1st Battalion 22nd Infantry


The Drive on Cherbourg



At 1240 the pre-H-Hour bombing and strafing attacks were initiated by four squadrons of rocket-firing Typhoons, followed by six squadrons of Mustangs, all from the 2d Tactical Air Force (RAF). At approximately 1300 the attacks were taken over by twelve groups of fighter-bombers of the Ninth Air Force. For fifty-five minutes P-47's, P-38's, and P-51's (562 planes) bombed and strafed front-line strong points at low level, one group coming over approximately every five minutes. Between 1300 and 1330, the 47th, 60th, and 22d Infantry Regiments all called their headquarters to say that they were being bombed and strafed by friendly planes, and sought means of stopping the attacks. These units and others suffered several casualties from the air attacks. The errors were believed to have been caused at least in part by the drift of the marking smoke in the fairly strong northeast wind. As the mediums began to come over at 1400 to bomb the German lines in front of the 9th and 79th Divisions, the attacking units jumped off; at 1430 the three regiments of the 4th Division joined the attack. Between 1400 and 1455 the eleven groups of light and medium bombers of the IX Bomber Command (387 planes) delivered their attacks on the eleven defended areas expected to give trouble in the drive on the city.

Measured by sheer physical destruction the bombardment was none too effective, except on a few targets. Its greatest effect was in cutting German communications and depressing enemy morale, but in general the bombing was scattered-as indicated by the drops to the rear of the American lines.


The Right Flank

The primary objective of the 4th Division was the Tourlaville area, guarding the eastern approaches to Cherbourg. Attention was focused on the 12th Infantry, which had this mission as the center regiment. The 8th Infantry was to be pinched out when it had seized the high ground east of la Glacerie. It would then support the 12th Infantry with fire. The 22d Infantry, also assigned a supporting mission, was to assist the 12th by protecting its right and rear.

To the east the situation in the 22d Infantry sector remained extremely fluid during 23 June. It had been planned that the 22d Infantry would assist the 12th in the advance on Tourlaville by clearing the fortified Digosville area on the latter's right flank. But the 22d Infantry was so harassed from Maupertus and Gonneville that its combat strength was devoted mostly to dealing with enemy infiltrations and keeping its supply route open.

The 3d Battalion was to have led the attack on 22 June from its position on Hill 158, west of Gonneville, while the 1st Battalion held the hill and the 2d Battalion, in position to the south, prepared to come up later on the 3d Battalion's left. Before the attack could start, however, the enemy enveloped Hill 18 and the 2d Battalion had to be committed in a mission to clear the Germans from the rear of the 3d Battalion. It was late afternoon by the time this task was completed. All three battalions were dug in on the hill for the night. The attack westward in support of the 12th Infantry therefore failed to materialize on 22 June. However, the 12th Infantry had itself failed to shake free from the Bois du Coudray for the planned attack northwestward.

In a situation that precluded bold plans, it was decided that on 23 June the 1st and 3d Battalions, 22d Infantry, should completely clear and consolidate the high ground before any further missions were undertaken. Beginning at about 0900 the 1st and 3d Battalions began to carry out this task, while the 2d Battalion sent a combat patrol south to clean up resistance north of Hameau Cauchon. To cover the mop-up operation, heavy artillery and mortar fire pounded the enemy line from Maupertus to Gonneville; part of the 24th Cavalry Squadron, together with Company B, 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and 4th Reconnaissance Troop, contained the enemy in the vicinity of the airfield; and tanks demonstrated toward Gonneville. Late in the day the consolidation of this ground had progressed far enough to free the 2d Battalion for an attack westward. The attack began at 1930, but before it reached the line of departure it was turned back by heavy fire from the German position southeast of Digosville. Once more the attack had to be postponed. Late that evening the battalion was attached to the 12th Infantry for the advance against Tourlaville.

On 24 June the 22d Infantry, with the exception of the 2d Battalion, protected the right flank of the Corps by containing the enemy cut off in the Maupertus-Gonneville area. Fragmentary German forces continued to infiltrate to the south of Hill 18 throughout this period. A complete mopping up of the airport region was indicated, but this was postponed for the present. General Barton limited the 22d Infantry to "policing" its positions and whatever action was necessary to maintain the security of the main supply rout south to le Theil.

The main effort of the 4th Division on 24 June was made in the center, where the 12th Infantry paced the advance on the division's final objective, the fortified Tourlaville area. Several enemy positions lay in the path of the regiment. The strongest were known to be on a line westward from Digosville. Two battalions were to be used for the initial attack. On the right flank, the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, attached to the 12th the night before, was assigned the Digosville objective and given the support of one company of the 3d Battalion, 12th Infantry. The 1st Battalion, which had come up on the 3d's right during the night, was to attack roughly abreast of the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, toward Tourlaville. The 3d Battalion was to remain on Hill 140, supporting the attack with fire. The 2d Battalion was held in reserve but prepared for commitment on the left.

Before the day was over all four battalions had been committed. The 1st, aided by six tanks of Company B, 70th Tank Battalion, advanced up a slope and overran an artillery position, taking many prisoners. During the mop-up and reorganization it received artillery fire from other enemy batteries and lost its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Merrill, who had assumed command only a day or two before.

Meanwhile, Company K of the 3d Battalion, also supported by tanks, moved east to join the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, in attacking Digosville. The company advanced toward Digosville in an approach march formation and scouts came within 200 yards of the German emplacements before machine guns opened fire on them. The four tanks deployed, returned the fire, and then overran the first gun positions. As the main enemy body began to concentrate a heavy volume of automatic and rifle fire on Company K, the tanks provided a base of fire with both 75-mm. guns. Communications were poor and the attack was badly coordinated. The commander of the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, received his orders from the 12th Infantry through 22d Infantry headquarters. To make matters worse, the two regiments used different reference numbers for the objectives.

At that point twelve P-47's dive-bombed and strafed the German positions and, as soon as the last bombs fell, tanks and infantry closed in rapidly and destroyed the enemy in a short, sharp fight. A few Germans managed to withdraw, leaving six field pieces, several machine guns, and other materiel. When the 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, arrived, a general mop-up of the area yielded about 150 prisoners. While the 2d Battalion of the 22d and the 1st Battalion of the 12th cleaned out their areas, the 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry, moved up on the left and easily captured a large, concrete fortification, taking three hundred prisoners. By evening the 12th Infantry occupied the last high ground opposite Tourlaville.

General Barton decided to exploit these successes as far as possible. The 12th Infantry was ordered to move into Tourlaville that evening. The 3d Battalion, still in position at Hill 140, was to be used for this mission. Despite the approaching darkness, tanks were ordered to accompany the battalion, and, with many of the men riding the tanks, the 3d moved into Tourlaville unopposed. An all-around defense was organized and the tanks were released at 0200. The 12th Infantry had captured eight hundred prisoners during the day, in itself a fair indication of the disintegration of the enemy's left.

The capture of Tourlaville did not end the 12th Infantry's activity for that night. At 0300 Colonel Luckett, its commanding officer, ordered all four battalions to continue the attack still further. The 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, was to move north from Digosville to the sea. The 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, was to follow the road north, just east of a big coastal battery position. The 2d Battalion, 12th Infantry, was to clean out the Tourlaville area, assisted by the 3d.

While the 22nd held the right flank to prevent German forces from linking up with Cherbourg, the fortress was taken through hard fighting by the 9th and 79th Divisions, and German resistance ended on June 27.

For the Americans, 27 June marked the achievement of the first major objective of Operation NEPTUNE. In the final drive on Cherbourg some of the enemy forces had withdrawn to strong positions both east and west of the port city. On 26-27 June, while the final fighting was taking place in the city, the 22d Infantry pushed eastward and captured the last enemy strongholds in Cap Levy.



Red line indicates US forces' containment of the German defenses, prior to the final push against the fortress.


The above is taken from:



Department of the Army Historical Division

Available online at

US Army Center of Military History



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