BY 11 JUNE, V Corps had won the ground essential for security of its beachhead. The advance had carried over 12 miles inland and had conquered the dominating terrain at Cerisy Forest, while the right wing rested securely on the Vire-Elle river line and was ready to link up with VII Corps. But the attack was to continue without pause; on 11 June preparations for a new effort were under way, directed by Field Order No. 3 issued at 1700 (Map No. XV).
The principal objective in this next phase was the Caumont area, assigned to the 1st Division with, in addition to previous attachments, the 102d Cavalry Squadron and three battalions of tanks. To the right of the main effort, the 2d and 29th Divisions were ordered to take objectives south of Cerisy Forest and the Elle River. In general effect, the advance would be echeloned from east to west, with Caumont at the apex of a salient. The 2d Armored Division, as corps reserve, would be held in readiness to use if necessary as a counterattacking force.
V Corps' attack was closely related to plans of the British XXX Corps for 12 June. In hard fighting on the 11th, the British had been unable to dislodge the Panzer Lehr Division from positions between Lingevres and Tilly-sur-Seulles. This effort was to be renewed on the 12th, with the aim of flanking the whole German defense of the Caen area. V Corps' advance in the adjoining zone would materially aid XXX Corps by threatening the enemy flank southwest of Tilly-sur-Seulles.
Furthermore, the attack of 12 June was designed to assist in the development of VII Corps' offensive toward Cherbourg. Enemy attention and reinforcement might be diverted from that area if V Corps exploited the enemy weakness now apparent in its one. The remnants of the 352d Division, showing signs of increased disorganization every day, were still the only important German force on a front of more than 25 miles. They were short of ammunition, and they had almost no artillery support. What small reinforcement they had received, mainly the three battalions of the 30th Mobile Brigade, had been wholly insufficient to remedy the situation. Enemy morale, according to evidence of prisoners, was steadily declining. According to the same source, to a certain extent supported by reports of troop movement south of the battle front, enemy armored units were on their way toward this front. They were believed to be the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division; some prisoners had been taken from its reconnaissance battalion in Cerisy Forest.
Apart from the wider considerations governing this attack, the objectives of V Corps represented valuable tactical goals. A road junction of some importance, Caumont lies on a hill mass more than 750 feet above sea level, overlooking the Cerisy Forest and controlling the upper Drome Valley. Its capture would make V Corps hold on the beachhead doubly secure; as a base for further offensive operations into
the hilly country to the south, possession of Caumont would threaten the enemy's main lateral communications from Caen to the St-Lo-VireAvranches region. In the ones of the 2d and 29th Divisions the most important objective was Hill 192. This dominating height afforded observation over the whole area between the Elle and Vire Rivers, and was key terrain or any offensive operations aimed at St-Lo.
By Field Order No. 37, issued at 2400 on 11 June, General Huebner planned the 1st Division's attack in essentially the same formation used before: the 18th and 26th RCT's abreast on fronts of about 3,000 yards, with the 16th RCT in reserve, ready to assist either attacking regiment and to protect the flanks. The left flank was to be guarded by the 1st Reconnaissance Troop, and two troops of the 102d Cavalry Squadron were to patrol in advance of the attacking units. Each regimental combat team included a tank battalion; the 18th and 26th had each a company of tank destroyers from the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Six battalions of artillery were in direct or general support. Movement toward the line of departure (le Planqueray-la Butte) had begun during the evening of 11 June, but the 26th Infantry experienced road difficulties which caused a two-hour delay in the jump-off, scheduled for 0600.
On the right, the 18th Infantry had a comparatively easy advance, led by the 1st and 2d Battalions abreast. No prepared enemy defenses were encountered, and opposition was offered only by light mobile screening forces, operating in patrols supported by armored cars and an occasional tank. This opposition was handled in well-organized fashion, pulling back on what appeared to be a prearranged schedule. The 745th Tank Battalion, attached to the 18th Infantry, reported a minimum of contact with enemy during the day. By evening, the 18th had made a four-mile advance to the Caumont-St-Lo highway and was ordered to stop there and patrol, particularly on the right flank. Here, the 18th was two miles farther south than the objectives assigned to the 2d Division. Troop B of the 102d Cavalry Squadron established a screen to protect this flank along the Drome River and made contact with the 2d Division.
On the left, the 26th Infantry met much the same type of light, delaying resistance, built around reconnaissance cars and a few tanks. By dusk the 2d Battalion was on the edge of Caumont. Patrols, probing into the village, found it held by the enemy in small force. During the night the battalion endeavored to capture the village but was held off by determined resistance estimated at two companies, supported by five or six tanks or self-propelled guns. Company F penetrated into Caumont but was then forced back. With elements of the 743d Tank Battalion leading, the infantry cleaned out the village by 0900, in house-to-house fighting. The enemy lost several vehicles and an 88-mm gun in attempts to stop the tanks. Artillery observers, entering Caumont with the advance, reported that they had excellent observation into enemy positions for the first time since D Day.
The 18th and 26th Infantry spent 13 June in organizing their positions for all-around defense and in patrolling forward and to the flanks of the salient created by their advance. By afternoon, strong enemy patrols were taking offensive action all along the 1st Division front, probing vigorously to find its positions and in some cases infiltrating well beyond the outposts. Patrol activity was so lively as to give the impression of counterattacks, and supporting artillery was called on much more frequently than during
the previous day. The 33d Field Artillery Battalion, attached to the 26th Infantry, fired 895 rounds as against 39 on 12 June, most of it about 1500 when a "counter-attack" was signaled. Enemy artillery showed signs of revival, putting some accurate fire into Caumont. Although no real counterattack developed, it was clear that the enemy was sensitive to the advance into Caumont and that a new quality of resistance was beginning to show. Elements believed to be from the 3d and 4th Companies of the 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Panzer Division, were identified. In fact, the bulk of that division was moving across the 1st Division front during the day, from west to east, and was being committed just east of Caumont in an action that was critical for the whole Allied front.
The British, on 12 June, had begun a maneuver closely related to the 1st Division's attack on Caumont. Finding the Panzer Lehr Division holding strongly on the line Tilly-sur-Seulles-la Senaudiere, XXX Corps planned to slip the 7 Armoured Division south along the Army boundary, with Villers-Bocage as objective. This move would put them on the AvranchesCaen highway and threaten to outflank not merely the Tilly positions but the enemy lines as far as Caen. Protected on the west flank by the 1st Division's progress to Caumont, this maneuver began on the afternoon of 12 June, aided by arrangements for using one road
that lay in First Army's zone. By dark, leading elements of the 7 Armoured Division were two miles northeast of Caumont, and prospects seemed good for a decisive envelopment.
These hopes were dashed on 13 June. The 50 Division, renewing the attack from the north, made no progress at Tilly-sur-Seulles. The 2d Panzer Division, arriving at the last minute on the highway from the southwest, was thrown at Villers-Bocage just after the advance elements of 7 Armoured Division reached the village. The enemy attack was repelled in heavy fighting, but the British could not both hold this position and continue their thrust to envelope the Panzer Lehr Division at Tilly-surSeulles. The 7 Armoured Division was withdrawn and occupied defensive positions two miles northeast of Caumont. The timely arrival of the 2d Panzer enabled the enemy to retain an area which they evidently regarded as having major importance. Both Tilly-sur-Seulles and Villers-Bocage remained, until the great Allied offensive in late July, as the western bastions for German defense of the Caen-Orne Valley sector.
On the 2d Division front, the 9th Infantry attacked south on an axis parallel to the Caumont thrust. The 9th's objective was the Littcau ridge, which was close to the Cerisy Forest and detached from the hills to the south and east. Nearly 500 feet above sea level, its position made the ridge important both for observation and for protecting the flank of the Caumont salient. The 2d and 3d Battalions of the 9th Infantry advanced two miles to their objective by 0940, 12 June. Enemy opposition had been very light, but by afternoon vigorous offensive patrolling was initiated by elements identified as belonging to the 3d Paratroop Division. This activity continued through 13 June, especially against Company C, which had moved to an advance position on dominating ground at Montrabot Hill. Supporting the 9th Infantry, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion fired 828 rounds on the 12th and 1,320 the next day. Enemy artillery action was light; no counterbattery fire was reported.
As it worked out, the attack of V Corps on 12-13 June shows marked contrast between developments on the right and left wings. The main effort toward Caumont, involving the 1st Division and the 9th Infantry of the 2d Division, reached its objectives with only slight difficulty. To the west, the 29th Division and the 38th Infantry of the 2d Division met a type of enemy resistance which spelled the end of the rapid advances made since 7 June. The Germans defended the approaches to Hill 192 with a vigor proving the importance they attached to St-Lo, committing in this area the first considerable reinforcements to be used against V Corps. Although the Elle River was a small, fordable stream, its crossing involved a number of bitterly contested actions.
On the 2d Division's right, the 23d Infantry had the mission of passing through the positions of the 38th, attacking across the Elle, and occupying the Berigny-Hill 192 area. As planned, the attack was to be made in rather separated thrusts by two battalions of the 23d: the 1st would cross the Elle southwest of Cerisy-la-Foret and move south toward the hill; nearly three miles away, on the far side of Cerisy Forest, the 2d Battalion was to strike west across the Elle on the St-Lo highway, through Berigny. The attack jumped off at 0600 after a 20-minute artillery preparation by the 37th and 38th Field Artillery Battalions. The 1st Battalion got across the small stream but was not far past the line of departure
when it began to meet effective resistance. Helped by patches of woodland which concealed their movements, enemy infantry counterattacked the 1st Battalion on its western flank and threatened its rear. The battalion fell back a mile, staying south of the river. The 2d Battalion, coming out of Cerisy Forest on the Berigny highway, was stopped practically at the line of departure by heavy machine-gun and mortar fire from the west bank of the Elle. The 3d Battalion was then moved through Cerisy Forest to attack between the other two; its advance got as far as the Elle by early afternoon and was stopped there on the east bank.
The enemy was benefiting greatly by observation from Hill 192, and an air mission of fighter-bombers was directed against that height before dark. Supporting artillery was very active during the day, the 37th and 38th Field Artillery Battalions firing over 2,600 rounds. The artillery effort was increased late in the day as a result of requests for fire to stop local enemy counterattacks, which amounted to aggressive thrusts by small units. The enemy kept the initiative through the night, alarming the 2d Battalion at 0151 with a heavy burst of small-arms fire, and probing at other points along the line. Enemy artillery, though light, showed increased activity. Identifications of prisoners revealed that elements of the 352d Division were north of Hill 19, but that units of the 8th Paratroop Regiment, 3d Paratroop Division, were in the Berigny area. This division was regarded as a first-class unit of very high fighting quality.
General Robertson planned to resume the attack on 13 June, with two battalions of the 38th Infantry moving on Hill 192 from the north. Starting at 0800, these units passed through the 1st Battalion of the 23d Infantry and made good progress for two miles south of the Elle. They were hitting stronger opposition when the attack was stopped in the afternoon by division order; the 38th and 23d Infantry Regiments were to prepare their present positions for defense against possible enemy attack. Artillery support of this action had been heavy and effective; the 12th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm howitzers) fired 1,445 rounds, the 37th Field Artillery Battalion 4,400 rounds, and the 38th Field Artillery Battalion 841 rounds. The 2d Division had made some progress on 13 June, but was still two miles north of Hill 192 and had not succeeded in getting possession of the Berigny-St-Georges-d'Elle area. Losses reflected the heavier fighting on these two days, the 23d Infantry reporting 211 casualties and the 2d Division totals being 540. In the same period the 1st Division lost 92 men.
To the northwest of Berigny, the 29th Division encountered similar difficulties in crossing the Elle River. In the attack plan for 12 June, the division's main effort was to be made by the 115th Infantry, with the 175th in defensive positions on the west flank of V Corps and the 116th in reserve. The 747th Tank Battalion was held in division reserve to be in readiness for counter-attack. Three (plus) battalions of division artillery were to render close support for the 115th Infantry. That unit was ordered to attack across the Elle at 0500, its objectives St-Clair-sur-Elle and Couvains, in an operation which would protect the right flank of the 2d Division as it advanced on Hill 192.
Because of the opposition offered by the Germans, the Elle River crossing was to be more difficult than those of the Aure and Vire, much larger streams. The Elle itself was only 10 feet wide, but the very steep and wooded southern bank gave good ground for well-concealed emplacements. During the night, 29th Division artillery placed interdictory fire once an hour on St-Clair-sur-Elle, St-Jean-de-Savigny, and Couvains.
The 115th Infantry attacked with 2 battalions abreast, after 20 minutes of heavy preparatory fires by 4 artillery battalions. Company K, leading the 3d Battalion, was disorganized and suffered 32 casualties from shells which it believed to be "shorts" from friendly guns; this belief was later disproved, but by timing their own fire with the U. S. artillery preparation the Germans had affected the morale of the assault force.
Despite these difficulties, Company I and a platoon of Company K got across the stream east of the north-south road to St-Jean-de-Savigny; the rest of the battalion followed and by 0830 was 1,200 yards south of the crossing. However, to the right the 1st Battalion was stopped at the stream by heavy and accurate small-arms fire, with some support from mortars and antitank guns. This situation left the 3d Battalion advancing with open flanks south of St-Jean-de-Savigny, where it was stopped by machine-gun fire from hedgerow positions that could not be located. An enemy column, including some armored vehicles, came north on the road from Couvains and deployed in the hedgerows to east and west. By the end of the morning the 3d Battalion was fighting on the defensive to avoid being cut off from the rest of the division, was short of ammunition, and was suffering from accurate mortar fire and close-up shelling from antitank or self-propelled guns. In the early afternoon, K and I Companies withdrew to the starting positions; other elements failed to receive the withdrawal orders and came back two hours later in some disorder. The battalion's losses had been severe.
Division had begun by noon to take measures for rebuilding the attack. Two platoons of the 747th Tank Battalion were sent forward; attempting to spearhead the 1st Battalion of the 115th, the tanks were stopped by skillful use of antitank guns, three vehicles being knocked out, with nine casualties. Alerted at 1630, the 116th Infantry took over the attack in the evening. At 2200 it had two battalions across the Elle, and the 3d Battalion of the 115th (now attached to the 116th) had recrossed the river. By daylight of 13 June the attack had neared its objectives. That morning, coordinating its efforts with the 2d Division's attack just to the east, the 116th managed to fight into StClair-sur-Elle and Couvains. Division artillery continued to deliver heavy fires in support of the attack; its 6 (plus) battalions (of which one was supporting the 175th Infantry) fired 125 missions during the 2 days, and rounds expended after 1000, 12 June, included 2,736 high explosive and 400 white phosphorus. Of the units involved, the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,952 rounds on 12 June, and the 110th Field Artillery Battalion 1,053 rounds in the same period.
No fresh enemy forces had appeared in this area despite continued reports on 12-13 June indicating the approach of armor, believed to be the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Elements of several units of the 352d Division and of the 30th Mobile Brigade had rallied after their earlier reverses and were putting up determined resistance. North of StClair-sur-Elle, the Germans had made maximum use of prepared positions, with well-placed fields for automatic fire. In the St-Jean-de-Savigny area, the enemy had employed mobile tactics, involving infiltration and counterattack by small units on the flanks of advancing U. S. forces. German artillery support was still weak, with some self-propelled guns in use. It was clear that the enemy was prepared to hold Hill 192 with every means at his disposal. The engagement at the Elle on 12-13 June was, in fact, a foretaste of the bitter fighting to come in this sector. Most of the 29th Division's 547 casualties for the 2 days were
MAP NO. 9
suffered in their first battle for the approaches to St-Lo. Five miles from that town on 13 June, the 29th Division entered it on 18 July, while Hill 192 was captured by the 2d Division on 11 July only after costly fighting for every hedgerow on its slopes.
The Allied invasion began with three separate beachheads; these had to be welded into one before the first phase of operations could be considered accomplished. V Corps and the British Second Army had met at their boundary on 8 June in the Port-en-Bessin area, but four days later, solid junction with VII Corps was still to be achieved. The main obstacle was enemy resistance at Carentan, defended by the 6th Paratroop Regiment. From 10 to 12 June, the 101st Airborne Division was attempting to capture Carentan and reach the neck of land between the Douve and Vire rivers. On 10 June the 327th Glider Infantry had crossed the Douve between Carentan and the sea, contacting V Corps' bridgehead at the Vire, but this link was slender (Map No. XIV).
On the next two days the 327th was putting its main effort west toward the town, and V Corps units were called on for some assistance in protecting its flank. The small bridgehead at Auville-sur-le-Vey, established by the 175th Infantry on 10 June, was strengthened at 1700 the next day by arrival of the 3d Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry (2d Armored Division). On 11 June, the 29th Division was ordered to send a rifle company over the Vire south of the railway crossing, with missions of reconnoitering the area near Montmartin-en-Graignes and capturing two highway bridges southwest of it on the canal connecting the Vire and Taute Rivers (Map No. 9). By holding these two bridges, First Army would be more secure against the threat of an armored attack from St-Lo into the thin area of link-up between V Corps and VII Corps. This small operation, ordered to be carried out on 12 June, turned out to be much more than a routine reconnaissance in force.
The area of Montmartin had not been adequately patrolled, so the 175th Infantry decided to send a task force of two companies, E and C, each reinforced by a section of heavy mortars and one of heavy machine guns; Company C of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion was to provide the equipment for crossing the stream at two selected sites. As a result of various delays in assembling and getting started, the units did not reach the river in time to make the crossing under cover of darkness, as planned. Engineer trucks, carrying assault boats, got to the Vire about 0700. This tidal stream, about 150 yards wide in the area, flows between 10-foot dikes bordering flat expanses s)f marshland on both sides. With four assault boats to a company, each carrying about ten riflemen, the crossing had to be effected in a series of waves. Not until the first started was there any sign of the enemy, who then opened up with ineffective machine-gun fire at long range. The enemy evidently had outposts along the edges of the marsh flats some 500 yards to the west, but their few machine guns could not reach the level of the river below the dikes. Company E, accompanied by General Cota and by Col. Paul R. Goode, commanding the 175th Infantry, got across without losses. Enemy rifle fire began to build up as the attacking troops started across the marshes, making short zigzag dashes and using cover afforded by the many drainage ditches. The German machine guns were not sited for grazing fire on the flat, and casualties were only six or seven men. The enemy fire died out as the company reached the edge of the higher ground. A quarter mile to the south, Company C crossed against similar resistance, but
radio communications were not working between the units as they advanced to make a prearranged junction in Montmartin. General Cota decided to continue with Company E.
Company E got near Montmartin about 0800 and started to work around it to the north. Enemy fire reopened from the west, at about 300 yards range, and again stopped as Company E pushed against it. It was decided not to wait for Company C, but to go after the objective at the canal bridge. In approach-march formation, Company E started south down a road banked with deep hedgerows, planning to turn west just beyond the village. Before they had gone a hundred yards, heavy enemy fire from machine-pistols and rifles came out of the hedges on both sides of the sunken road. Caught in an ambush of a type easily set in hedgerow country, Company E was cut up and badly scattered. It withdrew to reorganize, north of Montmartin, but some of the troops went all the way back to the river and recrossed. The remnants of Company E were joined at 1040 by a part of Company C, which had experienced somewhat similar opposition as it neared the village. At 1100 the group started south to try to get past Montmartin on the river side. About 400 yards southeast of the village they were brought under machine-gun fire from prepared emplacements, ahead and to the west. Several concentrations by the 224th Field Artillery Battalion were called for, but failed to neutralize the enemy positions. The terrain lacked cover affording an approach to the enemy position, so the task force decided to withdraw and try once again to pass the village on the north. At 1600 they were back where the morning fight had taken place; once again enemy machine guns and rifles stalled advance westward. A brisk fire fight was heard to the north, and word reached the task force that units of the 327th Glider Infantry were fighting south from the railroad. But no contact was made other than by patrols, and toward nightfall the 175th's task force was reduced to about 150 men and was running short of ammunition, water, and food. General Cota ordered them into the village. Light enemy resistance, of a type which had often managed to impose considerable delay, was quickly disposed of by combining movement with the fire of every available small-arms weapon. Later in the evening General Cota decided the village was undesirable for purposes of a night defense and moved to a slight rise, covered by an orchard, just southeast of Montmartin.
Considerable anxiety concerning the Vire-Taute area was felt at higher headquarters that night. Carentan had been entered from the north, but German troops were reported counterattacking into the town. There were indications of a possible. enemy counterattack by armor from south of Carentan, and even reports of enemy patrols infiltrating into the Isigny area. At midnight of the 12th, First Army telephoned General Gerow of the possibility that the enemy might launch a strong counterattack between Carentan and Isigny next morning, and directed him to send a battalion of tanks and one of armored infantry to that area from the 2d Armored Division. Their mission was to assist the 327th Glider Infantry and the 175th Infantry in defense of the thinly held corridor connecting V and VII Corps. This order was carried out by Combat Command A, 2d Armored Division, which sent the 2d Battalion of the 66th Armored Regiment to join the armored infantry already west of Isigny; by 0630 this force was ready to move south to meet the presumed German armor. Before Combat Command A could launch an attack planned to strike south from Auville, its mission was changed by orders from First Army. Joined by a second battalion of
tanks, the combat command went to assist the 101st Airborne Division in securing Carentan. The 327th Glider Infantry, after nearly reaching Montmartin on 12 June, withdrew next day to its former line protecting the highway.
Meantime the 175th Infantry had made an attempt to relieve the remnants of the task force near Montmartin-en-Graignes. Colonel Goode himself took Company G, reinforced with heavy weapons, across the river at midnight on the 12th. The company moved south close to the river and past General Cota's night position. About a mile south of Montmartin they ran into a German bivouac and inflicted many casualties in a surprise encounter. Rallying, the Germans came back and surrounded Company G, which fought on until its ammunition ran low. Scattered groups made their way back in the morning; Colonel Goode was taken prisoner.
These developments left General Cota's group in dangerous isolation, nearly surrounded and still short of ammunition and food. Division ordered it to withdraw and had supplies dropped from planes. Fighting their way back to the Vire, 110 men rejoined the 175th Regiment at midnight of 13 June.
In the action at Montmartin, the reconnaissance force had been engaged with elements of a mobile unit (estimated at a company) which had operated according to prearranged defensive plans. These involved a thin screen of outposts along the river, to observe and delay a crossing. Main defensive forces, using bicycles, were then rushed up from rear posts to the threatened area and used for counterattack. Armed with a high proportion of machine pistols and machine guns, the German units made maximum use of the defensive possibilities offered by hedgerows, supplemented by prepared emplacements, echeloned in depth, at points offering good fields of fire along the roads. While part of the defenders used these positions for delaying action, other groups would make probing attacks on the flank and rear of an advancing column, attempting to surround and cut it of. Depending on aggressive maneuver by very small units, these tactics were particularly effective against a force like the reconnaissance groups of the 175th Infantry, which lacked the numerical strength and fire power to "bull through" and disorganize the enemy screen.
The check at Montmartin was not important in the perspective of the main action on 13 June. While the 175th Infantry's task force was fighting for survival at Montmartin, Combat Command A and the 101st Airborne Division had settled the main issue: possession of Carentan. Their coordinated attack had carried two miles southwest of the town and insured its capture. No enemy counterattack from the south had developed to split the link between the corps, and Army now had resources sufficient to enlarge the corridor of communication between Isigny and Carentan. That mission was assigned on 13 June to XIX Corps, which became operational at noon the next day.
At the opening of the period, Seventh Army learned that Carentan had fallen on 11 June and that there were clear indications of Allied preparation for attack in the Caen-Bayeux sector (Map No. XV).
During the morning of 12 June, Army received word that weak Allied reconnaissance elements had pushed close to Caumont. General Marcks, commanding LXXXIV Corps, was killed in a strong attack. Army informed his successor that the 2d Panzer Division was on the way to 11 the hole between the 352d and Panzer Lehr, with reconnaissance elements already near Caumont. According to Army's views at the mo-
ment, the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division was not likely to be used in a counterattack to retake Carentan; instead, it must be held in readiness to keep open the corridor north of la Haye-du-Puits in the western Cotentin. Army was apprehensive of a new ,Allied landing operation in the Cherbourg area, in which air landings might be combined with assault from sea west of the port.
Higher headquarters, on the other hand, showed more concern over the Allied advance in the Caumont area, and Army Group sent orders that all possible measures be taken to plug the gap on the right of the 352d Division. Amy informed von Rundstedt that reconnaissance elements of the Panzer Lehr and 2d Panzer Divisions had been put into that area, as well as some elements of the 3d Paratroop Division. Half-track elements of 2d Panzer were expected to arrive by 14 June, and first elements of the 2d SS Panzer on the 15th; the latter unit was on its way from the mountains of central France, where it had been dealing with French Resistance groups. In Army's view, there was now no reason for alarm with regard to the gap.
The principal fighting of 12 June took place between the Elle and Tillysur-Seulles. As Seventh Army viewed it, the Allies were making a main effort to exploit the gap. They had
managed to reach Caumont, and the flank of Panzer Lehr was exposed. In the Elle sector, local attacks were regarded as checked, although LXXXIV Corps warned that the Allies evidently planned a drive to seize St-Lo.
Orders from Hitler came that evening to Seventh Army: the Allied bridgehead between the Orne and Vire Rivers must be attacked and destroyed piecemeal, beginning with the area east of Caen. Hitler also stressed that in future any German unit cut off or surrounded must be prepared to fight where they stood, to the last man and the last bullet. No orders for withdrawal would be tolerated.
Seventh Army's intentions for 13 June were: attack east of the Orne by the 21st Panzer Division; preparations for an attack by 2d Panzer Division in the Caumont area; and use of parts of the 17th Panzer Division for recapture of Carentan.
From Seventh Army's viewpoint, 13 June was characterized by a defensive success which ended its worries over the gap in the Caumont-VillersBocage area. Elements of the 2d Panzer Division had arrived to fill the hole; admittedly just in time. With the 2d SS Panzer Division coming up to the same area and expected shortly, Army now envisaged an attack northward toward Balleroy to shorten the line. In the Elle sector, some penetrations had been made by Allied units in what is described as bitter fighting, but the 3d Paratroop Division was in position to defend that area. The German attempt to retake Carentan had failed. Allied gains had been made west and north of Ste-Mere-Eglise, and this area was now Seventh Army's main concern.
A curious report from LXXXIV Corps informed Army that the U.S. 1st Division was "newly identified" in the fighting northeast of St-Lo, and that the U.S. 29th Division, exhausted, was reported to have left the line.
On 13 June, the enemy forces in the sector between the Vire and the Taute comprised a battlegroup ("Heintz") made up of elements of both the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division and the 352d Division, attached to the 17th SS for operations but under the 352d for administration. The battle group included two infantry battalions (one newly arrived), elements of two engineer battalions, and some remnants of the 352d Divisional Artillery (4th Battalion). Their mission was to hold the ground from Montmartin-en-Graignes to the western end of the Vire-Taute Canal, against "continuous" Allied attacks "in battalion strength," supported by tanks.
The status of the reinforcing columns at the end of 13 June was as follows: wheeled vehicles of the 2d SS Panzer were at Tours; wheeled vehicles of the 2d Panzer were at Caumont, but tracked vehicles still at Paris, where they had detrained for march by road; the battle group of the 265th Division had reached Coutances; that of the 266th was still in the Brittany area; the 353d Division was near Rennes. All small mobile units of the divisions and corps still in Brittany were to be organized into battalions and made ready for departure to the Normandy battle.
On 14 June, Corps reported that the 352d Division was completely used up and should be taken out of line. On account of delays in reaching the battle area, the 2d Panzer Division was still lacking its heavier antitank guns, armored artillery, and heavy tanks. So far, it had been operating with its armored infantry units, which had taken heavy losses. In Army's opinion, the effectiveness of the other elements of the division was likely to be reduced by the fact that they were being forced to make a long overland march to reach the battle area; in particular, it was noted that the average life of the motor in Panther tanks was estimated at 500 miles. Allied air attacks were still causing major complications, including command problems. Not only had General Marcks (LXXXIV Corps) been killed by strafing planes, but bombing of a Panzer Corps headquarters (British zone) had forced a transfer of command to a new headquarters. As for German air, Army was informed that it could not intervene in the battle because of the distance from its (usable) bases.
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