Chapter 3

The Battle for Normandy

At a considerable cost in men and materiel, the U.S. Army gradually began to adapt to the new terrain, capturing the port of Cherbourg by the end of June and the vital road junction of St. Lo by midJuly. The Wehrmacht concentrated most of its panzer divisions farther east in the better tank country around Caen, fearing the threat of a British armored

breakout. By mid July, the American sector was defended by one full-strength panzer division (the 2nd SS Panzer Division) and two other divisions that had become badly beat up in the bocage fighting (the Panzer Lehr Division and the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division). By this stage, the U.S. Army had two armored divisions in Normandy with Bradley's First Army (the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions), and two more were added when Patton's Third Army was secretly transferred from the United Kingdom (the 4th and 6th Armored Divisions). These provided the vital mass of maneuver needed for a new operation, code-named Cobra, which was intended to rip open the thinly defended German lines and secure a breakout from Normandy.

In anticipation of the breakout operation, the U.S. Army deployed one of its secret weapons. American units had been experimenting with various types of devices to permit a tank to crash through the dense Called "rhinos" or Culin hedgerow cutters, these came in a broader range of shapes and types than is generally realized. More than 600 of these were locally manufactured in midJuly and fastened to the front of many tanks.

A paratrooper inspects a German fortified position about a mile behind Utah Beach in the airborne landing zones. The tank wreck in the foreground is a French Renault R-35 light tank. It was overturned by naval gunfire and was probably from Panzer Abteilung 100 (1 00th Tank Battalion), which was active in fighting with the 82nd Airborne Division behind the beachhead in the days after the landings.

A glider infantryman from the 82nd Airborne Division stands guard near the wreck of a German Renault UE light armored tractor on 14 June 1944. This is near the glider landing zones. A Waco CG-4A glider can be seen behind the foliage.

American units continued to face German coastal defenses as they fought their way up along the Cotentin Peninsula toward Cherbourg in June 1944. This is a 50mm pedestal gun in a Ringstand fortification knocked out during the fighting around Fort de Foucarville up the coast from Utah.

A wrecked German Marder Ill tank destroyer in a town square during the early fighting in the Utah Beach sector. This type of vehicle was widely used in the Normandy campaign, with each German infantry division nominally having a company of these.

A German Marder I I I tank destroyer moves up on the Normandy front past the damaged wing of a Horsa glider. This German photo was found by an officer of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division.

A view of the German armored column from the other direction toward SainteMere-Eglise shows the ill-fated German column.

On D+1, Grenadier Regiment 1058, supported by several StuG I I I Ausf. G assault guns, attempted to overcome the 82nd Airborne Division's defenses in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. They were counterattacked by elements of the HQ Company and Company B, 746th Tank Battalion. As can be seen, the attack was beaten back with the loss of two assault guns and some towed antitank guns.

The other StuG I I I Ausf. G knocked out while supporting Grenadier Regiment 1058's attacks on U.S. paratroopers in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. This one was hit no fewer than four times, but from the size of the gouges on the bow, it was probably a victim of M4 tanks of the 746th Tank Battalion. An airborne 57mm antitank gun sits beside it.

During their attack, the column from the 746th Tank Battalion lost two M4 tanks to German antitank fire. Here they are passed by paratroop infantry.

GIs of the 4th Infantry Division escort a group of German prisoners as an M4 medium tank of the 70th Tank Battalion passes by during the fighting west of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on 10 June as part of the VII Corps' effort to expand the Utah beachhead toward Cherbourg.

A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division examines one of the M4 medium tanks from the 746th Tank Battalion knocked out in the Sainte-Mere-Eglise fighting.

An M4 tank of Company A, 746th Tank Battalion, passes through St. Sauveur-leVicomte during the fighting in Normandy in June. This unit was used to support the 82nd Airborne Division during the initial fighting that month.

The airborne division had relatively weak antitank capabilities, relying on bazookas and small numbers of 6-pounder (57mm) antitank guns. Nevertheless, these proved adequate to beat off an armored attack by the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division near Carentan, as seen here with a knocked-out StuG IV assault gun behind a 6-pounder of the 82nd Airborne Division on 13 June.

A column of M5A1 light tanks-probably from Company D, 746th Tank Battalionadvances through a Norman village in June 1944. At this stage of the war, each U.S. Army tank battalion had a single company of these light tanks.

This Marder III Ausf. M from Panzerjager Abteilung 243 (243rd Tank Destroyer Battalion) was captured by the 82nd Airborne Division during the fighting on the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy in June 1944. A knocked-out M4 medium tank can be seen in front of it.

American troops occasionally found personal photos taken by German soldiers, like this shot of a converted French Lorraine tractor with a 150mm howitzer of the 21st Panzer Division in France. These vehicles operated mainly in the neighboring British sector of the Normandy front.

Armored D9 dozers were used by U.S. Army engineer units in Normandy, seen here clearing debris in a Norman town.

An M7 105mm howitzer motor carriage moves to the front in Normandy on 13 June as part of the efforts to expand the beachhead.

The Mobelwagen mated the 37mm FIaK 36 with the Pz.Kpfw. IV chassis and was first encountered by the U.S. Army in Normandy in June 1944. This example has the side panels folded down.

An M7 105mm howitzer motor carriage of Battery B, 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, moves through Carentan on 18 June. This vehicle is the intermediate-production type with the deeper pulpit introduced in January 1943. The 2nd Armored Division added stowage racks on the hull side, much like those on half-tracks.

A U.S. Army mechanized column passes through Montebourg on 23 June as the local citizens wave. The M3A1 half-track to the left is nicknamed Dirty Gertie.

Troops of the 3rd Armored Division take a breather in front of one of the division's M4 tanks near Le Desert, France, on 31 July 1944.

Another example of a 47mm PaK(t) auf Pz.Kpfw. 35R(f) captured in Normandy. These were used by a number of German tank destroyer companies in lower Normandy in the summer of 1944.

GIs inspect a 4.7-centimeter PaK(t) auf Pz.Kpfw. 35R(f), a tank destroyer consisting of a Czechoslovakian 47mm gun mounted on a French Renault R-35 chassis. There were 110 of these in service in France in 1944, mainly in Normandy. This one was abandoned in Littry and was photographed on 20 June 1944.

A rear view of the same vehicle from a wartime technical intelligence report on captured German equipment. The Normandy garrison received a number of these conversions on old French tank chassis in 1943 when this front had low priority for equipment; by 1944, they were becoming obsolete.

A U.S. ordnance collection point for captured German equipment in lower Normandy shows the usual mixture of types typical in this theater in June. In the background is an old French Hotchkiss H-39 tank that was probably used by Panzer Abteilung 100 during the fighting with the paratroopers. The tank destroyer in the upper right is a Panzerjager 38(t) Ausf. H, which was armed with the effective 75mm PaK 40 antitank gun. In the foreground is a pair of Renault UE light armored tractors that were widely used by the German army in Normandy for utility tasks.

An M4 composite-hull medium tank extracts itself from a muddy irrigation ditch alongside a hedgerow in late June. The bocage so characteristic of this section of Normandy made tank operations especially difficult in the first month of fighting.

An M32B1 tank-recovery vehicle (named Step N' Fetchit after the popular radio character) passes through the town of SainteMere-Eglise on 21 June during the fighting for St. Lo. It is towing an M4 medium tank. There were five M31 or M32 tank-recovery vehicles in each tank battalion-one in each of the three medium tank companies and two with the battalion's service company.

The commander of a well-camouflaged M4 medium tank peers through binoculars during the fighting on the Cotentin Peninsula in mid-June 1944 during the advance toward Cherbourg.

The troops in an armored recon jeep talks to local French civilians while patrolling on the outskirts of Cherbourg on 17 July.

The port city of Cherbourg on the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula was a major objective of the VII Corps in the last weeks of June. This port was heavily defended by German fortifications, and this is one of the typical German 50mm pedestal guns in a Ringstand concrete pit, typical of German coastal defenses in Normandy.

A GI bazooka team poses next to the armored cupola of a German bunker in the outer-defense belt that ringed the port of Cherbourg.

An M4 tank from the 740th Tank Battalion supports a group of GIs during the street fighting in Cherbourg, which began in earnest on 21 June with an assault by the U.S. 4th and 79th Divisions.

A pair of M4 tanks of the 740th Tank Battalion moves through Cherbourg on 27 June. This was the first Normandy port to fall into Allied hands, but the Germans had so thoroughly demolished its facilities that it was of little benefit to the Allies for months.

An M4 of the 746th Tank Battalion moves down Rue du Val de Saire in Cherbourg on 26 June during the fighting there.

An M4 medium tank (named Big-BadMomma) of Company B, 740th Tank Battalion, is serviced by its crew in Cherbourg after the port city fell earlier in the month. For the first three months of the French campaign, the M4 and M4A1 medium tanks were the predominant types in U.S. Army service. The newer, and preferred, M4A3 did not begin to appear in large numbers until the late summer.

A U.S. Army military police patrol use a captured Kettenkrad tracked motorcycle while on duty in the seaport of Cherbourg after its capture in late June 1944.

GIs and local French civilians enjoy the liberation of Cherbourg while driving around on a Renault UE light armored tractor on 29 June.

A GI inspects a column of German Renault UE light armored tractors abandoned in Cherbourg following the surrender of the port. These French vehicles had originally been built by the French army in the 1930s to tow 25mm antitank guns.

An M4 tank supporting troops near Haye-du-Poits on 7 July. This is a relatively early-production M4 with the initial gun-mantlet configuration without the side-cheek armor. It has been rebuilt with the added hull and turret armor, probably in England. The use of the prominent Allied star was common in the initial phases of the Normandy fighting, but they were later painted out by most units since they provided too inviting a target to German gunners.

Captured UE light armored tractors were sometimes used by American troops after their capture. This example was modified by the 9th Air Service Command ordnance for airfield protection in Normandy by adding a gun shield along with a German aircraft machine gun found on a captured airfield.

A well-camouflaged M4 of the 70th Tank Battalion is passed by a medic's jeep during the fighting in the Normandy hedgerows in July 1944. During the campaign, the 70th Tank Battalion provided support to the 4th Infantry Division.

An M1A1 heavy wrecker truck of the 9th Air Service Command is used to extract a damaged German StuG I I I assault gun from a ditch in Normandy in early July.

Troops of the 117th Infantry, 30th Division, supported by an M4A1 Donald Duck tank of the 743rd Tank Battalion, move through St. Fromond on 7 July during the offensive toward the Vire River. This tank is a veteran of the D-Day landings in the Vierville sector, but it has had its canvas screen removed.

A StuG I I I Ausf G. found destroyed along the roadside in France in July 1944. This was one of the most commonly encountered German armored vehicles in the American sector of the Normandy front.

The crew of an M5A1 (named Cadallac) of Company C, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, looks at the effects of a near artillery miss on the sheetmetal sand shields.

An M5A1 (named L-on-Wheels) from Company L, 32nd Armored Regiment, Combat Command A (CCA), 3rd Armored Division, passes by a 90mm antiaircraft gun set up for improvised antitank defense in St. Fromond on July 9. The tank is heading toward Le Desert, where the Panzer Lehr Division was conducting a major counterattack. Curiously enough, it is still fitted with the canvas waterproofing over the 37mm gun.

An M10 of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in support of the 30th Division during the advance through St. Fromond on 7 July.

A column from CCB of the U.S. 3rd Armored Division ran into elements of the 6th Company of SS Panzer Regiment 2 of the 2nd SS Panzer Division supporting Kampfgruppe Wisliceny near St. Fromond, where the Germans lost several Pz.Kpfw. IV tanks.

CCB, 3rd Armored Division, passes the knocked-out German column. The tank in the foreground is an M4A1 medium tank (named Derby) of Company D, 33rd Armored Regiment.

An M5A1 light tank of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment, CCB, 3rd Armored Division, passes along the same stretch of road in St. Fromond on 11 July while the fighting in this sector continued.

A view down the road as an M4A1 medium tank of the 33rd Armored Regiment passes by two knocked-out Pz.Kpfw. IV tanks of the 6th Company, SS Panzer Regiment 2. The rear tank is numbered 622 and carries the divisional insignia in the upper-left corner of the rear plate.

An M10 3-inch gun motor carriage from the 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion supports the 3rd Armored Division near St. Jean de Daye on 11 July. That day, the Panzer Lehr Division launched a counterattack in this sector, and the tank destroyers were credited with knocking out ten Panthers and a Pz.Kpfw. IV. This vehicle has the tactical number A21 painted on the side, along with the vehicle name Accident, identifying it as a tank destroyer of Company A.

The Panzer Lehr Division staged a number of attacks in the difficult bocage country through July, losing large numbers of tanks. From a starting strength of ninety-nine Pz.Kpfw. IV and eighty-nine Panthers, it had been reduced to only fifteen operational Pz.Kpfw. IV and sixteen Panthers at the time Operation Cobra began. This Panther was knocked out by a 57mm antitank gun and was photographed near St. Lo on 20 July. No fewer than four penetrations can be seen near the driver's station.

A pair of Panthers block a narrow country lane in Le Desert after the failed Panzer Lehr Division's counterattack of 11 July.

Another view of the Panther Ausf. A of the Panzer Lehr Division that was knocked out by a 57mm antitank gun. Although the Panther was invulnerable to the 57mm gun frontally, it was very vulnerable on the side.

The constricted hedgerow terrain of Normandy presented significant difficulties in deploying antitank guns since the hedges often rose over the height of the gun barrel and restricted traverse. This 57mm gun is seen deployed behind a hedgerow in July 1944. Although incapable of penetrating the frontal armor of a Panther, these guns did prove effective on numerous occasions when firing from the flank.

The bazooka proved to be an effective, though not entirely reliable, antitank weapon in the bocage fighting. It was best when used at relatively close ranges and when fired at the thinner side armor of German tanks.

A very clear example of why a Sherman was not a good match for a Panther. This particular M4A1 engaged in an unequal duel with a Panther from the Panzer Lehr Division and is seen here on 20 July after the German panzer offensive had been beaten back. Besides the six hits from the Panther's 75mm gun, there are two smaller holes on the M4A1 from Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck rocket launchers.

The Panzer Lehr's attack in July marked a shift of German resources, which had been concentrated largely around Caen to stop the British and Canadian attacks. This Panther was knocked out in the Caen sector in early July by a PIAT (projector, infantry, antitank), the standard British infantry antitank weapon.

British and Canadian tank losses around Caen were heavy. These Shermans were knocked out during fighting with the 1st SS Panzer Division around Caen; the tank in the background is a 17-pounder Firefly version with the improved armament.

A battery of the new M4 (105mm) assault guns provide fire support during the fighting in the approaches to St. Lo on 13 July. The M4 (105mm) assault gun was a version of the normal Sherman, but was fitted with a 105mm howitzer in the turret instead of the usual 75mm gun. These were used in tank battalion and tank company headquarters platoons for additional fire support. They were first deployed in Normandy on 3 July, and on 13 July, there were forty-seven in action with the U.S. First Army in Normandyan average of six each in eight separate tank battalions.

On 14 July, an M31 tank-recovery vehicle recovers an M4 of the 3rd Armored Division that was knocked out in the fighting on 11 July around St. Fromond.The large turret tactical numbers are typical of both the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions during the bocage fighting.

A Patterson conversion on an M2 halftrack of the 377th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic-Weapons Battalion is being used to provide fire support for an infantry unit in Normandy on 12 July. As can be seen from the open side door, the usual stowage bin inside the M2 has been removed to permit this conversion. The Patterson conversions were an effort to create expedient M16 machine-gun motor carriage done in England before D-Day by mounting towed quad .50caliber Maxson turrets on the chassis of surplus M2 half-tracks. They were a rough equivalent of the factory-built M16 antiaircraft half-track but can be distinguished by the lack of a folding side plate and the shorter hull.

A wrecker truck is used to remove a 3-inch gun from an M103-inch gun motor carriage tank destroyer in a repair area in Normandy in mid-July. The M4 medium tank in the background is probably from the 2nd Armored Division.

A Marder I I I Ausf. M tank destroyer hit by American artillery fire is inspected by a GI from the unit on 18 July.

A German Sd.Kfz. 222 armored car knocked out by the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, during the fighting on the approaches to St. Lo on 15 July. The armor on the rear of the vehicle has been blown off, exposing the engine.

An ordnance repair yard handles battle casualties on 18 July. The M4A1 tank numbered 16 is named Anne and is from Company A, 70th Tank Battalion. The M4 numbered 1-35 is named Intruder and is from one of the armored regiments of the 3rd Armored Division. To the far left is an M10 3-inch gun motor carriage tank destroyer.

A Patterson conversion based on an M2 half-track of the 456th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic-Weapons Battalion (Mobile) is seen knocked out in bocage country on the outskirts of St. Lo during the fighting there in mid-July. The crew has added a stowage rack on the rear shelf, a typical improvisation on the M2 half-track.

Corregidor, an M12 155mm gun motor carriage from the 991st Field Artillery Battalion, fires on targets near St. Lo on 16 July, two days after the battalion entered combat. The 991st was a descendant of the famous "Washington Greys" regiment and continued the unit traditions with its regimental shield painted on the superstructure sides.

An M12 155mm gun motor carriage (named June Gil) of the 991st Armored Field Artillery Battalion in action on 16 July during the St. Lo fighting. The French inscription on the hull side: Avant le char de mort! means "Forward tank of death!"

An M5A1 (named Concrete C*12) of Company C, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, passes through St. Paul de Verney on 17 July during the fighting along the Vire River. The 33rd Armored Regiment quickly painted over the stars that had been painted between the yellow company speed number on the hull side; they were too visible an aiming point for German gunners.

A pair of French children wave to the crew of a passing M4 tank of the 3rd Armored Division moving through the town of St. Paul de Verney, east of St. Lo, on 17 July.

The crew of an M4 medium tank set up camp for the night near St. Paul de Verney on 17 July. The tank name Inez and letter I on the turret indicate a tank from Company I, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division. Notice that the American white stars have already been painted out.

The capture of the key road junction at St. Lo was vital to the American plans for Operation Cobra. The city finally fell on 18-19 July, setting the stage for the offensive. In the ruins of the city is a German Sd.Kfz. 231 armored car. This was a relatively old type of reconnaissance vehicle that had been largely replaced with the more modern Sd.Kfz. 234 series by the time of the Normandy campaign.

An M5A1, possibly from the 747th Tank Battalion, in the ruined streets of St. Lo on 20 July. It is already fitted with sandbag armor. Notice also that it still carries sand skirts, a feature that was generally removed in the late summer in the U.S. First Army as a maintenance hindrance.

The M8 light armored cars of the reconnaissance company of the 29th Division in the ruins of St. Lo after its capture.

The problems posed by the bocage led to a number of attempts to find a way to crash through the hedgerows. The "salad fork" developed by the 747th Tank Battalion was one of the first attempts to develop such a device. The two pointed timbers created tunnels in the base of the hedge that could be filled with explosives. When detonated by accompanying engineers, a breach was created.

A close up of a "salad fork" on a 747th Tank Battalion Sherman. Although successfully used in combat on a small scale, the tactic required the use of too much high explosive to be practical.

The "Green dozer," also developed by the 747th Tank Battalion, was an attempt to breach the bocage by non-explosive means. It consisted of a steel girder made from railroad beams welded on a frame to the front of the tank as a means to plow through the hedges. It was used in small numbers during Operation Cobra by the 709th and 747th Tank Battalions, but was not especially successful.

Culin's hedge cutter is shown here mounted on an M5A1 light tank.

Sgt. Curtis Culin of the 102nd Cavalry Squadron designed a bocage cutter using scrap steel from German beach defenses. This photo shows his original design mounted on an M5A1 from his unit. This was the basis for the "rhino" cutter that was mass-produced by army ordnance units in France for Operation Cobra in July.

Culin's "rhino" device was displayed to a number of senior officers on 14 July, as seen here. This demonstration led Gen. Omar Bradley to order the device into large-scale production.

Sgt. Curtis Culin in the driver seat of an M5A1 during the July demonstration.

Most of the "rhino" devices were fitted to M4 medium tanks since they had the weight and power to crunch through the hedgerow. Here is a demonstration in July prior to their operational debut in Cobra.

In this view, the M4 with the "rhino" device has pushed through the test bocage.

There were several variations of the T1 Rhinoceros, such as this T1 E1 Rhinoceros on an M10 3-inch gun motor carriage. This had an additional prong in the center. The 2nd Armored Division had about three-fifths of their tanks fitted with these devices by the time the offensive started on 25 July.

Another variation on the "rhino" was the T1 E2 seen on this M4. This had a more substantial bumper, and the shape of the prongs is a bit different from the more common T1 style.

The 3rd Armored Division used its own distinctive style of "rhino," the T2 Douglas device. It can be distinguished by the triangular plates on either side. This particular example is seen fitted to a late-production M4A1 formerly configured as a DD tank, as is evident from the turret fittings.

This front view of the M4A1 shows the configuration of the T2 Douglas with the smaller "teeth" in the center.

There were a number of variations of the "Green dozer," such as the T4 Rhinoceros seen here. This type was not widely seen in use. It was effective in pushing aside brush, but not in plowing through the dense base of the hedgerow.

The least common of the "rhino" devices was the T3, seen here fitted to an M4A1. This was the flimsiest of the designs, and it was also fitted to M10 tank destroyers.

A T2 Douglas device being fitted to an M4A1 (76mm) of the 32nd Armored, 3rd Armored Division. The new version of the Sherman with the 76mm gun saw its combat debut in Operation Cobra, with the 2nd and 3rd Armored Division each receiving fifty-one of these.

U.S. Army camouflage discipline was notoriously poor, and when some captured German tankers mocked the sloppy American practices, orders were dispatched to remedy the situation before Cobra. So the U.S. First Army's 602nd Engineer Camouflage Battalion began developing a method for permanently attaching Sommerfield matting to tanks so that foliage could be easily attached. This is the pilot, an M4 tank (named Columbia Lou) of Company C, 70th Tank Battalion.

This is a demonstration of how the Sommerfield matting was intended to be used once foliage was attached. In practice, there was not enough time to carry this program out very extensively, so instead, the U.S. First Army adopted a program to paint as many of its tanks as possible in a pattern of black over the usual olive drab in the days before the start of Cobra.

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