Saturday 10th June Night: D-Day + 4

 

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

Night, 10th June (D+4)

Any hope that Saturday would bring an improvement in the weather was gone before I opened my eyes. Steady drumming on the galvanised iron roof might have been passed off as heavy rain, but not the violent shaking as gusts of wind hit my “temporary” home or the occasional flashes of lightening that penetrated even the heavy black out curtains. 

Arriving at the headquarters, the atmosphere was gloomy – no pun intended. Staff officers were looking sombre, and those responsible for organising the supply convoys for Normandy wandered around looking for something to do.  The weather for the day was confirmed: storms were still sweeping up the channel from the Atlantic and would do so for at least the next 24 hours.

All that could be done was being done, but all we could get across to the divisions on the European mainland was a few replacement men and vehicles. Welcome no doubt, but nothing like what was needed.  Meanwhile the camps and warehouses in southern England are bursting.  Like everyone else, I have started to stand in front of the huge weather map that has been placed in a prominent position.  Everyone is now an expert, but the real experts are stubbornly consistent: tomorrow should see a slight improvement, but fine weather might not arrive until Wednesday.

1 -1 stockpiles

Scores of 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns wait for transport to France

Those high ranking generals who were hanging around, most of them looking anxious and hopeful at the same time, also had little to do. The generals in France had their orders (to do nothing risky) and conditions had not changed.

The news from Europe showed that those generals were doing as instructed. Barely a score of units moved position during the night, and no effort was made to push the Germans back.  The most significant movement was on the Cotentin Peninsula where the airborne troops tried to hold their bridgeheads, even if it meant conceding some areas as indefensible.  They are paying a heavy price: more men were lost as the Germans continued their push down the Montbourg-St Mère Église highway.  West of the Merderet the paratroopers repelled the attackers, but Ridgway[1] warns he cannot be expected to do so again without ammunition for his artillery.  Both Ridgway and Taylor[2] report the devastating effect of the German artillery.  We have faced nebelwerfers before, but not in such concentration.  At least a regiment[3] of these weapons, supported by other artillery, make the German assaults deadly, even in bocage at night and in the pouring rain.

2 - 1 bocage

The bocage is perfect defensive terrain, but the German nebelwerfers are still effective

Carentan is a stand-off, though Barton[4] has no doubt the enemy has moved plenty of fresh troops into the city.  Why the Germans have not counter-attacked is a mystery[5], but Barton is not complaining.  He too fears holding off a concerted attack while his artillery is effectively useless.

The two divisions that made the initial landings at Omaha are stretched thin, but are not under attack at the moment. 29.ID has been halted at the Veret and although 1.ID has taken the bridge over the Aure at Surrain, Huebner[6] is worried about a growing number of enemy armour units[7] approaching from the south. 

The British retain their foothold in Bayeux and have been able to land two full divisions to add to those that landed on D-Day. Even so, they are under a lot of pressure to the west of Caen.    The Canadians are still taking casualties: in heavy fighting overnight they were driven out of Secqueville-en-Bessin.  7th Canadian Hussars escaped thanks to their Humber Scout cars, but the two infantry companies[8] holding the village were lost. The survivors claim several regiments of tanks and mechanised infantry supported by artillery carried out the attack, and it is now confirmed that they were from 130.PzD “Lehr”.  Slightly to the west, the arrival at the front of the Cromwells of 7th Armoured Division did not deter the Germans.  Units blocking the highway to Bayeux between St Légèr and Ste Croix Grand Tonne were hit by large numbers of motorised and mechanised infantry, with many tanks.  Our tanks held them off, but some armoured cars were lost.  Unfortunately, a squadron of Canadian armour[9] holding the flank was the subject of an accurate artillery barrage which destroyed most of its tanks.

3 - 1 Bayeux

The situation between Bayeux-Caen

Thankfully that was all the bad news. The region north of Caen, as has been the case now for days, is still, but that is also the case over the Canal de Caen and Orne River.  Rennie[10] has decided that with no immediate threat to his positions, he can afford to send some commandos and their supporting armour across the Bénouville bridge to help 6th Airborne.  It will take until midday for them to reach the river, but the paratroopers should be OK until then.

The results overall were bad, but bearable. But if the Germans are so active during the hours of darkness, how much more dangerous could they be during the day?

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

Night, 10th June (4th day after the landings)

Smiling faces everywhere this morning, as the storm clouds sweep overhead and the rain falls in steady sheets. Surely not even the Americans could land men and supplies in this weather?  And nobody would be foolish enough to send an aircraft over the channel.  More divisions have been released from the south of France and are heading towards the coast, and our engineers have managed to repair the bridge east at Varaville.  Unfortunately technical difficulties and lack of engineers have meant that the key bridges south of Carentan and east of Bayeux are still out of operation.

We have at least another day to repair them before the Allied fighter-bombers can do more damage. The occasional weather reports from U-boats far out in the Atlantic give our meteorologists only a little of the information they need for accurate predictions, but they are adamant that the bad weather will last all today and probably tomorrow.  The middle of the week will most likely see a return of sunny skies.

4 - 1 U-boat

Collecting and transmitting weather information is an important function of our Unterseesboote.

Rommel[11] is cheerful, but also warning his generals that they must take advantage of this gift from the heavens.  When the clouds disappear, the planes will resume their attacks, and no doubt the Royal Navy is ready to both rush men and supplies across the Channel and get its big guns to pound everything within range.  Nobody disagrees, but Rommel does not understand the problems this weather is causing us.  Perhaps he spent too long in the desert: he just does not grasp how the storm has made organising attacks a nightmare.  Divisional commanders have a choice of moving closer to their individual units and losing contact with their korps commanders, or vice versa.

That is the reason given by Klosterkemper[12] for not being more aggressive in pushing the Americans back from Carentan.    He has not launched an attack for days now, in contrast with his fellow generals to the north.  Von Schlieben[13] is obeying his instructions to clear Route nationale 13 all the way to St-Mère Église, slowly advancing south.  He claimed to have driven back some paratroopers 4 kilometres south of Montbourg but has been unable to advance because of difficulties with movement in the hedgerows.  243.ID was less fortunate, wasting an heavy artillery barrage[14] on an attack that achieved nothing.

5 - 1 Selbstfahrlafette f__r 28-32 W__rfrahmen auf UE_f_ - 21

Rommel himself inspected the converted French vehicles mounted with nebelwerfer: UE(f) Tankette APC Tractor PM Selbstfahrlafette w sWg41 schweres Wurfgerat 41 28cm – 32cm MLRS Rocket Launcher

The real action overnight however was between Caen and Bayeux. “Hitlerjugend”, finally having extricated most of its panzers from the countryside south of the highway, found its way blocked by British armour, but Meyer[15] is sure that he can defeat them in daylight.  He had better: von Funck[16] is taking a personal interest in the drive to relieve Bayeux.  (Mayer’s panzers and infantry may not have done too well, but his artillery are claiming success: Mohnke[17] has reported his observers saw a unit of enemy tanks[18] totally destroyed by a barrage[19] to his north.

It was “Lehr” that got the glory however. Bayerlein[20] concentrated most of his division for the assault on Brecqueville-en-Bessin.  A whole regiment of Panthers and a regiment of panzergrenadiers stormed the village while the Jagdpanzers hit the enemy from the flank.  The motorised enemy fled, and the infantry left behind soon surrendered.

6 - 1 canadians

The Canadians did their best, but with no anti-tank weapons and heavily outnumbered, further resistance was futile.

Little else of note. Rommel is not too pleased at the pause in clearing out the paratroopers east of Caen, but he accepts that the infantry divisions lack the artillery and armour necessary to avoid costly frontal assaults.  7.Werfer Brigade has been released to Heeresgruppe B and overnight passed through Argentan.  It has been directed to assist Diestel[21]: when it arrives the British will feel what real artillery bombardment feels like!  It might be a while however as there is some hilly country to cross and the rain does not help.

7 -1 Werfer 7

Heavy artillery on the way to clear the paratroopers east of Caen

Further west, Ostendorff[22] is closer to getting his whole force reunited.  It is true that some of his infantry are yet to enter the Forét de Cerisy but most of his division is now clear of the woods and moving up the west bank of the Drôme River to block the Americans moving towards Bayeux.  At some point during the day the SS will begin to attack the Americans – later rather than sooner given the ground conditions.  It will be even longer for Ostendorff to be reinforced – originally it had been intended that 77.ID would follow 17.SS-PzGD up the highway towards Bayeux, but with the failure of the pioniere to repair the bridges over the Drôme it has been decided that it would be better to send that unit towards Isigny-sur-Mer and Carentan.  It will be replaced by 275.ID[23] which is still far to the south.  The hope is that by the time Schmidt’s[24] unit reaches the Drôme that the bridges might be back in operation.

8 -1 Centre

Struggling to get north: 17.SS-PzGD and 275.ID

The problems of Ostendorff and Schmidt pale into insignificance when compared to those facing commanders moving to the Cotentin Peninsula. Schimpf[25] has men in Valognes, La Hayes du Puits, south of Coutances and the bulk of his division  in the far south, close to La Haye Pesnel.  His orders are to move south of Cherbourg, probably in the Valognes area, but it will be days before he arrives there, let alone get organised to assist in dealing with the paratroopers.  Although Stegmann[26] does not have as far to travel and most of his division is concentrated west of St Lô, he does have a unit trailing more than 25 kilometres to the rear, and must make a detour to avoid the damaged bridges over the Taute.  With luck he will reach Isigny sur Mer tonight.  He is to await further instructions.  If 91.ID can throw the Americans back over the Douve, he will probably be ordered east to reinforce 265.ID.

9-1-west.jpg

The long way to Cherbourg

Not an easy day ahead, but so much better than we anticipated just a few days ago. The risk of catastrophe seems to have been removed, and I think I detect in the comments of a few of the higher ranks the beginning of a belief that we might win this battle and throw the Allies back into the sea.

Commentary

The Allies must suffer another day of delay in reinforcing the 5 US and 6 Commonwealth divisions in France. Inability to use their artillery and air power is allowing the Germans to retake ground and inflict losses.  While the conditions are negatively affecting the Germans as well, those problems are comparatively minor.  With bad weather predicted for the rest of the day and probably the next, the odds are starting to look less attractive for the success of the Allied invasion

 

Allied Losses (10th June Night)

101st Airborne Division:  E/2/501/101

 

3rd Canadian Inf. Div:       C/QOR/8 + C/RW/7

7th Armoured Division:    A/1RB/22/7A

Independent:                      C/6H/2

 

German Losses (10th June Night)

12.SS-PzD:                           A/1/26/12SS

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 10 – 6 Night

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 10 PARA)       C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D&E/2/507, A/2/235, A/1/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 5 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, D/2/506,                               2 x D/2/502, E/2/501/101

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 2 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1, A/3/26/1, A/1/18/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 6 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4, A/2/12/4, A/2/8/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 7 INF)                A(x2) & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175,                                 A/2/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent:          743/V, 741/V

10 x ARM                  A/70/VII (DD), A & B/745/V, A/899/VII

 

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6, 12/5/6, 1RU/6/6

(9 + 12 PARA+         D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A/4/6 (AT), A & B/12DR/6, A/9/3/6, A/2O&BLI/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)           A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                  Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

7th Armoured:        A/1RB/22/7A

(1 INF)

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7, RW/7, QOR/8 (+ A),

(5 + 7 INF)                C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, A &B/1ERY/27

12 ARM                     1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon), B/5/7/8,                                          A&B/6H/2

 

Air Losses:    Combat Support                 2

                        Armed Reconnaissance    1

 

German Casualties 10 – 6 Night

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

4 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25, A/II/25, A/1/26

17.SS-PzGD:                  A/15.Aufk./17SS

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30, 51/30

7 INF                          A/518/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),                                      I/III/6FJ

15 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, /I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ,                               B/I/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901, A/130.Auf

1 INF, 2 ARM

243.ID                       A/1/920/243

1 INF

346.ID:                      A/Füsilier/346, A/III/858/346. A/I/858/346

3 INF

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns), 13.schw/352 (4Bns)

15 INF, 2 AT                         B & C/II/916/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

2 ARM                       A & B/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag, A/I/916

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ,                                         A/561/739/709

7 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                 III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          10 x (4), 11 x (3), 6 x (2), 4 x (1)

31

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         13                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716, 4/HKAA 1260

NOTES

[1] Major General Matthew B Ridgway, 82nd Airborne

[2] Major General Matthew D Taylor, 101st Airborne

[3] The intelligence was correct: the units were the three battalions of 101.Stellungs Werfer Regiment equipped with 18 x 28/32 Nebelwerfer 41launchers each. Although identified as a “Stellungs” unit, the entire regiment was motorised, mainly with converted Renault UE Chenillette light prime mover and carriers.

[4] Major General Raymond O Barton, 4th Infantry Division

[5] The Allies failed to realise the damaging effect the weather had on German communications, making planning attacks difficult.  In the Cotentin Peninsula, one Armeekorps (LXXXIV, commander General der Artillerie Erich Marcks) was responsible for the whole area from Cherboug to Carentan.  It was impossible for Marks to keep in contact with General Major Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.ID, who was in charge of the defence of Carentan.

[6] Major General Clarence R Huebner, 1.ID

[7] These were the lead elements of 17.SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Götz von Berlichingen”

[8] These were the last operational units of the Queens Own Rifles and Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 3rd Canadian Division.

[9] “B” Squadron, 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.  Only “C” squadron of the regiment remains.

[10] Major General Thomas Gordon Rennie, 3rd Infantry Division.

[11] Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, Heeresgruppe B

[12] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.ID

[13] Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, 709.ID

[14] This barrage was provided by 102 and 103 battalions of 101.stellungs werfer Regiment.

[15] SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer, 12.SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend”

[16] General der Panzertruppen Hans Freiherr von Funck, XXXXVII Panzerkorps. At the time he was moving his headquarters west from Caen,

[17] SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Mohnke, commander of 26.SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment, which held the north flank of the attack towards Bayeux.

[18] These were the tanks of “C” Squadron, 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

[19] The barrage was from 1st Battalion, SS-Panzerartillerieregiment 12, equipped with the 105mm SdKfz 124 “Wespe”

[20] Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, 130.PzD “Lehr”

[21] Generalleutnant Erich Diestel, 346.ID

[22] SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen”

[23] Barely 6 months old, 275.ID was based around the divisional staff of 223.ID which was destroyed in the Battle of Kiev.

[24] Generalleutnant Hans Schmidt, 275.ID

[25] Generalleutnant Richard Shimpf, 3.Fallschirmjäger Division

[26] Generalmajor Rudolph Stegmann, 77.ID.  That division, less than 9,000 men, was formed from what remained of 355.ID (destroyed in the South Ukraine) and what had been intended to be 364.ID.

Advertisements

Friday 9th June PM: D-Day + 3

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

7PM, 9th June (D+3)

The frustration here at Southwick House[1] is palpable.  A lot of the senior generals are very irritable, glaring at junior officers who have the unfortunate task of delivering messages from France.  The staff here are unable to do anything – the paperwork for transfers of supplies and men to the beachheads was completed long ago, but nothing can be done until the weather changes.

The meteorologists, facing a barrage of questions, are stubbornly refusing to commit themselves. Stagg[2] cannot be pressured.  All he will say is that their preliminary predictions are that it seems likely that there will be heavy rain for the next two days, but it could turn into another storm or it could be just light showers.  Even with the most modern equipment, nothing more can be done to provide certainty.  We just have to wait. So as I prepare for an early night, I have no idea whether we will be back in action tomorrow.

1 - 1 James_stagg120

Not a man to be awed by rank: the Chief Meteorologist, Group Captain Stagg

It is only about 100 miles from here to the beaches, but our soldiers in France may as well be on the moon. We cannot give them any help, and communications are difficult with the weather conditions.   Not that there is much to communicate.  All units in France are aware of the supply situation, and the last few hours have shown that they have taken the information seriously.  Not one instance of offensive action was reported, and apart from one isolated incident on the Cotentin Peninsula, none of the artillery was used defensively.

Units have dug in where they were, and prepared to hold their ground. Thankfully the weather has affected the Germans as well.  Not a lot of enemy action, though no doubt they are doing all they can to prepare for when the storm lifts.  Erskine[3], who has at last been able to get some of his division to the Caen-Bayeux highway, reports that enemy armour is on the move, though no combat as yet.  While our hold on the highway is secure, Erskine is concerned that an unknown number of Germans to the south may be infiltrating westwards.  Douglas[4], his division facing Bayeux, has been warned to keep an eye to his rear.  So far the only action has been an inconclusive clash of armour near St Grande St Tonne which saw losses on both sides.  What does seem a bit alarming is that the enemy vehicles are claimed to be from Panzer Division 130 “Lehr”[5], last heard of west of Caen.

2 - 1 sherman jpg

The Canadians held their ground, but half their Shermans were destroyed

Around Caen itself, there seems little change. 51st Division has moved into contact with the enemy, but again no fighting.  To the relief of Gale[6], the attacks on the paras in the west have stopped, at least for now.  Even so, he has moved his headquarters to the western end of the Bénouville bridge, ready to start the evacuation the pocket created by the advance of German infantry.

3 - 1 Caen

Caen and the west

All that was good news for Dempsey[7], who has been wandering around Southwick all day.  He has been looking pretty worried, no doubt well aware that his divisions in France have enough shells for one major battle.  2nd Army has got through a day of storm without a disaster – he will have his fingers crossed that the transports can get back to work.

Bradley[8] has a little more to be concerned about, even though he has a bigger reserve of supplies on the mainland.  On the Cotentin, the two airborne divisions remain under pressure, and losses are mounting.  4th Division has made no headway in the south, and German reinforcements can be seen to be flooding into Carentan.  Collins[9] has been sitting in a temporary office here, waiting for news, but there is nothing he can do until more men and supplies can be landed at Utah.

4 - 1 Cotentin

The perimeter is shrinking

I imagine the divisional commanders of V Corps are just as frustrated. After days of being confined to a small beachhead, Gerow[10]‘s men can spread out.  Unfortunately they now lack the men to do so.  Enemy forces detected are not too strong, but without another division or two, and hundreds of tonnes of shells for artillery support and the return of our fighter bombers, nothing much can be done.

And that sums up the position: we must wait for the weather to improve, and hope it does not take too long. I don’t want to think what may happen if the storm lasts for another few days.

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

While we are all grateful for the protection the storm has given our soldiers at the front, I must admit it is causing some real problems. Rommel has continued to call for aggressive action, but the reality is that few commanders have sufficient control of their units to co-ordinate a large attack.  Telephone lines are down, radio contact affected by the lighting and despatch riders struggle to get through in the mud.

5 - 1 nacht

The nachrichtenhelferinnen work hard to keep communications going, but there is only so much that can be done when nature intervenes

Those units attempting to crush the American landings south of Cherbourg are doing their best, but the bocage so prevalent on the Cotentin Peninsula is a nightmare to attack. In fact, the troops claim that the pouring rain does not affect the chances of success – any attack against defenders holed up behind those almost impenetrable hedges is already highly risky.  Progress is measured in metres, and often comes at a high cost.

Carentan is secure, but Klosterkemper[11] cannot organise an attack on those Americans who have been able to cross the Douve.  With Marks[12] now based in St.Sauveur le Vicomte, and his own headquarters near Baupte[13], Klosterkemper cannot maintain communications with both his commanding officer and his troops.   The storm has made a decent assault plan impossible to put into operation.

At least Klosterkemper is in a position to consider counter-attacks. Düvert[14] has barely enough men under his command to hold a line about 7 kilometres east of Isigny[15].  He has not been subjected to any attacks today, but the Americans are advancing on his positions and it can only be a matter of time before they try to break his fragile front line.  He has a fair amount of artillery support, but until 77.ID[16] can reach him his position must be considered at risk.

6 - 1 Omaha west

West of Isigny, the situation is precarious

With no likelihood at all of relieving Goth[17] from the west, it is up to “Götz” to push towards the city from the south.  Ostendorff[18] faces a similar problem to Klosterkemper: his korps commander, Generalleutnant Eugen Meindl[19], is based at St Lô, and Ostendorff cannot obtain approval for any but minor attacks.  In any case, his units are all over the place.  Unable to cross the Drôme at Suble or St Loup Hors, and with many regiments out of reach in the depths of the Forét de Cerisy, Meindl’s powerful division has been rendered almost impotent at a critical moment.

7 - 1 17 SS

17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Götz von Berlichingen”

To the east, the enemy has a considerable force, and though “Lehr” has moved most of its weight to the Rots area, de Witt[20] has still not been able to concentrate enough firepower to blast his way along the highway to Bayeux.  The distraction of the brief British occupation of Tilly sur Seulles has proved costly, at least in terms of time.  With the storm rendering all north-south roads useless, half de Witt’s panzers and infantry have been forced to crawl cross country.  The delay in releasing “Lehr” has meant the other half are still tied up protecting the road back to Caen.  Perhaps this afternoon he can resume the push east, but he is not too confident.  The only action here was actually by forward elements of “Lehr”.  Some armoured cars tried to clear some American tanks[21] from a blocking point on the highway, but had it not been for some accurate artillery in the nick of time, they would have been slaughtered.  The enemy tanks are vulnerable, but not to the 50mm gun of the Sdkfz 234.

8 - 1 Bayeux Caen

The Bayeux – Caen Highway

The Caen sector remained static. Feuchtinger[22] stated outright that no matter what Rommel ordered, he would take no offensive action unless he received substantial reinforcements.  His attitude is understandable: while his front line is solid, a fresh British division has been inserted on his left flank and although some enemy units have moved east to assist the airborne troops, he has no reserves.  Caen is without doubt the most important city in the region and its loss would signify disaster.  Any losses incurred, no matter how tactically justifiable, would be strategically ill-judged.  Rommel presumably concurs – at least he has said nothing about the lack of activity.

The delayed departure of “Lehr” has stretched the capacity of the two divisions[23] to east of the Canal de Caen to continue attacks on the airborne troops, particularly as the British have sent some regular infantry and some armour over the canal.  Neither division is very powerful and they lack armour[24] and heavy artillery[25]. They are promising action, but to nobody’s surprise no date, let alone time, has been mentioned.

9 - 1 VolchovPocket1942-025

Moving supplies along the Cabourg – Varaville Highway: one of the best roads available

For the rest, all we hear is requests for fuel and heavy vehicles to pull out bogged trucks, as well as a myriad excuses for not reaching objectives on time. The storm has been good for us, there is no doubt about that.  But its effects have also sharply reduced our chance to take advantage of the harm it has dealt to the Allies.  Tomorrow we may regret complaining if the sun reappears.  For now, I will be content to have an early night and catch up on some sleep.  In the morning the whole situation may have changed, but there is nothing I can do.

Commentary

A day of pouring rain has brought problems for both sides. The Allies, lacking supplies to use artillery freely, together with the lack of naval and air support, offensive action is dangerous.  The lack of reinforcements also means that any expansion of the bridgeheads risks stretching units too thinly.

For the Germans, the storm’s effects on the ability of generals to reach divisional commanders and those commanders to get orders to their troops, has meant that many units are sitting idle. In addition, reinforcements, though no longer under threat from Allied fighter-bombers, are struggling in the mud and rain, and repairs to damaged bridges have taken longer than anticipated.

 

Allied Losses (9th June Afternoon)

82nd Airborne Division:   E/2/507/82

Independent (Cwth):           B/6H/2

 

German Losses (9th June Afternoon)

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/130.Aufk/130

 

Cumulative Losses 

Allied Casualties 9-6 PM

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 10 PARA)       C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D&E/2/507, A/2/235, A/1/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 4 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506,                                D/2/502, A/2/502

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 2 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1, A/3/26/1, A/1/18/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 6 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4, A/2/12/4, A/2/8/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 7 INF)                A(x2) & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175,                                 A/2/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

10 x ARM                  A/70/VII (DD), A & B/745/V, A/899/VII

 

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6, 12/5/6, 1RU/6/6

(9 + 12 PARA+         D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A/4/6 (AT), A & B/12DR/6, A/9/3/6, A/2O&BLI/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)           A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                  Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 5 INF)                2 x A&B/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special; Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, A &B/1ERY/27

11 ARM                     1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon), B/5/7/8,                                          B/6H/2

 

Air Losses:    Combat Support                 2

                        Armed Reconnaissance    1

 

 German Casualties 9-6 PM

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

3 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25, A/II/25

17.SS-PzGD:             A/15.Aufk./17SS

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30, 517/30

7 INF                          A/518/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),                                      I/III/6FJ

15 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, /I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ,                               B/I/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901, A/130.Auf

1 INF, 2 ARM

243.ID                       A/1/920/243

1 INF

346.ID:                      A/Füsilier/346, A/III/858/346. A/I/858/346

3 INF

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns), 13.schw/352 (4Bns)

15 INF, 2 AT                         B & C/II/916/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

2 ARM                       A & B/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag, A/I/916

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ,                                         A/561/739/709

7 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                 III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          10 x (4), 11 x (3), 6 x (2), 4 x (1)

31

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         13                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716, 4/HKAA 1260

 

NOTES

[1] Southwick House, just north of Portsmouth, was the forward command post of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force

[2] Group Captain James Martin Stagg, Director of Services, Meteorological Office

[3] Major General George Erskine, 7th Armoured Division

[4] Major General Douglas Graham, 50th Infantry Division

[5] The units involved were the 1st Hussars (6th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade) and aufklärungs and schwere infanterie geschütz of 130.PzD “Lehr”.  The Shermans turned back the German armoured cars but losses were approximately equal.

[6] Major General Richard Gale, 6th Airborne Division

[7] Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, 2nd British Army

[8] Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, 1st US Army

[9] Major General J Lawton Collins, VII Corps

[10] Major General Leonard T Gerow, V Corps.

[11] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.ID

[12] General der Artillerie Erich Marks, commander of LXXXIV Armeekorps

[13] Baupte, a small village (approx 200 inhabitants at the time), about 10 kilometres west of Carentan.

[14] Generalleutnant Walther Düvert, 265.ID

[15] Isigny su Mer, between the Vire and Aure Rivers, was with Carentan, a key to linking the two US beachheads.

[16] At the time, 77.ID was scattered along the main highway between Coutances and St.Lô.  With the bridges over the Taute River blown, it could not be expected to arrive at Isigny until late on 10th at the earliest.

[17] Oberst Goth, commander of Regiment 916, 352.ID.  Acting as commander of KG “Goth”, responsible for the defence of Bayeux

[18] SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen”

[19] Commander of II.Fallschirmjägerkorps.

[20] SS-Gruppenführer Fritz de Witt, 12.SS-Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”

[21] As noted earlier, these were in fact Shermans of 1st Hussars (6th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade)

[22] Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger, 21.PzD

[23] 356 and 711.ID

[24] This is not completely accurate.  346.ID had a panzerjäger abteilung equipped with a mix of vehicles: 14 x 7.5cm Pak40 (Sf) 39H, 10 x Stug III and 12 x 2cm Flak 38 .  In addition, some time on 9th June, Sturmgeschüz abteilung 912 was attached to 346.ID.  That unit had about 30 operational StuG IIIs.

[25] Although 711.ID did have a few 155mm guns, the rest of its artillery were 76mm.  356.ID had a battalion of 122mm guns, one of 105mm and one of 76mm.  At the time, the only korps artillery available was Heeres schwere Artillerie Abteilung 1151, equipped with 122mm guns.  Perfectly adequate for defence, but not really sufficient to give the relatively weak infantry regiments enough support to drive the British back across the river.

1PM 9th June 1944: D-Day + 3

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

 

1PM, 9th June (D+3)

A quiet morning, and not just because of a lack of reports from Europe. The feeling of confidence bordering on exuberance that had characterised the past couple of days has evaporated as quickly as it developed.  Everyone is nervous, even though the situation on the ground has not changed.  I think it is because of the uncertainty about the weather.  If this storm blows over and we can get the cross-Channel supply route going tomorrow, it will be only a minor disruption.  If it lasts for days, then we could face real problems.  (The forecast is for two days of heavy rain, then conditions should improve).

There was some excitement here, as a procession of senior military officers arrived for a meeting. It is all hush-hush, but the four corps commanders[1] turned up fairly early, and then Eisenhower[2] and Tedder[3], Montgomery[4] and the army commanders[5] and Leigh-Mallory[6] and Ramsay[7].  They were locked in the conference room for an hour or so before leaving.  While most looked sombre, Eisenhower seemed unconcerned, though an orderly who cleaned the room told me his ashtray showed he had been chain-smoking the entire time.

1 - 1 Meeting_of_the_Supreme_Command

The official photo shows no sign of the concern many present must have felt.

Left to right, Bradley, Ramsey, Tedder, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Leigh -Mallory, Bedell Smith[8]

Nobody really knows what was discussed, let alone decided, but it must have been the effect of the storm. All that can be known for certain is that we have been told to be prepared to get the ships moving as soon as the Navy tells us that conditions are safe and not to rely on the Mulberry harbours being available for some time.

There were a few clues, however. “Beetle” Smith has told all the corps commanders that preparations to move the corps headquarters are to be put on on hold, and I heard that all divisional commanders have been ordered to use artillery sparingly.  Offensive activity is to be limited to small scale operations with a high probability of success – and there can’t be too many of them even when the torrential rain stops for a few minutes.  If conditions here in southern England are anything to go by, the roads will be all but impassable and visibility down to few hundred yards.  With no air support and the big guns of the navy unable to be used, it would be a brave general who ordered his men forward.

2 - 1 -Red_Ball_Express_-_Truck_in_the_mud

Attempts to get supply to combat troops in France have had mixed results.

There seem to have been only two commanders that brave. Or, in the case of Barton[9], desperate.  He has men across the Douve but cannot force his way into Carentan.  That is still the case: even four battalions backed by every artillery piece he could lay his hands on were not enough to break the German defences.  Everything possible went wrong, and all he achieved was to lose about 100 men.  Several people have said he should wait for air support, but can he afford to wait that long?  There can be little doubt the enemy are rushing men to prevent the fall of Carentan and the connection of the two US invasion beaches.

Huebner’s attack on the enemy armour[10] holding up 1st Infantry’s advance between the Aure and Tortonne Rivers was far more rewarding.  The Germans lost a lot of vehicles and pulled back from the woods in which they had been hiding while we moved a little closer to Bayeux.

The Germans were surprisingly active considering the weather affected them as much as us. Though as the Luftwaffe has had no effect on the fighting since we landed, perhaps that is not quite true.   Both the airborne division on the Cotentin peninsula have been subjected to mass assaults and though no significant casualties were suffered, we had to retreat.  Our bridgehead across the Mederet is looking increasingly vulnerable, and in the north we are now further from Montebourg than we have been since airborne landings began.

3 - 1 Cotentin

The Cotentin Peninsula: we are being squeezed back

With no air operations possible in this weather, the great unknown is not what is happening at the front, but what is happening to the south and east. We must expect that even in the atrocious conditions, that German units are moving towards the coast.  If they arrive before the storm lifts and we can resume landing supplies, especially for the artillery, then we might really find ourselves on the defensive.

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

Glorious weather! Some of the men trudging through the mud or huddled under dripping hedgerows might not agree, but that was how Rommel[11] saw it.  He was about most of the morning, rubbing his hands as he looked at the large maps showing the slow but steady movement of our units heading to the coast.

4 - 1 German mud

The mud affects us as well, but while some get bogged, the majority can still keep moving

He had immediately grabbed the significance of the storm – not the closure of the invasion beaches, not the forced absence of the ubiquitous and demoralising Allied bombers. It was that the enemy ground forces which had been exerting steady and unstoppable pressure on our units would be forced to slow down if not halt.  Whatever reserves of men and supply the enemy commanders had available would only be released in a careful manner, not the profligate consumption that had characterised the past few days.

A message was sent to all divisional commanders: although the weather was not conducive to ground attacks, and although the expected reinforcements were still a day or so away, all possible efforts must be made to attack enemy positions.  It was essential that enemy morale, already shaken by the storm, be further damaged.  We might take some casualties, but we must take advantage of the situation.

That assessment of the enemy’s mindset seems accurate.   No significant movement was detected east of Bayeux, and only two cases of aggressive action.  Klosterkemper[12] repelled another attack on the outskirts of Carentan, but was unable to mount a counter-attack as communications were too badly affected by the storm.  He is to move his headquarters closer but that may not occur today – his division is still getting into position.  Ostendorff[13] was not quite as fortunate, losing some armoured cars north of Saon.

Nothing serious though. In fact, Ostendorff ordered the defeated aufklärung unit to advance further west to reinforce Aufseß[14] who was holding the village of Rubercy with a handful of headquarters troops.

5 -1 puma1-PumaCombatEastPrussia

A tired and wet soldier watches a Puma roll into Rubercy

Unfortunately Rommel’s insistence on offensive action was not as successful as he had hoped. It is true that on the peninsula we pushed the Americans back a bit, but that was all.  And it cost us men we cannot spare, while they seem unharmed.  In the east it was just as bad – men lost and little gained but some territory.

Our hopes that reinforcements might reach the front areas by midday were dashed. Not only are the roads bad and cross country travel painfully slow, but the deterioration of communications over the whole of northern France has led to a problems in getting orders to the units, and fuel supplies are at best intermittent.  Progress it is at a snail’s pace, and the only troops who may have had a chance of getting into position, the second half of 17th SS, are either slowly pushing their way through the Forét de Cerisy or forced into the quagmires east of the Drône River.

Bayeux

The Bayeux sector: getting troops to the front is proving a slow process

It had been hoped that “Lehr” would be available to free up 12th SS to resume its drive to Bayeux, but the poor roads have slowed 346.ID and Bayerlein[15] had no option but to stay east of the Canal de Caen and co-ordinate the extraction of some of his key units from combat.  It will take at least the rest of the day to get those units in place west of Rots.  That delay might be costly: Ostendorff has a lot of his strength to the south, around Tilly-sur-Seulles. It is proving hard to get them back north to the Bayeux-Caen Highway.

Caen.jpg

East of the Canal de Caen

Still, it could have been a lot worse. We should not dwell on the negatives but think of what we would have been doing had the storm blown by unnoticed.

 

Commentary

Neither side was able to do much in the conditions, with lack of supply crippling the Allies and reduced communications range a problem for the Germans. Overall, however, the German position was improving, as reinforcements inched their way forward and attacks slowly pushed the Allied troops back towards the coast.

 

Allied Losses (9th June Morning)

4th Infantry Division: A/2/8/4

 

 

German Losses (9th June Morning)

17.SS-PzG.Div:        A/15.Aufklärungs-abteilung/17.SS

243.ID                       A/1/920/243

346.ID:                      A/III/858/346, A/I/858/346

709.ID:                      A/561/739/709

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 9-6 Morning

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 9 PARA)          C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D/2/507, A/2/235, A/1/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 4 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506,                                D/2/502, A/2/502

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 2 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1, A/3/26/1, A/1/18/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 6 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4, A/2/12/4, A/2/8/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 7 INF)                A(x2) & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175,                                 A/2/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

10 x ARM                  A/70/VII (DD), A & B/745/V, A/899/VII

 

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6, 12/5/6, 1RU/6/6

(9 + 12 PARA+         D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A/4/6 (AT), A & B/12DR/6, A/9/3/6, A/2O&BLI/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)           A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                  Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 5 INF)                2 x A&B/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, A &B/1ERY/27

10 ARM                     1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon), B/5/7/8

 

Air Losses:    Combat Support                 2

                        Armed Reconnaissance    1

 

German Casualties 9-6 Morning

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

3 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25, A/II/25

17.PzGD:                  A/15.Aufk./17SS

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30, 51/30

7 INF                          A/518/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),                                      I/III/6FJ

15 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, /I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ,                               B/I/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”:      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901

1 INF, 1 ARM

243.ID:                       A/1/920/243

1 INF

346.ID:                      A/Füsilier/346, A/III/858/346. A/I/858/346

3 INF

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns), 13.schw/352 (4Bns)

15 INF, 2 AT                         B & C/II/916/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

2 ARM                       A & B/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag, A/I/916

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ,                                         A/561/739/709

7 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                 III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          10 x (4), 11 x (3), 6 x (2), 4 x (1)

31

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         13                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716, 4/HKAA 1260

 

Notes

[1] Major Generals Leonard Gerow (V Corps), Matthew Collins (VII Corps) and Lieutenant Generals Sir John Crocker (I Corps), Gerald Brucknall (XXX Corps): all were waiting to move their headquarters to the mainland.

[2] General Dwight D Eisenhowe, Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force

[3] Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander

[4] General Sir Bernard Montgomery, 21st Army Group

[5] Lieutenant Generals Omar Bradley, 1st US Army and Sir Miles Dempsey, 2nd British Army

[6] Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Allied Air Commander, Expeditionary Force

[7] Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander in Chief, Expeditionary Force

[8] General Walter Smith, General Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff

[9] Major General Raymond O. Barton, 4th Infantry Division.

[10] Strictly speaking, the defenders were armoured cars.  The unit involved was 15.Aufklärung Abteilung, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division “Götz von Berlichingen”, equipped with the Sdkfz 234 “Puma”.

[11] Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, commander of Heeresgruppe B

[12] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.ID

[13] SS-Gruppenfuhrer Werner Ostendorff, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division “Götz von Berlichingen”

[14] Oberstlieutenant Freiherr von Aufseß, 30.schnelle Brigade

[15] Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein: 130.PzD “Lehr”

7AM 9th June 1944: D-Day +3 Night

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

7AM, 9th June (D+3)

Not long after midnight I was woken by the sound of thunder directly overhead and then the sound of torrential rain hammering on the metal roof of the Nissen hut that I have called home for over a year now. (No room for junior officers in the more comfortable accommodation in Southwick House[1] itself).  I hoped that it was just a passing storm, but there was no let up: if anything the winds got stronger and rain heavier. 

Bad weather had been predicted, but not as bad as this. Heavy rain had been expected which would have been bad enough: these conditions would make landing men or supplies on the beachheads impossible.  I lay worrying for some time before drifting off to sleep again.

The morning arrived with no improvement. I hurried through rain lashing down to my office, passing down corridors full of soaked men looking concerned and rushing around aimlessly.  What could they do when nature intervened in our plans so vehemently?  At my desk, I looked at the latest meteorologists’ reports.  A good chance of the storms passing over today, but a massive front was moving in from the Atlantic and it would be at least a few more days before anything like decent weather could be expected.

1 - 1 USS_Santa_Fe_(CL-60)_during_Typhoon_Cobra,_December_1944

A “Cleveland” class light cruiser in the Channel barely stays afloat during the storm

There was literally nothing for me to do. The warehouses in England were packed with materiel, hundreds of thousands of men were ready to cross the channel, hundreds of bombers sat idly on airfields throughout the south of England.  I couldn’t see outside (no windows for me) but I could still hear the thunder and the wind battering the building.  All I could do was check on the damage.

The most worrying was the effect on the artificial harbours that were integral to the success of the invasion. Landing on beaches would suffice for supplying a few divisions, even if heavy fighting put an enormous strain on reserves.  If an entire army was to be supplied then, until we could capture a major port and get it operating, we would need to build some sort of temporary harbour[2].  The plan was to build two: one for the US and one for the Commonwealth.  Progress had been good to date, but now nearly all that effort was gone.  The Commonwealth installation was gone: the engineers would have to start again from scratch.  The US harbour is in slightly better condition, but not much.

2 - 1 Mulberry-Harbour-A-Storm-04

The storm destroyed much of the work done on building the Mulberries

A few attempts were made to unload men and equipment on the coast, but it was virtually suicide. Or murder, depending on your viewpoint.  Ramsay[3] himself intervened, prohibiting any ship from approaching shore.  With more than 7,000 ships under his command, he does not want the French coast littered with wrecks, and that is all that would be achieved no matter how brave and skilful were the captains of the ships.  It has to be accepted: until the storm passes, the troops in France are on their own.

That means that supplies and men must be used sparingly, not thrown away on risky operations. Or at least that is what I assume.  Eisenhower has called an emergency meeting this morning for some of the most senior generals as well as naval and air-force representatives, presumably to address the problems caused by the storm.  Several of the Corps commanders[4] had intended to move their headquarters to France in the next few days: any such plans have been suspended until at least the 11th, and it is likely that the backlog caused by the storm will delay that even further.   That delay may cause more problems as without being on the ground in close contact with the divisional commanders, the various Allied corps commanders will not be able to co-ordinate combat activity.

In the circumstances, it is not surprising that there was little news of any advances or combat overnight. The enemy was a little more active than us, but not much.  Most units were content to stay where they were and try to keep dry: fighting in such conditions was nearly impossible.

3 - 1 4cec03ac61bf0b7f23f2deef9666be17--ww-photos-ww-tanks

Off the main roads, movement was drastically slowed as unpaved tracks and paths turned into mud.

In fact, having plenty of time on my hands to wander around picking up the latest gossip, I found that we launched only two attacks all night, both by the 1st Infantry Division.. One, a two battalion assault on a small bunker system east of Omaha, achieved nothing – despite the number of men involved, neither side could inflict casualties in the darkness and pouring rain.  The other, only 5 miles away, was a complete success.  An enemy infantry unit east of the important road junction at Trévières[5] was annihilated by a surprise attack by a single battalion supported by artillery[6].

The Germans made a couple of attacks, but both failed. There were some casualties from random artillery bombardments, but nothing too serious.  As long as the weather affects them as much as it does us, things should not be too bad.  All we can do is bunker down and wait for the storm to pass.

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

In the middle of the night I was woken by tremendous peals of thunder, vibrating through even the solid wall of the Chateau[7].  Looking out the window I saw a magnificent lightning display and even though it was pitch dark I could just make out the branches of trees being tossed about by strong and gusty winds.  I didn’t need to see that to know that a gale was blowing: the continuous howl of the wind made further sleep almost impossible.

4 - 1 Rain and strom

The view from the Chateau de la Roche Guyon

That was a bit annoying, but the loss of a few hours sleep was nothing compared to the joy I felt at the wonderful weather. If conditions on the coast were anything like those here[8] then there would be no enemy troops or supplies landed today.  And definitely no bombing attacks on our soldiers and vital road junctions and bridges.  We have gained at least a day in which move up reinforcements and set up a solid defence line.  Who knows – if the storm continues we might be able to get enough forces to mount a serious attempt to drive the enemy back to the beaches!

But I was getting carried away. The rain would also slow our movements and make any attacks more difficult.  A lot of the roads to the west of here are unpaved, and if the rain persists they will be almost useless.  Even traffic on the major highways will be slowed as drivers adapt to the conditions.  Nevertheless, any problems we have will be as nothing to the chaos on the enemy beachheads.

Unable to sleep, more from excitement than from the constant thunder and banshee wailing, I made my way to the operations area. From everywhere to the west the reports were the same – pouring rain, heavy cloud cover, gale force winds.  I was particularly interested in those reports from units moving north, as they would be most affected by the road conditions.

5 - 1 rain german-troops-jpg

They may be wet but they are safe from air attack: 77.ID marches north

The closest to the Atlantic was Stegmann’s[9] 77.ID.  He has been moving north on the inland road from Avranches and is now just north of Coutances, though much of his division is still stretched all the way back to Gavray.  He is still making good time, though not as fast as he would like.  He is awaiting fresh orders as originally it had been hoped that the pioniere of 265.ID would be able to repair the bridge over the Canal de Vire et Taute at St Jean de Daye.  Unfortunately they were not able to complete the job and so the planned route from Coutances through St Lô to Isigny sur Mer is not available.  77.ID may have to move further north to La Haye de Puits and then east towards Carentan.  3rd Fallschirmjäger is scattered over almost 100 kilometres of road, but is intended to take a position just south of Cherbourg.

6 - 1 bridge repair

Repairing a bridge can be a time consuming and difficult task

Klosterkemper is slowly getting 91.ID closer to Carentan but while he has extricated his units from north of the Douve River, he has still to get the bulk of his division in position to repulse the enemy attacks on the city. Fortunately the storm meant that no combat took place overnight, so he has a few more hours at least.  Rommel[10] is not happy at the time he is taking.  (Yes, the storm woke the Generalfeldmarschall too, and he is also keen to track the progress of his reinforcements).

7 - 1 Blumentritt, Speidel, Rommel, von Rundstedt

Taking advantage of safe road travel, von Rundstedt[11] and Blumentritt[12] meet with Rommel and Speidel[13] at the Chateau de la Roche Guyon to discuss the situation.  They seem pleased with the change in weather.

275.ID[14] is heading for St Lô and, though the St Jean de Daye bridge is still out of action, it is already well on the way and it will continue on its planned route.  It has been slowed by the hilly country south of Villedieu and Schmidt[15] says in the current conditions it will not reach St Lô until nightfall.  It may be that the pioniere can fix the damaged bridge by tomorrow: on the bright side we know that the enemy bombers will not be able to hit it again.  Whatever the result, Düvert[16] will need to prevent the Americans from reaching Isigny sur Mer without any help for at least two days.

8 - 2 The Battle for NormandyMap

Across Normandy, German units struggle north

At least Ostendorff[17] has confirmed his last stragglers have reached St Lô.  That was the good news.  The bad news is that the storm has rendered the minor roads through the Forét de Cerisy impassable.  The trucks might as well force their way through the trees.  As a result they have been ordered to keep moving along the main highway to Bayeux, even though nobody has been able to reach, let alone start to repair the bombed bridge over the Drôme at Subles.  With his ability to control the movement of his scattered units drastically reduced by the weather, Ostendorff thinks he will be lucky to get his whole division in action by nightfall.  Until then, he will do his best to hold back the Americans advancing on Bayeux from the west.  He cannot afford any troops to defend the city from the British attacking from the east.

The last major unit on the roads overnight was “Lehr”. I was right – it is being switched to the western side of Caen, but the heavy rain has forced a compromise of sorts.  Most of the division has passed through the city but a few units remained behind to keep up the pressure on the enemy paratroopers while 346.ID moved into position.  The disruption to communications meant that Bayerlein[18] had to move his headquarters east as most of his men moved west so that he could co-ordinate a night attack by three panzergrenadier battalions backed by Jagdtigers[19].  The tone of the reports of the attack imply is was not as successful as had been hoped – in fact it sounds as if it could not have been worse, even if losses were minimal.

9 - 1 Jagdtiger2600x3781

The 150mm front armour of the Jagdtiger was impervious to the British 6 pounder anti-tank gun, and even the 17 pounders found it hard to penetrate.

Everywhere else our soldiers were content to sit tight, probably content to grab some hours of sleep. I doubt that the thunder will affect men who have been fighting for days.  The only problem might be finding somewhere dry.

We still have U-boats far out in the Atlantic and their weather reports lead our meteorologists to believe that this weather might continue for a few more days. Montag[20] conditions will improve, though for us an improvement would be a few more days of storm!

Commentary

The onset of bad weather on 9th June was a devastating blow for the Allies. While they were unable to increase their offensive capability, the Germans took advantage of the lack of air attacks to move troops towards the coast.

 

Allied Losses (9th June Night)

1st Infantry Division:         A/1/18/1

29th Infantry Division:     A/3/116/29

101st Airborne Division:  A/2/502/101

6th Airborne Division:      A/2nd Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry/6

German Losses (9th June Night)

30.schnelle Brigade           B+C/517/30

12.SS-PzD                            A/II/25/12SS

 

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 9-6 Night

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 9 PARA)          C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D/2/507, A/2/235, A/1/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 4 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506,                                D/2/502, A/2/502

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 2 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1, A/3/26/1, A/1/18/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 5 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4, A/2/12/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 7 INF)                A(x2) & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175,                                 A/2/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

10 x ARM                  A/70/VII (DD), A & B/745/V, A/899/VII

 

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6, 12/5/6, 1RU/6/6

(9 + 12 PARA+         D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A/4/6 (AT), A & B/12DR/6, A/9/3/6, A/2O&BLI/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)           A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                  Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 5 INF)                2 x A&B/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special; Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, A &B/1ERY/27

10 ARM                     1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon), B/5/7/8

 

Air Losses:    Combat Support                 2

                         Armed Reconnaissance    1

 

 German Casualties 9-6 Night

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

3 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25, A/II/25

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30, 51/30

7 INF                          A/518/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),                                      I/III/6FJ

15 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, /I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ,                               B/I/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901

1 INF, 1 ARM

346.ID:                      A/Füsilier/346

1 INF

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns), 13.schw/352 (4Bns)

15 INF, 2 AT                         B & C/II/916/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

2 ARM                       A & B/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag, A/I/916

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ

6 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                 III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          10 x (4), 11 x (3), 6 x (2), 4 x (1)

31

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         13                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716, 4/HKAA 1260

 

Notes

[1] Southwick House, just north of Portsmouth, forward command post of SHAEF

[2] The writer refers to the “Mulberries”, floating portable harbours designed to be taken across the Channel and set up on the French coast.

[3] Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Naval Commander-in-Chief of SHAEF.

[4] Major Generals Leonard T Gerow (V Corps) and J. Lawton Collins (VII Corps) from 1st US Army and Lieutenant Generals Sir John Croker (I Corps) and Gerard Bucknall (XXX Corps) from 2nd British Army

[5] Believed to be what remained of 513 Battalion, 30.schnelle.Brigade

[6] The assault was by 1st Battalion, 18th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, led by Lt Colonel Robert H York.  Artillery support was provided by 5th Field Artillery Bn, commanded by Lt Colonel Robert Tyson

10 - 1 155 mm

Accurate support from the 155mm howitzers of 5/1 Division Artillery was critical to the success of the attack by 1/18/1.

[7] The Chateau de la Roche Guyon, headquarters of Rommel’s Heeresgruppe B

[8] The Chateau is about 100 kilometres from the Channel coast, and about 250 kilometres from the Atlantic coast.  The storm of 9th June 1944 covered most of northern Europe, so the writer was correct in his assumptions.

[9] Generalleutnant Rudolf Stegmann, 77.ID.  This unit was formed in January 1944 from the remnants of 355 and 364.ID.  355.ID had been almost destroyed in fighting in the east, and 364.ID had not been fully operational: in essence the administrative sections of 355.ID were attached to 364.ID and it was renamed as 77.ID.

[10] Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, commander of Heeresgruppe B

[11] Genereralfeldmarschall Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt, Oberbefehlshaber West, based at the Chateau St Germain en Laye near Paris, about 40 kilometres from the Chateau de la Roche Guyon

11 - 1 saint-germain-en-laye

Chateau St Germain en Laye as clouds begin to gather – so far the storm has avoided Paris

[12] General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt, von Rundstedt’sChief of Staff

[13] Generalleutnant Dr Hans Spiedel, Rommel’s Chief of Staff

[14] Another newly created division, formed from what was left of 223.ID after it was mauled in the fighting for Kiev.

[15] Generalleutnant Hans Schmidt, 275.ID

[16] Generalleutnant Walther Düvert, 265.ID, at that time holding a line from the coast to the Aure River about 8 kilometres east of Isigny sur Mer.  What was left of Kraiß’s 352.ID was incorporated in the defence line.

[17] SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen”

[18] Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, 130.PzD “Lehr”

[19] The night attack was on Escoville, held 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 3rd Airlanding Anti-tank Battery.  The German units involved were I/901 with I and II/902 Panzergrenadier Bns, 130.Panzerjagd Bn and III/858 Bn of 346.ID.  It seems to have been badly organised and although the Germans had at least 7:1 odds in their favour, the end result was that the attackers lost as many men as the defenders and the Allied units held their ground.

[20] “Monday” would be 12th June.

7PM 8th June 1944: D-Day +2 Afternoon

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

7PM, 8th June (D+2)

This morning I was a bit concerned about the situation in the east, but overall felt that things were under control and that the invasion was in no real danger. I still am confident that we will succeed, but that confidence has been shaken a little.  Losses have been quite heavy today, and supply is even more of a worry.  I am afraid that tomorrow our soldiers may have to perform without the air and artillery support that has kept casualties to a minimum so far.

The British paratroopers on the left have suffered badly from the lack of support. Gale[1] has apparently pulled out of Éscoville, German counterattacks led by a huge number of tanks having brought that village into the front line.  Enemy units are within sight of the bridge over the Orne that is his lifeline.  His intelligence officer[2] has confirmed that the attackers include 130th Panzer “Lehr” and two infantry divisions, 711th and 346th.  Not that he has had many prisoners to interrogate: the paras have been having a tough time, even though Rennie[3] has sent a couple of battalions across the river to help.

Both Gale and Rennie are seriously concerned and Crocker[4] is backing them up.  I expect the British will not only demand more supplies for the next few days, but will tell Eisenhower[5] that they cannot continue to push west with such a threat to the east.  Nobody has said so, but it is pretty clear that unless significant assistance is provided, the British will have to evacuate the bridgehead over the Orne.  That would be a severe blow not only to our chances of taking Caen, but to Operation Overlord as a whole.

1 - 1 Orne

The Orne River today: an effective barrier to all vehicles

Not that taking Caen is being talked about. No advance has been reported all day though there have been a few “tactical withdrawals”.  We don’t use the word “retreat” for our own forces.  From the scant details provided, it sounds as though the Germans have moved up some heavy artillery and are shelling our forward positions.  From the Mue to the Canal de Caen, the British can do little but grit their teeth and take it.  Enemy tanks and infantry have formed a solid defensive line from Blanville-sur-Orne northwest to Mathieu and then west to the bridge at Cairon.  Although the 51st[6] is moving up from the coast, it is considered less capable than the 3rd, and any resumption of the drive on the city will probably have to wait until Rennie has sorted out the problems on his left.

2 - 1 51st The_British_Army_in_Normandy_1944_B5289

“Highlanders” move towards the front line at Colomby-sur-Thaon

East of the Mue the situation is better, but not by much. Keller[7] has to cover a wide front, all the way to the River Seulles, and his division has lost a lot of men[8] both during the invasion and since.  With over 10 miles of the Bayeux-Caen highway marking the front line, the Canadians are under a lot of pressure from an armoured division moving east from Caen.  The Germans are advancing cautiously but, in the absence of enough ammunition for artillery support, have proved almost unstoppable. 

The boundary between I and XXX Corps is vulnerable and both Crocker and Bucknall[9] have been warned by Dempsey[10] to make sure it does not remain that way.  That was him being polite: only Bucknall has any troops available.  50th Division is tied up in front of Bayeux, but 7th Armoured Division[11] is in the process of landing.  There was some confusion about which roads it should use to reach the front and some of its units have been stuck near Bayeux.  It has been ordered to move to Cruelly and then use minor roads to head south.  That should secure our hold over the highway.  It is a pity that lack of supply has halted the assault on Bayeux after it began so well, but Graham[12] refuses to spend his men’s lives on risky attacks without a lot of artillery back-up.

3 - 1 7A landing

A Cromwell Mk IV landing in Normandy

It may be up to the Americans advancing from the west. According to Gerow’s[13] headquarters a tank unit has crossed the Drôme and is within sight of Bayeux[14].  Unfortunately BRO[15] is some distance back, having been held up initially by the need to clear strongpoints on the coast and then some scattered infantry units[16] on the main highway east.  Huebner[17] thinks he can reach the city some time tomorrow but is concerned about leaving the landing areas secure: 2nd Infantry has not yet landed a single unit due to the congestion caused by the D-Day difficulties.

29th Infantry has broken the confines of the beachhead, seizing the coastal highway between Longueville and Formigny. The Germans have retreated to the Véret River: not a major obstacle but still enough to necessitate the capture of La Cambe on the main road.  As on the right flank of Omaha, it is an attached tank unit that has led the way, in the case 745th Tank Battalion.  Nicholls[18] reports he has had to halt short of the village as a series of fortified bunkers with at least a battalion of infantry are blocking his advance.  At least he has infantry support close by: units of 29th Infantry is within a few miles of his position.

4 - 1 Omaha

The US forces finally start to move out from Omaha

The battle for Carentan continues and losses are mounting.  The infantry losses can be accepted: river assaults are always risky no matter how much support you have.  They were successful and we now have three full battalions across the Douve.  What was heartbreaking was the loss of a company of tank destroyers[19], not in combat but by friendly fire.  The M-10s were lined up on an access road south of St Côme-du-Mont and north of the Douve when a group of Thunderbolts[20] assigned to clear the enemy armour on the south bank attacked them.  How the pilots could make such a mistake is a mystery[21].  I heard that Barton[22] was livid when he called after the attack.  “How can anyone mistake a TD[23] for a obsolete French tank[24]?” was about the only printable comment.  (Some of the air force officers here suspect that the reason may have been nervousness due to the loss of several aircraft to enemy flak while supporting an earlier attack on enemy infantry south of the river).

5 - 1 Destroyed-TD-

Soldiers inspect a destroyed M-10

The airborne divisions to the north are still under pressure and both commanders report mounting casualties and increasing numbers of Germans. Most worrying is that enemy artillery is becoming far more effective, probably to be expected now that they have had a chance to get organised.  Collins is confident that the landing of 90th Infantry should start tonight, which should reassure the airborne commanders a little.

It is now late on Thursday 8th June and I must say that any hopes of a quick breakthrough are fading. Supply is a major headache: the Brits are living hand to mouth and the US is not much better.  Casualties overall have not been as bad as might have been expected, but a lot of that has been because we have blasted our way forward.  There is a rumour Eisenhower is to meet with senior commanders tomorrow, before they and their headquarters leave for Europe.  I would bet that he will explain the situation to them.

6 - 1 Cotentin

Cotentin Peninsula

As I pack up and head for my bunk, storm clouds are piled up overhead and there is intermittent thunder. The forecast for the next three days is for heavy rain.  That is not promising

6 - 2 Supply

Supply: steadily declining stockpiles are affecting combat operations

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

Rommel, who had been looking worried this morning, is looking much relieved. His concern about Tilly-sur-Seulles was removed when a call from a jubilant de Witt[25] informed him that infantry of SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 25 have recaptured the town, completely destroying the enemy armour[26] that was defending it.  (A reminder of the dangers of using armour without infantry support to hold built-up areas).  Brimming with confidence, Rommel is now talking of taking tour of the front, keen to see the situation for himself.  Several people have tried to talk him out of it but he seems insistent.

7 - 1 m4-Sherman-tank

A knocked out Sherman in Tilly-sur-Seulles

I assume that if he does make this dangerous trip that he will not attempt to go as far as Cherbourg. The roads are still clear, but the enemy has shown a willingness to send reconnaissance units far in advance of their armour and infantry.  Not to mention the constant threat of air attack.  To get to Cherbourg he would have to go via Vire and head for the coast before turning north.

In any case, from what we know the Cotentin is still secure, or at least all of it bar the base. The infantry divisions in the north[27] and west[28] are slowly pushing the enemy back towards the coast, though evicting the paratroopers from the bocage is proving difficult.  Speed is of the essence as it must be assumed that more enemy units are being landed every hour.  Carentan is the one concern, and a serious one.  Klosterkemper[29] is rushing his division east as fast as he can, but it will be sometime tomorrow morning before the infantry arrive, and hours more before the artillery is set up.  In the meantime more Americans have crossed the Douve and von der Heydte[30] is expecting them to take advantage of the night to push even more men across the river, putting extreme pressure on his right flank.

8 - 1 88mm-Gun4

The 88mm Flak guns of II.1/III.Flak fought well but were forced to pull back from the banks of the Douve

The efforts of the defenders of Carentan are appreciated here at Heeresgruppe B. By holding their ground it has given Bacherer[31] time to get his division as far north as Coutances.  They will continue to march all night and sometime tomorrow morning the trucks from the transport reserve that had been used by 265.ID will arrive to carry them the rest of the way.  It may be that by then Klosterkemper has no need of assistance: if that is the case then Bacherer will presumably be given orders to help push the paratroopers back across the Merderet.

265.ID no longer needs the trucks: it will have plenty to do due to the collapse of 352.ID.   (Not that it could have helped von der Heydte, the American bombers destroyed the bridge at St-Hilaire-Petitville leaving a railway bridge further south the most direct route west.)  With his own men and what is left of Kraiß’s[32] division, Düvert[33] has set up a defence line along a narrow stream that forms a barrier almost north-south from the coast to within a few kilometres of the Aure.  After the destruction of 352.ID he must be unsure how long his division can hold that line, but hold he must.  There is nothing else available.

The same applies to Goth[34] and his ragtag band of defenders in Bayeux.  The British seem to have halted their advance from the east, but the Americans are moving from the west and 30.schnelle Brigade is not capable of doing more than slowing the advance.  The lead elements of “Götz von Berlichingen” are doing their best to both bolster the defence of Bayeux and at the same time hold off the Americans, but there are too few of them.  Ostendorff[35] had intended to reach Bayeux overnight with a battalion of infantry, but another blown bridge will now prevent that.  The bulk of his division is making its way through the hills to the east of St Lô and cannot be expected to be available for combat until late tomorrow.  Assuming the damn Americans do not destroy all the bridges along the way.

9 - 1 Somua conv

The only “armour” of 30.schnelle Brigade: the crew of a converted Somua take advantage of a lull in the fighting for Bayeux

It is when we look at the east that things look more promising. de Witt[36] is advancing with a combination of force and caution, leading to minimal casualties and maximum results.  He has now cleared about 15 kilometres of the highway west of Caen by launching a couple of  direct assaults and some precisely directed artillery bombardments.  While accepting Rommel’s congratulations for retaking Tilly-sur-Seulles, privately de Witt has complained that splitting his division by sending some of his best troops south has prevented him from reaching Bayeux.  (From a couple of comments made during the afternoon, I think that de Witt may have plenty of help tomorrow: “Lehr”[37] is to pass through Caen tonight to take advantage of de Witt’s success).

10 - 1 Caen Bayeux

“Hitlerjugend” advances west towards Bayeux

Feuchtinger[38] has also used the respite he has been given to weaken the enemy with a some artillery bombardment.  Although Rommel has been encouraging all his generals to counter-attack whenever possible, Feuchtinger has refused on the grounds his units, stretched to cover the whole front from the Mue to the Canal de Caen, cannot concentrate sufficiently to mount such an attack.  He has been grateful for the arrival of hundreds of flak guns to both defend the numerous bridges and the city itself, but still feels that any offensive action might jeopardise his position.

11 - 1 6th Air

Caen and the western edge of the invasion area

“Lehr” might be about to pull out of the operation to crush the enemy forces east of the Orne, but it is still making its presence felt. There is just the one bridge over the river north of Caen and panzers and panzergrenadiers are within a kilometre or two of it.  The British paratroopers are putting up a desperate resistance as was shown in the continuing fighting in the Bois de Bavent.  It can’t go on forever – they are getting weaker.  Bayerlein[39] says he has heard from his lead units that regular infantry and even armour have been moving across the Bénouville bridge to reinforce the paras so that might change.

12 - 1 Universal benou

A Universal Carrier moves across the Bénouville bridge

Despite that possibility, it looks as though the two infantry divisions will have to shoulder the responsibility: “Lehr” is needed far more in the west.

It might need to move quickly as the weather is deteriorating. Bad for those of our troops who are moving to the coast, but wonderful news for those soldiers who have been suffering air attacks.  With a bit of luck it will turn into storms up off the coast, interrupting the flow of men and supplies to the beachheads.  We can only hope.

 

Commentary

After three days of sometimes bloody fighting, the invasion has reached a new stage. The initial surge of the Allies and the confusion of the Germans have subsided and both sides are settling down to a more conventional combat.  Front lines have started to appear and stabilise.  The Allies must build up their supply reserves as well as amass enough men and equipment to push inland, and the Germans must keep moving more units north and west in spite of the chaos on the roads caused by the Allied airforces.

For both sides though, the key will be something out of their control: the weather.

 

Allied Losses (8th June PM)

US losses

82nd Airborne Division: A/1/507

101st Airborne Division: D/2/502

1st Infantry Div: A/3/26/1

4th Infantry Div: A/2/12/4

29th Inf Div: A/2/175/29

US Independent: A/899/VII

Commonwealth losses

 

CW Independent: B/5/7/8, A/1ERY/27

6th Airborne Div: B/12DR/6/6, C/12/5/6, C/1RU/6/6, A/9/3/6

 

US Losses: 3 x INF, 2 x PARA, 1 x ARM

Commonwealth losses: 4 x PARA, 2 x ARM

Total Allied Losses: 3 x INF, 6 x PARA, 3 x ARM

 

Air losses

Combat support: 1

Armed Reconnaissance: Nil

 

German losses (8th June PM)

91.ID: C/I/6FJ/91

352.ID: B/Füsilier/352, B/13.schwere/352, A/I/916/352

30.schnelle Brigade: A/517/30, A/518/30

346.ID: A/Füsilier/346

Strongpoints: SP4, SP2

Static Artillery: 4/HKAA 1260

German losses: 6 x INF, 1 x ARM, 2 x SP, 1 x Static

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 8-6 PM

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 9 PARA)          C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D/2/507, A/2/235, A/1/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 3 PARA)             B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506,                                                        D/2/502

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 1 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1, A/3/26/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 5 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4, A/2/12/4

29th Inf Div:            1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 6 INF)                A & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175,                                                              A/2/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

10 x ARM                  A/70/VII (DD), A & B/745/V, A/899/VII

 

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6, 12/5/6, 1RU/6/6

(9 + 11 PARA+         D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A/4/6 (AT), A & B/12DR/6, A/9/3/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)   A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                                           Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 5 INF)                2 x A&B/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special; Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, A &B/1ERY/27

10 ARM                     1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon), B/5/7/8

 

Air Losses:    Combat Support                 2

                        Armed Reconnaissance    1

German Casualties 8-6 PM

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

2 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30

3 INF                          A/517/0, A/518/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),                                                             I/III/6FJ

15 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, /I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ,                               B/I/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901

1 INF, 1 ARM

346.ID:                      A/Füsilier/346

1 INF

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns), 13.schw/352 (4Bns)

15 INF, 2 AT                         B & C/II/916/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

2 ARM                       A & B/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag, A/I/916

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ

6 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                                              PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,  III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          10 x (4), 11 x (3), 6 x (2), 4 x (1)

31

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         13                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716, 4/HKAA 1260

 

Notes

[1] Major-General Richard Gale: 6th Airborne Division.

[2] Major Gerry Lacoste, GSO2 (Intelligence), 6th Airborne.  His report was accurate.

[3] Major General Thomas Rennie: 3rd Infantry Division

[4] Lieutenant General Sir John Crocker: I Corps, 2nd British Army.  Responsible for 3rd Infantry, 3rd Canadian Infantry and 6th Airborne Division.

[5] General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.  Eisenhower’s skills at managing disagreements was a major reason for his appointment.  While his military experience could not match that of his subordinates, his ability to control the sometimes furious disagreements of his commanders was essential to the smooth operation of OVerlord.

[6] 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, commander Major General Charles Bullen-Smith.  The original 51st was evacuated from Dunkirk and sent back to France.  It was trapped in St-Valery-en-Caux and more than 10,000 of its men surrendered on 12th June 1940.  Coincidentally, the commander who accepted the surrender was General Erwin Rommel.  The division was rebuilt and fought in North Africa and then Sicily.  It was at that time that the famous “Salerno Mutiny” took place after soldiers who had been previously wounded were ordered to return to another division.

[7] Major General Rodney Keller, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

[8] At this point 3rd Canadian had suffered in excess of 1,000 casualties.

[9] Lieutenant General Gerard Bucknall, XXX Corps.  Responsible for 49th and 50th Infantry and 7th Armoured Divisions

[10] Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, 2nd Army.  Responsible for I and XXX Corps

[11] The already famous “Desert Rats” who had fought across North Africa and in Italy.  Freshly equipped with the “Cromwell” cruiser tank and the Sherman “Firefly”.  Commander: Major General George Erskine.

[12] Major General Douglas Graham, 50th Infantry Division

[13] Major Leonard Gerow, V Corp, 1sy US Army

[14] This was 743rd Tank Battalion.  It is not clear who was in command at this time. The original commander, Lt Colonel John Upham, had been seriously wounded on D-day, shot in the shoulder by a sniper while directing his surviving tanks off Omaha beach.  He was later awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on that day.  Despite some misleading reports that he was killed on 6th June, he went on to command 2nd US Army and died on 8th October 1993.

13 - 1 John S Upham

John S Upham commanded 743rd Tank Battalion on D-Day

[15] “BRO”: the Big Red One, official nickname of 1st Infantry Division.

[16] These were elements of 30.schnelle Brigade that had not yet reached Bayeux

[17] Major General Clarence Huebner, 1st Infantry Division.  He was appointed to the command by General Bradley to replace General Terry Allen, whom Bradley felt allowed his men to be undisciplined, though he acknowledged his leadership qualities.  The appointment was not popular with the troops, but Huebner led the division for the duration of the war, through some of the toughest fighting.

[18] Lt Colonel Wallace Nicholls, 745th Tank Battalion.

[19] The unit attacked was 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion, led by Lt Colonel Maxwell Tinchner.  It had been ordered to prepare for an attempt to capture the bridge in a night attack.

[20] The P-47 “Thunderbolt” was originally a long range escort, but it was in the course of being replaced in that role by the P-51.  Its solid construction made it a logical choice to become the most successful fighter-bomber in the Allied airforces.  Armed with machine-guns, bombs and/or rockets, it was effective against all but the most heavily armoured targets.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Thunderbolts head for Normandy on the ill-fated mission to hit the defenders of Carentan

[21] At this stage of the war, close air support was not as accurate as it would later become.  The difficulties of identifying targets from the air in real time were not appreciated.  Pilot skill, communications and procedures would all have to improve before the ground troops could be confident that air support would hit the correct targets.

[22] Major General Raymond Barton, 4th Infantry Division.  899th Tank Destroyer Battalion was to have supported his infantry in the assault on the bridge.

[23] Although the M-10 was later sometimes referred to as a “Wolverine”, at the time infantry lumped all tank destroyers together as “TDs”.

[24] Those units of 4th Infantry that had been in combat had already identified the enemy armour as converted French tanks.  The unit was Panzer Ersatz und Ausbildungs Abteilung 100 equipped with a mix of mainly Hotchkiss with some Somua and Renault conversions.

[25] SS-Brigadeführer Fritz de Witt, 12.SS-Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”.

[26] B Company of 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, equipped with the Sherman M-4

[27] 709.ID

[28] 243.ID

[29] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.ID

[30] Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, acting as commander of Kampfgruppe “Von der Heydte”, responsible for all troops involved in the defence of Carentan.

[31] Oberst Rudolf Bacherer, 77.ID

[32] Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiß, 352.ID

[33] Generalleutnant Walther Düvert, 265.ID

[34] Oberst Goth, commander of Regiment 916, 352.ID.  Acting as commander of KG “Goth”, responsible for the defence of Bayeux.

15 - 1 RPzB_54_44

KG “Goth”, lacking armour, relied on hand held anti-tank weapons like the panzerschreck to hold off enemy tanks

[35] SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff, 17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen”

[36] SS-Gruppenführer Fritz de Witt, 12.SS-Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”

[37] 130.Panzer Division “Lehr”

[38] Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger, 21.PzD

[39] Strictly speaking the units to which Bayerlein refers (Panzer-Lehr-Regiment 130 and Panzergrenadier-Lehr-Regiment 901) were no longer under his direct command.  On 8th June he was transferred, perhaps to LXXXIV Armeekorps, 7.Armee (Details are confusing).  His replacement was Generalmajor Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von von Groß-Zauche u. Cammitz.  Presumably at the time of this report the hand-over was still in progress.

1PM 8th June 1944: Morning D-Day +2

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

1PM, 8th June (D+1)

The confidence that seemed growing this morning has largely disappeared, mainly because of the ferocity of the continuing German counter-attacks and the collapse of supply stocks at the British beaches. As I write this, the situation has worsened in all areas bar the immediate south of Omaha and east of Bayeux.  Everywhere else ranges from disappointing to disastrous.

The daylight hours did not start so badly. Ridgway’s[1] paras successfully pulled back a mile or so in the west and Taylor[2] consolidated his defence of the north.  Another “Ivy”[3] battalion crossed the Douve in preparation for an assault on Carentan and some casualties were inflicted on the Germans in front of the city.  In front of Omaha, the defending enemy infantry division has been shattered.  29th Infantry (with a bit of help from the 1st) attacked with everything it had, and the German front line vaporised.  We believe the survivors are fleeing west.

The British say they are in the eastern suburbs of Bayeux after virtually demolishing it with air and artillery bombardment and then rushing what was left of the defence with armour and infantry led by flame-throwing tanks.

1 - 1 british-tanks-crocodiles

A “Crocodile” Churchill tank moves into what is left of a suburb of Bayeux

There are unconfirmed reports that elements of the “Northumbrian” Division[4] have got as far south as Tilly-sur-Seulles.  If that is correct, it would be very significant, the start of a flanking move on Caen.  That would be useful as the British have been forced to pull back slightly in front of the city, unable to continue attacking due to the scarcity of ammunition, fuel and other essentials.

All that was well and good. It was the activities of the Germans that caused consternation at SHAEF[5].

To the dismay of Collins[6] and his staff, who had been looking forward to linking up with V Corps within a day or so, the two battalions of 4th Infantry that had crossed the Douve under cover of night had to evacuate.  The exposed position, unable to find cover on the flooded open fields, led the troops to retreat, even though losses were negligible.  Only 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment remained south of the river.  Strickland[7] thinks he can hold on, but if the Germans can concentrate on his small bridgehead he could have a tough choice to make.

2 - 1 Cotentin

The Cotentin Peninsula at midday 8th June

There were also problems to the north and west of Utah Beach. The Germans are pushing south along the upper reaches of the Merderet and along the Douve west of Picauville.  The paras, already weakened by losses in the landings and subsequent fighting, are struggling against regular infantry backed by heavy guns and some armour.  The only good news was that the bridge over the Douve at St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte has been blown by our fighter-bombers: the only success they had this morning.  That should slow any reinforcements heading north to Cherbourg and give some respite to the 101st.

No counter-attacks near Omaha, in fact no enemy contact at all. Some armed reconnaissance jeeps have pushed west of Étréham (armour and infantry are close behind them) and have not met any resistance as they move east along the Saure.

 

 

Jeep

The adaptable jeep, here with a .50cal MG

After the successful first assault on Bayeux, it seems that the capture of the rest of the town must wait. Graham’s infantry[8], backed by the armour of the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry[9], are secure, but they are unable to either cross the Saure or push north into the town centre.

This morning I mentioned that overnight the Canadians had penetrated deep into the French hinterland, overextending themselves and having to pull back when they hit Germans advancing from Caen along the highway to Caen. It appears they did not pull back fare enough, or perhaps did not anticipate the strength of the enemy forces.  I have previously mentioned that 50th Infantry had also sent some units south, and they seem to have been caught by the same unit, tentatively identified as 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”, which is pushing west from Caen along the highway to Bayeux.

Whoever it is, and whatever the intention of its commander, the result has been disastrous for one Canadian battalion[10].  Initially charged with taking the airfield at Carpiquet, it was covering the retreat of the Hussars[11] when hit by what is claimed to have been at least a full regiment of panzergrenadiers and scores of panzers.  Barely a company survived, even though they did not lose a yard of ground.  The Hussars were forced further east and the Daimlers of 61st Recon[12] also took casualties.

4 - 1 Daimler

Rugged and reliable, but the Daimler’s 2-pounder gun is no use against real armour

Caen at least was calm though shelling by German artillery[13] did knock out a company of tanks[14] southeast of the bridge at Bénouville.   The armour had been sent there to hold off an anticipated panzer attack, but no attack came.  It was across the Orne that the major enemy thrust took place.

Gale did his best to bolster the defence west of Hérouvillette, knowing full well that the bridge at Bénouville is essential to the survival of 6th Airborne. It was just enough, the full battalion[15] rushed to the defence holding off a determined attack by the armour that had been moved from the other side of the river.  The adjoining commandos and paras suffered just as badly, but they too held their ground.  How long they can hold off what is now recognised as a powerful panzer division is unknown, but it can’t be long.

In the Bois de Bavent more paras were lost, along with about half the Humbers sent along the forest paths . No panzers here, but wave after wave of infantry from all directions.  What is left of our men in the woods[16] must pull back.

arms_land_para_varaville_1

The toll of fighting almost constantly for three day has left the paratroopers of 6th Airborne exhausted

The worst result however, was close to the coast. Gale sent his only armour[17] to support his paras south of Varaville .    It was no use.  Although the attackers were not overwhelming, their artillery was deadly accurate and they finally overran the British positions.  At least that is what we assume – no word has been heard from the defenders since fighting broke out.

Heavy losses, inaccurate bombing, supply levels for the British at a critical point. We will need some luck to get through the afternoon.

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

My earlier worries about the return of the Allied planes were exaggerated. They did not do all that much by themselves though apparently at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula the bridge at St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte was knocked out.

5 - 1 st sauveur 6

An aerial reconnaissance photo of the bridge across the Douve at St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. At this point the bridge was still standing, though bomb craters can be seen nearby.

We should have enough time to repair it as the combined operation by von Schlieben and Hellmich[18] is slowly pushing the American paratroopers back.  The dreadful bocage that is everywhere in Normandy is making it hard to clear the paras, but progress is being made.  91.ID, now that Klosterkemper has regained control of its western units,  is disentangling itself and starting to move to the assistance of the beleaguered defenders of Carentan.

From what we can gather, the fighting north of Carentan is not going our way. Von der Heydte[19], who now has command of all troops involved in the defence, has lost about half his force on the past 12 hours, as the Americans continue to hurl men, artillery and bombs in their attempts to secure a bridgehead over the Douve.  Amazingly, he seems to have reduced the area the Americans control, but at a cost that cannot be sustained.  It seems that all the troops that have landed to the north in the past days have been sent towards Carentan.  Estimates vary, but von der Heydte claims that at least a full division has been used against his position.

6 - 1 Normandie,_Fallschirmjäger_mit_Handkarren

Men of 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment rush equipment and ammunition to counter another American push across the Douve north of Carentan

There is not much Heeresgruppe B can do to help. Klosterkemper is doing his best to send help, but he cannot just abandon the area around Picauville.  265.ID which was intended to assist may be need to support what is left of 352.ID hold back the Americans if they push for Isigny-sur-Mer.  A few units from 3.Fallschirmjäger are moving north, but they are a long way distant and even if they arrived, could not do much by themselves.  The best hope is Bacherer’s 77.ID, but that cannot possibly arrive before Samstag[20].

To the east of Carentan, Kraiß[21] has abandoned any hope of holding the Americans on the coast.  He has pulled his headquarters back from Formigny, barely four kilometres from the invasion beaches, to Osmanville, about 15 kilometres away.  Two days ago he was boasting his division would throw the Americans back into the sea: today he is scrambling to find enough men to form a defence line between the Aure and the coast.  Personally, I think he has been devastated by the sight of his division being destroyed.  At least 500 men of 352.ID were lost in a few hours of assault and bombardment this morning, and it would appear that another casualty was the fighting spirit of its commander.

7 - 1 Omaha good

The Americans have defeated 352.ID

Some units of 352.ID have made it to Bayeux, where they are now part of Kampfgruppe “Goth” as it is now known[22].  The detours made necessary by destroyed bridges have slowed both 30.schnelle Brigade and “Götz von Berlichingen” but help is not far away.  Oberst Goth sounds like he needs it.  By chance, it happened to be me who took the call from his headquarters in the town hall[23], as part of the standard daily reporting schedule.  (Somehow the telephone system was still working, the raiding parties perhaps too busy to cut the lines on every road.)

He was quite emotional and when he claimed that a whole battalion of the schnelle brigade had been wiped out in the fighting that morning, he must have detected my disbelief.

“So you think I am making this up do you? You think I have nothing better to do with my time than to make up stories for a flunky at the Chateau de la Roche Guyon?”  (I didn’t think it would help to tell him there was a reason that I had been assigned to a desk job).

“Here, listen to the truth from someone who was there!”

After a moment’s silence, a shaky voice took over. “Kapitan Müller, schnelle Abteilung 513.  You wish to know of the events this morning?”

“Ja, bitte”

“Well, we arrived in Bayeux last night, the men pretty tired after cycling most of the day. 513 was told to  move to the southwest sector of Bayeux, across the Aure over the Rue St Jean bridge.  Our left flank was the Rue St Jean, which leads into the Route de Caen.  The right – the Aure.”

8 - 1 Bayeux

Bayeux, the cathedral and city centre unharmed despite the fighting nearby

“The Major had orders to prepare for a possible attack at daylight, so during the night we set up defences as best we could in the dark.”

“We were three companies, with about 20 machine guns each. No anti-tank guns, but a fair few panzerfausts.  Our machineguns were set up to control the main streets, with small groups set up for ambushes and to try to get any vehicles that entered.  Some of the junior officers had been in the east and had experience in street fighting, and they were put in charge of blocking streets to prevent enemy vehicles getting to close to the buildings we chose as strongpoints.  Sometime after midnight we stopped to get some rest.”

“I was woken early, artillery spotters in the taller buildings had seen enemy tanks and infantry approaching from the west. (That was all the spotters could do, as the guns themselves had only arrived during the night and were still being set up.)  Above there was a slight drone from enemy aircraft, reconnaissance planes I assume.  A few shots from the flak unit to our north, but nothing much.”

9 - 1 defenders

Getting ready for the British

“Then the planes drifted north and the barrage began. Big shells, bigger than I have experienced before[24].  A lot of men were killed and a few fires started.  As the shelling stopped, we started to check for wounded and move to safer locations, but then the planes were back.  Not recon this time – some type of fighter bombers.  They shot at anything that moved, dropped bombs and some fired rockets[25].”

“Then the assault began. Those of us who had survived the bombardment and bombing tried to stop them, but the infantry were almost impossible to see as they moved up through the rubble.  Whenever a machine gun opened up, they went to ground and called up a tank which blew the building to bits[26].  I saw myself a small group of men open up from a cellar on the opposite side of the street from me.  The enemy pulled back and then a tank closed in and sprayed them with a flame-thrower.  I have heard of flammpanzers[27] but never seen one.  I don’t think anyone got out of the cellar.”

“That was about all I saw. The artillery started again and my position must have been hit.  I came to covered in dust and bricks and with a broken arm.  Nobody else seemed to be around but I could hear voices talking in English not far away.  There was some gunfire, but only a little and at a distance.  It looked like a mopping up operation, the soldiers near me obviously did not expect any real opposition.  So I slipped away quietly and made my way to the river.  I saw nobody on the way and when I had struggled through the water with my one good arm and made it to safety, I was told I was the only one to make it back.”

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

British soldiers mopping up in the southwest sector of Bayeux

“The lucky one.”

There was nothing really I could say. I know what it is like to lose all one’s friends.

“Danke”.

I hung up and made a note and put it in my tray for further action. Abteilung 513, 30.schnelle Brigade, was no longer to be listed as an active unit, and no provision need be made for its supply.  I also made a mental note: the lightly armed troops of the schnelle Brigade would not last long against the British unless they had some decent support.

Fortunately for my composure, there was no other bad news for the morning. “Götz” (or at least the first half of it) is, as I said, almost in position around Bayeux.  The other SS unit at the front, “Hitlerjugend” has been involved in some heavy clashes, all of which have gone well.  Both Rots and Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse[28] are back in our hands.  Enemy tanks still block the way, but the Canadians approaching from the north were dealt a severe blow in fighting near Secqueville-de-Bessin.  Further south, British armour was found in Fontenay-le-Fresnel, which was a surprise to all our units who had expected a clear run to Tilly-sur-Seulles.  (Nobody more than von Funck[29] who was following our troops and has had to stop and wait while the way ahead is made safe).

11 - 1 Bayeux (2)

The Bayeux-Caen road

As per Rommel’s direct command, 21.PzD carried out no offensive operations north of Caen. The units from “Lehr” that had made a feint up the east bank of the Canal de Caen to Blainville-sur-Orne left without firing a shot.  In another surprise, the British also did nothing.  Our positions are strong, but not that strong.  Certainly the British have had no hesitation in the past in attacking powerful forces: is there some cunning plan being prepared?  Some of the senior command are a little nervous – there must be a reason and it is definitely not lack of troops.  anyway, whatever the enemy do, taking the city will be much harder now that III Flak has arrived with its scores of heavy and light flak guns.

It was on our right flank that we had our greatest success. It has been decided that the presence of British troops west of the Orne is too great a threat to the long term defence of Caen.  To remove the threat, three divisions have been assigned to carry out the destruction of the pocket by means of attacks from three different directions.  By far the strongest is the drive from the south-east by “Lehr”.  Its attack is confined to a three kilometre front, from the Orne to Éscoville[30].  As might be expected with so much firepower concentrated in such a small area, the enemy have taken heavy losses.  Disappointingly, the paras have shown they are elite troops, suffering extreme casualties but not conceding a metre of ground.  Bayerlein has assured anyone who asks that he will take both Éscoville and Ranville[31] by nightfall.

Caen.jpg

Caen and environs

Further east, in the Bois de Bavent, infantry from 356.ID, with a few self-propelled anti-tank guns, have engaged those paras trying to block the paths north. Once again the combat is going our way but the British are proving stubborn.  Still, our losses are minimal and Diestel is cautiously optimistic that he will be on the move this afternoon.

Strangely it was our weakest division, 711.ID, that had the greatest success. With Franceville-Plage and Merville on the coast back in our hands, Reichert[32] used the whole of Infanterie-Regiment 731 to smash into Varaville.  Although the defenders had some armour, they were too few in number to slow down the attack.  None escaped and as far as Reichert can tell there are no other enemy troops to his south.

12 - 1 merville

Needless to say, the guns of Merville Battery were rendered inoperative by the British before they retreated

As I was leaving to get some lunch, I had an odd experience. I walked past the main map room and saw Rommel and his aide looking at the map of the Normandy sector that occupies most of the far wall.  They seemed unaware of my presence.  As I paused, wondering that the Generalfeldmarschal was almost alone, he frowned and tapped the map.

“Tilly-sur-Seulles, that is the key. We can stand the capture of part of Bayeux.  The early loss of both Ste Mère Église and Cruelly could have been predicted.  But with threats to both Trevières and Carentan difficult to counter, we must retake Tilly-sur-Seulles before night tomorrow, or all will be lost!”

I quietly withdrew. Obviously I had overheard something confidential, and I have no desire to be subjected to an interrogation by security.  In any case, I am not sure what Rommel meant.  Has he some overall measure of success of the campaign?[33]  Some way of determining whether further resistance is worthwhile?  Perhaps, but I shall never know.  My job was clear: have something to eat, get back to work and forget what  I had overheard.

 

Commentary

 

The situation at midday was evenly balanced, though the surge of reinforcements did favour the Germans somewhat. The para losses were getting to the point that both flanks of the Allied landings were becoming vulnerable. While success in the Bayeux sector was promising, more troops were needed to fill the gaps appearing in the Allied line, and lack of supply was now costing lives as front line units had to do without defensive artillery support.

For the Germans, although on paper they looked to be doing well, losses were mounting and many units were no longer anywhere near full complement.

 

Allied Losses (8th June AM)

Airborne (US)

82nd Airborne Division: B & C/507/82, A/2/235/82, D/2/508/82

Utah

4th Infantry Div: A/1/22/4

Omaha

29th Inf Div: A/3/115/29

Gold

50th Infantry Div: A/1HR/231/50, A/61/50 Recon

Juno

3rd Canadian Div: A&B/QOR/3

Sword

4th Special Service Brigade: A/46RM

 

Independent: C/13/18/27, 5RMASG, A/1CR/1 (Recon)

 

Airborne (C’wlth)

6th Airborne Div: C/7/5, A/12DR/6, B/12/5, B/1RU/6

 

US Losses: 4 x PARA, 2 x INF

Commonwealth losses: 4 x PARA, 3 x INF, 4 x ARM, 1 x COMM

 

Total Allied Losses: 8 PARA, 5 x INF, 4 x ARM, 1 x COMM

 

Air losses

Combat support: Nil

Armed Reconnaissance: Nil

 

German losses

Cotentin Peninsula

91.ID: B/II/6FJ, B/I/6FJ, A/III/6FJ

709.ID: Nil

Omaha

352.ID: A/13.schwere/352, B/Pio, A/PzJag, B/II/914/352

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30

West of Caen

716.ID: C/I/726

12.SS-PzD: A/PzPio, A/I/25

East of Caen

130.PzD: A/II/901

 

Strongpoints: 2 x 4

 

German losses: 13 x INF, 2 x ARM, 2 x Strongpoints

 

 

Cumulative Losses: Allied Casualties 8-6 AM

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82, 3/507/82, 2/508/82

(10 + 8 PARA)          C/1/505, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, D/2/507, A/2/235/82

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 2 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 0 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 4 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4, A/1/22/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 5 INF)                A & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 3 x  A/3/115, A/1/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

9 x ARM                    A/70/VII (DD)

A & B/745/V

6th Airborne:          7/3/6, 8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6

(9 + 7 PARA+           D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6 (1 ARM), A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)     A&B/12/5, A/4/6 (AT), A/12DR/6, A&B/1RU/6

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)           A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                  Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3, A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            2 x A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50, A/61/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 5 INF)                2 x A&B/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM, A/48RM, C/41RM, A/46RM

4 COMM

1st Special Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, B/1ERY/27

8 ARM                       1&3 RMASG, C/13/18/27, A/1CR/1 (Recon)

 

Cumulative losses:  German Casualties 8-6 AM

 

12.SS-PzD:               15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

2 INF, 2 ARM           A/PzPio, A/I/25

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD

30.schnelle Brigade: 513/30

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),

14 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91, A&B/I/6FJ, B/II/6FJ, A/III/6FJB/II/6FJ, B/I/6FJ, A/III/6FJ

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130, A/II/901

1 INF, 1 ARM

352.ID:                      14.PaK/352, Pio/352 (3Bns)

13 INF, 2 AT               B & C/II/916/352, 3 x A/13.schw/352, 2 x A&B/II/914,

1 ARM                       A/Füs, A/II/915/352, A/PzJag

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ

6 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                 III/726/716, 1/736/716 I/726/716,

26 INF, 4 AT             A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          9 x (4), 11 x (3), 5 x (2), 4 x (1)

27

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         12                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716

Notes

[1] Major General Matthew Ridgway, 82nd Airborne

[2] Major General Maxwell Taylor, 101st Airborne

[3] “Ivy”: the official nickname of 4th Infantry.  Perhaps better known now as the “Iron Horse” division

[4] 50th British “Northumbrian” Infantry Division, raised in the north of the country, next to the border with Scotland

[5] Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force

[6] Major General E Lawton Collins, VII Corps, First US Army

[7] Lt Colonel Erasmus Strickland, 3/8/4th infantry.

[8]1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Infantry Regiment (Lt Colonel E.A.M Norie) at the time attached to 50th Infantry Division as part of 231st Infantry Brigade (Brigadier A.G.B Stanier Bart).  “Graham” was Major General Douglas Graham, commander of 50th Infantry.

[9] Strictly speaking the Notts (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Regiment.  Equipped with Sherman Firefly tanks

[10] 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 8th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division.

[11] 6th Canadian Hussars, attempting to escape up the highway

[12] 61st Reconnaissance Regiment, formed from three anti-tank companies of 61st Infantry and transferred to 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

[13] This must have been the guns of 10.(Werf) Kp, 21.PzD which had a full complement of 8 x mSPW S307(f), 2 x mSPW S303(f).  The former made use of the captured Somua chassis with a French Brandt 81mm mortar mounted, the latter had 2 racks of 80mm rocket launchers (modelled on the 82cm Katushya) mounted.  These were the results of the innovative work of Major Alfred Becker, Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 200, 21.PzD, who used captured equipment to great effect.

Bild 101I-300-1863-30

Major Becker inspects a Vielfachwerfer mounted on a Somua chassis

[14] “C” Company of 13th/18th Royal Hussars, 27th Armoured Brigade

[15] 12th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment (Lt Colonel Dick Stevens)

[16] As far as can be determined, all that remained was one company each of the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Inns of Court Regiment.

[17] 5th Royal Marine Independent Armoured Support Battery with 16 Centaur IV and 4 Sherman M4 tanks.  the Centuar IV was a version of the Cromwell armed with a 95mm howitzer.

Centaur_IV_tank_of_'H'_Troop,_2nd_Battery,_Royal_Marine_Armoured_Support_Group,_13_June_1944__B5457

A Crusader IV heads north towards Varaville

[18] The commanders of 709.ID and 243.ID respectively

[19] Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment. He had been placed in command of the temporary Kampfgruppe to organise what troops were available for the defence of Carentan.  A man of disparate talents, with degrees in Law and Economics and experience in combat in France, Crete and North Africa.

[20] Saturday 10th June 944

[21] Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiß, 352.ID.

[22] Named after Oberst Goth, commander of 916th Regiment, 352.ID, the ranking officer in Bayeux.

[23] The Mairie de Bayeux, originally an Ursaline Convent and built quite solidly.  A little north of the Cathedral, on the Rue de la Laitière.  West of the Aure River and quite central.

[24] The unit providing fire support was 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Field Artillery, equipped with 25 pounder Sextons

[25] It is not clear which of the aircraft in action over Bayeux at the time (Bristol Beaufighters, De Havilland Mosquitos and Douglas A-20 Havocs)  were armed with rockets.  The A-20G was sometimes armed with T-30 triple rocket launchers (M8 4.5 inch rockets) and some models of the Mosquito were also armed with rockets, at this point in the war usually armour piercing 25 pounders.

A-20_Havoc__T30_rocket_launcher_full

An A-20 “Havoc” with rocket launchers

 

Mosquito_Fl_GB_4506_rocket_p073_W2

A Mosquito with 25 pounder rockets

[26] Fireflys from “C” company, Nottingham Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Reg’t

[27] The speaker must have seen a Churchill “Crocodile” in action.

[28] Villages near the main highway from Caen to Bayeux, about 10 kilometres west of Caen

[29] General der Panzertruppen Hans Freiherr von Funck, commander of XLVII Panzerkorps.

[30] This happened to be the town in which Major General Gale, commander of 6th Airborne, had set up his headquarters.

[31] The site of the Bénouville bridge.

[32] Generalleutnant Josef Reichert, 711.ID

[33] It is believed that the Feldmarschall had a list of key positions around Normandy and had estimated how long he could defend them.  Should too many of those objectives have been lost ahead of time, it is the belief of some historians that he would have approached the Allied High Command with an offer to surrender, regardless of any other considerations.

8AM 8th June: Pre-dawn D-day +2

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

8AM, 8th June (D+1)

Before I left the administration area last night, the mood was a lot calmer. The crisis at Omaha was over, having been reduced to a problem.  The Cotentin was under control and at last the backlog at the US beaches was easing.  The British were behind schedule, but it was being recognised that the hope of capturing both Caen and Bayeux on D-Day was far too optimistic.  The general consensus was that the worst was over and now we could proceed as though this were a huge exercise: how to land as many men and vehicles and as much supply as possible through limited landing areas.

This morning however, things had changed. For once it was the British zone that caused concern.  Under the cover of night, the Germans had moved up strong armoured forces and they took the British by surprise.  As ordered, all units east of Arromanches had been restricted to attacking only in the most essential circumstances: supply was far too critical to be squandered.  That order had been closely adhered to, but the headstrong commanders of a few forward units had decided that advancing had not been prohibited and had penetrated deep into enemy territory.

1 - 1 Bayeux

Bayeux and environs

50.ID had formed a line roughly north-south from the coast at Arromanches to the Caen-Bayeux Highway, forcing the Germans, who were very weak, to pull back towards Bayeux. That area was fine.  Further east, however, the Canadians had tank units at Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse and armoured cars at Rot.  All well and good, except that they had advanced too far for effective communications and when hit by what are claimed to be a “huge” number of heavy tanks supported by “thousands” of panzergrenadiers, they could not be given any artillery support, even if any guns had been in range.  Casualties were not too bad, but 6th Canadian Hussars[1] have lost all their accompanying infantry, and the Humbers  of The Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars had to beat a hasty retreat from Rots, only saved by the darkness from losing a lot of their vehicles.

2 - 1 Canadian sherman

The Canadian tanks held their ground, but not without taking some damage

In front of Caen, an uneasy truce seemed to be in place. Our units were not prepared to advance without air cover and naval guns in support, but they reported a lot of movement from the enemy and are sure that reinforcements have arrived.  The job tomorrow will be that much harder.

It is the paras across the Orne who are the real worry. Apparently Gale has been on the radio constantly, demanding more assistance.  He claims his troops are being attacked from all directions.  In the north, Lieutenant Colonel Otway[2], in charge of the defence of Franceville-Plage, has been forced to pull his battalion out of the town after being hit by a full regiment of infantry with artillery support.  Slightly to the south of his position, the last remaining company of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, was dug-in in the woods in front of Varaville.  Neighbouring units reported that a sizeable infantry force surged out of Varaville and the woods were overrun.  Nothing more has been heard and it must be assumed that Bradbrooke[3] and his men have been killed or captured.

3 -1

A pre-invasion map of Franceville-Plage: the loss of the town was a severe blow

Paras[4] and recon patrols[5] in the Bios de Bavant have evidence that German infantry are infiltrating their way north from Troarn, threatening Gale’s headquarters in Escoville.  By far the most alarming news, however, came from units holding the highway from Caen east along the coast.  Although in open terrain, a full battalion of paras[6] and a battery of anti-tank guns[7] were thought to be plenty to hold the position.  Normally that would have been the case, but the detailed reports from both “Johny” Johnson[8] and Major Peter Dixon[9] indicate that the attack was made by a full regiment of panzergrenadiers plus armoured vehicles[10].  Gale did his best to assist, the 75mm guns of 211 Battery (his only artillery) trying to break up the assault, but it was unsuccessful.  With artillery raining down on them[11], heavy casualties were sustained, from both British units.  The Germans were repelled, but another attack like that and Johnson and Dixon warn of disaster.

4 - 1 East

The situation east of the Orne

That the Germans appear to be counter-attacking in strength is bad news. We have been desperately trying to re-route supply shipping, but for now we have only been able to switch about 10% of supply from the US to Commonwealth beaches.  Dempsey[12] has told both Bucknall[13] and Crocker[14] that all offensive action must be approved by his headquarters, but how can we stop artillery being used to defend troops under heavy attack?

It is much more relaxing to look at the situation in the west. Although both US para divisions are under some pressure, nothing too disastrous happened over night.  A few units have taken losses or been pushed back a mile of so, but the only significant event was an advance by the Germans along the coast.  They are now only about 4 miles from the landing areas, but Lt-Colonel Ray Allen, commander of 2nd Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment[15] has been alerted.  His paras have just landed at Utah and are to move north immediately.

4 - 2 LCT infantry

Glider infantry are mixed with soldiers from 4th Infantry on an LCT heading to Utah beach

In the far south, real progress was made overnight. Barton, although he had warned that he might have to wait to get his artillery set up, saw an opportunity and ordered a night river crossing by almost two full regiments.  The defenders, only a hundred or so men in flooded meadows, were unable to do anything much, and 1st and 2nd Battalions of Colonel Reeder’s 12th Regiment made it across the river.  An unexpectedly strong German counter-attack failed badly, though 2nd Battalion took casualties[16].  We have a sizeable force across the Douve near Carentan, and all looks promising for the day.

5 - 1 Carentan_Causeway_01

The flooded terrain that made the night assault potentially dangerous. The causeway itself was too strongly held, so the assault was made across the Douve, to the left in the photograph

At Omaha, no such breakthrough, but more and more men are landing, and 1st Infantry Division is in sight of the highway to Bayeux. No counter-attacks: the enemy seem reluctant to stand their ground unless in good defensive terrain.  By the end of today we should have two full divisions ashore, and while still way behind schedule, at least we should be on the way to flooding the area with troops.

Assuming that is, the weather stays reasonable. Several meteorologists have been here this morning, and they did not look too happy.  Also unhappy are some of the regular army types loitering around.  Several officers have been assigned to cross to Europe with replacement troops.  They are not keen to have to go into combat with what are essentially raw green recruits and are worried about the effect these inexperienced men will have on the host units.  We have no choice however, as losses continue to mount.

6 - 1 recruits

The poster is only too true: many vacancies do exist, and more will appear before the Battle for Normandy is over

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

Rommel was right – not only am I much refreshed from a decent night’s sleep, but the arrival of reinforcements has greatly improved our outlook. What he didn’t mention was that he had plans for counter-attacks immediately the fresh troops arrived at the front. 

Of course, another thing he did not mention was his strategic plan. That is now becoming clearer, or at least I think I can see from the movement orders given to various units what he has in mind.  After the confusion of the first day or so it is wonderful how much better it makes the atmosphere here at the Chateau to believe that someone is in charge.  Not that von Rundstedt was useless, but the lack of reliable information tied his hands.

From the orders to units and the events overnight a plan can be seen to be slowly coming into existence. On the Cotentin Peninsula, the Americans have been held in the north and the west.  In fact, from the news coming in, von Schlieben[17] and Hellmich[18] are counter-attacking and starting to squeeze the US paras back towards the coast.  Things are not so good in the south, where Klosterkemper[19] is still trying to get his division in order after the death of the previous commander.  Klosterkemper has control of those parts of his unit in the triangle formed by the intersection of the Douve and Merderet Rivers, but those elements of 91.ID charged with defending Carentan are effectively alone, and they have not been able to prevent the Americans crossing the river east of the town. 

7-1-cotentin1.jpg

The Cotentin Peninsula at dawn on 8th June

Marcks[20] has appointed von der Heydte[21] temporary commander of a Kampfgruppe to co-ordinate the defence, but with only a few troops available he is struggling.  265.ID has orders to join the defence of Carentan, but they have had to detour through Isigny-sur-Mer due to the destruction of the bridge at St.Jean-de-Daye.  Düvert[22] has left his engineers[23] to attempt to repair the bridge, but the detour means that it will be afternoon before the division is able to assist von der Heydte, even though enough trucks have been supplied to make it fully motorised.  A worrying situation: even a strategic novice like me can see it is essential that we prevent the Americans linking up with the landing further east.

Not much seems to have happened there, or to be accurate, not much combat. Kraiß[24] is still losing men and no has no reserves at all, but he continues to block any enemy movement towards Carentan.  It is the highway to Bayeux that is the problem.  During the night American infantry moved close to the bridge across the Aure, and this has forced 30.schnelle Brigade to swing south to Trévières to avoid being trapped.  That will greatly delay its arrival at Bayeux, where it is desperately needed. 

8 - 1 Omaha

The Bayeux sector

The other unit racing toward Bayeux also has been delayed, with the destruction of the bridge at Subles[25] leaving von Ostendorff[26] no choice but to abandon the broad highway through the Forét de Cerisy and instead try to force his vehicles through a narrow road north to Le Molay where he can then swing east again.  With luck, he hopes to arrive in the city about midday.

Little is known about the situation in Bayeux. We do know that some lead elements of 30.schnelle Brigade have reached the city and that a few bataillons of 352.ID have been trapped there. There are plenty of supplies, but no artillery and no overall command.   Although nothing can threaten from the west, the situation east of the city is a concern.  We have no troops anywhere near the city, the closest being about 15 kilometres away[27], not far from Caen.   We know that the British have at least one division in the area: if it moves west then the defenders of Bayeux will be hard pressed.  (A temporary headquarters has been set in the city to try to manage the mixture of units available for the defence, but nobody thinks Oberst Goth, previously commander of 916th Grenadier Regiment, can do more than hold the British back for a day or so unless he receives massive reinforcements)

That is the end of the bad news: the situation to the east is improving. And not without reason. Rommel (with the apparent backing of the Wehrmacht heirarchy) has declared that Caen is the key to victory.  While Cherbourg is important, the loss of Caen would render our whole position in Normandy indefensible.  As result he has concentrated his attention (and our reinforcements) on that area.  During the night three panzer divisions launched attacks, with the support of several infantry divisions.  No less than eleven flak batteries have been released to deter the Allied aircraft that are causing such problems and more troops are being released from reserves to the east.

9 - 1 Flak_88_France_1940

Heading towards Caen, a towed 88 flak gun makes its way through the narrow streets of a French village

Hitlerjugend[28] is to clear the road to Bayeux.  That is the generally accepted mission, but a friend of mine told me that he heard some SS officers saying that nobody really expects one division to clear the entire length of the highway to be cleared. They said de Witt[29] had been told on no account to push too far west, risking being cut off.  The results of the night attacks would seem to support that – some scout cars were chased out of Rot and a tentative attack on what we found were Canadians blocking the highway north of Bretteville-le-Orgueilleuse inflicted some casualties but left the highway closed.

10 - 1 12SS panzer-iv-german-soldier

Hitlerjugend’s Panzer IVs did not find real resistance but were cautious not to overextend their advance

In front of Caen, where the bulk of the British forces are being held back by 21.PzD, there was little overnight action. Some positions were reinforced, but the most significant was the release of some of Feuchtinger’s[30] units on the right and their replacement by elements of “Lehr”[31].  Although not spelled out, “Lehr” has the job of cutting off the airborne troops to the west of the Orne.  Rommel is particularly worried about this threat to Caen from the more vulnerable side.  While his troops took no action on the east side of the Canal de Caen, Bayerlein[32] unleashed a massive attack on the British holding the main road east of Escoville.  The British fought bravely and stood their ground, but they lost hundreds of men and a large number of anti-tank guns.  It is though unlikely they will remain there in daylight, and then the way to the key bridge at Bénouville will be clear.

11 - 1 Caen (2)

The approach to Caen

It was not just “Lehr” doing attacking in the east. The British were forced out of Franceville-Plage by 744.Infanterie-Regiment and other units from 711.ID wiped out a group of paras who were in the woods northwest of Varaville.  Further south, Diestel[33] has got his men to push through the Bois de Bavent, preparing to outflank those enemy preventing us from attacking what appears to be the enemy headquarters in Escoville.  He is waiting for the rest of his division to arrive before committing his men to combat, but is confident that before midday he can clear the woods.

12 - 1 4710561

Infantry move in single file through the Bois de Bavent

We have more units on the move, but with some key bridges out of operation, they will not be in a position to assist until late today, if then. All unit commanders have been instructed that pioniere are to be released for bridge repairs. No excuses are to be accepted.  In addition, flak units must be considered corps assets, available for assignment to protect bridges from air attack.

There is a feeling of growing confidence at the Chateau. It might be from Rommel, it might be just a sense that we are at last getting the initiative back in this battle.  I am still a bit nervous however.  We did well in the hours of darkness: how will we perform when the Allied planes reappear and the naval guns start again?  I am still hoping for storms.

Commentary

Mixed results overnight did not help the Allied cause, but there was nothing to indicate that the invasion would be slowed, let alone threatened. The German activity east of the Orne was a concern, but mainly because of the Commonwealth’s lack of supplies.  Elsewhere all was under control and having troops in large numbers across the Douve was an unanticipated advantage.

If 4th Division could expand that small bridgehead and push east to Omaha, any loss of territory by 6th British Airborne would be more than offset.

 

Allied Losses (8th June Night)

Airborne (US)

82nd Airborne Division: D/2/507/82

Utah

4th Infantry Div: C/1/18/4, A/1/12/4

Omaha

29th Inf Div: A/1/175/29

Juno

3rd Canadian Div: A/1CS/7/3

Airborne (C’wlth)

6th Airborne Div: A/12/5/6, A/4/6, C/1C/3/6

 

US Losses: 1 x PARA, 3 x INF

Commonwealth losses: 2 x PARA, 1 x INF, 1 x AT

 

Total Allied Losses: 3 x PARA, 4 x INF, 1 x AT

 

Air losses

Combat support:

Armed Reconnaissance:

 

German losses (8th June Night)

Cotentin Peninsula

91.ID: C/III/1058/91, A/I/6FJ/91

709.ID: A/II/729/709

Omaha

352.ID: A/13.schwere/352

Gold

716.ID: B/I/726/716

 

German losses: 5 x INF

 

Cumulative Losses

 Allied Casualties 8-6 night

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82

(10 + 4 PARA)          C/1/505, E & F/2/508, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, H/3/507,                                                              D/2/507

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 2 PARA)            B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 0 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1

4th Inf Div:               1/8/4

(3 + 3 INF)                A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4, A/1/12/4

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 4 INF)                A & B/3/116/29,  A /2/116/29, 2 x  A/3/115, A/1/175

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

9 x ARM                    A/70/VII (DD)

A & B/745/V

6th Airborne:          8/3/6, 1st Canadian/3/6

(8 + 3 PARA+           A & B/7/5, D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6, (1 ARM)           A/13/5,

1 x ARM, 1 x AT)      A/12/5, A/4/6 (AT)

3rd Inf Div:               1SL/8/3

(4 + 5 INF + 1 ARM)    A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3  ReconA/1KOSB/9/3,      A/1CS/7/3

50th Inf Div:            A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 3 INF)                A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 3 INF)                A/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM/4SS, A/48RM/4SS, C/41RM/4SS

3 COMM

1st Special Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/7/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, B/1ERY/27

5 ARM                       1RMASG

 

German Casualties 8-6 night

12.SS-PzD:               A+B/15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

2 ARM

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD,

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9, 111/1058/91(4Bns),

10 INF, 2 AT             A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,  A/II/1057/91

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130

1 ARM

352.ID:                      B & C/II/916/352, A/14.PaK/352, 2 x A/13.schw/352,

10 INF, 1 AT             2 x A/Pio/352, 2 x A/II/914, A/Füs, A/II/915/352

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739, A/II/729, A/I/6FJ

6 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                       PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,          III/726/716, 1/736/716

25 INF, 4 AT             A & B/I/726/716, A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          7 x (4), 11 x (3), 5 x (2), 4 x (1)

27

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         12                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716

Notes

[1] Only companies “A” and “B” were present, “C” company having been detached to assist in the defence of the bridge over the Mue at Cairon.

[2] Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway, 9th (Home Counties) Parachute Battalion, 3rd Parachute Brigade, 6th Airborne Division.

[3] Lt Colonel George Bradbrooke, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

[4] The Royal Ulster Rifles

[5] “C” Squadron of The Inns of Court Regiment, equipped with Humber armoured cars.

[6] 12th Battalion, 5th Parachute Brigade

[7] 4th Airlanding Anti-tank Battery

[8] 12th Bn

[9] 4th AT Battery

[10] The attackers have been determined to have been I Bataillon, 901 Panzergrenadier-Lehr-Regiment, I & II Bataillon, 902 Panzergrenadier-Lehr-Regiment and Panzeraufklärungs-Lehr-Abteilungs 130.  The latter was equipped with a mix of Puma and older armoured cars.

[11] Believed to have been  from 105mm “Wespes” of Stabsbatterie II Abteilung, Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 130, at the time located on the outskirts of Caen.

[12] Lt General Sir Miles Dempsey, 2nd British Army

[13] Lt General Gerard Bucknall, XXX Corps (Gold)

[14] Lt General Sir John Crocker, I Corps (Juno and Sword)

[15][15] This is the correct identity of the unit, although it was attached to 82nd Airborne as 3rd Bn, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment

[16] Lt Dominick Montelbano, commander of the battalion, later reported that E company had been almost destroyed, and that its commander 2nd Lieutenant John Everett had been killed.

WW2-JohnTEverett-Rutgers47-a

2nd Lieutenant John Everett, born 21 July 1922, Philadelphia. KIA 8th June 1944

[17] Generalmajor Wilhelm von Schlieben, 709.Infanterie-Division

[18] Generalleutnant Heinz Hellmich, 243.Infanterie-Division

[19] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, 91.Infanterie-Division

[20] General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, LXXXIV Armeekorps

[21] Major Dr. Freiherr von der Heydte, Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6

[22] Generalleutnant Walter Düvert, 265.Infanterie-Division

[23] Pionier-Bataillon 265

[24] Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiß, 352.Infanterie-Division

[25] The bridge crossed the Drôme River

[26] Oberführer Werner Ostendorff,  17.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division “Gotz von Berlichingen”.  The units referred to here actually comprise only about half the division.  The rest were about 30 kilometres south of St Lô.  They would take at least another day to reach Bayeux.

[27] Lead elements of 12.SS-Panzer-Division “Hitlerjugend”

[28] 12.SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend”

[29] SS-Brigadeführer Fritz de Witt, commander of 12.SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend”

[30] Generalleutnant Erich Feuchtinger, 21.PzD

[31] 130.Panzer-Lehr-Division

[32] Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, commander of “Lehr”.

[33] Generalleutnant Erich Diestel, commander of 346.Infanterie-Division

8PM 7th June: D-Day + 1 Afternoon

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

 

8PM, 7th June (D+1)

It is becoming more and more clear that “Overlord”[1] will not cause the Germans to collapse in a few weeks, despite the confidence of some.  Both flanks of the invasion sector are under pressure, and though the British are still advancing between in the area between Caen and Bayeux, elsewhere opposition is getting more stubborn.  Add to that the number of enemy reinforcements known to be on the way, and the increasingly poor weather forecasts[2], we could face some difficult days.

That is quite clear on the Cotentin Peninsula. Ridgway[3] is very concerned about the enemy forces concentrating against his division.  He has responsibility for the area between Valognes and the Douve River, and is pulling his men back.  He reports that Maloney[4] has been forced out of Gare de Montebourg, unable to stop a regiment of infantry plus what seems to be some Fallschirmjägers.  (Where did they come from?).  The turning point was a devastating barrage from some nebelwerfers: Maloney’s men said they had never experienced anything like it[5].

1 -1 Cotentin

The position on the Cotentin Peninsula

The rest of the 82nd is gradually moving back to the Merderet, relying on the bocage to protect them as the retreat.

The 101st is also under pressure. German troops are massing in the Montebourg area and west to the coast.  Taylor[6] is not too worried, expecting to free up units as he hands over the assault on Carentan to 4th Infantry.  Barton[7] is doing well in the south, pushing the enemy from St-Côme-du-Mont and south of the Merderet.  (He specifically mentioned the assistance of the 3 inch guns of a full battalion of M10 tank destroyers[8]).  He is preparing to cross the river, but warns that it could take him some time to get his artillery in position: the other side of the river is strongly held.

2 - 1 m10

Getting a 30 ton M10 tank destroyer through bocage can be difficult

The breakout from Omaha has slowed again, even though Gerow[9]‘s men, with the help of the whole of the Western Task Force and more than half of our air sorties, inflicted hundreds of casualties on the enemy.  The Germans have abandoned the coastal defences to the east of the invasion beaches, but have only pulled back slightly in the west.  The loss of almost 400 tanks in the first disastrous day at Omaha is proving costly: the Shermans of 745th Tank Battalion were critical in eliminating the last strongpoint on the western approach to the beach.

3 - 1 Shermans

One of the many Shermans that did not make it off Omaha: more were lost in the assaults on the coastal defences

On the west flank of the British area, Graham[10] says that resistance has vanished.  His lead units are less than 5 miles from Bayeux and other than some infantry in Tracy-sur-Mer, nowhere are the Germans to be seen.  Arromanches-les-Bains has been abandoned, St-Côme-sur-Mer has been captured and the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers[11], has crossed the Seulles and is approaching Martragny.  I wonder if they are singing “Men of Harlech” as they march – the Welsh soldiers love belting out that song.

4 - 1 Arromanches-les-Bains

Arromanches-les-Bains today, looking west. The cliffs continue unbroken all the way to Omaha Beach

East of the 50th Infantry, the Canadians are doing even better, having reached the Bayeux-Caen highway. Only a day late but at least they have reached a D-Day objective.  On the way, the Shermans of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division[12] had a fierce battle with German armoured reconnaissance on the road between Camilly and Routs, west of the river Mue, and completely wiped out the enemy unit[13].  The armour is reportedly from Hitlerjugend[14], which was not known to be in the area, and according to Keller[15] his reconnaissance units[16] have run into some powerful units of that division heading east along the highway.  I hope the Humbers don’t think they can deal with panzers: even the 37mm gun of the Mark IV[17] will not do much against a Panther.

5 - 1 puma wreck

A Puma destroyed by the Canadian armour west of the Mue River

Unfortunately the news from the Caen area is not as promising: 3rd Infantry has found the enemy defenders almost immovable. German artillery has become far stronger and more effective, and the number of armoured vehicles present has increased.  Progress has stalled about 5 miles from the city outskirts, and according to Rennie[18] unless he gets more troops, especially artillery, and air support, his men are unlikely to make a breakthrough. 

6 - 1 Caen

Halted in front of Caen, though the highway to Bayeux is cut

Not a bad day, even if resistance is growing. The real problem, however, is not the enemy: it is supply.  Or more correctly, the lack of supply.  Getting fuel, ammunition, food and replacements across the channel to the invasion force was always going to be demanding, and the weather is not helping. 

Those of us still at Southwick House[19] (a lot of staff are on their way to France and more have moved to Bushy Park[20]) are flat out trying to boost the flow of supplies, knowing that meeting all demands is impossible.  The absence of a lot of the “visitors” who hung around during Neptune has made life a bit quieter and a lot more efficient.  Most of the senior commanding officers are now in London, so it was noticeable when Eisenhower and Montgomery, both with a full entourage, met  here.  The topic: supply for the British.

7 - 1 photo_campgriffiss1

Accommodation huts at Bushy Park, home for most of the planners of Overlord

Although I was not personally present, from what I heard all of Eisenhower’s legendary skills were needed. Montgomery pushed hard for supplies to be stripped from the US forces and sent to the British, arguing we should reinforce success.  Probably Eisenhower wore him down, as logistics officers made presentation after presentation explaining the problems in changing supply chains drastically.   The early planning had assumed that the US zone, with more troops and more vehicles, would consume 60% of supply, and the logistics were set up on that basis.  Changing that ratio was possible, but to do so without massive disruption the process would need to be gradual.

Montgomery, always keen for the British to lead, had to be satisfied with the ratio being changed to 50:50, with the possibility of the British share rising to 60% in a few days. Even that is going to be a nightmare to organise, with different depots having to be opened, cargo routes redrawn, landing schedules reorganised.  There won’t be much rest here for the next few days.

8 - 1 stores

Changing the supply network cannot be done with the stroke of a pen: there a million things to be done

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

As night falls, we are praying for a miracle. Casualty figures keep rising, and although the first reinforcements are getting close to the coast, our defences are at breaking point.  More and more staff are crammed into La Roche Guyton[21] as the logistics of managing all the new units become more and more complex.  The allied bombing does not help, even if it has been minimal to date.  (Reports are that vital bridges on the St Lo – Carentan and St Lo – Bayeux highways have been destroyed, and Lehr[22] has come under air attack as it nears Caen.)

9 - 1 blown bridge

The Allied bombing has already started to slow reinforcements as units are rerouted

The Cotentin Peninsula and the key port of Cherbourg is safe at least. Procedures to destroy the facilities are in place but the order to commence demolition has not been issued: it can be sent when it appears the port is threatened.  As it is, in the north Schlieben[23] has started to push the invaders back, and claims some success.  In the west, the paratroopers who surprised us and threatened to cut the main highway to Cherbourg are pulling back in the face of pressure from 243 and 91.ID.  Klosterkemper[24] is relieved to have rescued the headquarters staff of 91.ID: the poorly armed administrative troops did well to hold off savage attacks for more than 24 hours.  (The body of Generalleutnant Falley[25] was recovered from Picauville).

10 - 1 Paras

Men of the Fallschirmjäger Training Regiment move up during the successful attack on Gare du Montebourg.

Von der Heydte[26], charged with holding Carentan, has disturbing news.  6.Fallschirmjägerregiment has been forced to withdraw behind the Douve, abandoning St Côme du Mont.  Although the Fallschirmjägers evacuated without loss, III Bataillon, 1058 Regiment, 91.ID was almost annihilated when it was hit by at least a full regiment of infantry with dozens of American tanks.  It would appear that the US paratroopers have moved away and been replaced by infantry that have landed somewhere up the coast.  Von der Heydte was right to pull back: his men are the only thing stopping the Americans leaving the peninsula and moving towards the invasion beaches to the east.

11 - 1 Omaha

352.ID concedes the invasion beaches to the Americans

There the situation is grim. The strongpoints to the east remain intact, but that is of little importance.  Americans are pouring ashore, and have been throwing everything they have at 352.ID which was never intended to fight pitched battles, let alone the sort of bombardment Kraiß[27] describes.  He has used almost all his Feldersatz battailons, and losses continue to mount, even though he has pulled back to the west, leaving the route to Bayeux open.  The only hope of stopping the Americans from taking that town seems to be 30.schnelle Brigade, which is racing west as fast as it can.  Its lead units, including its self-propelled anti-tank guns are about 8 kilometres from the city.

12 - 1 schnelle brigade

4.7cm PaK auf Pzkw 35f self propelled anti-tank guns lead cyclists of 30.schnelle Brigade towards Bayeux.

If the road to Bayeux from the west is lightly held, the road from the east is wide open. A few units of 352.ID that have not been able to make it back to the rest of the division and what might be the last surviving battailon of 716.ID[28] are all that remain to the east of the city, and the road to Caen has been cut.  Everything has been considered but the conclusion is always the same: unless 12.SS-PzD can clear the highway and push west then the city is doomed.

13 - 1 Bayeux

The situation to the east of Bayeux is almost hopeless

Clearing the highway may be a tough task. Meyer[29] has lost contact with a reconnaissance unit that was sent south from Rots and another unit has located enemy tanks near Bretteville-le-Orguielluese. Nevertheless, a regiment of panzers are moving rapidly down the highway towards Bayeux and infantry from 21.PzD are in the area to give support.  The rest of “Hitlerjugend”  is already passing through Caen and that will allow the infantry from 21.PzD to return to the defence of that city.

That is going fairly well, or at least a lot better than it was this morning. Feuchtinger[30] has formed a tenuous line in front of the city, despite the complete destruction of 716.ID.  With his divisional artillery now in range, he has been able to provide both offensive and defensive support.    It seems to have given the British something to think about: at least enough to make them slow their advance to a crawl.  The arrival of most of 346.ID has freed up those elements of 21.PzD that were containing the paratroopers east of the Orne.  That area is still a problem, but it has been contained for now.

14 - 1 Hummel_

A company of Hummel[31] 15cm howitzers from III/155/21.PzD prepare to fire from a field south of Caen

Looking at the sky before dusk, it seems that tomorrow will be cloudy again. The meteorologists tell us that the likelihood of rain in the next few days is very high.  I hope so: we need a few days of no Allied planes harassing our troops on the roads and devastating our front line positions.  Not to mention some rough seas to slow down the landing of more men and supplies.

Rommel has ordered all general staff who have been on duty since the invasion was detected to have an early night. He is predicting that tomorrow will see a marked improvement in our position as our reinforcements begin to arrive in strength.  That may be so, but I still would prefer a decent thunderstorm.

 

Commentary

15 - 1 The Battle for NormandyMap Edge

The overall situation: safely ashore but some real fighting looming as German reinforcements draw closer

The afternoon of D-day +1 could mark the time the Germans began to get a grip on the situation. While the arrival of regular infantry at Utah allowed a strong push south, the paras to the west and north were facing increasing pressure as the commanders of the three German divisions regained control of their units.  Omaha was no longer a crisis, but the backlog on the beaches slowed the ability of the US to move inland.

That forward units of the British and Canadians threatened Bayeux and had cut the main route to that city from the west was encouraging, but the three divisions landed to date were stretched very thin and lacked the powerful artillery needed to hold off the expected counter-attacks. With supply nearly exhausted, there was little option but to dig-in and try to hold the territory already taken.  For the Germans, however, the need to remove the threat to Bayeux meant that all available reinforcements in the west would be deployed to that end.  The loss of the bridge to the southwest of Bayeux meant that there was no hope of assistance arriving from that direction until the morning of 8th June.

 

Allied Losses (7th June PM)

Airborne (US)

82nd Airborne Division:

101st Airborne Division:

Utah

4th Infantry Div: A/3/12/4

Omaha

29th Inf Div: A/3/115

1st Inf Div: Nil

Gold

50th Inf Div: A/6DL/50

Juno

3rd Canadian Div: A + B/LRC/8/3 CAN

Independent: A/27SFR/2

Sword

1SS:

3rd Inf Div: C/1SL/8/3, 1RNR/185/3, A/3/3 Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3

Independent: B/1ERY/27

Airborne (C’wlth)

6th Airborne Div: Nil

 

US Losses: 2 x INF

Commonwealth losses: 6 x INF, 3 x ARM

Total Allied Losses: 8 INF, 3 ARM

 

Allied Air Losses

Combat Support: 1

Armed Reconnaissance: 1

 

 

German losses

Cotentin Peninsula

91.ID: A + B/111/1058/91, A/II/1057/91

709.ID:

Strongpoints: (4)

Static Artillery:

Omaha

352.ID: A/Pio/352, A/II/914/352, A/II/915/352

716.ID:

Independent: B/II.1/III Flak

Strongpoints: Nil

Gold

716.ID: Nil

21.PzD: C/1/192/21.PzD

12.SS-PzD: A+B/15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

Strongpoints:

Static Artillery:

Juno

716.ID:

21.PzD:

Independent Artillery:

Strongpoints:

Sword

716.ID: C/III/736/716

21.PzD: A/I/125/21.PzD, B/9.SiG/21.PzD

Static Artillery:

Strongpoints: (3)

East of Caen

21.PzD: Nil

Elsewhere

130.PzD “Lehr”: A/10.SiG/Lehr

German losses: 9 x INF, 4 x ARM, 1 x Flak, 2 x Strongpoints

 

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied losses:Allied Casualties 7-6PM

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82

(10 + 3 PARA)           C/1/505, E & F/2/508, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, H/3/507,

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 2 PARA)              B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 0 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1

4th Inf Div:             A &B/1/8/4, A/3/8/4, A/3/12/4

(3 + 1 INF)

29th Inf Div:            1/116/29, 1/115/29

(8 + 3 INF)                A & B/3/116/29, A/2/116/29, 2 x A/3/115

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent          743/V, 741/V

9 x ARM                    A/70/VII (DD)

A & B/745/V

6th Airborne:         8/3/6

(8 + 1 PARA)             A & B/1st Canadian/3, A & B/7/5, D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6, A/13/5

(1 ARM)

3rd Inf Div:             1SL/8/3

(4 + 4 INF + 1 ARM)  A & C/2EY/8/3, B/2EY/8/3, A/1RNR/185/3, A/3/3                                                                            Recon, A/1KOSB/9/3

50th Inf Div:            A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 3 INF)                A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69, A/6DL/50

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 3 INF)                A/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3, A + B/LRC/8/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM/4SS, A/48RM/4SS, C/41RM/4SS

3 COMM

1st Special: Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/8 (DD), A/27SFR/2, B/1ERY/27

5 ARM                       1RMASG

 

German losses: German Casualties 7-6PM

12.SS-PzD:               A+B/15.Aufk/12.SS-PzD

2 ARM

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD, 1/192/21.PzD, 9siG/21.PzD

7 INF, 4 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/I/125/21.PzD,

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91, 13/6FJ/9

9 INF, 2 AT               A (x2) + B/111/1058/91, A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91,                                                                 A/II/1057/91

130.PzD “Lehr”      A/10.SiG/130

1 ARM

352.ID:                      B & C/II/916/352, A/14.PaK/352, A/13.schw/352,

9 INF, 1 AT               2 x A/Pio/352, 2 x A/II/914, A/Füs, A/II/915/352

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739

(4) INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                                              PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                                        III/726/716, 1/736/716

24 INF, 4 AT             A/I/726/716, A &B/III/735/716,  A/Pio

Independent:          II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

3 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          7 x (4), 11 x (3), 5 x (2), 4 x (1)

27

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         12                          1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                       1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716

 

NOTES

[1] “Operation Overlord” was the name given to the Battle for Normandy.  (The invasion itself was “Operation Neptune”).

[2] Although 8th June would be cloudy, heavy rain was predicted for the next three days.

[3] General Matthew B Ridgway, 82nd Airborne Division

[4] Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Maloney, 3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne

[5] The nebelwerfers were later identified as being from schwere Stellungs-Werfer-Abteilung 101, schweres Stellungs-Werfer-Regimenter 101, at the time located near Montebourg.  It is believed to have been equipped with the 15cm Nebelwerfer 41

16 - 1 15-cmNbW41-2

Loading a 15cm nebelwerfer

[6] Major General Maxwell D Taylor, 101st Airborne Division

[7] Major General Raymond Barton, 4th Infantry Division

[8] 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Lt Colonel Maxwell Tincher.  Part of VII Corps

[9] Major General Leonard T Gerow, V Corps, First US Army

[10] Major General Douglas Alexander Graham, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division

[11] The 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers, was attached to 50th Infantry Division for the landings.

[12] Companies “A” and “B” of 1st Battalion, 6th Hussars Regiment, attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

[13] The identity of the unit involved is not clear, but it was an aufklärungsabteilung of 17th SS Division equipped with the Puma 234/2.

[14] 17th SS Panzer Division

[15] Major General Rodney Frederick Keller, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

[16] 7th Reconnaissance Regiment, (17th Duke of York Royal Canadian Hussars), 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

[17] The British Humber armoured car was used throughout the war, but by 1944, even the Mark IV, equipped with the US made M5/M6 rather than the previously used 15mm machine gun, was restricted to reconnaissance units.

16 - 1 humber5

A Canadian Humber IV: not really suitable for a tank battle

[18] Major General Thomas Gordon Rennie, 3rd Infantry Division

[19] Southwick Park was the forward headquarters of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force)

[20] Camp Griffiss, Bushy Park, London, was the site of the main headquarters of SHAEF.

[21] The Chateau of La Roche Guyon, headquarters of Army Group B, 50 kilometres northwest of Paris on the Seine River

[22] 130.Panzer-Division “Lehr”

[23] Generalmajor Wilhelm Schlieben, 709.ID.

[24] Generalmajor Klosterkemper, replaced Generalleutnant Falley as commander of 91.ID

[25] Original commander of 91.ID, killed in action on D-day when his headquarters was surrounded by soldiers of 82nd Airborne.

[26] Major Friedrich Freiherr von der Heydte, commander of 6.Fallschirmjägerregiment, attached to 91.Luftlande-Infanterie-Division.

[27] Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiß, 352.ID

[28] Two companies of I Bataillon, 726 Grenadier-Regiment, 719.ID remained in Tracy-sur-Mer.  Oberst Walter Korfes was ordered to hold the road junction to the last man, to give the reinforcements time to move up.

[29] SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer, 12.SS-PzD “Hitlerjugend”

[30] Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger, 21.PzD

[31] Although the nickname “Hummel” (“Bumblebee”) had been banned by a direct order from the Führer, who felt that it was an inappropriate name for an armoured vehicle, the name was still widely used in June 1944.

1PM 7th June: D-Day +1 Morning

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (with commentary)

1 PM, 7th June (D+1)

Not a bad morning, though the paras on the Cotentin Peninsula were hit badly. The big relief is that the stranglehold on Omaha has, if not been broken, at least relaxed a little.  The big worry is the drain on available supply, especially by the Commonwealth forces.  True, they are charging forward, but it can’t be sustained at this rate.

German counter-attacks are pushing the paras back, even in the bocage that gives them such good cover. In the north, we have been forced back from Montebourg and in the south our grip on the enemy headquarters in Picauville was released as enemy armour broke into Pont l’Abbé.  Both Ridgway[1] and Taylor[2] were alarmed at casualties but until Omaha is secure no extra assistance can be given.  Ridgway is particularly worried as the Germans are back to within a few miles of his headquarters and they are now using artillery to good effect.  Once again he is preparing to pull back, perhaps to the bridge over the Merderet River[3] at La Fière.

1 - 1 lafiere1944

The Merderet and the bridge at La Fière: the road through the flooded countryside was critical

The agony of Omaha may be over, if the expressions of Bradley[4] and Gerow[5] are any indication.  The decision to use all the naval and air assets possible to assist the break out seems to have paid off.   Any thought the Germans had of a counter-attack on the landing beaches was destroyed when at dawn both 1st and 29th Infantry threw themselves at the defenders.  Losses were relatively low, due no doubt to the overwhelming bombardment that accompanied each assault.  Huebner’s HQ reports that Colleville-sur-Mer has been evacuated, the flak unit that gave us so much trouble pulling out after its infantry protection was annihilated in heavy fighting.[6]

3 - 1 Omaha

Omaha beach: with the bluffs cleared landing can proceed uninterrupted

Although the Commonwealth could still not push west, signs are good that this afternoon they should start to advance on Bayeux. The Germans have evacuated their forward positions, even though they had not been attacked.  In the centre of the invasion area, the Canadians have crossed the Seulles River and captured the town of Creully.  There seems nothing to prevent them reaching the Caen-Bayeux highway.  Only in the east, in front of the city of Caen,  is there any organised defence.  Progress is being made, but it is slow and costly: not so much in casualties as in supply consumption.  At this rate the British will exhaust their stockpiles in a few days.

4 - 1 Commonwealth

The Commonwealth units are surging forward against minimal resistance, but for how long?

Across the Orne River, the British paras are holding on, but Gale is taking a positive view. Although he has given up (for now) hope of blocking the Caen-Troarn road, he is sure he can cover the left flank of the invasion.

This morning’s event have ended any thought that we will be thrown back into the sea. The question now is who will win the race to the coast.  With the improvement at Omaha we can land at full capacity, and work has begun on the improvised harbours which will let us land more.  But our planes were unable to do much to slow the advancing German columns, and reconnaissance flights reveal at least five divisions heading north and west.

10 - 2 The Battle for NormandyMap.jpg

Air reconnaissance: German divisions on the move

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

Daylight has made clear the problems we face against the Americans and the British. Even with cloudy conditions their bombers and naval guns were decisive.  Kraiß[7] is devastated.  His planned counter-attack on the American landings west of Bayeux was crushed before it even started.  Pounded by the huge guns of battleships and cruisers offshore, unable to move without aircraft bombing and strafing them, the waiting soldiers were decimated and Kraiß had no choice but to pull them back to save them from being destroyed.  As it was, he used almost all his reserves to replace losses: more than 500 men gone in a single morning.

5 - 1 flak-38

“Better to fight and run away”: a Flak 38 gun of II.1/III Flak Brigade backed by infantry of 352.ID after pulling back to a new defensive line

No aircraft were reported further east but they were not needed. The British are pouring into the gap between Bayeux and Caen, any resistance being overwhelmed with infantry backed by armour and naval guns.  A tearful Richter[8] has admitted that he cannot contribute to the defence: his division has ceased to exist.  Only a few isolated or fleeing companies remain.  That means that 21.PzD has the sole responsibility for saving Caen.  Thankfully at Rommel’s insistence von Salmuth[9] released 346.ID and that unit has made its way to cover the enemy east of the Orne.  Even better, 12th SS is approaching Caen and will be in action later today.  Not a moment too soon, von Hülsen[10] warning that those elements of his division in combat are facing increasingly heavy attacks: one panzergrenadier battailon has already been destroyed.  For the moment, Rommel has ordered that the SS are to proceed towards Bayeux, eliminating any enemy forces that threaten the highway.

6 - 1 sdkfz

Wreckage is all the remains of 1/192/21.PzD

Elsewhere reinforcements are making their way north as fast as possible. Lead elements of Schnelle Brigade 30 have crossed the Aure on the way to Bayeux from the west.  “Lehr” is now north of Falaise, but has been slowed down by the hilly country around Poitigny.  Terrain has also slowed 17th SS as it nears St. Lo and 256.ID, with the help of the borrowed trucks, is catching up with it.  (Fortunately American attacks on bridges along the road failed: the only bridge destroyed was south of Bayeux, at Subies on the Drôme).  A decision must be made in the next few hours: where will those units be sent?

Originally it had looked as though at least one division would be needed on the Cotentin Peninsula. The counter-attacks organised by Klosterkemper[11] in the south and von Schlieben[12] have been successful and 243.ID should soon be in position to join in.  The enemy have been contained and as Marcks[13] takes control of the situation we can expect pressure to be applied to reduce the size of the beachhead.

7 - 1 Marder II

Marder IIs of Panzerjäger Abteilung 243 enter Pont l’Abbé

The next few hours could be decisive. Rommel (and, behind the scenes I suspect von Rundstedt) has used every bit of influence he has to persuade Berlin to release troops to halt the invasion before the enemy land too many soldiers and too much equipment.  We have regained control of the situation but can we maintain that control?

8 - 1 91.ID

The situation in the south of the Cotentin Peninsula has improved

 

Commentary

Although there were some setbacks for the US paratroopers, that could not compare with the success at Omaha and the continued expansion of the beachhead north of Caen. With the bluffs above the Omaha landing beaches finally cleared the backlog of reinforcements could start to get ashore and the Commonwealth advances eliminated any significant threat from the west.

The real problem was not the Germans but supply. The US stockpiles were in good shape, mainly because so few troops had been in action.  The Commonwealth, however, had used more than two-thirds of its allocation.  It had been expected that supply consumption would be 60:40, with the US forces using the larger amount.  That assumption would have to be reviewed if the British were not to come to a halt before Caen.

9 - 1 supply

Supply stockpiles are declining fast

 

Allied Losses (7th June AM)

Airborne (US)

82nd Airborne Division: H/3/507, F/2/508, B/1/508

101st Airborne Division: A/1/502, A/2/506

Utah

4th Infantry Div: Nil

Omaha

29th Inf Div: B/1/115, A/3/115

1st Inf Div: Nil

Gold

50th Inf Div: B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69

Juno

3rd Canadian Div: C/RRR/7/3

Sword

1SS: A/4RM

3rd Inf Div: B/1SL/8

Airborne (C’wlth)

6th Airborne Div: A/13/5

 

US Losses: 5 x PARA, 2 x INF

Commonwealth losses: 1 x PARA, 4 x INF, 1 x COMM

Total Allied Losses: 6 x PARA, 6 x INF, 1 x COMM

 

German losses (7th June AM)

Cotentin Peninsula

91.ID: Nil

709.ID: A/III/739

Strongpoints: (3)

Static Artillery: 2/HKAR 1251

Omaha

352.ID: Pio/352, A/II/914, A/Füs

716.ID: A/II/916, B/439/726

Strongpoints: Nil

Gold

716.ID: Nil

21.PzD: A&B/1/192

Strongpoints: Nil

Static Artillery: 5/AR 1716, 3/HKAA 1250

Juno

716.ID: B/441 Ost, C/III/726

21.PzD: C/III/192

Independent Artillery: Abt 989

Strongpoints: Nil

Sword

716.ID: A&B/1/736, A/III/735, A/Pio

21.PzD: A/9siG

Static Artillery: 10/AR 1716

East of Caen

21.PzD: Nil

 

German losses: 14 x INF, ARM x 2, 1 x ART, 1 x Strongpoint, 4 x Static Artillery

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 7-6AM

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82, 1/506/82

(10 + 3 PARA)          C/1/505, E & F/2/508, G & I/3/508, A/2/505, H/3/507,

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

(9 + 2 PARA)                        B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506, A/1/502, A/2/506

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

(6 + 0 INF)                A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1

4th Inf Div:               A &B/1/8/4, A/3/8/4

(3 + 0 INF)

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29

(8 + 2 INF)                A & B/3/116/29,A & C/2/116/29, A & B/1/115/29, A/3/115

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

9 x ARM                    A/70/VII (DD)

A & B/745/V

6th Airborne:          8/3/6

(8 + 1 PARA)              A & B/1st Canadian/3, A & B/7/5, D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6,  A/13/5                      (1 ARM)

3rd Inf Div:               A & C/2EY/8/3, A & B/1SL/8/3, B/2EY/8/3

(4 + 1 INF)

50th Inf Div:            A & B/1HR/231, A/6GH/231, A & C/5EY/69

(6 + 2 INF)                A & B/7GH/69, A/6GH/69

3rd Canadian:         RRR/7

(5 + 1 INF)                A/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM/4SS, A/48RM/4SS, C/41RM/4SS

3 COMM

1st Special; Service Brigade: A & B/4RM, C/3RM

(2 +1 COMM)

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/8 (DD)

3 ARM                       1RMASG

 

German losses

German Casualties 7-6AM

21.PzD:                     II/192/21.PzD

5 INF, 3 ARM           A/II/121/21Pz, , A/200 PzJag/21.PzD, A/125/21.PzD,                                                                 A&B/1/192, A/9siG

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91

6 INF, 2 AT               A/111/1058/91, A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91, 13/6FJ/9

352.ID:                      B & C/II/916/352, A/14.PaK/352, A/13.schw/352, Pio/352,

6 INF, 1 AT               A/II/914, A/Füs

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739, A/III/739

(4) INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                                              PzJag/716, 439/726/716 Ost, II/736/716, 441/716/Ost,                                                                        III/726/716

23 INF, 4 AT             A/I/726/716, A &B/III/735/716, A&B/1/736, A/Pio

Independent:          A/II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

2 Flak

Independent:          Abt 989

1 Art

Strongpoints:          6 x (4), 10 x (3), 5 x (2), 4 x (1)

25

Static Artillery:        1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716, 1/HKAR         12                                    1261, 6/ AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716, 2/HKAR 1251, 5/AR                                 1716, 3/HKAA 1250, 10/AR 1716

 

Notes

[1] Major General Matthew B Ridgway, 82nd Airborne Division

[2] Major General Maxwell D Taylor, 101st Airborne Division

[3] Although the Merderet is not a major river, the flooding of adjacent farmland made the causeway and bridge the only real avenue to move east/west.

2 - 1 Riviere_merderet

The Merderet River today

[4] Lieutenant Omar N Bradley, 1st US Army

[5] Major General Leonard T Gerow, V Corps, responsible for Omaha Beach

[6] Lieutenant Colonel Edmund F Driscoll, commander of 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, which took part in the dawn assault, wrote about the action many years later.

My battalion had made it off the beach but we had lost a lot of men. The rest of the division was still trapped below the bluffs and could not move out until we cleared the Germans out of Colleville.  The village was held by a bunch of mixed flak guns with several hundred Ukrainian troops in support.  It was the flak that was the real problem: the 88s had destroyed all the armour that survived the landings and the smaller guns (37 and 20mm SP) were deadly against our infantry. 

Still, they blocked the road off the beach so not long after dawn (light enough for the naval spotters and fighter-bombers to see what they were attacking) the whole of the 2nd Battalion (with a company from 18th Regiment) stormed up the bluff while we moved in from the east. It might have been a massacre had it not been for the naval guns.  As we moved off dozens of guns opened up out at sea and the village disappeared behind a cloud of dust.  That went on for about 30 mins while we moved as close as we could to the enemy defensive positions.  The guns stopped as if a switch had been flipped and we advanced cautiously.   There was some return fire but a lot of the flak guns were elevated to fire at our aircraft that were targeting everything that moved in the village.

After an hour of so the small arms fire virtually stopped: the Ukrainians were either dead or had run. The flak remained however and despite our best efforts we could not penetrate any closer.  Hicks (Lieutenant Colonel Herbert C Hicks, commander of 2nd Battalion) and his men were still pinned down, and Colonel Taylor (commander, 16th Infantry Regiment) ordered us to halt.  We were bitterly disappointed, but not long after we heard engines noise from the village and forward observers reported that the enemy SP flak was pulling back.  The Germans can’t have had any infantry to replace the Ukrainians and the flak commander was not going to risk his guns again.  That was good enough for me: I was not looking forward to sending my men back against those damn flakvierling guns.”

flakvierling

Not a sight our troops want to see: a 20cm flakvierling 38 self-propelled gun

[7] Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiß, 352.ID

[8] Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter, 716.ID

[9] Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth: commander of 15.Armee, responsible for coastal protection from Caen to Holland.

[10] Generalmajot Heinrich-Hermann von Hülsen, 21.PzD.

[11] Generalmajor Bernhard Klosterkemper, acting commander of 91.ID

[12] Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, 709.ID

[13] General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, LXXXIV Armeekorp

9AM 7th June: D-Day Night

From the diary of Major George Miller, US Army, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force

9AM, 7th June (D+1)

I overslept this morning – not surprising with the frantic pace of yesterday. Though when I say overslept, it was not long after daybreak.  Even with English summertime it was not long after 7AM.  Maybe the cloudy skies caused me to sleep in.  Not a good omen for D-2: our aircraft will be a lot less effective.  Still, Southwick House was bustling by the time I arrived, phones ringing, motor-cycle couriers running around like madmen, worried looking adjutants everywhere. And more stars, epaulettes and ribbons than you could imagine.

Probably the most sombre looking was Admiral Ramsay[1].  Yesterday’s naval losses have been confirmed.  The Royal Navy suffered the worst.  Two battleships and no less than seven light cruisers are out of action for the foreseeable future.  Add to that seven destroyers and three destroyer escorts and it is clear the British have paid a heavy price for supplying most of the naval support.  But the US Navy also lost two cruisers and a destroyer, the French a destroyer and the Polish an escort.  About the only positive news for the navy, apart from the gratitude of the army commanders for the support of their big guns, was that the transfer of the entire fleet off the coast of Utah to the coast of Omaha was carried out without loss.  It has been, according to those who were present overnight, a nerve-wracking time for Ramsay.  Admiral Kirk[2] was aboard the “Augusta”, leading his ships through the minefields, alert for e-boats and submarines, every flak gun on the watch.  He had plenty to do: all Ramsay could do was wait. 

1 -1 ship AA

Western Task Force fires its anti-aircraft guns: were there any enemy bombers present?

Had General Bradley[3] been there, I think he would have looked more upset than Ramsay.  He is apparently in discussions with Gerow[4], as the information from Omaha is not good.  The queue to get a landing spot is growing, even though the beach controllers are doing their best to get men and vehicles off the beach as quickly as possible.  It is just that the Germans have now built a perimeter around the bridgehead and it is getting harder to break out.  Gerhardt[5] reported that an attempt by Colonel Canham[6] to take Colleville sur Mer overnight failed with heavy losses.

2 -1 Omaha

Omaha: during the night more German units moved up to further restrict the beachhead.

Utah would not be troubling Bradley much: Collins[7] is making up for the initial delays and claims he will have the entire 4th Infantry ashore by the end of the day.  There Germans seem still shocked: at least they did not make any attacks overnight though we must assume that reinforcements are moving up.  With St Mère Église in the hands of 101st Airborne Division, Taylor[8] assured Ridgway[9] that he had his back.  As a result, 82nd Airborne has tightened its grip on Picauville, where we are now sure we have surrounded the headquarters of the German 91.Infanterie-Division.

All the British beaches expanded overnight, to varying degrees. Unfortunately the Germans have created a barrier to movement to the west, and although General Dempsey[10] has ordered XXX Corps to make linking up with the US VII Corps a priority, little progress has been made.  50th Division has been given enough vehicles to motorise all its units, but Graham[11] cannot yet muster the strength to make a breakout towards the beleaguered Americans.

Advances inland were made during the hours of darkness, with about half a dozen successful night attacks between Asnelles and the Canal de Caen. Troops are streaming ashore and all the indications are that today will see a concerted push towards Caen.

3 - 1 Night

After one day, only the Commonwealth landings are going according to plan

The only cloud on the horizon comes from Gale[12] on the eastern side of the Orne River.  He is coming under increasing pressure, with a large German force moving through the Bois de Bavent.  Failure to destroy all the bridges across the Dives River has allowed the enemy to bring up more troops from the east.  The armoured unit to the south, now confirmed as 21.Panzer-Division, is far too strong for the lightly armed paratroopers.  As it is, nothing has been heard from the unit holding Cuverville[13], and it must be assumed to have been lost.

3 - 2 flammenwerfer

Pionere armed with the Flammenwerfer 41 attack Cuverville

With the problems at Omaha, plans have been altered. Obviously I was not au fait with all the details of the original strategy, but it is was fairly clear from the logistical demands what had been intended.  The British were to take Caen within a day or two of landing and then to drive east, using the Bénouville bridge to threaten the German flank while they headed southwest towards Falaise and Argences.  V Corps had been meant to push from Omaha to Bayeux while also co-operating with the airborne troops on the Cotentin to join up at Carentan.  Meanwhile, VII Corps would concentrate on moving north, its objective being the major port at Cherbourg.

All this is now in the air. In a funny way, that is how I can see what is being planned.  I don’t get to sit in on military discussions, but the orders to the air groups created a bit of a row, and they show the change in objectives.  Everything is now to be concentrated on breaking the ring around V Corps and some of the air commanders were less than enthusiastic at changing their plans.   Leigh-Mallory[14] only has command of RAF Second Tactical Airforce and the US 9th Air Force and even they are supposed to be dedicated to supporting their own armies.  From what I hear, Eisenhower intervened personally and made it clear he would tolerate no objections.  (My sources tell me he is concerned at the lack of co-operation and will move to place RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th Airforce directly under SHAEF to make sure no more problems arise.  And that Leigh-Mallory is being watched: neither Eisenhower nor Montgomery were impressed by his performance.)

4 - 1 Air_Marshal_Leigh-Mallory_Briefing

Air-Chief Marshall Leigh Mallory addresses air crews to stress the importance of their new missions

Medium bombers are to harry the reinforcements moving up, but not on the Cotentin peninsula, only to the south. All fighter bombers and attack bombers other than a few assigned to the surviving Dives bridges are reserved to carry out operations to seal off Omaha or support the ground troops as they break out of the perimeter.  More than 60% of all supplies will be sent to the west, the British having to make do with the remainder.

I would have thought Montgomery would be unhappy, but a couple of people told me he did not express any annoyance that the Commonwealth divisions would have to change their plans to assist the Americans. Not that he showed anyway.  He might be keen to get his own soldiers into Paris first, but he is no fool.  If Omaha collapses, or if the Americans cannot land enough troops to tie up the Germans moving from the south of France, then the invasion will stall.

So the focus for today will be on Omaha. Gerow will have all the naval and air support that Eisenhower can provide but at the end of the day it is up to his two divisions to break the German perimeter.  Collins has been told to forget Cherbourg for now and to help the 101st take Carentan.  Bucknall also has new orders for XXX Corps: with a direct route along the coast blocked he is to take Bayeux as quickly as possible and then move to assist the Americans.  All other British and Commonwealth units are to push south, but the objective is not specifically Caen: it is to cut the Caen-Bayeux road.  6th Airborne is to hang on until it can be reinforced but if necessary to fall back on the Bénouville bridge.

 

From the diary of Hauptmann Georg Müller, attached to Army Group B (with commentary)

A disturbed night. Enemy bombers and related alerts woke me a few times, but it was the sound of cars and vehicles screaming into and out of the Chateau[15] that were the real problem.  As every messenger squealed to a halt I started to wonder what fresh disaster was about to be reported.  Defeatist?  Perhaps, but there was little to be positive about.

When I abandoned all thoughts of sleep, dressed, ate a decent breakfast and reported for duty, I found that my lack of confidence started to fade. Rommel[16] had arrived overnight and had spent some hours being briefed by von Rundstedt[17] before taking command of the situation.  His enthusiasm and determination were contagious: the confusion and concerns of yesterday were swept aside.  Add to that the cloudy skies hinting of worse weather to come, and things did not look so bad.

OKW was still dithering: Berlin apparently not convinced this was the major invasion we have been preparing for. I am not sure if they thought this was a diversion or a large raid, a sort of scaled up Dieppe[18].  There was no doubt at the Chateau, and von Rundstedt and Rommel used every trick they knew to get troops moving, even as OKW[19] refused to issue orders to release the units.

7 - 1 Dieppe-Raid

Wounded Canadians, a knocked out Churchill and burning landing craft: Dieppe was a costly but valuable learning experience for the Allies

In the light of day, things did not look as terrible as when, exhausted, I had collapsed in bed. While I tossed and turned, others had kept working.  Phone, radio and telegraph messages had been made and received, recalcitrant officers harangued, supplies released.  Under cover of darkness reinforcements had made good time moving north and west, and Rommel was starting to organise a co-ordinated defence.  In fact, he was already talking of counter-attacks and driving the invaders back into the sea.

The situation on the Cotentin Peninsula has stabilised and the complete confusion that existed yesterday has largely disappeared. Cherbourg is secure for now, as Schlieben[20] has 709.ID placed to block any advance north.  Valognes is no longer under threat and we have units from the Merderet to the flooded areas[21] south of Quineville.  Although 243.ID is still struggling to get all its units into place, the vital road from Valognes to St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte is under our control: no parachutists have been reported that far west. The south is still a bit of a worry, mainly due to the apparent loss of the headquarters of 91.ID.  Generalmajor Klosterkemper has set up a temporary headquarters at St Sauveur, and is co-ordinating the effort to break through to Picauville, where it is believed the headquarters is trapped.  A few units of 91.ID, supported by a handful of tanks[22], is holding St-Côme-du-Mont north of the Douve River, blocking the road to Carentan.

8 - 1 PzKpfw_38H_735_f

Hotchkiss 38-H 734(f) tanks of PzBn 100 moving north to defend Carentan

Cotentin.jpg

The Cotentin Peninsula at daybreak on 7th June: the Germans have recovered quickly

Marcks[23] has taken direct control of these units until Klosterkemper can establish communications.  With 30.Schnelle Brigade now north of St.Lo and moving quickly, everyone is a little more relaxed.  I am still concerned though.  No attacks were made during the night, it is the local commanders reluctant to commit to combat while the enemy have artillery while lack of an integrated command structure means we must do without.  While we sit tight and bolster our defences, how many Americans are landing on the coast, far from our guns?

9 - 1 M1A1 75mm pack howitzers

The US airborne divisions landed gliders carrying artillery support in the form of the M1AI 75mm Pack Howtizer, seen here during a training exercise.

West of Bayeux, Kraiß claims he has halted the invaders and is about to throw them back in the sea. Rommel is doubtful: I heard he fears that with daylight the enemy will again use their naval guns and airpower to push the odds in their favour.  Nevertheless, for the moment that is the least pressing of our problems.

It is to the east of Bayeux that the real danger exists. Arromanches-les-Bains is still ours, but only few miles away a couple of battalions[24] are all that hold the British from crossing an estuary that represents our defence line.  From there to the Canal de Caen, the coast is under enemy control.[25]  There are still units north of the Seulles, but they are a mix of whatever could be scraped up, including some of the faster units of 21.PzD.  During the night the British made several attacks and from what we can piece together in all cases our soldiers were forced back, often with significant losses.

6 - 1 Gold

The critical area for the defenders: Arromanches and the road to Omaha

Krug  admits his division[26] has almost ceased to exist.  He was able to reconstitute a battalion[27] from remnants of destroyed units, but that last reserve was committed overnight to halt a British advance from Lion-sur-Mer.  The reality is that other than the lead units of 21.PzD, the defence of Caen is made up of isolated and largely unsupported groups of soldiers and artillery. 

If those units can hold their positions for a few hours, we may be able to stiffen the defences. Reinforcements are on their way, and after travelling all night the closest, 346.ID, is only five or six kilometres east of Caen.  When Diestel[28] gets the rest of his division across the Dives, Feuchtinger[29] can move the whole of his panzer division across the Orne to the north of Caen.  In the meantime, he is clearing up the British paratroopers who have ventured too close to the Troarn-Caen road.

21.PzD should by enough to hold the British, at least until Hitlerjügend[30] arrives.  Meyer assures Rommel his division will be in Caen by midday, as long as the bridges across the Dives and the Laizon remain intact.  (Something we cannot guarantee: the Luftwaffe is impotent in the face of the thousands of Allied fighters.  Rommel has ordered that key bridges be guarded by flak units, but they are scarce and what units are available have been pressed into assisting the infantry).

Bridges are not a major concern for another commander, Fritz von Bayerlein, but the lack of air cover is. He is bringing the 15,000 men of Panzer-Lehr-Division, perhaps the most powerful division in the west, from Paris and is acutely aware of the attractive target the division makes, its vehicles lined up along at least 10 kilometres of road.  With luck they will be in Caen sometime late today, but how much damage will they suffer in transit?

10 - 1 Panzer_V_(Panther)_mit_Infanterie

A PzKpfw V “Panther” (with passengers) of Panzer-Lehr prepares to move up to Caen

Two other units are vulnerable to air attack as they move towards the coast, but neither 265.ID (which has been temporarily given enough transport vehicles to be effectively a motorised division) and 17.SS-ID are seen as priority targets. With luck they will make it to St Lo today without too much trouble.

But there is no more time to consider the situation: there is work to be done. Getting supplies to the troops fighting at the front will be critical, and it will not happen with me idly chatting to the night staff.  Like everyone else, I must concentrate on my assigned task.

 

Commentary

The Allies used the night to land more troops and the German movement of reinforcements from the south and west increased markedly. There was little other activity .  The paratroopers in contact with the enemy were not strong enough to launch unsupported attacks, and the one combat action at Omaha ended in failure.  The British and Canadians made a series of small-scale attacks, all of which were successful, but little territory was gained.

Possibly the most significant event was the German advance under cover of night at Omaha. That encroachment on the landing could create real problems for the Americans.

The invasion still hangs in the balance, though as time goes on and more troops land the odds are swinging against the defenders, no matter how desperately they move fresh units to the invasion area.

 

Allied Losses (Night 7th June)

Airborne (US)

82nd Airborne Division: Nil

101st Airborne Division: Nil

Utah

4th infantry Divsion: Nil

Omaha

29th Inf Div: A/2/116/29

1st Inf Div: Nil

Gold

50th Inf Div: Nil

Juno

3rd Canadian Div: Nil

Sword

1SS: C/3RM

3rd Inf Div: Nil

Airborne (C’wlth)

6th Airborne Div: C/8/3

 

US Losses: 1 x INF

Commonwealth losses: 1 x COMM, 1 x PARA

 

Total Allied Losses: 1 x INF, 1 x COMM, 1 x PARA

 

German losses

Cotentin Peninsula

91.ID: Nil

709.ID: Nil

Omaha

352.ID: Nil

716.ID: Nil

Gold

716.ID: B/14.Pak/716

Strongpoints: (1)

Static Artillery: 6/AR 1716

Juno

716.ID: B/III/726/716

21.PzD: B/II/192/21.PzD

Strongpoints: (2)

Sword

716.ID: B/PzJag/716

East of Caen

21.PzD: Nil

 

German losses: 2 x INF, 2 x Anti-Tank, 2 x Strongpoints, 1 x Static Artillery

 

Cumulative Losses

Allied Casualties 7-6Night

Allied Losses

82nd Airborne:       3/505/82

10 PARA                    C/1/505, E/2/508, G & I/3/508, A & C/1/508, A/2/505

101st Airborne:      2/501/101

9 PARA                      B & C/1/501, H & I/3/501, H & I/3/506,

1st Inf Div:                2/16/1

6 INF                          A &B /2/18/1, B/3/16/1

4th Inf Div:               A &B/1/8/4, A/3/8/4

3 INF

29th Inf Div:                        1/116/29

8 INF                          A & B/3/116/29,A & C/2/116/29, A/1/115/29,

5th Rangers:            A & B/5

2 COMM

Independent            743/V, 741/V

9 x ARM                    A/70/VII (DD)

A & B/745/V

6th Airborne:          8/3/6

8 PARA, 1 ARM       A & B/1st Canadian/3, A & B/7/5, D/2nd O & B/5, AARR/6

3rd Inf Div:               A & C/2EY/8/3, A/1SL/8/3, B/2EY/8/3

4 INF

50th Inf Div:            A & B/1HR/231/50, A/6GH/231/50, A & C/5EY/69/50

6 INF                          A/7GH/69/50

3rd Canadian:         A & B/7/3, A/QOR/8/3, C/NS/8/3, A/NNSH/9/3

5 INF                          A & B/RRR/7/3

4th Special Service Brigade: A/47RM/4SS, A/48RM/4SS, C/41RM/4SS

3 COMM

1st Special Service Brigade: B/4RM, C/3RM

2 COMM

Independent            A/NY/8 (DD), A/4/8 (DD)

3 ARM                       1RMASG

 

German losses

German Casualties 7-6Night

21.PzD:                     A/II/121/21Pz, A & B/II/192/21.PzD, A/200 PzJag/21.PzD,

4 INF, 1 ARM           A/125/21.PzD

91.ID:                        191/Pio/91, 14.PaK/91

6 INF, 2 AT               A/111/1058/91, A/1/919/91, A/13.schw/91, 13/6FJ/9

352.ID:                      B & C/II/916/352, A/14.PaK/352, A/13.schw/352

3 INF, 1 AT

709.ID:                      B & C/1/919, A/795/739

3 INF

716.ID:                      II/726/716, I/736/716, 642/736/716 Ost, 14.PaK/716,                                                              PzJag/716

16 INF, 4 AT             A & B/II/736/716, A & B/III/726/716, A/439/726/716 Ost,                                                        A/I/726/716, A/441/716/Ost, B/III/735/716,

Independent:          A/II.1/III Flak, A/I.1/III Flak

2 Flak

Strongpoints:          6 x (4), 9 x (3), 5 x (2), 4 x (1)

24

Static Artillery:         1/AR 1716, 2/AR 1716, 3/AR 1716, 7/AR 1716,    1/HKAR 1261, 6/AR 191, 2/HKAA, 6/AR 1716

 

Notes

[1] Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force

[2] Admiral Alan Kirk, commander of Western task Force, on the heavy cruiser “Augusta” (CA-31)

[3] Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, commander of 1st US Army

[4] Major General Leonard Gerow, commander of V Corps, responsible for Omaha beach

[5] Major General Charles Gerhardt, commander of 29th Infantry Division

[6] Colonel Charles Canham, commander of 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.  His regiment attacked a second-rate German unit (439 Ost Bataillon, 726 Grenadier Regiment, 716.D).  The Ukranian volunteers were dug-in around the village and surrounding farmland.  The better quality of the attackers was not enough to overcome the difficulties of a night assault, and the Americans were beaten back with about 100 casualties.

[7] Major General Lawton J Collins, commander of VII Corps, responsible for Utah beach

[8] Major General Maxwell Taylor, commander of 82nd Airborne Division

[9] Major General Matthew Ridgway, commander of 101st Airborne Division

[10] Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, commander of 2nd British Army

[11] Major General Douglas Graham, commander of 50th Infantry Division

[12] Major General Richard Gale, commander of 6th Airborne Division

[13] “C” company, 8th (Midland Counties) Parachute Battalion, 3rd Parachute Brigade, commanded by Major G Hewetson.  The village was attacked by Panzer Regiment 125, 21.PzD, commanded by Major von Luck, supported by Panzer Pionere Abt 220, commanded by Major Hoegl.  The Americans were surrounded, outnumbered and the buildings in which they took cover were no help against the flamethrowers of the German engineers.  After sustaining heavy losses, Major Hewetson was forced to order his remaining men to surrender.

[14] Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force.

[15] The Chateau of La Roche Guyon, headquarters of Army Group B, 50 kilometres northwest of Paris on the Seine River

[16] Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, commander of Heeresgruppe B

[17] Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Oberbefehlshaber West

[18] On 19th August 1942, a mainly Canadian force attempted to seize the port of Dieppe in Normandy. It was intended to be a raid, to destroy port facilities, gain intelligence and then evacuate.  After just 5 hours, when it was clear that the invaders were trapped on the beach, the operation was called off. Of the 6,000 men who landed, more than half were lost.  While a debacle, the Allies learned a lot from the mistakes made

[19] Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, led by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel. Effectively it had overall command of all units other than those on the East Front.

[20] Generalmajor Wilhelm von Schlieben, commander of 709.ID

[21] The Germans had deliberately flooded large areas of farmland just behind the coast, with only a few causeways allowing exit from the beaches.

[22] Panzer Ersatz und Ausbildungs Bataillon 100 equipped with about 30 converted French tanks, mainly the Panzer 35-R(f) and 38-H 734(f).

[23] General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, commander of LXXXIV Armeekorps

[24] One battalion from 916.Grenadier-Regiment, 352.ID and one battalion from 726.Grenadier-Regiment, 716.ID

[25] Unknown to the German command, Ouistreham and Riva Bella were still held by some coastal artillery troops and a field battery from 716.ID.

[26] Generalmajor Krug, 716.ID

[27] I/736/716

[28] Generalmajor Erich Diestel

[29] Generalleutnat Edgar Feuchtinger, 21.PzD

[30] 12.SS-Panzer-Divsion “Hitlerjügend”, commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Kurt Meyer