90th (US) Infantry Division
After Action Reports – Battle of Normandy
APO 90, U.S. Army
At the close of June 1944, VIII Corps occupied a general East-West line across the base of the CONTENTIN PENINSULA, blocking to the S while the VII Corps, the main Army effort, completed reduction of the CHERBOURG area.
90th Inf Div, attached to VIII Corps, held the left of the Corps Sector with dispositions generally as follows – (See Plate 1)
(a) 359th Inf on the right, extended from its contact point with the 82nd A/B Div just short of PRETOT, SE to vicinity Port AUNY.
(b) 358th Inf, on the left, extended from its contact point with 359th Inf to BAUPTE where contact was maintained with the 83rd Inf Div.
(c) 357th Inf, having been relieved by the 79th Inf Div on the Corps Right (PORTBAIL – ST SAUVEUR IM VICOMTE), was assembled vicinity PICAUVILLE as Division Reserve.
(d) Div CP was located at BEUZEVILLE LA BASTILLE.
The CHERBOURG CAMPAIGN was nearly at an end. CHERBOURG itself had fallen and the 4th and 9th Divisions were completing mop-up operations on the City’s flanks. VII Corps was being reoriented for an attack S out of the peninsula, on the left of and it conjunction with VIII Corps. The new offensive would begin as soon as troops became available from the CHERBOURG area and the artillery ammunition situation clarified.
VIII Corps planned to attack S, divisions abreast (79th, 82nd, and 90th), between the sea and the PRAIRIES MAR CAGLUSES DE GORGES to initially seize the ground immediately N of LESSAY-PERIERS. The main effort was to be made on the left – the zone of the 90th Division.
1st july 1944
Division FO for the attack, prepared, after detailed terrain analysis and several staff and commanders conferences were released at 1300. The plan in brief was as follows:
(a) 359th Inf, on the right, to seize and consolidate the FORET DE MONT CASTRE, a rugged and heavily wooded hill mass which dominated the entire Corps zone. Thereafter to continue the attack southward on order.
(b) 358th Inf, on the left, to force the corridor between the FORET and PRARIE, block to the E, S of the PRARIE, and finally assist the 359th Inf on order.
(c) 357th Inf, in Div reserve, prepared to pass through the 358th Inf to seize the Div objective.
357th Inf: 3rd Bn passed to Div control and relieved the 2nd Bn, 358th Inf on the left of the Div: 90th Rcn Tr attached to 3rd Bn to patrol BAUPTE area connecting up with the 83rd Div. Regiment (-) remained in assembly area vicinity of PICAUVILLE
358th Inf: 2nd Bn, relieved after dark by the 3rd Bn, 357th Inf, side slipped to the right to assembly position in rear of the 1st Bn. 3rd Bn continued occupation of its assigned sector. 1 Plat of L Co made a reconnaissance in force towards LES GABLON, meeting stiff resistance.
359th Inf: 3rd Bn relieved the 1st Bn during the day by infiltration. 1st Bn moved into the zone of the 82nd A/B Div to a position in rear of its LD. 2nd Bn remained in assembly area.
2nd July 1944
357th Inf (Less 3rd Bn), moved by infiltration across the DOUVE RIVER causeway to a new assembly area vicinity of APPEVILLE.
358th and 359th Infs readjusted positions, closing assault battalions on their respective LDs. Final reconnaissance, briefing and supply checks were given the top consideration during the day.
4th Div Arty, made available to support the attack, moved into prepared positions under cover of darkness.
Div CP opened at CHATEAU FRANCQUETOT at 1700.
3rd July 1944
The Div attacked at 0530, following a 15 minute Arty preparation which included the 4th Div Arty and the massed fires of the heavy weapons of the 357th Inf and the reserve battalions of the assault regiments.
359th Inf: 1st Bn, right assault battalion of the Div, met heavy resistance at the LD from the German garrison vicinity of PRETOT. Enraged by an incident which cost the life of a battalion staff officer, the unit bored into a vicious close quarter fight in the orchards SW of PRETOT. That fight ended only with the annihilation of the defending German battalion and left the 1st Bn disorganized and heavily drained of strength. Having broken the Boche resistance by mid afternoon, the battalion was able to push through the woods in its zone to reach the high ground N of STE SUZANNE where it halted, incapable of further offensive action.
2nd Bn, attacking on the left of the 1st, initially made better progress until it forced a crossing of the highway S of PRETOT. Thereafter, under the direct observation of the guns on the N slope of the FORET and faced by a determined force entrenched at STE SUZANNE, the progress of the 2nd Bn was slow and costly. But by 2100, STE SUZANNE had been secured and contact established with 1st Bn, 358th Inf W of ST JORES.
3rd Bn was moved into position in rear of gap between 1st and 2nd Bn in preparation for its commitment 4 July to relieve the 1st.
1st Bn, attacking on the right, reached the crossroad N of ST JORES by midmorning against moderate resistance. As the battalion moved S towards the town, a Boche infantry-tank assault struck its right flank and forced it back on the crossroad. The fight in this area see-sawed throughout the day, with ST JORES changing hands thrice. Finally, the advance of the 2nd Bn, 359th Inf, relieved pressure on the W and the 1st Bn’s leading elements secured ST JORES, with the bulk of the unit disposed for protection of the crossroad, whose retention was vital to the integrity of the Division’s position.
2nd Bn, ont he left, made excellent progress during the early hours, reaching the RR within its zone enroute to La BUTTE. Here again, a Boche counterattack spearheaded by tanks struck the BN right, disorganizing G Co and widening the existing gap between the 1st and 2nd Bns. The thrust was stopped generally along the RR but battalion control was weakened to the extent of prohibiting appreciable further advance for the remainder of the day.
3rd Bn, initially in reserve, was committed at 1230 to restore the situation in the center of the regimental zone, effecting relief of the 2nd Bn. The German penetration between the assault battalions regained possession of LES SABLONS and forced the 3rd Bn to again reduce the town as a preliminary to execution of its assigned mission. By 2000 LES BABLONS was finally in our hands and the 3rd Bn had advanced to connect up with the 1st and 2nd Bns. A counterattack against K Co was beaten off prior to dark.
Regiment, less 3rd Bn, moved to forward assembly area vicinity POR AUNY closing at 2100.
3rd Bn moved from its original positions at 1600, leaving L Co to secure the causeway at BAUPTE. Remainder of the battalion was disposed to outpost the area from BAUPTE to the regimental assembly area.
90th Rcn Tr. reverting to Division control, patrolled the N edge of the PRAIRIE MARECAGEUSE.
By the day’s end, the Division could count on an average advance of 1200 yards at a cost of over 600 casualties. The 82nd A/B Div on our right had made an actual gain in the left of their zone while the 79th Inf Div reported only negligible progress. The enemy, contrary to general expectations had disclosed his intentions of defending in place to the end, whatever the price. Captured documents revealed that his position, the “MAHLMAN LINE” (named for the commander of the 353rd German Inf Div opposing us) ran from BEAU COUDRAY on the E through the FORET DE MONT COSTRE to the West Coast. We had driven into his OPLR but stiffer fighting against his main defenses was in the offing.
4 July 1944
At 0600 357th and 359th Infs resumed their advance to the S keeping entirely clear of the PERIERS – COUNTANCES ROAD. At 0800 the head of the 4th Armd Div column passed through PERIERS and rolled unopposed southward to ST SAUVEUR LENDELIN.
The day was hours old before all battalions organized within defensive perimeters. The Boche gave no respite – sided by his excellent observations which pinpointed our disposition as of dusk, he continued a hell of artillery, mortar and harassing machine gun fire which increased the problems of re supply and readjustment of local supports and reserves. The attack was continued at 0600.
2nd Bn drove forward from STE SUZANNE towards its objective on the E nose of the FORET and reached the ST JORES – LA HAYE DU PUITS Road. Counterattacked there both frontally and on the right flank by a combined infantry-tank force, it fell back on ST SUZANNE to defend from its night perimeter positions. The Boche furiously attempted to retake the area but were consistently repulsed, the last assault coming late in the afternoon. Thereafter, pressure relaxed sufficiently to allow the Bn to resume the advance and by dark it controlled the road, connecting up with the 1st Bn, 357th Inf, by patrols.
3rd Bn, passed through the left to the 1st Bn and made limited progress until stopped by a formidable German position in a wooded ravine, perpendicular to its advance. The fight raged all day without gain.
With both assault battalions in difficulty and out of contact with each other, the restoration of the situation fell to the 1st Bn. It attacked through the gap and blasted its way to ward the road down the ravine which had served as the original battalion boundary in the morning attack. While A and B Cos fought southward, C Co was diverted to the W, clearing the Boche resistance in the draw in front of the 3rd Bn. By midnight the battalion had reached the road, connecting up with the 3rd Bn to its right rear.
1st Bn, 358th Inf, heavily opposed to its front and harassed by accurate fire from the nose of the FORET, fought its way S across the RR and captured LES BELLES CROIX.
2nd Bn was badly handled at daylight by a Boche attack which split the leading companies and disrupted its own attack preparation. The constant mortaring received by this unit made regrouping difficult but by 1700 it had reorganized and was able to push on to take LA BUTTE.
34d Bn had the mission of making a limited attack to high ground to its immediate front and from that position to assist by fire the advance of the 1st and 2nd Bns until they made contact, one with the other, permitting reconstitution of the 3rd as regimental reserve. The Bn secured its objectives, but physical juncture was not made by the 1st and 2nd bns and it consequently remained in the line.
The advance of the 83rd Inf Div had covered the BAUPTE Crossing and L Co was therefore released to its Bn. At 1500, on Div order 1st Bn moved to ST JORES to fill the gap between the 2nd Bn, 359th Inf and 1st Bn, 358th Inf. Regiment was alerted to pass through 358th Inf the following day and continue the attack S through BEAU COUDRAY.
Casualties for the day were considerably higher than on the 3rd; every inch of ground had been gained at a terrific cost. The rapid capture of the FORET DE MONT CASTRE loomed increasingly important – without it i we had no observation; with it the Boche had too much.
5 July 1944
The attack to assigned objectives was continued at 0645
1st Bn (Reinforced by C Co. 712th Tk Bn), attacking in column of Companies, released through the 1st Bn 358th Inf and advanced to the S astride the ST JORES – LES PLESSIS Road. By virtue of aggressive infantry action and coordinated tank s support the leading Company (A) made excellent progress and by noon had reached a point some 500 yards N of BEAU COUDRAY. B Co was committed wide on the right of the 1st Bn. Meanwhile the 3rd Bn (moving to the attack through the zone of the 2nd Bn 358th Inf) was swung to the right to position it directly in rear of the 1st Bn.
The road from ST JORES S to BEAU COUDRAY bisects a narrow corridor of normal hedgerow country flanked on the E by the (PRARIES MARECAGEUESES DE GORGES) and on the W by flat grassy meadow devoid of all cover. The PRARIES extend S to GORGES, but immediately W of SW of BEAU COUDRAY bocage country resumes. Debouchment from the bottleneck represented by the corridor, was contingent upon the prior capture of BEAU COUDRAY and its successful assault was necessary preliminary to the further development of Regimental Plans.
Co A received increasingly stronger enemy reaction and was unable to force its way into BEAU COUDRAY. B Co, counterattacked on its right flank when approximately abreast of A Co and faced to meet this threat. C Co was committed on the right of B Co to secure the right flank. Thus the 1st Bn with 3 Rifle Companies committed was unable to force its way into or through BEAU COUDRAY. As a result there was insufficient maneuver room for the employment of the 3rd Bn on the right; moreover a considerable gap existed between A and B Companies which could not be readjusted because of the continuous fire to which the 1st Bn was subjected. A change of plans was necessary and consequently the 3rd Bn initiated reconnaissance with a view to a projected attack through the lines of the 1st Bn the following day.
The 1st BN 358th Inf which had been operating under Regtl control since passed through by the 3rd Bn 357th Inf was protecting the right flank of the Regiment. At 1600 this battalion was ordered to move to the SW toward the tip of the FORET DE MONT CASTRE to relieve pressure on the 2nd Bn 359th Inf.
2nd Bn 357th Inf, in Regt’l Reserve, moved to the area vacated by the 1st Bn 358th Inf.
1st Bn passed to the control of 357th Inf at 0845 after the 1st Bn 357th Inf passed thorough it. The remainder of the regiment, after being covered by the advance of the 357th Inf, assembled in the vicinity of ST JORES as Division Reserve, closing in that area at 2100. L Company outposted the Division left flank from BAUPTE to connect with the 357th Inf.
Initiated its attack with the 2nd Bn on the left and 3rd Bn on the right to seize and hold the high ground in the FORET.
3rd Bn, after a violet but short-lived skirmish in the vicinity of its LD, broke through the German defenses and advanced relatively unopposed to seize and secure the high ground on the E side of the FORET.
2nd Bn, attacking to secure the NE nose of the FORET, encountered heavy resistance throughout the day. It was finally held short of its objective. 1st Bn 358th Inf on Division order moved SW from the vicinity of ST JORES to come abreast of and relieve the pressure on the 2nd Bn 359th Inf. By 2300 the 2 Bns had made physical contact and the 1st Bn 358th Inf was attached to the 359th Inf for the continuation of the attack the following day.
1st Bn was moved to an assembly area in rear of 3rd Bn with the mission of protecting the right of 359th Inf and left of the 82nd A/B Div.
At the end of the day’s fighting the Division had advance its lines approximately 2000 yards. While the fighting had been severe and the casualties heavy the Division had secured a foothold on the FORET DE MONT CASTRE – a foothold which we were never to relinquish and which provided the initial key to the success of the Division’s operations.
6 July 1944
Attacking at 0800, C Co, or the right flank of the 1st Bn, made limited progress and forced its way across the E – W Road through BEAU COUDRAY; the other Cos were stopped without gain.
3rd Bn with 2 Cos abreast and K echeloned to the right rear moved into the gap between A and C Cos to restore the momentum of the Regtl offensive. By 1500 the 3rd Bn attacking against increasingly strong resistance had reached the high ground immediately S of BEAU COUDRAY. In view of the isolation of A Co from the remainder of the battalion and the necessity for unified control over the 3 Cos exposed to enemy pressure from the SW, the 2 Bns were regrouped by the attachment of A to the 3rd Bn and K to the 1st Bn.
Shortly before midnight the 15th German Parachute Regt which had replaced the original defending troops, launched a violet counter-attack against the 3 Cos (I, L & C) S of BEAU COUDRAY. C Co was forced back with heavy casualties and became intermingled with K Co; these 2 Cos were subsequently reorganized as one unit and fought as such for the next several days. I and L Cos held firm but with both flanks exposed they were soon cut off from the remainder of the Regt by German infiltration. Enemy mortar and artillery fire was hourly increasing in intensity.
2nd Bn, initially in Regtl Res, passed to Div control at 2000 and was moved (less E Co) to assembly area SW of ST Jores. E Co which had been placed astride the ST Jores – BEAU COUDRAY Road, remained in that location.
1st Bn, attacking at 0800, scaled the N slopes of the Foret on the right of the 3rd Bn and, swinging wide, advanced against sporadic resistance to seize the high ground in the vicinity of LA VILLE which provided dominant observation over W half of the Corps zone. The importance of this ground to the Germans was to be made plain in the next few days.
3rd Bn, initiating its advance when the 1st Bn came abreast, was met by heavy opposition in the thick woods on the summit of the FORET. It soon developed into a close quarters grenade and bayonet melee which continued with unabated fury until mid-afternoon when the German resistance was broken and the Bn was able to push to its objective E of the 1st Bn. The 3rd Bn sustained a counter-attack before it could organize its objective and repulsed it with difficulty.
The existence of a sizeable German force between the 1st and 3rd Bns made the establishment and maintenance of firm contact between those 2 units an impossible task for the moment. Both Bns were low on ammunition, without AT protection and were under heavy enemy fire. Resupply and evacuation were serious problems because of the absence of roads and the presence of small German groups in the rear of the 2 Bns. During the night, partial resupply was effected by using attached tanks as cargo carriers.
2nd Bn 359th Inf and 1st Bn 358th Inf (now attached 359th Inf) attacked at 0830 and reached without difficulty their objective on the E nose of the FORET. The positions were organized and preparations made for the expected counterattack. Prisoners taken during the morning provided evidence of the presence of other German Paratroopers, the cream of the Nazis, in the Div zone. The presence of this unit meant only one thing – counterattack to restore position. The full importance of the nose had not become apparent until we secured it. It provided perfect observation to the N and to the E and consequently was more important to the Boche defensively than to us in our offensive plans. It did however control an excellent road net and good flank observation on Boche units facing 357th Inf.
90th Rcn Tr continued to screen the right rear of the Regt, blocking approaches up the valley N of the FORET from the W.
358th Inf (less 1st Bn):
At noon, on Div order, the 3rd Bn was directed to move from its assembly position in the vicinity of ST JORES to attack W through the valley to clean out the resistance in the rear of the 359th Inf as far as the town of LITHAIRE. Advancing rapidly at first, the Bn soon encountered enemy in strength and at darkness was still held E of LITHAIRE; it had succeeded however, in guaranteeing a safe line of communication to the summit of the FORET in rear of the 1st and 3rd Bns of the 359th Inf.
At 1715 the Regiment (less 2 Bns) was directed to move to the vicinity of LE FRY in preparation for its commitment the following day in a zone of action between the 357th and 359th Infs. The situation was sufficiently critical in the area of the 3rd Bn 359th Inf that the 2nd Bn 358th Inf was directed to move to occupy the high ground from which the 3rd Bn, 359th Inf had jumped off in the morning, filling the gap between the 2nd and 3rd Bns of 359th Inf. This position was occupied and organized without incident.
In the course of the day’s operations the Div had strengthened its hold on the Foret by 4 Bns as the right flank swung considerably forward. The 357th Inf, hampered by poor ground and insufficient maneuver room had been roughly handled, but was capable of containing within its zone, while the main Division effort veered to the right. Across the entire front enemy reaction was intensified adnd with 8 out of 9 infantry battalions completely committed, the possibility of a damaging enemy counter-thrust loomed large. The only additional reinforcing troops available were the 315th Engr Bn, now assembled in the vicinity of ST JORES and the 121st Cav Sq elements of which were patrolling the PRARIE from the left of the 357th Inf to the BAUPTE causeway.
Elsewhere on the Corps front the fighting had been equally hard. 82nd A/B Div to the N was was encountering heavy resistance NE of LA HAYE DU PUITS. 79th Inf Div on the right flank of the Corps had sustained enemy counter-attacks W of LA HAYE DU PUITS throughout the day. On the NE side of the PRARIE, 83rd Inf Div, operating with VII Corps, cound count as gains only a few hedgerows. The German defense had been well planned and superbly executed.
7 July 1944
The entire front was alive throughout the night. Small German groups countinued to attack and harass I and L companies of the 357th Inf. Shortly after midnight a paratrooper battalion, scaled the wooded south slopes of the nose occupied by the 1st Bn, 358th Inf and launched a noisily fanatical assault which retook the high ground driving the 1st Bn back onto the reverse (N) slope. Paratrooper elements infiltrated down into the valley. The Boche, between the 1st and 3rd Bn 359th Inf were active and small scale attacks against the 3rd Bn continued fromt eh E and S. Enemy mortar and artillery fell everywhere on the Division front. At 0400, Division issued instructions that all units would mop up rear areas, consolidate and improve positions and continue to pressure by patrols and fire, but that a resumption of the general attack would be delayed.
E Co, in 1st Bn reserve, supported by tanks, attacked SE at 0900 to seize BEAU COUDRAY and re-establish contact iwth leading companies of the 3rd Bn. Its advance was stopped by heavy resistance on the outskirts of town. At 1450, a violet counter-attack hit B Co on the right flank and although repulsed by our tanks caused heavy casualties including all officers and non commissioned officers. The remnants withdrew into the A company perimiter. Meanwhile the remainder of the 1st Bn, the fused C-K company force, held in place throughout the day, sustaining a total of 15 separate counterattacks. At 1635, a carrying party from the isolated companies broke through the German lines and reached the 3rd Bn area in greatly decimated strength. It reported that the companies were under continuously heavy pressure and were very low on ammunition. Later in the day a runner from L Company slipped through the lines reporting that I Company CP had been overrun by tanks and the entire CP group killed or captured. Regiment directed that E Company, under the control of the 3rd Bn and supported by tanks, attack at once to relieve the situation of I and L companies. Heavy fire delayed organization of the attack and it was subsequently postponed until dawn.
2nd Bn was released to Regimental control at 1550 and was moved to a forward assembly area in the vicinity of LES BELLES CROIX.
3rd Bn continued the attack to the W at 0900. After breaking resistance immediately in front of it, it made excellent progress. By noon it was on the E edge of LITHAIRE and had taken a total of 50 prisoners. At 1345 it passed to the control of 359th Inf for the completion of mop up operations W to the Division boundary.
At 1017 the 1st Bn 358th Inf and 2nd Bn 359th Inf passed to the control of the 358th Inf. At the same time 2nd Bn 358th Inf passed to the control of the 359th Inf for employment between the 1st and 3rd Bn 359th Inf. B Company, 315th Engr Bn was attached to the 358th Inf to occupy and hold the high ground which would be vacated by the 2nd Bn 358th Inf when that battalion initiated its advance.
1st Bn 358th Inf had sustained an attack shortly after midnight which drove it off the high ground on the NE corner of the FORET DE MONT CASTRE. 2nd Bn 359th Inf, unmoleted by this attack, remained in possession of the high ground E of this point. The Boche had thus driven a salient square into the middle of the Division zone and was in a favorable position to exploit against the right flank of the 357th Inf or to split the Division in two. 358th Inf was ordered to retake the nose. At 1645 the 1st Bn, supported by the fire of the 2nd Bn 359th Inf launched a frontal attack against the German position on the crest. In a bitter fight the battalion twice reached the crest and twice was driven off and at midnight reorganized just short of their objective.
E Company, 315th Engr Bn, relieved the 2nd Bn 358th Inf on the latter’s position, at 1500. At 2200, remainder of the Engr Bn was attached to the Regiment and its C Company moved into position to reinforce E Company. The remaining Company assembled in the valley directly in rear of the leading two.
1st and 3rd Bns maintained and improved their advanced positions throughout the day against repeated attacks and heavy fire. In the valley SW of the 3rd Bn position, around the towns of VESLY and MOBECQ considerable troop concentrations were observed and engaged with devastating effect by the massed fires of the Corps Artillery. 5 large scale attacks were launched from that direction but never reached the 3rd Bn, thanks to the superior work of the artillery observers and infantry commanders.
At 1520, the 2nd Bn 358th Inf, now attached to 359th Inf, moved into the Regimental zone and fought its way forward with the mission of filling the gap between the two leading battalions. By 2250 it had cleared the resistance between these battalions and established contact laterally. The three battalions were now firmly linked and our hold on FORET secure.
3rd Bn 358th Inf passed to 359th Inf control at 1345. 90th Rcn Tr was in turn attached to it for assistance in its mop up operations to the W. By 1800 the battalion, in a well coordinated maneuver, had seized LITHAIRE and its garrison of 75 Boche. It continued its advance to the W, holding for the night in the clear, on a predetermined line through the E slope of the FORET.
The 8th Inf Div. in Corps Reserve, was originally under orders to relieve the 90th Division elements in the FORET on 8 July, and continue the attack to the S. The 90th Division, with its zone delimited to the area not held by the 357th Inf, would continue the attack S until pinched out by the juncture of the 8th and 83rd Inf Divs on the right and left respectively. However, during the day, captured documents substantiated by air reconnaissance reports and our own observations, developed evidence of the presence of the Das Reich Division in the Corps zone. Captured officers reported that it would attack on 8 July on a NE axis to recapture the FORET DE MONT CASTRE. The direction of its attack would strike the 8th Div squarely in the flank. Based on this information the Corps order was revised, shifting the zone of action of the 8th Div westward and changing its attack direction to a SE line in order that it might in turn strike the probable attack of the German Division in the flank. During the afternoon and night, arrangements for the passage of elements of the 8th Div through the 359th Inf zone were completed. It was strongly recommended that the 121st Inf on the left of the 8th Div veer to the left of its zone and approach its LD (our present front line) over ground which had been cleared by our units thereby bypassing the scattered resistance still remaining W of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf. Numerous guides were posted and officer liaison established to facilitate execution of this plan. The decision not to follow this suggestion was to result in a 48 hour delay in the Corps offensive.
79th Inf Div on the extreme right of the VIII Corps had advanced practically abreast of the 90th Div, bypassing LA HAYE DU PUITS. On our left, in 3 days’ stiff fight, the 83rd Inf Div had made only limited progress. Across the entire front of the VII and VIII Corps German resistance was as strong as on the first day of the offensive.
8 July 1944
The Division plan for the resumption of the attack was briefly as follows:
(a) When passed through by the regiment of the 8th Div, the 3rd Bn 359th Inf and the 2nd Bn 358th Inf would side slip to the E and attack SE through the FORET on the left of the 8th Div with the 1st Bn 359th Inf following in reserve.
(b) The 3rd Bn 358th Inf would relieve the 315 Engr Bn and in conjunction with the 2nd Bn 359th Inf would initiate its attack when the 359th Inf had come abreast. The 1st Bn 358th Inf would consolidate the nose and reorganize as a regimental reserve.
(c) 357th Inf would execute a holding attack until pinched out by the advance of the two right regiments, at which time it would revert to Division Reserve.
As it actually developed, the failure of the 8th Inf Div to clear our front lines on this day postponed the attack.
The planned attack of E Co did not materialize because of the failure to organize it properly. The CO of the 3rd Bn was relieved and the entire force, consisting of the intermingled 1st and 3rd Bns, was placed under the command of the CO of the 1st Bn. At 0900 Field Train and Regimental Headquarters personnel were forced into a provisional Co and occupied positions astride the ST JORES – BEAU COUDRAY road S of the Regimental Headquarters.
During the morning hours, a very few men from I and L Co worked their way back to our lines and reported that the great bulk of the two isolated companies had been killed or captured. There was no sound of battle from their last reported positions and it was consequently clear that our resistance in that area had ended.
For the remainder of the day emphasis was placed on the regrouping and position improvement of the remaining effective companies of the combined force (A, B, C, and K). Boche pressure slackened; it was later determined that the paratrooper force, having accomplished its mission of restoring the line, had been replaced by a less elite combat group.
E Co was withdrawn and rejoined the 2nd Bn, which again passed to Division control and moved to its original assembly areas SW of ST JORES
The 358th Inf now consisted of its organic 1st Bn, 2nd Bn, 359th Inf and the 315th Engr Bn.
Throughout the hours from midnight until dawn the Boche in the Regtl zone continued to probe the hilltop positions, but no attack developed. At 1045 the 3rd Bn, having been covered by the advance of the 8th Inf Div across its front, was relieved from attachment to the 359th Inf and returned to Regtl control. It assembled in the valley N of the Engr position preparatory to its attack through that position. Based on the forecast of the expected progress of the 8th Div, the time of attack of the 3rd Bn in conjunction with the 2nd Bn 359th Inf was tentatively set at 1500. The attack was finally postponed until the next day, and in lieu thereof plans were completed for the relief of the Engr Bn by the 3rd Bn under cover of darkness.
The three battalions on the Hill maintained their positions against German reconnaissances in force which increased in frequency toward evening. The reported concentration of three companies of paratroopers on the S slopes of the FORET were “serenaded” by the Corps Artillery.
2nd Bn 358th Inf in the center of the Regtl line was attacked at 0330 by an estimated German battalion. This attack was finally repulsed at dawn. Heavy pressure against the center & R of the line continued throughout the morning and afternoon, climaxed by a strong attack at 1500 designed to split the 1st Bn 359th Inf and 2nd Bn 358th Inf. The enemy penetration was neutralized by a counterattack and the lines restored. At 1930 still another attack, supported by heavy artillery concentration, was launched against the entire front line. Our superior artillery and the determination of the infantry repulsed it without gain. At midnight, therefore the line still held, despite heavy casualties, (particularly among officers and NCOs).
To the right rear of the regiment, the 8th Div was advancing slowly, having initiated their attack at 0600. They approached our positions through a zone which took them in front of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf rather than through the cleared area in its (3rd Bn’s) rear. 3rd Bn 358th Inf, when its front had been covered by their advance, was released from 359th Inf control and rejoined its Regt.
Although our guides and liaison officers were in contact with the left elements of the 121st Inf (left assault regiment of the 8th Div) and the area between their left front and the rear of our hilltop position was clear, scattered enemy resistance remained in the right of the 121st Inf zone and slowed their progress. Thus at midnight the 8th Div had not yet passed through our lines and our resumption of the offensive was consequently postponed.
The 79th Inf Div on the extreme right of the Corps had taken LA HAYE DU PUITS and was consolidating its positions.
9 July 1944
The Regtl front was relatively quiet throughout the day. Readjustment and improvement of the positions of the combined 1st and 3rd Bns continued. The provisional company, after weathering two hours of concentrated shelling, extended its dispositions to the SE to prevent further enemy infiltration which previously had caused a great deal of harassment and to firm contact with elements of 121st Cav Sq, outposting the left flank and rear of the Div zone.
2nd Bn remained in position as Division Reserve, patrolling to contact with the 1st Bn 358th Inf.
The 1st Bn 358th Inf and 2nd Bn 359th Inf in close contact, one with the other, consolidated their position and made those readjustments requisite to a continuation of the attack. Observers with the 2nd Bn 359th Inf, utilizing the excellent defilade observation available, directed heavy fire into the German positions in vicinity of BEAU COUDRAY.
3rd Bn completed relief of Engr Bn at dawn and the latter reverted to Division control. A gap existed between the right of the 3rd Bn and left of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf and into the gap the Boche probed vigorously. At 1700 a vicious German attack struck the right front and flank of the 3rd Bn. Although it was repulsed, some infiltration continued around the right. To fill that gap, B Co 315th Engr Bn was reattached to the regiment and moved to positions on the right flank of the 23rd Bn. Subsequently the remainder of the Engr Bn was attached and C Co moved into the line to reinforce B Co.
The 1st and 3rd Bn together with the 2nd Bn 358th Inf maintained what was tantamount to a regimental strongpoint against continuous probing and attack. At 1930 a German attack drove a wedge between the 2nd Bn 358th Inf and 3rd Bn 359th Inf but counterattack restored the lines.
To the left rear of the Bns, the Regt had deployed a miscellaneous force of cooks, drivers, clerks and the dismounted 90th Rcn Tr to fill the gap between its 3rd Bn and the 3rd Bn 358th Inf. They were likewise employed to guard communications from the regimental CP across the wilderness to Bn forward positions.
Guides were still waiting for the 121st Inf, but that unit was having difficulties on its right front. As of midnight, the 121st was no nearer our lines than 24 hours previously.
The 4th Inf Div, having been committed in the right of the original zone of action of the 83rd Inf Div, made small progress on our immediate left.
10 July 1944
Based on information from Corps of evidence of a general enemy withdrawal on our front, Division ordered strong patrols to determine the presence or absence of the enemy in the BEAU COUDRAY area. The Regiment was to be prepared to immediately exploit any verified withdrawal; in any event it was to exert strong pressure beginning 1400 to assist the attacks of the 358th and 359th Inf.
All patrols drew heavy fire; the Boche was still there.
At 1400 an advance was initiated with 2 company groups to secure the E W road through BEAU COUDRAY. A Company on the extreme left received heavy MG fire from its left front the moment it moved forward. Neither artillery nor mortar concentrations had any effect in reducing the volume of enemy fire delivered from what subsequently was found to be cut and covered emplacements and the company’s advance was completely blocked. B Company, adjacent to and on the right of A Company, had been reinforced by 5 medium tanks and was set up as the main effort. However, the extremely heavy mortar and artillery fire absorbed by this company broke its spirit and the prevalence of stragglers denied it any successful offensive action. C Company, now reconstituted, attempted to attack SE to fill the existing gap between B Company and K company on the right but was unable to make any progress. K Company on the extreme right reached the road and attempted to turn E on the road to roll up resistance in front of the other companies, but withering fire hitting both exposed flanks made this an impossibility and it withdrew to its original position. Shortly before dusk all 4 companies consolidated on their original positions and the regimental front became established.
During the early part of the day, the three battalions in line (in order from right to left, 3rd, 2nd 359th Inf, 1st) on Division order maintained their positions on the eastern portion of the FORET prepared to initiate the attack pivoting on the 1st Bn. The resumption of the attack (in a southeasterly direction) had been planned as a coordinate effort by the 359th and 358th Infs. However, the slow advance do the 8th Inf Div and the improbability of its passing through the 359th Inf at any reasonable hour caused the Division Commander to order the 358th Inf to attack at 1500, with the 359th Inf following as soon as practicable after it could side-slip into position (the sideslip itself hinging upon its relief by the 8th Inf Div).
At 1400, the 3rd Bn 358th Inf attacked SE into the heavily wooded reverse slopes of the FORET. 2nd Bn 359th Inf jumped off parallel to and on the left of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf when the latter’s advance had brought them abreast.
The terrain into which the 3rd Bn 358th Inf attacked was rocky and densely wooded and control immediately became a major problem. The only route through the attack area was a fire break on which Company I, the left assault company, guided. Despite heavy resistance the assault companies initially made good progress but halted on their first phase line to reestablish the lateral contact which had been lost almost at the jump off. After reestablishing contact and determining their position by colored smoke shells fired by supporting artillery, the battalion commander ordered a resumption of the advance. Almost immediately all assault platoons met fierce resistance from the fanatically determined paratroopers defending that area. The Boche engaged our infantry with hand grenades and close range MG fire from trees, spider trap holes and carefully camouflaged dug-in positions in the tangled under growth, inflicting heavy casualties. The assault units extricated themselves only by the gallant action of those men not pinned to the ground, who charged the Germans with bayonet, grenades and hip fired MGs. The command group itself was attacked by a by-passed German squad; the latter was dispatched by the timely intervention of the reserve platoon of L Company which turned back upon hearing the sound of the fire fight.
After beating down the immediate resistance, the battalion halted for reorganization prior to the resumption of the advance. A considerable gap had enveloped between the leading assault companies as a result of the divergent attack of Company I to storm and carry a rocky knoll on its left flank from which a German platoon had been delivering particularly devastating fire. Despite heavy artillery and mortar fire which continued to rain up on the battalion area, the reorganization was quickly completed and the attack was resumed at 1800. Since adjacent units were considerably to the rear, the original assault companies were faced left and right respectively to protect the flanks, while K Company assaulted through the gap with the support of one platoon of medium tanks. K Company broke out of the woods and reached a position overlooking the road to LASTELLE, the battalion objective. The supporting tanks were immediately knocked out by German SP guns or immobilized in the sticky underfooting. Deprived of their tank support and heavily engaged by small arms, flat trajectory mortar and artillery fire from three sides, their position had become untenable and the company was withdrawn at duck to form the frontal side of the battalion perimeter. Meanwhile B Company which had been brought down the battalion route as a reinforcement, reached the battalion area and was placed on the right of L Company to complete the all around defense.
In tribute to this battalion it is considered that its gallant action in the face of great odds on this day broke the German main line in the FORET and occasioned their withdrawal along the entire Division front 24 hours later.
2nd Bn 359th Inf initiating its attack when the 3rd Bn 358th Inf came abreast, met severely strong resistance on its left flank. G Company on the battalion right by-passed this resistance and by dusk had drawn abreast of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf. Remainder of the battalion was held by the dogged enemy some distance to its left rear.
1st Bn, in position unsuitable for a jump off; supported the attack to the right two battalions by fire, but made no advance.
All battalions held in place until 1600 at which time the 121st Inf on the left of the 8th Inf Div passed through their lines and continued the attack. As soon as covered, the 2nd Bn 358th Inf and 3rd Bn 359th Inf moved rearward and swung obliquely left into their new zone of action. Both battalions encountered terrain difficulties and resistance comparable to that experienced by the 3rd Bn 358th Inf, but by dark had secured the southernmost hill mass of the FORET and had reached the far edge of the woods. Lack of routes and by-passed groups of Boche made communication and supply and extremely difficult and hazardous problem.
1st Bn remained in its original position until the reserve Bn of the 121st Inf had come abreast of it and then moved left to an assembly position as Regimental Reserve.
The 315th Engr Bn moved into position to reoccupy the high ground vacated by the 3rd Bn 358th Inf, when the latter attacked, to guarantee the integrity of the Division front. 90th Rcn Tr assembled in the valley N of the FORET as Division reserve.
11 July 1944
Beginning at 0600, 1st Bn 358th Inf and 2nd Bn 359th Inf mopped up the re-entrant between them forced by the flanking attack of the 2nd Bn on the previous evening. By 1000 the task had been completed and they were in full control of the long disputed “NOSE” on the NE edge of the FORET. During the same period, 3rd Bn, 358th If, still under heavy fire from the enemy mortars, continued reorganization. B Company was released from attachment to 3rd Bn and moved to rejoin its parent unit.
At 1030, 2nd Bn 359th Inf, attacking generally in an ea sternly direction moved forward from the “NOSE”, crossed the road to LASTELLE and attacked into the hedgerows to enfilade the resistance confronting the 357th Inf, which had meanwhile come abreast of it at the right, advanced to and occupied the town of LASTELLE shortly after midnight.
1st Bn regrouped on the “NOSE” and completed plans for passage through 2nd Bn 359th Inf at dawn the following day.
While the remainder of the regiment held its now stabilized position N of BEAU COUDRAY, 2nd Bn moved to an assembly area just NE of the “NOSE”. The Division plan visualized the commitment of this battalion on the left of the 2nd Bn 359th Inf after the latter had reached the eastern extremity of the narrow corridor through which it was attacking and had turned to the SE. As stated above, the 2nd Bn 359th Inf did not possess sufficient power to break out and it was consequently decided to commit the 2nd Bn 357th Inf in column of companies through its left to give added drive to the bogged down attack.
2nd Bn went into action at 1500, passing through the left company of the 2nd Bn 359th Inf. Despite its canalization and the stubborn fight put up by superbly dug-in Germans, the battalion drove ahead and by dark had reached the far end of the corridor and had gained for itself the maneuver room necessary for the development of its full offensive strength.
The few available hours of darkness had been inadequate to effect resupply and establish communication to and within the assault battalions; it was nearly noon before the battalions were in proper shape for a continuation of the attack.
At 1400 the 3rd Bn 359th Inf and 2nd Bn 358th Inf moved forward, advancing to the EW road just S of the FORET. At this point, they came under extremely heavy fire from Hill 92 to their immediate front. To give renewed momentum to the attack, 1st Bn 359th Inf was moved through the woods to the left rear of 3rd Bn. At 1930 1st Bn, in a coordinated effort with 3rd Bn 358th Inf, attacked out of the FORET and advanced to the town of LASTELLE.
12 July 1944
During the early morning hours the Boche withdrew to a position, which was subsequently discovered to be some 3000 meters rearward. The battle of the FORET DE MONT CASTRE had been won. Blood, guts and superior equipment had finally broken the Mahlman line. The coast to the 90th Div had been high; some 5000 had been killed, wounded or captured. But the German losses were heavier. The 90th Div, drained as it was of key officers and non-commissioned officers had undisputedly proven its combat effectiveness. For 9 continuous days and nights it had fought without respite against a seasoned and entrenched enemy, and its wounds notwithstanding, emerged from the fight victorious and high spirited.
The 2nd Bn attacked at 0800 and meeting practically no resistance, advanced rapidly to LE PLESSIS. After mopping up the Boche stragglers in that area it was redirected S along the W edge of the swamp in conformity with Division orders. The movement of the 1st Bn 358th Inf obliquely across its front in the vicinity of LA COUTRIE stopped further progress. Although every effort was made to shift the 1st Bn 358th Inf to the right into its proper Z of action, this was not accomplished until well after dark and the 2nd Bn could but remain where it first halted. Under cover of darkness it moved forward and outposted the left of the 1st Bn 358th Inf while that latter unit side-slipped to the right.
While the 2nd Bn was investigating LE PLESSIS, the 1st and 3rd Bns now reorganized, moved forward over the bitterly contested ground of the preceding few days, assembled in vicinity of BEAU COUDRAY as Division Reserve.
Shortly after midnight the 1st Bn, previously regimental reserve, initiated relief of the 2nd Bn 359th Inf. Upon completion of the relief, the 2nd Bn 359th Inf assembled just N of the “NOSE” and when closed was detached from the 358th Inf and passed to division control.
At 0800 the 1st Bn on the left and the 3rd Bn on the right, moved rapidly SE against negligible resistance.
By 1400 the 1st Bn had reached the stream line just N of GORGES with its left at the swamp and its right opposite the town. Patrols which attempted to cross the stream drew heavy fire from the buildings lining the far bank and the battalion was soon engaged in a hot fire fight. All efforts to force the stream line were repulsed, and the battalion secured for the night on the positions it had won by mid-afternoon. Under cover of darkness, it side-slipped to the right to conform to the new Regtl Z and to permit the employment of the 2nd Bn 357th Inf.
3rd Bn on the regimental right, advanced abreast of the 1st Bn 359th Inf from LASTELL through LA SALMONNERIE with the objective of seizing the main crossroad at ST GERMAIN. This Bn had been so greatly decimated in the preceding few days that its rifle elements consisting of but 4 officers and 122 EM were organized into a single battle group. It reached the crossroads without difficulty but was ambushed by flanking MG and Tank fire as it moved to the ground beyond. In the ensuing fight it sustained approximately 40 additional casualties including 4 officers. By late evening the remnants had routed the Boche and, reinforced by 2 AT Platoons, had organized the crossroads for defense. Contact could not be established with the 1st Bn on the left. 359th Inf:
1st Bn moved from vicinity LASTELLE at 0800 on the right rear of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf. After an uninterrupted advance of 2 Kms it encountered a heavily defended strong-point in a sunken road midway between LA SALMONNERIE and ST GERMAIN. Although reinforced by tanks, it was unable to reduce this pocket of resistance. With the advance thus effectively blocked, the Bn Comdr left 1 Co in place to contain frontally and swung the remainder of the Bn left into the Z of the 358th Inf to tie in with the 3rd Bn 358th Inf for the night.
2nd Bn 358th Inf from its position on the S slopes of the FORET advanced due E towards LASTELLE avoiding Hill 92. From LASTELLE it moved S and secured LA BAGOTTEERIE thence SE abreast of 1st Bn 359th Inf. The contour of the enemy’s new delaying position was definitely established when this Bn hit determined resistance a short distance S of PIERREPRORT. This Bn could advance no further. Since addition to the enemy position immediately to its front, its left flank had been exposed by the divergent maneuver of the 1st Bn 359th Inf.
The 3rd Bn now in regimental reserve, moved throughout the day, echeloned to the right rear of the 2nd Bn 358th Inf. Closing for the night in an assembly area SE of LA BAGOTTERIE. As a mater of interest, this BN was forced to fight for its night assembly position.
2nd Bn 359th Inf, Division Reserve, was ordered forward at 1400 and marched to assembly area at the crossroads at LA BAGOTTERIE.
90th Rcn Tr, returning to action after a brief rest, moved to LATELLE and with dismounted patrols, maintained contact with the 8th Inf Div.
315 Engr Bn which had for the past 5 days operated exclusively as a combat unit, was relieved at daylight from its position atop the FORET and returned to much neglected Engr work.
The entire Corps front on this day advanced a comparable distance. The 8th Infantry Division on our immediate right moved rapidly till encountering the reverse slope positions of Hill 92. The 79th Infantry Division on the Corps right remained abreast of the 8th Infantry Division. On our left the 4th Infantry Division maneuvering deliberately through difficult swampy terrain made excellent progress.
13 July 1944
The Division plans for the resumption of the attack called for simultaneous jump off of all 3 regiments at 0645. However because the 8th Infantry Division had been held a considerable distance to our right rear, the attack with the 359th Inf was postponed until that division should come abreast.
2nd Bn had moved 1 company forward under cover of darkness to outpost its LD generally along the line vacated by the 1st Bn 358th Inf in its slideslip to the right. The lateral movement of the 1st Bn 358th Inf was not completed during the night, and consequently at daybreak elements of the 2 Bns were intermingled. Completion of the readjustment, slowed by the harassing fire of the enemy S of the stream, consumed a considerable portion of the morning and the 2nd Bn 357th Inf did not cross its LD until 1030. E Company, the assault unit, met heavy MG fire from the houses fringing the S bank of the stream immediately as it had started its forward movement. Unable to silence this fire with either mortars or artillery, E Company rose to the man and charged across the stream, overrunning the German positions. A second line of resistance was encountered a few hundred yards S of the stream but the bridgehead established was sufficient to permit the crossing by infiltration of F Company, which swung into action to the left rear of E Company. G Company, in Battalion Reserve, moved to the rear of E Company. G Company, in Battalion Reserve, moved to the right, N of the stream, to assist the 1st Bn 358th Inf in its attack against GORGES. After the seizure of GORGES by the 1st Bn, 358th Inf, G Company returned to its own Z, crossed the stream and slipt to protect the flanks of the battalion in the positions it organized for the night. The action of this battalion, although its gains measured in yards were negligible, unhinged the right flank of the enemy’s defensive position, forcing him into a general withdrawal.
The remainder of the regiment remained at BEAU COUDRAY training replacements and continuing reorganization.
The 1st Bn on the regimental left, attacked at 0645. During the preceding night the enemy returned in force to the N bank of the stream and from hastily prepared positions stoutly resisted the advance of the battalion. It required half a day to eliminate these surprise positions. At 1950 leading elements of the battalion forced the stream and entered GORGES. By 2100 the town had been mopped up, battalion perimeter established and contact firmed with 2nd Bn 357th Inf on the left. 3rd Bn held in place throughout the day reorganizing. 2nd Bn 358th Inf by Division order was scheduled to revert to regimental control at such time as it should be passed through by the advance of the 2nd Bn 359th Inf.
Maintained its positions prepared to attack when the 121st Inf on its right came abreast. 121st Inf did not come abreast and consequently no attack was made. The only offensive action on the part of the regiment was the elimination by the 1st Bn of the strong point which had checked its advance the previous day.
14 July 1944
2nd Bn advanced at 1000 meeting no resistance. By 1145 the I and R Plat was operating to the front and left of the Bn. By mid-afternoon the Bn had completely cleared the regimental zone to the N and to the E of Boche stragglers and had assembled in the vicinity of LA CELLERIE awaiting regimental orders. Remainder of the regiment was staged forward to the vicinity of GORGES preparatory to the relief of the 358th Infantry.
1st and 3d Bns advancing abreast moved on to the general axis GORGES – GONFREVILLE, against slight resistance. DURAUVILLE and GONFREVILLE, and the crossing E of the latter town were seized without incident and the regimental front advanced to the high ground overlooking the SEVES RIVER from NAY inclusive westward to contact the 359th Infantry. Patrols crossing the SEVES RIVER drew heavy fire from the ground to the S, which in the ensuing days was to become so well known as the “ISLAND”.
2nd Bn upon being covered by the advance of the 359th Inf sideslipped to the left and assembled S of GORGES as regimental reserve. F Co was attached to the 3rd Bn in position to back up the greatly reduced latter unit.
1st Bn advancing without resistance moved rapidly within its zone and by mid-afternoon had secured the CRs N of SEVES. The Boche outposts N of the RIVER were quickly overrun and one platoon was pushed toward SEVES to secure the stream-crossings. It proved inadequate for the job and since a general engagement was not indicated at this time the attack was abandoned.
2nd Bn, passing to the right of the 2nd Bn 358th Inf, advanced on the right rear of the 1st Bn, seized LA COMMUNE and continued to the RIVER to establish contact with the 1st Bn on its left, and shortly before dark with the 121st Infantry on its right.
3rd Bn followed by bounds in trace of the 2nd Bn and assembled E of HAU PERREY.
90th Rcn Tr:
Alerted immediately the enemy’s general withdrawal had become apparent, the troop went into action at 1200. One (1) platoon assisted the 357th Infantry in mop up of its area. Remainder of Troop moved to GONFREVILLE, from that point NE on the neck of the land leading to the Z of the 4th Inf Div. By 1600 it had cleared the area of german resistance taking numerous prisoners, and established contact with 4th Rcn Tr and had organized its outposts.
90th Inf Div had reached its assigned objectives and with them secure the 1st Phase of the VIII Corps offensive ended. Army strategy dictated that the Corps hold in place for the time being, pending development in other areas. This announcement was not disappointing for while the Division still possessed the capacity for continued offensive action, the opportunity to reorganize was an unmitigated blessing.
15 July 1944
Immediately after midnight, 1st Bn on the right and 2nd Bn on the left, relieved 358th Inf in place. The 3rd Bn assembled in Regimental Reserve N of GONFREVILLE. Throughout the day positions were readjusted and improved without molestation from the enemy on the far side of the SEVES R.
Upon relief, assembled all units of the regiment in the general area of GORGES.
Firmed its position on the Division right and instituted an effective harassing fire plan directed at the Boche confronting them.
90th Rcn Tr:
Was assigned continued responsibility for the spit of land on the Division left and maintenance of contact with the 4th Inf Div.
Given thus a breathing spell, the Division entered upon an extensive program of reorganization, rehabilitation and training. Particular attention was given to the integration of replacements and the bathing, reequipping and re clothing of combat units.
16 – 18 July 1944
During this period 357th and 359th Infs maintained their positions overlooking the SEVES R, harassing the enemy on the ISLAND with fire of all types. Because of the open nature of the ground to the immediate front, patrol activity was limited to night work.
The entire VIII Corps was inactive, its resumption of the offensive to the S being contingent upon the initial success of the strong effort planned by the VII Corps in the area NW of ST LO. The VIII Corps follow-up attack contemplate a straight push with 4 Divisions abreast (in order from right to left, 79th, 8th, 90th, 83rd) to seize the high ground vicinity COUTANCES. The axis of the 90th Division was to attack the PERIERS -ST SAUVEUR LENDELIN Road.
On the 18th of July the 4th Armd Div, available for employment in a defensive role only, replaced the 4th Inf Div in the interval between the 90th and 83rd Divs.
The immediate stumbling block within the 90th Division zone was the passage across the ISLAND, the approaches to which were devoid of cover and swept by enemy fire. It was felt that the ISLAND should be captured and held as a preliminary operation to provide the Division with a better LD. VIII Corps agreed to this plan and preparations were immediately initiated for a dawn attack by the 358th Inf on 19 July.
All units continued training and rehabilitation. Particular stress was placed on Infantry-Tank training, familiarization firing with all weapons and the indoctrination of infantry officers in field artillery forward observer methods.
19 July 1944
The attack of the 358th Inf was postponed 24 hours by Corps direction to permit the acquisition of the artillery ammunitions necessary for the support of the operations.
Through inexplicable circumstances elements of the 4th Armd Div launched a limited objective attack to seize Nay, a locality which had been held by our troops for a period of 5 days. The attack was eventually stopped, after several casualties had been inflicted on the 3rd Bn 357th Inf.
Late in the day information was received on the indefinite postponement of the projected attack of the 358th Inf. However, 3rd Bn 358th Inf effected relief of 3r Bn 359th Inf to place the attack LD under Regtl control.
20-21 July 1944
Corps and division awaited the jump off of the VII Corps which had been daily postponed because of unfavorable weather. During the lull thus afforded Division continued to fully utilize the available time to bring units to fullest possible combat efficiency.
358th’s attack was finally and definitely set up for 22 0600.
22 July 1944
1st and 2nd Bns 358th Inf initiated movement at 0100 from vicinity GORGES to forward assembly areas designated for the attack, closing the rest 0400 hours.
At 0628 when the preparation started, both battalions were rearward of the prescribed LD. Immediately the preparation lifted at 0630 the Boche began the most intense and sustained counter preparation fire that the Division had experienced to date. Whether the Boche were forewarned of the impending attack or whether the inactivity on the remainder of the Corps front permitted him to concentrate all available artillery on the attack area has never been accurately determined; the bitter fact remains that the heavy artillery fire which began at H-Hour and continued throughout the day from the outset disrupted and disorganized the assault echelons and foredoomed the failure the well planned and well coordinated attack.
The entire attack plan had been promised upon the rapid movement of the leading waves across the barren approaches to the “ISLAND” and the quick overrunning of its first line of defense. Because of the tardiness in reaching the LD and more especially because of the heavy barrages sustained at the jump off time, the assault as conceived was never launched. Once aware of the point of our attack, the enemy shifted more troops to the S bank of the stream to oppose us and begin mortaring and machine-gunning the deployed troops. The assault companies, abhorrent as the phrase may be, were “pinned to the ground” and notwithstanding the heroic actions of their leaders, remained immobile throughout the foremoon.
Finally at 1100, elements of F Co pushed across the stream W of SEVES and secured a lodgment but no additional 2nd Bn troops effected a crossing. These troops subsequently withdrew to allow tanks to fire into the buildings in SEVES.
At 1300, C and B Cos ignoring flanking machine gun fire jumped to the “ISLAND” and overcoming the immediate resistance advanced S about 1 Km. They were, however, unable to expand their bridgehead W sufficiently to uncover the S approach to the only road onto the “ISLAND”.
Bn halted forward motion after cutting main lateral road on “ISLAND” awaiting armored and antitank support. Elements of A and D Cos crossed at 1800. Behind them, enemy mortar, artillery and enfilade machine gun fire blocked all efforts to the engineers to provide a vehicular crossing. The existing road to the ISLAND was denied by the Boche infantry, supported by SP guns, who held the far approach.
In an attempt to exploit the momentary success of the 1st Bn, the 2nd Bn was directed to cross in the former’s wake and then attack E. But disorganization in the battalion was so widespread that only G Co was able to cross. It remained in a position of readiness immediately rearward of the 1st Bn.
At 2000, German paratroopers and tanks struck the E flank of 1st Bn in two company strength under the cover of an intense artillery preparation. The attack was firmly repulsed at duck but its weight and fury had delimited the bridgehead to a scant 300 yards depth S of the stream. An all around defense was established, covered by all available artillery, pending the arrival of reinforcements in men and equipment.
357th and 359th Infs holding in place supported the attack by fire and drew in turn considerable enemy reaction. Added to all other difficulties, a dense fog overhung the Division area rendering the much depended upon liaison planes useless.
23 July 1944
During the early morning hours the SEVES R overflowed its banks and became unfordable in most spots. This situation together with fire which continued to fall on both banks accentuated the difficulties attendant upon resupply of ammunition to the 1st Bn and G Co. At first light there was still no tank crossing and only a handful of ammunition had reached the assault trips. No additional troops of the 2nd Bn had joined G Co.
At 0830 mortar and artillery fire in the 1st Bn area increased perceptibly and shortly after 0900 the Boche attacked both flanks of the Bn in considerable strength. Tanks operating with both attacking groups made deep penetrations as bazooka team after team was picked off by supporting enemy infantry. Worn by fatigue, decimated in strength and bewildered by the success of the German attack, the Bn broke and began withdrawing to the N bank of the River. Many men swam the water gap and reached our lines safely but 11 officers and approximately 200 men were cut off and captured. By 1030 all fighting on the “ISLAND” had ceased and the Boche was in firm control of the S bank.
The stragglers from the 1st and 2nd Bns were quickly reformed and placed on the left of the 3rd Bn which throughout the attack had maintained its positions to counter any possible German breakthroughs. Division ordered the 357th Inf to extend its 1st Bn to the right to contact with the left of the 3rd Bn 358th Inf. Coincidental with this readjustment, 1st and 2nd Bn 358th Inf were withdrawn to rear assembly areas in vicinity of the Regtl CP at GONFRESVILLE.
The battle of the “ISLAND” had been a costly failure, shattering as it had 2 battalions of infantry. In the eyes of higher headquarters the Division setback was inexplicable but in vindication of the officers and men who had fought, bled and died in a heroic attempt to make the attack a success it must be stated that a curious series of cumulative circumstances had combined to deny success.
(1) Except in the narrow zone of the attack, the entire Army front was inactive and the Boche was able to give undivided attention to this sole threat to the integrity of his front. While its infantry strength could not be diverted to the extent of opposing us with numerical superiority, all artillery units within range could be and was directed against us.
(2) During both days of the attack weather conditions deprived us of air support and, of more immediate concern, prevented the use of artillery liaison planes to find and adjust on conterbattery targets.
(3) The success of the attack was contingent upon the element of surprise to the extent of rushing the open ground N of the “ISLAND” before the Boche could react to the sudden pressure. However, the infantry was not at the LD at the prescribed hour and the preparation fires were not followed up. The enemy emerging from cover after the completion of the preparation and not finding himself attacked at close quarters was alerted to and ready for the attack when finally launched.
(4) Although Regt entered the battle at full strength, well over 50% of its Bn strengths were replacements for whom this was their first fight. Caught at the LD by heavy enemy fire, and unable to fight back effectively, they could not be expected to react like seasoned veterans. The instinct for self-preservation outweighed obedience to orders and posed insurmountable obstacles to rapid reorganization.
(5) The inability to cross supporting weapons to effectively engage enemy tanks had a definite psychological reaction on the infantrymen up front.
24 juillet 1944
The experience of the last two days indicated now that the enemy was aware of our intentions ,any further attempts to assault the “ISLAND” frontally when the Corps moved forward held scant chance of success. Consequently the Division attack plan was radically revised. 359th Inf’s effort remained unchanged, their attack being directed S towards PERRIERS along the Division right boundary. The 358th Inf, extending to the left (E), 90th Rcn Tr extending to the S would relieve the 357th Inf and initially contain the “ISLAND”. RCT 357, upon relief would move to a LD along the existing boundary between the 4th Armd Div and the 83rd Inf Div. From this position in a coordinated effort with the right Regt of the 83rd Inf Div, (fsth Inf), RCT 357 would attack SW along the CARENAN – PERIERS Road, cutting off the “Island” and making contact with the 359th Inf N of PERIERS. When this maneuver had developed sufficiently, 358th Inf would mop up the ISLAND and assemble thereon as Div Reserve.
D-Day for the big drive had been announced as 25 July. With time at a premium, arrangements for the movement of RCT 357 and coordination of plans with the 83rd Inf Div were pushed with all vigor. Fortunately, D-Day was postponed for a minimum of 24 hours by unfavorable weather.
25 July 1944
2nd Bn moved by marching at 1300 via GONFREVILLE – BLEHOW – SAINTENY to forward assembly NE of RAIDS. 1st and 3rd Bns moved at 1700 and 1800 respectively after their relief by elements of 358th Inf. By 2145, the regiment was completely closed in its new area SW of SAINTENY. Relief and movement were made without enemy interference. Regimental plan called for an attack in column of battalions, through the right of the 329th Inf, in order 2nd, 1st and 3rd. 329th Inf with its left Bn on the assault was to attack simultaneously to seize a parallel objective. 7th Armd Div on the right while holding in place was to support the attack with all available artillery
2nd Bn initiated relief of the 3rd Bn and elements of 1st Bn, 357th Inf at 1500 while 3rd Bn extended to the left to equalize sectors relief was completed and sector responsibility passed to CO 358th Inf at 1800. 1st Bn, deep in reorganization remained vicinity GONFREVILLE as Regtl Reserve.
By dar, Regiment had completely readjusted and positioned all weapons to support the attacks of the 357th and 359th Infs by fire.
Maintained its positions and competed preparations for its attack on the Division right. 2nd Bn moved to forward assembly positions on the right rear of 1st Bn.
At 25 1100, under cover of a tremendous bombardment, VII Corps initiated its assault from W of ST LO. VIII Corps H-Hour was finally set at 26 0530
26 July 1944
The entire VIII Corps front flamed into action at 0530.
2nd Bn attacking on a narrow front which permitted the employment of only 1 Co encountered heavy resistance almost at the LD. The entrenched enemy although buffeted by heavy mortar and artillery concentrations could not be unloosened. on the left of the 329th Inf was stopped for no gain. By noon it had become obvious that the stalemate would not be immediately broken and plans were initiated, in conjunction with 329th Inf, for that latter unit to sideslip to the left, punching at a new point and giving the 357th Inf some maneuver room on the left of the 2nd Bn; both Regtl attacks to be renewed at 1900.
329th Inf experienced great difficulty repositioning its troops and late in the afternoon decided to postpone this effort until the following morning. 357th Inf followed suit and spent the remaining hours of daylight in preparation for a dawn attack.
Attacked in column of battalions at 0530 with the 2nd Bn leading. As was the case in the 358th Inf attack a few days previously, the Regiment was faced with the SEVES R as an immediate obstacle.
G Co crossed the River without difficulty and overran the first German entrenchments. 200 yards beyond however, they were stopped by heavy fire. F Co followed and was committed on the G Co’s left. At 0900 an enemy counterattack supported by tanks and artillery struck between the 2 Cos and forced them back into the first German entrenchments from which they successfully repulsed the Boche. Heavy enemy fire, both artillery and flat trajectory, continued to rain upon the only vehicular approach route and thwarted all efforts of engineers to construct a ford for the passage of tanks.
Enemy tanks from well defiladed positions on the flanks of the 2nd Bn, harassed the infantry and prevented their advance. By 1300 two additional counterattacks by the enemy had been launched and repulsed. At 1430 Co E was committed to fill the gap which had developed between the two assault Cos after the first counterattack; it came into the line in time to meet squarely another counterattack which developed into a had grenade fight. Bazooka teams tried valiantly to dislodge the enemy tanks but one by one fall to enemy fire. By 2000 2nd Bn, fighting heroically to maintain its position, had repulsed three additional tank and infantry attacks. All in all five Boche tanks had been put out of action – 3 by bazookas and 2 by artillery. But more were available and cause particular havoc by enfilading our lines at ranges sometimes as small as 100 yards.
3rd Bn, at mid afternoon, had removed to position immediately behind 2nd Bn to counter any possible German thrust across the River. This battalion was ordered to effect relief after dark of the 2nd Bn which by this time had suffered heavy casualties.
1st Bn throughout the day maintained its positions protecting the left of the regiment.
From its the N of the “ISLAND” fired through the day in support of the 359th Inf.
90th Rcn Tr:
Moved from its positions on the Div left flank to maintain contact with the 121st inf on the Div right.
On this day the VIII Corps met uniformly strong and determined resistance along its entire front and by dark had registered only negligible gains. However to our SE the attack of the VII Corps was developing into a breakthrough and could be expected to have an immediate effect upon the Boche forces confronting us. Realizing this, all units at dark began a sustained probing of enemy positions for evidence of withdrawal.
27 July 1944
During the night 26 – 27 July the Boche made a major withdrawal but our foot patrols were unable to penetrate the thick covering shell which remained in position until first light.
Patrols of the Regiment failed to discover the withdrawal and the attack, postponed until 0900 to complete the coordination with 329th Inf, jumped off into thin air. The 2nd Bn advanced rapidly hampered only by mines. As the 4th Armd Div on the immediate right was holding fast, the 1st bn was swung into the gap which thus developed and followed on the right rear of the 2nd Bn. 3rd Bn executed similar maneuver on the left flank of the 2nd Bn and in this wedge formation the Regiment advance to its initial objective cutting the PERIERS – CARENTAN Road, 2 Kms SW of RAIDS.
At noon Division ordered Regiment to turn S, cross TAUTE R and seize the high ground S of ST SEBASTIEN DE RAIDS. 3rd Bn moved abreast of the 2nd Bn and swung left, crossing the TAUTE R at LA FOSSAIRE. Reconnaissance for a suitable site consumed a considerable amount of time and it was well towards evening before the 3rd Bn completed crossing. Br ran into a delaying position just N of the PERIERS – ST LO Highway which it overwhelmed at dark. Meanwhile the 2nd Bn had crossed S of the River; the 1st Bn was scheduled for crossing at daylight.
3rd Bn, which completed the relief of the 2nd time at 0600, advanced due S at 0900. 1 Km N of PERIERS it swung SE and halted astride the PERIERS – CARENTAN Road. The 1st Bn followed in trace behind 3rd Bn to LONGUET. At this latter point it turned due E to LES MILLERIES and then S through GRUCHY drawing abreast of the 3rd Bn.
Renewing the advance at 1600, 3rd Bn bypassed PERIERS and moved astride the PERIERS – COUTANCES Road. 1 Km S of PERIERS it passed through the 90th Rcn Tr and took up the fight against a strong Boche blocking detachment on that road. The presence of the Boche tanks on the one side and the inability to move AT or TD weapons in position to oppose them on the other resulted in a stalemate until dark.
1st Bn advancing S encountered comparable resistance and eventually halted for the night a few hundred yards to the left front of the 3rd Bn.
2nd Bn moved from its original positions at 1600 and completed the mop up of PERIERS occupying that town for the night.
At midmorning 3rd Bn patrols reported the town of SEVES clear of enemy. Acting on Division instruction Cos of the 2nd and 3rd Bns began a systematic search of the “ISLAND” while remainder of Regiment was alerted for immediate movement. The “ISLAND” was soon reported devoid of Boche but littered with mines.
By 2000 two routes across the “ISLAND” had been cleared by the engineers and the regiment moved S to an assembly area vicinity GRUCHY.
90th Rcn Tr:
Was alerted at 1000 and given the mission to proceed S through PERIERS to contact the enemy. Delayed by the bridge construction and mines on the main road to PERIERS the Troop did not initiate its movement until 1330. Moving for the most part dismounted, it reached PERIERS at 1530, passed through the town and continued S in the direction of ST SAUVEUR LENDELIN. 1 Km S of PERIERS it encountered enemy infantry and tanks. The limited road net did not permit the Troop to bypass this resistance and it made no additional progress during the day. 1 Plat was eventually diverted E of PERIERS and contacted 3rd Bn 357th Inf.
The entire VIII Corps had surged forward and the proportions of the breakthrough were now plain to all. It was consequently directed that the 4th and 6th Armd Divs pass through the 90th and 79th Inf Div respectively and drive towards COUTANCES and points to the S. During the night Div staff completed necessary arrangements for the passage of the armor while the engineers worked with feverish speed to demine the CARENTAN – PERIERS Road and provide a passable route through the demolished town itself.
28 July 1944
At 0600 357th and 359th Infs resumed their advance to the S keeping entirely clear of the PERIERS – COUNTANCES ROAD. At 0800 the head of the 4th Armd Div column passed through PERIERS and rolled unopposed southward to ST SAUVEUR LENDELIN.
Hampered only by mines and the inadequacy of routes, the leading regiments advanced rapidly, initially deployed and subsequently, in route column. By 1300 all leading elements had reached the ST SAUVEUR LENDELIN – MARGINY ROAD. Some 3 Kms S thereof, vicinity of BUCHEUX, the 357th Inf was stopped by contact with elements of the 1st Inf Div moving W directly across our front. 359th Inf halted on Division order the general line from LA HOUSSAYE (269622) – HAUTE CAPALIE (300625). Both regiments secured their positions and gained firm lateral contact to prevent the infiltration southward of by-passed enemy elements. The only enemy contact during the day had been Boche stragglers who had been overrun by the rapidity of the advance.
By dark the entire Division together with supporting units had crossed S of the PERIERS – ST LO Road. 358th inf assembled in the vicinity of CATHELAMAIS while the Division opened at CHATEAU PERRON (284697).
Late that day the 8th and 79th Inf Divs were ordered to follow by marching and motor the 4th and 6th Armd Divs respectively, clearing the W half of the NORMANDY PENINSULA and driving on AVRANCHES. The 90th and 83rd Inf Divs, still abreast, were directed to maintain positions and await further orders.
29-31 July 1944
The 358th and 359th Infantries continued to defend their sectors. The 357th Infantry upon being relieved by the 79th Infantry Division reverted to Division Reserve.
While the VII Corps smashed the encircled Boche in the trap its maneuver had sprung and VIII Corps drove S through AVRANCEHS, 90th Inf Div remained in the general area secured 28 July welcoming its first breathing spell since D-Day. Reorganization, rehabilitation and training were prosecuted with vigor in preparation for imminent future operations. Preliminary plans were discussed with representatives of XV Corps, the unit to which the Div was earmarked for attachment, and route reconnaissance southward as far as GAVRAY instituted by responsible agencies.
The first phase of the battle for FRANCE had ended. During it the 90th Inf Div played a vitally important part. It had met the best the German could offer by way of resistance and although bloodied, had bested him. It had enveloped battle experience and equally important, battle confidence. And the brief respite afforded in the last few days of July had permitted revitalization of both individuals and units. Thus on the eve of August the 90th Div was spiritually and physically ready for the stellar role it was about to be given.