ASSIGNMENT CHERBOURG

Cotentin Peninsula, France  (Wikipedia)

Cotentin Peninsula, France (Wikipedia)

Cherbourg, France

1944

American forces had been trying to force Germans out of the Port of Cherbourg. This was a very usable port, which we desperately needed to offload supply ships.  When Cherbourg was finally cleared of German forces in summer of 1944, some of us in my unit the 3rd Regulating Group, were ordered to pack up and leave the Omaha Beach operation area and set up a liaison office in Cherbourg.

There were fifteen officers and men crowded into few vehicles for the trip inland and down the Cotentin Peninsula.

Our route was through Carentan, Ste. Mere-Englise and Valognes. We saw farmland, small villages and finally the city of Cherbourg. To get through the towns, we had to weave through a lot of debris. In places, we left the road and drove over the fields.

Carentan had been stripped. To save their favorite public statues–one was Joan of Arc–   residents buried them.  When we drove through the bare town, we were halted by an American MP at a bridge. He said, “Don’t cross. Wait for my signal.”

German artillery was only a couple of miles away. They had been shelling the bridge every minute or so.  Soon, a German shell hit and exploded near the bridge.  The MP waved and shouted, “Move out! Fast!”

Keeping an eye on the bridge roadway, I let the clutch out on the Jeep and sped across. Avoiding debris, we bounced off the far side of the bridge. I headed for shelter behind some buildings.

Cherbourg is on the English Channel and at the end of a peninsula. It was protected by very large guns located at a German-held French fort, high on a hill, but facing the ocean.  Our forces had approached from the landside, so those guns were useless.

Upon entering the town, GIs waved and pointed here and there, warning us.  “Snipers!”

The town and some surrounding areas were badly damaged by our bombers. Since the attack came a day or two after Germans left, locals frowned and yelled angrily. “You killed our people!”

The port was not in good shape. Before being forced out, Germans demolished many facilities.  But, they were not completely gone. Snipers continually pecked away at us.

 

Le (May ‘14) adds, “From here on, I was in frequent contact with civilians of many nationalities. Knowing only the English language, I felt inadequate.”

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