THE FALL OF CHERBOURG
Though the conglomerate German force continued to resist with determination and delayed the American advance, VII Corps progress was steady after the penetration of 22-23 June. In the final phase the three infantry divisions reduced the remaining strong points one by one, seized the last ground commanding the port, and closed in on the beleaguered city.
General Collins' verbal orders for 24 June made no fundamental changes in the plans outlined several days earlier. The flank regiments of the Corps, the 22d and the 60th, were assigned the mission of containing the enemy in the northeast and northwest respectively. The 47th and 39th Infantry Regiments were to make a coordinated attack toward Octeville, a suburb southwest of Cherbourg, and the 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments were to attack in the east. The 79th Division was to capture the strong point at la Mare a Canards by double envelopment, following a dive- bombing early in the morning. Air preparation was also planned on other major strong points.
On 24 June the 22d Infantry, with the exception of the 2d Battalion, protected the right flank of the Corps by containing the enemy cut off in the Maupertus-Gonneville area. Fragmentary German forces continued to infiltrate to the south of Hill 18 throughout this period. A complete mopping up of the airport region was indicated, but this was postponed for the present.1 General Barton limited the 22d Infantry to "policing" its positions and whatever action was necessary to maintain the security of the main supply rout south to le Theil. The 8th Infantry attacked and captured the last strong point in its zone, one of the most heavily armed positions yet encountered. Well located on the high ground east of la Glacerie and straddling a road junction, it was a semi- permanent entrenched position including several 88-mm. guns, four
Capture of this position was the mission of the 2d Battalion, which was to pass through the 3d and make the main regimental effort. The 1st Battalion was to attack on the left and come abreast of the most advanced positions. In support of this attack, twelve P-47's carried out one of the most accurate dive-bombing missions thus far seen in the operation. Of the twenty-four 500-pound bombs, twenty-three dropped squarely on the target. A 15-minute artillery preparation followed before the battalion jumped off.
With continued artillery and mortar support the 2d Battalion moved forward, two companies abreast. But neither the bombing nor the artillery concentrations had destroyed the enemy position, and the lead companies were stopped and came under heavy artillery fire. With no assurance of immediate aid the companies withdrew. Company E, which had borne the brunt of the attack, could account for only forty men when it got back to the line of departure. Two hours later the attack was resumed with tank support. The tanks turned the enemy's left flank and the Germans abandoned their guns, most of which were intact despite the bombing. About one hundred prisoners were taken in the vicinity that day and twenty-seven more surrendered the next morning. The 8th Infantry lost thirty-seven killed, including Lieutenant Colonel Simmons, 1st Battalion commander.
For the 8th Infantry the capture of this strong point was the last day of hard fighting in the Cotentin operation. On 25 June it cleaned out scattered resistance in the regimental area and consolidated its position east of la Glacerie. With this last action it was pinched out and took no further part in the capture of Cherbourg.
The main effort of the 4th Division on 24 June was made in the center, where the 12th Infantry paced the advance on the division's final objective, the fortified Tourlaville area. Several enemy positions lay in the path of the regiment. The strongest were known to be on a line westward from Digosville. Two battalions were to be used for the initial attack. On the right flank, the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, attached to the 12th the night before, was assigned the Digosville objective and given the support of one company of the 3d Battalion, 12th Infantry. The 1st Battalion, which had come up on the 3d's right during the night, was to attack roughly abreast of the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, toward Tourlaville. The 3d Battalion was to remain on Hill 140, supporting the attack with fire. The 2d Battalion was held in reserve but prepared for commitment on the left.
Before the day was over all four battalions had been committed. The 1st, aided by six tanks of Company B, 70th Tank Battalion, advanced up a slope and overran an artillery position, taking many prisoners. During the mop-up and reorganization it received artillery fire from other enemy batteries and lost its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Merrill, who had assumed command only a day or two before.
Meanwhile, Company K of the 3d Battalion, also supported by tanks, moved east to join the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, in attacking Digosville. The company advanced toward Digosville2 in an approach march formation and scouts came within 200 yards of the German emplacements before machine guns opened fire on them. The four tanks deployed, returned the fire, and then overran the first gun positions. As the main enemy body began to concentrate a heavy volume of automatic and rifle fire on Company K, the tanks provided a base of fire with both 75-mm. guns
General Barton decided to exploit these successes as far as possible. The 12th Infantry was ordered to move into Tourlaville that evening. The 3d Battalion, still in position at Hill 140, was to be used for this mission. Despite the approaching darkness, tanks were ordered to accompany the battalion, and, with many of the men riding the tanks, the 3d moved into Tourlaville unopposed. An all-around defense was organized and the tanks were released at 0200. The 12th Infantry had captured eight hundred prisoners during the day, in itself a fair indication of the disintegration of the enemy's left.
The capture of Tourlaville did not end the 12th Infantry's activity for that night. At 0300 Colonel Luckett, its commanding officer, ordered all four battalions to continue the attack still further. The 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, was to move north from Digosville to the sea. The 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, was to follow the road north, just east of a big coastal battery position. The 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry, was to clean out the Tourlaville area, assisted by the 3d.
At 0900 the regiment again had air support. P-47's dropped thirteen bombs on the coastal battery position and half an hour later the 1st Battalion moved down the road to the fort. From a distance, two white flags could be seen above the position. But when the two leading companies entered a wooded draw in front of the objective they were fired on by mortars and 20-mm. guns. Six men were wounded. The flags still waved but the fighting went on. Tanks were brought up for the attack and not until early afternoon, after several hours of fighting, did the enemy garrison of 400 finally surrender. Three 8-inch guns, several 88-mm. and 20-mm. guns, and mortars were found in the fort.
Meanwhile both the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 12th Infantry moved north to the sea. The 3d Battalion went to Bourbourg to patrol the coast to Pointes des Greves. Company I missed its turn north, entered the outskirts of Cherbourg by mistake, and then joined Company K west of Bourbourg. The 2d Battalion was directly south, below the Tourlaville- Cherbourg road. The two battalions were thus in position to enter the city.
Until 2 June no part of Cherbourg had been included in the 4th Division's one. Early in the afternoon, however, General Collins altered the boundary between the 4th and 79th Divisions so that the former could share in the capture of the city. At 1800, Colonel Luckett met his battalion commanders and issued the order for the 12th Infantry's attack into Cherbourg. The 2d and 3d Battalions were to lead the advance, which was to begin at 2000.
Elsewhere on the Corps front, German resistance was also crumbling. The continuing American attacks were given added impact by the effective air support of the dive-bombing P-47's of the Ninth Air Force. Like the 4th Division at Digosville, Tourlaville, and the strong point east of la Glacerie, the 79th Division now had air support in its attacks on
On 24 June the 313th Infantry veered slightly east to attack the strong points west of la Glacerie and at Hameau Gringor to the north. Advancing in a column of battalions, the regiment enveloped the first position from the right and proceeded on to Hameau Gringor despite continuing opposition, taking 320 prisoners and several artillery pieces in the area. Meanwhile, in the 3 14th Infantry's zone twelve P-47's again bombed strong point "F" at 0800, and the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 314th Infantry moved out to attack the two enemy positions astride the highway. Within an hour the 2d Battalion was on its objective to the east of the highway, and within another half hour the 3d also reached the main enemy position on the left. From these positions the battalions could see Fort du Roule, which Colonel Robinson, the regimental commander, hoped to capture the same day. The two battalions moved north about 1,000 yards astride the highway in preparation for the attack. The 3d Battalion tried three times to break through on the left. But because of the division's exposed left flank, which permitted the enemy to deliver fire from the heights of Octeville, across the river, the 314th was unable to push the attack farther that day. Hardinvast continued to be a troublesome spot, resisting capture by the 315th Infantry until the following day.
Meanwhile, on the west flank the 9th Division, advancing down the ridge which parallels the Divette River, also closed in on Cherbourg. Fairly heavy resistance was encountered on 2 3-24 June, but one by one the strong points fell and by noon of 25 June the 39th and 47th Infantry Regiments were in the suburbs of the city. The 60th Infantry continued guarding the flank of the division against possible attack from the west, pushing reconnaissance in the direction of Tonneville and Ste. Croix-Hague. Road blocks were maintained in the vicinity of Martinvast and Hardinvast against the threat of counterattack by enemy forces still holding out in that area.
By the morning of 24 June the 47th Infantry was ready to drive down the ridge against the last strong points overlooking Cherbourg. For this drive it was joined by the 39th Infantry, on the right. Along the ridge, in the path of the two regiments, lay three enemy positions. The regimental boundary ran generally through these positions, the 47th being responsible for everything north of the Cherbourg-Flottemanville- Hague road. The second strong point, target "C," a flak position, had been one of the five principal targets of previous air force bombings.
The 39th Infantry moved abreast of the 47th at 0800 on 24 June, but coordination between the two regiments was poor at first and they did not seem to be aware of their relative positions until late in the morning. The 47th's attack was delayed, first by fire from the Flottemanville area and then from a hill south of Nouainville. General Eddy ordered the 60th to clean out the remaining positions south of Tonneville to eliminate the first source of fire. Before jumping off, the 47th Infantry decided to put artillery fire on the hill position, and warned the 39th to hold off its attack. But when it attempted to have the target marked with smoke the Germans also threw up smoke, misleading the American artillery. The 47th Infantry suspected that the enemy was intercepting its radio messages, and the 3d Battalion finally moved out without artillery support about 1330. The division G-3 ordered the 39th Infantry to move also, sending two battalions straight down the ridge without waiting for the 47th Infantry.
The first two strong points were taken with comparative ease, but in front of the last position outside of Octeville both the 2d and 3d Battalions, 39th Infantry, were held up for several hours. An artillery concentration ar-
The 47th Infantry, with the 2d and 3d Battalions abreast, meanwhile advanced along the northern slope of the ridge and, after assisting the 39th in the capture of the flak position, turned almost directly north toward the fortress of Equeurdreville and the Redoute des Fourches. Late in the day both battalions prepared to assault the Redoute after an artillery concentration, but darkness forced postponement of the attack.
German forces in Fortress Cherbourg were well aware of the desperateness of their position as early as the morning of 24 June. By that time VII Corps had broken through the main defense line, although it had not yet captured all of the principal strong points. In an intercepted message to higher headquarters General von Schlieben stated: "...communi-
On 25 June, at approximately 0700, a German medical officer, adjutant of the Naval Hospital at Cherbourg, accompanied by a captured American Air Forces officer, came through the lines of the 9th Division to request that the hospital be spared from shelling and that blood plasma be sent for the wounded Americans there. He was given the plasma and returned to Cherbourg bearing also a demand for the immediate surrender of the city: "The Fortress Cherbourg is now surrounded and its defenses have been breached. The city is now isolated. ... You are tremendously
As the German commander received this demand, the 12th Infantry was storming Tourlaville and pushing on to the coast; the 314th Infantry was assaulting Fort du Roule; the 39th Infantry was fighting its way into Octeville; and the 47th Infantry was battering at the western outskirts of the city near Equeurdreville.
The outstanding event of 25 June was the capture of Fort du Roule. Built high and secure into the steep rock promontory which stands immediately back of the city, the fort dominated the entire harbor area and was a formidable-appearing bastion, particularly from the sea. Fort du Roule was primarily a coastal fortress, with its guns housed in the lower levels of the fort pointing seaward. However, it was also defended against land attack from its top level, which mounted automatic weapons and mortars in concrete pillboxes, and enjoyed a favorable defensive position with the steep sides of the promontory restricting the approach to the fort along a solitary ridge. Only the top level of the fort was visible from the land side. A few hundred yards southeast of the fort the Germans had dug an antitank ditch. Several hundred yards farther south was a stream bed, still another hindrance to the attackers.
At 0800 on 25 June one squadron of P-47's bombed Fort du Roule, but for the most part the planes overshot their mark and no damage was done to the subterranean tunnels housing the guns. The land attack was undertaken by the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 314th Infantry. The 3d Battalion at first attempted an attack straight across the draw which lies approximately 700 yards south of the fort. But on reaching the slopes which lead down into the draw the battalion was met with a tremendous volume of small-arms fire. This fire originated from a row of well dug-in positions along an east-west trail on the forward slope and just a few yards beyond the stream bed. Resistance from these positions came as a surprise, and there was at the moment nothing to counter this fire except the 3d Battalion's own small arms and mortars, for the artillery supporting the attack (the 311th Field Artillery Battalion) was firing on the fort itself, 700 yards beyond. The resistance from these bunkers was finally eliminated by the concentration of all machine guns in the 2d and 3d Battalions. Few Germans escaped to the fort. Almost all of them were wiped out by the great volume of automatic fire.
It was now possible to move against the fort itself. From this point the attack was taken over by the 2d Battalion, with the 3d providing covering fire from positions on the slopes south of the draw. Companies E and F led the attack, moving around on the right, first to capture various outlying enemy installations, including a motor pool, and then moving along the broad ridge northwest toward the fort. In its advance the two companies were under continuous fire, not only from the weapons of the fort but also from artillery on the heights of Octeville across the Divette River. The tempo of the attack slowed considerably in the last few hundred yards and then settled down to normal assault tactics, involving covering fires, the use of bangalore torpedoes to blast gaps in the wire, and the careful placing of demolitions. In the course of these operations the capture of the fort was given its most notable impetus by the action of Cpl. John D. Kelly of Company E. Kelly's platoon had become pinned down on the slopes by enemy machine-gun fire from one of the pillboxes. Volunteering to knock out the position, Corporal Kelly armed himself with a 10-foot pole charge with fifteen pounds of TNT, inched his way up the slope under heavy automatic fire. and placed the charge at the
Meanwhile the 3d Battalion moved up to clear resistance from the left flank of the assaulting battalion. Here again the fight was aided by an individual exploit. When Company K was stopped by combined 88-mm. and machine-gun fire, 1st Lt. Carlos C. Ogden, who had just taken over the company from the wounded company commander, armed himself with an M1 rifle, a grenade launcher, and a number of rifle and hand grenades and advanced alone up the slope toward the enemy emplacements. Although wounded in this advance, Ogden continued up the slope and finally reached a point from which he destroyed the 88-mm. gun with a well- placed rifle grenade. Again wounded, Ogden continued, found the two machine guns which had held up his company, and with hand grenades
Meanwhile on the division's right flank the 313th Infantry, led by the 2d Battalion, moved from Hameau Gringor down into the flats southeast of Cherbourg. Patrols were sent into the outskirts of the city and took a few prisoners, but it was impossible to enter the city in strength on 25 June due to the fire from the guns in the lower level of Fort du Roule.
On the 9th Division's front the 39th Infantry made only slight gains on 25 June. The 2d Battalion was held up by 20-mm. antiaircraft fire on the outskirts of Octeville and spent most of the day combating this fire with tank destroyers and artillery. The 3d Battalion was diverted by the threat of enemy infiltration over the division boundary from the direction of Martinvast.
The 47th Infantry, on the other hand, made the first penetration in the suburbs by taking the enemy position at Equeurdreville. Surrounded by a dry moat with a single bridge, and well-wired and located atop a high hill, the position looked like a medieval fortress. Actually, however, the structure constituted only the observation post and control point for a battery of coastal guns on the reverse slope. It had overhanging observation rooms and tunnels connecting with the batteries to the north, but apparently was not well protected from the south. The 2d Battalion had approached to within 00 yards of it during the previous night.
Reconnaissance in the morning showed that the road fronting the hill had been mined. Before the jump-off, tank destroyers cleared a path for the infantry and a squadron of P-47's bombed the position at 0930. At 1045 it was shelled by artillery and then Company E started out behind a mortar barrage. Although the Germans had good defensive positions, they were not disposed to fight and eighty-nine men surrendered fifteen minutes after the assault had started. That evening Company E set up an arc of defense on the northern slopes of the hill. Company F also met only ineffective resistance at the Hameau du Tot strong point and advanced rapidly into Equeurdreville with the aid of tanks, tank destroyers, and engineers. The company actually pushed a platoon to the beach west of the arsenal during the evening, but withdrew it to the edge of the city for the night. While the 2d Battalion was breaking the last defenses west of the city, the 3d captured the Redoute des Fourches after a heavy artillery concentration. During this day of crumbling enemy resistance the 9th Division took more than 1,100 prisoners.
That evening all three battalions of the 12th Infantry entered Cherbourg from the east. The 2d and 3d Battalions, which earlier had reached the vicinity of Bourbourg, were ordered to move into the city at 2000 and experienced only slight delays. The 2d received scattered fire from houses and a concentration of oil-filled Nebelwerfer rockets which fell to the rear, but losses were light. The 3d Battalion, delayed only by mines, crossed the railway and moved down the Rue Carnot and Boulevard Maritime. At Rue Jules Ferry, Company K came under heavy fire from beach guns to the north and turned south to follow Company I. Both the 2d and 3d Battalions advanced along undefended streets to Rue de la Bretonniere, the limit of the 4th Division zone.
In contrast to the comparative ease of these advances, the 1st Battalion encountered stubborn resistance and engaged in sharp fighting as it cleared out the coast west of Pointe des Greves. Detailed information about the beach fortifications east of Fort des Flamands was
At 2323, exactly as planned, the first artillery concentration blew up an ammunition dump one block ahead of the battalion line. The second landed 100 yards farther north and the third 100 yards beyond, setting fire to buildings. The final concentration came at 2340 and Companies A and C moved ahead 500 yards before automatic fire from pillboxes halted them. Three hours were consumed in fruitless attempts to destroy these pillboxes with explosives, while the Germans shot flares and fired at anything that mod. The companies finally abandoned the attack and organized a defensive position.
During the night the Germans were busy destroying their installations. Port des Flamands went up in flames, followed by the Amcot Aircraft Works, the Gare Maritime, and other buildings. At 0550 American tanks were brought up to the beach defenses to fire point-blank at the pillboxes, but the appearance of the armor was sufficient. Nearly 350 Germans filed out of the fortifications to surrender. As engineers performed the final act of destroying guns and clearing mines, the 4th Division's role in Cherbourg's capture reached completion.
The attacks of 25 June received support from the Navy. General Bradley had requested naval shelling of the Cherbourg batteries, to be synchronized with the final land assault. A task force of three battleships, four cruisers, and screening destroyers, formed for this purpose, was scheduled to support the ground forces on 24 June, but held its fire because of uncertainty regarding troop dispositions. The next afternoon the task force moved in at close range to fire on the Cherbourg batteries, but enemy shore batteries as far west as the Cap de la Hague Peninsula opened accurate return fire and forced the task force to shift to counterbattery in self-defense. Perhaps the chief value of the naval support was that, by drawing enemy fire, it enabled the 9th Division artillery observers to spot several large enemy batteries in the Cap de la Hague area.
The 79th and 9th Divisions virtually cleared the city on 26 June. The 79th, responsible for the area east of the Divette River, moved against the city early in the morning with the 313th Infantry on the right and the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 314th on the left. Elements of the 313th Infantry reached the beach in their sector by 0800. The 314th was delayed by fire from the left, for the 39th Infantry on that flank lagged behind, but reached the beach by mid-afternoon. There was some street fighting and firing from concrete bunkers. Enemy positions were finally neutralized by small-arms and mortar fire and then battered into submission by antitank gun fire.
Fighting became doubly difficult for the Americans in the city when the guns in the lower levels of Fort du Roule began firing on them in the afternoon. Only the top level of the fort had been cleared the preceding day. The 2d Battalion of the 314th Infantry had remained on the lid of the fort during the night, and on the morning of the 26th resumed their efforts to reduce the remainder of the fort. This task occupied the entire day. There was no way of reaching the lower levels of the fort from the top. The reduction of the fort, therefore, became primarily a matter of finding ways to place demolitions in the lower levels. Several charges were lowered through the ventilating shafts and packages of TNT on wires or ropes were let down the sides of the fort to the level of the gun embrasures and set o by means of a trigger device. More suc-
To the southwest the 315th Infantry cleared the Martinvast area, taking 2,200 prisoners. Employing a loudspeaker, Col. Bernard B. McMahon, commanding the regiment, persuaded one group of 1,200 Germans to surrender. The German commander's honor was appeased by an "overwhelming display of strength"-two white phosphorous grenades.
In the meantime, the 47th and 39th Infantry Regiments of the 9th Division fought their way through the western half of Cherbourg, which was the most strongly defended portion of the city. In the 47th's action both the 2d Battalion, in the extreme northwest of the city, and the 1st Battalion were stopped by fire from the thick-walled arsenal. The 2d was unable to get beyond the railway, which runs diagonally across the front of the Naval Hospital and along the southwest edge of the arsenal area. The 1st Battalion captured the hospital, where 150 American wounded were found, but was halted by the arsenal guns directly to the front. The 3d Battalion's advance on the right was hotly contested by defenses behind the stadium and in the mined cemetery. The battalion's attack was supported initially by a battalion of artillery and mortars, but supporting fires were made more difficult during the day by the poor visibility caused by smoke, the dust of demolitions, and bad weather. Both the 1st and 3d Battalions used tanks and tank destroyers without much success against heavy concrete pillboxes, but the armor gave effective support in knocking out roof-top positions where the enemy had emplaced 20-mm. antiaircraft guns. French civilians aided considerably by pointing out gun positions and mined areas.
The most dramatic incident of the day occurred in the 39th Infantry zone. Both the 2d and 3d Battalions moved down the ridge in the morning. Their objectives were Octeville and the Cherbourg area lying between the 47th Infantry and the Divette. A captured German reported that General von Schlieben, the commander of the Cherbourg Fortress, was in an underground shelter in St. Sauveur, just beyond Octeville.
For several hours the two battalions were slowed by Nebelwerfer re and direct fire from antiaircraft and 88-mm. guns in the Octeville area, but by mid-afternoon Company E and Company F had reached von Schlieben's shelter. After covering the tunnel entrances with machine-gun fire, a prisoner was sent down to ask for the fort's surrender. When surrender was refused, tank destroyers began to fire directly into two of the tunnel's three entrances and preparations were begun to demolish the stronghold with TNT. After a few rounds the enemy began to pour out. Among the 800 who surrendered were General von Schlieben, Admiral Walter Hennecke, of the Port of Cherbourg, and their staffs. The surrender was made to General Eddy, who demanded that von Schlieben surrender the whole Cherbourg garrison. The fortress commander refused, however, adding that communications were so bad that he could not ask the others to surrender even if he wanted to. When General Collins offered to provide the means of communication von Schlieben still declined.
After reorganization, the 39th Infantry pushed on to the coast. At the City Hall, which the Germans had fortified and defended all day, a German colonel appeared to negotiate the surrender of his command. Convinced of von Schlieben's capture and prom-
There remained only one major stronghold to take in the city itself, the arsenal. This structure, partially protected by a moat, was high-walled and mounted antitank, antiaircraft, and machine guns on its parapets. Because of darkness, assault on it was postponed until the morning of 27 June, when all three battalions of the 47th Infantry were to attack. Detailed artillery and engineer plans were drawn up.
Early in the morning Colonel Smythe (47th Infantry) decided to test the enemy's determination to fight before the main attack began, and one platoon of the 1st Battalion (Company A), with one light machine gun and a 60-mm. mortar, started toward the arsenal at 0800. A tank followed but remained under cover. The platoon drew small-arms fire at the railway and two 20-mm. guns, spotted on a parapet, were knocked out by the tank. Having drawn fire, the platoon, assuming its mission accomplished and that the assault would take place, started back. Actually the enemy had decided to surrender.
A psychological warfare unit had broadcast an ultimatum to the enemy. At 0830 unarmed men were observed walking on the arsenal wall. A few minutes later white flags were flown, and Colonel Smythe went forward to
The surrender of the arsenal at approximately 1000, 27 June, brought to an end all organized resistance in the city of Cherbourg. Except for the outlying forts along the jetties
For their last stand on the Cherbourg Peninsula, the Germans had been forced to use every man available regardless of his specialty. Many of the units used in the line had been converted only in the last days.5 With their backs to the sea, they showed little disposition for a last- ditch fight. The breakdown of communications within the beleaguered fortress left scattered German units without control or infor-
For the Americans, 27 June marked the achievement of the first major objective of Operation NEPTUNE. In the final drive on Cherbourg some of the enemy forces had withdrawn to strong positions both east and west of the port city. On 26-27 June, while the final fighting was taking place in the city, the 22d Infantry pushed eastward and captured the last enemy strongholds in Cap Levy. What still remained was to clear the enemy from outlying forts and the cape west of Cherbourg, and to put the great port into working order. Two days were now consumed in reducing the remaining harbor forts with dive-bombing and tank destroyer fire. Meanwhile the 9th Division prepared to drive into the Cap de la Hague area, where an estimated 3,000 Germans were thought to have retreated for a last stand. Between 29 June and 1 July the 9th Division was engaged in heavy fighting, but there was never any doubt about the successful and speedy outcome of the operation. The last organized enemy defense line between Vauville and Gruchy was cracked by the assault of the 60th and 47th Infantry Regiments on 30 June. In the final clean-up more than 6,000 Germans were captured. At 1500, 1 July, the 9th Division reported to VII Corps that all organized resistance had ceased.6
The campaign thus ended had cost heavily, despite an unexpectedly easy beginning in the weakly opposed landing on Utah Beach, and it had fallen behind the schedule set in the NEPTUNE Plan. In the fight for its objective VII Corps suffered a total of over 22,000 casualties, including 2,800 killed, 5,700 missing, and 13,500 wounded.7 The Germans had lost 39,000 captured in addition to an undetermined number of killed and wounded. Cherbourg was captured on D plus 21, and the last enemy were cleared from the peninsula on D plus 2s. The estimated date of capture mentioned in earlier planning had been D plus 8, and this had been changed to D plus 15 only a few days before the invasion as the result of late intelligence and the resultant alteration in the VII Corps plan. Both dates were admittedly optimistic, however, and represented primarily a date of reference for logistical planners in the phasing of material to the port, rather than a schedule for tactical commanders.
From the German point of view, however, the fall of Cherbourg came much sooner than expected and represented a major defeat which foreshadowed the evacuation of France and the loss of the war. Throughout German tactical thinking, both in anticipation of invasion and after the blow struck, the denial to the Allies of the French ports assumed a major place. Hitler and the army believed that the principal Allied asset was overwhelming materiel superiority and that it could be thrown decisively into the conflict only through the possession of a large port. Even after the Cotentin Peninsula was cut, preventing the reinforcement of the Cherbourg Fortress, the German command still anticipated that the port could hold out for at least several weeks, as Brest was to do later. Cherbourg's quick capitulation was taken hard by Hitler, and thereafter in Nazi circles General von Schlieben was held up as the very model of a poor commander.
7 There are discrepancies between Corps and division statistics. Since division figures are not available in all cases, the Corps tabulation is used in its entirety. Scattered airborne landings account for 4,000 of the missing.
The conquest of the Cotentin Peninsula did not immediately break German defenses in the west or irrevocably insure a quick Allied victory. A month of hard fighting in the same type of difficult Normandy terrain lay ahead. Until the end of July the enemy continued to contest bitterly nearly every Norman field; he launched strong counterattacks in the hope of containing Allied forces in their narrow beachhead. Nevertheless, the end of June saw the disappearance of the last slim chance the enemy may have had to dislodge the Allied foothold on France, and he was faced with what would become a hopeless battle of attrition in which Allied armies were to build up an irresistible superiority of men and materiel and strike out of Normandy for their sweep through France.
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