The Battle of Cherbourg was part of the Battle of Normandy during World War II. It was fought immediately after the successful Allied landings on 6 June 1944. Allied troops, mainly American, isolated and captured the fortified port, which was considered vital to the campaign in Western Europe, in a hard-fought, month-long campaign.
When they drew up their plans for the invasion of France, the Allied staff considered that it would be necessary to secure a deep-water port to allow reinforcements to be brought directly from the United States. (Without such a port, equipment packed for transit would first have to be unloaded at a port in Great Britain, unpacked, waterproofed and then reloaded onto landing craft to be transferred to France). Cherbourg, at the end of the Cotentin Peninsula, was the largest port accessible from the landings.
The Allied planners decided at first not to land directly on the Cotentin Peninsula, since this sector would be separated from the main Allied landings by the Douve River valley, which had been flooded by the Germans to deter airborne landings. On being appointed overall land commander for the invasion in January 1944, British Army General Bernard Montgomery reinstated the landing on the Cotentin peninsula, partly to widen the front and therefore prevent the invaders becoming sealed into a narrow lodgement, but also to enable a rapid capture of Cherbourg.
In the early hours of 6 June paratroopers (the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions) landed at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula. Although the landings were scattered, they nevertheless secured most of the routes by which the US VII Corps would advance from Utah Beach. The US 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach shortly after dawn with few casualties.
In the immediate aftermath of the landings the priority for the invasion forces at Utah Beach was to link up with the main Allied landings further east. On 9 June the 101st Airborne Division managed to cross the Douve River valley and captured Carentan the next day. After vicious house-to-house fighting during the Battle of Carentan, the airborne troops were able to take the town, ensuring the Allies a continuous front. The front was maintained despite a German counterattack reinforced by armored units on the 13th, known as the Battle of Bloody Gulch.
This success allowed VII Corps to advance westwards to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula. An additional three infantry divisions had landed to reinforce the Corps. Major General J. Lawton Collins, the Corps Commander, drove his troops hard, replacing units in the front lines or sacking officers if progress was slow.
The Germans facing VII Corps were a mix of regiments and battlegroups from several divisions, many of which had already suffered heavy casualties fighting the American airborne troops in the first days of the landings. Very few German armored or mobile troops could be sent to this part of the front because of the threat to Caen further east. Infantry reinforcements arrived only slowly. Tactically, the Germans' flooding of the Douve worked against them because it secured the Allied southern flank.[ citation needed ]
By 16 June there were no further natural obstacles in front of the American forces. The German command was in some confusion. Erwin Rommel and other commanders wished to withdraw their troops in good order into the Atlantic Wall fortifications of Cherbourg, where they could have withstood a siege for some time. Adolf Hitler demanded that they hold their present lines even though this risked disaster.
Late on 17 June Hitler agreed that the troops might withdraw but specified that they were to occupy a new, illogical defensive line, spanning the entire peninsula just south of Cherbourg. Rommel protested against this order, but he nevertheless dismissed General Farmbacher, commanding the LXXXIV Corps, who he thought was trying to circumvent it.
On 18 June the US 9th Infantry Division reached the west coast of the peninsula, isolating the Cherbourg garrison from any potential reinforcements. Within 24 hours, the 4th Infantry, 9th and 79th Infantry Divisions were driving north on a broad front. There was little opposition on the western side of the peninsula and on the eastern side, the exhausted defenders around Montebourg collapsed. Several large caches of V-1 flying bombs were discovered by the Americans in addition to a V-2 rocket installation at Brix.
In two days, the American divisions were within striking distance of Cherbourg. The garrison commander, Lieutenant General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, had 21,000 men but many of these were hastily drafted naval personnel or from labour units.[ citation needed ] The fighting troops who had retreated to Cherbourg (including the remnants of von Schlieben's own division, the 709th), were tired and disorganised. Food, fuel and ammunition were short. The Luftwaffe dropped a few supplies, but these were mostly items such as Iron Crosses, intended to bolster the garrison's morale.[ citation needed ] Nevertheless, von Schlieben rejected a summons to surrender and began carrying out demolitions to deny the port to the Allies.
Collins launched a general assault on 22 June. Resistance was stiff at first, but the Americans slowly cleared the Germans from their bunkers and concrete pillboxes. Allied naval ships bombarded fortifications near the city on 25 June. On 26 June, the British elite force No. 30 Commando also known as 30 Assault Unit launched an assault on Octeville – a suburb to the south west of Cherbourg. This was the location of the Kriegsmarine naval intelligence HQ at Villa Meurice which the Commandos captured along with 20 officers and 500 men. On the same day the 79th Division captured Fort du Roule, which dominated the city and its defenses. This finished any organised defense. Von Schlieben was captured. The harbor fortifications and the arsenal surrendered on 29 June, after a ruse by Allied officers, Capt Blazzard and Col Teague, who convinced the German officers to surrender the peninsula, bluffing about their manpower and ordnance. Some German troops cut off outside the defenses held out until 1 July.
The Germans had so thoroughly wrecked and mined the port of Cherbourg that Hitler awarded the Knight's Cross to Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke the day after he surrendered for "a feat unprecedented in the annals of coastal defense." [ citation needed ]The port was not brought into limited use until the middle of August; although the first ships were able to use the harbor in late July. Nevertheless, the Germans had suffered a major defeat as a result of a rapid Allied build up on their western flank and Hitler's rigid orders. General Friedrich Dollmann, commanding the German Seventh Army, died on 28 June, having just been informed of a court martial pending as a result of the capture of Cherbourg, reportedly from a heart attack but possibly by suicide by poisoning.
Mission Chicago was a pre-dawn glider-borne combat assault in the American airborne landings in Normandy, made by elements of the 101st Airborne Division on the early morning of June 6, 1944 during the Normandy landings of World War II. It was part of Operation Neptune, the assault portion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord. Originally slated to be the main assault for the 101st Airborne Division, the glider operation instead became the first reinforcement mission after the main parachute combat assault, Mission Albany. Because the area of responsibility for the division was in close proximity to Utah Beach, the use of glider reinforcement was limited in scale, with most division support units transported by sea.
The Normandy landings were the landing operations and associated airborne operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.
Utah, commonly known as Utah Beach, was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), during World War II. The westernmost of the five code-named landing beaches in Normandy, Utah is on the Cotentin Peninsula, west of the mouths of the Douve and Vire rivers. Amphibious landings at Utah were undertaken by United States Army troops, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided by the United States Navy and Coast Guard as well as elements from the British, Dutch and other Allied navies.
Gold, commonly known as Gold Beach, was the code name for one of the five areas of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during the Second World War. Gold, the central of the five areas, was located between Port-en-Bessin on the west and La Rivière on the east. High cliffs at the western end of the zone meant that the landings took place on the flat section between Le Hamel and La Rivière, in the sectors code-named Jig and King. Taking Gold was to be the responsibility of the British Army, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided by the Royal Navy as well as elements from the Dutch, Polish and other Allied navies.
Carentan is a small rural town near the north-eastern base of the French Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy in north-western France near the port city of Cherbourg, with a population somewhat over 6,000. It is a former commune in the Manche department. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Carentan-les-Marais. The town was a strategic early goal of the World War II landings as capturing the town was necessary to link the lodgements at Utah and Omaha beaches which were divided by the Douve River estuary. The town was also needed as an intermediate staging position for the capture of the cities of Cherbourg and Octeville, with the critically important port facilities in Cherbourg.
The 709th Static Infantry Division was a German Army infantry division in World War II. It was raised in May 1941 and used for occupation duties during the German occupation of France in World War II until the Allied invasion. It was on the Normandy coast when the invasion occurred and so fought in the Battle of Normandy. The division was trapped in the Cotentin Peninsula and destroyed in the defense of Cherbourg.
The 91st Air Landing Division was a German Army infantry division in World War II.
The 243rd Static Infantry Division was an infantry division of the German Army raised in July 1943. It was stationed in the Cotentin Peninsula when the Allies invaded in June 1944.
The Battle for Caen is the name given to fighting between the British Second Army and the German Panzergruppe West in the Second World War for control of the city of Caen and vicinity, during the larger Battle of Normandy. The battles followed Operation Neptune, the Allied landings on the French coast on 6 June 1944 (D-Day). Caen is about 9 mi (14 km) inland from the Calvados coast astride the Orne River and Caen Canal, at the junction of several roads and railways. The communication links made it an important operational objective for both sides. Caen and the area to the south is flatter and more open than the bocage country in western Normandy; Allied air force commanders wanted the area captured quickly to base more aircraft in France.
The Battle of Carentan was an engagement in World War II between airborne forces of the United States Army and the German Wehrmacht during the Battle of Normandy. The battle took place between 6 and 13 June 1944, on the approaches to and within the town of Carentan, France.
The Battle for Brest was fought on the Western Front during World War II. Part of the Allied plan for the invasion of mainland Europe called for the capture of port facilities, in order to ensure the timely delivery of the enormous amount of war materiel required to supply the invading Allied forces. It was estimated that the 37 Allied divisions to be on the continent by September 1944 would need 26,000 tons of supplies each day. The main port the Allied forces hoped to seize and put into their service was Brest, in northwestern France.
Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings. A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.
The Douve or Ouve is a river, 79 kilometres in length, which rises in the commune of Tollevast, near Cherbourg in the department of Manche. Ouve is considered its old name : Ouve appears to have been misspelled over the course of time as "Douve river" and then as "River of the Douve". The French name for this watercourse is la Douve.
The U.S. airborne landings in Normandy were the first U.S. combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Around 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day. As the opening maneuver of Operation Neptune the two American airborne divisions were delivered to the continent in two parachute and six glider missions.
Mission Albany was a parachute combat assault at night by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division on June 6, 1944, part of the American airborne landings in Normandy during World War II. It was the opening step of Operation Neptune, the assault portion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, Operation Overlord. 6,928 paratroopers made their jumps from 443 C-47 Skytrain troop carrier planes into an intended objective area of roughly 15 square miles (39 km2) located in the southeast corner of the Cotentin Peninsula of France five hours ahead of the D-Day landings. The landings were badly scattered by bad weather and German ground fire over an area twice as large, with some troops dropped as far as 20 miles (32 km) away.
The Merderet is a 36-kilometre-long (22-mile) river in Normandy, France which is tributary to the Douve River. It runs roughly north-south down the middle of the Cotentin peninsula from Valognes to the junction with the Douve at Beuzeville la Bastille.
Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben was a German general in the Wehrmacht during World War II.
The 77th Infantry Division was a German military unit which served during World War II.
Cherbourg Naval Base is a naval base in Cherbourg Harbour, Cherbourg, Manche department, Normandy. The town has been a base of the French Navy since the end of the 18th century.
Amfreville battery was a World War II German artillery battery constructed close to the French village of Querqueville in northwestern France. It formed part of Germany's Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications and protected the western entrance to the port of Cherbourg. The battery engaged British and US ships towards the end of June 1944 before the battery fell to advancing US forces on 26 June 1944.