Operation Overlord: D-Day - Part 2

The American situation was not immediately improved by Cassidy's move north, since he came up west of Foucarville in order to carry out the plan of tying in at Beuzeville-au-Plain with the 82nd Airborne Division. The company ordered to Beuzeville-au-Plain mistook the hamlet of le Fournel for its objective and became involved in three separate platoon fights which created some confusion until dark. The Troopers then withdrew to the south where they remained under enemy pressure during the night. Since Lt. Col. Cassidy was unable to make contact with the 82nd Airborne Division, he committed the reserve company on the left and moved up some spare riflemen to fill the gap between le Fournel and the roadblocks around Foucarville. Even so the whole line remained very weak and the regimental commander, having already decided to pass the 2nd Battalion through the 1st on the following day, ordered Lt. Col. Cassidy to pull back and dig in. During the night the Germans facing the battalion's right flank at Foucarville unexpectedly decided to surrender, apparently because the increasing volume of American machine gun and mortar fire led them to overestimate the battalion's strength. Eighty-seven Germans were taken prisoner and about fifty more killed as they attempted to escape.

AssaultAirborne Assaults

With the occupation St. Côme-du-Mont the 101st Airborne Division began clearing the enemy north of the Douve and east of the Merderet. Preparations began at once for an all-out attack on Carentan from the north. In preparation for that attack on 8 June, the 101st Airborne Division grouped three regiments along the Douve with a fourth regiment assembled in reserve near Vierville. The 502nd Parachute Infantry was in line on the right flank from the junction of the Douve and Merderet Rivers to Houesville.

The causeway over which the 502nd Parachute Infantry was to attack was banked six to nine feet above the marshlands of the Douve and crossed four bridges over branches of the river and canals. One of the bridges was destroyed by the Germans. Difficulties in repairing this under fire forced postponement of the right wing of the division attack, first scheduled for the night of 9-10 June. It was the middle of the afternoon of 10 June before the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry advanced over the causeway single file. The men moved in a low crouch or crawled, and it took three hours for the point to cross three of the bridges. Then the enemy opened fire from a farmhouse and hedgerows, methodically searching the ditches with machine guns. At the fourth bridge a Belgian Gate had been drawn so far across the road that only one man at a time could squeeze by it. Under cover of artillery fire, which all afternoon worked on enemy positions, this maneuver was tried. Six men made it; the seventh was hit, and the attempt was abandoned in favor of building up additional fire. Mortars were brought forward. The stalemate, however, lasted until midnight while enemy fire and a bombing and strafing attack after dark took heavy toll of the thin battalion line stretched across the causeway. After midnight, resistance slackened and three companies were able to filter men through the bottleneck and across the last bridge where they could deploy on either side of the highway, the center of the Lt Col ColeLt. Col. Robert Cole opposition seemed to be a large farmhouse to the west of the road on ground that rose sharply from the marshes. In the morning of 11 June after attempts to knock this out with artillery had failed, Lt. Col. Cole, battalion commander, ordered a charge which he and his executive officer, Maj. John P. Stopka, led. Followed at first by only a quarter of their 250 men, Cole and Stopka ran through enemy fire. The charge gathered momentum as more men saw their officers charging toward the enemy with fixed bayonets and ran forward to join the assault. The farmhouse was not occupied but the Germans had rifle pits and machine gun emplacements in hedgerows to the west. These were overrun and the Germans manning them we killed with grenades and bayonets,The heavy casualties and disorganization of the battalion prevented Lt. Col. Cole from following up his advantage. Instead he sent word back to have the 1st Battalion of the regiment pass through and continue the attack south. The 1st Battalion, which was near the fourth causeway bridge when request came to move forward, reached Cole's position through heavy fire. But since it was as hard hit and disorganized as the 3d Battalion it was in no better condition to move on. Both battalions set up a defensive line and held on during 11 June against determined German counterattacks, which on one occasion threatened to break through. The 2nd Battalion took over the line during the night, but the 502nd Parachute Infantry was too exhausted to renew the attack and the 506th Parachute Infantry was sent to its relief. After the attack on Carantan, the 502d relocated outside Cherbourg to conduct security duties. In late June, the 502nd sailed back to England in July to absorb replacements, retrain, and await another mission.

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