December 2, 2016

1944. Yanks Storm Into Streets, Crumple Nazi Death Stand in Cherbourg

The American Assault on Cherbourg
"German prisoners are marched through the streets of Cherbourg after their final surrender" June 28, 1944 (source)

Report by the Associated Press and printed in The Washington Post, June 26, 1944:

Yanks Storm Into Streets, Crumple Nazi Death Stand

Foe Holding Out In Center; City Almost Ours, Says Allied Command
United States assault troops battered into smoke-shrouded Cherbourg late Sunday from three sides clamping a firm grasp on the city, and Supreme Headquarters declared at midnight that France's third largest port city was "almost in our possession."

An Associated Press dispatch from Cherbourg declared veteran doughboys broke into the city on the twentieth day of the campaign under a terrific artillery, sea and air bombardment that crumpled Nazi fight-to-the-death resistance.

The power drive swept on against Germans still holding out in the main portion of the city, and German broadcasts earlier had virtually written off the port as lost.

Smash in From Three Sides

Lieut. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's men—trapping possibly up to 30,000 Nazis—smashed into the city from the south, east and west, said Associated Press correspondent Don Whitehead, who entered the city with the troops.

The Germans turned the harbor facilities into an inferno of destruction, he said.

A tremendous artillery barrage from American Naval task forces and field guns helped crush stubborn Nazi defenses on the outskirts, and the Americans won the high ground defenses overlooking the port city, Supreme Headquarters declared in its fortieth communiqué.

Whitehead declared there remained last night only "the slow job of cleaning out the main part of the city." The outpost defenses were virtually all blotted out.

"At 6 p. m., there were only two strong points at Fort du Roule, and a few other scattered defense points holding out" on Cherbourg's outskirts, Whitehead said.

German Dead Littered City

The last mile into the city was littered with Nazi dead—and streams of German prisoners marched back past them to prison pens, some in bunches up to 100.

The Germans broke under the final, mighty American assault, unleashed at 2 p. m. without staging as much of a house-to-house defense as many expected them to make, Whitehead reported. The tremendous Allied barrage struck the city's outskirts, with the city proper untouched by the massed destruction of naval and land guns.

The direct dispatch from Cherbourg came shortly after Berlin radio admissions that "it is to be assumed that the Americans have succeeded in taking possession" of Cherbourg.

Support from Navy

The bold task force lending support from the sea was commanded by Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo aboard the U. S. cruiser Tuscaloosa.

Even as the battle for Cherbourg raged to its climax, British forces exploded an offensive before dawn Sunday along the eastern Normandy flank, striking more than a mile south of captured Tilly-sur-Seulles, 12 miles west of the stronghold of Caen.

This smash rolled more than a mile in four hours, engulfing a village, and then under heavy artillery support drove up into "strongly-defended German positions," a front dispatch from Robert Greene of the Associated Press said. The Germans threw in reinforcements, but were reported losing men "heavily."

CBS correspondent Bill Downs said the British had gained two and a half to three miles southeast of Tilly-sur-Seulles. Downs said the attack began after a barrage from enough artillery to place "one every eight yards." Berlin reported fighting "in full swing" in this sector.

Nazis Report Landings

A Berlin Trans-Ocean broadcast said Allied troops and equipment had been landed from "about 350 transport and landing vessels" east of the Orne River, above Caen, in the last two days. Another German broadcast speculated that "the Allies intend to start major operations soon in this sector designed to capture Caen and push in a general easterly direction" from the peninsula into the French mainland toward Paris.

German surprise at the rapidity of the American cross-peninsular thrust was illustrated by a captured German order made public at Twenty-first Army Group headquarters. It ordered some of the German divisions now at Cherbourg to withdraw to the south. But they were hit by Bradley's doughboys before they could escape the trap.

Cherbourg emptied of all but 5,000 of its civilians, shuddered and flamed to German-set demolitions as the American are closed in earlier in the battle, and one bright fire flared from the arsenal near the Quai de France.

It seemed likely that destruction of the arsenal would be the last act of defiance by Maj. Gen. Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieban.

Another German commander, Infantry Maj. Gen. Stegman, has been killed in Normandy, headquarters announced, without giving the place or circumstances.