21 June, 2011

21 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Somewhere in France
21 June, 1944       0930

My dearest sweetheart –

I’ll have to write small and excuse the crinkled paper. The latter is scarce here and hard to keep when you’re on the move. I’ve wanted to write you a letter for some time now, darling, just to ramble on without the confines of a limited space of V-mail – but I just haven’t been able to. As a matter of fact, dear, few of the boys in this campaign have found much time to write at all, but I’m doing all I can to get something off to you daily. Some days it doesn’t even go out because we’re moving or not certain of the post-office location. And the drivers are very careful when on the road – because it’s easy to land in enemy territory – and it’s so different from maneuvers!

I don’t intend to give you any of the morbid aspects of warfare, sweetheart, but I can sum it up in one word – “terrible”. And yet – as unhumanitarian as it may seem for a doctor to express himself so – I have not been able to feel one bit of pity for the hundreds of dead Germans I’ve seen along the roads and in the fields. The French feel the same – despite the fact that many of them had become quite friendly with the German soldiers after having them billeted in their homes for 4 years.

Many things run through a fellow’s mind these days, dear. It’s a different world we’re living in now than anything up to now. The element of time is peculiar. It just doesn’t exist for us right now and we actually forget the day of the week – for days at a time. Noise is another thing that has impressed me, i.e. in a negative manner. You merely get used to it and it soon loses it significance. Don’t misinterpret me, dear, I’m still careful and on my toes as always – but you do get accustomed to things.

When we’re on the road, or when I’m digging my foxhole, or lying in my bedding roll – those are the times I find myself thinking of you, sweetheart – and home; oh – I do a hundred times a day – when things flash across my mind; but I mean when I can think of us – in connected thoughts. War and destruction have made me appreciate even more than I did the values of a sweetheart, a family, a home – and a chance to live. I know I haven’t seen much of war yet – but I know it will not harden me. It will make me want you and the life I knew, more than ever, darling. Gosh, dear, I can’t tell you what my love for you and its reciprocation really means to me and especially now. All this waiting, this loneliness, this gypsy existence – is tolerable only because I have you to come back to and I mean what I’m saying. And many a fellow I’ve talked to in the short time since this all started doesn’t care whether he gets back at all – or not, and invariably it’s a fellow who has nothing to come back to. So you see darling, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Well – I started out not to be morbid or philosophical – but I didn’t succeed, dear. But I do hope you know how much I love you and care for you. We’re doing well here and when we turn around and start chasing the Heines back thru France – perhaps things will end up quickly. I do hope you’re finding the Red Cross work absorbing and time filling – and let me know when you get your uniform. Give my love to the folks and the family, keep a stiff upper lip – and never forget for a moment that I love you and that fundamentally – you never leave my mind for a moment.

My deepest love


about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 4

Advance from 19-21 June 1944
From UTAH BEACH TO CHERBOURG (6 June-27 June 1944) comes this:
On the night of 21 June General Collins sent an ultimatum by radio and messenger to the commander of the German ground forces, General von Schlieben. Pointing out that Cherbourg was isolated and the German position hopeless, he asked for the surrender of the port. The message was broadcast in Polish, Russian, and French, as well as in German, to the members of the enemy garrison. The ultimatum was to expire at 0900 on 22 June.
Stars and Stripes, 21 June 1944
Meanwhile General Collins proceeded with plans for the assault of the semicircular perimeter of fortifications surrounding Cherbourg. An outstanding feature of the attack was to be an intensive air bombardment of the main defenses south and southwest of the city. While the three divisions probed the German lines on 21 June, arrangements for the air support were made with Maj. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada of the IX Tactical Air Command. The plan called first for eighty minutes of bombing and strafing of known enemy installations prior to H-Hour by Typhoons and Mustangs of the 2d Tactical Air Force (RAF) and by fighter-bombers of the Ninth Air Force. At H-Hour medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force were to begin delivering a series of attacks designed to form an aerial barrage moving northward in anticipation of the advance of the ground forces. All eleven Groups of the IX Bomber Command were to participate in the attacks on eleven defended localities.

The day and hour of the attack depended largely on the weather, which was not promising at the time. General Collins, however, tentatively scheduled the attack for 1200-1600, 22 June, and outlined the plan to the three division commanders. The principal targets for the air bombardment were to be the heavily defended areas north and east of Flottemanville-Hague and Martinvast; the fortifications astride the Valognes-Cherbourg highway at les Chevres, which barred the 79th Division's advance; and three strong points, referred to as "C," "D," and "F." "C" was a strong antiaircraft position southwest of Cherbourg in the path of the 47th Infantry. "F" and "D" were strong points on the southern approaches to Cherbourg, "D" being the formidable Fort du Roule built into the cliff overlooking the port. For the pre-H-Hour bombing, troops were to be pulled back at least 1,000 yards behind the bomb line. Artillery fire was to immediately follow this bombing and the attacking troops were to move rapidly to their initial objectives.
Aerial Reconnaissance Photo of the Port from 21 June 1944
General Collins directed the 4th Division to continue on its mission of isolating Cherbourg from the east. Its main effort was to be made by the 12th Infantry, which was to capture heavily defended Tourlaville and then cut through to the coast. The 79th Division was to make its principal drive on its right, moving up the highway and seizing the high nose which commands the city and terminates in the fortified cliff at Fort du Roule. The 9th Division's chief effort was also to be on its right, the principal objective being the Octeville heights which overlook Cherbourg from the west and south.

During the last few days the capture of Cherbourg had taken on an even greater urgency than had existed before. On 19 June the highest tide of the year combined with a 4-day storm had damaged unloading craft and the floating piers and roadways, threatening serious delay in the unloading of supplies. As a precaution against future shortages First Army ordered a one-third reduction in artillery ammunition expenditure in the Cherbourg attack. General Collins, in his verbal orders on 21 June, said: "This attack on Cherbourg is the major effort of the American Army and is especially vital now that unloading across the beaches has been interfered with by weather. All Division Commanders surely appreciate the importance of this attack."

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