18 June, 2011

18 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
18 June, 1944

Dearest sweetheart -

It doesn’t seem like Sunday today although someone just reminded me that it was in fact. One day runs into the other in an amazing manner. I can’t write you much, darling, exasperating as it must be for you – but that is the way it has to be for now. I can give you some impressions though. The country here – Normandy – is very pretty and has an air or age about it that makes even parts of England seem modern. I’ve had occasion to go to some native farm houses and have got quite a kick out of making myself understood. Quite a bit of my French is coming back and the people seem to understand it – anyway. I wouldn’t say the people are unduly friendly, although not hostile of course. As for myself, sweetheart, I can only say that I now love you from two foreign countries – England and France – and that’s something. I can’t believe I’m actually in France – but I’ll get used to it soon. Believe me, dear, that regardless of distance and excitement – you are never out of my mind and your picture which is always with me in my shirt pocket – has been great comfort. Love to the folks and explain to everyone – Mother, Granny, Mary etc. that I haven’t written because there’s been no time.

All for now dear.
My deepest love –
Greg

* TIDBIT *
about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 2

[Click to enlarge. Back arrow to return]

With the seizure of the bridges at St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte and Ste. Colombe, the 82d Airborne Division and the 9th Division had completed the mission of clearing the east bank of the Douve River as far north as Ste. Colombe. By the evening of 16 June, the 82d Airborne Division securely held St. Sauveur, west of the Douve. About the same time, leading elements of the 9th Division also established a bridgehead across the Douve, at Ste. Colombe. These gains broke the main enemy resistance; and while the 82d pivoted to the south to protect the corps' left flank, the 9th continued its attack to the west, fanning out into open ground through both the Douve bridgeheads. Early on 18 June, the 9th Division occupied Barneville, and by evening, the VII Corps had driven a corridor five miles wide across the peninsula. The enemy north of the corridor counterattacked in a vain effort to reestablish contact with the Germans to the south and then fell back in some disorder toward Cherbourg.

Aerial view of Barneville-Carteret looking south.
Barneville and the Channel are on the right, Cateret at the bottom.
On 18 June 1944 the U.S. 9th Infantry entered Barneville
4 years to the day after the Germans had entered the town.
The prime objective of the VII Corps was achieved: the Cotentin Peninsula was cut in two according to a line which connecting Utah Beach and Barneville. The German forces defending the surroundings of Cherbourg, the new objective of VII Corps, could not join their lines in the South any longer and were condemned to receive no more supplies. There were nearly 40,000 men in this critical situation. The Americans, on their side, maintained the pressure and kept bombarding the German lines of defense which moved back hour per hour. The engagements were violent, although the defenders' morale was low.

The cutting of the peninsula by the 9th Division marked the end of a phase in the VII Corps' operations in the Cotentin Peninsula. With the southern flank of the Corps secured, and the remaining German units bottled up in the peninsula, the Corps could now make a coordinated attack northward to its final objective, the port of Cherbourg. Generals Bradley and Collins decided to use three divisions for the attack to the north. The 4th Division launched a surprise night attack near Montebourg, and the 79th and 9th Divisions began their northward advances early the next morning. That evening, as the 4th and 79th closed in on Valognes, the Germans decided to withdraw to the strong defensive perimeter they had established in the hills around Cherbourg.

Later on 18 June, General Manton Sprague Eddy, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, commended his troops for their accomplishment, and General Montgomery, commander of 21st Army Group, sent personal congratulations to the VII Corps commander, General J. Lawton Collins, on the "roping off" of the peninsula.

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