Cover, Cross-Channel Attack


UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II

The European Theater of Operations

 

CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK

 

by
Gordon A. Harrison

 

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CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 2002


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 51-61669

 

First Printed 1951 - CMH Pub 7-4

 

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UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II

Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor

Advisory Committee

James P. Baxter
William T. Hutchinson

President, Williams College

 

University of Chicago

 

Henry S. Commager
S. L. A. Marshall

Columbia University

 

Detroit News

 

Douglas S. Freeman
E. Dwight Salmon

Richmond News Leader

 

Amherst College

 

Pendleton Herring
Col. Thomas D. Stamps

Social Science Research Council

 

United States Military Academy

 

John D. Hicks
Charles H. Taylor
University of California
Harvard University

Historical Division, SSUSA*

Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, Chief

Chief Historian
Kent Roberts Greenfield
Chief, World War II Group
Col. Allison R. Hartman**
Editor-in-Chief
Hugh Corbett
Chief Cartographer
Wsevolod Aglaimoff

*Redesignated Office of the Chief of Military History, 28 March 1950.

**Succeeded by Col. Thomas J. Sands, 3 March 1950.

[iii]


 

 

 

 

 

...to Those Who Served

 

 

 

 

 


Contents

Chapter
Page
I. THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY
1
.......The Common Ground
1
.......General Marshall's Project
13
......."Action in 1942-Not 1943"
21
.......The Period of Indecision (July-December 1942)
32
.......The Casablanca Conference
38
 
II. OUTLINE OVERLOAD (JANUARY-JULY 1943)
46
.......Organization for Planning
46
.......Size and Shape of the Attack
54
.......Landing Craft Requirements
59
.......Allotment of Resources, May 1943
63
.......The COSSAC Plans
70
 
III. OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943)
83
.......Strategy Reviewed: The Quebec Conference
83
.......Landing Craft Again
100
.......Questions of Command
105
.......The Cairo-Tehran Conferences
118
 
IV. THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943
128
.......Organization of the West
128
.......Impact of the Russian and Mediterranean Fronts
140
.......Rebuilding the Western Defenses
148
 
V. OVERLORD REVISED
158
.......U.S. Organization and Training for the Assault, January 1944
158
.......The ANVIL-OVERLORD Debate
164
.......The NEPTUNE Plans
173
 
VI. PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS
198
.......The French Resistance
198
.......The Combined Bomber Offensive
207
.......The Bombing of French Railroads
217
 
VII. GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944
231
.......OKW Policy in 1944
231
.......Organization for Combat
236
.......Command and Tactics
242
.......The Defense on the Eve of Invasion
258
 
VIII. THE SIXTH OF JUNE
269
.......The Invasion is Launched
269
.......The Airborne Assault
278
.......Hitting the Beaches
300
.......The D-Day Beachhead
321
 
IX. THE V CORPS LODGMENT (7-18 JUNE)
336
.......Securing the Beachheads
336
.......Junction Between V and VII Corps
351
.......The Caumont Gap
366
.......Toward St. Lô
377
 
X. THE CAPTURE OF CHERBOURG (8 JUNE-1 JULY)
386
.......Securing the North Flank
386
.......Attack to Cut the Peninsula
396
.......Hitler Intervenes
408
.......Advance to the Cherbourg Landfront
416
.......The Fall of Cherbourg
422
.......End of a Phase
438

 

Appendix
.......A. DIGEST OF OPERATION OVERLORD
450
.......B. DIRECTIVE TO SUPREME COMMANDER, ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
457
.......C. HITLER DIRECTIVE NO. 40
459
.......D. HITLER DIRECTIVE NO. 51
464
.......E. CHRONOLOGY OF MAIN PLANNING PAPERS FROM 1 JANUARY 1944
468
.......F. COMPARATIVE FIRE POWER OF THE U.S. AND GERMAN 1944-TYPE INFANTRY DIVISIONS
470
.......G. DIVISIONS AVAILABLE TO GERMANY ON 6 JUNE 1944
471
.......H. TABLE OF EQUIVALENT RANKS
472
.......I. RECIPIENTS OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS
473
.......J. BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS
477

 

GLOSSARY 479
CODE NAMES 485
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 487

 

Charts

No.
Page
1. Simplified Command and Planning Organization for European Operations as of May 1942
3
2. German Chain of Command in the West, May 1944
244
3. Luftwaffe Command in the West
245
4. German Naval Command in the West
245

 

Maps

No.
Page
1. Situation in Europe, 6 June 1944
268
2. German Counterattack in the Contentin
296
3. 4th Infantry Division, 6 June 1944
305
4. German Counterattack on Carentan, 13 June 1944
366
5. Caumont Gap, Morning 10 June 1944
370
6. The la Fière Bridgehead, 9 June 1944
397

 

I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.
IX.
X.
XI.
XII.
XIII.
XIV.
XV.
XVI.
XVII.
XVIII.
XIX.
XX.
XXI.
XXII.
XXIII.
XXIV.

 

Illustrations

Page
President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill
7
General Marshall
14
U.S. Soldiers in Ireland
20
Casablanca Conference
39
General Morgan
50
British Landing Craft on Beach at Dieppe
55
German Submarine Under Aerial Attack
85
Quebec Conference
89
General Montgomery
117
Tehran Conference
124
Field Marshal von Rundstedt and General Jodl
132
German High Command
134
Enemy Coast Artillery
139
Field Marshal Rommel
150
General Eisenhower
159
Invasion Training in England
161
Assault Training
163
Vauville Beach, Spring 1944
178
Preinvasion Bombing
195
Hitler Leaving Railway Carriage at Compiègne
199
V-Bomb Over London, June 1944
216
Bombardment of Marshaling Yards
226
Result of Air Attacks
229
Antilanding Obstacles
251
German Mobile Infantry
255
Captured German Armor
256
Preinvasion Scenes
271
Allied Invasion Chiefs
273
German Field Commanders
277
Parachute Troops
279
Hedgerow Country
285
Merderet River Crossing
294
Crossing the Channel
299
Troops on Utah Beach
303
Aerial View of Utah Beach on D-Day Morning
306
Aerial View of Omaha Beach on D Plus 1
310
Terrain on Omaha Beach
312
Assault Landings, Omaha Beach
314
First Aid on the Beach
316
Rangers Scaling the Cliffs at Pointe du Hoe
323
Ninth Air Force B-52 Over British Beachhead
331
Troops on Utah Beach Under Artillery Fire
343
Planes and Gliders Circling Les Forges
346
U.S. Commanders
352
St. Côme-du-Mont Area
354
Carentan Causeway
358
Carentan and Hill 30 Area
362
Tank Equipped with Hedgerow Cutter
385
Crisbecq Fortification
389
Azeville Forts
391
Quinéville
394
La Fière Causeway
399
Tank Entering St. Sauveur-le Vicomte
405
Ste. Colombe-Néhou Area
407
Seine River Bridge at Mantes-Gassicourt Under Bombardment
409
Utah Beach During the Build-up
424
Omaha Beach During the Build-up
425
Artificial Port at Omaha Beach
427
American Artillery in Action Against Cherbourg
433
Fort du Roule
435
House-to-House Search in Cherbourg
437
American Infantry Captain with Cherbourg Prisoners
439

Illustrations are from the following sources:

U.S. Army Photos, pages: 7, 14, 20, 39, 50, 89, 117, 124, 132, 159, 163, 178, 216, 251, 256, 271, 273, 277, 285, 303, 310, 316, 343, 352, 385, 405, 424, 425, 427, 433, 437, 439

U.S. Air Force Photos, pages: 85, 195, 226, 229, 279, 285, 294, 306, 312, 331, 346, 354, 358, 362, 389, 391, 394, 399, 407, 409, 424, 427, 435

U.S. Navy Photos, pages: 161, 323

U.S. Coast guard Photos, pages: 161, 299, 303, 314, 425

Captured German Photos, pages: 55, 134, 139, 150, 255

National Archives Photo, page: 199

[xiii - xvii]


Foreword

Cross-Channel Attack is one of approximately a hundred volumes which the Department of the Army intends to publish regarding its part in World War II. This particular volume deals with the planning and the difficulties encountered incident to the mounting of the largest amphibious assault ever undertaken in military history. Much of the information it contains has not heretofore been a matter of public knowledge. For example, light is for the first time thrown upon the enemy's conflicting theories of defense against Allied air superiority and upon his paucity of first-class troops. This information is derived from the official records of the Wehrmacht and from signed statements of German participants. Many of the difficulties encountered in the planning, as well as in the execution stage of the operation, are here described to the public for the first time.

Where this history deals with the struggle ashore, it clearly illustrates the necessity for commanders to adjust their thinking to the means at hand, the terrain, and the influence of new weapons. It reiterates the indispensability of constant training in how to get order out of the confusion which is forever present upon the battlefield. It brings to mind in this connection the means used by a football team for meeting the problems of overcoming opposition on the playing field. The plays devised and the techniques used to attain its ends must be practiced again and again. Frequently it is the loss of effective direction of small units, incident to the battle's toll, which makes for failure rather than success.

Whether the reader approaches the book with the justified pride that he was a member or supporter of the winning team, or whether he reads to learn, is a matter for him to decide. The victor tends to prepare to win the next war with the same means and methods with which he won the last. He forgets the difficulty of reaching decisions, the planning problems, his faltering, his unpreparedness. The vanquished is wont to search far afield for new and improved methods, means, and equipment. The accomplishments of those who fought in this period were indeed great, as were the sacrifices. But from the national viewpoint it would seem desirable to read this volume with the self-critical eye of the vanquished as well as with the pride of the victor, an approach which the thoughtful reader will not find difficult.

 

 

Washington, D.C.
1 October 1950

ORLANDO WARD
Maj. Gen., U.S.A.
Chief of Military History

[vii]


Introductory Note on the History of the European Theater of Operations

Chronologically this volume is first in the series narrating the events of World War II in the European Theater of Operations. It has been preceded in publication by The Lorraine Campaign, which covers the operations of the Third Army during the autumn of 1944 and which begins some two months after the close of the present volume. A co-operative history of the type represented in this series has distinct advantages but does not lend itself readily to the production and publication of volumes in proper chronological order. For this reason each volume will be designated only by title and will remain unnumbered.

Cross-Channel Attack has been planned and written as the introduction to the history of those campaigns in 1944 and 1945 which led to the destruction of the German armies in the west. It provides necessary background for the study of all the campaigns in the European Theater of Operations. The narrative of operations ends on 1 July 1944, with the Allies firmly established in Normandy. The concluding chapters show the successful fruition of plans and preparations reaching back as far as January 1942; but the seizure of the Norman beaches and the establishment of a lodgment area are only a beginning, a point of departure for the drive to the Elbe and the Baltic. Although Cross-Channel Attack includes discussion of certain problems of high command and logistics, a more complete treatment is accorded these subjects in two volumes now under preparation in this series: The Supreme Command and Logistical Support of the Armies.

The author of Cross-Channel Attack, Gordon A. Harrison, a former newspaper reporter and instructor at Harvard University, holds the Doctor of Philosophy degree from that institution. During the war he served as a historical officer with the Third Army, taking part in five campaigns. He joined the Historical Division, Department of the Army, in 1946.

 

Washington, D.C.
1 October 1950

HUGH M. COLE
Chief, European Section

[viii]


Preface

This volume, introductory to a series on the European Theater of Operations, deals with the development of strategy and planning for the attack on northwest Europe in 1944 and with the first month of operations establishing Allied armies in France. The first seven chapters (about two-thirds) of the book are concerned with the prelude to the 6 June assault: the preparations and discussions of strategy on both the Allied and German sides from 1941 to 1944. The remaining three chapters describe the combat operations of the First U. S. Army in Normandy from 6 June to 1 July 1944. This apportionment of space was deliberately made with reference to the whole European Theater Series, and much of the material on plans, the state of German defense, preparatory operations, has strict relevance only when viewed from the larger perspective.

While attempting to set operations in northwest Europe in the framework of world-wide strategy, Cross-Channel Attack makes no pretense of telling the full story of that strategy. Other volumes under preparation by the Historical Division will focus on the Mediterranean and Pacific and discuss various aspects of the higher direction of the war.

It should be pointed out further that this is an American story of an Allied operation. It is based largely on Department of the Army records, and although these include a large number of British and Combined documents it has not been possible, nor was it intended, to develop in full the narrative of British participation. Every effort has been made to avoid a partisan viewpoint and to present fairly some of the critical problems of the Anglo-American alliance as they came into and were revealed by the cross-Channel project. Beyond that there is no attempt to achieve an "Allied" perspective or to weigh and balance American and British contributions. In the operational chapters British action has been summarized only when it occurred on the flank of First U. S. Army and materially affected American operations.

In the narrative of American operations in Chapters VIII-X, the basic unit treated is the division, although in recording the fragmented battles typical of fighting in the European theater it often becomes necessary to follow battalions and even companies and platoons on quasi-independent missions in order to describe fully what the division as a unit did. The actions are described in somewhat less detail than in other volumes of the series chiefly because the Department of the Army has already published monographs covering the period. The reader interested in greater detail will find it in [Charles H. Taylor] Omaha Beachhead (Washington, 1945) and [R. G. Ruppenthal] Utah Beach to Cherbourg (Washington, 1947). Cross-Channel Attack summarizes these two accounts with occasional corrections, additions, and reinterpretations, and with entirely new German material.

[ix]


In a work based on thousands of cables, memoranda, plans, journal entries, etc., to have cited the source for every fact would have unduly burdened every page with redundant footnotes. Documentation is therefore selective, aimed first at citing authorities for all important or disputed facts and opinions, and second at providing those curious to know more with an adequate guide to the primary and secondary source material.

As is the uniform practice throughout this series, German units and headquarters are italicized. Exception is made for OKW and OKH which, though military headquarters, were also constitutional organs of the German state. German units are translated whenever exact English equivalents exist. The terms panzer, panzer grenadier, Luftwaffe, and Kampfgruppe, however, have been retained because they are of such common occurrence that they have been virtually assimilated at least into military English.

Cross-Channel Attack is in a real sense the product of co-operative enterprise. It depends heavily on information collected by army historians in the field during combat, on preliminary draft narratives by other historians after combat, on specific assistance given me during the writing and research, and perhaps most important of all on the privilege (which I have always enjoyed) of tapping the collective knowledge of colleagues working in related fields. When the first draft was completed I had to leave the Division temporarily and the whole burden of editing devolved for some time upon others. I am particularly grateful to Associate Editor Joseph R. Friedman and to Capt. Frank Mahin, Capt. James Scoggin, and Mr. Detmar Finke of the Foreign Studies Section for undertaking much of the onerous burden of checking facts and footnotes in my absence, and for performing an editing task that often amounted to collaboration.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge indebtedness to Col. S. L. A. Marshall for his indispensable series of interviews and manuscript studies of the airborne operations in Normandy and for his interviews with officers and men of the 1st and 29th Divisions. Other combat interviews to which I am indebted were conducted by Lt. Col. W. T. Gayle and Capt. R. G. Ruppenthal. Special thanks are due Captain Ruppenthal and Colonel Taylor for the excellent preliminary studies on UTAH and OMAHA beach mentioned above which I have used freely. Interviews conducted by Dr. Forrest C. Pogue with some forty British planners and commanders in the summer of 1946 immeasurably enriched the record available to me.

In exploring German sources, besides assistance by the Foreign Studies Section I received special help from Capt. Benjamin Schwartz. The bulk of the research in air force records on which the section on the Combined Bomber Offensive is based was very ably performed by Lt. Col. Charles A. Warner. The task of locating relevant documents and running down some of the more elusive facts was made easier and more pleasant by the willing efforts of many special research assistants and archivists who cannot all be named here. I appreciate the co-operation of members of the JCS Historical Section, the Air Forces Historical Section, and the Office of Naval History. I am spe-

[x]


cially grateful to Mr. Israel Wice and his assistants, to Mr. Royce L. Thompson, and to Miss Alice Miller.

The problems of dealing with an Allied operation largely from American records were greatly reduced by the generous help of the British Cabinet Historical Section under Brigadier H. B. Latham. I must particularly acknowledge the contributions of Lt. Col. H. A. Pollock and Lt. Col. A. E. Warhurst. Colonel Warhurst, author of the British Historical Section's preliminary narrative of operations in northwest Europe, has sent me copies of important documents missing from the files here and has supplied careful briefs of British action. Useful information was also supplied by the British Admiralty and the Air Ministry. Col. C. P. Stacey of the Canadian Historical Section gave me the benefit of his special knowledge. It should be pointed out, however, that the British and Canadian historians do not concur in many of the judgments in this book and that they are in no way responsible for the handling of the material, or for errors of fact or presentation.

For making available personal papers and other data I am indebted to the kindness of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Maj. Gen. Ray W. Barker, and Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan. Other commanders have helped clarify obscure points and have criticized portions of the manuscript. Footnotes acknowledge their contributions only in part. The warning must be repeated that their help in no way implies an endorsement of the use that has been made of it.

Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff in the course of planning and laying out the maps provided me with new fruitful perspectives out of his knowledge and experience as a military cartographer. Pictures were selected and prepared by Lt. Col. John Hatlem; aerial photographs were made by him specially for this volume through the co-operation of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF. Miss Michael Burdett edited the footnotes and, with Mrs. Frances T. Fritz, copy-edited the entire manuscript. The tremendous job of preparing the index was carried out by Mr. David Jaffe. Miss Mildred Bucan typed the manuscript for the printer.

Cross-Channel Attack has been prepared under the general direction of Dr. Hugh M. Cole, Chief of the European Section, Historical Division. It has been a happy and rewarding experience to have had Dr. Cole's discerning counsel throughout the period of research and writing.

 

Washington, D.C.
1 October 1950

GORDON A. HARRISON

[xi]


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