Military history


22 June – The first assault

On the morning of 19 June the capture of Cherbourg had taken on a greater urgency as the weather across the English Channel took a turn for the worse. Strong winds combined with high tides began to whip up heavy seas, pounding the Normandy coast with huge waves. By noon it had become too dangerous to unload supplies and equipment directly onto the beaches and personnel had to be evacuated from the outer breakwater of the temporary harbour on Omaha Beach. By nightfall the wind speed had increased to 30 knots, driving smaller craft into rocks and onto the beaches; ninety would eventually be left stranded on the shoreline. The following day the floating breakwater broke its moorings, and as the troops watched helplessly from the shore the huge bombardons were sent crashing into the harbour piers before they finally beached on the shore.

While waves continued to batter the Normandy coastline, VII Corps’ headquarters had begun to plan the final assault on Cherbourg. As the infantry reports on the enemy fortifications protecting Cherbourg continued to flood in, General Collins was preparing a coordinated air and ground assault for the afternoon of 22 June. Although the availability and timing of the air strikes depended very much on the weather, planning still went ahead. In the meantime, General Collins explored the possibility of negotiating surrender terms and teams armed with loudspeakers broadcast messages in German, French, Polish and Russian throughout the night.

An aerial view of Fort du Roule, note the gun embrasures on the cliff face. NARA-111-SC-191502

Изображение выглядит как внешний, природа, старый, утес

VII Corps plan envisaged all three divisions breaking through the outer perimeter of fortifications before closing in on the port. 9th Division’s main thrust would be made on its right flank, taking Octeville village and the heights overlooking the port from the southwest. Meanwhile, Collins wanted 79th Division to push north astride the Cherbourg highway, heading for Fort du Roule, a Napoleonic fort situated on a narrow cliff to the south of the city. On the right flank 4th Division was to drive northeast to seize the high ground overlooking Tourlaville before heading for the coast. On 21 June, General Collins issued his verbal orders to all three divisional commanders, stressing the need for urgency:

‘This attack on Cherbourg is the major effort of the American Army and is especially vital now that unloading across the beaches has been interfered with by weather. All Division Commanders surely appreciate the importance of this attack.’

As the three General’s went away to plan their attacks, the storm continued to batter Omaha beach and that night rough seas swept away the port’s pier heads and buckled the bridging connecting the piers to the shore. Attempts to bring ammunition ashore continued but so far only a few small coasters beached at low tide could be unloaded. First Army needed Cherbourg to ensure success in Normandy but the conditions on the beaches was reaching crisis point. As VII Corps prepared to launch its attack, General Bradley announced that ammunition stocks were far below the recommended level; General Collins’ would have to reduce his artillery expenditure by one third.

On the morning of 22 June, the winds began to abate, but supplies would not be able to be landed until the following morning. Following reports that the storm had only registered Force 6 and more bad weather could follow, Admiral Hall, the naval commander in charge of the Omaha beachhead, decided that rebuilding the ravaged artificial port was impractical. Materials designated to repair the artificial harbour would be redirected to Arromanches in the British sector, a reinforced outer breakwater would be built at Omaha to protect craft from heavy seas.

On the morning of 22 June the weather appeared favourable for air support and at 09:00 Major-General Elwood R Quesada of the IX Tactical Air Command was able to confirm that over 1,000 planes were available. As the ultimatum to the commander of the German forces had expired, General Collins informed his three divisional generals that the aerial bombardment would start at 12:40; 9th and 79th Divisions would advance at 14:00, while 4th Division would follow thirty minutes later. Although the final planning had been carried out at General Collins headquarters in Normandy, many of the aircraft were still operating from across the Channel leaving little time to fly the plans over to England and distribute them to the squadron leaders. Many last minute changes never reached the pilots and although VII Corps intended to pull back over half a mile from the German positions, the GIs would soon find out what it was like to be under attack from the air.

The Air Attack

Throughout the morning all three divisions moved their men and vehicles back to their assembly areas and as zero hour approached white phosphorous shells were fired to mark the bombing line. As four squadrons of Typhoons and six squadrons of Mustangs flew over, the infantry lit yellow flares to indicate their positions while vehicles displayed yellow panels. Despite the precautions some pilots became disorientated and as the wind blew the flares across the countryside, radio reports started to flood in; the planes were attacking friendly troops. Casualties were light but the Air Force nearly scored an embarrassing ‘own goal’ in 9th Division’s area. Several planes had failed to notice the warning signs on 60th Regiment’s front and while fighters strafed the infantry, two bombs fell in 2nd Battalion’s deployment area. When Major Welch visited 60th Regiment’s command post seeking information on the ‘friendly fire’, Colonel Rohan was able to give him a first hand report. A stray fighter had strafed the regimental command post sending General Eddy and the Colonel diving for cover.

Typhoons, armed with rockets, prepare to take off to attack targets in support of the Normandy invasion.

Изображение выглядит как плоский, внешний, небо, самолет

In 47th Regiment’s sector, Colonel Smythe’s men noticed that the smoke was beginning to drift across their lines and although urgent calls for extra flares were made, they arrived too late to divert the bombers and fighters:

‘Positions in front of the Regiment were bombed every five minutes by dive bombers for one hour and then medium bombers hit to the rear of the objective. Several bombs fell in Battalion area causing some casualties. Planes with Allied markings bombed and strafed our elements.’

Eight 500lb bombs were dropped on 1st Battalion’s positions and 2nd Battalion cursed the Air Force as the planes bombed and strafed their assembly area. A few pilots became completely disorientated and began strafing 89th Artillery Battalion, several thousand metres behind the Allied lines!

Once the fighters had completed their mission, the first of twelve groups of fighter-bombers of the Ninth Air Force, flew over the Cotentin Peninsula. For fifty-five minutes over 550 P-47’s, P-38’s, and P-51’s bombed and strafed strongpoints all along VII Corps’ front and yet again some planes mistook the American troops for enemy concentrations.

Despite the mistakes made, the fighters and bombers had caused few casualties and many GIs must have wondered how effective the attacks had been on the German strongpoints. They would not have long to wait. As the last wave of fighter-bombers disappeared into the distance, VII Corps began its assault, supported by every available artillery piece. Meanwhile, nearly 400 medium and heavy bombers began to target eleven defensive positions on the hills surrounding Cherbourg.

Изображение выглядит как внешний, дерево, старый

A 155mm Howitzer shells the German positions. NARA-111-SC-190792-S

Изображение выглядит как колесо

9th Division

General Eddy wanted 60th Regiment to advance towards Kampfgruppen Keil’s positions on the high ground northwest of Flottemanville-Hague and while 1st Battalion attacked strongpoints on the ridge overlooking Acqueville, 2nd Battalion would clear Hill 150 north of the village. Meanwhile, Colonel Rohan still had to guard his left flank from German counterattacks. Overnight reports of infantry and vehicles assembling near Ste Croix-Hague had made it necessary to deploy 3rd Battalion near the coast, covering the Regiment’s open flank.

The advance begins; a GI races past a signpost for Cherbourg-West.

Изображение выглядит как текст, внешний

Colonel Rohan had left Lieutenant-Colonel Cox in no doubt what he expected, telling him ‘if you run into anything don’t fail to use artillery. A lot depends on this.’ 1st Battalion bypassed Acqueville and although machine guns and mortars on Hill 150 opened fire, Lieutenant-Colonel Cox ordered his men to push on, expecting 2nd Battalion to clear up the flank. Crossroads 133 lay ahead and a strongpoint covering the junction came to life as 1st Battalion drew close. Cox’s men fanned out around the nest of bunkers, engaging snipers, while tank-destroyers moved forward to engage the machine gun nests and mortar pits. For over an hour the infantry worked closely with the armour, locating entrenchments for the tank crews. A report on tactics written after the battle illustrates how infantry and armour had to work together to be successful:

‘The tank destroyers should remain in rear of the assault battalion areas. When a suitable target is found, the platoon leader or gun commander should go forward and reconnoitre gun positions and route thereto, before bringing the gun forward. When the target is reduced, the tank destroyer should withdraw to a position in the rear of the infantry until a new target is found. Under no circumstances should the guns advance until the infantry has proceeded and located targets. A very effective weapon when thus properly employed.’

Progress was slow and 1st Battalion finally cleared Crossroads 129 as it began to grow dark. Meanwhile, 2nd Battalion had fallen behind, leaving Hill 150 in German hands. Little had been heard from Lieutenant-Colonel Kauffman during the afternoon and when he was finally contacted, Colonel Rohan discovered that 2nd Battalion had misinterpreted his orders:

‘White [2nd Battalion] thought he wasn’t to move fast, but he now is. He thinks he is in reserve. He is now supposed to move fast so get message to him as fast as possible. He is supposed to pull abreast of Red [1st Battalion].’

With 2nd Battalion moving up its flank, 1st Battalion was able to turn its full attentions to a counterattack developing along its front. The Regiment’s Canon Company did not help matters and persisting in shelling Cox’s positions as his men struggled to keep the Germans at bay.

Изображение выглядит как скала, внешний, гора, каменистый

Pillboxes formed the backbone of the ring of fortifications surrounding Cherbourg. NARA-111-SC-191315

2nd Battalion ran into difficulties as it made its way across Hill 150 and attempts to outflank entrenchments covering Crossroads 129 were thwarted by a bunker on Hill 160. As darkness fell, Colonel Rohan began to realise that his left flank was at a standstill and his two battalions had still failed to make contact. Both of his battalions were requesting armoured support but the tank crews were finding it difficult to distinguish friend from foe amongst the hedgerows. One tank working with 1st Battalion became disorientated and began firing on 2nd Battalion’s positions; Kauffman’s curt message to the Regimental Command post sums up his frustration, ‘Tell tank with Red [1st Battalion] to quit shelling my men.’

General Eddy was far from happy by 60th Regiment’s progress and made his feelings known during a visit to Colonel Rohan’s headquarters:

‘General Eddy visited command post. Want to know what tanks are doing out of sector.. General displeased with progress. Wants to know what White [2nd Battalion] is doing. Did Nutmeg [Rohan] plan to ignore high ground? Cox hasn’t made any advance... Wants to know what misunderstanding is. Is resistance heavy? The left is in a mess but it is being cleared up... Get up to Hill 180 tonight General says.’

General Eddy was aggravated by 60th Regiment’s slow progress north of Acqueville.

60th Regiment’s situation finally began to improve late in the evening. Colonel Rohan ordered 3rd Battalion forward, securing the high ground overlooking Acqueville on the left flank. Meanwhile, 2nd Battalion had finally reorganised and had begun moved towards the bunker on Hill 160, leaving one company behind with the tanks to clear Crossroads 129. Colonel Rohan was also relieved to hear that Lieutenant-Colonel Kauffmen was still advancing, albeit slowly, in spite of German attempts to infiltrate his lines. Following a frustrating day Colonel Rohan was finally able to report that his men had secured a firm footing on the high ground north and east of Acqueville.

47th Regiment’s advance towards Crossroads 114 ran into difficulties almost as soon as it had begun. 2nd Battalion’s mortars shelled Company F as it drew close to the crossroads, alerting a strongpoint. Machine gun fire raked the company’s position and as the GIs spread out to locate the bunker, their company commander called for armoured support. Meanwhile, Company E had scored an early success, taking fifty-four prisoners of the 30th Flak Regiment in a series of entrenchments north of the crossroads. The artillerymen had been forced to abandon their guns during the retreat to Cherbourg and had been given rifles so they could fight as infantrymen.

3rd Battalion had also had a good start, advancing slowly through Baudienville. However, German troops dug in on the high ground beyond the Houelbecq stream spotted Lieutenant-Colonel Clayman’s men as soon as they left the village. Tank-destroyers were unable to get close enough to target the strongpoints so as Colonel Smythe arranged for artillery support, Company L crawled forward covered by the battalion mortars. 1st Battalion reported it was ‘moving nicely’ to begin with but they soon they way barred by four belts of barbed wire and a minefield along the Houelbecq stream. Two strongpoints on the opposite bank opened fire at short range as the GIs tried to find away across.

As the hours passed, Colonel Smythe was becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of progress, all along the front casualties mounted as his men struggled to find a way through Kampfgruppen Keil’s line. On 2nd Battalion’s front, tank-destroyers knocked out one of the pillboxes at Crossroads 114 but the remaining bunker continued to fight on. Both Companies E and F resorted to working their way around the flanks of the position, while Company G moved up from reserve. Although 2nd Battalion had started to move forward, Allied fighters strafed the Battalion as it prepared to assault Le Saussy crossroads. The attack from the air stopped the advance in its tracks.

Tank destryoyers were particularly effective for dealing with strongpoints.

Изображение выглядит как текст, внешний, боевая машина, транспорт

German positions east of the Houelbecq stream threatened to halt 47th Regiment’s advance towards Hill 171.

Meanwhile, Company G had worked its way around the flank of Crossroads 114, reaching the last hedgerow behind the position before they were seen. Tank destroyers gave covering fire, targeting the pillbox’s firing slits, as a platoon charged across the field and burst into the bunker finding fifty dazed soldiers inside.

Along the banks of the Houelbecq stream, Company L on 3rd Battalion’s front, had started to push men onto the far bank. Attempts to cross the stream anywhere else had failed and as it began to grow dark, Colonel Smythe ordered 1st Battalion to disengage and exploit the gap. While the two battalions queued up to cross, fanning out to form a defensive perimeter on the opposite bank, Company L closed in on Strongpoint 8. As the infantry crept along the hedgerows they were relieved to see a shell hit the strongpoint’s ammunition dump, rocking the bunkers with a series of explosions. The situation looked promising and although white flags started to appear, there were no other signs that the garrison intended to surrender.

As the final round of smoke shells exploded around Strongpoint 8, Company L charged up the hill, clearing the outlying entrenchments. Earlier in the day civilians had reported that the morale of the German troops was low and ‘most soldiers had to be forced to fight at gunpoint’ but as Company L worked its way through the strongpoint fanatics continued to fire until the last moment. Strongpoint 8 had been cleared and Lieutenant-Colonel Clayman was pleased to report that his men had found ‘fifty shell shocked prisoners and the rest are deader than hell.’ By midnight 47th Regiment’s right flank was firmly dug in on the forward slopes of Hill 171. Ahead lay Bois du Mont du Roc and although civilians believed that Kampfgruppen Keil had withdrawn from the woods, Colonel Smythe was taking no chances; throughout the night 9th Division’s artillery shelled likely targets on the summit of Hill 171 and in the woods beyond.

Another German bunker silenced. NARA-111-SC-190980

After a frustrating day General Eddy was pleased to hear that cracks were beginning to appear in the line of strongpoints covering Flottemanville-Hague and Bois du Mont du Roc. 60th Regiment had finally secured the division’s left flank while 47th Regiment was firmly established on the east bank of the Houelbecq stream. There were still isolated pockets of resistance behind 9th Division’s front but 39th Regiment was moving to the Baudienville area ready to round them up at first light. It meant that General Eddy could prepare for the assault on the next belt of fortifications.

Изображение выглядит как текст

79th Division

Major-General Wyche’s plan for 22 June was to advance on a narrow front between the Divette and Trottebec streams with all of his three regiments. The main effort was to be made by 313th Regiment on the division’s right flank astride the main highway to Cherbourg. 314th Regiment would advance onto the high ground beyond Tollevast, west of the highway while 315th Regiment contained any German forces in the Hardinvast area on the division’s left flank. As the last planes flew overhead, General Wyche passed on the following words of encouragement to his subordinates, ‘Gentlemen, you have the honour of striking the decisive blow for our forces. I shall see you in Cherbourg.’

Colonel Wood knew that a huge anti-tank ditch, in places four metres deep and five metres wide, straddled the Cherbourg road at les Chèvres. Kampfgruppen Koehn had cleared the undergrowth and trees either side of the ditch creating a killing zone for the bunkers and emplacements on the far side. 313th Regiment would have to work in close cooperation with the engineers and tanks to stand any chance of success and Wood’s orders left no doubt in his subordinates minds what he expected, ‘Don’t give them a chance to recover. Don’t fiddle. Shoot and use the bayonet.’

Изображение выглядит как текст, человек, старый

General Eisenhower discusses the battle with General Bradley and General Wyche. NARA-111-SC-191158

A 155mm Howitzer provides close support from its camouflaged position. NARA-111-SC-190791-S

Изображение выглядит как внешний, небо, старый

Изображение выглядит как внешний, трава, дым, оружие

Engineers take cover as explosives blast open the door of a bunker.

Below: GIs survey the results of their work. NARA-111-SC-190815-S/NARA-111-SC-190814-S

Изображение выглядит как внешний, небо, старый, гора

Close support from the artillery was essential and the infantry was expected to move as near as possible to the strongpoints, in some cases as little as one hundred metres, before firing double green flares to signify they were ready to attack.

Engaging the bunkers was a nerve-racking task and infantry were expected to target the pillboxes’ embrasures while the engineers blew gaps in the barbed wire with pole shaped charges, known as Bangalore torpedoes. The infantry could then move up close, throwing satchel charges at the firing slits to try and concuss the men inside. Hedgerows posed a problem to the tanks and the engineers were expected to make gaps with explosives to allow them to keep up with the infantry. Each strongpoint demanded a different technique and company commanders continually faced new problems; one wrong decision and an entire platoon of men could be mown down.

On 313th Regiment’s front 1st Battalion came under heavy machine gun fire as it approached les Chèvres and as three platoons of tanks moved forward, Lieutenant-Colonel Clair B Mitchell took stock of his position. Camouflaged anti-tank guns opened fire as the tanks came into view, destroying one and disabling a second and as the rest of the Shermans withdrew to a safe distance, Colonel Wood had to admit that his advance was stalled. 1st Battalion withdrew to regroup and while the artillery shelled the German positions, Wood decided to try and find a weak point in the Kampfgruppen Koehn’s line.

3rd Battalion deployed to the west of the highway and after probing the German lines found a way across the anti-tank ditch and manoeuvred into position close to the strongpoints blocking the highway. An air strike by fighter-bombers paved the way and as 3rd Battalion closed in on the flank of the German position, Colonel Wood led 1st Battalion across the anti-tank ditch:

‘The Old Man, his executive officer Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin M Van Bibber, and other key officers of the regimental staff personally led infantry assault teams across fields, fighting their way from hedgerow to hedgerow after dive-bombers had made their low level attack on the first line of German forts. The Old Man took his men up so fast they bypassed the largest fort before its defenders knew what the score was. The assault teams closed in with bangalore torpedoes and flamethrowers, catching the Germans in the rear and cleaning them out of the fort as either corpses or prisoners in short order.’

Изображение выглядит как карта

79th Division failed to break the German positions at Hardinvast and Tollevast but 313th Regiment exploited a weak point to the west of Les Chèvres.

As the two battalions cleared bunker after bunker enemy mortars fired on a position when a white flag appeared. It appeared that some fanatics would go to any lengths to hold les Chèvres. Casualties were heavy but Colonel Wood’s men had broken a key position on the road to Cherbourg. As darkness fell and the last prisoners were being escorted to the rear the engineers began to bulldoze a road across the ditch.

314th Regiment had experienced its own difficulties and 1st Battalion spent the afternoon pinned down in front of Tollevast. Attempts to outflank the village failed as the GIs stumbled on hidden positions. 315th Regiment also failed to advance towards Hardinvast and as daylight faded General Wyche considered how to exploit the breakthrough at les Chèvres.

Colonel Wood was instructed to send his men deep into the German lines under cover of darkness and while 3rd Battalion advanced to the west of the Cherbourg highway, 1st Battalion crossed the road with 2nd Battalion echeloned behind its right flank. Corps artillery paved the way, allowing the two leading battalions to press on as far as Crossroads 177, a commanding position far behind Kampfgruppen Koehn’s front line. 2nd Battalion ran into difficulties in the woods northeast of les Chèvres and control disintegrated as the GIs engaged in running battles among the trees; it would be daylight before the battalion reorganised and joined the rest of the Regiment.

Изображение выглядит как внешний, небо, мужчина, старый

313th Regiment take up positions around Crossroads 177; the German signpost gives directions to Cherbourg East.

As 313th Regiment pushed north, General Wyche ordered Colonel Robinson to disengage and move towards les Chèvres, 315th Regiment would eventually take over responsibility for patrolling the Tollevast sector. Having battered one hole through the German lines, Wyche had no intentions of making another; 314th Regiment would follow 313th Regiment to Crossroads 177.

Following a disappointing afternoon, Major-General Wyche was able to report that over half his strength had established a sizeable foothold one mile inside the enemy positions. Tanks had been sent up to support the forward position but German patrols were still operating behind 79th Division’s lines making it too dangerous to send soft vehicles forward. So far Oberst Koehn was unaware that the crossroads had been taken; 23 June was going to be interesting day for all concerned on the road to Cherbourg.

Изображение выглядит как текст, мебель, коврик

4th Division

Throughout the night German troops had been infiltrating 8th Regiment’s lines. As zero hour approached, neither the artillery nor the tanks Colonel van Fleet expected were ready, leaving the infantry to advance alone. 1st Battalion moved off an hour late and immediately ran into stiff opposition. Repeated counterattacks threatened to overrun Company A and B and Lieutenant-Colonel Simmons eventually called for assistance from the regimental artillery, ordering it to shell his own positions. The barrage broke the German onslaught and as they withdrew, 1st Battalion occupied its objective taking one hundred prisoners. The GIs could not fail to notice the mixture of uniforms amongst their captives. Tank crews, anti-aircraft and searchlight troops, military police and naval personnel were all mingled in with the infantry from 709th Infantry Division; it was a sure sign that General von Schlieben was using every available man to defend Cherbourg.

3rd Battalion also advanced without their tanks or artillery, moving quickly past a V1 rocket installation. There was little sign of the enemy and Lieutenant-Colonel Strickland began to wonder if his men had found a weak point in Kampfgruppen Koehn’s line. It was merely the lull before the storm. As Company L ran from one hedgerow to the next, flak guns and machine guns opened fire from hidden positions:

‘The Germans had cut lanes of fire with notches in the hedgerows cleared of trees and bushes. These lanes were concealed so they were not obvious from the front. The enemy held their fire until the attacking troops were a perfect target, then opened fire and inflicted heavy casualties.’

With Company L pinned down and unable to disengage, Strickland ordered Company I to work its way through a copse to outflank of the strongpoint. The Germans were waiting for them:

‘The Germans placed a heavy artillery barrage on the wood and the tree bursts produced a terrific effect, heavy shells bursting in the trees about ten feet form the ground. Company I lost 54 men in this barrage.’

For several hours Strickland’s men fought for their lives as they tried to escape the German guns and regroup. When Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, many hours later than expected, the sound of the Sherman tanks crawling along the lanes broke the Germans’ will to fight. As they withdrew, Strickland’s men occupied the entrenchments and counted their losses. Another German position had fallen, but at a terrible cost. 3rd Battalion had suffered thirty-one killed and ninety-two wounded; eleven of them were officers.

2nd Battalion had spent the night dug in north of Bois du Rondou, cut off from the rest of the Regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel MacNeely had expected the German troops holding Crossroads 148 to his rear to withdraw under cover of darkness, but instead they went on the offensive during the early hours of the morning. Yet again, German troops displayed their infiltration skills, harassing Lieutenant-Colonel MacNeely’s men and they eventually stole five machine guns from the battalion command post. The menace around Crossroads 148, had to be dealt with before 2nd Battalion could advance and at first light Captain Kulp’s company (numbering only ninety strong), was ordered to return to Crossroads 148 to deal with the enemy position:

An aerial view of Crossroads 148, the woods to the north were a hive of construction activity.

‘I receive the order at 06:45; it was not until four hours later that I attacked. I didn’t know what they had back there but I knew it was strong. I wanted to keep them from knowing that if I could.’

Kulp and Lieutenant Dooley watched as dozens of Germans emerged from fortified houses clustered around the crossroads and disappeared into a small wood to avoid detection. Rather than stage an assault, Kulp ordered his company to encircle the hiding place; he had decided to show the Germans that his own men were also capable of infiltration:

‘Leaving the 2nd Platoon in its frontal position, he moved his first platoon behind the hedgerows into a concealed position where they could look down into the woods from the northeast. With the 1st Platoon were two .50 calibre machine guns and three .03 calibre machine guns. The 81mm mortars were in position and trained on the woods; fire support from the cannon company was arranged for the same woods. Meanwhile, the 3rd Platoon was making a wide flanking move, going south through the large woods and up the draw.’

American artillery in action, the message on the shell reads ‘Fireworks for Hitler’. NARA-111-SC-191155

Mortars helped to shatter the German position at Crossroads 148.

As soon as Captain Kulp saw Lieutenant Williams and 3rd Platoon approaching the crossroads from the south, he gave the order to fire. A cease-fire was called eight minutes later. Eighty 105mm shells and over 1,000 mortar rounds had raked the wood from end to end while thousands of machine gun bullets had caused consternation among the trees:

‘You know how bullets sound in woods; it sounds like they are coming from everywhere. The moment the firing ceased, white flags appeared everywhere and yells of “Kamerad” came from all sides. Out of the woods came seventy-four Germans and surrendered. When the flow of prisoners seemed to have stopped, Kulp opened fire on the woods again. After the second operation, more Heinies [American slang based on Heineken, the German beer] came out of the dugouts and fortified houses and out of the woods. When we thought they had all come, by God if 100 didn’t come from down the road from the fortification.’

Captain Kulp’s men eventually rounded up 244 prisoners and found another fifty dead; Company F had no casualties.

Machine guns completed the devastation.

Having secured his rear, Lieutenant-Colonel MacNeely turned his attention to the fortifications on the northern edge of Bois du Rondou. 2nd Battalion engaged a number of large bunkers with flamethrowers, Bangalore torpedoes and the 105mm howitzers of the Cannon Company, securing the Regiment’s right flank by nightfall. 8th Regiment had taken a large number of prisoners during the advance but Colonel van Fleet’s men had paid the price; 249 had been killed or wounded in the hedgerows north of Bois du Rondou.

12th Regiment’s attempt to break free from Bois du Coudray ended in failure.

12th Regiment’s advance had been brought to a sudden halt on 21 June by a series of strongpoints covering the Saire stream on the western edge of Bois du Coudray. At first light Colonel Luckett ordered his 3rd Battalion to find a crossing suitable for tanks so that they could outflank the German position. Heading north, Lieutenant-Colonel Dulin’s first attempt to cross the stream failed in the face of heavy machine gun fire. At a second crossing two companies waded through the stream and charged up the far bank to find twenty German soldiers, many of them Labour Corps personnel, with their hands up. Although 3rd Battalion had established a footing on the far side of the stream, the Shermans were unable to cross; Dulin’s men would have to go on alone. They had only advanced a short distance when a hidden strongpoint opened fire, splitting the battalion in half. Two companies were pinned down close to the German position and unable to manoeuvre around its flanks, while the rest of the battalion was lost in the hedgerows. By the time 3rd Battalion had grouped, it was growing dark leaving Dulin no option but to withdraw to safe distance and regroup. The GIs received a shock when they discovered that German troops had already occupied a hill to their rear, cutting the battalion off from the rest of the Regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Dulin gathered his men together to drive the enemy back, advancing up the slope in the darkness; Dulin was killed leading the final bayonet charge. Captain Linder rallied the battalion, driving the Germans from the hill. Tired, hungry and surrounded, 3rd Battalion’s survivors dug in and waited for daylight; for a second time 12th Regiment had failed to shake itself free from Bois du Coudray.

Изображение выглядит как текст, внешний, старый

The moment of surrender captured by the cameraman.

German troops infiltrated VII Corps supply lines many times. Here, jeeps make their way to the front through a ruined village. NARA-111-SC-190821

Later that evening Colonel Luckett sent tanks forward with his supply trucks, taking machine gun and mortar ammunition to 2nd Battalion. 3rd Battalion would have to wait for their supplies; Captain Linder was able to report that his men could hold their positions until the following day in spite of heavy casualties. 12th Regiment needed to push tanks across the Saire stream as soon as possible to stand a chance of advancing beyond Bois du Coudray. Throughout the night patrols searched for a way through the maze of hedgerows, only to return with bad news; many of the lanes had been heavily mined while others were too narrow for tanks. The search went on – a way across had to be found.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!