29 July, 2011

29 July, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
29 July, 1944
Dearest darling –

Another Saturday – but unlike last Saturday – we’re all imbued with quite a bit of spirit today – due to the way the boys have been traveling these past several days. It’s really heartening. Yesterday we had a busy day at the hospital. I met an M.D. from Boston – by the way. He knew several of the men from Salem – and we had quite a chat.

Besides movies in the evening and digging, we have a new sport around here – pitching horse shoes. You’d be surprised how it helps pass the time. We have some really expert hillbilly boys who are very good at it. The stakes, by the way, are parts taken from a German tank – a Mark V.

I sure am missing you these days, Sweetheart – and I can’t tell you enough how much I love you and want to be with you. But the picture has changed these past few weeks and I’m sure we’re going to be back or at least over with this thing – sooner than we hoped for a little while back. So keep your spirits up, darling!

No mail for several days now. Perhaps today?

My love to the folks – and

My deepest love, dear
Greg



* TIDBIT *

about The End of Operation Cobra

Operation Cobra was over and had brought the expected result. On the 28th, in the Marigny – St Lô area, the front had been successfully broken and the enemy forced into the defensive. The US First Army had decided to use the situation on the front to its advantage and had issued an order that as many units as possible aimed at pursuing the disorganized enemy move forward through the breakthrough. The US VII Corps had been ordered to advance southwards to the left of the adjacent VIII Corps’ operational space. The command of the VIII Corps had ordered the 6th and 4th Armored Divisions to move through the infantry units’ positions and pursue the enemy. It was 1700 hours when the divisions' tanks finally had conquered Coutances. As was the case with St Lô, Coutances had been transformed into a death zone. Not a single home had remained undamaged, and many had been entirely reduced to rubble. In many ways, the occupation of Coutances fulfilled the objective of Operation Cobra. The front had been broken and the GIs had advanced south and southwest through the open countryside. In the course of the day, a significant number of enemy soldiers had found themselves surrounded on the western flank of the US VII Corps when the 3rd Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Divisions met up with the men from the neighboring VIII Corps not far from Coutances.

These three photos are of Coutances on 29 July 1944:



On the 29th, the US VII Corps shifted away from their southwesterly direction, attacked southwards and reached the pre-established Cerences – Hambye – Percy line. The enemy tank columns that withdrew along the main road between Roney and St Denis le Gast suffered extremely major losses caused by air force, artillery and tank shelling. In the course of Operation Cobra, the Wehrmacht and SS units lost a significant number of men and equipment. Panthers, Panzer IV, SdKfz 251 half-track armored vehicles – now all of it lay destroyed by the wayside, along the roads Hitler’s once proud armored machines now used as escape routes. The enemy also left behind a large number of injured men as well as soldiers who had opted for capture as a way out of an otherwise hopeless situation.

After breaking through the front near St Lô, the US VIII Corps continued to pursue the enemy with its 4th and 6th Armored Divisions and motorized infantry commands. Combat Command A from the 6th Armored Division, operating on the Corps’ western flank, secured a crossing over the Sienne River near Pont de la Roche, while Combat Command A from the “sister” 4th Armored Division advanced beyond the river in its advance on Cerences.

The XIX Corps’ 29th Infantry Division, the same division that was the first to “knock” on Rommel’s Atlantic Wall in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, relieved the 2nd Armored Division’s Combat Command A on the Corps’ right flank, advanced to positions east of Percy and made contact with the neighboring US VII Corps. The 30th Infantry Division encountered strong resistance during its advance southwards along the western bank of the Vire River towards Tessy sur Vire.

Here is description of one man's heroic experience on the night of 29 July 1944 for which he was awarded the Army Medal:
Hulon B. Whittington, U.S. Army Sergeant, 41st Armored Inf. 2d Armored Div:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On the night of 29 July 1944, during an enemy armored attack, Sgt. Whittington, a squad leader, assumed command of his platoon when the platoon leader and platoon sergeant became missing in action. He reorganized the defense and, under fire, courageously crawled between gun positions to check the actions of his men. When the advancing enemy attempted to penetrate a roadblock, Sgt. Whittington, completely disregarding intense enemy action, mounted a tank and by shouting through the turret, directed it into position to fire pointblank at the leading Mark V German tank. The destruction of this vehicle blocked all movement of the remaining enemy column consisting of over 100 vehicles of a Panzer unit. The blocked vehicles were then destroyed by handgrenades, bazooka, tank, and artillery fire and large numbers of enemy personnel were wiped out by a bold and resolute bayonet charge inspired by Sgt. Whittington. When the medical aid man had become a casualty, Sgt. Whittington personally administered first aid to his wounded men. The dynamic leadership, the inspiring example, and the dauntless courage of Sgt. Whittington, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.

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