1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The 12th and 22d Infantry Regiments Pursue Their D-Day Objectives
June 7, 1944 (D plus 1)
Grave marker for Preston T. Niland
D-Day cemetery, Normandy, France
2nd Lieutenant Preston T. Niland
Killed in Action June 7, 1944
Photos of LT Niland and his
To view the story of Preston T. Niland
The 4th Division extended the northern
arc of the beachhead some two miles on D plus 1 in its advance
toward its D-Day objectives,
and pushed the enemy back against his main headland fortresses at Azeville and Crisbecq.
On the beach the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, continued the methodical destruction of beach defenses. The 12th Infantry had come up on the left of the 502d Parachute Infantry late on D Day, just south of Beuzeville-au-Plain. On 7 June it attacked northwestward toward the high ground crossed by the Ste. Mere-Eglise- Montebourg highway north of Neuville-au-Plain. The 1st Battalion took a strong point southwest of Beuzeville-au-Plain; the 2d Battalion fought a sharp engagement on the eastern outskirts of Neuville-au-Plain, but did not take possession of the town, thus necessitating its capture by other units later in the day. In the middle of the morning the two battalions pressed their attack northward. Early in the afternoon they were stopped on the forward slopes of the hills between Azeville and le Bisson, where they reorganized for the night. The gap between the 12th Infantry's left flank and the 8th Infantry was covered by guns of Company A, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Probably the most difficult of the 4th Division's missions were those assigned the 22d Infantry on the division's right flank. The regiment had the task of reducing both the strongpoints along the beaches and the heavily fortified headland batteries two to three miles inland and west of the inundations. On D plus 1 the first attacks against the enemy's inland positions were made by the 1st and 2d Battalions.
The two battalions had spent most of D Day moving across the inundated area, but had come through almost without losses. From their positions at St. Germain-de-Varreville, where they had relieved the 502d Parachute Infantry, they started out at 0700 on 7 June, with the 1st Battalion on the right advancing astride the highway which runs parallel to the coastline, and the 2d Battalion using the trails to the west. They moved rapidly until they approached the higher ground between Azeville and de Dodainville, where they received fire from the forts of Crisbecq and Azeville. The 1st Battalion pushed on to enter St. Marcouf.
The two battalions now faced the enemy's two most powerful coastal forts. With their heavy guns (the Crisbecq guns were 210-mm.) these forts threatened the beaches as well as shipping and stood as the last serious barrier before the regiment's D-Day objectives. Each position consisted of four massive concrete blockhouses in a line; they were supplied with underground ammunition storage dumps, interconnected by communication trenches, and protected against ground attack by automatic weapons and wire. An arc of concrete sniper pillboxes outposted the southern approaches to Azeville. Crisbecq mounted the larger guns and occupied a more commanding position on the headland overlooking the beaches.
Immediate attacks were launched against both forts. The 2d Battalion tried for several hours to move forward against the Azeville position, but a counterattack drove it back to its line of departure with considerable losses. The 1st Battalion attack on Crisbecq was even more fiercely contested. As the battalion passed through St. Marcouf, it received heavy artillery fire from the Azeville battery to the southwest. Company C was organized into assault sections, in the same manner as the units had been organized for the assault on the beach on D Day. It was ordered to move up a narrow trail, along with the two other rifle companies of the battalion, to blow the blockhouses. This was the only approach the battalion could make, for to the east the ground dropped off to the town of Crisbecq and the swampland, and to the west the ground was high and open. As the three companies moved forward they suffered heavy casualties from shell fire. They inched ahead, up the thickly hedged trails, but as they reached the trail block and the wire obstacles on the perimeter of the position the Germans counterattacked their left flank.
To contain the counterattack the 3d Platoon of Company B was moved behind Company A to the left. In the fields northwest of St. Marcouf it met a strong enemy force supported by at least one tank. Capt. Tom Shields of Company A, who took command of the battalion when its commanding officer was wounded, decided that the position was too dangerous to hold and at 1600 he ordered a withdrawal. The battalion became increasingly disorganized as it retreated, still under heavy fire. Nineteen men of Company A were cut off on the left and probably captured. Another platoon on the right lost its way and wandered as far as the beach, which was still in enemy hands. Late that night these men found their way to the battalion, bringing with them 113 prisoners. The battalion withdrew to a line 300 yards south of de Dodainville. After dark the Germans counterattacked again but were routed by accurate naval fire.
On the extreme right flank of the 22d Infantry, separated from the rest of the regiment by the inundations, the 3d Battalion meanwhile proceeded against the string of beach fortifications which extended all the way up the coast. Those which posed an immediate danger to the Utah landings lay between les Dunes de Varreville and Quineville, on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the inundations, and could be approached only by movement along the sea wall. The strong points were reinforced concrete blockhouses, armed with artillery pieces and turreted machine guns. Most of them had the additional protection of wire, ditches, mines, and outlying infantry pillboxes and had communication with supporting inland batteries by underground telephone cable.
The 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. Arthur S. Teague) had been constituted as a task force with the mission of reducing these beach fortifications. The method of attack followed the pattern taught at the Assault Training Center in England. Naval gunfire adjusted by the Naval Shore Fire Control Party laid down a preparation. Then tanks and 57-mm. anti-tank guns approached within 75 to 100 yards of the fort to fire point-blank, while infantrymen moved, often through waist-deep water, to the rear of the strong point under the cover of mortar fire. The enemy, however, would allow the men to come near the fort before opening up with small- arms fire, and in addition subjected the assaulting troops to artillery fire from inland batteries. The reduction of the forts thus turned out to be slow and costly.
On D Day the 3d Battalion had advanced 2,000 yards beyond Exit 3 and destroyed one fort. On D plus 1 it advanced another 2,000 yards and captured two more. As it faced the fort at Hamel de Cruttes on the evening of 7 June, it received orders to move inland as regimental reserve, since a counterattack was feared against the shattered 1st and 2d Battalions of the 22d Infantry. Colonel Teague left Company K, supported by the chemical mortar company, a machine gun platoon, an antitank platoon, and one-half of the NSFCP, to contain the strong point, and moved the remainder of the battalion inland to the vicinity of Ravenoville. That same evening, in the one gain of the day for the 22d Infantry, the battalion recrossed the inundation to capture the beach fort at Taret de Ravenoville. The fort had been shelled by the Navy, and a number of Germans had slipped out to surrender. One of them reported that many of the Germans still inside the fort wished to surrender but until this time had been prevented from doing so by their officers. On the strength of this information Colonel Teague obtained permission to move the bulk of his battalion from Ravenoville northeast across the inundated area and close in on the rear of the fort. A prisoner who was sent ahead returned with the entire garrison of eighty- two Germans. Colonel Teague and his men billeted themselves in the fort for the night. Between Taret de Ravenoville and Company K to the south three enemy strong points still held out. One of these surrendered the following day.
Map No. 12
The above is taken from:
UTAH BEACH TO CHERBOURG
Department of the Army Historical Division
Available online at
US Army Center of Military History
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