“Are we there yet?”

Excerpt from 3/357's operations journal. Note paragraph 41.
Excerpt from 3/357’s operations journal. Note paragraph 41.

 

Little wonder that I Company simply stopped in its tracks before the first water obstacle it reached.

It is a terrible idea not to attach important control measures like limits of advance (LOA) to obvious terrain features. I haven’t seen the order and, being generous, I wonder if this isn’t just the battalion clerk’s incomplete transcription. Or was the LOA set by division and/or regiment and transmitted down the chain? At best this is poor staff work. Grid line 80, for what it’s worth is the southern limit of the 1:25k Carentan map sheet, making it an even more dubious choice. Someone once said the most important areas on the map are always found just off the margin. Grid 80 is more than two kilometers south of the line of departure, maybe an hour’s distance in a fully committed and well supported attack. Companies I and L made it over the crest, crossed the blacktop road (1/357’s LOA), and came into line with C/357, who had overshot their limits. Then everybody but Company I withdrew. According to the survivors, they held out against six counterattacks supported by armor and even featuring a bayonet charge.

Situation at the limit of 3/357's advance. Map by Ely 1991 overlain on 1947 IGN orthophoto.
Situation at the limit of 3/357’s advance. Map by Ely 1991 overlain on 1947 IGN orthophoto.

Setting such a dubious LOA seems proof to me someone in the chain of command did not expect fierce resistance or the possibility of German counterattack. MG Landrum was not renowned for his imagination, but recent experience at Gourbesville seems to have taught the division little. Col. Barth, commander of 357IR, was well liked and seemingly a good leader. I’m still unaware who was commanding 3/357 at the time. Perhaps command was duped by the notion the enemy they had cleared out of Ste Suzanne and St. Jores were disorganized remnants of other harshly treated formations. LTC Reimers of 343FA reports firing shells filled with propaganda written in Polish and receiving prisoners thanks to this effort. Did command expect the Germans to draw their lines elsewhere? If so, why? In truth, they faced the competent 77th Infanterie-Divisionen, reinforced by elements of 15 Fallschirmjager regiment.

The FTGU game map depiction of the same area overlain with Ely's map.
The FTGU game map depiction of the same area overlain with Ely’s map.

Such an oversight is hard to countenance, however. Mont Castre, just looking at it, is clearly a formidable obstacle. It is inconceivable the bottleneck between its summit and marshes of Gorges would only be lightly defended.  I suppose that is one of the hazards of attacking an opponent who defends in depth; it may not be immediately apparent where he has drawn the line.

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