[8-3.1 BA 9]
BATTALION AND SMALL UNIT STUDY NUMBER 9
Published by History Section,
European Theater of Operations
[Note: This manuscript was prepared at the end of World War by the deployed combat historians assigned to the History Section, United States Army European Theater of Operations (ETO) in Paris. The original is on file in the Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC) under file number 8-3.1 BA 9, which should be cited in footnotes, along with the title. As the introduction clearly states, the author was and was complied using oral interview techniques invented during World War II by S.L.A. Marshall. It is reproduced here with only those limited modifications required to adapt to the World Wide Web; spelling, punctuation, and slang usage have not been altered from the original. Where modern explanatory notes were required, they have been inserted as italicized text in square brackets. The study formed an important part of Marshall's subsequent book Night Drop.]
It was the operation at UTAH BEACH which predetermined the location of DROP ZONE A and the mission of the airborne forces which dropped there shortly after midnight on 6 June. DROP ZONE A was the closest serviceable field to the Beach where elements of the 4th Infantry Division were landing shortly after dawn. The primary mission of the airborne was to assure the success of the seaborne forces.
Because of the nature of the ground, it was a varied assignment. The Norman coast at this point is flat and unimpressive. The only high ground near the Beach is an occasional sand dune mass. Stretching inland from the Beach for a thousand yards or more is a belt of salt marsh which would come under the wash of the sea when the tide is high were it not protected by the piled up sands. Dirt causeways topped by asphalt roads have been built across these marshes and provide the only means of convenient exit from the Beach to the firm ground westward of the marsh. This ground, too, is flat and is made difficult to the invader only because of its ubiquitous hedgerows. Since no high land interposes, guns sited along the fringe of this solid hedgerow country are in position to dominate the Beach and work ruin on ships nearing the shore. The chief threat to the UTAH BEACH landings was the German coastal battery located just to the westward of the village of
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ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE. It had been the target of air bombardment in the preceding days but the results were not known. The fate of the northern half of the operation could have turned on it; the assured destruction of the Battery became a chief preoccupation of the 502d Airborne Infantry Regiment [i.e., 502d Parachute Infantry].
Coupled with that mission were other details, all assigned to smooth the passage of the 4th Infantry Division from the Beach to the firm ground. While making sure of the destruction of the Battery, the Regiment had also to deal with the artillery garrison which was quartered in barracks a few hundred yards west of the Guns—a position identified in the American plan as "W-X-Y-Z." One of the main exits from the Beach ran past the Battery and through the Barracks area. This was Exit No 4. Another such causeway—Exit No. 3—was about 700 yards to the south. The Regiment was to seize and clear these causeways so that elements of the 8th and 22d Infantry Regiments could make an uninterrupted crossing of the marshes. These things done, the 502d was to engage the enemy to the northward and do its utmost to disperse his forces there so that the right flank of the 4th Division would be protected and its regiments would have a fair chance to collect themselves before launching the attack to expand the beachhead.
To one Battalion—the First of 502d Regiment, commanded by
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LT COL PATRICK J. CASSIDY—were allotted the missions of mopping up POSITION W-X-Y-Z, establishing the northern flank for the airborne force and making contact with 505th Regiment of the 82d Airborne Division on the left. Second Battalion was given the straight mission of destroying the coastal battery. Third Battalion was to back up this attack if required, and then capture the two strategic causeways. These two main tasks became quite simple in the doing; they provoked no special hazard and they were curiously devoid of any spectacular consequences. But out of the varying assignments given First Battalion developed what was perhaps the most sustained and vigorous action reported from any Battalion sector on D DAY.
The flight from England was more peaceful than they had expected. As the serial passed the islands of JERSEY and GUERNSEY, the men saw their first anti-aircraft fire, but it was distant and apparently aimed at some other formation. Tracer fire sprayed around them as they crossed the Normandy coast. There was a little flak. The formation moved on into a belt of light fog.* Again, it became quiet. Six minutes out from DROP ZONE A, the ground fire picked up again, though it was mainly the fire of machine guns. They
*Many of the details covered here are of no tactical importance but it is believed that there may be some special values in a recording of the experiences and sensations of a force moving by air and of the events incidental to collecting the troops following the drop.
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could see a town below them, its buildings thrown into relief by the light of a fiercely burning building. CASSIDY took it to be STE MERE EGLISE and was relieved at the thought that the Alone was on its course.* From that point on the intermittent ground fire thickened and by the time the green light flashed the signal for the jump tracer bullets were producing a Roman candle effect all around the planes.
To CASSIDY, as he jumped, it looked as if three guns were trained directly on him, with their fire converging just above his head. He thought to himself that they must have been concentrating on the lead plane, and that was the way of it. The fire followed him about three-fourths of the way down; then other planes came over and the tracer fire lifted from the dropping men in search for the ships. He felt his feet hit on hard pavement even as he realized that his chute had become hung in a tree. There he lay for a few minutes at the corner of a road intersection. While he was trying to get clear of the chute, a machine gun opened fire toward him. He was certain that the enemy had seen his chute and had singled him out as a personal target though he later realized that they must have been zeroed-in on the crossroads. The bullets bounced off the pavement.
*CASSIDY was mistaken in his identification. The 82d troops which entered STE MERE EGLISE that night said the town was in complete darkness.
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After much effort, he got a grenade loose but by that time more planes were coming over and the enemy gun was searching skyward. He broke free from the chute then and having noticed the line of flight of the planes, he figured he had his East-West direction. After he had crawled about 10 yards, the gun again fired toward him. So he lay still, waiting for more planes to come over and draw the gun's attention. This expected relief soon materialized. While he had waited, he had seen other paratroopers jump from their planes a little to the westward. He made toward them, hugging the hedges and ditches. After he had crawled about 100 yards, he heard a horseman come at a tight gallop through the road intersection where he had been, and continue on. There were no other sounds of movement. He crept on along the hedgerow. Then mortar fire bracketed him—about four rounds. More planes came over. The mortars ceased fire. It was another favorable opening and he moved on along.
Something stirred a few feet from him on the other side of the hedgerow. He couldn't be sure but he thought he heard a man moving. The sound seemed to be going away from him, in the opposite direction. He found a hole in the embankment and looked through. About 10 yards away, he could see the forms of two men, drawn in close to the hedge, and even in the darkness he could tell that their backs were turned
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toward him. So he snapped his cricket—once. The two men went flat and did not reply. In that second, CASSIDY wondered what to do next. Then from close at hand a third man whom CASSIDY had not seen snapped a cricket and the suspense was lifted.
"Where are you going?" CASSIDY asked.
"We're looking for the Colonel," one of them answered.
They proved to be his runner, his radio operator and a strange paratrooper. CASSIDY took them in tow and they moved on along the hedgerow toward where he had seen the other men dropping. In the next field they met LT COL STRAYER of 506th Regiment with four men. All were still wondering where they were; none had seen a signpost or talked to a native. CASSIDY saw some chutes grounded on the far side of the field and they moved that way. STRAYER was limping badly, having wrenched his leg on landing. At the chutes they found another cripple, LT JACK WILLIAMS, CASSIDY'S machine gun officer, who despite a twisted ankle, had rounded up quite a group of men, put them out hunting bundles and had already retrieved two machine guns. CASSIDY took command and the party continued moving along the hedgerow. All of this time there was flak and machine gun fire in the general vicinity but no other sign of a German. The crickets kept cricking and men kept moving from out of the shadows to join the party as they heard the signal.
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They came at last to a road intersection. CASSIDY and STRAYER talked it over and decided to stay there and put out local protection while trying to collect more men and get oriented. WILLIAMS was sent northward scouting for a signpost or a friendly Frenchman. Five minutes later they heard rifle and machine gun fire from that direction. Before they could worry about what had happened to WILLIAMS, he was back among then, bringing CAPT FRED HANCOCK with a few men from Company C and a larger number of strays—about 30 hands all told. LT SAMUEL B. NICHELS with a group from Company A arrived at about the same time. HANCOCK had passed a sign reading: FOURCARVILLE—2 KILOMETERS, and pointing north. CASSIDY got out his aerial oblique and at once spotted the position. He was within a short walk of his objective and he wanted to go to it immediately, But most of the 200 men now present were from 506th Regiment and STRAYER did not yet feel like moving.*
CASSIDY said to STRAYER: "Then clear your men out and I'll get going. We're ready." He lined up his column—WILLIAMS' group, HANCOCK'S group, NICHELS' group—and they marched right down the road to save time. Halfway to ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE they met CAPT FRANK LILLYMAN who had been the
*STRAYER'S objective was considerably farther to the south and he was intent on moving only after he had collected most of his men. These sticks had been dropped far to the north of 506th's area of operation whereas CASSIDY was in reasonable proximity of DROP ZONE A.
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first man to jump into Normandy during the operation, having led l0lst's team of Pathfinders. LILLYMAN was headed north. He said he had left some men covering the "T" on DROP ZONE A. But there was even better information: he had scouted the coastal battery east of the DROP ZONE an, had found it most thoroughly bombed out. CASSIDY told him to take a few men along, move a little farther north and set up a road block short of FOUCARVILLE.
The day was just breaking when the column reached the first house west of the German gun position—the first slice of objective W-X-Y-Z. From within the house someone fired a wild shot. The men rushed the building. They found no enemy, though during all that day, while the house was being used as a CP, two Germans lay concealed within the building. The landlady connived at this. She explained to CASSIDY later that the Germans had been kind to her.
CASSIDY walked over to the Battery position. Sitting right in the center of it, on the highest ground, was LT COL STEVE A. CHAPPUIS of the Second Battalion, holding an orange flag in his hand. CHAPPUIS had hurt his leg on the jump but had then collected about a dozen men and gone directly to his objective. CASSIDY wanted him to move over to the CP for treatment; CHAPPUIS thought he'd better stay where he was, that more of his men night show up.
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This was CASSIDY'S plan as he told it to CHAPPUIS. He intended to establish close-up security around his CP and build a small defensive base around the intersection to keep the Germans from breaking through to the Beach. Company C could set up a roadblock to the north and Company B to the south. The roadblocks would hold while he was cleaning out the artillery barracks; he had already started a detail out on this errand. After it was completed, the Battalion meantime having collected more of its strength, he would be in better position to carry out his further mission of covering the Regimental flank to the north.
CASSIDY went back to his CP. The Staff there told him that the detail moving against the artillery barracks was getting a stiff fight. He sent along a few more men to help them. He wasn't especially worried about it for he had calculated that it would be slow going in any case. Elsewhere the situation was brightening. CASSIDY knew that he was getting some protection to the south, for CHAPPUIS had told him that part of Third Battalion had gone past the gun position en route to the lower causeway.
In fact, the Regiment as a whole was well on the way to the completion of its D Day assignments while the first seaborne troops were heading in toward the Beaches. The enemy had proved weakest where he had been expected to provide the most determined resistance. Third Battalion was already
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moving toward the completion of its mission after an unpromising start.* LT COL ROBERT COLE had descended into a rose bush next a large building. For 10 minutes, he struggled with his harness, only to become worse entangled. He was pin-cushioned with thorns by the time he realized that he would have to strip himself of his field gear and some clothing if he were to escape from the bush. Just as he finally made it, he saw and heard someone moving furtively along the nearest hedgerow. COLE snapped his cricket, he heard two snaps come back. It was a soldier from Regimental Headquarters. "Stick with me;" COLE told him, "and we'll get a gang." In five minutes they were joined by two of the Battalion non-coms, and the small party kept on moving along the hedgerow—looking for more men and an orientation point.
They ran into LT R. G. PICK of Regimental Headquarters Company, with 4 or 5 men. He didn't know where he was but he insisted to COLE that he be allowed to move along on his own mission. COLE didn't argue with him. There had been no firing. At first COLE tried to follow the course of the planes and get his bearings that way, but it seemed to him that they were cutting in all directions. They scouted along for another 20 minutes, but found no members of their
*The Battalions had traveled in consecutive serials, 10 minutes apart—Second Battalion and Regimental Headquarters leading in 44 planes, Third Battalion next in 36 planes and First Battalion following in 36 planes. COLE'S first men had jumped at 0056.
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stick nor any bundles. In this aimless wandering, they moved along one more hedgerow and met MAJ J. W. VAUGHN, S-4, and CAPT GEORGE A. BUKER, S-3, with two men. They were also lost. COLE took command and at the same time went on ahead to serve as the point for the party. They picked up a few more men, mainly from the 505th, 506th and 508th Regiments—a fair indication that they were to the west of 101st territory and possibly in the sector of 82d Division. At first COLE led them cross-lots, moving along the hedgerows, but he tired of the slow pace and began marching via the road. They walked for an hour before coming to a town. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire going up from it. COLE figured he'd better not engage before making sure of his location. So he beat on the door of a house at the edge of town. A woman answered, but she said she wouldn't open up, though COLE continued to pound on the door. A French-speaking private from the 505th Regiment cajoled her into changing her mind. After more hesitation, she told them they were at STE MERE EGLISE, which town was the main target of the attack of 82d Division. One member of the group put a map before her and she showed them where her house was located. COLE then ordered the party to backtrack about 700 yards north.
There were now about 30 men. They found a road running slightly northeast and they moved along it for about one-half
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hour, running into two more of the Battalion officers at one of the intersections. The party gradually grew to 75 or 80. It was a kind of snowball growth. Some of the men and officers had been lying quietly in the fields or hiding in the deep shadows next the hedgerows and when they heard the party moving along the road, they gravitated toward it.
They walked on a while until they heard some wagons coming down the road. Someone yelled: "Halt!" A man stood up in the first cart, fired a few rounds from a hand weapon, and jumped from the cart, running. There were five carts in the convoy. The riders took to the ditches and COLE'S men prodded them out, killing a few and capturing 10. The carts were loaded with mines and leather goods. COLE told VAUGHN to get them emptied; he wanted to use them in collecting his bundled supply. COLE figured that he had just about reached his objective but he wanted to be sure, and he moved off rightward by himself, looking for a chapel which was shown on the map. A machine gun fired loosely in his direction as he moved along, but he finally found the chapel and then returned to his men. The carts had not been emptied. COLE was starting to raise hell about it when someone told him that VAUGHN had gone up the road to scout for more carts. A man came running in then and said that VAUGHN was dead. The enemy had set up a machine gun in a ditch just beyond the last cart in the convoy and had
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shot VAUGHN as he came by. COLE sent an officer out to check the story. He found VAUGHN'S body. Right next it were two dead Germans—as if he had made a last supreme effort to close with the men who had ambushed him.
COLE led his party southward for a short distance, the wagons in tow, then turned east at a point which would bring him in just to the southward of the coastal battery. As they moved north on the last stride of the journey, he met two officers and 30 men from Company I. They told COLE that they had been to the gun position and had found it destroyed and deserted. That was enough for COLE: he decided to split his group three ways. One party under LT BURNS which included all of the strays was sent south to contact 506th Regiment. Another party under CAPT CLEMENTS was ordered to move on Exit No 4, cleaning out ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE as it went. COLE went along with the third part, which headed for Exit No 3. He didn't bother to set up a CP.
The party moved south to ANDOVILLE LA HUBERT and ran into a scattering fire as it approached the Causeway. By 0730 the Americans were in position and ready to slaughter any Germans who tried to flee westward under pressure from the Beach. It was at about that time that COL CASSIDY left the gun position and walked back to his CP to see how things were moving.
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PROBLEMS OF COMMAND
A radio had been set up in the CP and CASSIDY at once tried to raise someone on the ORANGE (command) NET, which tied together the 101st and 82d Airborne and the 4th Infantry Divisions. At first he could get no one to receive the APP message—that the gun position at ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE was in American hands. Somewhere around 08l5, after many fruitless tries, he got through to Headquarters of the 4th Division and got a "Roger'' back from them. The 4th's Commander, MAJ GEN BARTON, remarked: "'That's the best news I've had in many hours."* The 4th wanted to know if the Causeways had been cleared. But COLE hadn't bothered to send word to CASSIDY about his own movements and so CASSIDY could tell them nothing. Disturbed about the situation at the Exits, he sent a patrol under SGT H. J. SNYDER of Company B to see what was happening along the Causeway running west from ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE, giving them special instructions to check on a church spire in the village which the Germans were supposed to be using.
About that time the first of his own wounded began to arrive from the fight along the road to the eastward. The medical detachment was still far-scattered; CASSIDY gathered
*This item doesn't appear in the record. It was given the HO by GEN BARTON at Paris on 27 August 1944, during a discussion of this incident.
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a few buck soldiers together and set up a first-aid station. He improvised an ambulance service by putting a farm house [i.e., horse] to an old meat cart which he found in the courtyard. A dentist's assistant, PVT PATRICE J. CALLERY, took the cart over and drove all day long up and down the Normandy roads, bringing in the wounded and jump-injured paratroopers. He was exposed to sniper fire many times and he saved a great number of lives.
Step by step, the situation south and east of the Battalion became firmer. COL STRAYER and his men passed through on their assignment to POUPPEVILLE, which lay to the southward. At 0930 the Germans began moving away from the fire on UTAH BEACH, across the Causeways, toward the positions held by COL COLE'S men. Well covered in ditches and behind hedgerows, the paratroopers killed about 75 of them with small arms fire without losing a man.
A messenger arriving from the north told CASSIDY that LT WALLACE A. SWANSON was up the road with about 65 men (in fact, there were only 44) at just about the spot where CASSIDY had first struck earth. CASSIDY sent him back with orders that SWANSON should establish roadblocks around FOUCARVILLE in line with the Battalion's mission of securing the northern flank of the beachhead. The messenger got there and SWANSON moved out immediately.
Prisoners began to arrive at the CP. The covering guard said that the fight at the artillery barracks was getting hotter by the moment but that no more men were needed immediately. CASSIDY was still trying to get higher headquarters on his radio. At last Third Battalion came in very weakly, giving him the information that it was standing on Exit No 3, which he relayed to 4th Infantry Division. Third Battalion asked CASSIDY if he could handle their prisoners, and he said to send them along.
A runner came in with news that CAPT FITZGERALD of Company B and a number of his men had been hit near FOUCARVILLE. FITZGERALD was in a "dying condition" and couldn't be moved. CAPT FRANK CHOY, the Battalion surgeon, was rushed north as fast as the meat wagon could travel. A few minutes after the doctor left the CP a stretcher party came in, carrying one man shot above the heart, a second man shot through both legs, and LT ELMER F. BRANDENBERGER who had been leading the fight against the barracks. Either a hand grenade or a booby trap had exploded next his arm and it was shattered and shredded. He said that two groups of houses had been taken, and he added: "Sir, I'm terribly sorry I got hit. I didn't do my job very good."
Another runner came in at that moment to report that the men trying to mop-up the barracks were running low on ammunition. The wounded were turned over to the medical
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sergeant, EDGERS E. FORBES. He told CASSIDY that he had only two units of blood plasma left, and he asked: ''Shall I give it to the man shot over the heart or to BRANDENBERGER? The private may die anyway. He looks like it. BRANDENBERGER is bleeding terribly and may die unless he gets it." It was a case for judgment worthy of a Solomon yet within the compass of a Battalion commander. CASSIDY made his decision promptly: Give the plasma to the man who needed it most even though it would probably be wasted. So the private got it instead of the lieutenant, and it saved the private's life.
More paratroopers who had been wide-strewn over the fields and swamps of Normandy came drifting into the CP. Harassed as he was by his own tactical and administrative problems, CASSIDY put his Adjutant to work assorting these men, thus employing the CP as a regulating station for the Division. More than 100 men from other units were passed through the station that morning and sent on to their assigned missions.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Company C was kept intact to cover the central position, turning to the attack only when enemy snipers began to crowd in on them. Small knots of prisoners were shoved along from the W-X-Y-Z fight. They told this strange story—that all of their officers had gone in the night before to attend a conference at STE MERE EGLISE, leaving the neighborhood
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forces largely leaderless in the hour when the Americans struck.*
From the wounded coming back, and from the stretcher bearers, CASSIDY could get little idea of how the W-X-Y-Z fight was going or of what was holding his men up. Nor did he feel free to make a personal reconnaissance. Having deployed his forces in four directions, he figured that he must stay close to the central point. But he knew that the resistance already encountered at the Barracks was greater than had been expected—or at least, that was his hunch—and he thought he'd best give it what support he could. For a time, he considered sending Company C around to the left to get on the German rear. Then he decided against it, since it seemed to him to be paramount that he remain ready to defend against anything moving from the north, and to keep his base where it was, inasmuch as he didn't know whether there were any friendly forces close to him on the west. So he set up a weapons dump in the courtyard, getting together all of the German and American weapons and ammunition that could be found in the neighborhood. All of the spare men were brought together and put under command of LT RICHARD EVERS. They went out to take
*CASSIDY and his officers repeated these conversations and commented on the absence of officers in the forces opposing them. On the other hand, the 82d Division, which took STE MERE EGLISE, knew nothing of any such conference.
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their place in the fire line which had been laid down against the barracks—some draftsmen, a few demolition men, an operations sergeant—while a few hardier individuals carried the fight at closer range.
SGT SNYDER got back from ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE and reported that his patrol had cleaned out the German position in the church and had killed a number of the enemy. They had found radios, range finders and telephones inside the steeple and had blown them up with hand grenades. CASSIDY sent SNYDER along to Company B and another sergeant was sent out to take the patrol in ST MARTIN DE VARREVILLE, set up roadblocks and cover the Causeway. CASSIDY still was without information from COLE as to developments at Exit No 4, but on the basis of his own action, he radioed 4th Infantry Division that the Causeway was clear and open to their advance.
Finding an 8l mm mortar at hand (this bundle had been retrieved from a nearby field), but no mortar crew, CASSIDY sent the weapon on up to LT HOMER J. COMBS for use against the Barracks, along with a volunteer who said he though he could operate the mortar, though he wasn't quite certain.
SGT FORBES came to CASSIDY again. He said he had tried to stop BRANDENBERGER'S bleeding, but without good result. The bone was shattered. The arm held together by only a
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few shreds of flesh. He couldn't get into the wound with compresses and he had no plasma. "I might be able to stop the bleeding by amputating the arm," FORBES said, abut I can't make a decision of that. It's up to you." CASSIDY talked with him for a few minutes about whether to take the arm and told him to postpone amputation for a few minutes. Then he got SGT ROBERT L. DE PINQUERTAINE and a stretcher and they went forth to search the fields. CASSIDY had a vague memory of having passed a bundle that looked like a medical bundle. They found it at last—plasma, bandages and the other needed items—and beside the medical bundle, they found a bundle of machine gun ammunition.
They loaded the stretcher and came on back. This was some time between 1200 and 1400. LT EVERS was brought into the CP wounded. CAPT FITZGERALD, still clinging to life, and the other wounded from FOUCARVILLE were brought in on the meat wagon, CAPT CHOY returning to take over the first-aid work. CASSIDY had put another cart into his collecting service: there were supply bundles scattered all over the countryside and he sent the men out to see what they could find.
But of the separate actions in which his men and officers had been killed or wounded, he knew almost nothing. He had been much too busy for that.
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COLE'S men had no more fighting on behalf of the Causeways after the first joust of the morning. At 1300, they contacted the troops of the 4th Infantry Division, COLE meeting the Battalion commander of the leading element at a rendezvous which they had agreed upon some days before leaving England.
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THE MORNING'S FIGHTING
The house where CASSIDY'S CP was located was really in a detached position in relation to the other W-X-Y-Z buildings, being on the north-south running road, whereas the rest of the houses which were being used as billets by the German artillerymen and the barracks proper were distributed along both sides of the road running southwest toward REUVILLE. The ground between was well grown with trees and shrubs and there were several low hedges, which provided the CP with a considerable insulation against the sights and sounds of the conflict.
CLEAN-UP OF THE HOUSES AT W-X-Y-Z
After the quick capture of the first house where CASSIDY set up his CP, about 15 men went on down the REUVILLE road to contend with the enemy at the other houses. They moved along in squad column, it being impossible to deploy because of the thick hedgerows which bound the road on both sides. One other thing handicapped them from the outset—they were a mixed group who had never worked together before and scarcely a man knew any of the others by name. S SGT HARRISON SOMMERS of Company B didn't know a single man in the detail. So he figured it would be easier to start the assault singlehanded than to attempt to give orders. He walked right up to the first house and kicked the door in.
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The Germans inside the first room were firing through ports in the side of the building. They looked up only as he burst in on them, firing a tommy gun from the shoulder. Four of them dropped from the fire. Others, including a number of civilians, ran from the rear of the building and escaped to the third house. The second house, located diagonally across the road, was taken without difficulty, the Germans having fled from it. From nearly in front of the second house, a machine gun manned by PVT WILLIAM A. BURT was set up alone the road to fire on the third house at a range of about 50 yards. The Germans replied with rifles and machine pistols, but BURT'S fire, trained on their ports, made them keep their heads down and their return fire was wild. BRANDENBERGER and SUMMERS sprinted for the door and made it. But as they closed in next the wall, something exploded next to BRANDENBERGER, knocking him down and mangling his left arm. SUMMERS went on alone and smashed the door in, firing as he did it. There were six Germans inside. They were still busy at the ports, firing toward the road, and crouching low at their weapons. He shot them all down with one sweep of the gun. As he moved on toward the next house, a captain from the 82d Division joined him. The captain was plugged by a sniper before he had gone 20 yards and SUMMERS never had the chance to learn his name.
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SUMMERS went through the next five houses in this same manner, one man aiding him—PVT JOHN CAMIN, armed only with a carbine. The two men switched weapons from house to house, one covering with the carbine while the other rushed the door with the tommy gun. All of the houses had thick stone walls which were slotted for fire. The Germans within them continued to fire on the road. PVT BURT moved his gun on down the road and continued to fire at the embrasures. SUMMERS and CAMIN went on from building to building, taking no prisoners because no chance afforded, fighting and firing, and saying nothing to one another.
Thirty of the enemy were killed in the five dwellings. Then the two men rushed a larger building beyond the last house. They kicked the door open. It was the troop messhall. There were 15 men at the tables, apparently paying no heed to the fighting. SUMMERS cut them down as they started to rise.*
The group—SUMMERS and CAMIN and the men along the road—
*The account of this exploit was given by SUMMERS and CAMIN and supported by the other eye-witnesses. SUMMERS got the DSC and his commission for what he did. He was asked by the HO: Why did you do it?" He is an extremely conservative and intelligent type of soldier. He answered: "I have no idea why. I know now that it was a crazy thing to do and I wouldn't do it again in the same circumstances. But once started, I felt that I had to finish. The other men were hanging back. They didn't seem to want to fight."
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then moved on against the large building at the end of the line. This was the barracks proper, a double-storied stone structure with thick walls. There was a large hedgerow, with a thick dirt embankment, between them and the building, and they made it that far without any difficulty. Confronting them now was a perfectly flat and open field, about 75 yards wide. As they came up to the hedge, a German sniper opened fire on the line from somewhere off on the right. He picked off several men while the right of the line was trying to deploy through the orchard.
They went on through the hedge and tried to rush the barracks. As they did so, fire crashed in on them from the building and from the snipers on the right flank. Four men were killed. Four were wounded. That stopped what remained of the party and they recoiled to the hedgerow, leaving their unknown dead behind them.
There was a haystack next the barracks and next the haystack, a shed. BURT fired tracer into the haystack until it caught fire. The fire spread to the shed; it was an ammunition storage and the stuff began to explode. That had no effect on the barracks but Germans came pouring out of the shed. They were shot down—about 30 of them—as they tried to dash across the open space to the barracks or the field beyond.
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The volunteer with the 8l mm mortar who had been dispatched to the scene by CASSIDY never arrived, though no one ever found out why. However, CASSIDY had also sent along S SGT ROY NICKRENT and a bazooka. NICKRENT got there about the time that the shed began exploding. He moved on down the inside the hedgerow on the far side of the road until he drew almost opposite the barracks. Then he kicked holes in the embankment until he could stand on it, got in behind a tree and opened fire with the bazooka. He fired seven rounds and all of them exploded through the barracks roof; as he saw it, there was no use firing at the walls because they were much too thick. The 60 mm mortars were firing at the same time but the action was too closely joined for an effective use of this weapon and the shells were falling well beyond the building. At the seventh round, NICKRENT saw smoke curl up from the building. He figured that had done the work and he went back to the CP.
LT EVERS meanwhile had tried to get up to the men deployed along the hedgerow fire line but was hit by a bullet while running across the field. The men waiting there saw NICKRET'S last bazooka round set the upper story of the barracks afire. So did LTS COMBS and THEODORE S. RICHARDS who arrived just after EVERS was hit. The Germans ran from the building and the men at the hedgerow poured fire into them
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as they fled in the other direction.
It was timed to a nicety—they had picked the one worst moment for a retreat. The hour was 1530. The first elements of the 4th Infantry Division were just then coming into the position after their march across the Causeway. Moving westward toward the barracks along the same road was the Regimental assembly party of 502d Regiment under LT COL MICHAELIS. The remaining Germans—about 100 of them—were in the majority killed by the men who had invested the building. Others were dispatched or captured by the two larger bodies which were converging on the scene.
The point of the MICHALIS party, commanded by CAPT J. J. HATCH, bumped into this action when HATCH, marching along the road, saw 15 or 20 Germans huddled together in a field west of the barracks. He sent back for a machine gun. The Germans ran. The first scout, PVT STANLEY GRUBER, fired at them with an M-1. Their return fire hit GRUBER through both legs. The Germans kept running. The other men loaded GRUBER in a shelter-half and carried him to CASSIDY'S CP. They picked up about 30 prisoners along the way.
SUMMERS and his group sat down in the last house and took a smoke.
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THE FOUCARVILLE ENTRY
The odd part of it was that all of these movements around the coastal battery had proceeded at an almost leisurely pace when compared with some of the actions elsewhere in the Battalion sector. For example, FOUCARVILIE—there was the village on which 502d Regiment's prospect of establishing a firm front facing to the north was expected to pivot. CAPT FITZGERALD and LT HAROLD HOGGARD of Company B could collect only nine men after the jump. That was enough; they started immediately for the village, and at about 0200, they entered it from the western side, thus probably becoming the first American unit to close with the enemy in the invasion of Europe. In the darkness, they blundered into the German CP. FITZGERALD, who was leading, turned into a courtyard. The German sentry plugged him and he went down. As he fell, he shot the German sentry dead with a sub-machine gun. Then he yelled to the other men: "Don't come up!"
HOGGARD sent a man forward to look FITZGERALD over. He made it by hugging the wall. FITZGERALD said to him: "Tell HOGGARD not to bother with me. I'm dying." HOGGARD decided to let him lie there. He then pulled his group back 700 yards and waited until daylight. By that time he counted 25 men, and he felt that he was strong enough to have another go at the village. The scouts, PFC WILLIAM
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the hill position and he was able to move about freely among the houses without attracting attention. The meat wagon which had been pressed into service by CASSIDY came up for FITZGERALD shortly after and followed HOGGARD into FOUCARVILLE. But he remained on the ground where he had fallen for more than an hour longer while two units of plasma were given. HOGGARD sent word back to SUTLIFFE by PVT PETE EGIC that he needed more men up front so that he could resume the action.
THE FOUCARVILLE ROADBLOCKS
LT W. A. SWANSON, who had jumped just north of ST MARTIN DE VAI]REVILLE, found four men almost at once and collected another 36 before sending word to CASSIDY that he stood ready. It was after daylight when acting on CASSIDY'S order, he formed his men in a skirmish line and pushed right on through FOUCARVILLE. He knew nothing about the HOGGARD party. He saw only Germans in front of him, and observing that nothing had been done about roadblocks, he concluded that no Americans had yet visited the village. While passing a field, his men saw some Germans trying to open a chute equipment bundle. Other Germans were moving about quite freely north of FOUCARVILLE. About 1030, SWANSON ran into HOGGARD'S party. On hearing of HOGGARD'S movements, SWANSON gave him hell for not having established roadblocks. He then took two men and they went forward to
EMERSON and PVT ORVILLE J. HAMILTON, pushed right in among the houses without drawing fire. When they got to FITZGERALD, he said to EMERSON: "Leave me alone and keep going." They went on to the next intersection where two more paratroopers joined them. This latter pair had left the main body which meanwhile was moving around the outskirts to the north end of the village. Enemy fire caught both groups about the same time. Grenades from the houses began to fall around the four men in the center of the village and machine gun fire from the hill north of FOUCARVILLE raked the intersection. HAMILTON got hit through the back and SGT OLIN L. HOWARD through the wrist. Working under fire, the other two men gave them first aid on the spot, then helped them back to where FITZGERALD was lying. The main body, having picked up two prisoners, ran into machine gun fire from front and both flanks. The prisoners told them there were about 150 Germans manning the hill position now confronting them. HOGGARD then withdrew, picking up his wounded as he went through the village, except for FITZGERALD, who was too badly wounded to be moved. At about 0600 the group fell back to the Battalion forward CP which MAJ THOMAS A. SUTLIFFE had set up slightly to the west of FOUCARVILLE. There was a first-aid man present. So HOGGARD went back into the village with four men to bring out FITZGERALD. On that trip he learned that the enemy garrison had wholly withdrawn to
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make a reconnaissance of the ground where Blocks 1, 2 and 3 were supposed to be. His other men were deployed to hunt snipers in the village area. By 1100 the reconnaissance was complete. SWANSON returned to HOGGARD and told him to set up Blocks 1 and 2. SGT CECIL
THELAN was sent with a second party to install Block 3. These forces took off at 1230, moving in skirmish line to their assigned areas. By l400, the last of the three blocks—No 1—was complete with three riflemen and a rifle grenadier covering the road, though subsequently a machine gun came up to them. This block was the toughest one of all to place and to maintain. By noon the pressure from our forces arriving at the Beach was such that enemy troops were flooding back inland. The men at Block No 1 were continuously engaged in a rifle action with Germans coming at them from the eastward, and at the same time, a sniper in the church tower in FOUCARVILLE peppered away at them. The No 2 Block, which directly confronted the German strong point north of the village, was sustained by a thin rifle line, a bazooka man and a grenadier. The men took cover in the ditches on both sides of the road, found some German wire and wired their position in. Just beyond them was a broad belt of barb wire enclosing the German position on the hill. Within this enclosure, on the slope facing them, was a crescent of stoutly-constructed dugouts and pillboxes, and beyond these fire positions, a motor park,
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surrounded by trees. There were well-screened machine gun nests in the upper branches of some of these trees, and from platforms, a steady fire was poured against Block No 2.
THE NO. 2 BLOCK
This fire droned on throughout the early hours of the afternoon. Around 1500 the Germans from the hill tried to out-flank the line, moving down the hedgerow to the left of it. At first the only warning was a gradual crescendo of fire coming down the road. Then THELAN'S men could hear shouting and finally they saw the Germans as they passed the thinned places in the hedgerow. There were two machine guns at the American position but the gunners could not find room to tripod the guns close enough in to the hedgerow embankment so that they could stay under cover. So they laid the guns on top of the more solid parts of the bank and used this base for their fire. There were also about twelve riflemen with THELAN. When the tumult opened on the left riflemen and machine gunners turned their fire in that direction. In a few minutes the men heard more yelling as the Germans wilted under the fire and ran back up the hill. There had been a heavy covering fire coming from the Germans in the strong point but the Americans had fair concealment behind the hedge and a thick tree line; they could defend both front and
flank without exposing themselves. However, a German anti-tank gun firing from somewhere in front of the position was ranging in uncomfortably close. On his own initiative, PVT JOHN T. LYELL left the others and crawled up toward the gun. He located it. There were two dugouts next the gun, and LYELL, lying on his belly within a few yards of it, called for the Germans to come out and surrender. Three emerged. A fourth came behind them and threw a grenade as he left the dugout entrance. LYELL threw a grenade as he saw the German's arm go up, standing up to do so. The Germans were killed by LYELL'S grenade and by rifle fire from behind him. A grenade fragment hit LYELL in the right shoulder and he went down. PVT RICHARD P. PENNY and JAMES GOODYEAR tried to get up to him. GOODYEAR at last made it, with FEENEY and S SGT THOMAS WRIGHT covering him. GOODYEAR gave LYELL a shot of morphine but couldn't bring him out because of the intensity of the machine gun fire. However, GOODYEAR dragged him into a communication trench and LYELL died there two hours later from loss of blood.
The sniper in the church tower continued to be the chief annoyance of the men on Block No 1. There were other snipers in the houses, but having placed his men on the blocks, SWANSON didn't have enough strength left to search them out. Three Germans tried to sneak from the church in
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mid-afternoon; an 82d Division man who had hidden himself in a nearby hedgerow shot them with a tommy gun.
THE NO. 1 BLOCK
The whole day's action wore on in this rather monotonous way. The Germans never attacked in real strength from the hill position, though had they done so, they would probably have caused a withdrawal of the roadblock crews.* The Americans hung on, faced by a superior force on their immediate front and harassed by snipers from many points. Wherever there were buildings to provide cover, SWANSON put his lookouts in the upper stories. He distributed the covering forces through German dugouts and old fire positions where they were convenient to his purpose. Late in the evening SGT WILLIS ZWIBEL, SGT CHARLES ASSAY and PVT LEROY NICOLAI went after the sniper in the tower. They saw one German duck out of the church as they came to it and they shot him as he tried to jump through a hedgerow. Then they rushed the church. They heard the sniper fire from the belfry above them, and they got under the belfry and shot up through the planking. They could hear the bullets ring the bell. When they put enough fire through the planks that they figured the man must be dead, they left the church.
Somewhere around 1630, SWANSON went on beyond Block No 3
*This was the opinion expressed by LT SWANSON.
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to another road intersection in a small hamlet and set up a fourth roadblock, the strongest of all, with two machine guns, two bazookas and 15 pounds of explosives. It proved to be one of his happiest moves of the day.
There, and at the blocks around FOUCARVILLE, events were moving toward a climax because of the way things were shaping elsewhere in the Battalion.
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THE THREE-PATROL ACTION
COL CASSIDY had sent LT NICHELS to FOUCARVILLE to see how SWANSON was faring, and after getting there, NICHELS sent back word that Company A was engaging several hundred Germans who were in a defensive position north of the village. CASSIDY figured that Company A would probably be able to look after itself.
BV the time COL MICHAELIS and his 200 men came in from the eastward, CASSIDY had already ordered his men into a field next the CP and was sorting them out, putting different units into different corners. He asked MICHAELIS to use his influence as regimental commander to get the wounded to the Beach and aboard the LSTs, and promised him that if this was done, he would take care of the rest. Company C was ordered to move on BEUZEVILLE AU PLAIN and set up Blocks No 5, 6, 7 and 8, which work would round out the line of barricades covering the northeast portion of the beachhead. The wounded were started to the Beach about 1730 in some captured trucks. CASSIDY then asked for permission to take the whole Battalion up to FOUCARVILLE and MICHAELIS told him to Get going. The Battalion moved at 1800.
Company, C had gone on, striking for BEUZEVILLE AU PLAIN along a dry stream bed, after leaving the main road at
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ST GERMAIN DE VARREVILLE. In advance of the Company about 250 yards traveled a point of 23 men under LT MORTON J. SMIT. As the point approached the village of HAUT FORNEL, CAPT FRED A. HANCOCK sent word up to SMIT that he was to push on to BEUZEVILLE and set up roadblocks on both sides of it. SMIT saw a village in front of him—HAUT FORNEL—and thought this was his target. The group worked on into the village without drawing fire. The scouts moved 150 yards out in front of them until they came to the first road junction beyond the village. SMIT started after them—then decided that the village had better be reconnoitered.* He was passing a large barracks-like building and he ducked inside. The place was strewn with German equipment. SMIT started collecting the stuff in a large bag which was at hand. Then he heard a shot from the direction which his scouts had taken, followed by sounds of running feet outside. PVT HAROLD F. BOONE, who was covering him at the door, shouted back that he could hear men yelling in German. They saw a truck pull up and a squad of German soldiers unload. Both men ran for the hallway and forward to the front entrance. Another truck stopped in the street and Germans jumped off. SMIT noted that they looked "scared and excited'' and were reluctant to move. He unloaded a
*Note by HO: Though this is the way that SMIT, BOONE and other witnesses tell it, they said unofficially that they were hunting souvenirs.
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tommy gun into them at range 75 yards. About 10 of them fell. They screamed, and some of the unwounded jumped for refuge in the body of the truck. SMIT fired at the wheels and saw the tire go flat. All of this time SMIT was covering him to the rear where the hallway emptied into a large courtyard. Some bullet fire hit around the doorway but it was quite wild. The men didn't worry over their situation until the Germans lobbed grenades into the courtyard. Then they pulled back through the hall. They could hear a great deal of firing outside and they guessed that the other men were engaging the Germans around the fringes of the village. After about 30 minutes the sounds of engagement ceased. Then more grenades fell and SMIT sent BOONE to the courtyard to look for a way out. BOONE returned and said: "There isn't any exit." They jumped together for the courtyard wall, and as they did so, they heard men running, as if the Germans were coming around to head them off. Twenty yards beyond the wall was a hedgerow with a muddy hog wallow beside it. They dived into the slime and covered themselves with it so that only their lips and noses were sticking out. The Germans hunted all around the wallow, but somehow missed them. They stayed there about one hour, not saying a word as the hunt went on, communicating with one another by gestures or a finger in the ribs.
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At last they heard voices—distant at first—distinguishable finally as American voices. They were SMIT'S own men. They had drawn back from the village, reformed and then come forward again. SMIT raised up and called. PFC JOHN LEVISKI came running and almost bayoneted SMIT before recognizing him. SMIT yelled: "LEVISKI, what kept you?" and the blade was halted in time. Behind LEVISKI was SGT CHARLES H. TINSLEY. SMIT told TINSLEY to go forward on the outside of the hedgrow and he (SMIT) would go on the inside. Then they heard more firing from within the hamlet, and they had no way of knowing that this came of another group from Company C having penetrated the village. SMIT got out of the wallow and ran for the barracks again, LEVISKI and BOONE going with him. He had counted on TINSLEY coming up the other side of the hedgerow so that together they could cover it as they advanced; but TINSLEY had misunderstood him and had gone in another direction. Next, a squad of Germans, recoiling from the American attack on the other end of the village, came right back down the road, with some of their men deployed on the other side of the hedgerow. SMIT and the others had no choice but to dive back into the hog wallow. They heard mortar fire break around them for a considerable time and they heard German voices as the enemy searched up and down the rows. It began to grow dark and SMIT led his men out of the mud and into a wooded area. They dropped in their
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tracks and fell asleep.*
From this position to the east of HAUT FORNEL, CAPT HANCOCK could get very little impression of how the point had happened upon this misadventure or what had come of it. He heard the firing, and he figured that SMIT had encountered an enemy force of considerable size. What he would have done about it had there been no further developments remains a question. For just as the firing got well started, he saw a German battery—two 88s on halftracks—come down the road through the village and halt just in front of hum; the capture of the guns became the over-riding consideration.
He split his force two ways. LT BERNARD BUCIER with 17 men was to make a wide sweep to the left while LT JACK BORCHERD with another 17 was to come in from the right of HAUT FORNEL on a somewhat shorter axis. HANCOCK'S few remaining men took up a defensive position along the
*At 0600 the three men awakened and found that they had bivouacked within 15 feet of two German squad tents—now empty. They started out in what they thought was the direction of the Company—toward the southwest—but got turned around and made for BANDIENVILLE, another German strong point. They discovered their mistake when they ran into loose fire from a German nest with two machine guns. They crawled along the hedgerows until they could see the gun crews from the flank. They shot these men, then crawled on along the ditches until they heard the sounds of a large force approaching. They stopped in a corner and got ready to make a stand. A man popped through the hedge and they were overjoyed to see he was an American. They had been moving across the front of the 12th Infantry.
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hedgerows and the two platoons started. They expected very little resistance.
Moving forward along the hedgerows, BORCHERD'S group got within grenade-launching distance (75 yards) of the Germans without receiving fire. They could see the enemy moving around a halftrack and an ammunition truck standing in the street. (These are the same vehicles which SMIT identified as trucks.) BORCHERD had already split his group by this tine; the other half of the platoon, under SGT HAROLD HEADLEY, was making a wider sweep around to the right to come in at the far end of the village. While HEADLEY'S men were still in this movement, the group with BORCHERD bellied up to a hedgerow embankment and opened fire on the Germans with rifles, rifle grenades and machine guns. One truck caught fire immediately. Another truck came along with an artillery piece in tow. BORCHERD'S fire stopped it but the truck didn't burn. A few Germans fell under the fire; the others ran for cover. BORCHERD'S group scrambled over the hedgerow and ran on to search the houses; they drew scattered machine pistol fire as they ran. The men with BORCHERD went unscathed, but out of HEADLEY'S group, which was now dashing in at the other end of the village, SGT CURTIS DEWITT was shot in the back. A couple of his comrades picked him up and the group came on. They prodded three prisoners from behind the hedges; one man
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covered them. As they neared BORCHERD, someone yelled a command in German and the three men broke and ran. They were mowed down before they could take three jumps. At that moment BORCHERD saw a platoon of the enemy coming down the road from BEUZEVILLE AU PLAIN. There were only four men right around him and his machine gun was too far back to do any good. He yelled: "Get the hell out!" Enemy fire was building up along the row of houses. As BORCHERD'S men ran back, HEADLEY'S men, who had been searching out the houses and yards at the farther end of the village, came running out into the open again, and this movement put them in behind the German platoon which was now fully inside the village. They didn't see the Germans at first as they had gone under cover; nor did they draw fire. PVT WILLIAM KELLY jumped up into the truck and waved in the hope that BORCHERD would see them; the men didn't know that BORCHERD had come and gone. Still ignorant of the presence of the superior enemy force, the men began searching the houses. KELLEY jumped from the truck and ran to the house opposite the 88 gun and truck. (The second 88 had vanished, though no one knew in what direction.) He fired two bazooka rounds at the gun and saw that he had disabled it. Then he ran over to the truck. It was loaded with German equipment and some American equipment. KELLEY started looking for souvenirs. Someone yelled: "Don't touch it! It may be trapped." He gave up the
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search. Then he saw two Germans come out of a house and he shot them dead with a tommy gun. At that, fire broke out from the houses all around. Two of the patrol (names not known) were shot dead. Another was wounded. PVT GARLAND HATCHER, however, figured the patrol could still swing it. He stood in the street yelling: "Come out you god-damned krauts! Get the hell out of those houses!" The other men were clearing out, and they left HATCHER behind, still yelling. Then HEADLEY and KELLEY turned back, figuring that he might need help. They lost sight of HATCHER, however, just as they saw another American drop from a bullet wound in the foot as he was running through a garden on his way out. Machine pistol fire from a two-story building opposite began clipping the hedgerow where they were standing. KELLEY, who had started out into the street, ducked back for a moment. He had one bazooka round left. BRADLEY yelled: "Give it to them!" KELLEY stepped into the open again and shot the rocket into the building, setting it afire. Then he threw the bazooka away, jumped for the hedge and got wedged tight. HEADLEY pulled him through. They were in a vegetable garden, and there were Germans in the fields on all sides of them So they sat there, back-to-back among the cabbages, one holding a carbine, the other an M-1, for perhaps an hour or more.*
*This entry is not meant to be humorous. It was HEADLEY'S testimony given at the critique.
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HEADLEY watched a cabbage leaf shaking back and forth and wondered what was wrong with it until he discovered that it was next his knee. Neither man said a word. The rest of the patrol had gotten back to CAPT HANCOCK. He put 60 mm and 81 mm mortar fire on the village. It fell in the fields all around the two men—about 50 rounds of it. They crawled out at dusk. The village was by then well ablaze and they figured they could get away while the Germans were fighting the fires.
Back toward FOUCARVILLE there had been one startling sequel to HANCOCK'S unprogrammed attack on HAUT FORNEL. He had in fact chanced upon the village while an artillery column was passing through it, probably enroute to the support of the FOUCARVILLE strong point. BORCHERD'S group had intercepted only the tail end of the column. The head of the column sped on, toward Block No 4. The covering detail at the Block saw the German coonvoy come on. They got out the demolition and lit the fuse as a quarter-ton truck, leading the convoy, drew near the block. The explosion lifted and wrecked the lead car. There were trucks behind, all loaded with artillerymen. The bazookas fired four rounds into them before they could pile out and the machine guns blazed away at the broad target. The remaining Germans scrambled for safety as best they could, some taking to the ditches and others
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running back over the same route they had come. Some of these men rebounded to HAUT FORNEL, thereby adding to the confusion of the fighting there. Others remained in the forward ditches, engaging the men at Block No 4. The latter became hardpressed and SWANSON sent LT DELMER IDOL and five men out to their assistance about 1730; the arrival of this fresh "'strength" steadied the situation.
ACTION ON THE LEFT FLANK
LT BUCIER'S patrol, which had attacked simultaneously with BORCHERD'S men, moved down a lane leading leftward from the company position. They came to a large farmhouse to the south of HAUT FORMAL and BUCIER left one machine gun there and a few men, to cover the rear. Two Germans were killed during the approach to the farmhouse and he thought there might be others in the vicinity. The rest of the platoon moved on along a sunken road toward the village. As they walked along, they could see an 88 mm gun in the road which ran at right angles to the lane which they were traveling. There were 15 or 20 Germans standing around it: their own party numbered seven. Fire picked up as they came closer, and they figured that the Germans had put out local security in their direction. They went on, moving along the ditches and keeping close to the hedges. BORCHERD'S men were then coming into the village from the north and there was a strong build-up
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of fire in that direction. BUCIER'S patrol got as far as the road junction—one field distant from the edge of the settlement. From there BUCIER sent PFC WILLIAM HAAS across the road to "feel things out." There were Germans up the road and HAAS was told to fire that way and see what happened. He did, and he was straight-away creased in the head with a bullet. There was no way for BUCIER'S men to put rifle fire on the Germans without wholly exposing themselves. They tried rifle grenades and hand grenades; one wouldn't reach and the range was too short for the other. One attempt was made to cross the field; it brought on such a hail of bullets that BUCIER ordered his men back. The party then moved rearward and to the left, intending to try a wider circle. On that passage, they came out of an orchard and started toward a stone wall. A bullet from a marksman behind the wall ripped through BUCIER'S shoulder. The men threw grenades over the wall until the fire stopped; that provided an opening in which to evacuate BUCIER, and with PFC DONALD L. MATTHEWS and PVT PHILIP SANGENARIO helping him along, they went back to the farmhouse. The patrol rested and took a smoke. SANGENARIO dressed the wound. BUCIER said: "Come on! We can't sweat it out here.'' So they tried the lane again.
As they moved along, they heard Germans coming down the
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hedge on their left. Then they saw them—five in the party—and they shot three at the first volley. The other two dropped from sight but kept firing from cover. The men noticed that BUCIER was bleeding pretty badly and they tried to persuade him to go back for first-aid. He said: "Hell no!" and that he would keep going. MATTHEWS took the lead, carrying a light machine gun without tripod. Behind him came an 82d Division man with a Schmeisser. There were two riflemen. They went on another 50 yards and saw a German lying on an embankment off to the right. PVT WARREN HICKS shot him. After they had gone another 30 yards, BOUCIER told SANGENARIO to crawl out and get the M-34 from the German to build up their own fire power. SANGENARIO drew heavy fire from the orchard when he moved out, but he brought back the gun. It jammed immediately. SANGENARIO said: ''To hell with it!" and tossed it away. The party moved on. They saw some movement along the hedge on the right. The man with the Schmeisser poured about 30 rounds into the hedge and the movement ceased. Right after that, they reached the road junction for the second time. This time, there was no firing right around them, but they could hear the sounds of action in the village and they could see a house burning. The man with the Schmeisser yelled: "Look out!" He was on the right flank, and he had just spotted 20 Germans coming across the field toward them. MATTHEWS could see them through the gate. He
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and the man with the Schmeisser stood in plain sight in the roadway and poured fire into them. As it became necessary to change belts in the machine gun, MATTHEWS and HICKS changed places. About 16 of the enemy were cut down and did not move from where they fell. The two riflemen kept firing off to the left, through the orchard: they were getting some fire from the flank. Ten minutes passed. A mortar shell landed square in the middle of the road. It got HICKS in the leg and wounded one other man. Then two more rounds came quickly. BUCIER was hit in five or six places, and MATTHEWS and two others got it. Only two of the men were now unhurt. BUCIER said: "I guess we better drag our ass down the road." HICKS said: "I can't move my leg.'' PVT BERNARD ORMSBEE said: "You better damn well move it or you will never move it again." He pulled HICKS to his feet and shoved him on. BUCIER started walking. He made it only a short distance, then he began to reel and the others grabbed him and helped him along. They fell back to the farmhouse and went haltingly to the company.
When COL CASSIDY got the rest of his Battalion up to the forward CP west of FOUCARVILLE, he learned from MAJ SUTLIFFE that Company C was in difficulty around HAUT FORNEL and that Company A was catching hell around FOUCARVILLE. Wires were run out to both companies and machine guns were
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set up to cover the CP right and rear. CASSIDY told LT RANCE COTTON to set up his one 8l mm mortar along a little stream to the rear of the CP. Company A called for mortar fire but COTTON couldn't get a wire in close enough to the Company position to operate, and all of his fire through the evening was in support of Company C.
CASSIDY then moved leftward to contact Company C, and en route he met LT BUCIER and several other wounded. BUCIER was bleeding from many wounds and the others were staggering along as they tried to support his weight. They said the heat was still on and Company C was still engaged. These occurrences gave CASSIDY a somewhat exaggerated idea of the dangers confronting his companies then in line.*
In fact, however, Company C was now virtually disengaged. HANCOCK had pulled away from HAUT FORMEL and was holding a limited front facing northwest. LT COTTON had his one 81 mm mortar on elevated ground behind HANCOCK'S position and had witnessed the withdrawal of the patrols. He first fired several rounds directly into the village and then observing from a hedgerow in front of the mortar, he played the fire around as the retrograde movement of HANCOCK'S men began to uncover the positions of the German machine
*These were CASSIDY'S words to the HO. It is of interest that unti1 late August, 1944, when these notes were reduced to writing, nothing was heard of BUCIER. He disappeared somewhere between CASSIDY and the Beach.
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guns. He had almost finished firing, being short of ammunition, when snipers infiltrated on his right and put the mortar under fire. Thereupon, he sent two of his six men out to cover him with rifles, and he completed the firing. Most of the men of the patrols had by this time come back to HANCOCK and had carried the wounded to within the shelter of the Company CP building.
The enemy made his last sally in this direction. COTTON had been watching the machine gun fire around HAUT FORNEL and having a mild interest in how the Germans were employing their guns, he moved to a hedgerow beyond HANCOCK'S position to observe them. He was thus occupied when he saw about 25 Germans swing around the corner of the hedgerow, moving straight toward the CP which was apparently unalerted.
COTTON had two grenades. He was beyond throwing distance, but he ran toward the Germans, yelling at the top of his voice and heaving the grenades as he ran. The enemy broke and scattered like quail. Some jumped back into the field behind COTTON and he heard them coming back along the hedgerow. He shot four of them through the hedge; the others bolted across the field. Then HANCOCK came out and found COTTON laughing as if at a great jest. They moved together toward the upper end of the field, COTTON leading by about 30 yards. There was a small declivity there. COTTON saw
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four helmets lift up and a white flag flutter. They came out of the hole—13 of them altogether, including two wounded from the field which had been covered by COTTON'S fire. With HANCOCK aiding, COTTON bird-dogged them back to the CP. The men wanted to shoot them but HANCOCK told them that was enough for the day.
CASSIDY, coming up late in the game, could get no estimate of the over-all effect of these varying and almost unrelated actions. He was getting a great deal of 88 mm fire around his CP and he could see principally that there was a large tactical gap between Companies A and C, the one confronting FOUCARVILLE and the other disengaging around HAUT FORNEL. The pressure against the two companies had mounted steadily throughout the afternoon; CASSIDY could gauge the rise by the casualty reports which were drifting back to him, and after he had brought the Battalion forward, he was impressed anew by the sounds of the battle. Much of the 88 gunfire had been ranging into the ground which lay between the two companies. These things impressed his imagination powerfully and he had strong forebodings that the enemy was preparing to counter-attack, coupled with a feeling that his own power was becoming exhausted. The ground midway between the two companies was a maze of hedgerows, and therefore any force moving into the gap was safe against fire from either flank. There was no support
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artillery available. The 377th Field Artillery Battalion which had parachuted into the same area as CASSIDY'S men and was supposed to support their operations had lost all but one of its guns during the jump.
The more CASSIDY reflected on these things, the greater grew his alarm. He ordered Company B, which had been covering the Battalion CP area toward the right and front to take up position facing toward the left flank. He then called COL MICHAELIS and said: "I must have help." He was promised that any troops which became available would be sent his way. CASSIDY then collected his spare men—15 in all, armed with rifles—and moved them up to the farthest hedgerow in line with the position of the two companies. MICHAELIS arrived from the Regimental CP and said he had a few people coming up. He asked for an estimate: CASSIDY said he thought the Germans were well organized and in sufficient strength to push through him.
Yet even at that moment, the situation was being delivered fully and finally into his hands. The few remaining Germans were pulling out of HAUT FORMEL. On the hill north of FOUCARVILLE, it seemed to SWANSON that his fire concentrations were having little effect on the enemy strong point. Throughout the evening he had put 60 mm mortar fire on the works in steadily increasing amounts. Shortly before dark as many machine guns as could be preempted
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from any of the other positions were sent to the line where HEADLEY'S group was fighting. They rained fire on the dugouts and nests, without apparently changing the balance in the conflict.
The guns slackened fire for a few minutes, just after 2200. Then to everyone's astonishment a white flag was waved over the German position. There emerged into the open 87 Germans and one Frenchwoman. (She had been married to a member of the garrison who was killed during the action.) As these people began to move down the hill, there was a sudden commotion behind them and much firing. More Germans were seen running in the opposite direction, and right in the center of the German position, a small group of Americans appeared out of nowhere and shot them down as they tried to get away.
This was what had happened. All day long the garrison had held prisoner 17 American paratroopers who had dropped too far north of the jump area and had been rounded up by the Germans around FOUCARVILLE. These prisoners had been telling the Germans that at 2230 the Americans had scheduled an artillery concentration which would blow the hill to bits. It was a tall story—invented by some unknown genius on the spur of the moment—but it did the work.
As the hour approached, the Germans grew more nervous.
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Finally, the greater number decided to give up. A minority chose to make a break toward the northward, but as they left the dugouts and began their run in the open, the paratroopers grabbed the arms which had been dropped by the surrender party, and started shooting. The men around HEADLEY saw at a glance what was happening and joined their fire to that of the others. About 50 of the running men were killed. The men under SWANSON then closed in on the strong point. They found the dugouts well littered with silk stockings and womens underthings.
The general position, however, had begun to firm up even before this final collapse of the enemy. On coming up to the Battalion front, MICHAELIS had assured CASSIDY that the 12th Infantry of 4th Division was somewhere on his left. CASSIDY replied that his scouts had gone that way and had found no one but enemy. MICHAELIS agreed to get Second Battalion forward to take over CASSIDY'S line. Just then a major from the 22d Infantry arrived at the CP. He said that some of his men were supposed to be in the forward ground and he waved his hand in the direction of the gap between the two companies; it was his understanding that the 12th Infantry was somewhere on CASSIDY'S left. Another battalion of the 22d Regiment was supposed to be coming forward on the right of Company A. About the time that the major pulled out, CASSIDY got a regimental order to
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withdraw slightly and reorganize so that Second Battalion could come through his lines.
By 2300 the front was completely quiet. The Battalion sat there all night and at 0500 on 7 June, Second Battalion took over.*
An examination of the record and accomplishment of CASSIDY'S Battalion, weighed critically against all others in the American Army, warrants the estimate that on D Day, in point of fighting effectiveness and tactical scope, this was probably the outstanding Battalion of the Normandy operation. Yet CASSIDY personally felt that his show had gone off none too well and he was chagrined that the day's score had not been better.**
*The 22d Infantry Regiment suffered reverse and near disaster in fighting northward from this area during the subsequent days. Their commanding officer told the HO some months later (in Paris, August 27, 1944) that one reason for the Regiment's undoing was that the airborne had so softened up the ground around FOUCARVILLE, where 22d had expected a hard fight, that the regiment had a pushover its first day in balance, falsely concluded that the entire campaign would be of the same nature, and was thus thrown off balance.
**A view which he repeatedly expressed to the HO. He was almost apologetic at times while the actions were being reconstructed. He was given the DSC for D Day and was certain that he had not won it. His fellow officers chafed him a great deal about it for they, too, were unable to weigh the operation in perspective.
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