CLOSSURE OF THE COTENTIN
On the next pages are two (busy) daytrips which leads you along
some interesting objects. This trip on these pages is for the west side of the Cotentin. Not just objects
and artifacts on the war fought here, but also the nature and the nice old villages and the bocage, and
not to forget, the rocky coast, are a delight to visit.
Both trips start from Ste.Mère-Eglise.
The American 1st Army tried with the 5th Corps to breakout to the south and the east,
but a shortage of ammunition and the swampy area prevented this.
The first days after the landings, Utah Beach was under a constant barrage of German fire, which delayed
the delivery of important cargo to shore. But the battle for the Cotentin had to be continued.
The 101st Airborne Division was in een ongoing battle for Carentan, but
St. Mère-Eglise was in fact pretty much secure in hands of the
82nd Airborne Division. A bridgehead was accomplished, together with units from the 4th Infantry Division,
west of this small town, with as border the river Merderet. A breakout to the west was essential.
The commander of VII Corps, General J. Lawton Collins, ordered a
lightning fast action (which earned him the nickname
'Lightning Joe'), to break out the corridor.
The freshly 90th Infantry Division was appointed this task. They would go through the
lines of the 82nd who held the bridges over the Merderet at Chef-du-Pont en La Fière.
Target for the 90th Division was Pont l’Abbé and to press on to St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte,
hereby following global the D 15.
Lawton Collins and the insigne from VII
The choice by Collins to use the 90th Infantry Division would be disastrous
for this division her reputation. The
90th came ashore after the 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach between June 6 & 8. The 90th, under
command of Brigadier-General Jay W. MacKelvie, had no fighting experience and this first real big
attack would proof to be to harsh for these men.
Men of the 359th Regiment, 90th
Infantry Div. on board of
unknown what lay ahead for them
The task for MacKelvie was to let 358th Regiment move up to St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte with
Chef-du-Pont as jump-off point. The 357th Regiment started north from La Fière and moved west on June 10 when
they marched true the lines of the 82nd, but retreated even faster when Germans opened fire. The same happened with
358th Regiment at Chef-du-Pont, they left on time, but after just a couple of hundred yards they stopped, they
were puzzled why they received no German fire.
Col. James V. Thompson was afraid that his regiment would walk in to an ambush and the Germans would attack
And so, June 10 went by without much terrain taken by American troops. The next day, there was also no
movement, and the outbreak was extremely slow. The
357th reached Les Landes and the 358th moved up to Pont-l'Abbè. June 12 came 359th Regiment, which was
temporary attached to the
4th Infantry Division, as reinforcements and was split between the 357th and the 358th Regiment. June
13 the 358th Regiment took Pont-l'Abbè after an artillery barrage in which the town was completely destroyed.
Collins had to admit the leading and aggression of the 90th ID. was way to low. The
outbreak was far to slow, but Collins forgot that these men had never worked under fire, and certainly
never under fire from experienced German troops. These Germans had fought with great bravery against
the 82nd Airborne for days. And beside that feat, also the terrain was a blessing for a defender.
Behind every hedge and corner seamed to hide a cannon.
MacKelvie and the other commanders of the 357th and 358th Regiment were replaced.
The 90th ID. stayed on the frontline, but their task was transferred to the 82nd Airborne on June 14,
together with the 9th Infantry Division.
Left and middle: the insigne of
the 90th and 9th Infantry
Right, the insigne of the 82nd Airborne Division
June 14 saw the last attack for the 358th Regiment, 90th Infantry Division,
when they attacked a crossroad, just 900 yards from their jump-off point. German mortars and fire
from 8,8cm guns came from the other side of the Douve, but the 358th reached her objective. Around
noon, the 507th PIR and 325th GIR from the 82nd through the lines of the 358th. Artillery support
from the 188st Battalion Fieldartillerie pumped shells in front of the advancing paratroopers. But
the para’s were to fast in their advance, and shells were coming down among them, which made some
casualties among men from 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR. Meanwhile, regiments of the
90th ID. turned north and run into a strong German defense. The 60th Regiment from 9th ID moved on
the right flank of the two regiments from
The situation at the end of June 16 1944
But, the Germans were pushed back westwards, they had to, because ammunition was
low and the losses were growing. Some German tanks tried to protect the retreating troops, but these
were overrun by the aggression of the 82nd troopers. June 15 saw another friendly fire incident,
when again an artillery barrage landed on the 507th. During the afternoon, they were relieved by the
505th PIR. Meanwhile, Sherman tanks from the 746th Tank Battalion supported the paratroopers. With
assistance of these tanks, La Rosiers was taken by the 2nd Battalion, 505th PIR, under command of Lt.Col
An M4 Sherman tank of the 746th Tank Battalion drives west
The last obstacle to St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte were two German regiments, the 894 and 895 from the 265
Division, who were dug in at this town. Collins announced on June 15 that the 82nd had to cut of the Cotentin.
The pressure was on with the defending
9th and the 90th Division on the right flank. They had to stop attacks by German troops from the north.
St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte, right below, the Bailey bridge across the Douve
June 16 saw the taking, by the 82nd, of the road D2, which runs from Valognes,
and changes into the D 900, towards La Haye-du-Puits. From the high ground they could see into the town of
St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte. The bridge was partly intact, but was heavenly damaged. The commander of the
82nd AD, Major-General Ridgeway, wanted to push on. Now the Germans were on the run. General Omar
Bradley who visited by coincidence the headquarters of the 82nd gave personally his ‘go-ahead’,
without consulting first Collins. An enormous artillery bombardment smashed into all the roads leading
to the south, west and northwest.
The castle of St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte
Seconds after the barrage of shells stopped, the men from 2nd battalion, from Vandervoort,
crossed the damaged bridge and ran into the streets of St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte. They were followed
by troopers from 1st Battalion, 505th PIR from Lt-Col. Alexander. The only entry to the town was
the damaged bridge, which was under constant fire from the Germans. When the evening fell, was a
defensive ring around the town accomplished. During the night, engineers built a Baily bridge,
so tanks could enter St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte also.
On the left, some remnants
of the old bridge can be seen
After three days of fierce fighting, the
82nd Airborne Division was eleven km west of St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte where they consolidated.
The German 91 Luftlande Division was destroyed. A thousand German soldiers were lost, on dead,
wounded and prisoner. On the same day, the 60th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division also crossed the
Douve and made a bridgehead near Néhou. The next day the 60th Regiment moved closer towards the
Atlantic coast. The 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th ID. Moved up trough the lines of the 82nd west of
1ste Escadron du 12de Régiment
de Cuirassiers of the 2de Division Blindée under
command of gen. Leclerc moves through
St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte towards la Haye du Puits
Then & Now
From St.Sauveur-le-Vicomte we take the D 900 and head for Briquebec.
After 6 km, we turn right onto the D187. Look for the signs with the words; 'Camp de Patton'
A nice restored M4A1 Sherman tank stands near 'Camp de Patton'
A month after the landings in Normandy, on July 6, 1944,
General George Patton arrived by plane on an advanced airfield at Omaha Beach.
From here he departed at once to Néhou. North of the village, he built his camp. Al this was
done in the most secret way, because the Germans still believed Patton ‘his Army’ would land
at Calais. In Néhou Patton started immediately his work to commit himself to take part in the
fighting once more. Patton received on July 27 the temporary command over VIII Corps. His
first orders were to sent two tank divisions towards Avranches, which was liberated on July
29. August 1, 1944 Patton took command over ‘his’ Third Army,… and the rest is history.
General George S. Patton, right, pictured at Néhou
(left; Maj.Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey, Head of the General Staff)
The spot where Patton spent some time, 'Camp de Patton', is now
a monument north of Néhou. Beside the Sherman tank, there is a monument flanked by the well known
marker who you may find along the liberty road. On the former terrain are some remembrance signs
The monument at 'Camp de Patton'
Now you can head more east towards Barneville-Carteret by the D 42
Barneville-sur-Mer, it was taken almost without a shot fired
At the end of June 17, the advancing Americans were at Barneville-sur-Mer.
Parts of the German 77 Infanterie Division tried to escape to the north, before the closure of
the Cotentin was complete. On June 18, 1944, around 05.00 hours, the
3rd Battalion, 60th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, with support from the tanks of the 746th
Tank Battalion and the 899th Tank Destroyers Battalion (SP), Barneville-sur-Mer was entered and
was the closure of the Cotentin a fact, and Cherbourg isolated.
Barneville-Plage seen from
Cap de Carteret,
the point where the Cotentin was cut
For the next part of the battle,