82nd Airborne Division
After Action Report
D-Day and D-Day+1
ACTION IN NORMANDY, FRANCE
By 26 May 1944 all plans and preparations were completed for the Division to carry out the mission assigned it by First United States Army. Field and administrative orders had been published and distributed. In a series of map maneuvres on a special 1/5,000 map regimental and battalion commanders had outlined their plans in order that all commanders might be briefed thoroughly on the prospective Division operations. Divisional seaborne echelons already had departed for the marshalling yards and were assembled in camps scattered along the Welsh and southern English coasts. The Division mission was to be as follows:
“Land by parachute and glider before and after dawn of D-Day west of ST. SAUVEUR LE VICOMTE: seize, clear and secure the general area ST. JACQUES DE NEHOU (136985) – BESNEVILLE (137928) (both inclusive) – ST. SAUVEUR LE VICOMTE (exclusive) – BLANDAMOUR (167982) (Inclusive), and reorganize; seize and destroy the crossings of the PRAIRIES MARECAGEUSES north of LA SANGSURIERE (188898), at ST. SAUVEUR DE PIERRE PONT (145890); destroy the crossings of the OLLONONDE River in the vicinity of ST. LO D’OURVILLE (090894) and block crossroads vicinity LE CHEMIN (102902); prevent enemy forces moving north between ST. LO D’OURVILLE and junction of DOUVE River with PRAIRIE MARECAGEUSES (228921); and protect the south flank of VII Corps north of the same line.”
The mission, however, was changed by the First Army Commander on 26 May due to confirmed intelligence reports the enemy had strengthened his forces on the COTENIN, (CHERBOURG) Peninsula with the addition of the 91st Infantry Division in the general area of ST. SAUVEUR LE VICOMTE. The revised mission of the 82d Airborne Division was to be:
“Land by parachute and glider before and after dawn of D-Day astride the MERDERET River, seize, clear and secure the general area: CR (261938) – CR (265958) – CR (269975) – RJ (274982) – RJ (283992) – Bridge (308987) – NEUVILLE AU PLAIN (340985) – BANDIENVILLE (360987) within its zone; capture ST. MERE EGLISE (349965); seize and secure the crossings of the MERDERET River at (315957) and (321930), and a bridgehead covering them, with MLR along the general line: CR (261938) – CR (265953) – CR (269975) – RJ (274982) – RJ (283992); seize and destroy the crossing of the DOUVE River at BEUZEVILLE LA BASTILLE (309911) and ETIENVILLE (also known as PONT L’ABBE) (269927); protect the northwest flank of VII Corps within the Division zone; and be prepared to advance west on Corps order to the line of the DOUVE north of its junction with the PRAIRIES MARECAGEUSES.”
New orders and other administrative details made necessary by the new mission were worked out quickly and disseminated within four days. The change did not effect the basic plan for movement in three echelons which had been worked out as follows:
Force “A” – commanded by Brigadier General JAMES M. GAVIN, assistant Division Commander, to be committed by parachute before dawn of D-Day and to include.
Det Hq & Hq Co, 82d Abn Div
Det Hq 82d Div Arty
Det 82d Abn Sig Co
Det 456 Prcht FA Bn (atchd 505 Prcht Inf) Air Support Party (atchd Hq 82d Abn Div) 505 Prcht Inf
507 Prcht Inf
508 Prcht Inf
Co B, 307 Abn Engr Bn
Naval Shore Fire Control Party (atchd 505 Prcht Inf)
Force “B” – Commanded by Major General MATTHEW B. RIDGWAY, Division Commander, to be committed by glider before and after dawn of D-Day and to include.
Hq & Hq Co 82 Abn Div (-)
Hq & Hq Btry, 82d Abn Div Arty (-)
82d Abv Sig Co (-)
325 Gli Inf
319 Gli FA Bn
320 Gli FA Bn
Btrys A, B & C, 80 Abn AA Bn (AT)
Co A, 307 Abn Engr Bn
307 Abn Med Co (-)
82d Abn Rcn Plat (-)
Air Support Party
Command vehicles – Prcht Regts
Force “C” – Commanded by Brigadier General GEORGE P. HOWELL, Commanding General of 2d Airborne Infantry Brigade to be committed by sea, to land between D plus 2 and D plus 7 and to include. Corps Med Dets1st Plat, 603 QM (GR) Co, atchd
Seaborne elements of units in Forces
Under the plan Force “A” in its entirety was to approach the CHERBOURG (COTENTIN) Peninsula from the west and to drop between 0100 and 0315 hours on the night of D-1/D-Day on three drop zones. The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and its attachments were to land east of the MERDERET River about 1,000 yards northwest of STE. MERE EGLISE (3397). The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was to land west of the MERDERET River about 1,000 yards north of AMFREVILLE (3098). The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and Force “A” Headquarters were to land west of the MERDERET River about 1,000 yards north of PICAUVILLE (2995).
Fifty-two gliders of Force “B” were to approach the CHERBOURG Peninsula from the west prior to H-Hour and land on the 505th drop zone. The remainder of Force “B” was to approach the peninsula from the east and was to land late on D-Day and early on D plus one on landing zones astride the STE. MERE EGLISE – BLOSVILLE Road (3694). In a last-minute change of plan General RIDGEWAY parachuted with Force “A”.
Aerial resupply missions were scheduled automatically for the morning of D plus one and on call thereafter if needed. The automatic mission was the only parachute mission ultimately flown but a small amount of equipment and supplies were received later by glider.
All airborne elements of the Division had closed and were sealed in special camps at the take-off fields by 24 hours before the scheduled take-off time. Parachute elements were located at seven airfields in the GRANTHAM – COTTESMORE – LANGAR area of the British Midlands, and glider elements were at seven airfields in the ALDERMASTON – RAMSBURY – MERRYFIELD area. (See Annex No. 3A)
All men were briefed thoroughly on their missions, a recheck was made of all equipment and personnel, and planes and gliders were loaded with equipment. The Allied D-Day was postponed 24 hours because of weather conditions, and the first planes of Force “A” took off at 052315 June 1944.
The main flight was preceded by the three regimental pathfinder teams which dropped one-half hour prior to the first group. The pathfinders sustained many casualties and had difficulty in using lights, but they accomplished their mis- sion and set up beacons to guide the incoming planes to the three designated drop zones.
The flight over the English Channel was in good formation and without in- cident, but between the west coast and the drop zones a heavy fog bank tended to break up the formation of the planes. Flak and some enemy night fighters activity caused some of the troop carrier planes to take up evasive action, and by the time the drop zones were reached many planes were scattered, and were flying at excessive speeds and at altitudes higher then those ideal for jumping.
The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment landed generally in the vicinity of its drop zone. The 507th Parachute Infantry was scattered, one element dropping in the vicinity of MONTEBOURG, another south of CARENTAN and the reminder astride the MERDERET River east of the drop zone. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment was likewise scattered widely, the bulk of its parachutists dropping east of the Drop Zone and some personnel landing as far away as nine kilometres south of CHERBOURG.
The 52 gliders containing batteries of the 80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion and detachments and forward parties of artillery, signel and Division Headquarters groups followed the main body of paratroopers and began landing at 0404 hours. The gliders also encountered fog and flak. They too were scattered, and many of them were damaged upon crashing into the small fields and high hedgerows.
Enemy reaction to the landing of the 82d Airborne Division in the NORMANDY area was prompt and severe, but from the time the first member landed until 35 days later, when the Division was finally relieved, every mission was accomplished and no ground gained was ever relinquished.
A day-by-day account of the Division activities follows:
D-DAY, 6 JUNE 1944
The first element of the main body of the Division jumped at 0151 hours, having been preceded 30 minutes by Pathfinder teams. By 0312 hours all paratroopers had landed, and at 0404 hours the first of 52 gliders in the initial glider serial crash landed. Both parachutists and gliders were scattered.
Small groups and some units attacked to secure the Division zone. Groups of men and individuals who had been scattered in the landings rejoined their units throughout the day, and by nightfall approximately 30 per cent of the Division’s forces were under control.
At 2100 hours 100 gliders landed with artillery, engineers, and special troops. Seaborne elements set sail at 0645 from BRISTOL except for a task force consisting of Company C, 746th Tank Battalion; the 1st Platoon, Troop B, 4th Cavalry Squadron; and elements company F, 3d Battalion (originally 2d Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry), 325th Glider Infantry. This task force landed on Utah Red Beach at 1400 hours and proceeded inland with the mission of contacting the Division near STE. MERE EGLISE.
At the close of the day, the Division was in the midst of severe fighting. It had captured STE. MERE EGLISE and held a general line along the MERDERET River from LA FIERE (319963) south to include the eastern end of the causeway over the MERDERET River at 321930.
Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 82d Airborne Division
Parachute elements, part of Force “A”, dropped at 0214 hours near the west bank of the MERDERET River, and glider elements, leading echelon if Force “B”, landed at 0204 hours. The Force “A” Command Post was set up initially at 305965, west of the MERDERET River, but at 0730 the group waded across the River to the east bank and assembled at LA FIERE (319963). A new Force “A” Command Post was established at a railroad crossing at 326944.
The Division Commander, who jumped with the 505th Parachute Infantry, estab- lished his Command Post in a hedgerow west of STE. MERE EGLISE at 332965. Elements of Headquarters and of the Defense Platoon moved south to secure the bridge west of CHEF DU PONT (321930) where it encountered severe enemy fire. This group returned to the Command Post at 1700, but part of the Defense Platoon moved to a new Force “A” Command Post at a railroad pass at 323960.
The Division Headquarters initial glider serial, which landed in the dark at approximately 0415 hours, was scattered, and the G-2 and G-3 did not reach the command post until late afternoon. The Chief of Staff was injured in a glider crash and later evacuated. The G-1 did not reach the command post for two days.
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The first element, the 2d Battalion, dropped at 0151 hours and the entire regiment landed by 0202 hours. Most of the troops landed on or near the drop zone, but a few were widely dispersed over the countryside. Assembly was rapid, and the battalions moved off towards their objectives. The 3d Battalion entered STE. MERE EGLISE at 0400 hours, and the town was securely held and outposted within an hour. The American Flag was raised over STE. MERE EGLISE, the first French town to be liberated by the Allies. After assembling the 2d Battalion started to move out to take NEUVILLE AU PLAIN, but orders were received from the regiment to stand by. At 0600 hours the 2d Battalion moved into position north of STE. MERE EGLISE and assisted the 3d Battalion in holding the town. The 1st Battalion moved Towards its objective, the bridge over the MERDERET River (314956) at LA FIERE at 0630 hours and by 0830 held the eastern end of the bridge against heavy enemy fire from the western approaches.
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The first elements, the 1st Battalion, jumped at 0232 hours, and by 0312 hours the entire regiment was on the ground generally east of the MERDERET River and was fairly dispersed. Small groups assembled to form small task forces until such time as the regiment could assemble completely. One such force on the west bank of the MERDERET River attacked AMFREVILLE but was forced back by overwhelming superiority in enemy strength to FLAUK (303955). A patrol was sent to the western end of LA FIERE Bridge and contact was made with elements of the 505th Parachute Infantry on the eastern end at 1430 hours. The enemy recaptured FLAUK and drove this patrol from the western end of the LA FIERE Bridge. Another force of the regiment joined with Force “A” Headquarters and at 1130 attacked to secure the CHEF DU PONT Bridge (321930), meeting extremely severe resistance. The eastern end of the bridge was finally secured by nightfall. Leaving one company to hold the bridge, the remainder of this second force moved to an assembly area at 1715 hours in the vicinity of the railroad overpass at 323960. Still another group, led by the regimental commander, landed on or near the scheduled drop zone but had no contact with other elements of the Division during the day.
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The 3d Battalion jumped at 0208 hours and the entire regiment was on the ground by 0220 hours. Four separate groups were assembled. One group was in the vicinity of LA FIERE, fought along the railway and attacked the LA FIERE Bridge. This group was later relieved by the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry and moved to an assembly area in the vicinity of the railroad overpass (323960) to organize a defensive position. Two other groups joined forces west of the MERDERET River in the vicinity of PICAUVILLE after taking part in heavy fighting around GUETTEVILLE (300948) and north of PICAUVILLE. An officer of this group shot and killed the commanding general of the German 91st Division. The combined group then seized the high ground west of the MERDERET River south of GUETTEVILLE at 310940 during the night of June 6-7. A fourth group dropped in the vicinity of STE. MERE EGLISE, fought with the 507th Parachute Infantry to take the CHEF DU PONT Bridge (321930) and later organized a defensive position covering the bridge.
325th Glider Infantry Regiment
Company F, 3d Battalion, supporting Company C, 746th Tank Battalion, landed on Utah Red Beach at 1400, de-waterproofed vehicles and moved inland at 1600 to make contact with the Division. Heavy artillery, mortar and small arms fire held up this task force at crossroads 363933. Two tanks were knocked out. The remainder of the regiment prepared to take off from airports in England.
82d Airborne Division Artillery
Parachute elements jumped at 0210 hours, joined a group from the 508th Parachute Infantry and assisted in the attack on the LA FIERE Bridge. At 1330 hours this element joined the glider element at the Division CP at 332965. Glider elements landed at 0500 hours and moved directly to the Division CP. At 2305 hours Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of Division Artillery, the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion and the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion glided into NORMANDY and encountered severe enemy small arms and mortar fire. Reorganization commenced immediately but was handicapped by intense enemy fire. The section of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion attached to 505th Parachute Infantry jumped with the 3d Battalion, but was able to assemble only one of the two 75mm pack howitzers which had been dropped.
80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion (AT)
Batteries A and B landed by glider at 0405 hours. Six 57mm antitank guns had been recovered and were in position by 1750 hours. Battery C glided into the area at 2100 hours and began assembly and reorganization. The remainder of the Battalion sailed from BRISTOL, ENGLAND, at 0645 hours.
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion
Company B (less one platoon attached to the 505th Parachute Infantry) jumped with the 508th Parachute Infantry at 0210 hours. Some Engineer personnel took up defensive positions at LA FIERE in support of one group of the 506th, and other personnel joined the 508th group west of the MERDERET River. One “stick”, which included the Battalion Commander, was dropped over ST. SAUVEUR LE VICOMTE, and only a few escaped. Part of Headquarters and Company A landed by glider at 2300 hours and started to assemble under heavy enemy artillery and small arms fire. The reminder of the battalion prepared to take off from airports in ENGLAND.
307th Airborne Medical Company
Elements of the company landed by glider about 2100 and immediately began assembly, recovering by use of life rafts much equipment from gliders that had landed in shallow water near the banks of the MERDERET River. A clearing station was set up at a crossroad north of BLOSVILLE.
82d Airborne Signal Company
Parachute and glider elements of the company which landed prior to H-Hour were scattered and assembled with difficulty. Much equipment was lost. Only one of the three SCR 193 radios landed during D-Day was operative, and it was not until the night of June 6-7 that radio contact was established with the 4th Infantry Division and with the Division base in ENGLAND.
D PLUS 1, 7 JUNE 1944
The Division continued to assemble, reorganize, and seccure its area against extremely severe enemy resistance which included armor. Enemy troops, identified as the 91st Infantry Division, were held along the MERDERET River to the west and were driven back to the north and northwest. Contact was established with the 4th Infantry Division during the day, and the VII Corps Commander visited the Division Command Post late in the day. The 325th Glider Infantry arrived by glider during the morning. Additional personnel which had been scattered in the original landings continued to report back to their units.
During the afternoon garbled radio messages signed “CO 507” were received at the Division Command Post, and it was finally determined that they originated with the Regimental Commander who was isolated with a group of about 300 men west of AMFREVILLE.
325th Glider Infantry Regiment
The first glider elements began landing at 0700 hours about 2,500 yards southeast of STE. MERE EGLISE. They were many crash landings, and casualties totalled approximately 7.5 per cent. Assembly was rapid, however, and by 1015 hours all battalions were reported. The 3d Battalion moved out toward CARQUEBUT at 1415 hours and reached LE PORT (328918) without encountering opposition. The remainder of the regiment proceeded to move into an assembly area northeast of CHEF DU PONT. At 1600 hours the 2d Battalion was ordered to move into an assembly area east of LA FIERE in the vicinity of 325962 and later was attached to the 505th Parachute Infantry at 2100 hours. The 1st and 3d Battalions were ordered to move into and to outpost the regimental assembly area. Company F, 3d Battalion in support of Company C, 746th Tank Battalion, and the 1st Platoon, Troop B, 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, assisted the 8th Infantry in its attack towards STE. MERE EGLISE from the west at 0630 hours and made contact with gliderborne elements of the 325th by 0900. The 325th’s regimental strength at the close of the day was approximately 85 per cent.
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The 2d and 3d Battalions continued to hold STE. MERE EGLISE against several attacks from the north and south. The 2d Battalion patrols contacted elements of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division at STE. MARTINE (384973) at 1000 hours and attacked north to clear the outskirts of STE. MERE EGLISE. The 1st Battalion withstood several counterattacks and pushed the enemy back to the eastern bank of the MERDERET River in the vicinity of the LA FIERE Bridge. They were supported late in the day by one platoon of tanks from Company C, 746th Tank Battalion. At the close of the period the 2d and 3d Battalions prepared to attack north toward NEUVILLE AU PLAIN in conjonction with the 4th Infantry Division’s drive on the right. The 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, was attached at 2100 to assist in this attack.
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The regiment moved into an area west of STE. MERE EGLISE in the vicinity of 335960, rested and reorganized. At 1600 hours the regiment moved into positions south of the LA FIERE – STE. MERE EGLISE Road west of the railroad to assist the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, against a threatened counterattack at the LA FIERE Bridge. AT 1900 hours the 507th, at approximately 25 per cent strength, successfully pushed the enemy back to the west bank of the MERDERET River in its sector.
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment
One group near the railroad overpass (323960) moved into positions in the vicinity of the road junction 334972 to protect the Division’s north flank against enemy penetration. This group was in position by 0630 hours, but it later moved to join another group of the regiment in position defending the CHEF DU PONT Bridge. It mopped up numerous enemy strong points surrounding CHEF DU PONT and established patrol contact with elements of the regiment west of the MERDERET River on the high ground in the vicinity of 310940. The group on the high ground, now recognized as the 2d Battalion, had completed organization of its position by 1300 hours, wiping out a number of enemy mortar and artillery positions. A road block was set up on the western approaches to the CHEF DU PONT Bridge and contact was established with forces in CHEF DU PONT. Regimental strength at the close of the day was approximately 25 per cent.
82d Airborne Division Artillery
Various groups of the artillery were involved in individual skirmishes with the enemy as they found their way back to their parent units. The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion Assembled east of STE. MERE EGLISE in the vicinity of 371974 with six 75mm pack howitzers. The 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion was placed in direct support of the 505th Parachute Infantry. After salvaging two 105mm M3 howitzers and taking over the 75mm pack howitzer of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion detachment with the 505th, the 320th went into position 400 yards west of STE. MERE EGLISE. The first round was fired at 0911 hours. The seaborne echelon of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion arrived off Utah Beach but did not land.
80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion
Batteries A, B, and C continued to reorganize and by 1800 hours six 57mm antitank guns of Battery C and three guns each from Batteries A and B were in position covering the two bridges over the MERDERET River. The remainder of the Battalion remained on board ships preparing to disembark on Utah Beach.
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion
The remainder of Company A landed by glider at 0700 hours and moved to join the 325th Infantry in the vicinity of CHEF DU PONT at 0930hours. Bridges and culverts south of LE PORT (328918) and near LIESVILLE (331905) were blown.
An aerial resupply mission, including 148 of the 248 C-47 planes which had taken off, arrived over the area at 0620. They dropped 155.5 tons of ordnance, quartermaster and medical supplies, 74% of the originally scheduled load. The drop pattern was poor and bundles were scattered, many of them falling into enemy hands or being covered by enemy fire. Limited recovery was effected initially.