralleled the Quinéville-Montebourg-le Ham highway and tied in with the Merderet River at le Ham. It was part of VII Corps' D-Day objective, but five infantry regiments took a full week, from 8 to 14 June, to reach and secure it. (Map III).
The Penetration at Écausseville
The western half of the objective was assigned to the 8th Infantry, which was to take the area between Montebourg and the Montebourg Station, and to the 505th Parachute Infantry (with the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, attached), which was to take the high ground between the station and le Ham (Map No. 20). Defending the le Ham- Quinéville line during the first days of the operation were elements of the 709th and 243d Divisions, as well as such reinforcements as the Sturm Battalion AOK 7.
The 8th Infantry jumped off from Ste. Mère-Eglise on the morning of 8 June and attacked along the eastern side of the Ste. Mère-Eglise- Montebourg highway. It was opposed from the beginning by artillery fire, but its first contact with enemy infantry came at Neuville-au-Plain. There American forces had already fought the enemy three times but had not taken possession of the town. The Germans yielded the town again after a sharp skirmish in mid-afternoon. Beyond Neuville-au-Plain the going was easier, as the 8th Infantry turned to the left and continued its attack on the western side of the highway. As it approached Fresville and Grainville, enemy artillery and sniper fire increased and slowed down the regiment.
THE HANGAR AND ECAUSSEVILLE AREAS shown in this air view lay along the 8th Infantry's axis of advance. Enemy resistance stiffened noticeably on this favorable ground, which was the scene of heavy fighting on 8-10 June. Ecausseville is at upper right; le Lande is just beyond the hangar.
On the left of the 8th Infantry the 505th Parachute Infantry began its advance northward at 0800, with its 2d Battalion on the right and the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, on the left. The 3d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, followed on the left rear, screening the attack from the strong enemy forces acrossthe Merderet. As the regiment came abreast of Neuville-au-Plain, it swung to the northwest, as the 8th Infantry had done, and the 3rd Battalion came through the two leading battalions to take over the advance. The 3d Battalion of the 505th secured the village, while the 3d Battalion of the 8th continued north to Magneville. Here Company I fought its way through the houses on the northern side of the town into an orchard, where it came under heavy artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire from the rising ground to its front and from a fortified hangar still farther ahead across a creek. Having discovered this concentration of German strength, Company I was pulled back in line and dug in around Magneville with the rest of the battalion. The 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, had also reached this sector and established its position eastward to the highway along a road roughly paralleling the creek. Throughout the night both battalions were under unusually heavy fire, particularly from 88-mm. guns.
The German main line of resistance ran along the north bank of the creek, a tributary of the Merderet, with main strong points at the hangar beyond Magneville and the village of Ecausseville to the north. On the commanding north bank of the creek, the enemy had dug in a large number of machine guns and several 88-mm. guns, and he was supported by other artillery, mortars, and Nebelwerfers, registered on all routes of approach. These positions were part of a line extending eastward to Emondeville, Azeville, and Crisbecq. Here the Germans were making their first real effort to hold, and by 9 June they had begun to reinforce their positions with elements of the 243d Division, and with the Sturm Battalion AOK 7, which had been rushed down from Cherbourg on bicycles.
At 0630 on 9 June a coordinated attack by the 1st and 3d Battalions, 8th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, was launched against the German line between the highway and the Merderet. A half- hour concentration by at least three battalions of artillery preceded the jump-off. The 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, was stopped at its line of departure; the other two battalions crossed only the first few fields. All three battalions then felt the full weight of the enemy's fire from across the creek. The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry prepared to follow in column behind the 2d Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry on the left, to be employed as needed. Colonel Ekman, commanding the 505th, planned an advance up to the creek and then a slash almost directly west to le Ham by the glider battalion. The 2d Battalion of the 505th, following the leading glider infantry, was to continue on its right and attack northwest to Montebourg Station. The 1st Battalion was to become the reserve, while the 3d Battalion remained on the defensive near Grainville, covering the bridge over the Merderet and protecting the rear of the regiment.
After crossing the first few fields the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, became so cramped between the river and the 8th Infantry's zone that it had no room for maneuver and was pinned down within 200 yards of the creek by artillery and mortar fire from the front and from the left flank. To the rear, at Grainville, the 3d Battalion of the 505th was taking losses from artillery and machine-gun fire from across the river.
Throughout the afternoon the regiment was unable to advance.
Late in the afternoon Colonel Ekman decided to send the 2d Battalion of the 505th forward across the creek to the right of the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry. The attack was to have the support of the 456th and 319th Field Artillery Battalions and of Battery C of the 80th Antiaircraft Battalion, and it was to be coordinated with an attack by the 8th Infantry. Colonel Ekman had asked for a 115-minute artillery concentration and white phosphorus to screen the infantry advance, but when the time for the attack came his communications failed him; the 319th Field Artillery Battalion (the general support battalion) was pulled away for another mission, and he was refused the white phosphorus because he had no authentication. Under the circumstances he canceled the attack. When he notified the 8th Infantry of his decision, he learned that the 3d Battalion of that regiment, on his right, was getting ready to go into a defensive position for the night. Therefore the 505th Parachute Infantry also dug in.
GERMAN DUAL PURPOSE 88-MM. GUN. Artillery fire which slowed the northward advance of the 4th Division was almost invariably believed to come from the dreaded "88," often difficult to locate because of frequent changes in position.
THE ORCHARD AREA WEST OF THE HANGAR was the scene of determined enemy resistance to then advance of the 3d Battalion, 8th Infantry, on 9 June. Part of the battalion halted at the creek, the location if which is indicated by the dotted line.
The attack of the 8th Infantry on 9 June had met with more success following its initial difficulties, but at the cost of hard fighting and heavy losses. The Germans answered the preparatory fire promptly, and both the 1st and 3d Battalions, which were leading the attack, came under heavy shelling. The 1st Battalion on the right was stopped on its line of departure and stayed there all morning. The 3d Battalion attacked toward the hangar. Companies L and I reached the creek together. Company L was to flank the hangar on the left, but it was stopped at the creek, which in its zone was too wide to jump. Company I crossed the creek at a narrow place to the right of Company L and charged straight across the large, flat, open field beyond, through the grazing fire from enemy positions near the hangar and along the edge of the orchard to the north. The men crossed at a dead run without firing and, although they suffered heavy losses, two platoons and the command post group with the mortars managed to make their way into the orchards north of the hangar. There they were stopped by fire from houses in la Lande to the north, and from the fields to the northeast.
Company I was out 1,000 yards ahead of the rest of the regiment, and part of the platoon on the right was separated from the main group. After two hours the company withdrew to a fire line north of the hangar buildings. Meanwhile Company L managed to cross the creek and in close- in fighting captured the hangar area. Company I then moved to its former position in the orchard, and Company L came into line on the left. There they dug in for the night. The position was threatened by the Germans in la Lande to the north andin Ecausseville on the right flank, and Company K was brought up to strengthen this flank.
When earlier in the day patrols had reported Ecausseville free of the enemy, Colonel Van Fleet decided to commit the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, in the center in an attempt to aid the 1st and 3d Battalions, both of which were temporarily stalled. At about 1400 two platoons of Company E led the attack, advancing up the trail which skirts the bend in the creek. No opposition was met until the scouts were almost at the creek. Then the enemy opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns. The leading platoons piled into the trail behind the shelter of the hedgerows. But the German artillery was accurately registered, and time fire or tree bursts lined the trail with American dead. Some of the men moved to the left and northward to knock out a German machine gun which had enfiladed the trail, but discovered the enemy strongly entrenched in an orchard. Others advanced beyond the eastern bend of the trail to find cover, but the fire followed them there. A direct hit destroyed a mortar; an attached platoon of heavy machine guns from Company H lost two of its guns. To avoid the enemy fire fourteen men of the 1st Platoon moved so far to the east that they lost contact with their company and joined the 1st Battalion, with which they fought for the next two days. The confusion was increased when a false order, reported to have come "from the rear," started a retreat along the trail. It drew most of the company back about 400 yards and, after it was checked, less than 75 men remained dug in behind a hedgerow. The company had lost all its mortars, half of its machine guns, and between fifty and sixty men. About mid-afternoon Company E was ordered to withdraw to a line abreast of the 1st Battalion, and at 1730 it was further withdrawn to the 2d Battalion assembly area to reorganize.
Late in the day the 1st Battalion took up the attack again on the regiment's right flank and this time succeeded in breaking through. It attacked at 1900 and, preceded by two platoons of medium tanks from Company A, 70th Tank Battalion, moved up the road which runs northward from Magneville. As the tanks crossed the creeks, they machine-gunned the houses on the right, swung into the fields north of Ecausseville, and fired into the village for ten or fifteen minutes. Answered by 88- mm. guns in the village, they turned back to rejoin the infantry. On reaching the cluster of houses at the turn in the road they found them still occupied by the enemy. The tanks attacked from the rear, broke the enemy's resistance, and enabled Company A, 8th Infantry, to move in. About a hundred prisoners were taken. It was now 2100 and the battalion dug in for the night.
Ecausseville, the strongest point on the enemy's first thoroughly prepared line, had held out all day. But outflanked by the 1st Battalion's drive on the right and by the 3d Battalion's attack through the hangar sector on the left, it was abandoned by the enemy during the night.
The Montebourg-le-Ham Highway
On the following day, 10 June, both the 8th Infantry and 505th Parachute Infantry resumed their attack (Map No. 20). The 8th advanced toward the high ground at Eroudeville, which it reached that night, while the 505th moved on Montebourg Station and le Ham. The latter objective was not seized until the following day.
All three battalions of the 8th Infantry jumped off early on 10 June. The 2d Battalion, moving in the center, advanced straight toward Ecausseville, which it found abandoned. Advancing northwestward it cleared the southern portion of Eroudeville, crossed the Montebourg-le Ham highway early in the evening, and fought until dark against Germans entrenched along the railway; atdark the battalion withdrew to positions east of the highway.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion on the right, supported by tanks, had jumped off at 0730, following an artillery preparation. The tanks, some of them carrying infantry, advanced along the trail which passed Ecausseville on the east. When fired on, some 500 yards south of Eroudeville, the tanks dropped the infantry, moved up the trail several hundred yards, and knocked out three antitank guns. The infantry followed and in a sharp fight drove the enemy (elements of Sturm Battalion AOK 7) back toward the le Ham-Montebourg highway. As the battalion came within 300 yards of the highway, it was halted by an enemy force in Eroudeville and to the north of the village. At 1 s 00 the enemy counterattacked. Although Company C was pulled in from the right flank to reinforce the battalion, the counterattack forced a retreat of several hundred yards. The enemy's effort was finally broken after five tank thrusts into Eroudeville, and an attack by Company C enabled the 2d Battalion to take the village. No further attempt was made that night to cross the highway; the battalion dug in about 400-600 yards east of it, with Company C protecting the Montebourg flank.
On the regiment's left flank the 3d Battalion, temporarily delayed by heavy artillery fire, had started a little later than the other two battalions. It swung slightly eastward to outflank the enemy-held houses at la Lande, which had stopped it the previous night. In its advance it received artillery fire from the vicinity of the station and engaged some enemy infantry. But when the 2d Battalion began advancing through Ecausseville and the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry moved up the railway on the left, the enemy troops began to fall back. Behind a small tributary of the Merderet, the enemy made a half-hearted stand, but at 1000 the battalion attacked across the stream and in the face of heavy artillery fire drove the German infantry back to the le Ham- Montebourg highway. In the evening the battalion made another attack, which carried it beyond the highway, halfway to the railroad. Meeting heavy fire from the entrenchments along the railroad and finding itself in advance of the other two battalions on the right, the 3d Battalion pulled back east of the highway. The entire regiment was now on its objective, organizing defensive positions which it was to hold until 19 June.
In the meantime the 505th Parachute Infantry had directed its efforts to dislodging the enemy from the extreme west end of his Quinéville-le Ham line. This line was anchored in and around le Ham, situated on the solid ground which extends southwest from the Montebourg Station between two small tributaries of the Merderet. The 505th's attack on 10 June was not coordinated with that of the 8th Infantry, and in their respective advances the two regiments diverged, leaving a gap between them. For this attack Colonel Ekman planned to use the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 505th, sending them through the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, which had been pinned down the day before and was still receiving flanking fire from across the Merderet and frontal fire from the German positions north of the creek. The 1st Battalion was to seize Montebourg Station and prepare a defensive arc to the north; the 2d Battalion was to follow the 1st beyond la Lande, swing west and cross the first Merderet tributary and railway, and then attack southwest toward le Ham. The 2d Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry was to provide supporting fire; the 3d Battalion of the 505th was to remain at Grainville.
The air force supported the attack by bombing le Ham and the station and, as the 1st Battalion of the 505th jumped off at 1330, another air mission forced the retirement of a self-propelled gun which was firing on the battalion from a railway overpass. The artillery support was also effective, rolling ahead of the battalion's advance. Despite all of the preparations a number of Germans still held their ground north and west of the creek and had to be driven back hedgerow by hedgerow; direct, close-range 88-mm. fire also took heavy casualties. But the 1st Battalion pushed slowly ahead and fought its way into Montebourg Station at about 1900, forcing the enemy to retire northward and southwestward toward le Ham. The 2d Battalion, following the 1st, moved farther north than had been planned in order to avoid fire from the left flank. Just below the station it turned southwest. Resistance stiffened as the enemy was squeezed into the south end of the solid ground around le Ham, and as darkness fell the attack was stopped about halfway between the station and the town. Colonel Ekman ordered the two battalions to organize a defensive position northeast of le Ham extending north around the station. The 1000-yard gap between the 505th's right flank and the 8th Infantry was covered by patrols from the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry.
The heavy enemy artillery fire which had fallen around the station eased up on the morning of 11 June. By this time the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, was ready to go again. Instead of sending the 2d Battalion of the 505th directly against le Ham from the north Colonel Ekman decided to employ it in a holding attack north of the town to divert the fire of the enemy while the 2d Battalion of the 325th attacked into le Ham from the east. At 1015 the 456th Field Artillery Battalion fired a 15-minute concentration on the heavily fortified ground east of the town, and at 1030 the 2d Battalion of the 325th started its attack from the railroad embankment. Smoke screened the advance over the open fields and through the 500 to 600 yards of swamp along the stream. Casualties were high, but as the leading elements reached the first solid ground enemy fire temporarily slackened. The battalion pressed on through the orchards and hedgerows, but was shortly stopped by heavy small-arms fire. Depleted in strength and low in ammunition the 2d Battalion set up a defensive position and delivered spasmodic fire on the enemy. In about forty-five minutes the enemy fire died, and the Germans began to withdraw toward le Ham. A machine gun was set up to fire into the retreating troops and, for lack of radio communications with the artillery, wire was laid and a forward artillery observer stationed himself in a building from which he could see le Ham.
The attack order was given at 1800 and after a 10-minute artillery preparation the battalion pushed off, deployed on a broad front. Meeting its only resistance from a badly shaken covering force, the battalion passed abandoned field pieces and swept into le Ham. When it reached the center of town at 1955 no Germans were in sight, and no riflemen were found in the house-to-house search. A patrol set out to clear the area directly south; the bridge across the Merderet to the west of the town was secured, and contact was established with the 2d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, to the north. Late in the afternoon part of the 3d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, had moved up from Grainville to mop up any enemy bypassed by the glider battalion and to patrol the river line to the south.
By noon, 12 June, the line running from the Merderet through le Ham and the station to the outskirts of Montebourg was secured. The 505th Parachute Infantry and the 8th Infantry were still in contact with the enemy all along their front and the outposts were receiving fire, but the only cause for concern was the gap between the two regiments. This area was cleared on 12 June by a patrol. It was intended that the 4th Division would relieve the airborne units of responsibility in the le Ham sector as soon as the coastal area was cleared to Quinéville. But the 4th Division had not taken Quinéville by 12 June. A battalion of the 359th Infantry (90th Division) therefore took over the le Ham sector on the morning of 13 June, relieving the 505th Parachute Infantry for a new mission to the south.
The Adwance toward Montebourg
The enemy's first organized line of resistance had been broken at Ecausseville and the enemy forced to retreat to the backstop line along the railway north of the le Ham-Montebourg highway. East of the Ste. Mère-Eglise-Montebourg highway the Ecausseville line extended across the high ground at Emondeville to the heavy fortifications at Azeville and Crisbecq (Map VIII). In this sector the enemy offered equally stubborn resistance and it became the task of the 12th and 22d Infantry Regiments to dislodge him and drive him beyond the Montebourg-Quinéville ridge.
On the night of 7 June, the 12th Infantry was ordered to seize the high ground northeast of Montebourg. At that time the regiment was in contact with enemy outposts along the line le Bisson-Azeville, nearly four miles to the south. At 0530 the next morning a naval concentration was placed on Emondeville and an hour later the 1st and 3d Battalions attacked. About 700 yards south of Emondeville the regiment encountered the German forward line. The 3d Battalion on the left broke through the enemy's forward line but was stopped in the orchards south of Emondeville. Company L freed itself and fought into the center of the town and then moved on to a hedgerow 600 yards beyond, but Company K was pinned down for five and a half hours by artillery and rocket fire. Company L was thus left out in a precarious salient. Colonel Reeder decided to commit his reserve, the 2d Battalion, on the left flank to relieve the isolated elements. After a violent fight the 2d Battalion drove into Basse Emondeville and established a line about 300 yards north of the village. Company L was moved back to tie in with this line.
On the right, the 1st Battalion found progress even more difficult. Shortly after the start of the attack it was pinned down by artillery west of Azeville. At 1400 it was counterattacked by part of Sturm Battalion AOK 7. Only the opportune presence of Company B of the 359th Infantry, the division reserve regiment, which was hastily attached to the 12th Infantry, enabled the 1st Battalion to stop the attack.
Meanwhile Company I was completing a withdrawal from the left flank, which had been exposed to attack from across the highway by the 8th Infantry's swing northwestward toward Fresville and Grainville. The enemy was steadily building up pressure along the highway and in mid- afternoon threatened the regimental command post south of Emondeville, but Company I and headquarters men rallied to repel the attack.
The 12th Infantry suffered nearly three hundred casualties on 8 June, but that night the enemy withdrew to Joganville, and the 12th stabilized its lines through Emondeville and Basse Emondeville.
On 9 June the regiment took the enemy strong point at the Chateau de Dodinville near Joganville. The chateau, a large walled-in stone building, was stubbornly defended. Six Sherman tanks from Company B, 746th Tank Battalion, outflanked the chateau on the west, while the 1st and 2d Battalions, at the cost of heavy casualties, fought into it from the south. Both battalions then continued northward and reached positions 2,000 yards northwest of Joganville. The 3d Battalion made a spectacular advance and reached positions 1,500 yards northeast of Montebourg, on the edge of the regimental objective and far in advance of units on either flank.
On 10 June the 2d Battalion skirted the eastern edge of Montebourg, which was stronglydefended by antitank and machine guns. After an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the city's thick stone walls, the battalion crossed behind the 1st and 3d Battalions to take up a position on the extreme right of the regiment. Division ordered the regiment to contain Montebourg but to stay out of it. The farthest advance northward was made by the 1st Battalion, which crossed the Montebourg-Quinéville highway, overextending its position. Late in the evening the enemy counterattacked from Montebourg and from the north. Although repulsed, mainly by massed artillery fire, the Germans had shown considerable force, and the 1st Battalion was pulled back for safety. The three battalions then held positions abreast and south of the highway. The next morning ( 11 June) the regiment reached its objective north of the highway, but it had lost contact with the units on both flanks. The enemy still held strongly fortified positions at Montebourg on the left and to the right rear. At 2300 Division ordered the regiment to withdraw behind the Montebourg-St. Floxel road and prepare defensive positions, although no part of the division had yet reached its objective.
Crisbecq and Azeville
Progress had been especially difficult in the 22d Infantry sector. There, along the beach and at the headland fortifications, the enemy offered stubborn resistance. After the costly failure of the attacks on Crisbecq and Azeville on 7 June, the regimental commander, Col. Hervey A. Tribolet, waited for the 3d Battalion (minus Company K) to assemble west of the inundated area near Ravenoville as a reserve force, before he renewed the push northward. During the night, however, the 3d Battalion moved across the inundation to accept the surrender of Taret de Ravenoville. Company K, reinforced by 4.2-inch mortars, antitank guns, heavy machine guns, and part of a NSFCP, continued to attack the beach fortifications farther to the south.
At 1000 on 8 June the 1st and 2d Battalions again attacked Azeville and Crisbecq (Map VIII). On the right the 1st Battalion drove the enemy out of St. Marcouf, which he had reoccupied during the night, and advanced on Crisbecq. As on 7 June, Companies A and B led the attack, with Company C organized for assault and prepared to pass through the center. At 1330 a 20-minute preparation of naval and field artillery and mortar fire began to pound Crisbecq; it gave way to a rolling barrage which the infantry followed at 200 yards. Company D provided overhead fire with heavy machine guns. The advance and the fires were effectively coordinated, permitting the battalion to reach the edge of the fortifications with few losses. Companies A and B took positions on the flanks while Company C advanced through the center and blew several emplacements with pole charges.
The battle then developed in the same way as it had on the previous day. The assault sections exhausted their explosives without destroying the main enemy fortifications and became engaged in close-in fighting with the Germans in the trenches. The whole battalion was shelled by Nebelwerfers and by the guns at Crisbecq and farther inland, and its left flank was again counterattacked. As the pressure mounted on the left, the battalion fell back under cover of smoke, as it had on the previous day, to the orchard north of Bas Village de Dodainville. On first check the battalion showed less than half strength, but during the night a large number of men, separated in the course of the fighting, found their way back to the line which the battalion had organized. At Azeville, the 2d Battalion had also repeated its experience of 7 June when it had been driven back by a counterattack. On 9 June the Azeville mission was assigned to the 3d Battalion (less Company K), which had again moved inland from Taret de Ravenoville.
CLEARING ST. MARCOUF for the second time, men of the 22d Infantry are shown moving cautiously through the village on 8 June, when the drive on Crisbecq was resumed. St. Marcouf had been captured by the 1st Battalion the day before but had been reoccupied by the enemy after the failure of the first attack.
The plan to take Crisbecq was temporarily abandoned, although naval and artillery fire continued to neutralize its batteries. The fort at Azeville, roughly circular, encompassed the east edge of the village. It consisted of four large concrete blockhouses camouflaged as buildings, which were armed with 150-mm. guns and turreted machine guns, and interconnected by covered trenches. The southern approach was protected by small outlying pillboxes and mine fields, and the entire area was surrounded by varying widths of barbed wire entanglements. The roads in the vicinity were blocked.
HEADLAND BATTERIES AT AZEVILLE AND CRISBECQ consisted of huge reinforced concrete casemates and their guns and various smaller weapons and wire. The Azeville positions housed 105-mm. guns and, like the one above, were camouflaged to look like stone houses. The Crisbecq fort shown below housed a 210-mm. gun.
The 3d Battalion assembled about 1,000 yards southeast of Azeville, and at 1100 it crossed to the draw southwest of the village. Company L moved farther west in a wide arc in order to enter the village from the west and capture any reserves the enemy might have to the rear of the fort. Company I organized into five assault sections, moved north inside the arc of Company L, and advanced up the draw and through the fields to approach the fort from its right rear. The 44th Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,500 rounds in preparation for the attack. The company started out with the support of tanks, but mines held up all except one of them. At noon Company I came in sight of the first outlying pillbox. The men did not attempt to lift the mines, but after cutting the wire they picked their way through the fields and orchards. They buttoned up pillboxes with rifle fire and then blew them. Enemy return fire was not heavy. The Germans had neglected to clear good fields of fire and to cover the approach from the southwest. Company I concentrated on the nearest blockhouse. First bazookas and the lone tank opened fire from behind a hedgerow, but accomplished little more than to chip the concrete. An assault team was then sent in to blow the rear entrance, which was recessed in the blockhouse and out of reach of direct fire. The team worked its way to its objective, emptied its flame thrower, and set off a pack charge. But this had no effect, nor did a second attempt, nor a third with a still heavier satchel charge. In a last effort Capt. Joseph T. Samuels, commanding Company I, sent Pvt. Ralph G. Riley to the blockhouse with the last flame thrower to "give it a few more squirts." With the flame thrower on his back, Private Riley ran seventy-five yards under fire and dropped into a shell hole for cover. The flame thrower would not work, and he tried to think of the proper "immediate action." He opened the valve, held a lighted match to the nozzle, and trained the stream of fire on the base of the door. At just this time enemy artillery fire from Crisbecq began to come in and Captain Samuels thought the attack had failed. Suddenly Private Riley heard a popping sound, different from the sound of the rifle fire around him. It was soon followed by explosions within the blockhouse. The enemy's ammunition had been fired by those "few more squirts" of the flame thrower. Soon a white flag was raised and, after the firing had ceased, the rear door of the blockhouse swung open to let out an American parachute officer followed by two Germans. The German commander surrendered all 4 forts with their garrison of 169 men.
Shortly after Azeville was captured in mid-afternoon, 9 June, General Barton issued an order creating a task force which that same day was to bypass Crisbecq and the other German strong points along the coastal headlands and swing northeast to "capture Quinéville and the high ground west thereof." Quinéville was the eastern anchor of the German defenses. The task force, which was to have first priority on division fires, consisted of the 22d Infantry, the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalions and the 746th Tank Battalion (less detachments); it was commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry A. Barber. Led by tanks, the 22d Infantry was to advance in a column of battalions (3d, 2d, 1st) on Ozeville, its first objective. Crisbecq was to be contained by a force of tank destroyers and infantry and was to be neutralized by division artillery at the time of the attack. (The containing force, commanded by Maj. Huston M. Betty, consisted of Company C, 22d Infantry; Company C, 4th Engineer Combat Battalion; Company C, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion.)
The task force moved out at 1630, but it was stopped by fire from strong enemy positions at the crossroads west of Chateau de Fontenay and forced to dig in for the night. For three days (10-12 June) the task force struggled with little success to overcome the enemy resistance, its right flank exposed to the bypassed enemy strong points at Crisbecq, Dangueville, Chateau de Fontenay, and Fontenay-sur-Mer and its left flank to the German positions in the gap of about a mile and a half that separated the 22d and 12th Infantry Regiments. The task force lacked sufficientstrength to protect both of its flanks and at the same time push ahead. Unfavorable weather denied it air support.
On 10 June the 3d Battalion, supported by tanks, launched two frontal attacks on Ozeville which carried it up the rising ground to within a few hundred yards of the enemy entrenchments. But the battalion, consisting of only two companies, was too weak to gain the objective. Company K was still on the beach and Company L had lost 159 men since D Day. On the same day the 2d Battalion attacked on the right in an effort to reduce the strong point at Chateau de Fontenay, but it was pinned down by grazing machine-gun fire. Ordered to withdraw to allow bombing of the enemy positions, the battalion became disorganized by the enemy fire, and seventy men east of the chateau were left stranded. (Only one of these men returned--an aid man who was later found among the prisoners at Cherbourg.) The air mission did not materialize.
On 11 June, General Barber planned to send the 1st and 3d Battalions into Ozeville from the west, after an air mission had softened the enemy positions. But he was forced to divert the 1st Battalion to the right to contain the enemy positions at Fontenay-sur-Mer and Dangueville. The 3d Battalion therefore attacked Ozeville alone, but again failed.
While the 2d and 3d Battalions suffered heavy losses in unsuccessful attacks on the chateau and the Ozeville strong point, the 1st Battalion contained the enemy at Fontenay-sur-Mer and another force contained the Crisbecq fortification. Twice on 10 June this latter force pulled back for scheduled air missions which were canceled because of unfavorable weather. The only real progress during these days was made on the beach by Company K, which on 11 June captured two more strong points. For two days it had hammered at these positions. At last it learned from prisoners that the only effect of heavy American fire on the forts had been to force the garrison to shuttle through a tunnel from one part to the other. Company K therefore fired fifty rounds of 57-mm. on the first fort and then switched suddenly to put eighty rounds into the adjacent stronghold. Resistance ended in both forts, and ninety-three prisoners were taken.
On 12 June, General Collins ordered the 39th Infantry, 9th Division, which had landed on the previous day, to take over the reduction of the enemy strong points on the beaches and the coastal headlands. General Collins had two reasons for this move. He was determined to reduce the beach and headland fortifications from Taret de Ravenoville to Quinéville, for they continued to shell Red Beach and threatened to slow down the unloading of supplies; and he wished to free the right flank of the 22d Infantry, in order that it might move on to Quinéville. With this in view, the 1st Battalion of the 22d Infantry was released from its task of containing Fontenay-sur-Mer and Dangueville and ordered to rejoin the regiment for the drive northward.
Early on 12 June the 39th Infantry fanned out from its assembly area on its coastal missions (Map IX). The 2d Battalion pushed patrols to Crisbecq and, finding it abandoned, occupied it at 0820. Dangueville was occupied in mid-afternoon. Two companies were then sent eastward toward the beach. The 1st Battalion moved to St. Marcouf at noon and then sent three companies down the roads from St. Marcouf and Ravenoville to the beach. There the battalion reorganized and assaulted and captured the first pillbox north of Taret de Ravenoville, establishing contact with the 2d Battalion patrol below Fort St. Marcouf. The 3d Battalion meanwhile attacked through the 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry, drove the enemy back from Fontenay-sur-Mer, where he resisted stubbornly, and established outposts along the roads to the north and east.
The 22d Infantry was now free to make a concerted attack on Ozeville. It was to jump of at noon of 12 June. The air force was to bomb Ozeville at 1100, and the artillery (44th and 20th Field Artillery Battalions) was to fire on known enemy positions south of Ozeville from 1115 to 1130, then lift to Ozeville until 1200, after which fire was to be available on call. In addition to the organic weapons of the 22d Infantry, the attack was to be supported by two platoons of 81-mm. mortars and the Cannon Company of the 12th Infantry. The 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, on the left flank was to place mortar and antitank fire on the strong point from 1115 until 1200; and the 1st Battalion on the right flank was to support the attack with its tanks and cannon. Colonel Teague's 3d Battalion in the center, which was to lead the attack, was to be supported by one company of chemical mortars (87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), a platoon of tanks (Company C, 70th Tank Battalion), and an extra platoon of antitank guns.
At 1005 General Barber notified Colonel Teague that the air mission was canceled, but that heavy artillery fire would be substituted. The preparatory fires were delivered and the attack jumped off on time. With the 2d Battalion covering the gap on the left flank and the 1st Battalion becoming heavily engaged in the vicinity of Fontenay-sur-Mer, the main assault was made by the 3d Battalion alone toward the southwest corner of the strong point.
The troops advanced behind overwhelming fire power. Even naval support was available, particularly on Quinéville where German guns had opened up. Covered by Companies I and L on either side, two assault sections of Company K closed in on the Ozeville defenses. After a short but violent fight a white flag appeared on one of the positions. But as Lieutenant Dewhurst, a platoon leader, climbed up on a pillbox to stop the firing, he was cut down by German fire. The men of Company I suddenly fought with greater fury; they rushed into the emplacements with bayonets and grenades and wiped out a large part of the garrison.
Ozeville was captured and the last major barrier to an attack on Quinéville was removed. On the same day, 12 June, the 39th Infantry cleared resistance from the 22d Infantry's right flank, while on its left flank the 12th Infantry retook the ground east of Montebourg which had been relinquished the day before.
The 12th Infantry's attack was launched at 1600, when the capture of Ozeville became assured. After an artillery preparation the 2d Battalion moved against its objective, the strong point built around two stone quarries near les Fieffes-Dancel (Map IX) . While tanks gave close fire support, Company E assaulted the position with rifles and hand grenades. An enemy counterattack from the northwest, threatening to check the assault, was thrown back, mainly by Company B which had been sent up from the 1st Battalion in reserve to reinforce the 2d Battalion. The 2d Battalion then completed the capture of the stone quarry position. The 3d Battalion on the left had, in the meantime, captured the height 1,000 yards to the west, and Company A had established an outpost northeast of Montebourg. The 12th Infantry was again extended in an exposed position.
So far no attempt had been made to seize the city of Montebourg. When the two regiments approached the city on 10 June, General Barton ordered them to stay out of it; his division was spread out over a wide front with few reserves and, expecting a counterattack, he wished to avoid street fighting. On 11 June the 4th Engineer Combat Battalion established road blocks on the highway south of Montebourg and covered the gap between the 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments. But on 12 June patrols reported that the town was only lightly held. At the same time the 4th Division's burden had been lightened by the attachment of the 39th Infantry, and by the arrival of the rest of the 9th Division as Corps reserve. General Barton therefore notified Colonel Van Fleet that Montebourg was included in the 8th Infantry's zone and should be seized and occupied that day if it could be done cheaply.
Colonel Van Fleet organized a battalion-size task force to attack Montebourg and placed it under the command of Lt. Col. Fred Steiner, his executive officer. The task force, composed of two rifle companies, a platoon each of engineers, heavy machine guns, anti-tank guns, 4.2-inch mortars and tank destroyers, a cannon company, and the 29th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, moved out at 2100 and reached the edge of the town at dark. Although the German force inside the town was not believed to be large, approaches were well covered by automatic fire. One company, on the left, was forced to withdraw and reorganize, and Colonel Steiner decided to wait until morning to renew the attack. At 0700 on 13 June the task force moved out again, one company on either side of the highway. Upon reaching the stream on the very edge of the town, the tank destroyers decided not to venture farther because of the 88-mm. fire. General Barton then resolved against risking the loss of men in street fighting and ordered the force to take a position from which it could contain Montebourg. Small patrols were sent into the town to observe enemy activity.
The Capture of Quinéville
Enemy possession of Montebourg technically exposed the left flank of the 22d Infantry's attack toward Quinéville. But the danger was not too great and General Barton hoped to gain Quinéville and the ridge to the west on 13 June. However, neither the 39th Infantry nor the 22d Infantry was able to make sufficient progress. The 1st Battalion of the 39th attacked northward along the beach toward Fort St. Marcouf, aided by 2d Battalion mortars and four tank destroyers, but it made only small gains (Map IX). The 3d Battalion attacked east from Fontenay-sur-Mer to the edge of the swamp and then north, with the intention of clearing the balance of the regimental zone south of the Quinéville-Montebourg highway and along the north edge of the inundation. But it was held up by both friendly and enemy artillery fire falling on its forward elements.
The 22d Infantry reached the ridge but was unable to secure it or attack eastward to Quinéville. The 2d Battalion made a wide swing through the 12th Infantry's area to the Montebourg-Quinéville highway east of les Fieffes-Dancel. The 3d Battalion moved north to the forward slope of the ridge and then was ordered to side-slip to the east in preparation for an attack in column down the ridge on Quinéville. Colonel Teague extended one company to the right, passed the second across its rear farther to the right, and then passed the third behind the other two. This maneuver, made across ground dominated by the enemy positions on the ridge and harassed by heavy Nebelwerfer and artillery fire, resulted in a number of casualties.
In ordering the attack of 14 June, Regiment directed all three battalions of the 22d Infantry to secure the ridge and the two hills to the east as necessary preliminaries to the attack on Quinéville. The 2d Battalion, with one company of 4.2-inch mortars attached (Company C, 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), was to seize the crest of the ridge, on the left flank. The 1st Battalion, with the 70th Tank Battalion in direct support, was to seize the eastern nose of the ridge, which was fortified, and Hill 54A to the east. The 3d Battalion, aided by a company of chemical mortars (Company A, 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), was to capture Hill 54B, the easternmost hill, and was then to turn right and attack
Quinéville. Preparatory fires were to be delivered for fifteen minutes on the fortified nose of the ridge, the two heights to the east, and a coastal battery farther east. South of the highway the 3d Battalion of the 39th Infantry was also to attack and come into position for a later coordinated attack on Quinéville with the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry. The battalion was to be pinched out just south of the town.
At 0915 on 14 June the 4th Division artillery began to fire concentrations on the four ridge targets. At 0930 a round of green smoke signaled the lifting of fires and the three battalions of the 22d Infantry jumped of. The fight lasted for over three hours. By 1300 the nose of the ridge and the two hills were occupied. Meanwhile the 3d Battalion, 39th Infantry, had also taken up the attack on the southern slopes of the ridge south of the highway, completing a 90-degree turn to the east just south of Hill 4B and advancing on Quinéville with Company K in the lead. The attack on the town could now proceed as planned.
Before this plan was put into effect, however, the 39th Infantry received permission from Division to send its 3d Battalion independently against Quinéville without the assistance of the 22d Infantry. At 1400 thirty-six A-2 0 's carried out a bombardment of enemy positions at Quinéville and it was desirable that this bombardment be followed as soon as possible by an infantry attack. At 1600 the 3d Battalion, 39th Infantry, moved out with Company K in the lead. Initially the company encountered little opposition and took sixty-eight prisoners. On the slopes just southwest of Quinéville leading elements of the company successfully attacked a casemated 88-mm. gun and took the crew prisoner. At this time tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion, operating with the 39th Infantry, opened fire at long range on what appeared to be enemy vehicles on the right flank, and drew antitank fire. This movement on the right proved to be that of tank destroyers attached to the regiment's 1st Battalion, which was fighting its way up the beach in the vicinity of St. Marcouf. The firing ceased after identification was established by flare and radio.
As Company K entered Quinéville it received heavy mortar fire, but it went on to the first street intersection. There the 3d Platoon, which had been leading the attack, turned right and advanced toward the beach. In its path lay a tank ditch, extending to the mouth of the Sinope River on the north and to the swamps on the south. As the platoon proceeded down the street a small antitank gun opened fire from a pillbox on the beach, forcing lead elements of the platoon back and driving the rest to cover in ditches and buildings.
Meanwhile the 1st Platoon had pushed into the northeast part of town with the intention of cutting through to the beach. The Weapons Platoon emplaced its 60-mm. mortars south of town and rushed up light machine guns and one section of heavy machine guns from Company M through heavy enemy fire to join the 1st Platoon. The platoon and attached guns entered the northeast section and the machine guns were set up on the edge of town, looking out onto the beach and the river mouth where the enemy had fixed positions. But the men found themselves dangerously exposed and were forced to take cover after receiving numerous casualties when they attempted to advance in the open toward the beach fortifications. The 2d Platoon succeeded in clearing the western part of town with little opposition, for the enemy's strength was concentrated on the east for the protection of the beach fortifications.
Aside from this minor success in the western part of town the attack at this point did not offer much hope of succeeding. Company I had suffered heavy casualties, including the 1st and 3d Platoon officers. The remainder of the battalion had been of little assistance. Company M's heavy mortars had been emplaced
earlier to cover only the original mission of the battalion and were now out of accurate range of Quinéville; they were at this point moving forward over difficult terrain and mined trails, and communications with them were out. Companies I and L had halted under the last remaining cover about 400 yards southwest of town, alerted to take up the attack on either flank of Company K, but there was little room for their deployment except in the open and across wire entanglements flanking the town.
Before resuming the attack the 3d Battalion commander, Lt. Col. William P. Stumpf, requested artillery fire on enemy fortifications. Its purpose was to cover the reorganization of Company K and the approach of tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion which were waiting outside the town, and to soften the enemy fortifications. Following this fire Company K was to assault the enemy positions under the cover of smoke, supported by the tanks. Radio communication was difficult, but the requested fire was adjusted by relay through the 39th Infantry Cannon Company and was delivered by division artillery. The fire was not effective against the concrete fortifications, but did result in a temporary cessation of enemy mortar fire. Smoke was not available at this time. One tank reached the intersection, turned east, and immediately drew fire from the antitank gun on the beach and was damaged. The tank returned the fire, but faced with the antitank ditch and heavy mortar fire, it withdrew. Two other tanks then moved up to the intersection to support the infantry, but also retired due to the heavy mortar fire.
Colonel Stumpf, observing the very limited support which the tanks were able to give and losing hope of getting the requested smoke, decided to resume the attack with the forces at hand. Company L was ordered to lead the assault on Company K's left. Company L had just moved out on the approach and was drawing mortar fire when a heavy concentration of smoke fell squarely on the enemy positions. Taking advantage of the long- awaited smoke, delivered by 4th Division artillery, Company K attacked immediately. As leading elements of the 1st and 3d Platoons reached the fortifications under the cover of the smoke, all enemy positions were suddenly surrendered, ending the fight for Quinéville at 2130. Company K had lost twenty-eight wounded and five killed.
In the meantime the 1st Battalion of the 39th Infantry had continued its attack northward along the beach. During the day it suffered heavy casualties in crossing a mine field, but succeeded in taking Fort St. Marcouf. That night it made contact with patrols from the 3d Battalion. Thus, by the capture of Quinéville and the ridge on 14 June, the enemy's main line in the north was ,broken, depriving him of his best natural defense against the advancing northern flank.
The capture of Quinéville and the clearing of the coast to the south also helped to speed the landing of supplies and personnel for VII Corps. In the early days of the landings German artillery had prevented the use of the Navy pontoon causeway built on D plus 1, and difficulties in beaching landing craft and in the functioning of the ferry control organization had resulted in a lag in unloading of about thirty-six hours. Now the causeway became usable. Moreover, on D plus 3 the practice of drying out LST's by beaching on a falling tide was begun and on D plus s additional DUKW's were made available. On D plus 6 a joint Army-Navy meeting devised means of expediting the unloading; the original plan of establishing a beach at Quinéville was abandoned and a third beach, Sugar Red, was established above Tare Green. This new beach, together with the increased capacity of the assault beaches, made the Quinéville beach unnecessary. By 14 June an average of over 4,000 tons of stores was being unloaded daily, compared with an average of 1,500 tons during
QUINÉVILLE, looking northwest along the coast. The capture of this town by the 3d Battalion, 39th Infantry, driving in from the southwest, climaxed the struggle for the D-Day objectives in the north.
the first three days. By the evening of 14 June a total of nearly 86,000 personnel, 12,000 vehicles, and 26,000 tons of stores had crossed UTAH Beach.
With the increase of the VII Corps' striking power, the security of its position also increased. By 14 June, the D-Day objectives had been gained. The threat to the Corps' southern flank had been removed with the capture of Carentan, and firm contact had been established with V Corps (see Map No. 21, which shows the extent of the Allied beachhead in Normandy on 14 June). In the west, VII Corps troops were operating well to the west of the Merderet.3 The seizure of the Quinéville Ridge broke the anchor of the enemy line in the north and increased his apprehension of a breakthrough toward Cherbourg.
With the capture of the Quinéville Ridge and the linking of the two beachheads the crucial first week of the campaign had passed. The enemy had failed to launch the expected counterattack.
The Enemy Situation
MOVEMENT OF SUPPLIES, EQUIPMENT, AND PERSONNEL increased in volume as the beach was organized by the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. Pictured above is the entire beach, looking south, with its protective GOOSEBERRY (breakwater) of sunken ships. Below, beached LST's unload directly into trucks.
SHIP-TO-SHORE MOVEMENT OF SUPPLIES was accomplished largely by DUKW's of the amphibious truck companies operating under the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. At the left is a pontoon causeway used for offshore unloading of small craft.
Allied air superiority, the enemy's supply shortages, especially in fuels, and his early uncertainty about Allied plans had delayed reinforcements. Spitfires, P-47's, and P-38's forced units to detrain even before they reached the German Seventh Army zone. On 10th June the 77th Division was still in the Avranches area and, because of a lack of fuel, the 17th Panzer Grenadier Division, intended for the Carentan area, could not come up in time to prevent the linking of the V and VII Corps beachheads. The advance elements of the 77th Division began arriving in the Valognes area only on 10 and 11 June and did not face American forces in large numbers until 12 and 13 June when the reduction of the Montebourg-Quinéville line was nearing completion. The 17th SS-Panzer Grenadier Division finally reached its assembly area on 12 June, but some of its assault guns had been destroyed by Allied fighter-bombers, and the weakness of its communications, supply, and command organization forced it to postpone its counterattack in the Carentan sector. When it did attack, on 13 June, the 101st Airborne Division and elements of the 2d Armored Division were strong enough to drive it back.
The enemy had initially considered the Calvados beachheads as the main Allied effort in Normandy. On D plus 2, when he picked up from the waters of the English Channel a copy of the VII Corps field order for Operation NEPTUNE, he realized that a second "main effort" was being made in the directions of Valognes-Cherbourg, and he took measures to prevent the cutting off of the peninsula so that his units in the north could be reinforced. He decided to strengthen the Cotentin forces with the 77th Division, which had been originally intended to join the II Parachute Corps in preventing a junction of the two U.S. corps in the Carentan area. Furthermore, in view of the possibility of airborne landings at Valognes and amphibious landings on the northwest coast of the Cotentin, the German commander also alerted the 17th SS-Panzer Grenadier Division near Carentan for a possible shift westward to plug the St. Lô-d'Ourville gap.
German Seventh Army believed that, while it did not have adequate forces for a counterattack, it could hold its own in the Cotentin and defend Cherbourg. But on 9 and 10 June, when the 4th Division penetrated the defensive front south of Montebourg and forced the 709th Division to give way at Ecausseville, the enemy became alarmed. Lt. Gen. Heinz Hellmich, commanding the 243d Division and elements of the 709th and 91st Divisions, was ordered to hold the Montebourg-Quinéville line at all costs. General Erich Marcks of the LXXXIV Corps urgently requested air power to combat the effective naval fire which assisted the 4th Division advance in the Emondeville and coastal sectors. He believed that the decisive phase of the battle for Cherbourg was fast approaching and that a breakthrough might be attempted within a day or two. With the fall of Quinéville and the Quinéville Ridge on 14 June an Allied offensive toward Cherbourg appeared imminent. However, the northern front remained relatively quiet for nearly a week, while VII Corps concentrated on taking advantage of its Merderet bridgehead to cut the Cotentin Peninsula.
American Forces in Action/Ruppenthal
An excerpt from " Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 6 - 27 June 1944
To give you a flavor of the excellent book available for you to read on the Internet, or to order from the government printing office, here is an excerpt from the section '12th and 22nd Infantry Regiments Pursue their D-Day Objectives':
The 4th Division extended the northern arc of the beachhead some two miles on D plus 1 in its advance towards its D-Day objectives, and pushed the enemy back against his main headland fortresses at Azeville and Crisbecq. On the beach the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry continued the methodical destruction of beach defenses (Map No. 12 - not shown here). Probably the most difficult of the 4th Division's missions were those assigned to the 22nd Infantry on the division's right flank.
The Regiment had the task of reducing the strong points along the beaches and the heavily fortified headland batteries two to three miles inland and west of the inundation's. On D plus 1 the first attacks against the enemy's inland positions were made by 1/22 and 2/22. The two Battalions had spent most of D-Day moving across the inundated area, but had come through almost without losses.
From their positions at St. Germain-de-Varrevile, where they had relieved the 502nd Parachute Infantry, they started out at 0700 on 7 June, with 1/22 on the right advancing astride the highway which runs parallel to the coastline, and 2/22 using the trails to the west. They moved rapidly until they approached the higher ground between Azeville and de Dodainville, where they received fire from the forts of Crisbecq and Azeville. 1/22 pushed on to enter St. Marcouf.
The two Battalions now faced the enemy's two most powerful coastal forts. With their heavy guns (the Crisbecq guns were 210 mm), These forts threatened the beaches as well as shipping and stood as the last serious barrier before the Regiment's D-Day objectives. Each position consisted of four massive concrete blockhouses in a line; they were supplied with underground ammo storage dumps, interconnected by communication trenches, and protected against ground attack by automatic weapons and wire. An arc of concrete sniper pillboxes outposted the southern approaches to Azeville.
Crisbecq mounted the larger guns and occupied a more commanding position on the headland overlooking the beaches. Immediate attacks were launched against both forts. 2/22 tried for several hours to move forward against the Azeville position, but the counterattack drove it back to its line of departure with considerable losses. The 1/22 attack on Crisbecq was even more fiercely contested.
As the Battalion passed through St. Marcouf, it received heavy artillery fire from the Azeville battery to the southwest. Company C was organized into assault sections, in the same manner as the units had been organized for the assault on D-Day. It was ordered to move up a narrow trail, along with the other two rifle companies of the Battalion, to blow the blockhouses. This was the only approach the Battalion could make, for to the east the ground dropped off to the town of Crisbecq and the swampland, and to the west the ground was high and open.
As the three companies moved forward, they suffered heavy casualties from shell fire. They inched ahead, up the thickly hedged trails, but as they reach the trail block and the wire obstacles on the perimeter of the position, The Germans counterattacked their left flank. To contain the counterattack the 3rd platoon of B company was moved behind company A to the left. In the fields northwest of St. Marcouf it met a strong enemy force supported by at least one enemy tank.
Capt. Tom Shields of company A, who took command of the battalion when its commanding officer was wounded, decided that the position was to dangerous to hold and at 1600 he ordered a withdrawal. The Battalion became increasingly disorganized as it retreated, still under heavy fire. Nineteen men of company A were cut off on the left and probably captured. Another platoon on the right lost its way and wandered as far as the beach, which was still in enemy hands.
Late that night these men found their way to the Battalion, bringing up with them 113 prisoners. The Battalion withdrew to a line 300 yards south of de Dodainville. After dark the Germans counterattacked again but were routed by accurate naval fire. On the extreme right flank of the 22nd Infantry, separated from the rest of the Regiment by the inundation's, 3/22 meanwhile proceeded against the string of beach fortifications which extended all the way up the coast. Those which posed an immediate danger to the Utah landings lay between les Dunes de Varreville and Quineville, on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the inundation's, and could be approached only by movement along the sea wall.
The strong points were reinforced concrete blockhouses, armed with artillery pieces and turreted machine guns. Most of them had the additional protection of wire, ditches, mines, and outlying infantry pillboxes and had communication with supporting inland batteries by underground telephone cable. Very interesting book, look for it on the Internet, order it, or read our next newsletter for another excerpt about our Regiments first days in Europe... Copied from the August newsletter...
Quelle 25.08.14 18:17:15
Nach der Schlacht von Carentan erhielt das 3. Bataillon des 22. Inf. Rgts eine hohe Auszeichnung:
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered CARENTAN (3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry cited;. WD GO 85,1944)i
7. - 18. Juni 1944
Jahrbuch des 22. Infanterie-Regiments, 1947:
„The attack was resumed on D plus 1, and an attempt made to seize Crisbecq, and Azeville, but the attack was repulsed with heavy losses
sustained by the First and Second Battalions. Task Force "Barber," under the command of Brig. Gen. Henry A. Barber, was formed,
and the Third Battalion was relieved of its beach fortifications mission and brought inland to attack Azeville.
Crisbecq, still in German hands, was to be contained and by-passed. Formation for the main attack was a column of battalions
in the order Third, Second, First, with Lt. Col. John Dowdy now commanding the First Battalion.
The attack was well planned and fires were carefully coordinated. The concrete fortifications of Azeville fell on June 9,
after stubborn resistance on the part of the Germans had been overcome,
and the Third Battalion moved up in preparation for an attack on the emplacements of Azeville.
With the First and Second Battalions protecting its right flank, the Third Battalion assaulted and seized Azeville and its German garrison.
Enemy artillery and mortar fire was causing increasingly large numbers of casualties, and the strength of all three battalions had been appreciably reduced.
Azeville having been captured, the attack toward the Quineville ridge was resumed without delay.
The Second Battalion swung wide to the left and attacked down the ridge toward the Channel;
the First and Third Battalions attacked north with tanks.
The number of German dead found in the position after occupation attested to the enemy's determination to retain the ridge.
The distinctive sound of the nebelwerfer (a rocket-type mortar) was commonplace, and came to be known as the "Screaming Mimi."
On the day following the consolidation of the Quineville ridge, for the first time since landing no attack was ordered.
Personnel were directed to shave and bathe themselves to the limit of existing opportunities.“ii
19. - 30. Juni 1944
Foto, wie Montebourg nach den Gefechten aussah:
Und weitere Bilder der Zerstörung der umkämpften Städte samt auräumenden amerikanischen Soldaten:
„On June 19, the division resumed the attack with the 22nd Infantry in reserve. Montebourg, by-passed by the division attack,
was entered and secured by the Third Battalion, 22nd Infantry. The regiment made rapid advances against little resistance to the high ground
in the vicinity of le Theil. Thereafter, the enemy stiffened, and because of infiltration from the exposed right flank,
re-supply of forward battalions necessitated the use of tank convoys.
With the final assault on Cherbourg well under way, the 22nd Infantry, supported by tanks, was ordered to turn to the right
and mop up coastal defenses to the east of Cherbourg. After two days of continuous assault of mutually supporting fortified positions
the regiment forced the German garrisons to surrender. Arrangements were speedily concluded, and by mid-afternoon
the last of the more than 1,000 prisoners had been cleared from the area. The operation against Cherbourg was finished;
the mission had been accomplished. Officers and men alike looked forward hopefully to a period of rest and retraining,
for the operations against the fortifications and hedgerows of the Cherbourg Peninsula had cost dearly in men and material.
The following day the regiment moved to an assembly area in the south of the Cherbourg Peninsula,
where the troops relaxed to the luxuries of baths, shaves, and clean clothes, plus hot food.
The regiment had definitely been blooded in battle; "D-Day in Normandy" was a phrase to remember,
and for its assault on that day the Third Battalion had won the Distinguished Unit Citation.“iii
ihttp://www.22ndinfantry.org/lineage_and_honors.htm 26.08.14 17:36:21
Battle casualties, 6 June – 1 July 1944
4th Inf Division
9th Inf Division
79th Inf Division
90th Inf Division
82d A/B Div.
101st A/B Div.
Source: VII Corps, G-1 Reports, June 1944
Verluste des 22. Inf. Rgts. im Juni 1944
Verwundete: 1'560 Soldaten und 104 Offiziere
Tote: 373 Soldaten und 23 Offizierei
Ein Infanterie-Regiment hatte einen Sollbestand von
3049 Soldaten und 158 Offizierenii
Verlust: zwei Drittel der Männer und 80 % der Offiziere
Am nächsten Morgen [7. Juni 1944] zogen wir durch den Sumpf und waren sofort in Heckenkämpfe verwickelt. Das war ein harter Kampf und es ging nur langsam voran. Es dauerte mehrere Tage, bis wir wieder zum Strand zurückkehrten."
Riley sprach noch einmal von den Fallschirmjägern, die am D-Day abgesprungen sind. Er sagte: "Die Fallschirmjäger, die vor uns abgesprungen sind, sollten die Kommunikation und den Transport der Feinde auf den Strassen stören. Ausserdem sollten sie die Strassen, Strassenkreuzungen und Städte kontrollieren. Ich kenne die Zahl nicht, die am D-Day gesprungen sind, Tausende, schätze ich. Sie haben gute Arbeit geleistet, aber sie hatten einen schweren Stand. Sie hatten viele Verluste. Wir fanden eine Menge Fallschirmjäger, die in Bäumen hingen, und sie waren ziemlich übel zerschossen worden. Eines Tages fanden wir eine Kolonne deutscher Soldaten an einer Strasse tot mit durchgeschnittenen Kehlen. Wir wussten, dass die Fallschirmjäger sie alle gleichzeitig angesprungen und alle auf die gleiche Weise getötet hatten. Wenn wir mit Fallschirmjägern in Kontakt kamen, übernahmen wir ihre Positionen. Sie wurden zurück nach hinten und dann wieder zurück nach England versetzt."
Riley erzählte mir von ihrem Kompaniefeldweibel, First Sergeant Moore, der vom Heckenschützenfeuer festgenagelt wurde und wie das ihr Denken über die Waffen, mit denen sie ausgerüstet waren, veränderte. Er sagte: "Ein paar Tage nach unserer Landung in der Normandie wurde Sergeant Moore von einem Heckenschützenfeuer festgenagelt. Sergeant Moore war mit einem Karabiner bewaffnet. Die effektivste Reichweite für einen Karabiner war ungefähr einhundert oder zweihundert Meter, also hatte Sergeant Moore keine grosse Chance gegen das leistungsstarke Gewehr, das die Heckenschützen benutzen. Einige der Männer hörten die Schiesserei und gingen ihm zu Hilfe."
Riley sagte: "Sergeant Moore war so wütend, weil er mit einem Karabiner bewaffnet war, er warf ihn weg und bekam ein M-1 Rifle (Selbstladegewehr). Riley sagte: "Ich war auch mit einem Karabiner bewaffnet, also habe ich eine Weile darüber nachgedacht, dann wurde ich den Karabiner los und besorgte mir ein M-1-Gewehr. Es war ein wenig schwerer als der kleinere Karabiner, aber wenn es doch die Chancen gegen die Scharfschützen erhöhte, so war ich bereit, es zu tragen. Ich trug das M-l-Gewehr den Rest des Krieges und einige der anderen Männer auch."
Riley erzählte mir von amerikanischen Kampfflugzeugen und deutschen Kampfflugzeugen, die in Luftkämpfen in der Normandie eingesetzt wurden. Er sagte: "Sie haben eine eigentliche Manövrier-Demonstration veranstaltet, in der sie versuchten, sich gegenseitig abzuschiessen. Wir sahen, wie mehrere deutsche Flugzeuge abgeschossen wurden, aber ich kann mich nicht erinnern, dass amerikanische Flugzeuge in den Luftkämpfen abgeschossen worden wären. Wir sahen, wie viele amerikanische B-17-Bomber über unsere Linien kamen und nach Deutschland gingen, um Städte, Fabriken und Ölraffinerien zu bombardieren. Sie waren so hoch, dass sie nicht grösser aussahen als deine Hand. Die Deutschen feuerten mit Achtundachtzig-Millimeter-Flakgeschützen auf sie, und einige wurden abgeschossen. Meistens sprangen die Männer heraus und sprangen mit dem Fallschirm ab. Einige von ihnen kamen hinter feindlichen Linien herunter und wurden gefangen genommen. Die Flugzeuge, die durchkamen, flogen nach Deutschland, um ihre Bomben abzuwerfen."
Riley erzählte mir, dass der berühmte Journalist und Schriftsteller Ernie Pyle während seines Aufenthalts in der Normandie einige Tage lang ihre Division besuchte. Er sagte: "Ich sah Mr. Pyle nicht, aber es war eine Ehre, dass er unsere Division besuchen durfte" Er sagte, dass Ernie Pyle den Zweiten Weltkrieg in den europäischen und pazifischen Theatern behandelt habe. Er wurde 1945 durch japanisches Maschinengewehrfeuer getötet. Nachdem Riley mir von den Fallschirmjägern, seinem Hauptfeldwebel, den Dogfightings der Flugzeuge und Ernie Pyle erzählt hatte, sprach er weiter davon, wie sie sich in Richtung Strand bewegten.
Er sagte: "Als wir am Strand ankamen, nahmen wir Quinéville und drängten uns dann nach Cherbourg vor, wo unsere beiden Flanken freigelegt waren. Da beide Flanken exponiert waren, hatte der Feind wenig Mühe, uns zu umzingeln. Wir rückten immer weiter auf den Flughafen von Cherbourg vor, aber die Kämpfe wurden so schlimm, dass wir nicht vorankommen konnten, also forderten wir einen Luftangriff an. Wir realisierten nicht, wie schlimm es war, bis die Flugzeuge eindrangen und anfingen, Bomben um uns herum zu werfen. Wir wussten dann, dass wir mitten im Feind sassen."
Ich fragte Riley, woher sie überhaupt wissen konnten, wo die Bomben abzuwerfen waren, wenn sie so nah am Feind gewesen seien. Er sagte: "Wir haben unsere Linien mit Tüchern markiert. Das Tuch war zweifarbig, und die zugeordnete helle Farbe zeigte immer auf den Feind. Nach dem Luftangriff durchbrachen wir die feindlichen Linien und zogen weiter in Richtung Flughafen. Es dauerte mehrere Tage und erforderte eine Menge harter Kämpfe, um den Flughafen zu erreichen. Dort gab es heftigen Widerstand. Wir brauchten eine Menge Artillerie-Sperrfeuer. Nachdem der Flughafen gefallen war, zogen wir weiter zur Küste hinunter und räumten einige der kleinen feindlichen Städte entlang der Küste. Damit war der Kampf um die Halbinsel Cherbourg beendet."
"Glückstrahlende" Befreite in Montebourg.
Sie sitzen immerhin auf amerikanischen Lebensmittelkisten.
899th Tank Destroyer Battalion
M5 Stuart of 70th Tank Battalion, D Company, knocked out by an anti-tank weapon, Shortly after D-Day, June, 1944
Bei weitem nicht alle deutschen Soldaten, die in der Normandie eingesetzt wurden, waren zögerliche Krieger.
Viele kämpften zielstrebig; manche kämpften grossartig. In St.-Marcouf, etwa zehn Kilometer nördlich von Utah Beach, hatten die Deutschen vier riesige Kasematten, in denen je eine 205-mm-Kanone untergebracht war. Am D-Day waren diese Waffen in ein Duell mit amerikanischen Schlachtschiffen verwickelt. Am D-Day plus 1 umstellten GIs der 4. Infanteriedivision die Kasematten. Um sie abzuwehren, rief der deutsche Kommandant das Feuer aus einer weiteren Batterie einer 205er Kanone ab, etwa fünfzehn Kilometer weiter nördlich, ganz oben auf einer geeigneten Position in Stellung befindlich. Das hielt die Amerikaner für mehr als eine Woche in Schach, während die deutsche Kanone weiterhin unregelmässig auf Utah Beach feuerte.
Die Kasematten wurden von unzähligen direkten Schlägen getroffen, allesamt waren sie von grossen Schalen umgeben. Diese Hüllen boten kaum mehr als Dellen im Beton. Die Kasematten sind heute noch da - sie werden jahrzehntelang, wenn nicht gar Jahrhunderte stehen bleiben und sie sind stumme Zeugen der Standhaftigkeit der Deutschen. Acht Tage lang waren die Geschützbesatzungen in ihren Bunkern eingeschlossen - nichts zu essen, ausser altes Brot, nur schlechtes Wasser, kein separater Ort, um sich selbst zu entleeren, der ohrenbetäubende Lärm, die Vibrationen, die Erschütterungen, der Staub, der losbrach durch all das, was weiterhin feuerte. Sie gaben erst auf, als ihnen die Munition ausging.
Die Normandie war eine Soldatenschlacht. Sie gehörte den Schützen, Mitrailleuren, Minenwerfern, Panzersoldaten und Artilleristen, die an vorderster Front standen. Es gab keinen Handlungsspielraum. Es gab keine Gelegenheit für Subtilitäten. Es gab eine Simplizität in den Kämpfen: für die Deutschen galt, die Linie zu halten, für die Amerikaner, sie anzugreifen. Wo sie halten oder angreifen sollten, bedurfte keiner langen Erwägung: Es war immer das nächste Dorf oder Feld. Die eigentliche Entscheidungsfindung erfolgte auf der Ebene des Bataillons, der Kompanie und des Zuges: wo die Minen und der Stacheldraht zu verlegen, wo die Maschinengewehrgräben, wo die Schützenlöcher zu graben seien - oder wo und wie man sie angreifen müsse.
Die Richtung des Angriffs wurde durch die Entscheidungsfindung vor der Invasion festgelegt. Für die 1. und die 29. Division also südlich von Omaha in Richtung St.-Lô, für die 101. Airborne nach Osten - nach Carentan, um eine Verbindung mit Omaha herzustellen. Für die 82. Airborne hiess das nach Westen von Ste.-Mère-Église aus, um Manöverierraum im Cotentin frei zu machen. Für die 4. und 90. Division bedeutete das also: von Utah nach Westen bis zum Golf von St.-Malo vorzustossen, um die Deutschen in Cherbourg abzuschneiden. Das Ziel all dieser Bemühungen war es, den Hafen von Cherbourg zu sichern und einen Brückenkopf zu schaffen, der gross genug sein sollte, um den ankommenden Strom amerikanischer Verstärkungen aufzunehmen und als Basis für eine Offensive durch Frankreich zu dienen. Die detaillierten Planungen des SHAEF für die künftigen Aktivitäten - wo die Frontlinien an diesem und jenem Datum liegen würden - waren bereits am 7. Juni falsch. Das war unvermeidlich. Was nicht unvermeidlich gewesen wäre, war die alliierte Fixierung auf Cherbourg - zu stark, zum Beispiel, basierten die SHAEF-Pläne für August und September auf einem voll funktionsfähigen Hafen. Cherbourg war ein so starker Magnet, dass die erste amerikanische Offensive in der Normandie nach Westen ging, weg von Deutschland.
Eisenhower und sein Oberkommando waren von Häfen besessen. Immer wenn sie sich die Zahlen zum Versorgungsbedarf für jede Division im Kampf ansahen, erbleichten sie. Nur ein grosser, leistungsfähiger Hafen könne die logistischen Bedürfnisse befriedigen, so Eisenhower. Daher lag der Planungsschwerpunkt zunächst auf den künstlichen Häfen Cherbourg und Le Havre, bevor der Höhepunkt in Antwerpen erreicht wurde. Nur mit allen diesen Häfen konnte Eisenhower die Versorgung sichern, die eine abschliessende Offensive der fünfzig Divisionen in Deutschland erfordern würde. Besonders Antwerpen - ohne diesen Hafen könnte eine amerikanische Armee in Mitteleuropa unmöglich unterhalten werden.
Die Deutschen hatten angenommen, dass die Alliierten keine Divisionen im Kampf über einen offenen Strand versorgen könnten. Die Alliierten tendierten dazu, dem zuzustimmen. Die Erfahrungen im Mittelmeerraum waren nicht ermutigend. Churchill war sich so sicher, dass es nicht möglich sein würde, dass er darauf bestand, einen sehr grossen Teil der nationalen Anstrengungen in den Bau von zwei versuchsweise angelegten künstlichen Häfen zu investieren. Russell Weigley hat spekuliert, dass Churchill ohne das Versprechen dieser Experimente niemals Overlord zugestimmt hätte. Als Experimente waren die Häfen mässig erfolgreich (der amerikanische Hafen wurde durch den Sturm vom 19. Juni zerstört; der britische wurde schwer beschädigt, aber repariert und war bald wieder funktionsfähig). Aber wie sich herausstellte, betrug ihr Anteil an der Gesamttonnage, die über die Strände der Normandie entladen wurde, etwa 15 Prozent.
Es waren die Fracht- und Truppentransportschiffe, unterstützt durch die LST (Landing Ship Tank) und die Unzahl spezialisierter Landungsboote, die das Meiste einbrachten und entluden.
7. - 11. Juni
Die Infanteriedivisionen blieben in der Front und rückten von Hecke zu Hecke vor. Sie haben brutal gelitten. In der 1., 4., 29. und anderen Divisionen waren der Verlust und Ersatz an Subalternoffizieren im ersten Monat der Schlacht fast vollständig.
Der Korpskommandant, General Collins, schrieb:
"Es gereicht den Männern der Division zur Ehre, dass schwere Verluste sie in keiner Weise vor Angriffen abschreckten. Die Division ist ihren geehrten Toten treu geblieben. Die 4. Infanteriedivision kann zu Recht stolz auf die große Rolle sein, die sie von der ersten Landung am Utah Beach bis zum Ende der Cherbourg-Kampagne gespielt hat. Ich möchte meine grosse Bewunderung zum Ausdruck bringen."