Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Jun 16

World War II Today: June 16

1940 French front cracking as the Germans break through in Champagne to Dijon, with units of 19th Panzer Korps reaching Besancon on the Swiss border. German forces, supported by heavy artillery and Stuka dive bombers, continue their assault against the Maginot Line on a broad front.

The French government of Paul Reynaud resigns and is replaced by one led by Marshal Petain who immediately appoints Weygand as Minister of National Defence. 57,000 British troops are evacuated from Nantes and St. Nazaire.

The Red Army occupies Latvia and Estonia. Tens of thousands of “hostile’ natives and their families are rounded up and deported to NKVD prison camps around the Soviet Union.

U-101 sinks the British merchant ship Wellington Star in the Bay of Biscay.

The British submarine Grampus is sunk by four Italian torpedo boats off Syracuse, Sicily.

1941 The US State Department orders the closing by the 10th July of all German consular offices and tourist agencies in the United States. Italians closed down on 19th June.

British unemployment figures for May lowest yet at 243,656 out of work, 400,000 less than a year ago.

The British attempt to continue their offensive, but suffer heavy tank losses to German 88mm Flak guns.

1942 After intense air attacks and Italian fleet sorties, the Gibraltar convoy reaches Malta, but the Alexandria convoy is forced back. During these attempts to reach Malta the losses between both convoys stand at the cruiser Hermione (sunk by U-205, South of Crete), five destroyers and 40 aircraft.

Lieutenant General Ritchie gives General Norrie permission to withdraw XXX Corps past Tobruk and as far as Mersa Matruh to re-equip. General

Gott’s XIII is ordered to take up defensive positions on the Egyptian frontier. This left the city exposed to another siege, for which its defenses were inadequate, having been allowed to deteriorate during the winter.

Future president Lt. Cdr. Lyndon Johnson is released from duty in the Navy after Roosevelt orders all members of Congress serving in the armed forces to return to legislative duties.

1943 93 out of 94 Japanese planes are destroyed during a massive attack on allied shipping round Guadalcanal.

1944 The real flying bomb offensive on Britain begins as 95 V1’s cross the coast before 6am and a total of 244 reaching England that day. The German press calls it the ‘beginning of the day of vengeance’.

The Eighth Army captures Foligno and Spoleto, east of Orvieto and approach Perugia.

U.S. Marines repulse the Japanese counter-attacks on Saipan.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:Words At War: Camp Follower WWII Today: March 12 WWII Today: February 23

Jun 15

World War II Today: June 15

1940 Roosevelt assures Reynaud that US aid will be redoubled.

Germans take Verdun. German forces of the 7th Army cross Rhine and break into the Maginot Line above Strasbourg. Weygand refuses to surrender French Army on its own. 30,600 British and Canadian troops are evacuated from Cherbourg, Brest and St. Malo.

New Russo-German frontier agreement announced.

The Red Army advances across the Lithuanian border.

The Germans open Auschwitz concentration camp, officially to provide 100,000 labor force for I.G Farben factory.

The Communist Party of Australia is declared as illegal.

1941 German formation commanders receive confirmation of the date and time that the attack on the Soviet Union will begin. This is to be 03:30 on the 22nd June 1941. German Panzer units begin to move up to their final jump-off positions.

The British Army begins ‘Operation Battleaxe’ to relieve Australian held Tobruk and then advance towards Derna. However, they meet fierce counter attacks by the Afrika Korps and are unable to make any headway.

1942 U-552 (Kptlt. Topp) sinks 5 ships of Convoy HG-84 in the northern Atlantic.

An Italian naval squadron intercepts the ‘Harpoon’ convoy and disables two British destroyers, as well as damaging the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, although the the Italians lost a destroyer in the process. Axis aircraft then attacked and sank 2 freighters, the tanker Kentucky and 1 destroyer. Another Italian naval squadron had sailed from Taranto to intercept ‘Vigorous’, which reversed course in the face of this threat. While it was doing this, German E-boats moved in and sank a destroyer and damaged a cruiser with torpedo’s. At this point British torpedo aircraft from Malta attacked the Italian naval squadron, disabling a cruiser, which was later sunk by a British submarine. In the meantime ‘Vigorous’ turned towards Malta again, but further reports of the Italian naval squadron steaming south, forced another course reversal. German Stukas attacked the convoy at this point and damaged a cruiser and sank a destroyer. The Italian naval squadron moved now moved north, removing the threat to the ‘Vigorous’ convoy, but Admiral Vian commanding the ‘Vigorous’ convoy decided that he did not have enough ammunition left to resume his course to Malta and so continued back to Alexandria, during which U-205 sank the cruiser HMS Hermione south of Crete and Stukas sank another destroyer. However, as consolation, British aircraft did manage to torpedo the Italian Battleship Littorio, which spent the next two months under repair.

Rommel launches an attack against Eighth Army’s new defensive line, but is repulsed. However, General Norrie was worried that XXX Corps lacked sufficient tanks to defend this line for very long.

Admiral Chester Nimitz is widely criticized in Washington for not pursuing and destroying the damaged Japanese fleet after the battle of Midway.

1943 The German raider Michel sinks 2 ships off the west coast of Australia.

1944 Roosevelt outlines his plans for the post-war United Nations.

The RAF launches heavy attacks (600 bombers) against Le Havre and Boulogne.

The second Finnish defensive zone is smashed by the Russians.

USAAF B-29s from China pound the Yawata steel works in the first land based air attack on Japan.

U.S. Marines meet strong opposition to their Saipan Island landing despite the heavy bombardment of the Marianas islands during past week. 3,000 US dead; 30,000 Japanese soldiers dead; 22,000 civilians commit suicide–Causes the downfall of Tojo.

1945 B-29’s begin destruction of 60 mid-sized cities in Japan, killing roughly 250,000.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: November 14 WWII Today: March 29 WWII Today: January 10

Jun 14

World War II Today: June 14

1940 Germans enter Paris as Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division takes Le Havre. The French government leaves Tours for Bordeaux. Army Group C, with 24 divisions, prepares to cross the upper Rhine to attack the Maginot Line in Alsace. All remaining British troops in France are ordered to return to England.

Spanish troops enter Tangier. British troops capture Fort Capuzzo and Maddalena, destroy the fixed guns and emplacements and then retire back to Egypt.

1941 President Roosevelt orders the freezing of all German and Italian assets, as well as those of occupied countries.

The RAF begins fighter sweeps over Northern France.

Croatia joins the Tripartite Pact.

Hitler meets with his top generals to discuss matters concerning the upcoming campaign against the Soviet Union. The ‘Lucy’ spy ring passes information to the Soviet Union, detailing the start date for a German attack as the 22nd June.

1942 Air Marshal Harris is recognized for his achievements with the recent 1,000 bomber raids with a knight-hood.

German troops of the 16th Regiment of the 22nd Airlanding Division take Fort Stalin in Sevastopol.

Auchinleck tells Ritchie that Tobruk must be held, a fact that Churchill reiterates to him. The Eighth Army now holds a line directly in front of Tobruk, running from the coast to Acroma, then southeast to El Adem and then directly south to Bir El Gobi.

The first axis attacks are made against the ‘Harpoon’ and ‘Vigorous’ convoys. ‘Harpoon’ loses a freighter and receives damage to a cruiser from an axis air attack off the Tunisian coast. ‘Harpoons’ escorting aircraft carriers turn back at this point. In the late afternoon, the ‘Vigorous’ convoy passes out of air cover range and promptly losses two freighters to axis air attacks. Another freighter is forced to return to Alexandria as it is deemed to slow.

1943 RAF Coastal Command begins daily patrols over the Bay of Biscay with aircraft equipped with new detection devices to locate and destroy German U-boats leaving and entering their bases on the French coast.

A German report shows that 100,000 cases of typhus were reported on the Russian front during 1942, with a fatality rate of 15%.

1944 His Majesty the King and de Gaulle visit the Normandy front (separately). Carentan is finally in U.S. hands after a week’s fighting in Normandy.

The allies take Orvieto, 65 miles Northwest of Rome.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: April 9 WWII Today: June 7 WWII Today: March 17

Jun 13

World War II Today: June 13

1940 Germans troops advance on both sides of Paris. General Weygand declares the French capital an open city.

Armed merchant-cruiser Scotstown is torpedoed by U-25 off Ireland, 6 crew lost. The first US arms ship, ‘Eastern Prince’, sets sail for Britain.

Italian bombers attack the French naval base at Toulon.

The British submarine Odin is sunk by the Italian destroyer Strale in Gulf of Taranto.

The German raider Orion lays mines off Auckland, New Zealand.

1941 The Luftwaffe carries out a raid on the British naval base at Chatham, but with little success.

Twenty Nine people are killed, when German dive-bombers sink the Great Western Railway Steamer St. Patrick.

Russian news agency Tass, denies German threat on its borders and calls rumors ëabsurd and obviously sheer hostile propaganda.í The Russians begin to arrest those in the Baltic States who might support a German occupation. In all, about 50,000 are rounded up, with the majority never to be seen alive again.

Russo-Japanese trade agreement announced in Tokyo.

1942 President Roosevelt authorizes the creation of the U.S. Office on War Information (OWI). The first director is Elmer Holmes Davis, a CBS commentator and novelist.

German tanks and anti-tank batteries destroy 138 British tanks in and around the Knightsbridge pocket. This left the Eighth Army with only 75 armoured vehicles operational and threatened the main British supply route along the Trigh Capuzzo, which in turn threatened the 1st South African and British 50th Division which were still defending the northern part of the Gazala line. Lieutenant General Ritchie, without informing General Auchinleck, who wanted to hold west of Tobruk, ordered these two divisions to pull back towards Tobruk.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 13, four men landed on a beach near Amagansett, Long Island, New York, from a German submarine, clad in German uniforms and bringing ashore enough explosives, primers, and incendiaries to support an expected two-year career in the sabotage of American defense-related production. On June 17, a similar group landed on Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, Florida, equipped for a similar career in industrial disruption. However, all are captured within days and six are executed after a trial.

1943 Night fighter ace Wing Commander John Cunningham, brings down his 16th victim over southern England.

1944 The first V1 flying bomb is launched against Britain during Operation ‘Rumpelkammer’ and hits Swanscombe in Kent at 0418, causing shock and near panic among the civilian population.

Near Villers-Bocage, a single Tiger tank from the 12th SS Panzer Division (Michael Wittmann’s) destroys 25 tanks and other vehicles of the British 7th Armoured Division.

1945 U.S. and Australian troops enter Brunei, in Borneo.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: February 13 WWII Today: October 15 WWII Today: April 21

Jun 12

World War II Today: June 12

1940 General Sir Edmund Ironside, C-in-C of British Home Forces, completes plans for the defense of Britain against German invasion.

On the orders from General Weygand, C-in-C of the French Army, the French forces opposing the advance of Army Group A withdraw to the South, offering little resistance. The Germans cross the River Marne, consolidate bridgehead South of the Seine and claim to have occupied Rheims. Four French divisions and most of the British 51st Highland Division is cut off and captured by Rommel at St. Valery-en-Caux.

The Soviet Union issues an ultimatum to Lithuania, demanding that the Red Army be allowed to occupy the country.

RAF bomb docks in Tobruk, Libya.

Italian submarine Bagnolini sinks British cruiser Calypso south of Crete.

1941 The RAF raids the Ruhr, Rhineland and German ports in the first of 20 consecutive night raids.

The German pocket battleship L¸tzow (formerly Deutschland) is attacked and damaged by RAF aircraft off the southern coast of Norway.

1942 Rommel, having now brought up tank reserves, could now muster 124 tanks against the 248 British tanks. He therefore attacked the British positions between Knightsbridge and El Adem, trapping much of the British armor.

1943 The RAF launches a heavy raid on Bochum in the Ruhr. The Luftwaffe carries out a night attack against Plymouth.

King George VI lands in Morocco, only his second sanctioned visit of the war to forces overseas.

1944 U.S. troops fighting for Carentan, link up with British troops, thereby completing a solid line along a 50-mile battle front. So far, the allies have landed 326,000 men and 54,000 vehicles onto the Normandy beaches.

Rosenberg orders operation ‘Hay Action’, the kidnapping of 40,000 Polish children aged ten to fourteen for slave labour in Germany.

1945 Eisenhower is awarded the Order of Merit and becomes the first U.S. recipient.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:Words At War: Guys On the Ground WWII Today: April 11 WWII Today: April 9

Jun 11

World War II Today: June 11

1940 Householders in possession of Anderson shelters must by law have them up and earthed by today.

The German forces capture Rheims.

Paris prepares for siege as the Luftwaffe pounds the city.

The RAF attacks Turin and Genoa with 36 Whitley bombers.

RAF attack German ships in Trondheim harbour, Norway.

Australia and New Zealand declare war on Italy.

South Africa declares war on Italy. RAF bomb airfields and petrol dumps in Italian East Africa and Libya. British armored cars cross into Libya from Egypt and ambush a number of Italian trucks near Fort Capuzzo. ItalianÂaircraft bomb Aden and Port Sudan.

Italian troops invade France along Riviera and in Alps, but do not advance.

Italian planes bomb Malta in the first of 3340 air raids over the next three years. Paris is declared an open city.

1942 U-boats begin laying mines off Boston, Delaware and Chesapeake Bay.

The court-martial of a German army captain Michael Kitzelmann ends in Orel. Kitzelmann, who won an Iron Cross Second Class for bravery, has spoken out against atrocities being committed on the eastern front. “If these criminals should win,” he has told his fellow officers, “I would have no wish to live any longer.” Kitzelmann’s wish is granted. He is shot by a firing squad that day.

The United States and the Soviet Union signed a lend lease agreement to aid the Soviet war effort.

Simultaneous British convoys set sail for Malta from Gibraltar and Alexandria. The Gibraltar convoy (codenamed  Harpoon’), consisted of 5 freighters and a US tanker. It was initially escorted by a battleship, 2 aircraft carrier, 3 cruisers and 8 destroyers and was later reinforced by an anti-aircraft cruiser and 9 destroyers. The Alexandria convoy (codenamed ‘Vigorous’), had eleven freighters and was escorted by 7 light cruisers and 26 destroyers.

1943 Operation ‘Corkscrew’, the invasion of Pantelleria meets little resistance after a 20-day aerial bombardment of the island.

The US 8th Air Force raids the German naval base at Wilhelmshaven (200 B-17s), while the RAF attacks Munster and Dusseldorf.

1944 The US Fast Carrier Attack Force (TF 58) begins bombing the Mariana Islands in preparation for invasion.

The Battleship USS Missouri commissioned at Brooklyn, NY.

1945 SEAC estimate that 108,240 Japanese have been killed in Burma since February 1944.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:D-Day June 6, 1944 WWII Today: October 25 WWII Today: July 19

Jun 10

World War II Today: June 10

1940 The remaining troops of the Norwegian Army (6th Division) surrender, after Norway surrenders unconditionally.

Italy declares war on Britain and France, effective from the 11th June 1940.

President Roosevelt condemns Germany and Italy and promises material aid to both Britain and France

1941 British advance breaks through Vichy opposition in Syria.

The United States wins contract for Bolivia’s entire tungsten supply, depriving Japan of the mineral, vital to strengthening metal alloys in arms production.

1942 Prague radio announces the extermination of Lidice, a village of about 2,000. All the men were shot and women sent to concentration camps. All buildings are razed to the ground as a reprisal for Heydrich killing.

Another German offensive in the East begins as two German armies of 33 division, five of them Panzer, attack from Kharkov on the Volchansk Front, a massive assault that will roll on until the 26th,scattering the Russian forces ahead of them.

Panzer Army Afrika finally captures Bir Hacheim, a strongpoint fiercely defended by Foreign Legionnaire’s of the Free French Forces. The British Eighth Army is pushed towards the Egyptian border.

British tea planter uses elephants to rescue 68 Burmese refugees fleeing Japanese across the Daphna River, India.

The United States approves construction of “Big Inch” pipeline to transport crude oil from Texas to northeast states, bypassing U-boats.

1943 A co-ordinated air offensive is begun, with the US 8th Air Force, flying precision bombing missions by day and RAF Bomber Command, flying area saturation missions by night, against major German cities.

1944 German counterattacks against Allied invasion forces are unsuccessful for lack of armoured reserves in the area.

Troops of the 2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’ massacre the inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane in France.

1945 The Australian 9th Division makes two landings in Brunei Bay, Borneo.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: October 26 WWII Pin Up: Gloria DeHaven WWII Today: May 23

Jun 09

World War II Today: June 9

1940 German forces advancing South from the Somme capture Rouen on the Seine.

The British 51st Highland Division and part of the French 10th Army withdraw towards St-Valery-en-Caux, hoping to be evacuated to England.

The French government evacuates from Paris to Tours.

Norway officially surrenders to Germany.

1941 Fire Service Council established in Britain, with 1,400 local brigades being merged in to 32 regional ones.

British advance 40 miles into southern Syria and the Lebanon capturing Tyre in the process.

Italian casualties for May announced as 1,948 killed, 5,204 wounded and 27,292 missing.

Two thousand soldiers put an end to the strike at North American Aviation in Inglewood, CA that threatened crucial aircraft production.

1942 Heydrich lies in state in Berlin. Himmler calls him, ‘a noble, honest and decent human being’.

The Japanese high command announces that “The Midway Occupation operations have been temporarily postponed.”

1943 Tito is wounded during a German air attack.

1944 U.S. forces advancing from Utah Beach capture St. Mere-Eglise and cut the crucial road and rail links on the Cherbourg peninsula. Rommel puts all German forces in Normandy onto the defensive.

The RAF fly from French airfields for first time since 1940.

The U.S. Fifth Army is now 50 miles Northwest of Rome.

The Russians launch a heavy assault on the Finnish forces in the Karelian Isthmus to the North of Leningrad, in an attempt to force them out of war.

1945 Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki announces Japan will fight to the very end rather than accept unconditional surrender.

On Luzon, US Sixth Army takes Bagabag, sealing off Japanese in Cagayan Valley.

The Japanese on Okinawa’s Oroku peninsula are reported as trapped.

Tokyo radio says that 4.93m Japanese have been displaced by the bombing in the last three months.

Yugoslav partisans agree to withdraw from Austria and Trieste.

Los Angeles holds a parade for Generals George Patton and Jimmy Doolittle.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: April 13 WWII Today: May 9 Words at War: Barriers Down

Jun 08

World War II Today: June 8

1940 The British aircraft carrier Glorious is sunk by the German heavy battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Southwest of Narvik.

The evacuation of British and French troops (24,000 men) from Narvik and Harstad is completed. A Norwegian delegation negotiates with the Germans for a peace treaty.

Off Norway, German battlecruisers Gneisenau & Scharnhorst sink British carrier HMS Glorious and British destroyers Ardent and Acasta (1537 killed on 3 ships).

Discovery of neptunium (Np), element 93, by Edwin McMillan & Philip Adelson at the University of California, Berkeley.

1941 RAF launch biggest bombing raid yet on Germany with 360 aircraft.

British, Commonwealth and Free French forces invade Syria and the Lebanon (‘Operation Explorer’) with air and naval support. The British offer Syria independence in an effort to stimulate Syrian revolt against their Vichy rulers. Vichy France protests vigorously at these British proposals.

1942 Fifteen Poles, including 12 women are publicly hanged in Poznan. The bodies left hanging for 48 hours as a warning.

US Army, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) formed under Major General James Chaney, replacing USAFBI (US Army Forces in British Isles).

Due to victory at Midway, US cancels the invasion alert for the US West Coast.

1943 The United States begins the “V-Home” campaign to encourage rationing, scrap collection, and other patriotic wartime activities.The

The Los Angeles City Council bans wearing of zoot suits in effort to stop Zoot Suit Riots.

The Japanese battleship Mutsu explodes by accident at Hiroshima, Japan, 1121 killed.

1944 The U.S. Fifth Army continues its drive North in Italy, taking Civita Castellana.

The RAF uses 12,000-lb “Tallboy” bomb against train tunnel in Saumur, France.

On the Adriatic coast of Italy, British find Germans have retreated, and they advance.

1945 SHAEF reveal the details of the German plans to exterminate all Jews in Europe by the summer 1946.

The United States and Australian naval Task Group 74.3 bombards Brunei Bay on Borneo.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: February 14 WWII Today: April 2 WWII Today: April 7

Jun 07

The Battle of La Fière Bridge

Jumping on the night of D-Day, the 82nd Airborne had to capture the town of Sainte-Mère-Église. Holding the town, however, would have meant little without also holding the roads to and from it. One such route had a bottleneck:  the La Fière Bridge a small stone bridge at La Fière manor, 700 yards to the west of the outskirts. The manor itself was a small group of buildings a grenade-throw away from the bridge. On the far side of the bridge, the road led west, the small hamlet of Cauguigny standing by it two-thirds of a mile away.

Securing La Fière Bridge fell to the 505th PIR. The 1st Battalion was one of the few units that night to jump on time and land in its designated drop zone to the east of the bridge, between it and the town. They quickly learned that things were not as expected: the Germans have flooded large areas of Normandy and the tiny Merderet River running north-south under the bridge was now a marsh 1,000 yards across at its narrowest. The elevated road between the bridge and Cauguigny became a causeway surrounded by water, providing no cover.

An hour before dawn, 1st Lt. John “Red Dog” Nolan, nicknamed for his hair and his canine tenacity, led his company towards La Fière Bridge and manor. With visibility low due to hedgerows, stone walls and the darkness, Nolan told Lt. Dolan Coxon to send his scouts forward. Coxon didn’t have the heart to send his men alone into harm’s way and accompanied them. A few moments later, German machine gun fire barked up and killed Coxon and another man. With two platoons trying to flank the foxhole, a firefight developed and the Americans got pinned down. After about an hour, the Germans quietly withdrew without losses.

Unknown to Nolan and his men, they were not alone. Many of the airborne who were misdropped in the area honed in on the only landmark in the flooded plain: the causeway. They were now arriving piecemeal, but most of them have lost their radios in the water and couldn’t inform others of their presence. When these surprise reinforcements started showing up, Nolan drew up a plan to attack the manor from the north and the south simultaneously. Units were put in place, one of them wading through the neck-deep swamp with bullets ricocheting off the water around them. However, the runner who was supposed to give the message to attack got lost and coordination was broken. At 9 am, Brig. Gen. James Gavin arrived with 300 men from the northwest on the far side of the causeway. After being briefed on the situation, he decided it was in good hands and moved on south to capture another bottleneck along another road further away.

Despite the lack of coordination between units, the airborne finally reached the manor. Some 10 to 12 Germans fought back from inside but were suppressed in 10 minutes of fierce fighting. Seeing a white sheet being hung from a window, a paratrooper went forward to accept the surrender, only to get shot by a German who was standing by another window and didn’t know his comrades had already given up. After another round of furious firing, the defenders finally surrendered for good.

At 1:45 pm, with the manor in American hands, two men were sent to scout out the La Fière Bridge. German soldiers hiding on the far side tried to ambush them, but one of the men, Pvt. James Mattingly, shot the first man then wounded and captured the rest, later receiving the Silver Star for what one officer called “the best piece of individual soldiering I have ever seen.” The La Fière Bridge and the causeway were clear and a nine-man force was left on the west end in the half-dozen stone buildings of Cauguigny. The causeway was blocked by a truck, mines were laid and three anti-tank guns brought in by glider were set up.

The German counterattack came at 4 pm. Three German-driven French light tanks appeared with infantry in tow from the west, overrunning the force in Cauguigny and heading for the causeway. About a dozen US airborne were driven in front of the tanks as human shields, forced to pick up mines and throw them into the water. Once they were 40-50 yards from the defenders, American bazooka teams and anti-tank guns opened up while the captured paratropers dove for safety. The first tank was destroyed, followed by the other two, but at a high price: German infantrymen, using the tanks as cover, poured automatic weapons fire into the defenders, causing heavy casualties before retreating to the west end of the causeway. With depleted numbers and low ammo, but in a strong position and with additional reinforcements arriving, the American dug in at the manor while the Germans did the same on the far side of the swamp.

With the fight for Sainte-Mère -Église still going on, both sides started building up their numbers at La Fière Bridge, until June 9 brought a need to break the stalemate. By this point, the 4th Infantry Division had made its way up from Utah Beach and needed the road cleared to proceed. Twelve Shermans and an artillery battery were brought up for the final push with the airborne to spearhead the attack with a suicidal charge down the exposed, 1,000 yard long causeway into German machine gun and mortar fire. Lt. Col. Charles Carrell’s 2nd Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment was given the thankless task.

Carrell lost his nerve in the last moment and declined to attack and was replaced on the spot. At 10 am, rifles, machine guns, tanks and artillery all opened up, and G Company’s Cap. John Sauls was the first to jump onto the causeway with a shout of “Follow me!” Some men faltered in the face of certain death, other were cut down running and yet others fell down wounded or trying to scramble for some cover. Miraculously, Sauls himself made it across the corridor of fire and ran past the first line of German defense, shooting Germans with his Thompson SMG.

The causeway got quickly congested with the dead, the dying and the terrified; but the push got going. At one point, General Matthew Ridgway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division was spotted on the causeway, trying to remove a cable from a knocked-out tank to make it easier to pass. He was soon joined by General Gavin. The sight of the division’s two highest-ranking officers in the middle of the killing zone has inspired the troops to push themselves beyond all limits and the Germans were forced to flee. A final, heavy counterattack was repulsed later that night and the battle for the La Fière causeway was won, allowing allied forced to move west and further into the Cotentin Peninsula.

Visiting La Fière in the 1980s, General Gavin recalled the aftermath of the battle: “When I came to this point […], I had no idea as to how hard this fight was. I looked back down the causeway. It was covered from the church to as far as I could see with bodies. I could have walked back to the bridge and never stepped on pavement. I just had no idea as to the strength of the position. It took airborne soldiers to do this.”

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: June 6 WWII Today: June 17 WWII Today: May 9