24 June, 2011

24 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
24 June, 1944         1000

My dearest one –

Today is 11 months that I know you and tomorrow will be seven months that I’ve been overseas. Subtracting 7 from 11 leaves 4 – and I just can’t make myself believe that actually we saw each other during a 4 month period only. It just doesn’t seem possible that we could have gotten to know each other so well in so short a time; well enough to become engaged to each other and to think only in terms of our being married and together for always – someday. I’m actually more surprised at you than I am at myself, darling. The fact is I knew what I wanted for a long time and when I met you, I knew you were it immediately. I’m still amazed at your desire to be engaged to me, to wait for me, to put up with my being away – all this after knowing me for only 4 months. Now – sweetheart – don’t be angry with me. You know how thankful I am for all this. It is because I’m so thankful that I think of it so often. You see, dear, I do not take you for granted.

It would be nice to feel that the greatest part of our separation is behind us. I don’t know what to think on that score, but certainly a big chunk of it is – and the fact that the big battle is on is a big help to all of us. When we were sitting around in England – things were more comfortable all right – but we couldn’t help but feel uneasy about our inactivity. We knew that the longer we stayed in England, the longer we would be in returning home. Now everyone is imbued with a spirit of drive to get the damn thing over with and we all feel that every day that goes by now – we’re accomplishing something towards going home.


No mail so far today, but it’s still early and we all have great hopes of getting some later in the day. Surely it will be welcome, dear. It seems like ages since I heard from you – although it really isn’t so very long ago. The last date which I heard from you was June 5th. I’ve received no letter from you written from that date on and I’m wondering what your reaction was to the news of the Landings in France. As recently as that was – it already seems like a fantasy rather than an actuality, but it’s good to feel that it’s behind us. One thing I was never able to write you from England, darling, was the wonderful job the Army was doing in preparing us for this. Things were really worked out well.

I’ve been addressing my letters to the folks – to Winthrop. I assume they are there by now. I hope you get a chance to visit with them and get some swimming in. You must be a great comfort to my family these days, I know, and that’s another thing I’m thankful for.

Well, darling it’s time to close for now. I hope your work is going along well – and that you’re not working too hard, either. Send my love to the folks, dear, and always remember how much I love you and miss you and then you’ll know that I’ll come back to you safe and sound one fine day.

All my love for now –
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 5
Night Positions of Forward Elements
Green = 23 June, Black - 24 June
Red circles are German Defenses
On June 22, Hitler had ordered General Schlieben to fulfill his duty of defending the city and, in the worst-case scenario, destroy the deep water harbor to leave nothing to the enemy. According to the Allied observers, it would take several weeks to repair the harbor installations, once the city was liberated by the Americans. General Schlieben had requested reinforcements. He had also considered and canceled the airdrop of the German 15th Parachute Regiment in Brittany.

Meanwhile, the American troops of VII Corps had continued their progression, slow and bloody. German defenses fell one by one. All three American divisions had endured heavy fighting and penetrated significant positions in the German line, making steady progress on 23 June. By early in the afternoon von Schlieben reported that the Americans had broken through on the land front and were advancing in four wedges towards the city. He reported that he had committed his last reserves to the battle, including a number of non-combatants equipped with old French weapons. He also handed out a large number of Iron Crosses that had been dropped in by parachute, in an attempt to boost morale.
Iron Cross 2nd Classes Awarded During the Fighting in Normandy
This didn't stop the US 4th Division from reaching the northern coast three miles to the east of the city. The penetrations into the outer ring of the Cherbourg fortress had moved the battle for the port into the final phase. General Schlieben reported on the morning of the 24th that he had no reserves and ordered his men to fight to the last ammunition cartridge.

General Collins' verbal orders for 24 June made no fundamental changes in the plans outlined several days earlier. The flank regiments of the Corps, the 22d and the 60th, were assigned the mission of containing the enemy in the northeast and northwest respectively. The 47th and 39th Infantry Regiments were to make a coordinated attack toward Octeville, a suburb southwest of Cherbourg, and the 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments were to attack in the east. The 79th Division was to capture the strong point at la Mare à Canards by double envelopment, following a dive-bombing early in the morning. Air preparation was also planned on other major strong points.

On June 24, VII Corps closed in on the city. The 9th Division overran three Luftwaffe installations to hold established positions in front of Octeville. The 79th Division cleared la Mare a Canards and pushed on within sight of Fort du Roule. Although the Cherbourg defense was collapsing, VII Corps still met with some bitter last stands. The 4th Division encountered heavy resistance, losing two battalion commanders killed, while capturing 800 German soldiers and occupying Tourlaville. Fort du Roule was the key to Cherbourg. The Germans had fortified it with Anti-Aircraft guns (AA's), concrete emplacements, pill boxes, anti-tank ditches and barbed wire. 3rd BN made three attempts for heights adjacent to the fort. All were unsuccessful and resulted in heavy casualties.

Aerial View of Fort du Roule overlooking Cherbourg

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