Clearing the Cap Levy and Cap de la Hague Areas

In the Corps drive northward to envelop Cherbourg two well-fortified areas had been bypassed and contained so that the main objective, the city, could be isolated and captured without delay. On the northwest flank of the 9th Division, the 4th Cavalry Squadron and the 60th Infantry were blocking off an unknown number of enemy troops in the Cap de la Hague Peninsula. In this area the enemy's main line of defense ran roughly across the base of the peninsula from Gruchy to Vauville, and it was to this line that the Germans had retired as the fall of Cherbourg became imminent (Maps XII and 27).

On the opposite flank of the Corps was a fortified line running north from Gonneville, embracing the airport at Maupertus and continuing on to Cap Levy (Map XIV) . This line contained large-caliber casemated coastal batteries in the north, heavy concentrations of flak guns around Maupertus, and the usual semi-permanent field defenses. A considerable number of enemy troops still held out in this area, and, after the 22d Infantry had driven north to Hill 158 and cut the main highway to Cherbourg, they continued to harass the American advance. The Germans had been particularly active west of Gonneville, where, by cutting the 22d Infantry's supply route, they had forced the regiment to provide armored escort for its trains and to conduct daily mop-up operations. For roughly four days, 21 to 25 June, the activities of the 22d Infantry had been confined to maintaining a link with the rest of the 4th Division to the south, mopping up along the main supply route, and containing the enemy in the Maupertus area. In providing this flank protection for the division, the 22d Infantry had covered the 12th Infantry's drive on Tourlaville and the coast. Both the 2d and 3d Battalions accompanied the 12th Infantry to the coast on 25 June and that evening the 22d Infantry finally became free to turn its full effort against the enemy holding out to the east. General Barton gave Colonel Foster instructions to clean up the area east to St. Pierre- Eglise and north to Cap Levy.

This action on the eastern flank of the Corps took place concurrently with the clearing of the last resistance in Cherbourg. The 22d Infantry opened the attack on the Maupertus airport at 1100 on 26 June with three battalions abreast and a troop of cavalry protecting each flank. Heavy fire from enemy antiaircraft guns held up all three battalions for several hours, but, with the aid of supporting fires from the 44th Field Artillery Battalion, the 1st Battalion took a series of positions south of the airport and captured Gonneville; the 2d Battalion occupied the western edge of the field; the 3d Battalion captured Maupertus and the defenses along the northern side of the field. The enemy, however, continued to offer determined resistance and not until the following day was the airport finally taken.

After clearing the airport positions, the 1st and 3d Battalions pivoted northward against


other fortifications. Despite strong resistance, all the gun positions were overrun and late in the day the last strong point was silenced by howitzers of the 44th Field Artillery Battalion. When the commander of the position, Major Kauppers, surrendered the 990 troops under his control before midnight on 27 June, all resistance in the northeast of the peninsula was ended.

Clearing the Cap de la Hague area turned out to be a longer and more difficult task and entailed some heavy fighting by the 9th Division. With the fall of Cherbourg, the 79th Division moved south to join the VII Corps, and the 4th Division began to take over the policing of the city, gradually relieving the 9th Division, which turned its attention to the operation of the cape. It was estimated that 3,000 enemy troops still held out in this area. Before the fall of Cherbourg they had held a line running roughly from Vauville through Ste. Croix-Hague to Henneville. On the afternoon of 26 June, apparently learning of Cherbourg's imminent surrender, the enemy began to fall back to the line Vauville-Branville-Querqueville (Map No. 27). The 60th Infantry, which had been containing the enemy, now moved northwest to maintain the enemy, and occupied Ste. Croix-Hague by the next morning. Later in the day patrols captured a battery of four 105-mm. guns and another of three 88-mm. guns, together with 300 prisoners, at a crossroads southeast of Tonneville. It was not thought that the enemy would attempt to hold the Vauville-Querqueville line, which was long and discontinuous. His

Map, Clearing Cap de la Hague Peninsula
MAP NO. 27


strongest positions were believed to be along the Vauville-Gruchy line, which was shorter and well fortified.

The 9th Division used 27-28 June to regroup for the last peninsula operation. Reconnaissance along the northern coast began immediately. The 47th Infantry was ordered to assemble in the Henneville area on 27 June, preparatory to an attack on 29 June. Combat patrols of the 2d Battalion pushed as far as Querqueville on 27 June and captured three hundred prisoners around Henneville and the Querqueville airport. The regiment did not go into the assembly area until 28 June, when it was relieved in Cherbourg by the 8th Infantry. The 39th Infantry assembled west of Octeville on the evening of 27 June.

Meanwhile, enemy field batteries and long-range coastal guns in the northwest continued to shell the division's installations, and the 9th Division attempted to knock them out with combined counterbattery fire from its organic and attached Corps artillery and by air attacks.

On 27 June P-47's bombed Querqueville, Gruchy, Nacqueville, and Jobourg with undetermined results, and on 28 June fighter-bombers dive-bombed the heavy batteries at Laye and Goury on the northwest tip of the peninsula and also strong points at la Rue de Beaumont and Beaumont- Hague, inflicting some damage. But still the heavy fire continued from the peninsula.

The division field order for 29 June called for an attack up the peninsula by the 4th Cavalry Squadron and the 60th and 47th Infantry Regiments moving abreast. The cavalry was to take a narrow sector along the west coast, the 60th Infantry was to move astride the main highway, and the 47th Infantry was assigned successive objectives along the north coast-the ridges lying between the several streams which cut down to the sea. Colonel Smythe of the 47th Infantry planned to leap-frog his three battalions to successive objectives. When patrols found the area east of Nacqueville free on 28 June, he initiated his plan this same day. The 1st Battalion occupied Querqueville at approximately 2100. Occupation of Nacqueville by the 2d Battalion was delayed by darkness and the knowledge that the area was mined.

An artillery concentration by the 60th Infantry and 957th Field Artillery (155-mm. howitzers) and a dive-bombing of Beaumont-Hague by P- 47's preceded the next morning's attack of the 60th Infantry, whose first objective was the fortified Branville area. The 1st and 3d Battalions, left and right respectively, went through the area unopposed in an hour, but then they ran into the main enemy line of resistance and drew fire from positions in Beaumont-Hague and west of Fleury. The 1st Battalion was stopped at Road Junction 167, where the main road into the peninsula meets the north-south highway.

The enemy apparently was prepared to fight one of the main delaying actions at this junction. A tank ditch extending far to both sides of the point tied in with a natural stream obstacle and the Greville defensive position to the north. The junction was covered by antitank guns and emplacements on the forward slopes of the Lande de Beaumont hills to the southwest. Unlike the hedgerow region, this terrain, particularly the commanding ground to the west, was barren and desolate, with almost unobstructed fields of fire, and the Germans had placed many machine guns on the slopes. Small-caliber guns in pillboxes or protected by concrete hutments covered the highway approach.

The efforts of the 1st Battalion to break through beyond the road junction were initially unsuccessful. On the right, however, the 3d Battalion with tank destroyer and tank support made a wide sweep to the north and, after the 60th Field Artillery Battalion had fired a concentration on enemy tanks reportedly preparing a counterattack, worked


through the defense line west of Fleury and drove to the junction of the Greville road with the Cherbourg highway, the second objective. Despite three air attacks, Beaumont-Hague remained the source of much of the enemy fire on both battalions.

The 47th Infantry, meanwhile, cleared some of the coastal strong points. Occupation of Querqueville was completed by the 1st Battalion as the 2d Battalion passed on to Nacqueville, with the 3d Battalion following. When the 2d peeled off to mop up toward the coast before noon, the 3d moved toward the ridge west of Nicolle, where little was known of the enemy's strength or location. The objective-a road along the ridge 1,000 yards west of the town-was occupied by mid-afternoon without opposition.

Until this time the original plan had been followed. Each battalion had, in turn, peeled off to its objectives, and finally the 1st Battalion had fallen in behind the 3d so that these two battalions could attack the Greville-Gruchy line together. But two unexpected difficulties forced a postponement of the attack. It was first delayed when the poor road network along the coast retarded both the 1st and the 2d Battalions. Later another delay was necessitated when the 3d Battalion found its next objective-the last before the main line-stubbornly defended, and still had not completely cleared it at 2200 that night.

This objective was a fortified position on high ground across a stream and northwest of the Nicolle ridge taken in the afternoon. Regiment had decided not to attack Greville until this position was cleared, but the original plan had been based on the assumption that the position would not be strongly held.

Initially, Companies L and K, leading the 3d Battalion advance, found forward trenches and fire positions undefended as forty Germans surrendered. When the companies moved on to the Greville-Urville road, however, they came under heavy enemy shell fire.

After a heavy preparation by a light and a medium artillery battalion, the companies assaulted the next fortified position, which was visible from their line of departure. After 2 hours' fighting, 20 Germans gave up and 3 guns were captured. This did not end all resistance. Yet it still seemed possible that Greville might be occupied after twenty-two prisoners, netted by a public address appeal, reported they were the only Germans in the town. If true, the 2d Battalion could move across the rear and to the left of the 3d, and enter the town. Patrols, however, reported activity in Greville and, as the 3d Battalion still had not fully cleared the enemy position, the attack on Greville was postponed.

There was still no positive indication of the enemy strength facing the 9th Division. It was known that the German forces, containing elements of the 919th and 922d Regiments as well as miscellaneous flak and artillery troops, were organized in two battle groups under Lieutenant Colonels Keil and Mueller. Despite the counterbattery fire and the dive- bombing of the past few days, enemy artillery, estimated to consist of 3 light and 2 medium batteries and 4 heavy caliber guns, 2 of which were certainly railway guns, was still active. There were some signs, however, that morale was low.

The mainstays in the German line, which was to be assaulted on 30 June, were Beaumont-Hague, Greville, and Gruchy. Civilians reported that Greville was the strongest point in the peninsula. The entire ridge from Greville north was strongly fortified with concrete shelters built into the slopes, as well as turreted machine guns, mortars, and antitank guns. The forward approaches were defended by firing trenches and antitank ditches. Entrenchments of the secondary line were located several hundred yards back.

The 4th Cavalry Squadron jumped off at 0700 on 30 June. Moving out in a column of troops, it kept generally abreast of the 60th


Infantry all day, continuing through successive objectives with the support of artillery. By dark it had almost complete its missions, reaching a point southwest of Jobourg.

The attacks of both the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments began without the aid of scheduled bombing of Beaumont-Hague and Greville, which could not be executed because of bad weather. Artillery preparations began at 0805 after the regiments had moved to their lines of departure. The 47th's line was the stream bed approximately 1,000 yards from the enemy's main positions. During the night the 2d Battalion had moved in on the 3d's left and they were to take Greville and Gruchy respectively, each battalion committing two companies.

The artillery fire delivered on the German positions from 0805 to 0815 destroyed a number of 88-mm. guns and mortars, and the enemy abandoned his outlying trenches, which were then used by the 2d Battalion to work


forward. As Company F approached Greville, Germans were encountered in the trenches and a close-in, grenade-throwing fight developed. The town, supposedly the strongest point in the German line, was entered by 0900. The enemy had been overwhelmed by superior American fire power. The capture of Greville occurred so much more rapidly that expected that planned artillery concentrations had to be canceled.

The 3d Battalion attacked toward Gruchy but was stopped short of the village by heavy mortar fire. The 2d Battalion was asked for assistance and it adjusted mortar and artillery on the Gruchy position. Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion continued to advance to a road junction west of Greville, where it was ordered to hold until the 3d could draw abreast. It continued to get 20-mm. and mortar fire from positions to the northeast and southwest, and the 1st Battalion was committed on the left to relieve some of the pressure. Advancing slowly in the face of mortar fire, the 3d Battalion reached Gruchy by noon but was still under fire from the main German positions on the ridge to the west and south. In the early afternoon a 2-battalion concentration of artillery fire began to flush prisoners from the ridge, and both Gruchy and the main German positions were cleared by 1700, the 3d Battalion mov-


ing on to a hill 900 yards west of Gruchy. By this time the 1st and 2d Battalions, moving against diminishing resistance, were almost at Digulleville, three miles farther west.

The German line in the 60th Infantry's zone was also completely broken during the day through action of the 2d Battalion. The 1st Battalion continued to be held in the vicinity of Road Junction 167 and did not reach its line of departure. The 3d Battalion was halted after an advance of about 300 yards. But the 2d Battalion had moved up during the night to a position north of the highway junction, and it was ready for the advance. Its attack was to be led by Company E, which was to move south of the road, while the rest of the battalion was to advance directly up the road. The men had had only two hours' sleep and Company E had no officers except Captain Sprindus, commanding, and Lt. John I. Cookson, the executive officer. The attack was delayed as it became necessary to fill in an antitank ditch, and the 2d Battalion did not jump off until an hour after the other battalion.

Company E crossed the road despite machine-gun fire, slipped through a mine field south of the highway, and advanced up the hill in a dramatic charge, squads in line of skirmishers, firing as they went. It had no supporting fire except for a short time from 60-mm. mortars. Smoke laid down at 0800, the time originally set for the attack, had long since faded. Captain Sprindus removed a mine from time to time to clear a path for the men as they surged forward in their bold assault.

As the 1st and 2d Platoons moved across the first hill, the 3d Platoon went into a draw to the south, swung west, and then advanced north on the town of Beaumont-Hague along the river bed east of the Vauville road. Company F, meanwhile, was driving up the right side of the main highway, with tanks of Company C, 746th Tank Battalion, moving ahead several times to fire into hedges and at other targets. The tanks apparently demoralized the Germans and Colonel Kauffman ordered Company F to get on the road with the tanks and proceed directly into the town and aid Company E. Before noon the town was cleared and 150 Germans were taken prisoner. Continuing the push, Company F started out for Jobourg.

The enemy's organized defensive line in the peninsula had been thoroughly shattered by the attacks on the Beaumont-Hague and Greville positions. Although other fortified points lay farther west, the enemy never again offered anything more than delaying opposition, and the drive up the peninsula became, for the most part, a mop-up operation.

Shortly after noon, Colonel de Rohan asked for an air attack on the extensive flak and other installations at Lande de Jobourg, and at 1540, despite poor visibility, a squadron of P-47's bombed these installations with good effect. General Eddy urged an advance by the 60th Infantry on Jobourg as quickly as possible in order that the 39th Infantry could be shoved through to clean up the tip of the peninsula. The three battalions moved forward steadily after the bombing, marching abreast and generally astride the highway. The 2d Battalion occupied Jobourg by 1800. The 3d came up on the right and the 1st swung from left rear to occupy the flak installations to the east.

In this movement up the peninsula, the 4th Cavalry Squadron remained approximately abreast and as these units, along with those of the 47th Infantry, closed in on the final objectives, the groups of captured prisoners gradually increased in size. About 2,000 surrendered by midnight, June 3 0. Artillery fire decreased with the ebbing resistance, but the Germans continued to shell 9th Division positions sporadically through the drizzling night.

The 39th Infantry, which had moved up to an assembly area near Ste. Croix-Hague the previous afternoon, meanwhile prepared to clear the tip of the peninsula and bring the


operation to a close. At 2000 the 3d Battalion, reinforced by Company A, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and Troop C, 4th Cavalry Squadron, was motorized. By midnight it was 2,000 yards beyond Jobourg on the road to Auderville, ready to attack the town before morning. Colonel Stumpf moved the battalion out at once, preceded by the 9th Reconnaissance Troop. The first 100 prisoners were taken so easily that he decided to continue to the objective. The town was secured by 0500.

The 47th Infantry mopped up northward during the night and at 0230 reported the capture of Colonel Keil, senior commander of the Cap de la Hague forces.

In all, nearly 3,000 prisoners were gathered up in the early morning hours of 1 July, bringing the total captured in the peninsula to over 6,000, double the original estimate. Armament taken included two 10-inch railway guns, four 155-mm. howitzers, five 88-mm. self-propelled guns, two 47-mm., and ten 20-mm. guns. As patrols finished their work, areas were reported clear by the 39th Infantry at 1310, the 60th Infantry at 1400, and the 47th Infantry at 1430. At 1500, 1 July, the 9th Division reported to VII Corps that all organized resistance on Cap de la Hague had ceased and that the division was assembling preparatory to the move south for further operations. Relieved of duties in Cherbourg, the 4th Division had moved south the previous day. Policing of Cherbourg was taken over by the 99th Port Battalion, while the 101st Airborne Division moved up to assume responsibility for the tactical defense of the city.


page updated 10 October 2002

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