12 June 2016

GRB_vicN28.11
Brendan and Florent push out to the road ~150 meters forward
Brendan and Florent, vicinity N28.11, pushing out to the road leading to Les Surelles. The bocage to their left on the game map was torn out sometime after 1947 and the rooftops of the farmhouse can be seen above the bordering hedges. Unlike in the photo, corn was not planted here in 1944, according to Mr. Levavasseur, but wheat which would have stood just under a meter high, judging by other wheatfields observed in the AOI. (Observations made exactly 72 years to the date).

There are few better ways of advancing creative projects than walking and thinking as you go. Except walking and thinking with like-minded companions like developer Brendan Clark and fellow cartographer Florent Desse-Engrand. Over the week, we visited all four AOIs in the game and compared actual topography with my maps. I’m very pleased with my initial work; it was particularly gratifying to see Brendan pull out the game map to navigate, although he had a choice.

Brendan and I talked game design quite a bit, both with respect to FTGU but also to a larger-scale game I’ve been calling “Omega”, as it represents the last HIC WW2 game I want to do. “Beyond Omega” might have been a suitably ridiculous name for the subsequent project until until, in a flash of inspiration, brought on by Brendan’s mention of Alice in Wonderland I came up with “Nine Rabbit Heads in a Box.” Why 9RHB? Because it’s way better than eight and who ever heard of ten?

10 June

Capture

Writes MAJ Charles Ronan, the XO of 3/357 in the winter of 1948, remembering the moment his battalion entered combat:

The Regimental order was issued at 1200 hours, 9 June. The 3rd Battalion was to attack on the regimental right with the 2nd Battalion on the left. The boundary between battalions was the main highway running along the indicated route of advance….

The Battalion Commander, with his party, returned about 1700 hours and immediately issued his order. The Battalion order called for K and L Company to lead the assault. A platoon of heavy machine guns, from M Company, was assigned to each of the assault companies. The 81mm  platoon was initially to be in general support from a position west of the LA FIERE Bridge. The lead element of the Battalion was to cross the Battalion initial point at 0100 hours on 10 June. The Battalion command post was initially to be established near the railroad overpass
east of the LA FIERE Bridge and was to move forward on the Battalion Commander’s order. The Battalion Executive was to check all units at the initial point.

The Battalion area was broken up by innumerable hedgerows. The Battalion Commander directed that all Company commanders thoroughly orient unit guides before darkness so they would be familiar with their routes to the initial point. The Battalion Executive, prior to darkness, checked with each company as to guides and was informed that all were well oriented and there would be no trouble.

Confusion began when the Battalion moved forward. K Company crossed the initial point on schedule. L Company was not present. I Company was ordered to follow K Company. L Company arrived at the initial point as the last of I Company crossed. The unit guides had become lost in the maze of hedgerows and oriented themselves through the sound of the other elements marching down the road. No other difficulties were experienced at that time.

The sudden changing of the Division’s mission, resulted in a very serious handicap to subordinate units. There were insufficient maps for issue to all officers and key noncommissioned officers in the Battalion. The maps, which had been issued for the invasion and initial mission, did not cover the new area over which the Division was now to attack. What maps were issued were not of uniform scale. Certain roads did not appear on all maps. This later resulted in the 3rd Battalion and L Company following wrong roads in the vicinity of Amfreville.

Things become considerably more confused after 3/357 takes its first casualties from errant German fire landing near the causeway. Also, that the maps issued were not BIGOT level maps, thus they did not reflect the water obstacles and had limited information about the road net. Third battalion is held up for some hours while trying to bring its weapons company back in line, during which time the Germans mount a local counterattack straight down the Amfreville road. COL Ginder, the regimental commander then relieves 1st battalion on the left while withdrawing 3rd battalion to reorganize. Second battalion, after suffering extremely light casualties (in spite of the claims of its commander) and are placed in reserve. It is easier (somewhat) to follow Ronan’s account in visual form:

Approach March to Gourbesville 3

 

9 June

The manor at La Fière is at lower left. It must be imagined, in this postwar photo, that the fields to the north and south of the causeway are completely flooded. German defenses began immediately on the other side at the time of Norris's arrival.
The manor at La Fière is at lower left. It must be imagined, in this postwar photo, that the fields to the north and south of the causeway are completely flooded. German defenses began immediately on the other side at the time of Norris’s arrival.

As the 90th’s artillery battalions organize, the divisional artillery commander, BG John Devine sends liaison and fire direction officers to Ste Mère Eglise to meet up with his former West Point classmate Matt Ridgeway, then directing the fight to consolidate a bridgehead at La Fière.

In the presence of the MG Collins, the corps commander, LTC Norris speaks up, suggesting that his battalion of 155mm guns might be able to support the attack to secure the causeway if it were delayed by two hours. On his advice, Gavin is delayed. This must have been a delicate calculation. Balanced against the advantage of Norris’s guns, waiting two hours meant the Germans would be better organized and might even launch a counterattack.

Norris went farther forward to make his observations. Elements of the German 1057/91 Airlanding Division had not been able to consolidate their defense of Craquigny and were still obliged to engage with the paratroopers assembled in an orchard just east of Amfreville. Writes Norris:

Gavin, from outside the foxhole, nonchalantly showed us what he wanted hit. Bob [345th’s operations officer] then conducted a brilliant adjustment of fire on Gavin’s preferred targets. It was a textbook performance by a superb gunnery officer. Then, we began to await the arrival of all howitzers by 10:30. (The target area involved the German front line, defending against a crossing of the Merderet. Although the range from our howitzers to the target was over five miles, Bob’s calculations were so accurate that the first round landed within fifty hards of the target—a splendid payoff indeed for his countless hours of gunnery and fire-direction training. His rapid three-round adjustment gave the Krauts no warning of the devastating fire that greeted them when the assault began….

Fortunately, all twelve howitzers came into position. At 10:30 we fired. “Battalion 15 rounds as rapidly as possible,” [was the order]. We put 180 rounds of 96-lb HE shells into the most dangerous areas at the end of the causeway. It was quite a help to the assault….

The next evening 357IR would follow in the trace of 3/325, who were still engaged, defending the bridgehead.
The next evening 357IR would follow in the trace of 3/325, who were still engaged, defending the bridgehead.

After a costly action carried by 3/325 Glider and C/505 PIR, the bridgehead that would allow the passage of 357/90 was secure. (A detailed account may be found here: http://smallwarsjournal.com/print/12774)

8 June

Capture
Assembly area for 90ID (minus 359IR) on 8 June 1944, two days prior to their relief of 82ABD.

8 June: The main body of the division arrived off UTAH Beach mid-morning and began debarking from the three ships simultaneously. All troops, but only 5% of the Divisions transport vehicles made it ashore that day. The Division closed into an assembly area TURQUEVILLE-REUVILLE-AUDOUNVILLE LE HUBERT-ECOQUENEUVILLE with the CP at Loutres by midnight.

Warning orders were received from VII Coprs directing the division to attack on 10 June (D+4) through the 82nd Airborne Division on the Merderet river with two regiments (the 359th Inf. was to remain attached to the 4th Div.) and seize the high ground east of the Douve river near St. Sauver Le Vicomte.

-LTC Eames Yates

The desperate fights going on at La Fière, Timmes Orchard (vic Amfreville) and Hill 30 should be remembered. The Germans had just brought up the better part of a battalion to Le Motey (upper left) to deal with Timmes’s assorted elements. They were also in the process of bringing up a training tank battalion in an effort to retake La Fière across the famous causeway.