Liberation of Portbail in 1944 during the Battle of Normandy

Portbail (Manche)

The cities of Normandy during the 1944 battles

Liberation: July 6th, 1944

Deployed units:

Drapeau américain 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division

Drapeau américain 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division

Drapeau américain 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division

Drapeau nazi 77. Infanterie Division

Drapeau nazi 265. Infanterie Division

History:

The town of Portbail attracts the attention of the Americans from the outbreak of the Normandy landings, because the Germans use the village for the supply of troops in the area: the presence of a station and a port explain including the presence of military depots.

A week after D-Day and in order to facilitate the capture of Cherbourg, the Allies want to cut the supply lines and isolate the German troops north of the Cotentin. The objective of the 7th American Corps (commanded by General Collins) is then to advance as quickly as possible westward and simultaneously reach Portbail and Carteret. While awaiting the arrival of the ground forces, the Allied aviation harassed the German troops and installations in the Portbail sector on June 14, also preventing troop movements along the coastal road: as a result of these raids, the There are many destructions in the village and surrounding infrastructure.

After crossing the Douve at Sainte-Colombe and Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, the 7th Corps projects its divisions towards the west coast of Cotentin. On the evening of June 18, the 9th Infantry Division of Major General Manton S. Eddy reached the coastal road from Carteret to La Haye-du-Puits, which at that time was the last major axis for the evacuation and refueling of ships. German troops isolated north of Cotentin. Colonel George W. Smythe’s 47th Infantry Regiment (9th Infantry Division) is located about one kilometer east of Portbail, on the coastal road at Hameau Huanville, at a place called La Croix du Moulin. The regiment was relieved that day by the 357th Infantry Regiment (90th Infantry Division), the latter receiving the heavy task of sealing the front line.

The Germans nevertheless managed to circumvent the American device from the west, along the coast through Portbail, and many units still manage to get out of the lock installed in the Cotentin. The American artillery is largely used to prohibit the crossing and the circumvention of the lines: the shells fall on the village as well as on the points of crossing on the Olonde river, triggering violent fires in the commune. On June 19, a battalion of Grenadier-Regiment 1050 (77. Infanterie Division) managed to bypass Portbail and secure the Carcan Bridge, capturing 59 American soldiers of the 357th Infantry Regiment: 1,400 Germans integrated into the Combat Joint Task Force (“Kampfgruppe“) commanded by the Oberst Bacherer take advantage and out of the trap, retreating to the south of Cotentin across the Olonde.

The Americans are unable to take the village of Portbail definitively, the latter being still bitterly defended by the Germans. The latter are keeping American lines under pressure, with regular infiltration and permanent bombing. On June 22, the 357th IR launched a counterattack located south of the Olonde estuary to give a breath of air, but failed to hold Portbail is abandoned to their opponents. German prisoners are nevertheless captured and escorted to US lines: Colonel Charles Bowler King, Intelligence Officer (G-2) at the 7th Corps General Staff, is killed by a sniper German near Le Village, south of Portbail. During the afternoon, he observed the movement of American patrols and prisoners crossing the estuary at low tide. Missing, his body is found only twelve days later by the inhabitants of the hamlet.

On June 30, the regiment was relieved of position by the 315th Infantry Regiment (79th Infantry Division), which took over the defense of the front line. It was not until July 6 that the Americans of the 315th Infantry Regiment finally liberated Portbail, after the withdrawal of the Germans to the south.

Map of Portbail:

 

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