THE OUTCOME of the assault on Omaha Beach was not clear at the end of D Day. A shallow lodgement had been secured, 1,500 to 2,000 yards deep in the area of furthest advance near Colleville. Weak enemy forces were still holding out in remnants of the beach defenses, and artillery fire could still harass any section of the landing area. Unloadings of vehicles and supplies had fallen far short of the D-Day schedule. Artillery and tank support for the infantry ashore was reduced by severe losses of materiél. Enemy troops had shown plenty of determination and fighting spirit; if the Germans could muster sufficient force to counterattack this beginning of a beachhead, they might imperil its existence.
Attainment of D-Day Objectives (7-8 June)
Therefore, the action of the next few days would be decisive. For success, two things were essential: advance inland far enough to put the beach area out of artillery range and to secure maneuver room for further progress; and organization of the beach for maximum landings of supply and reinforcement. The first phase of the effort was to carry forward the original plan and reach D-Day objectives.
Certain readjustments had to be made in the 1st Division's plan for attaining its objectives (Map No. XI). The 16th Infantry needed time to get its scattered units reassembled; therefore, its assignments were turned over in part to units of the 26th RCT. The 1st Battalion of the 26th was attached to the 16th, and at 1100 on 7 June received the mission of taking the high ground west and southwest of Port-en-Bessin, including Mount Cauvin, and linking up with British XXX Corps. The 3d Battalion of the 26th had moved during the night to a position south of St-Laurent on the flank of the 18th Infantry. Attached to the 18th, the battalion was ordered to take Formigny and cover the right flank of the 18th's attack south. This attack, the main effort of the day, was aimed at the original objectives of the 18th RCT: the high ground just north of Trèviéres, and the Mandeville-Mosles area south of the Aure. Elements of the 7th, 32d, and 62d Field Artillery Battalions were ashore and available for support, and the 5th Field Artillery Battalion landed during the day and went into action. Only five tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion were ready for action on 7 June, but the 745th had landed during the night and was attached to units of the attacking infantry, mainly the 18th. Mopping up of the ground occupied on D Day was a time-consuming process. All during the night, small enemy groups had been trying to escape from the area north of had been badly used up in the assault and the Colleville-St-Laurent highway, filtering
through the 16th Infantry's scattered units and starting sporadic fire fights. In the early morning, as drivers of the 1st Battalion Headquarters were getting ready to move toward a new motor park, they found and captured 30 Germans in the field next to their night position. Back at the beach, enemy snipers were so troublesome to the gunners of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion that they were forced to organize an attack on the bluff with artillery personnel. These were typical of many small incidents that prolonged the confusion in rear areas. The major job was the pocket of resistance at Colleville, which was dealt with during the morning of the 7th by the 2d Battalion of the 16th. Company G was through the village by 1000, and found enemy resistance weak. Some 52 Germans of the 726th Infantry gave up without a fight; the Company L patrol, captured at Cabourg the day before, had talked the enemy into a receptive mood for surrendering. The main damage to German forces in Colleville was inflicted by the 2d Battalion of the 18th Infantry, posted south and southeast on the escape route from the village. During the night and morning, 160 Germans were captured and 50 killed in this area. The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 16th Infantry spent all of the day in mopping-up work, moving short distances south and southeast from Colleville behind the advancing 18th Infantry. At dark, they were still encountering scattered machine-gun and sniper fire.
The advance eastward toward Port-en-Bessin was accomplished without meeting enemy resistance in any strength. The 3d Battalion of the 16th, supported by Company B of the 745th Tank Battalion, went straight down the coastal highway and occupied Huppain for the night. Supporting this advance, the 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired five missions, expending 683 rounds, and reported the destruction of an enemy battery of medium artillery. The 1st Battalion of the 26th went south to Russy (reached at 1705), and then east to a position about 1,000 yards from Mount Cauvin. British commando units were reported on the edge of Porten-Bessin, and by evening a juncture between V Corps and the British 50 Division was in sight.
The attack of the 18th Infantry was slow in getting started but made good progress during the afternoon. The 1st Battalion met only small and isolated groups of enemy resistance and was effectively aided in dealing with these by the five tanks of the 741st Tank Battalion. The battalion crossed the Bayeux-Isigny highway shortly after noon and ambushed some cyclists from reconnaissance units of the 352d Division. The tanks reached the vicinity of Engranville at 1400 and shelled the village. Enemy resistance lasted until evening, when Company C attacked and forced an enemy platoon across the river. The Germans had 15 casualties. The battalion then occupied a defensive position on ground which dominated the approaches to the Aure. The situation on its right flank was somewhat unsatisfactory, as the enemy still held Formigny. The 3d Battalion of the 26th Infantry, advancing down the St-Laurent road, had been stopped a half-mile short of Formigny by strong resistance from machine-gun nests and made no progress for the rest of the day. This left the 18th at Engranville exposed to attack from its rear.
The 3d Battalion of the 18th Infantry kept pace with the 1st Battalion, going through Surrain at 1215 and reaching the Bayeux highway just north of the Aure at 1700. The river crossing was made without meeting effective resistance, and by 2400 the battalion was in defensive positions southeast of Mandeville, on the flank of the important enemy base at Trèviéres. Casualties of the
TANKS ROLL THROUGH COLLEVILLE. This road, just beyond the church shown in an earlier photograph, is the coastal highway leading toward Cabourg. Enemy resistance was cleared up in this part of Colleville on the morning of D+1 by troops of the 16th Infantry.
battalion in the day's advance were 4 killed and 27 wounded.
Still further east, a second crossing of the Aure was effected by the 2d Battalion of the 18th Infantry. Supported by a platoon of tanks from Company C, 745th Tank Battalion, the battalion left the Colleville area at 1000 in two columns and reached the Aure at 1440. No resistance was met until Company G in the western column reached Houtteville, where enemy mortar and machine-gun fire from across the river forced deployment. The second column, however, reaching the river south of Bellefontaine, rushed a platoon across the 300 yards of causeway and bridge before meeting enemy fire. Tanks went across to support the platoon, the rest of the company followed, and Company G side-slipped east to take the same route. Driving the enemy out of their
defensive positions, Companies F and G moved on promptly toward Mosles, leaving Company E to clean up bypassed pockets of resistance. Mosles, the objective, was entered at 1700. Thirty enemy dead were found after the sharp action at the crossing, which cost the 2d Battalion only a few men and one tank. A patrol sent down the Bayeux road reported enemy in Tour-en-Bessin.
By nightfall on 7 June, a part of the D-Day objectives had been reached. Even more encouraging were the indications of badly disorganized enemy resistance. Not only had the Germans failed to develop any counterattack, but they had shown little strength in opposing an advance made on a broad front by widely separated battalions. This advance had cut the main highway for lateral communications near the beachhead and had accomplished two crossings of the Aure. Only in the Formigny-Trèviéres area was the enemy in force sufficient to check the 1st Division's progress. Intelligence estimates put the 1st Battalion of the 726th Infantry south of Port-en-Bessin, elements of the 916th south of the Aure from Tour-en-Bessin to Trèviéres, and elements of the 915th at Formigny. Enemy artillery fire had been light, though the beaches were still under harassing fire.
In response to a request by V Corps, the Ninth Air Force flew 35 missions of squadron strength on 7 June in the one from Bayeux west along the Aure valley, with one squadron always over the target area. Enemy gun positions were priority targets in these missions, but were difficult to locate. Highway and rail targets, as well as enemy concentration areas in Cerisy Forest, received most of the weight of attacks by 467 planes, using 1,000-pound general-purpose bombs and fragmentation clusters.
The situation at Formigny was cleared up during the early morning hours of 8 June. About midnight Company B of the 18th, helped by tanks of Company B, 745th Tank Battalion, attacked from the southeast and drove out a small enemy force, which lost 10 killed and 15 prisoners. North of the village, enemy machine-gun positions continued to block the 3d Battalion, 26th Infantry, until late in the morning. In part, the delay at Formigny was due to lack of contact between the two battalions attacking from different sides of the village.
A counterattack "scare" developed early in the morning of 8 June at Mandeville. At 0200 a large combat patrol infiltrated the defensive positions of the 3d Battalion, 18th Infantry. Some personnel in the rear command post and motor park were temporarily captured, but after daylight the patrol was overpowered and driven out with enemy losses of 25, killed and prisoners. In the confusion, the 18th Infantry Command Post near Surrain received reports of German tanks in "severe attack." With every staff briefed to expect counterattacks, this news caused a severe flurry back through corps headquarters; between 0600 and 0800, V Corps Headquarters was taking active measures to assemble tanks, antitank guns, and tank destroyer units for meeting a possible emergency south of the Aure. By 0850, the situation was cleared up and orders were issued to resume normal missions. For the rest of 8 June, the 1st and 3d Battalions held their positions north and east of Trèviéres, patrolling to the outskirts of that town. Trèviéres was shelled by naval guns in the afternoon, and there were indications that only minor enemy forces remained there.
On D+2, main action in the 1st Division zone shifted to the left flank, where the 26th RCT went after its D-Day objectives in the Tour-en-Bessin area. The movement had begun late on 7 June, when the 2d Battalion of the 26th Infantry, released at 1745 from division reserve, was ordered to seize the
high ground at the crossroads between Mosles and Tour-en-Bessin. The battalion moved southeast along the front of the 16th Infantry, crossed the Aure at midnight a little west of Etreham, and reached its objective about 0530 on 8 June.
Enemy artillery and infantry were reported in some strength at Tour-en-Bessin, and the 26th Infantry at 0800 requested an air mission. Division notified the regiment that adequate fire support from artillery and naval guns would be available if the air mission failed. The air attack was made by fighter-bombers shortly before 0900; an armored patrol got into Tour-en-Bessin by 1140, reporting the town "empty and flat." The 2d Battalion, reinforced by a company of the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion and Company C of the 745th Tank Battalion, waited on the advance of the rest of the regiment before moving into the town.
The other two battalions of the 26th were slow in reaching the scene. The 1st Battalion, its objective the ground northeast of Tour-en-Bessin, pushed patrols through Etreham about noon, encountering only snipers; then, determined resistance from prepared positions stopped the battalion at the river crossing. The rest of the day was spent in efforts to get across, with artillery support made difficult by the presence of 2d Battalion units not far to the southwest. By evening only one company of the 1st Battalion was across the Aure. The 3d Battalion was held up north of Formigny all morning, pending arrival of a battalion of the 115th Infantry which was counter-marching from Louvierés to Formigny for
OBSERVATION WAS DIFFICULT in a country of hedgerows and orchards. This picture is taken near Etreham, looking south across the Aure River. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, encountered heavy enemy resistance here in its effort to reach Tour-en-Bessin on 8 June.
the purpose of strengthening the sector north of Trèviéres. Released to the 26th Regiment at 1340, the 3d Battalion started down the Bayeux highway toward its objective, Ste-Anne, just beyond Tour-en-Bessin. It reached the 2d Battalion position at 1800 and was ordered to jump off at 2040 for attack straight through Tour-en-Bessin, supported by Company C of the 745th Tank Battalion. The force went through the town about midnight, the infantry moving in two files on either side of the road, with six tanks between the files at the head of the column. Directed by the battalion commander, the tanks sprayed sniper positions and suspected strongpoints. Light enemy resistance was brushed aside, and the column reached Ste-Anne about 0130, in contact with enemy patrols retreating to the east.
The enemy-held corridor north of Tour-en-Bessin was now in great danger of being cut. At the end of 7 June the Germans still held Port-en-Bessin and south of it the high ground along the Drôme Valley. During 8 June this salient was steadily reduced. The British 47 Commandos entered Port-en-Bessin about 0800 and fought through the day to clear the area south from the port to the Aure River, while the 3d Battalion, 16th Infantry, blocked enemy escape to the west. Further south the British had entered Bayeux on 7 June, and were approaching the Drôme crossings at Vaucelles and Sully by late afternoon of the 8th. The narrowing enemy pocket was held by remnants of the 1st Battalion, 726th Infantry, reinforced on 7-8 June by some elements of the 517th Battalion, 30th Mobile Brigade, rushed up from reserve positions near Coutances and St-Lô. By evening of the 8th there was a chance that much of this force might be trapped by an advance of the 26th Infantry. The plan was checkmated. Very determined enemy resistance held off the 26th at Etreham and stopped the British efforts to get past the Drôme. A violent action at Ste-Anne, in the early hours of 9 June, kept the base of the corridor open.
The 3d Battalion of the 26th Infantry had dug in hastily at Ste-Anne to meet an expected counterattack, with Company L just north of the village, Company I facing east, and Company K to the south. A light rain began to fall and visibility was bad. About 0300 Company L's position was overrun by a strong German column including ammunition trucks, bicycles, and other vehicles, the presence of which suggested that the enemy was withdrawing from the north and had blundered into the American lines. What followed was a wild fire-fight, at close range, with both sides hampered by surprise and confusion. The 2d Battalion held on in the village; tanks were of little use in the darkness, but effective aid was rendered by area fire from six battalions of artillery and naval guns, directed northeast and east of the village. Casualties in Company L were severe, due mainly to shells hitting two trucks loaded with men temporarily captured by the Germans. By 0630, the 3d Battalion had restored its positions, taking 125 prisoners who testified to the effectiveness of the artillery fire.
Although the enemy had lost heavily in men and vehicles in this action, the corridor stayed open, and Vaucelles, a mile east of Ste-Anne, was retaken from the British in the same period. During the night and early morning, the enemy managed to withdraw most of his force from the salient, at the cost of considerable losses and further disorganization. When the 1st Battalion of the 26th resumed its attack south of Etreham on the morning of 9 June, only light resistance was met from the remnants of enemy forces north of the highway.
With the 26th Infantry beyond Tour-en-Bessin. the 1st Division had reached its
D-Day objectives. This mission had been largely accomplished by two regiments, with all battalions committed and moving on a front so wide that intervals between battalions were as much as 3 000 yards. No enemy counterattack had developed, though it was known from intercepted messages that attack was ordered for 8 June. There was further evidence of disorganization among the regiments of the 352d Division, strung out on a front of some 25 miles between Isigny and Bayeux. Elements of the 915th, 916th, and 726th Infantry were in the sector Trèviéres-Bayeux. On 7 June they received their first reinforcement in the 517th Battalion of the 30th Mobile Brigade, rushed north from Coutances in time to be badly mauled in the Port-en-Bessin salient. The other two battalions of this brigade were identified the next day in the Tour-en-Bessin and Bayeux areas, where they were unable to restore the situation.
Intelligence reports by 9 June warned of possible concentration of reinforcements, including armor, in Cerisy Forest. However, barring arrival of reinforcements, all evidence indicated that the Germans had now lost whatever chance they once had of passing to the offensive on the 1st Division front. They had continued their policy of the first day in offering dogged resistance at tactically important points, often from prepared positions. In hedgerow country, this had slowed down the 1st Division's progress, and the delay was increased by the willingness of small enemy groups and individuals to fight on in bypassed positions. Nevertheless, these tactics could not stop the advance, and they steadily wore down enemy strength. Most troops of the bypassed groups never got back; a major proportion were killed, and by 9 June the 1st Division had taken over 600 prisoners. Enemy artillery, so effective on D Day, was less and less in evidence thereafter. In contrast, by 8 June five battalions of artillery were in support of the 1st Division and adding to the powerful fire of the naval guns.
General Gerhardt, commanding the 29th Division, had landed on the evening of D Day and set up his command post near the Vierville exit, waiting for orders to take over command of the 29th Division. General Cota made several trips from his headquarters in St-Laurent to 1st Division and V Corps Headquarters during the night and early morning and saw General Gerhardt twice to keep him informed of plans. These could be formed only gradually, in view of the uncertain situation around Vierville and St-Laurent and of continued difficulties in communications. When Col. Canham came to St-Laurent at 0930 to see General Cota and find his 2d and 3d Battalions, the road between Vierville and St-Laurent was still under enemy fire and he was forced to make the trip along the beach to D-3 exit.
Plans for D+1 had to be adjusted to meet a number of limiting circumstances (Map No. XII). Of the two regiments ashore, the 116th had been severely used and most of its units were still badly scattered; the 1st Battalion started the day with about 250 men. Two artillery battalions (58th and 111th) were ashore, but with less than half their guns. The 175th Infantry was still afloat, scheduled to begin landing at 1030. A number of pressing tasks faced these units as a preliminary to moving against D-Day objectives. The enemy still held a strongpoint at the western edge of St-Laurent. Small parties of riflemen, with occasional support from machine guns and mortars, were reappearing at points along the bluffs to harass the beaches. D-3 exit was not yet fully opened. That the enemy was still close to Vierville, on the south,
was proved early (0530) on 7 June when an attack forced Company B of the 121st Engineers out of the Chateau de Vaumicel and back into the village. At Pointe du Hoe, three companies of the 2d Rangers were known to be isolated, weakened by heavy casualties and in need of ammunition.
Measures to deal with these initial problems were taken by early morning. The 1st Battalion of the 116th, the 5th Ranger Battalion, and Companies A, B, and C of the 2d Rangers, supported by tanks, were ordered to drive west on the highway toward Pointe du Hoe. The 2d and 3d Battalions of the 116th were to mop up remnants of enemy resistance along the bluffs, while the 3d Battalion, 115th Infantry, cleaned out St-Laurent and then moved to Vierville for any similar work needed there. The rest of the 115th would push on toward Longueville, its objective on the Isigny highway.
The mopping-up work consumed most of the day. After a heavy naval bombardment, the 3d Battalion of the 115th move on the enemy strongpoint blocking the St-Laurent crossroad and encountered opposition only from snipers. By 0900 St-Laurent was cleared and the 3d Battalion moved toward Vierville, followed by the 1st. Nearing Vierville and receiving word that they were not needed there, they turned south toward Longueville. The enemy counterattack at Vierville had not been in strength, and the situation had been restored by keeping four companies of Rangers and some tanks to protect the village. The 3d Battalion of the 116th, only partly assembled, went after the remnants of enemy resistance along the bluff west from D-3, finding a few machine-gun positions still in action and taking some prisoners. The 2d Battalion went into Vierville and then started south with the 3d toward Louvierés. Enemy resistance was encountered, and at 1700 the 2d and 3d Battalions were pulled back for the night to form a perimeter defense at Vierville. After 2000, Vierville was heavily shelled by medium artillery from the Trèviéres area, and considerable damage was inflicted on the heavy traffic moving up through the exit road. Some ammunition trucks were exploded and three antiaircraft guns destroyed. In the 110th Field Artillery Battalion, which had just landed to support the 115th Infantry, Battery B lost 2 howitzers and 17 men from the enemy shelling. Immediately following the shelling the Germans made a final attack in company strength from the south. It carried past the chateau before being stopped by mortar and rifle fire.
South of Vierville the 115th Infantry was able to make only slow progress toward Longueville. Communications worked badly, and the battalions were out of contact with each other most of the day. The 2d Battalion moved cross-country on a broad front, hoping that this would prove an effective way of brushing off light opposition. At Vacqueville a small enemy force used the stone farm buildings as strongpoints and held up the battalion with small-arms fire until late afternoon. One battery (C) of the 110th Field Artillery Battalion was available for support; firing two unobserved missions from positions near St-Laurent, it aided the 2d Battalion to clear the hamlet. At 1930 the battalion resumed its advance, which was continued through the night to reach Montigny at 0300. This had been a strongly prepared defensive area, including wired-in trench systems, but the enemy had withdrawn. The 1st and 3d Battalions had been stopped east of Louvierés by small-scale enemy opposition and were out of contact with the 2d Battalion until the morning of 8 June. Still without transport, and hand-carrying ammunition and heavy weapons, the 115th had been chiefly handicapped by difficulties of communication and control.
MAP NO. 7: The Relief of Pointe du Hoe, 7-8 June
The force which started west on the Grandcamp road to relieve Pointe du Hoe was stopped just short of its goal on 7 June. As a result of the enemy's early morning thrust at Vierville, four companies of the 5th Ranger Battalion had been left to guard the village, where they spent the day in mopping-up operations. The remainder of the relief force, amounting to about 500 men, began its march about 0800, headed by Companies A, B, and C of the 2d Rangers moving in a double file on each side of the highway. Ten tanks of Company B, 743d Tank Battalion, followed close behind the point, ready to move up or down the column as needed. Many small enemy positions were passed, some almost at the edge of the road, but they were not allowed to hold up the advance. The tanks sprayed them with heavy fire to cover the infantry, which was never forced to deploy and did not stop to clean up bypassed enemy groups. Good progress was made with this system, and at 1100 the column reached St-Pierre-du-Mont, only a thousand yards from Pointe du Hoe.
Conditions at the Point had become more critical over night (Map No. 7). When the platoon of Company A, 5th Rangers, reached the Point at dusk of D Day, they believed the rest of the 5th Rangers were just behind.
TYPICAL NORMAN ORCHARD. This one was on the sought edge of the 2d Ranger's position, the night of 6 June, near the coastal highway. Germans approaching the position through the orchard were able to get close before they were spotted. (Photo taken June, 1945)
Colonel Rudder therefore decided to leave his advance party where it was for the night, south of the coastal highway and reinforced by the 5th Ranger platoon. Amounting to about 85 men, this force was hit by a counterattack after dark. The Rangers were dug in on an L-shaped position, sides about 300 yards long, behind hedgerows overlooking slopes toward the southwest. The Germans made two preliminary probing attacks, beginning at 2330, to draw the Rangers' fire and locate their positions. Despite partial moonlight, the enemy were able to crawl up in the orchard grass to within 25 yards of the Ranger lines before being observed. At about 0300 a final assault was made at the angle of the Rangers' position. The enemy force, more than a company in strength, used at least six machine guns and some mortar fire, but the action was largely close-in fighting with much use of grenades. The angle was overrun and 25 Rangers were killed or captured. In the confusion of a night action, coordinated defense was difficult; the rest of the line crumbled and less than 50 men found their way back to the Point in small groups. Fourteen Rangers stayed in their original fox holes under a dense hedge, where they were able to avoid enemy notice. They were to spend the next 36 hours in these hide-outs.
At morning of 7 June, the force on the Point numbered 90 to 100 men available for action, many of them with light wounds. They had no food, their ammunition supply was short, they had brought no machine guns in their landings, and only two mortars were left. They were pinned on a strip about 200 yards deep and 500 yards wide, including in it the wrecked enemy fortifications. Snipers were still appearing inside this area, and enemy movements indicating preparation for attack could be seen close by. Naval fire support, rendered at different times by the destroyers Barton, Thompson, Harding, and O'Brien, was the Rangers' main defense and was called on heavily to shell suspected assembly areas. With this aid and maximum use of their two mortars which fired 300 rounds during the day, enemy attack was held off.
Their communications still limited to occasional contact with passing naval vessels, the Rangers on the Point were unaware through most of the day that a relief force was very near and was battling to reach them. After reaching St-Pierre-du-Mont before noon, the relief column planned to push along the coastal highway to the junction of the exit road from Pointe du Hoe. Company A of the 2d Rangers, forming the column's point, got to a hamlet within 200 yards of the exit road, when heavy interdictory fire from medium howitzers fell on the highway behind them, forcing the tanks to withdraw. Reforming at St-Pierre, the column tried again. This time the tanks got past the exit road, but the 1st Battalion of the 116th was caught by well-directed artillery fire which blanketed a quarter-mile stretch of the highway, and lost 30 or 40 men. This forced another withdrawal. The 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and naval guns endeavored to locate the enemy batteries, somewhere to the southwest. Efforts were made to organize a third attack, again along the highway, but the afternoon ended with the relieving force still in St-Pierre-du-Mont. Its advance had undoubtedly taken some of the pressure off the Point, and patrols made contact that night with the beleaguered force. During the afternoon, two LCVP's landed at the Point with food, water, ammunition, and about 30 reinforcements picked up at Omaha Beach. The worst of the situation was over.
The 175th Infantry landed east of D-3 between 1230 and 1630, losing several craft to mines and encountering occasional machine-gun fire at the beach and on the march
inland through Vierville to Gruchy, which was reached at 2000. Elements of the 224th and 227th Field Artillery Battalions also landed during the afternoon, giving the 29th Division a total of 29 howitzers from 5 battalions ashore and ready for fire.
Anticipating these reinforcements, V Corps issued Field Order No. 1, at 2100, 7 June, covering the next phase of operations for the 29th Division. The division's chief objective was Isigny, an important road center for enemy communications and the key to eventual junction with VII Corps. Released from corps reserve to the 29th Division, the 175th Infantry, with two companies of the 747th Tank Battalion attached, was ordered to move via Englesqueville-la Cambe and capture the town. The 115th Infantry had the mission of protecting the flank of this advance by seizing the high ground north of the Aure from Longueville to Normanville. The 116th and Rangers were ordered to continue westward on the axis of the coastal highway clearing out enemy resistance from Grandcamp to Isigny. The 9th Infantry of the 2d Division, just starting to land, was given the mission of further mopping-up in the Vierville-St-Laurent area.
General Gerhardt, assuming command of the 29th Division at 1700, implemented the corps order with 29th Division Field Order No. 3, issued at 2330. In this, the 115th Infantry was directed to move one battalion north of Formigny for protection of the division flank near the boundary with the 1st Division. Enemy forces in the 29th Division one were estimated as including elements of the 914th, 916th, and 726th Infantry. An important aspect of the next day's operation was the prospect of clearing out enemy artillery positions in the Grandcamp Maisy area, for despite all efforts of naval fire, enemy batteries in this area were still active on 7 June.
The 175th Infantry and the attached tanks started their march from Gruchy at 2130 and reached their objective within 36 hours, an advance of some 12 miles. Turning of the coastal highway beyond Gruchy, the regiment reached Englesqueville at 0200 on 8 June, brushing aside light resistance. Staying on the roads, with tanks leading the column of battalions, the force pushed south to hit the Isigny-Bayeux highway west of Longueville. The advance echelon of tanks reached la Cambe at 0300, but an attempt to enter the village at 0530 was held up by antitank guns. The 747th Tank Battalion knocked out five of these for the loss of one tank, and during the morning the infantry-tank team succeeded in capturing la Cambe. Aircraft bearing friendly insignia strafed the column as it passed through the village and inflicted 20 casualties.
Enemy resistance stiffened west of la Cambe, and artillery fire from 88mm guns disabled six tanks of Company C of the 747th Tank Battalion. A small enemy force supported by a few mobile 88's held the St-Germain-du-Pert area. On the other flank an enemy strongpoint protected the radar station at Cardonville. At Osmanville, enemy strength estimated at a company and disposing of antitank guns blocked the main highway. Too separated to give each other support, none of these enemy positions was able to cause more than temporary delay. The 3d Battalion of the 175th drove the enemy from St-Germain across the Aure by 1600. Aided by naval fire from the British cruiser Glasgow, the 2d Battalion captured Cardonville late in the evening. Resuming its advance after nightfall and encountering only weak enemy parties, at 0200 the 3d Battalion was within half a mile of Isigny, and leading tanks entered the town during the next hour. As a result of heavy naval bombardment, Isigny was in flames. The bridge over the Aure was intact, and no
DAMAGE AT ISIGNY inflicted by a naval bombardment just before the 175th Infantry went through the town in the early morning of 9 June. Though they offered little organized resistance here, German riflemen were still sniping from houses later in the day.
organized resistance was met in the town. By 0500, infantry and tanks were cleaning the houses of snipers; a weak enemy counter-attack about 0800 was stopped by rifle fire. Some 200 prisoners taken in the town included naval, marine, and air force personnel. While the tanks started south toward Lison, Company K of the 175th pushed on a mile to the Vire River crossing and found that the bridge had been burned.
To strengthen the drive of the 116th Infantry along the coastal highway, the 2d and 3d Battalions, the remainder of the 5th Rangers, and two companies of the 743d Tank Battalion moved up from Vierville early in the morning of 8 June. At about 1000 a coordinated attack was started toward Point du Hoe; the 5th Rangers and the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, struck across country from St-Pierre-du-Mont; the
3d Battalion and five tanks attacked from south and southwest of the Point; and the destroyer Ellyson put 140 rounds on the German cliff positions. The right wing of the maneuver reached the Point without opposition; unfortunately, the tanks and the 3d Battalion in their outflanking approach became confused as to the location of friendly positions and started firing on the Point as well as on the enemy emplacements just west of it. The fact that the 2d Rangers were firing captured German machine guns at the enemy west of the Point may have contributed to the mix-up. Communications failed to function well, and some casualties were suffered before the situation was cleared up. Three tanks were disabled by mines in the effort to reach the Point. Enemy resistance had faded quickly and Pointe du Hoe was cleared by noon.
Movement toward Grandcamp started at once. Taking that small resort town promised to be difficult, since the approach by the coastal highway led across a small valley with flooded areas on both sides of the road, and the enemy strongpoints west of the valley had extensive fields of fire from higher ground (Map No. 8). The enemy had failed to destroy the bridge, but the 5th Rangers were checked at this crossing by machine-gun and mortar fire, and lacked heavy weapons to deal with the enemy resistance. The British cruiser Glasgow rendered assistance by fire on the German strongpoints near Grandcamp, expending 113 rounds between 1455 and 1600. Late in the afternoon the 3d Battalion of the 116th took over the job. Tanks of Company C, 743d Tank Battalion, led across the bridge, losing one vehicle to a mine; then Companies
MAP NO. 8: Action at Grandcamp, 8 June
K and L of the 3d Battalion worked over to the west bank and attacked abreast on either side of the road, under covering fire by machine guns and BAR's which displaced rapidly. Enemy emplacements north of the highway had to be taken by close-in fighting, and snipers in the town continued to resist. Company I came up after the others had entered the town; one platoon of I, led by 2nd Lt. Norvin Nathan, drove all the way through to the west end of Grandcamp and forced the surrender of a pillbox at the edge of the beach. Organized resistance was over by dark. In the action, which some soldiers of the 5th Rangers and 3d Battalion, 116th, described as more severe than their D-Day fighting, the Germans had lost one of their strongest coastal positions in the V Corps alone.
During this attack along the coastal highway, the 1st Battalion of the 116th was making a wide sweep to the south, not only outflanking Grandcamp but aiming at Maisy. Paced by Company A of the 743d Tank Battalion, they moved south to Jucoville and then swung west through an areas which was practically undefended. Heavy naval guns had torn Maisey to pieces, and the tanks were able to deal easily with resistance from enemy machine guns. Just west of the village an enemy strongpoint blocked by Isigny road and was supported by mortar and 88-mm fire, including interdictory fire behind Maisy which prevented reinforcement of the leading infantry elements. Since the tanks were running short of fuel, advance was halted for the night. Supporting the 116th on 8 June, the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired 123 rounds from positions north of Longueville. On 9 June, the 116th and Rangers cleared up the last enemy resistance around Grandcamp, Maisy, and Géfosse-Fontenay.
The 115th accomplished its mission on 8 June without much difficulty. Longueville, abandoned by the enemy, was reached at 1100 by the 2d Battalion which took up defensive positions west of the village. The 1st Battalion followed to the same area, approached the Aure Valley at Ecrammevile, and began to patrol in preparation for crossing the flooded lowlands. The 3d Battalion, ordered toward Formigny in the morning to guard against possible enemy attack from Trèviéres, reached Formigny at noon and at 1630 was moved west again to Deux-Jumeaux. It arrived there at 1900, only to be sent south to Canchy, with orders to reconnoiter the inunndated area for crossings that night. The tired battalion, which had received no rations that day, got to Canchy at midnight. Regimental transport for the 115th was reaching the battalions that evening. The 110th Field Artillery Battalion fired 178 rounds in support of the regiment on 8 June.
A document captured by the 175t Infantry laid down a German defensive policy which had been illustrated by enemy action against the advance of the 29th Division: "Do not," it advised, "become engaged in a positioned defense." The Germans had tried to stop the U. S. columns by use of small parties, well equipped with automatic weapons, supported by a few self-propelled guns, and ready to retire under strong pressure. These tactics, intended to delay by forcing repeated deployments, worked well enough up to 8 June, but then failed against the gathering momentum of the 29th Division's attack. On that day, enemy defenses in the whole area north of the inundated Aure Valley, from Isigny to Trèviéres, were collapsed by the rapid 12-mile advance of the 175th Infantry on a route which may have taken the Germans by surprise. At nightfall, the enemy forces still in this area were scattered and disorganized, and in one case prisoners accused their officers of leaving the men to shift for themselves in an effort
to get south and west of the Aure. Several hundred enemy were captured north of the Aure in mopping-up operations during the next two days. Elements of the 914th, 915th, and 726th Regiment had been involved in the vain effort to check the 29th Division. Enemy losses in artillery had been considerable, including two horse-drawn batteries of 105-mm guns found deserted near Osmanville on 9 June. One of the most important results of the advance was to deprive the enemy of the coastal defenses and artillery positions between Grandcamp and Isigny, from which fire had been harassing both Omaha and Utah beachheads.
In contrast to the loss of enemy fire power, the artillery support of the 29th Division continued to build up on 8 June. By nightfall, six battalions of artillery, including three of 155-mm howitzers (two attached from Corps Artillery), were available. Use of artillery on 8 June had still been relatively light, but the difficulties in getting observed fire were being overcome as communications improved. The first aircraft used for artillery observation was flown that afternoon, and several more planes were ready by 9 June.
Tactical advance and the arrival of supplies were mutually dependent conditions of success for the operation. Until the advance pushed far enough to free the beaches for normal operation, the supply and reinforcement necessary for sustained attack could not be unloaded. Deepening of the beachhead on 7-8 June was reflected in the progress made at the landing beaches.
Improvement at the Beach
ORGANIZING THE BEACH involved clearing mines and debris, salvage jobs, and building roads. Supplies had to be kept moving while all the other work was being carried on. Scene in front of E-1 draw, an exit much photographed in the early days of the invasion.
On D+1, the Engineer Special Brigade Group was still operating under great difficulties, and all beach work was far behind schedule. The engineer units were short of equipment, were handicapped by the wreckage and the congestion on the beach, and had to improvise new methods of dealing with the complex problems of unloading and routing men and materiél. Carefully arranged priority schedules for discharging cargo broke down under the difficulties of communicating information as to arrival of ships and contents of cargoes. Enemy artillery kept up harassing fire, and snipers along the bluffs were not entirely cleaned out for two or three days. With the larger part of the beach-maintenance area still held by the enemy, emergency dumps were opened on the beach and in nearby fields. Nevertheless, all exit roads were opened and working
LANDING SUPPLIES from ships at the edge of the beach flat. Ammunition was particularly needed in the first days. Remnants of the shingle still show; later the embankment was entirely removed by beach engineers organizing Omaha as a port of entry for supplies.
by noon, and vitally needed materiél, particularly artillery and ammunition, was landed in sufficient quantity for immediate needs. A great deal of effective work was done to salvage materiél left on the beach from D-Day landings. Priority of unloading was given throughout these first days to ammunition, in which the supply situation was serious until 10 June. Only on 8 June did ammunition begin to reach shore on craft other than the pre-loaded dukws. The reserves of rations and gasoline, which had been provided to the units making the landings, had helped tide over the critical initial stages in these classes. Each organization had brought in five days' rations and extra gas supplies on each vehicle.
On 8 June, as a result of the advance inland, of the engineers' work, and of a moderating sea, conditions were measurably better. Enemy batteries were no longer firing on the landing area; the beach was nearly clear of debris and mines; a lateral road, running the length of the beach, was being rapidly constructed for two-way traffic; and many access roads had been built from the tidal flat to the lateral for facilitating discharge of craft. Transit areas were beginning to function as planned. An emergency landing strip, prepared on the high ground near E-1 exit, was operational by 1800 on 8 June, and wounded were evacuated by air from this field as early as 10 June. Communication facilities, essential for managing flow of traffic on the beach, were partly installed. Tonnage moved for the day was only 1,429, a small figure in view of needs but the start of rapid expansion to a level of 7,000 tons by D+5. The situation was under control, and a major supply channel for the coming months of operations began to take organized shape.
During these two days, Allied air forces continued their offensive against enemy communications. The Eighth Air Force and RAF began to work on the Loire River bridges, while the Ninth Air Force went after the railroad bridges between the Seine and the Loire (Map No. XIII). Marshaling yards and traffic centers from Brittany to Paris received attacks, and choke points were bombed up to points as near the beachhead as St-Lô, Lison, Carentan, and le Molay. Fighter-bombers carried on the task of interdicting rail and road movement west of the
Seine and north of the Loire. Taking 8 June as a sample of the range and intensity of Allied air effort in the period following D Day, 262 B-26 s and A-20's engaged in close cooperation with ground forces, dropping 442 tons on tactical targets in the battle one; 735 Eighth Air Force heavies hit bridges and traffic centers from Brittany to Orleans with 2,000 tons; 129 Ninth Air Force mediums put 245 tons on railway yards and bridges near the invasion area and along the Seine; 492 RAF heavies dropped 1,851 tons in a night attack on communications centers such as Rennes and Alençon; 1,335 fighters and fighter-bombers of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces and 1,797 planes of the Second Tactical Air Force (British) made sorties against communications near the battle line and against tactical targets. Seven bridges in the Carentan area were attacked by fighter-bombers of the Ninth Air Force on 7-8 June, with three reported gapped. Two groups of Ninth Air Force medium bombers attacked Isigny on 8 June with the aim of blocking the highway; on the same day, the marshaling yard at St-Lô was destroyed and all rail connections cut at that junction. Fighter-bombers stopped all rail movement through Lison on 7-8 June. Enemy air activity showed only slight increase, the Eighth Air Force reporting 130 German sorties on 8 June in the vicinity of the beachheads.
On 7-8 June, the German command was still chiefly concerned about the Caen and Cotentin sectors, and neither Army nor Army Group showed much interest in the area between Bayeux and Isigny. Comparatively few references were made in Seventh Army estimates and situation reports as to what was happening near the Omaha sector. In part, this may have been due to scanty information from lower units, but it may also be a result of conclusions which Seventh Army had drawn on D Day as to the relative strength of the Allied beachheads.
The Enemy Side
The counterattack planned for 7 June in the Caen sector did not come off. By that morning forward elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division were between Villers-Bocage and Caen, while Panzer Lehr was beginning to reach Thury-Harcourt. But the columns were delayed by air attacks both on the march and in the assembly area, and the counteroffensive was postponed to 8 June. Meantime, the 711th Division east of the Orne, and 21st Panzer and 12th SS Panzer (elements) north of Caen, stopped further British advance. On 8 June, there was little change in the Caen area, and, with Panzer Lehr still unable to get into the battle zone, there was again no start of the expected counterattack. Allied pressure northeast of Bayeux increased, and, despite all efforts of the 352d Division, that town fell to the British by the night of 7-8 June.
In the Cotentin, information of 7 June indicated Allied reinforcement by air and by sea. On the next day, heavy Allied pressure was exerted from the Ste-Mére-Eglise area in attacks north toward Valognes and south toward Carentan. German units which had been attempting to organize counterattacks against the Utah beachhead were thrown on the defensive and began to lose ground. Growing concern was felt at Army over this situation, particularly after studying a (U. S.) VII Corps operations order, washed in on the beach on 8 June, which made it clear that Cherbourg was a main Allied objective.
Seventh Army had little news on 7 June from the Colleville-Vierville area, though it was aware that Allied landings had strengthened the forces ashore there. A good deal of misinformation came from this sector; at 1740 Army informed von Rundstedt that Grandcamp had been recaptured. In the situation report to Army Group at 0810 on 8 June, Seventh Army reported that Allied paratroopers had been landing in the Colleville-Russy-Surrain area, and were pushing westward. Meantime, Seventh Army had decided from the
captured operations order of VII Corps that the landings east of the Vire were by the British V Corps, including five British and two United States divisions, and that one of their objectives was to reach contact with VII Corps at Carentan. The Allied push south from Colleville was interpreted as an effort toward Carentan, designed to roll up German coastal defenses by passing to rearward of them. It was recognized that a "wide hole had been torn between Bayeux and St-Lo." Although no particular anxiety about that sector was yet expressed, plans for commitment of the reinforcements under way from Brittany were somewhat modified (Map No. XIII).
Part of these reinforcements were under II Paratroop Corps. the 3d Paratroop Division, the 77th Division, and the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Rommel decided on the morning of 7 June that Brittany was not in danger of early attack and started these offensive units on the way to Normandy, the 17th SS to come from positions south of the Loire River. Plans for use of II Paratroop Corps were reshaped during the next few lays in view of changing appreciation of the battle. At first, because of reported paratroop landings in the Coutances area, the corps was ordered to that region to guard against any Allied attempt to cut off the Cotentin peninsula. Such an attempt was feared by Rommel himself.
On 8 June Seventh Army notified Army Group of its intentions as follows: to annihilate the Allied beachhead north of Caen and then turn toward Bayeux; to hold the VII (U. S.) Corps attack toward Cherbourg by means of the units already in the Cotentin; and to bring II Paratroop Corps up to the St-Lô region, where it could help I SS Panzer Corps in the attack on Bayeux, or if not needed there, smash the Allied bridgehead north of Carentan. Rommel approved this plan, but by evening of 8 June the increasing Allied pressure toward Montebourg was already causing Army to think in terms of using II Paratroop Corps to protect the Cotentin.
Seventh Army plans were increasingly affected on 7-8 June by difficulties encountered in moving its reinforcements toward the battle fronts. In part this was due to shortage of transportation facilities, particularly for the troops coming from Brittany. In even greater measure, however, Allied air power was hindering movement by attacks on columns, on bridges and railroads, and on important communications centers. As a result, I SS Panzer Corps had so far failed to mount its counterattack. Movement of II Paratroop Corps was "greatly delayed by air bombing and sabotage of communications." Army Chief of Staff urgently requested Army Group for strong air protection of moving columns, but was told that all available air strength was already being used. The Luftwaffe was in process of transferring units from east to west, to assist the battle, but was having its own delays.
One result of the Allied air effort on 8 June was so bad a breakdown of communications as to hinder all command functions. For hours Army had no contact with I SS Panzer Corps or with II Paratroop Corps, and was unable to determine their positions. Particular trouble was caused by bombing attacks at Avranches, bottleneck on main routes leading from Brittany to Normandy. By attacks on the evening of 7 June, Allied air had severed communications across the lower Loire River, where the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier had just brought forward elements across at Angers. By evening of 8 June, apparently none of the reinforcements coming from Brittany had yet reached the Avranches area.22
Last-minute reports of that night brought disturbing news from the Bayeux-Trèviéres sector. Allied units pressing southwest from Bayeux, and also south of the Bayeux-Isigny highway, were making "rapid progress westward toward Trèviéres and to the northwest of Trèviéres." Parts of the 916th and 726th Infantry had been cut off and received orders to fight their way back. Seventh Army's attention was about to be drawn more than before to the Omaha area.
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 The location of the 275th Battle Group is not clear from the records, and that unit may have cleared Avranches.