A nice clear day today – after a couple of rather raw ones. Everything has been going along well dear, and we seem to be making good progress. My radio – which has followed me everywhere in the Army – is still with me and helps keep us posted on what’s going on. That may sound strange, but it’s true. Generally we know only what’s going on in our own sector. It’s also strange to hear a broadcast of jive music, or Charlie McCarthy or Fibber McGee and Molly in the middle of a field – with chaos not too far away. But it does help relax us – and I hope my battery holds out awhile.
The mail in this direction is still a bit confused and so I haven’t heard from you for several days. Just like everyone else – the APO is en route a good part of the time and I know that we’ll all get mail perhaps today or tomorrow. But I don’t mind sweetheart as long as my mail is reaching you – and I hope it is.
The feeling around here is that the goddam Boches can’t possibly hold us when the big push starts. Anyone who ever doubted the fighting ability of the American soldier – was all wet. They’ve fought wonderfully – particularly the airborne outfits – who can be as savage and ruthless as necessary. Most of them are now riding around in captured Jerry scout cars and no one begrudges them their comfort – because they usually have to walk. Sweetheart – that’s all for now. Remember, darling, don’t worry. I’m well and taking care of myself. Love to the folks.
|Captured German Scout Car used by a War Correspondent|
On the morning of 22 June the ultimatum expired without word from the German fortress commander. The weather had turned favorable. At 0940 the Corps commander therefore notified the division commanders that the attack would be launched. H-Hour was 1400. Bombing was to begin at 1240. Division and regimental commanders had already made their plans and issued field orders on the basis of the previous day's verbal orders. All that remained was for unit commanders to give last-minute instructions regarding H-Hour, the withdrawal for the bombardment, and the jump-off.
A few minutes before the fighter-bombers appeared, front lines were marked with yellow smoke and bomb lines with white phosphorus. At 1240 the pre-H-Hour bombing and strafing attacks were initiated by four squadrons of rocket-firing Typhoons, followed by six squadrons of Mustangs, all from the 2d Tactical Air Force (RAF). At approximately 1300 the attacks were taken over by twelve groups of fighter-bombers of the Ninth Air Force and eleven groups from Ninth Bomber Command. Between them the four waves of attacks dropped 1,100 tons on the German defenses. For fifty-five minutes P-47's, P-38's, and P-51's (562 planes) bombed and strafed front-line strong points at low level, one group coming over approximately every five minutes.
Between 1300 and 1330, the 47th, 60th, and 22d Infantry Regiments all called their headquarters to say that they were being bombed and strafed by friendly planes, and sought means of stopping the attacks. These units and others suffered several casualties from the air attacks. The errors were believed to have been caused at least in part by the drift of the marking smoke in the fairly strong northeast wind. As the mediums began to come over at 1400 to bomb the German lines in front of the 9th and 79th Divisions, the attacking units jumped off; at 1430 the three regiments of the 4th Division joined the attack. Between 1400 and 1455 the eleven groups of light and medium bombers of the IX Bomber Command (387 planes) delivered their attacks on the eleven defended areas expected to give trouble in the drive on the city.
Measured by sheer physical destruction the bombardment was none too effective, except on a few targets. Its greatest effect was in cutting German communications and depressing enemy morale, but in general the bombing was scattered-as indicated by the drops to the rear of the American lines. This was the first large-scale use of medium and fighter-bombers in close support of ground troops since the launching of the Normandy operation, and coordination of all elements had not been perfected. Arrangements for the bombardment had to be made through difficult command channels. While General Quesada went to VII Corps Headquarters to work out the initial air plan, he was chiefly with First Army Headquarters at this time, and most of the aircraft were still operating from England. The bombardment had had to be planned very hurriedly; there was insufficient time to transmit details on last-minute changes in the plan to all the parties concerned, or to coordinate artillery fires against antiaircraft batteries with the bombing attacks or even in some instances to brief pilots properly.
However, fighter-bombers did exceptionally effective work in destroying some of the German positions, particularly on the west side of Cherbourg. A later analysis of the fire support in the assault on Cherbourg concluded that the best air-artillery-infantry coordination had been achieved by the 9th Division, with artillery first firing effectively against flak positions, followed by the air bombing, and then artillery resuming fire to cover the infantry advance. However, while the Corps' attack achieved penetrations of varying depth, no real breakthrough was made immediately anywhere along the Cherbourg front.
At this point in the battle, all the divisions were forced to execute a methodical reduction of strong points. Each pillbox had to be blasted out, and Collins' men developed a slow but relatively safe method of dealing with these fortifications. Artillery and dive bombers would force the Germans into their concrete defenses. A light bombardment would keep them pinned down while the infantry advanced to within 400 yards of the pillbox. The infantry would then take over, pouring heavy fire into the embrasures, while combat engineers worked their way around to the rear, blew the doors open and then threw explosives or smoke grenades into the pillbox.
|Well-concealed German Pillbox|
|Blowing up a German Pillbox with|
Soldiers behind Vehicle for Protection
|Remains of a Blown Up German Pillbox|