Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day 65 years later

It's the D-Day anniversary and I thought to post something about
the 101st airborne and Easy company's assault on Brecourt manor.

Googling around it's clear that there were many more similar attacks
made by groups of men pieced together from various units that joined up
in the dark. At one chronicle of the 82nd and 101st airborne they tell a small
part of the tale:

The 1st Battalion, 502d Parachute Infantry (Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cassidy), had a much stiffer fight for its D-Day objectives. Colonel Cassidy landed near St. Germain-de-Varreville in the center of the battalion's drop one and a mile from the first objective-the artillery garrison buildings designated as "WXYZ" in the plan. He gradually collected a small force, mostly from his own battalion, and after discovery of a road sign began moving toward the objective. Objective W, the house at the crossroads west of St. Martin-de-Varreville, was unoccupied. Colonel Cassidy set up his command post in the house and then checked the enemy gun position across the road. There he found a dozen men under Lt. Col. Steve A. Chappuis (commander of the 2d Battalion); Colonel Chappuis, though injured in the jump, had been able to reach his objective. He had decided to wait at the gun position for more of his men. Colonel Cassidy proceeded with his own mission. His plan was, first, to establish defenses at the St. Martin-de-Varreville intersection to prevent the enemy from moving east into the beach area, and then to clean out the XYZ buildings and set up a defensive line to the north.

A patrol sent to check Exit 4 found both it and the causeway clear. The 3d Battalion, in the meantime, reported Exit 3 covered, and Colonel Cassidy, after relaying this information to the 4th Division, turned his attention to consolidating the battalion position. Several groups from Company A assembled north of St. Martin-de-Varreville during the morning. Forty-five men were collected by Lt. W. A. Swanson and ordered to move to Foucarville to establish the right anchor of the battalion line with a series of road blocks. Lieutenant Swanson set up four blocks shortly after noon and within half an hour he trapped and largely destroyed a 4-vehicle enemy troop convoy moving east from Beuzeville-au-Plain. Despite this success, Company A's positions were not secure as they were dominated by the enemy on the hill to the northwest. The Germans, however, made no determined effort to break through, although a fire fight continued most of the day as the enemy probed at the road blocks without discovering their essential weakness.

Meanwhile the fight at XYZ was carried on most of the day by a mixed group of men under Sergeant Summers, while Company C was held in reserve. It was not an easy task. Not until 1530 were the Germans driven out of the last building, after its roof was fired with bazooka rounds. More than one hundred were killed or taken prisoner as they tried to escape. Another fifty had been killed or captured earlier in the fight.

A similar story is repeated for various groups of men as they gathered themselves
together and moved out toward objectives.


Here's a silver star citation for Bravery for PFC Gerald Lorraine
at Brecourt Manor:

Private First Class Gerald J. Loraine 39104951, Parachute Infantry, United States Army, for gallantry in action. On 6 June, 1944, at le Grand Chemin, France, an enemy battery of four 88mm guns, protected by machine-guns, was firing at short range on the beach, greatly impeding the landing of Allied troops. Private Loraine's battalion attacked the battery position, but was stopped by direct fire. Private Loraine, with a small group of soldiers made an assault directly into the battery positions. Without regard for his personal safety, Private Loraine attacked the enemy with hand grenades and sub machinegun fire. Several times he picked up grenades which had been thrown by the enemy and threw them back into the positions. Private Loraine led his small group in the assault on successive positions until the guns were destroyed and silenced. His outstanding bravery in this action enabled his battalion to advance and gain its objective. His conduct was in accordance with the highest standards of military service.

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