Infantry Division World
War II Normandy, France
inland from Utah Beach, the 9th Infantry
Division soon began the next phase
of the Normandy campaign the
push north to capture the critical
port city of Cherbourg.
entrance to Cherbourg harbor
from the English Channel
The division swept west across the
Cotentin Peninsula to liberate the
seaside village of Barneville and
other villages along the way, then
began the ascent to Cherbourg.
"Early on the morning of June
19, 1944, the Ninth, 4th and 79th
divisions attacked toward Cherbourg,"
Joseph B. Mittelman wrote in Eight
Stars to Victory: A History of the
Veteran Ninth U.S. Infantry Division.
"Without letup, the Ninth followed
closely at the heels of the withdrawing
enemy, who waged stiff delaying warfare.
This advance was facilitated greatly
by the possession of a series of maps
containing accurate overprints of
enemy positions, which had been discovered
by American intelligence and seen
by aerial reconnaissance units."
It was during the drive to Cherbourg
when the 47th Infantry Regiment's
2nd Battalion C.O., Lt.
James D. Johnston, was mortally
wounded at the blood-stained Crossroads
114 near Acqueville by an 88mm shell,
along with other members of his staff.
"History was made by the 47th
Infantry on June 25, 1944, when its
2nd Battalion under Major (Lt. Colonel)
Woodrow W. Bailey (who had replaced
Johnston as 2nd Battalion C.O.) entered
Cherbourg at 12:55 p.m.," Mittelman
wrote in Eight Stars to Victory.
"It was just after a most successful
aerial bombardment that the battalion
began entering the city from Equeurdreville
Fort. Both the attached engineers
and Company E could lay claim to having
set first foot inside the city itself.
"However, the accepted version
is that Pfc. John T. Sarao of Company
E started racing his platoon leader
to see who would be first into Cherbourg
and Sarao won.
"The key to Cherbourg was the
well-defended, ancient fortress of
Equeurdreville. Major Bailey prescribed
a frontal assault, which followed
a rolling mortar concentration. This
strategy forced the Germans to stay
buttoned-up, while the battalion overwhelmed
the supposedly impenetrable defenses.
It was not an easy victory, and only
after hard fighting and many German
casualties was the fort reduced."
DISTINGUISHED UNIT CITATION, from
Eight Stars to Victory: A History
of the Veteran Ninth U.S. Infantry
The 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry,
is cited for extraordinary gallantry
and outstanding performance of duty
from 21 June to 26 June 1944, during
which time it assaulted and captured
four heavily-fortified enemy-held
positions and penetrated the heart
of Cherbourg, having advanced more
than 10 kilometers from Crossville.
Advancing toward Coudet on 21 June,
the battalion came under heavy and
murderous barrages of artillery, mortar
and flat-trajectory fire which injured
or killed the battalion commander,
a company commander and other key
Reorganizing and rallying on the following
day, they pushed forward in the face
of heavy fire and overran the strongpoint,
capturing 120 prisoners, 25 machine
guns and 5 antiaircraft guns. Continuing
their drive forward on 23 June they
assaulted one of the strongest of
the fortified German positions in
the defensive belt around Cherbourg.
The enemy was entrenched strongly
in concrete pillboxes and deeply revetted
trenches on commanding ground. Three
assaults were necessary in order to
reach this vital objective, it finally
being taken by violent hand-to-hand
fighting within the German positions.
Then, outflanking the enemy by a clever
ruse at Equeurdreville, the position
was assaulted and the enemy routed
with rifle fire and bayonets. After
enemy Nebelwerfers had been silenced,
patrols infiltrated within the Cherbourg
arsenal, fought off savage resistance
and held out until reinforcements
were able to reach them. Shortly after
daylight, the arsenal garrison surrendered.
Within 5 days, the 2nd Battalion,
47th Infantry, captured four heavily-fortified
positions, 2,600 prisoners, 25 antiaircraft
guns and hundreds of automatic weapons
and small arms. Without ever having
flank protection from units on its
left and suffering 113 casualties
from the almost constant barrages
rained upon it, the 2nd Battalion,
47th Infantry, crossed more than 10
kilometers of heavily-fortified and
difficult terrain and engaged the
enemy with a magnificent display of
courage and devotion to duty.
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