25 June, 2011

25 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
25 June, 1944         1600

My darling Wilma –

I don’t know how far I’ll get with this. I started to use V-mail but changed to this – no matter how little I write. Yesterday we got mail. I got 2 letters – both from you, written on the 6th and 7th; also Time magazine of June 12, and the fortnightly Salem news letter.

I can well imagine how you felt on D-Day, sweetheart. It certainly must be tough for those at home – because over here we know at least what we’re doing and how we’re doing. Faith and trust is all you can lean on, darling. Depend on that and you should find things easier. It certainly helps on this side – otherwise you’d be sure that every shell was coming your way. I appreciate your prayers, sweetheart, and haven’t stopped praying myself. I want so much for us to be together again, happy and living a normal married life – that it just has to work out that way.

Yes, dear, I was glad to read that Stephen was going to Latin School. It certainly is the only school in the city and should get him ready for college – Harvard, I hope. He ought to do well – he seems bright enough.

Say, by the way, dear – in one of your previous letters you mentioned you were getting to know some medical terminology. That’s fine because I know I’m bound to be referring to some cases in the course of a day’s work – and the more names of diseases that you’ll know – the easier it will be for me to explain.

Here in France it’s a quiet Sunday – for some reason or other. The day started out sunny and warm – but this p.m. it clouded up and I guess we’ll have rain. It seems a bit quieter in this sector than it has been for some time – and it sure is welcome. Where we are and what we’re doing should be fairly obvious to you, dear and I’m sure the radio tells you where the Americans are and what their mission is right now. But so far I haven’t been too busy and all seems to be going well with us – so don’t worry too much, darling.

I’ll have to stop now, dear, and excuse my writing on both sides of this very thin GI paper – but paper is very scarce here and I’m glad to have even this. Don’t forget – I don’t want you worrying! My love to the folks – and to you, dear

All my love for always


about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 6

The outstanding event of 25 June was the capture of Fort du Roule. Built high and secure into the steep rock promontory which stands immediately back of the city, the fort dominated the entire harbor area and was a formidable-appearing bastion, particularly from the sea. Fort du Roule was primarily a coastal fortress, with its guns housed in the lower levels of the fort pointing seaward. However, it was also defended against land attack from its top level, which mounted automatic weapons and mortars in concrete pillboxes, and enjoyed a favorable defensive position with the steep sides of the promontory restricting the approach to the fort along a solitary ridge. Only the top level of the fort was visible from the land side. A few hundred yards southeast of the fort the Germans had dug an antitank ditch. Several hundred yards farther south was a stream bed, still another hindrance to the attackers.

At 0800 on 25 June one squadron of P-47's bombed Fort du Roule, but for the most part the planes overshot their mark and no damage was done to the subterranean tunnels housing the guns. The land attack was undertaken by the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 314th Infantry. The 3d Battalion first attempted an attack straight across the draw south of the fort. But on reaching the slopes leading to the draw the battalion was met with a tremendous volume of small-arms fire originating from a row of dug-in positions on the forward slope. The resistance from these bunkers was finally eliminated by the concentration of all machine guns in the 2d and 3d Battalions. Few Germans escaped to the fort. Most were wiped out by the great volume of automatic fire. 

American Soldiers of the 79th Infantry with a Medic
after fighting against German positions at Fort du Roule.
A young German Corporal lies dead.

This photo belongs to Photosnormandie's Photostream
on Flickr.
From this point the attack was taken over by the 2d Battalion, with the 3d providing covering fire. In the course of these operations the capture of the fort was given its most notable impetus by the action of Cpl. John D. Kelly of Company E. Kelly's platoon had become pinned down on the slopes by enemy machine-gun fire from one of the pillboxes. Volunteering to knock out the position, Corporal Kelly armed himself with a 10-foot pole charge with fifteen pounds of TNT, inched his way up the slope under withering heavy automatic fire. and placed the charge at the base of the strong point. The first blast was ineffective. Kelly therefore returned for another charge and braved the slope again to repeat the operation. This time the ends of the enemy guns were blown off. Kelly then returned for still another charge and climbed the slope a third time to place a charge at the rear entrance of the pillbox. Following this blast he hurled hand grenades into the position, forcing the surviving enemy crews to surrender. While he survived this heroic act, he was later killed in action.
Meanwhile, the 3d Battalion moved up to clear resistance from the left flank of the assaulting battalion. Here again the fight was aided by an individual exploit. When Company K was stopped by combined 88-mm. and machine-gun fire, 1st Lt. Carlos C. Ogden, who had just taken over the company from the wounded company commander, armed himself with an M1 rifle, a grenade launcher, and a number of rifle and hand grenades and advanced alone up the slope toward the enemy emplacements. Although wounded in this advance, Ogden continued up the slope and finally reached a point from which he destroyed the 88-mm gun with a well-placed rifle grenade. Again wounded, Ogden continued, found the two machine guns which had held up his company, and with hand grenades knocked them out also.
These and other destructive attacks gradually induced various sections of the fort's top level to surrender. Some sections held out until nearly 2200 that night, and even then only the capture of the top level was completed. It was still impossible to enter the city in strength on 25 June due to the fire from the guns in the lower level of Fort du Roule.

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