14 June – 1 July 1944: 60th Infantry Regiment

NORMANDY BATTLE CHRONICLES
60th Infantry Regiment
June 6 – 1 July 1944
Part 1: June 6 – 16 1944

Normandy Battle Chronicles: 14 June - 1st July 1944 - 60th Infantry Regiment
Normandy Battle Chronicles: 6th June – 1st July 1944 – 60th Infantry Regiment

This article is the first in a continuous series that will follow each regiment of the 9th Infantry Division during their actions in Normandy 1944. This first part will provide a closer look at the actions of the 60th Infantry Regiment during the month of June 1944. After arriving in Normandy, it helped to cut the Cotentin Peninsula and pushed on and helped cut the Cherbourg Peninsula next.

The article will be updated as time permits, and when done, it will detail all the events for the 60th Infantry Regiment that happened between June 6th and July 1st, 1944.

Southampton, England 6 – 9 June 1944.
The 9th Infantry Division did not participate in the D-Day, the Allied invasion at Normandy. On the D-Day date, June 6th 1944, the division units still found themselves in England. The 60th Infantry Regiment was confined in Camp C-20 near Southampton. During the stay in this camp all officers and NCO’s were briefed about their first mission in Normandy, which was to be in the north in the vicinity of the towns of Gourbesville and Picqauville. However, these plans were soon changed as the assembly area was still in the hands of the enemy. At the same time of the briefing, all assault companies and platoons were also informed about the tactics to be employed. Their Olive Drab clothing changed to gas impregnated clothing and after ammunition, rations and various other items were issued, the men were ready to go. All the men knew too well what the task laying before them would entail. 

A letter written by Major General Manton S. Eddy, the 9th Infantry Division commanding general, was handed out to the men of the 9th Infantry Division before embarking on their next journey.

D-Day Letter Manton S. Eddy
D-Day Letter Major General Manton S. Eddy.

The letter reads:

“Headquarters Ninth Infantry Division

A.P.O. #9  June 1944

Soldiers of the Ninth Division:

The hour for the greatest adventure of our lives is at hand. I have the greatest faith that the officers and men of this Division will meet the enemy as men of America would – with determination and a fury that will strike fear to the heart of the German soldier. No one knows better than we that he is not the “superman” his wicked leaders have tried to make us think he is. We know that man for man we are better than he.

Faith in a righteous cause and faith in our ability to defend that cause will win. A righteous cause is something that God has given us and denied our enemy. History does not lie.

With determined hearts and with the help of God, which we now beseech him to give us, we are going to win this war – now!

Good luck and Godspeed,
M. S. Eddy

Major General U.S.A. Commanding”

Trip to France: 9 – 10 June 1944
On the 9th of June at 1430, the men boarded trucks and left for the docks at Southampton. At 1730 the majority of men were loaded onto the “S.S. Empire Battleaxe”, an American built transport flying the British flag that had just returned from Normandy after bringing troops to Sword Beach. At 19:00 the men of the 60th Infantry Regiment bade farewell to the country of England and departed once more on another mission.

HMS Empire Battleaxe
HMS Empire Battleaxe in front of the English coast.

After an uneventful crossing the boat anchored off the coast of France at Omaha Beach at 0600 on the 10th of June. Here, the men looked in amazement at the massive array of ships of all types lying off the coast. Barrage balloons were flying from all ships, and, combined with those on land, they seemed to form a complete ring of defense around the Allied Beachhead. For the remainder of the day the troops stayed aboard the ship awaiting orders to disembark. At 2200 the ship hoisted anchor and moved from Omaha Beach to Utah Beach where the men were to disembark. 

Omaha Beach June 1944
The men of the 60th Infantry were in the HMS Empire Battleaxe anchored in front of Omaha Beach On June 10th, and witnessed a similar, magnificent view in reversed direction, looking onto the beach. They did not go ashore here.

Coming ashore at Utah Beach and moving inland: 11 June – 13 June 1944
At 0830, the men were loaded into Higgins boats and were lowered into the water and disembarked from ships at Utah Beach on the southern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, France. At 0930, the first boat reached the emergency pier built by the engineers and soon all the men started moving inland into the 9th Infantry Division transit area, which was located one mile southeast of the town of Sebeville, about a seven mile march from the beach.

Men of the 9th Infantry Division take cover at the seawall at Utah beach before moving inland. Note the Octofoil shoulder patches.

Assembly on 13 June 1944
The regiment remained in bivouac at this location until the 13th of June. A move was then made to the 9th Division assembly area one mile southeast of Picauville at 1600 in preparation to move into the lines the following day to take up the attack.

During this time the 60th Infantry Regiment was in VII Corps Reserve prior to being committed. Line and staff officers made daily reconnaissance trips in the area of the 90th Infantry Division with the expectation that the 60th Infantry Regiment would be ordered to pass through that Division when committed. Liaison was established with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and information of the enemy was obtained and passed down to the units.

Orders for the attack were received on the morning of the 13th of June. The objective for the 60th Infantry was first to take the town of La Croix Renouf and then to push on for seizure of the town of Orglandes. A meeting of battalion and separate company commanders was held by the Regimental Commander at the Regimental CP and the order was then given to move the Regiment to an assembly area 1 mile east of Picauville.

Area of operations terrain
The terrain in the VII Corps area of operations was divided into two compartments by the Douve River. The first, the area to the east of the river, between the Douve and the Merderet River, consists mainly of low, flat pastureland, orchards and small patches of woods.

The ground varies from 10 to 50 meters in height and there are no dominant hills. The second compartment, composed of the area between the Douve and the west coast of the peninsula, is bounded on the south by the Prairies Marécageuses, a marshy inundated area and on the north by the Seye River. To the west of the Douve, the ground rises slightly, culminating in a low hill-mass northeast of Barneville-Sur-Mer. This hill-mass rises to a height of some 140-150 meters and overlooks the Bricquebec-Barneville-Sur-Mer highway. 

60th Infantry Regiment Normandy

Securing the Douve Line 14 – 16 June 1944 60th Infantry Regiment

14 June 1944 – Actions at Renouf

The men awakened at 0630 and were told to eat, pack up and be ready to move out by 0730. This was their first engagement since the closing of the Sicilian Campaign in August 1943. At the designated time, the Battalion Commanders and Command Post group moved out. The movement was in a column of battalions, and the order was 3rd, 1st and then 2nd Battalion.

At 08:00 the remainder of the men moved out on foot and arrived 50 minutes later at a new assembly area just east of Pont L’Abbe. The 2nd Battalion was in reserve at this time. Heavy artillery and small arms fire could be heard a short distance to the front and an occasional shell landed in the 2nd Battalion area. One shell hit nearby and wounded 3 men of H Company.

The line of departure was crossed at 10:00 as was ordered and at 10:50 the 2nd Battalion moved forward to take up the area that was being evacuated by the 1st Battalion, who in turn was following the 3rd Battalion.

The 3rd Battalion was leading the attack and moved up Route des Buts Dores, the road leading west out of Pont L’ Abbe to La Croix Renouf, when it came under sniper fire from the hedgerows on both sides of the road on which they were moving at the line of departure. In addition, mortar and artillery fire also fell in the area. The stiff enemy opposition holding up the 3rd Battalion made it unable for the 1st Battalion to move forward as well. While these actions were going on in this area, some elements of the 90th Infantry Division were encountered and were passed. The 2nd Battalion took cover in the woods along the roadside awaiting further orders from the Regimental Commander, Colonel F. J. de Rohan. Although progress was slow, by mid-afternoon the two lead companies had pushed up the road to Renouf.

At around 1300 hours, a liaison officer of the 26th Field Artillery Battalion was with the assault company and spotted enemy machine guns and mortars holding up the advance. Field Artillery fire was requested and neutralized the weapons effectively. About an hour later, the weapons caused trouble again, and again a Field Artillery barrage ended the opposition temporarily.

Major General Joe L. Collins, Commanding General of VII Corps, Major General Manton S. Eddy, Commanding General of the 9th Infantry Division, and Colonel Frederik J. de Rohan, Commander of the 60th Infantry, all met on the trail where the regiment was advancing on and held a brief conference. At 1400 a 2nd Battalion Command Post was established in the 1st Battalion area south of Renouf, which was still occupied by a large part of 1st Battalion which was slowly moving forward. At 1630 the battalion commanders met at the Regimental CP. After the briefing, a meeting of the company commanders took place at 1745 where the 2nd battalion commander, Major Max Wolf, gave the plans for movement in assault toward the objective, the town of Renouf.

Attacking Renouf.
At 1850, the 26th Field Artillery fired rounds of High Explosives and smoke as a preparation for the attack, and after several large fires started, Company K occupied the main part of the town at 1800. However, not all resistance was cleared. Just before, the 2nd Battalion was brought up on the right (east) and advanced abreast the 3rd on the other side of the trail. While the 3rd Battalion moved fast and reached the main Renouf area, the 2nd Battalion had to deal with several enemy points of resistance in the fields just south of the road.

When the 2nd Battalion jumped off for the attack at 1900, it had Companies E and F leading the assault and G Company in reserve. The enemy position was heavily defended with mortar, artillery and machine guns and small arms fire. Each hedgerow was defended by the enemy and the battalion moved forward firing incessantly, sweeping enemy resistance in front of them. This type of fighting was entirely new to the men of the 9th Infantry Division as the type of terrain was so different to any that had been experienced before.

Staff Sergeant Paul Alexander

During this time, an act of bravery helped to get the men of the 60th Infantry moving. Staff Sergeant Paul Edwin Alexander and his fellow G Company men arrived in the area of Renouf from the east. Passing through an apple orchard they moved through a couple of farm buildings in the hamlet of Gottot and turned right onto the road, leading towards a small cross road junction. Here they turned left on the Route des Buts Dores and carefully advanced alongside the road and hedgerows. They then took a sunken, covered trail which led to a field near another farm house, located not too far from the main area of Renouf.

Staff Sergeant Alexander’s G company had been held up for over an hour by extremely heavy machine gun fire from the enemy strongpoint nearby. His squad was now given the mission of taking the enemy position out. It consisted of a buildup wooden structure and had 4 machine guns and 10 men supporting it with fire from automatic weapons and rifles. Staff Sergeant Alexander led his squad forward to attack the enemy position. As he moved ahead of his men across the fire-swept terrain with intermittent mortar and artillery fire falling nearby, Staff Sergeant Alexander was seriously wounded. Nevertheless he continued to lead his squad and direct their attack. He personally threw hand grenades into four enemy machine gun positions completely silencing the guns and inflicting numerous casualties on the enemy. Sadly, he died soon after.

Staff Sergeant Paul Alexander and his squad of G Company came out of the apple orchard and passed through these two buildings and turned right onto the main road towards the crossroads at Gottot. A dead German soldier lay near the water pump at the right wall.
The Gottot cross roads. Here the squad of G Company turned left, taking the road towards Renouf.
An overview of the advance of Staff Sergeant Paul Alexander and his men.

These are the modern day views of the open field that Staff Sergeant Alexander had to cross in order to take out the enemy Machine Gun position.

View that the G Company men had over the field in front of the German Machine Gun nest, which was located at the top left of this picture.
The German Machine Guns were located on the left of the building, at the small trees. This is the field that Staff Sergeant Paul Alexander crossed under heavy fire to take out the machine guns, resulting in the loss of his life.

Staff Sergeant Alexander’s intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life earned him a Distinguished Service Cross. Staff Sergeant Alexander is now buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.

Staff Sergeant Paul E. Alexander’s last resting place, close to his brothers in arms.

Another man made a big impact on this day, the 14th of June. 1st Lt. Joseph L. Rappazini of Negaunee, Michigan found himself in the Renouf area as part of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. He was shy and reserved, but that did not stop him from doing what he did that day.

1st Lt. Joseph L. Rappazini.

While in a forward position with his anti-tank platoon in the vicinity of Renouf, Lieutenant Rappazini observed a company of the enemy, armed with mortars, machine guns and machine pistols, approaching his unit’s positions. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, he placed his noncommissioned officers in charge of the platoon with instructions to warn the Command Post while he moved forward in an attempt to persuade the enemy to surrender. Reaching the enemy forces, he was disarmed and questioned. In the meantime, the forward Command Post had been notified of the situation and heavy weapons fire was ordered to be brought up to take on enemy forces. The men in Rappazini’s platoon watched carefully what was going on with the 1st Lt. Then they watched in amazement as it looked as if the German soldiers were putting their weapons down and preparing to surrender! 1st. Rappazini managed to do just that! Thoroughly convincing the enemy officers they were outnumbered and surrounded, Lieutenant Rappazini took three officers and eighty-one enlisted men as prisoners! For this persuasive action of words, Rappazini was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

Joseph Rappazini survived the war, and lived a beautiful life until 2010, when he, at the great age of 92 years old, passed away after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease.

After heavy fighting all day, the battalion reached the objectives designated for that day at 2330. At the crossroads south of Orglandes the 2nd Bn established defensive positions in two different places due to the lateness and darkness. Both 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalions reached the point where the Valognes – Pont l’Abbe highway hit the junction of the trail by dark. Here they took up deployed positions in the fields bordering the highway to Orglandes, their next objective and used this all around defense while awaiting a consolidation of the battalion on the final objective the following morning.

That same evening, orders were also delivered to the 746th Tank Battalion to have its supporting tanks brought up by dawn in order to support the 60th Infantry. It had been a tough first day of fighting for the men of the 60th Infantry.

15 June 1944
At 0700 on the 15th of June, the 60th Infantry resumed the attack with three battalions abreast. It had passed the outpost lines of the 90th Division and was now operating alone. The 39th Infantry was still committed to the 4th Division near Quineville and the 47th Infantry was in Division Reserve.

The 1st Battalion made rapid progress west against elements of the German 1050th Infantry and the 922nd Infantry until it reached a point approximately 500 yards beyond the Orglandes – Bonneville road around 0900 that morning. Here it was counterattacked by four tanks and an estimated battalion of infantry. Captain Whitfield and Captain Swaim, commanding companies A and B respectively, were both missing after this action.The battalion was then forced back the previously gained 500 yards, all the way back to the Orglandes-Bonneville road. Here it was reorganized and placed in regimental reserve.

The zone of action for the regiment was changed at 1000 and a right boundary, an azimuth of 270 degrees from the Road Junction (where Route de Sapin and Rue Pierre Devouassoud come together) was established to permit the 47th Infantry to move into position on the right of the 60th Infantry. At noon the 2nd Battalion moved through the 1st Battalion, attacked to the west again and advanced to the vicinity of Reigneville – Bocage where it successfully beat off counterattacks and consolidated its position.

The field on the left is the location of 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment on 15 June 1944.

The 3rd Battalion advanced to the Orglandes-Bonneville road and then turned north where it encountered a strong point which was finally reduced. By midnight the 60th Infantry had gained 1400 yards and captured 42 prisoners. 4 men were killed and 175 wounded in the day’s action.

3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry encountered an enemy strongpoint in this field, located east of Reigneville – Bocage and just west of the Orglandes – La Bonneville Road.

16 June 1944
The 9th Division order for the 16th of June required the regiment to seize Objective “C”, which was the high ground west of Reigneville and just north of Saint Clair and Objective “D”, the road intersection north of Reigneville, near the town of Pigard.

The 3rd Battalion jumped off at 0500 and moved out and were soon engaged in a stiff fire fight. The 1st Battalion came up against enemy soldiers defending a nearby field hospital.

The 2nd Battalion was committed at 1100 and bypassed enemy opposition and with incredible speed. It went around Reigneville to the south through the fields and finally swung back to the trail near Pigard and followed it to the main road. It was rough country, muddy and hard going. The battalion moved in a column of companies. E Company was leading with a platoon of Heavy Machine Guns attached, followed by F Company, also with a platoon of Heavy Machine Guns and G Company following F Company. H Company’s mortars remained in position until the leading elements of the battalion were so far out that the mortars could no longer support them. They were then displaced forward to be effective again. 

Lt. Herrmann was in charge of the mortar platoon. The weapons were hand carried forward. Before reaching the crossroad (2197), considerable quantities of enemy material was found abandoned, but there was no opposition at the cross road. Here, Captain West, together with the mortar platoon, caught up with the rest of the battalion. Captain West talked with the Command group and was instructed to stay at the cross road while the battalion moved on. Captain West then had Herrmann put his mortars into position to fire and waited.

In the meantime, at around 1500, the 2nd battalion had run into opposition at the cross road. Machine gun fire was coming from the north from a group of houses up the road. The 2nd Platoon of Easy Company immediately deployed, infiltrated across the road, entered the orchards to the north of the cross road and, according to Sergeant Wallace Burr, “made a helluva racket with riffles, BARs and everything they had“. Sgt. Clarence Mobler and his 3rd squad and Sgt. Irvin Etzler and his 1st squad worked their way down to the houses and forced the surrender of the German defenders, about 16 or 17 of them, after they killed several. While this was going on, PFC Daniel Smith, one of the best gunners in the regiment, entered the draw just west of the cross road and shot several Germans to the north.

From the crossroad the battalion continued across country, making a wide arc to the north for enemy tanks had been seen on the main road. Their next objective was to secure the town of St. Colombe.

– Article to be continued soon –