View Full Version : History Carentan - About
05-07-2007, 07:56 PM
I am starting this Thread so we can garner as much accurate info as possible about WW2 Carentan.
Check back in a day or two.... :wink2:
05-07-2007, 08:50 PM
I am starting this Thread so we can garner as much accurate info as possible about WW2 Carentan.
Check back in a day or two.... :wink2:
What type of accurate info are you looking for exactly? Can I be of some asistance or do you have it covered?
05-08-2007, 12:00 AM
Here's one bad ass link:
google is my friend
05-08-2007, 05:55 AM
What type of accurate info are you looking for exactly? Can I be of some asistance or do you have it covered?
Both commentary and photographic.... for a start. Thanks for the offer of help.
05-08-2007, 05:59 AM
Liberation of CARENTAN, FRANCE
Carentan is located in Normandy, at the base of the Cotentin peninsula of northwestern France. Situated on the left bank of the small Taute River, just above its confluence with the Douve, mid-way between Bayeux and Cherbourg. During the Normandy Invasion of World War II, Carentan lay between the Omaha and Utah assault beaches and was the object of violent fighting before American troops linked up there on June 13, 1944.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower bids "Good Luck" to the Paratroops.
On 8 June elements of the 501st and 506th Parachute Infantry, along with the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, engaged a German force in the town of St. Côme-du-Mont. The 3d Battalion, 501st PIR, took positions south of the town, along the highway to Carentan where it encountered the enemy. The 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry, was called to aid the 3d Battalion, but the enemy withdrew before the glider troops arrived. Both of the 101st battalions pursued the retreating enemy, but there was no additional contact. The Germans had abandoned the town, and the SCREAMING EAGLES moved in to plan the next step in the drive on Carentan.
The attack on Carentan was to be two pronged. The right arm of the drive was to cross the causeway northwest of Carentan, bypass the town, and continue to the southwest to occupy La Billonerie, also called Hill 30, which, it was thought, covered potential escape routes available to the Germans. The left arm of the assault was to cross the Douve River near Brevands, with the main body of that force continuing on to Carentan, while a smaller portion of the force moved east to the Vire River to contact the V Corps.
The 3d Battalion, 502d PIR, led the right drive along the causeway. Progress, however, was extremely slow. The men of the 502d advanced along the causeway with no cover, facing steady fire as they moved forward. The battalion inched along until it reached the bridge on the Madeleine River and ran into a strong enemy position concentrated in an old farmhouse and the adjoining hedgerows. Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole, the battalion commander, called for artillery fire on the position, but it did no good. Pinned down, he ordered a charge with fixed bayonets. Colonel Cole leapt up to lead the charge, but not all his men had gotten the word. The executive officer prodded the men along, and Cole continued with the soldiers that had followed. The Germans withdrew from the farmhouse, and the charging soldiers cleared the hedgerow positions. Cole was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts that day. Unfortunately, he was killed in a later division operation before receiving his medal.
Having suffered heavy casualties in its trek along the causeway, and being in some disarray after the bayonet charge, the battalion could not pursue the withdrawing enemy. The 1st Battalion, 502d PIR, came up through the line to follow the Germans. The 1st Battalion, however, had advanced along the same causeway, under the same fire as the 3d Battalion, and was also unable to make the pursuit. The two battalions, instead, dug in to defend the newly taken position. Their defenses were put to the test the next morning when the Germans launched a strong counterattack. Throughout the day the battalions held their ground until they were finally relieved by the 2d Battalion. Elements of the 506th Parachute Infantry relieved the beleaguered battalions of the 502d on 12 June. By that evening the 506th had completed the drive past Carentan and occupied Hill 30.
While the 502d struggled along the causeway, the 327th Glider Infantry, with the battalion of the 401st, had led the left wing attack. On 10 June elements of the force crossed the Douve River and occupied the town of Brevands. Company A, 401st Glider Infantry, continued southeast towards the town of Auville-sur-le-Vey to contact the V Corps. Encountering stiff German resistance outside the town, the company broke through the enemy line to make contact with elements of the 29th Infantry Division, part of the V Corps. The 327th, after crossing the Douve, had orders to seize both the railroad bridge and the highway bridge that crossed the Vire-Taute Canal, blocking the eastern escape routes from Carentan. The regiment succeeded in capturing and holding the highway bridge, but the railroad bridge was blown in the fight. The men of the 327th crossed the canal and continued their fight toward Carentan until enemy resistance halted their progress about a half mile from the town.
At General Taylor's direction, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, commander of the 101st's artillery, coordinated the final drive for Carentan, which took place on 12 June. Throughout the night of the 11th, the town was placed under heavy fire, but, unknown to the U.S. forces, the main body of Germans withdrew under cover of darkness. The following morning the 2d Battalion, 506th PIR, entered Carentan from the southwest and connected with the 1st Battalion, 401st GIR, which approached from the northeast. Once the two battalions had linked up they proceeded to clear the town of the remaining enemy stragglers. Under orders to secure the approaches to the town, the 501st and 506th moved along the roads to the southwest, while the 327th advanced to the east. Both groups, however, met enemy opposition, and their progress was limited. On 13 June the Germans launched a fierce counterattack in an attempt to retake the town. The U.S. First Army directed elements of the 2d Armored Division to support the 101st in defending Carentan. Together the Americans stopped the enemy thrust and held the town.
Spoils of War
Using a translation dictionary
05-08-2007, 11:51 AM
This thread is my specialty, when I get home. I'll drown this thread with so much information it will explode.
05-08-2007, 06:17 PM
You asked for it Mike, here it comes with a little more "historical" details!
The U.S. 101st Airborne Division, with the occupation of St. Côme-du-Mont, completed the clearing of the enemy north of the Douve and east of the Merderet. Preparations began at once for an all-out attack on Carentan from the north. In preparation for that attack, the 101st Airborne Division, by the night of 8 June, had grouped three regiments along the Douve with a fourth regiment assembled in reserve near Vierville. The 502d Parachute Infantry was placed in line on the right flank from the junction of the Douve and Merderet Rivers to Houesville. The 506th Parachute Infantry was assembled astride the Carentan highway, and the 327th Glider Infantry, which had come in by sea, relieved elements of the 506th and 501st Parachute Infantry Regiments at la Barquette and le Port. The 501st Parachute Infantry was in reserve.
The scheme of this attack had been worked out by the division in England. It appeared then that the only feasible route of attack was across the river flats in the vicinity of Brevands. Accordingly VII Corps on 8 June ordered attack in this zone. On 9 June, however, Colonel Sink led a patrol across the causeway toward Carentan. He was fired on and returned before reaching the city. The reports he sent back were apparently misinterpreted to indicate that Carentan was only lightly held. It was therefore considered possible to make a two-pronged attack across the causeway and through Brevands to envelop the city.
The final plan was for the 327th Glider Infantry to make the main effort on the left, crossing the Douve near Brevands to clear the area between Carentan and Isigny and join with V Corps near the highway bridge over the Vire. Since the key to possession of this objective area was Carentan, the 327th planned to use the bulk of its force in an attack on the city from the east. At the same time the 502d Parachute Infantry, relieved of its defensive mission on the right flank by the 501st, would cross the causeway over the Douve River northwest of Carentan, bypass the city on the west, and seize Hill 30. To secure Carentan after its capture, the 101st Airborne Division had the additional mission of occupying the high ground along the railway west of the city as far as the Prairies Marécageuses.
The causeway over which the 502nd Parachute Infantry was to attack was banked six to nine feet above the marshlands of the Douve and crossed four bridges over branches of the river and canals. One of the bridges was destroyed by the Germans. Difficulties in repairing this under fire forced postponement of the right wing of the division attack, first scheduled for the night of 9-10 June. It was the middle of the afternoon of 10 June before the 3d Battalion, 502d Parachute Infantry (Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole) advanced over the causeway single file. The men moved in a low crouch or crawled, and it took three hours for the point to cross three of the bridges. Then the enemy opened fire from a farmhouse and hedgerows, methodically searching the ditches with machine guns. At the fourth bridge a Belgian Gate had been drawn so far across the road that only one man at a time could squeeze by it. Under cover of artillery fire, which all afternoon worked on enemy positions, this maneuver was tried.
Six men made it; the seventh was hit, and the attempt was abandoned in favor of building up additional fire. Mortars were brought forward. The stalemate, however, lasted until midnight while enemy fire and a bombing and strafing attack after dark took heavy toll of the thin battalion line stretched across the causeway. After midnight, resistance slackened and three companies were able to filter men through the bottleneck and across the last bridge where they could deploy on either side of the highway.
The nub of the opposition seemed to be a large farmhouse to the west of the road on ground that rose sharply from the marshes. In the morning of 11 June after attempts to knock this out with artillery had failed, Colonel Cole, battalion commander, ordered a charge which he and his executive officer, Lt. Col. John P. Stopka, led. Followed at first by only a quarter of their 250 men, Cole and Stopka ran through enemy fire. The charge gathered momentum as more men got up and ran forward. The farmhouse was not occupied but the Germans had rifle pits and machine gun emplacements in hedgerows to the west. These were overrun and the Germans killed with grenades and bayonets.
The heavy casualties and disorganization of the battalion prevented Cole from following up his advantage. Instead he sent word back to have the 1st Battalion of the regiment pass through and continue the attack south. The 1st Battalion, which was near the fourth causeway bridge when request came to move forward, reached Colonel Cole's position through heavy fire. But since it was as hard hit and disorganized as the 3d Battalion it was in no better condition to move on. Both battalions set up a defensive line and held on during 11 June against determined German counterattacks, which on one occasion threatened to break through. The 2d Battalion took over the line during the night, but the 502d Parachute Infantry was too exhausted to renew the attack and the 506th Parachute Infantry was sent to its relief.
While the bitter battle of the Carentan causeway was being fought, the left wing of the 101st Airborne Division attack had carried south and made tenuous contact with V Corps units east of Carentan. In the early morning hours of 10 June all three battalions of the 327th Glider Infantry were across the Douve near Brevands. One company, reconnoitering to Auville-sur-le Vey, met the 29th Reconnaissance Troop and Company K of the 175th Infantry. The 175th Infantry (9th Division) had followed up the capture of Isigny by sending Company K to take Vire bridge at Auville-sur-le Vey while the main body of the regiment moved toward objectives in the Lison-la Fotelaie area to the south.
The bridge was found to have been destroyed and the company, reinforced with the reconnaissance troop and a platoon of tanks, fought most of the day of 9 June to force a crossing. They forded the river late in the afternoon, seized Auville-sur-le Vey, and held it during the night while engineers built the bridge behind them. Contact with the airborne unit the next day was only the beginning of the link between the corps. A savage fight remained for the possession of Carentan as well as some confused and costly maneuvering to clear the ground to the east.
The Germans meanwhile made plans to reinforce the city, whose defense Field Marshal Rommel considered vital not only to prevent the junction of the American beachheads but to forestall any attempt by General Bradley to cut the Cotentin by a drive southwest across the Vire toward Lessay and Périers. As immediate stopgap measures LXXXIV Corps sent von der Heydte two Ost battalions and remnants of the defenders of Isigny. He placed these troops, of limited combat value, on the east side of the city and concentrated the two battalions of his own regiment on the north. But this was still admittedly a weak defense for such a critical objective. Late on 9 June Rommel decided to commit the II Parachute Corps (Meindl), which was on its way up from Brittany, to counter this threat. Under Meindl's corps, the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division (Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Werner Ostendorff) was assigned the primary mission of blocking an Allied westward thrust. Ostendorff's orders were to move to positions southwest of Carentan prepared to counterattack south of the city.
These plans were frustrated by the difficulty of getting the units into position. On 8 June the move of Meindl's troops was reported greatly delayed by air attack and sabotage. Ostendorff's division had been forced by continued severe air attacks on the railroads to make most of its march northward by road. Shortage of gasoline then further delayed the move. By the end of 11 June only Ostendorff's forward elements had reached their assembly areas southwest of Carentan.
While awaiting reinforcements and holding off the concentric attacks of the 101st Airborne Division, von der Heydte in Carentan was running desperately short of ammunition. It was impossible to bring up resupplies by truck in view of the shortage of motor transport and gas and Allied air interdiction of the roads. OB WEST at last considered the need so critical that an air supply mission was flown during the night of 11-12 June and eighteen tons of infantry ammunition and 88-mm. shells were dropped to von der Heydte on a field south of Raids, some seven miles southwest of Carentan. This, the first air supply mission attempted by the Germans in Normandy, came too late to save Carentan.
On 10 June the bulk of the 327th Glider Infantry pressed in on Carentan from the northeast. Its initial objective was to seize the highway and railroad bridges over the Vire-Taute Canal and so seal off the city from the east. The regiment advanced rapidly until at 1800 it came within five hundred yards of its objective. Stopped by enemy fire from the east bank, it reorganized and resumed the drive with two battalions abreast on either side of the Carentan-Isigny highway. The men fought until midnight through those last five hundred yards and succeeded at last in clearing the enemy from the east bank and digging in along the hedgerows beside the canal.
Col. Joseph H. Harper, who had taken command of the 327th Glider Infantry that afternoon, now decided against any attempt to rush the bridge in favor of moving a portion of his force north to cross on a partly demolished footbridge and approach Carentan through the wooded area along the Bassin á Flot. Most of the regiment would hold positions along the canal and support the attack by firing into the city. After a patrol had repaired the footbridge, three companies crossed under enemy mortar fire during the morning of 11 June, but were unable to advance more than a few hundred yards before they were stopped by enemy fire from the outskirts of Carentan.
In the evening of 11 June, First Army decided to commit another regiment and coordinate the two wings of the attack by forming all units into a single task force under command of Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, artillery commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The 506th Parachute Infantry was to take over from the 502d the attack on the west toward Hill 30. Colonel Harper would continue to hold east of Carentan while attacking with a battalion plus one company along the Bassin á Flot. The 501st Parachute Infantry was to be taken from defensive positions north of the Douve and committed through the Brevands bridgehead. It was to drive east of the 327th Glider Infantry in a wider envelopment of Carentan designed to link with the 506th Infantry south of the city at Hill 30.
Gerow's corps was drawn only slightly into this new effort. The bulk of V Corps continued the drive south to expand the beachhead. But inasmuch as the 101st Airborne Division task force was now wholly absorbed with the envelopment of Carentan it became necessary to use V Corps units to protect the east flank in the area between the Douve and Vire Rivers. The bridgehead at Auville-sur-le Vey was reinforced on 11 June by the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment of the 2d Armored Division, which had begun landing on 9 June. In addition, on 12 June, the 175th Infantry was ordered to reconnoiter in force in the region of Montmartin-en-Graignes and seize two bridges over the Vire-Taute Canal, to secure the still insubstantial link between the corps from German counterattack from the south.
The city of Carentan blazed during the night under concentrations of naval fire, artillery, mortars, and tank destroyer guns. The attack of the 506th Parachute Infantry got started at 0200,12 June, and advanced rapidly against slight resistance. On his objective, Hill 30, Colonel Sink at 0500 ordered the 2d Battalion to attack into Carentan. Despite interdictory artillery fire and some spasmodic machine gun fire the battalion entered the city within a few hours. At the same time the 327th Glider Infantry on the northwest attacked out of the woods at Bassin á Flot and drove rapidly into the center of town. The two units met at about 0730. Only enemy stragglers remained to contest possession of the city. While the concentric attack squeezed into the city, the wider envelopment made equally rapid progress as the 501st Parachute Infantry swept down east of Carentan and made contact with the 506th half an hour after the entry into the city.
The closing of the trap had captured the objective, but few enemy prisoners were caught. The fact is that von der Heydte had pulled out of the city before dark on 11 June without being observed and had set up a defense line to the southwest. This new resistance line was discovered in the afternoon (12 June) when General Taylor attempted to push the attack to the southwest. His objective was to establish a deep defense of Carentan hooked up on the right with the 82d Airborne Division, which was driving south across the Merderet in the direction of Baupte. The 506th Parachute Regiment thrust out on the axis of the Baupte road while the 501st attacked along the Périers road. But both bogged down and by the end of the day had reached out only a few hundred yards from the line of departure near Hill 30.
The simultaneous effort to secure the ground east of Carentan on 12 June proved just as inconclusive as the push westward. In the morning a task force consisting of two companies of the 175th Infantry, reinforced by mortars and heavy machine guns, crossed the Vire. Enemy outposts of the newly arrived mobile Kampfgruppe of the 275th Division observed the crossings but made no serious attempts to interfere with them. Not far from Montmartin, however, the Germans ambushed and badly cut up one company on a hedgerow-lined road. Remnants of the company withdrew north of Montmartin to re-form and there joined with the remainder of the task force. Into this position in the afternoon came the 1st Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry, which with the 2d Battalion had attacked south early in the afternoon after the capture of Carentan. The combined force then secured high ground south of Montmartin. The 2d Battalion in the meantime had been checked at Deville to the northeast. During the night Colonel Goode, 175th commander, took a company across the Vire to attempt to reinforce General Cota but stumbled into a German bivouac. Colonel Goode was captured. Remnants of his force straggled back across the Vire.
The fighting southeast of Carentan had been on a very small scale and was not in itself important, but, in the course of it, reports came in to General Bradley's headquarters of a strong concentration of German forces in the area, including the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Signs pointed to a possible enemy build-up of three divisions with the probable mission of counterattacking in force between Carentan and Isigny where, General Bradley pointed out, "we are very weak." As communications were temporarily out between First Army and V Corps, Bradley sent a letter by courier to Gerow ordering him to move a battalion of tanks and a battalion of armored infantry from the 2d Armored Division into the Montmartin-en-Graignes area "prepared for action to the south." The movement was to be completed by daylight and coordinated with the 327th Glider Infantry. In addition Bradley ordered that the 116th Infantry be held in reserve for possible commitment on the right of the 175th. By 0630 of 13 June the 2d Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, in accordance with these orders had joined the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry, already west of the Vire, and the task force was ready to move south. The move, however, did not take place, for by morning Carentan was being threatened from the southwest rather than the southeast and the armored task force was diverted to go to the support of the 506th Parachute Infantry.
After the fall of Carentan, the Germans planned to counterattack with the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division to retake it. But the attack was delayed on 12 June because the battalion of assault guns, which moved north by train, was held up in the assembly areas by air attacks. With the guns in position on the morning of 13 June, Ostendorff attacked. The attack hit both the 506th and 501st Parachute Infantry Regiments at about 0630 and during the morning drove them back to within 500 yards of Carentan. The 502d Parachute Infantry was brought down to Carentan to reinforce the defense of the 506th. At 1030 the armored task force arrived and in the early afternoon the 101st Airborne Division resumed the initiative. The 502d drove through the 506th, and the 501st continued on its mission of the day before. With close support from the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion the enemy was thrown back with estimated losses of 500 men. A defensive position was secured along the road from Baupte to the Carentan-Périers highway.
On the east the company of the 175th Infantry beleaguered at Montmartin was pulled out and Colonel Harper established a line north of the main railroad linked with the 29th Division to the east. Now V and VII Corps were securely joined, although the strip between them still lacked depth for adequate communications and defense. First Army, however, now had resources to deepen it and on 13 June the mission was assigned to XIX Corps, which became operational the next day.
Operations to fuse the two First Army beachheads have been traced through to their conclusion because they form a single story with few direct contacts with what was going on elsewhere in Normandy. The actions described were considered by the high command as of first importance. They did not, however, constitute a main effort by the First Army. Larger forces were being used simultaneously to expand the beachhead westward and southward. Virtually the whole of V Corps during the week of 8-14 June was pushing south through the bocage country making rapid progress against a disintegrated German defense.
05-08-2007, 07:37 PM
Thank you OneShot.... There'll be more, of that I'm certain. :wink2:
05-08-2007, 09:04 PM
Basically everything I was gonna put down, OneShot did it before me, well done sir.
I'll add some first hand accounts though from Donald R. Burgett's book Currahee and numerous troopers.
I'll start off with the attack from Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole from San Antonio, Texas and his 3rd Battalion. On the early morning hours of Saturday, June 10, 1944 began sending troops across the Douve in pitch darkness with I Company leading the attack. A crude temporary bridge had been constructed spanning Bridge 2 made out of fencing and planks in the area. Following I Company were G, H, and HQ company of the 3rd Battalion. The N13 was a solid, elevated road embankment which provided little concealment, on this road were four bridges which spanned across four rivers: Bridge No.1 crossed over the Jordan River at the Northern End. Bridge No. 2 over the Douve River had been destroyed by explosives on June 8. Bridge No.3 crossed a small stream known as Le Groult. The final bridge leading into Carentan was Bridge No.4 which crossed over the Madeleine River, the Germans had placed a steel roadblock obstacle known as a "Belgian Gate" on the bridge.
Before the battle Hitler had ordered the 6th Fallscrihmjager Regiment to defend Carentan to the last man. Colonel Von Der Heydte decided to make his stand above the town, just below Bridge No.4, he deployed his 3rd Battalion in the swampy flooded fields on both sides of the N13 road. The little islands of dry spots in the swamp had provided little cover for the Germans as well.
After daylight the men of the 502nd strung out along the N13 road were sitting ducks from the Germans shooting at them from both flanks. Unable to dig holes in the solid road embankment, the troopers inched forward hoping they wouldn't be shot. One trooper ran across from the west side of the road to the east running in a crouch then flopped down on the road, he asked the man in front of him, "Is it any better on this side of the road?" "Be damned if I know!" he answered. A few minutes later the trooper ran back to the west side of the road where he started saying, "Hell! It's worse on the left side than on the right!!!!" The Americans grew more frustrated and angry with each passing hour, the stretch of road above Carentan was giving the name Purple Heart Lane. The memory of most survivors were of seeing the bodies of dead and wounded American paratroopers lining the road for hundred of yards. It was difficult to return fire at the Germans who were well hidden behind small clumps of bushes.
While attempting to return fire, Lt. John Larish of I Company was shot between the eyes. Captain Clements almost had his nuts shot off when a bullet crazed his thighs exclaiming, "I thought that SOB got the family jewels!" Had air support been giving, it would've averted many friend casualties. But Carentan was gonna be taken the hard way. During this attack, on the night of June 10/11 two German Stuka Dive Bombers came down the road strafing and dropping bombs on the men.
Because of the heavy losses inflicted on the 502nd during the approach to Carentan, the fighting that developed was savage and little quarter was given to any Germans attempting to surrender. Once clear of the helplessness of the causeway, it became payback time for the troopers. They rampaged against the enemy as much as the survivors had done after the relative invulnerability of the parachute landing. "It's been bloodthirsty!" a corporal told Stars and Stripes reporter Jack Foster shortly after the bayonet charge. Warren Shook recalls seeing German prisoners of the 6th Fallschrimjager Regiment fling themselves on the ground, crying, because they knew they were gonna die. " Hitler taught 'em everything except how to surrender and how to accept defeat," says Shook.
After squeezing men one at a time through the Belgian Gate at Bridge No.4 in the predawn darkness of Sunday, June 11, 1944, the 3/502nd regrouped and prepared for a renewed offense in daylight.
End of Part 1. I'll write down more later.
Purple Heart Lane
We drink to the men so bronzed and tan,
Who marched down the road to Carentan.
We were the ones who so long had to train,
To fight this battle of Purple Heart Lane.
Yes, this is that road stretched cross the plain,
The piece of Macadam called Purple Heart Lane.
Why was it called this you may want to know,
Well "Jerry" was there to give us his show.
He had mortars, machine-guns, and 88's too,
With plenty of armor to back up this crew.
Then there were snipers that we could not see,
They kept firing at us, my buddies and me.
We had laughed at crawling, keeping close to the ground,
But we did it and liked it right up to the town.
Then came the charge that led to their guns,
We beat back those "Jerries," those invincible huns.
Invincible they say and they weren't far wrong,
But we made them sing another sort of song.
The long battle was over, we trudged up the hill,
There we paused to look back at our comrades so still.
We think of the boys who died not in vain,
Our pals, Yes, the heroes of Purple Heart Lane.
(To the memory of the men of the 502nd that died at Carentan)
05-08-2007, 09:26 PM
Working on the German perspective as we speak, post it here as soon as I get it organized. Found some interesting and detailed stuff on the Fallschirmjäger units defending Carentan. And it is my pleasure Mike!
05-08-2007, 11:19 PM
From the German side, the defense of Carentan - Fallschirmjager translated means Paratrooper Hunter. They were the elite airborne and ground units of the Luftwaffe.
At the beginning of 1944, the new Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 was formed at Köln-Wahn under the command of Major Friedrich August Freiherr Von der Heydte. It consisted of 15 Companies with an approximate strength of 3000 men. The greatest part of the regiment was made from volunteers from Luftwaffe ground personnel and men from the Luftwaffe Field Divisions.
On D-Day, the recently raised 6th Regiment under the command of Major Von der Heydte, was already stationed in the Normandy area. Acting independently from the 2nd Parachute Division and under the control of the LXXXIV Corps, it had been in Normandy since May 13th with the Regiment HQ at the Hotel de Ville in Periers.
The Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 with its subordinated unit, 8./Artillery Regiment 191 (91.LL.Div) were providing a security line in the south of the Cotentin Peninsula, south west of Carentan : St.Jores - Lithaire - Lessay - Perriers - St.Georges de Bohon, in an area 20km wide and 15km in depth.
After finalizing battle plans, Von der Heydte crossed the Carentan causeway at around midday on June 6th heading to his new command post at St.Come du Mont. The following orders had been given out to the battalions of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 :
1st Battalion - To advance in the direction Ste.Marie du Mont-La Madaleine to relieve the pressure on the strongpoints at the hub of the bunker defenses at Utah Beach).
2nd Battalion - Advance in the direction of Turqueville, where 795th Georgian Battalion were located.
3rd Battalion - Remain behind to provide flank security.
As the 1st & 2nd Battalions moved on to their objectives, elements of the 3rd Battalion were still involved in mopping up operations against isolated groups of US Paratroops, south west of Carentan. As well certain elements of the 3rd Battalion remained behind in Carentan, including the heavy weapons company. The church tower there was used as an artillery observation post and became a key position in the fighting that would happen further north.
Other US airborne forces in the south of the peninsula were being attacked from the north by Grenadier Rgt 1058 & Sturm Battalion “Messerschmidt.” Grenadier Rgt.1057 attacked from the west against the airborne landings on the Merderet River further north. The attack by 1st & 2nd Battalions went well at first. The 1st Battalion managed to reach the outskirts of Ste.Marie du Mont, but found that it was in the hands of 101st Airborne Division, soon to be backed up by elements of the 4th Infantry Division whom had landed at Utah Beach earlier that same morning. The 1st Battalion dug in amongst the fields and hedgerows outside of the town.
The 2nd Battalion received strong fire into its left flank from St.Mere Eglise, where 507th PIR were holed up and were constantly being strengthened by reinforcements. The 2nd Battalion commander, Major Rolf Mager, was unaware that the Flak unit defending the town had abandoned their positions to the Americans. The Battalion swiveled, not toward the east but westward to outflank the town. The Battalion received strong flanking fire, which they returned but with their own ammunition running low, they were forced to withdrawal back south toward St.Come du Mont in the morning of June 7th.
The 1st Battalion had managed to hold their positions around St.Come du Mont, but they were under increasing pressure from US forces heading inland from Utah beach and constantly strengthened airborne forces operating all over the base of the Peninsula. During the evening of June 6th approximately 150 US Gliders landed north east of Carentan in the rear of 1st Battalion. Later that night their positions between St.Marie du Mont and Vierville were shelled by Naval Artillery of shore. In the early hours of June 7th, more US Paratroops landed in the area around Angoville and at around 7am another 150 American gliders landed in an area between Angoville-St.Marie du Mont-Hiesville. 1st Battalion was slowly being surrounded and escape routes were slowly being shut off.
Von der Heydte was unaware that the allies had landed on the beaches east of his HQ until he witnessed the armada at sea from the church tower in St.Come du Mont. As he witness this spectacle 11km to the east, the town was straddled with large caliber naval artillery shells, which shook the church and the surrounding houses. The Americans knew the value of a church tower to Artillery observers as a place where the enemy could rain death down upon their advancing troops.
Von der Heydte could see that he was slowly losing his grip on St.Come du Mont, the Americans were only a few hundred meters to the south and it would not be long before they advanced in to the town. He decided it was best to withdrawal with what forces he had left. Many of his men evaded to the south west, through the hamlet of La Croix and to the only other causeway into Carentan, along the railway line embankment. Small rearguards were left behind to disable or destroy the vehicles and heavy equipment that could not be brought back to Carentan and also to cover the withdraw from the high ground near the town. One by one, the remnants of the 2nd & 3rd Battalions, as well as Grenadier.Rgt.1058, were withdrawn from the line to make their way south across the German held rail track to Carentan.
The withdrawal into the south of the peninsula took most of the day as men struggled to reach the northern and eastern outskirts of Carentan. The 300 or so men, all that was left of the 1st Battalion, were still making a fighting withdrawal to the southwest on the morning of June 8th. They encountered enemy fire through the fields and villages but still they continued on, attempting to reach the safety of Carentan. Desperate rearguard action at Vierville, Angoville, and Addeville allowed many of the survivors to get in sight of their objective. However, they were to be stopped in their tracks near the lock gates at La Barquette.
Paratroops of the 101st Airborne Division had taken this objective and were covering the approaches with mortars and heavy machine guns. The battle weary Fallschirmjägers came under a hail of fire in the flooded fields north east of the lock. They took heavy casualties and thinking the lock was held by a large enemy force, Hauptmann Priekschat surrendered what was left of the 1st Battalion. After the surrender, the prisoners were marched under guard to the nearby Peneme farm, where they came under fire from their own guns located in Carentan causing even more casualties to the already exhausted 1st Battalion. Only 25 men under the command of Leutnant Stenzel managed to reach Carentan and inform the regimental commander of what had happened to the 1st Battalion.
When American commanders noticed the withdraw of German troops from St.Come du Mont, an attack on the town was ordered. As they approached the slope north into the town they came under fire from the high ground west of the town, occupied by a rearguard of Fallschirmjägers. This height was soon cleared and as US Paratroops entered the outskirts of the town they witnessed the exodus of enemy troops as they headed westwards to the relative safety of the railway causeway. An attack on German positions at Pont du Douve was then ordered. Once these German opposition had been cleared the way to Carentan was open to US forces. Retreating Fallschirmjägers had bolstered the defenses along the causeway and at Pont du Douve, which drove the American forces back toward St.Come du Mont and artillery fire from the heavy weapons company in Carentan forced the Americans to take shelter. As the US Paratroops withdrew northward they were attacked by rearguard Fallschirmjäger units heading south from the fields and hedgerows to join their comrades on the causeway.
The rest of the 6th Regiment now formed a latch plate astride the main road into Carentan, effectively blocking the two US bridgeheads at Utah & Omaha. However, Von der Heydte was unaware that the German counterattacks on the bridges over the Carentan Canal had been unsuccessful and that US forces were pouring into the countryside north of Carentan.
Von der Heydte now set up his Regimental HQ at Ingouf Farm between the town and the marshland, with a front line covering the approaches from Pont du Douve. MG & mortar positions were set up in the farm yard and nearby orchards. Small islands of dry ground protruding from the flood waters housed MG's and snipers. Artillery, mortar and MG positions were set up on a hill southwest of Carentan and ranged in to the causeway and St.Come du Mont. Carentan now became the most hotly contested area on the invasion front.
On June 9th, German regulars along with many other Fallschirmjäger troops abandoned positions in Pont du Douve. They had done well to hold the American advance for so long but under heavy pressure from strong probing assaults they were forced to move south. After destroying their heavy weapons they used explosives to destroy the most northerly of the 4 bridges over the Douve. They then headed south to join the newly formed front line. It was now a waiting game to see when the Americans would try and take the Carentan causeway.
The 6th regiment held its new front line without artillery, tank or Luftwaffe support. Ammunition became scarce, in particular mortar and machine-gun ammo. Artillery ammo was plentiful but unfortunately they had no heavy guns. The thinly spread Fallschirmjägers defended their positions north of Carentan with what ammo they had left. Mines were hastily placed to try and slow the probing attacks by American forces that were poised to breakthrough to Carentan.
In early hours of June 10th, US Paratroops reconnoitered the flooded marshland on either side of the causeway to find weaknesses in the German defenses. Many casualties were caused by MG and sniper fire from the isolated groups in the marshland, from Ingouf Farm and from Fallschirmjägers dug into the southern end of the causeway. In the morning of June 10th, Ingouf farm and its surrounding buildings were subjected to a massive artillery barrage. This appeared to Von der Heydte to be the prelude for an assault but nothing happened. Only an American offer of surrender was forthcoming to which his reply was "what would you do in my place ?"
A supply column from the 84th Corps brought in French mortar ammo late on June 10th, but it was the wrong caliber. During the night of June 10th/11th, JU52's dropped Mortar and MPi ammunition. however, even re-supply could not stop the inevitable.
In the morning of June 11th, US Paratroops who had successfully traversed the causeway under the cover of darkness waited for the order to attack positions. After a massive artillery barrage, the men of 101st Division charge the positions around Ingouf Farm. The former HQ of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 was soon in the hands of US 101st Airborne and after an unsuccessful counterattack, Von der Heydte withdrew his men to the south west. Other elements of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 attacked from the north of Carentan but were also beaten back. The Americans now set up an east-west defensive line and by midday US troops had reached the outskirts of Carentan and had settled in the houses, gardens and hedges in front of the town.
Just as the Americans were entering Carentan, Von der Heydte ordered the 795 Georgian Battalion to move to the south west of Carentan after being informed of American forces attempting to surround the town from the north. After co-coordinating one of the mornings unsuccessful counterattacks he was unexpectedly called upon by Brigadeführer Ostendorff. Ostendorff was the commander of 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen". During this meeting Von der Heydte was informed that his Regiment was now subordinated to the SS Division and that the combined forces would counter attack the American foothold on the outskirts of Carentan.
The situation was growing desperate for Von der Heydte, his regiment was under strength, the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division was not yet ready to counterattack and the Americans were poised to encircle and capture Carentan. Von der Heydte decided to withdrawal his beaten 6th Regiment from the town and at 1700 on June 11th, the men were ordered to vacate Carentan and withdrawal to prepared positions further to the south west, even abandoning the critical nearby heights.
By dusk the regiment had withdrawn from the ruined town. The 6th Regiment now set up a new defensive line: St Georges du Behon-Saintenny-La Moisentrie-Blehou. The battle for Carentan had come to an end. As American forces entered the town 17th SS Brigadeführer Ostendorff was informed of the 6th Regiments withdraw from the town. He was terribly enraged and wanted Von der Heydte arrested and charged for defeatism. Only signals and telephone calls from Von der Heydte's higher ranking brethren managed to cool the situation and prevent his arrest.
A counterattack was now planned for June 12th that would include the 6th Regiment and the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division. The town would be taken back at any cost. The orders stated the attack would take place in the direction of the Periers-Carentan road. If good progress could be made then a bridgehead would be created at St.Come du Mont. However, this order was outrageous. St.Come du Mont had fallen and it would never be taken back.
The combined German assault tried in vain to re-enter the town on June 12th. Only the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Regiement managed to get into the town, taking up positions near the train station. However, these positions had to be given up since they could not get reinforcements due to heavy artillery and mortar fire and the appearance of American tanks.
The route between the two beachheads at Utah & Omaha was now open. Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 could now only withdraw to the south west and help defend a new front line along with the remnants of the 7th Army which had managed to escape from the Cotentin Peninsula.
05-08-2007, 11:48 PM
Nice info once again OneShot. This thread is for the Darkest Hour mod, I'm currently working as the Airborne Historian to the team, and the German info is quite useful.
05-09-2007, 12:04 AM
My pleasure, I think the DH mod is a excellent project, really coming along. You guys are really doing a Great job with it. If you need my sources let me know I can easily post them here for you. I will post some more info about Carentan as soon as I can piece it together and make some sense out of it. History is my thing as well, glad to help you guys with anything I can.
05-09-2007, 02:21 AM
Your welcome mate.
Before Lt. Col. Cole's immortal bayonet charge, he stood in plain view of the hidden enemy, bellowing orders in his usual loud voice, deploying his troops. He yelled out to his men, "These goose-stepping Heinies think they know how to fight a war. We're about to learn 'em a lesson!"
The USS Texas started its smoke barrage on the field which was followed by a whistle. Not all present jumped up and charged upon the signal, but just how few men charged that day will never be known for certain. Dick Ladd of H&H S-2/502 was in an aid station made in a French building on the west side of the N13 road on the afternoon of June 11th. He talked with Bob Brigham, a wounded member of H&H who had been brought up after being hit beyond Bridge No.4. Brigham told Ladd, "About 25 of us had a bayonet charge this morning with Colonel Cole; you shoulda been there!" Brigham died later that day.
Cole's charge did secure the morning's objective and won him a Medal of Honor. A German prisoner who had been on the receiving end of the charge told war correspondent Robert Reuben, "They charged like wild animals. They screamed and shouted when they charged into our fire. It was unbelievable!"
A hard's day of fighting ensued in the Cabbage Patch which was captured by the 1st/502nd. Desperate fighting around the apple orchard beyond the Ingouf Farmhouse raged until midday. A brief truce to request a German capitulation and to collect wounded took place, followed by a furious resumption of the fighting.
Lt. Homer Combs of B/502nd who took a small group toward the railroad line, where they fought a furious defensive action. In a private war of their own, they fended off German counter-attacks from the west during the late morning of June 11th. Lt. Combs died later that day. After the truce, Homer brought his reduced squad over to the N13 area, during a German counter-attack, Combs was shot between the eyes.
1st Lt. Melvin Spruiell , forward observer for the 377th had participated in Cole's Charge acting as an infantry officer. He led a group of troopers who were unknown to him and knocked out several enemy fortifications and machine gun nest. He was killed in action.
Lt. Delmar Idol of A/502nd was shooting at Germans in the Cabbage Patch with his M1A1 Thompson, "It was just like shooting at rabbits and just as hard to hit them!" The trooper besides Idol had his helmet blasted off by several German bullets, but was not wounded. When the trooper picked it up to examine it, it had a hole in the right side and a hole in the left side. "Damndest thing I ever saw, the bullet hit both sides of his helmet, but missed his head in between!"
In a desperate test of will, the German and American parachutist fought to a standstill all afternoon. Forward Observer St. Julien Rosemond of the 377 PFA Bn called for a barrage which landed almost on top of the American lines, breaking up the last German counter-attack of June 11.
05-09-2007, 07:30 AM
That's excellent coverage on Cole. Many Thanks it is deeply appereciated.
Normandy - D-Day
Flying out of Membury and Greenham Common in the first wave to depart, the 502nd PIR headed for drop zone (DZ)A. Their mission was to secure two northern causeways leading inland from Utah Beach and destroy a German coast-artillery battery (122 mm Howitzer)near Ste Martin-de-Vierville.
In the predawn hours of D-Day a combination of low clouds, and enemy anti-aircraft fire caused the break-up of the troop carrier formations. The scattering of the air armada was so devastating that some of the paratroopers jumped while still over the English Channel and ultimately drowned. Consequently, the sporadic jump patterns caused most of Col. Moseley's battalions to land far afield of their designated drop zones (DZ). Some of the paratroops landed as far away as 5 miles from the designated area.
Unfortunately, during the drop Col. Moseley broke his leg and had to relinquish command to his Executive Officer, Lt. Col. John H Michaelis (picture above) . Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion led by Lt. Col. Robert G Cole was responsible for securing the two causeways. Undaunted by the confusion, Lt. Col. Cole gradually collected his men and achieved his objective.
The rest of June found the airborne troops fighting as infantry. After regrouping, the 101st received the new objective of seizing the city of Carentan. It was during this operation that Lt. Col. Robert Cole (picture above) received the Medal of Honor for leading his battalion in a fixed bayonet charge on the Ingouf farm house, a German stronghold defending one of the bridges over the Carentan Causeway.
His Executive Officer, Maj. John P Stopka, led the charge on Cole's left and received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Lt. Col. Cole never got the chance to wear the Medal of Honor since he was killed by a sniper's bullet three months later in Holland. Maj. Stopka was killed two weeks after receiving his medal at Bastogne.
On 29 June the 101st was relieved from the VIII Corps and sent to Cherbourg to relieve the 4th Infantry Division. The 502nd PIR returned to England shortly thereafter for rest and training.
05-09-2007, 02:43 PM
Guys, this is fantastic. Great research, great to read.
Thanks for it.
05-09-2007, 10:43 PM
The 502nd was to battered and exhausted to continue the attack, it requested relief and the 506th parachute regiment would have to finish the job. The 506th had to cross the same route the 502nd had taken earlier, Donald R. Burgett from A Company writes from his book Currahee, "We moved out just before sundown. following the same road the 502nd had taken earlier. It was dark by the time we reached the river. Across the black mirrored water stood the houses and buildings of Carentan. We knew the dark silhouettes held German soldiers, some of whom we had fought earlier and driven back here. Colonel Cole and two enlisted men had strung a rope, metal grate or fence across the span where the second bridge had once stood. In a single file and about twenty feet apart we moved the entire 506 across the flimsy construction behind Cole's outfit, holding onto the rope while sliding our feet by step across the wobbly planks. Mortar and 88 shells were landing around the bridge and machine gun fire was harassing us." He continues on his story, "While crossing the last bridge, several men were killed and more wounded by a heavy barrage of mortar fire. One man fell just in front of me. He lay doubled up, a geyser of blood shooting from his mouth and running back down underneath him in a puddle. A huge iron fence stood across the roadway. One by one we had to squeeze through a small opening in its center while machine-gun fire sprayed it, sending sparks flying as bullets struck the pavement and metal. Watching the men go through, watching one fall every so often, put a funny feeling back in my stomach. This was like making a jump, the line getting shorter and shorter, the doorway closer and closer. Soon it would be my turn in this mass game of Russian roulette. I knew I was scared, but I kept going. Then it was my turn. Dashing through the opening, I suddenly felt strong. My body reacted faster, and I didn't feel the bumps as I dove headfirst into the ditch on the side of the road."
After clearing through the Belgian Gate, the men of the 506th moved through the swamps to the right. The men lined up in single file holding onto the man's belt in front of them, they moved silently, slowly and carefully until reaching high ground. Moving cross country, they continued to hold onto the man's belt in front of them. A lone German sentry standing guard by a gate had his throat cut, the men stepped over the body one by one.
They moved directly south towards Hill 30 with the first occupying Hill 30 with the 2nd Battalion positioned on its right. At 0500 on June 12, 1944 the attack on the city of Carentan began. For the first time during the day, the enemy opened up on them, and the house to house fighting started in earnest.
Colonel Bob Sink commander of the 506th Regiment moved his command post group over the same route which the battalions had followed, but after leaving the highway he missed the way and swung to the south of Hill 30, where he dug in forward of the two battalions. At dawn, when enemy fire made it apparent that the command post position was isolated and surrounded, the 1st Battalion was ordered to attack south from Hill 30 through the hamlet of la Billonerie toward the command post. As the 1st Battalion started out it was counterattacked near la Billonerie.
Donald R.Burgett writes his account on the attack fighting from hedgerow to hedgerow. "We were being annihilated, our ranks disintegrating as we ran. Glancing at my comrades around and behind me to draw courage and strength from their presence, I saw that the field was being littered with dead, our dead. A trooper in front of and to the right of me was hit in the chest by an 88 shell. His body disappeared from the waist up, his legs and hips with belt, canteen and entrenching tool still on taking three more steps, then falling. Another trooper went to his knees, ran a couple of yards in that position, tried to gain his feet, stumbled and went down face first. Other men were falling, but at the same time others had gained the hedge and were lobbing grenades over it." It took heavy fighting through the hedgerows and houses to break through and extricate Colonel Sink's group.
12-11-2008, 07:45 AM
OK, well here are some pics from the 101st Airbone and 306th Medical, after the liberation of Carentan in June 1944:
SOURCE FOR MOST PICS (http://flickr.com/photos/photosnormandie/tags/carentan/)
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