Grandcamp-Maisy in 1944 – Calvados – Battle of Normandy

Grandcamp-Maisy (Calvados)

The cities of Normandy during the 1944 battles

Liberation: June 8-9, 1944

Deployed units:

Drapeau américain 5th Ranger Battalion, 29th Infantry Division

Drapeau américain 116th Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division

Drapeau américain 743rd Tank Battalion

Drapeau américain 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

Drapeau américain 81st Chemical Mortar Battalion

Drapeau nazi III/Artillerie-Regiment 1726, 716. Infanterie-Division

Drapeau nazi III/Grenadier-Regiment 726, 716. Infanterie-Division

History:

Before the Second World War, Grandcamp and Maisy were two independent villages: the first was turned towards the sea with a local economy dependent on fishing, while the second was land-based, essentially agriculture-based. In the spring of 1944, Grandcamp-les-Bains was defended by four coded points of support from Wn 79 to Wn 82. The village (and Maisy) was occupied by the Germans of the 12th Grenadier-Regiment 726 Company (716. Infantry -Division). Maisy is defended on its side by five coded points of support from Wn 83 to Wn 88 with the exception of Wn 85 located at the place called Le Douet. Two batteries are located to the south-west of the village, coded Wn 83 (“Les Perruques”) and Wn 84 (“La Martinière”). They are armed respectively by four 155 mm F414 guns of French origin (served the 9th battery of the Artillery-Regiment 1716) and by four 100 mm FH14/19 guns of Czech origin (served the 8 th battery of the ‘Artillery-Regiment 1716). The two batteries are encircled by a single network of barbed wire and several minefields.

On the night of June 5-6, 1944, the Allies launched a massive air raid over the Atlantic Wall, targeting the Maisy batteries. This raid is followed at dawn by the naval bombardment issued by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins. In spite of this deluge of bombs and shells, no major damage is detected on the batteries when the American soldiers begin disembarking on Utah and Omaha, the two nearest beaches. On the other hand, the arming of the points of support situated on the seaside at the height of Grandcamp and Maisy is out of action. The 155 mm gun range allows fire to be applied to the western edge of Omaha Beach in the Vierville-sur-Mer area: according to the D-3 newspaper of the 29th Infantry Division dated 6 June 1944, the American soldiers realized that they were under fire from Maisy’s guns on the morning of D-Day. The battery was still active and HMS Hawkins resumed its daytime neutralization fire against fortified points Wn 83 And Wn 84 (also known as Stp 83 and Stp 84).

At midday on June 8, 1944, US forces from Omaha Beach established liaison with survivors of the 2nd Ranger Battalion (29th Infantry Division) isolated from D-Day at Pointe du Hoc. General Bradley entrusts a new mission to Colonel Rudder, the commander of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions: this time, it is a question of seizing Maisy’s support points. Rudder, himself wounded, knows that the second battalion is virtually incapable of fighting. He then asked the fifth battalion to take charge of the assault. As a result, the 116th Infantry Regiment (IR) commanded by Colonel Charles D. W. Canham and the 5th Ranger Battalion of Lieutenant-Colonel Max F. Schneider headed for Grandcamp. The access to Grandcamp along the coastal road does not allow for circumventing maneuvers: marshes frame this axis north and south at the height of the place of the Pont du Hable. The bridge was not destroyed by the Germans, but was under fire from the Germans, who were situated to the west on a favorable point of the terrain. Grandcamp is located on a terrain that dominates this flooded area.

The HMS Hawkins fired 113 shells on the German defense lines from 1455 to 1600 hours. The 5th Battalion Rangers failed to infiltrate the opposing position. The 3rd Battalion of the 116th IR commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence E. Meeks took over, supported by the Sherman tanks of C Company, 743rd Tank Battalion. The tanks advance at the head of the device, but one of the Sherman is put out of use by striking a mine near the Hable bridge. The bulk of the German resistance is located at the point of support Wn 78, on the eastern heights of Grandcamp, while precision shooters open fire from the dwellings. Benefiting from the support of small arms and tanks, companies K and L managed to cross the Hable bridge and deployed on both sides of the road, Company K of Captain William G. Pingley, Jr. to the north and Captain Charles W. East Company L to the south.

On his own initiative, Technical-Sergeant Frank Peregory is moving towards the German fortified site despite heavy fire. Having reached the summit of the hill, he discovered the entrance of a network of trenches which leads to the center of the point of support prohibiting the entrance of the village, located two hundred meters away. Without hesitating for a second, it enters the main trench and progresses inside while being crouched. Suddenly, he encounters a group of enemy infantrymen and without losing time he loads the Germans with the bayonet and throwing grenades. In total, Frank Peregory alone obtains the surrender of nearly forty enemy soldiers and thanks to his action he allows the men of his unit to liberate the village of Grandcamp while recovering the formidable German machine guns (for this victorious and heroic action, Peregory was posthumously decorated on June 14, 1944 with the highest US military honor, the Medal of Honor. Captain Jack Flora’s company I is able to carry out the reconnaissance of Grandcamp: the section of the 2nd Lieutenant Norvin Nathan progresses to the western end of the village, seizing in particular the point of support Wn 79 defending the access to the port . This day of fighting in Grandcamp is, in the opinion of the soldiers who participated in it, more difficult and even more violent than the landing at Omaha Beach.

Meanwhile, the 1st battalion of the 116th IR illuminated by the tanks of Squadron C of the 743rd Tank Battalion bypasses Grandcamp from the south and heads towards Maisy. The tanks arrive in view of the battery in the early evening but are attacked by mortars and guns of 88 mm adverse. The Sherman being short of fuel, the 1st battalion settles in defensive for the night.

In the early morning of June 9, 1944, three companies of the 5th Ranger Battalion were engaged in the action, supported by two half-tracks of the 2nd Ranger Battalion (armed with 75 mm guns) and battery B of the 81st Chemical Mortar Battalion with 107 mm mortars). The Rangers also have four 81 mm mortars. After the neutralization shot by the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the Americans launched an assault on the extensive site on nearly 44 hectares (more than 108 acres). According to the testimonies of the veterans, the combats are of extraordinary intensity. The network of trenches is so complex that the Americans get lost several times, adding to the disorder of the battle and causing friendly fire. After five hours of fighting, the battery is under American control.

In the wake of the capture of Maisy and its batteries, the Americans progressed towards Gefosse-Fontenay and Isigny-sur-Mer.

On 14 June, General de Gaulle crossed the village of Grandcamp-les-Bains and addressed the population as part of a flash tour.

 

Grandcamp-Maisy maps:

Image : carte du secteur de Grandcamp-Maisy- Bataille de Normandie en 1944