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7-19 July 44 - St Lo
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29TH DIVISION - WWII BATTLES
7-19 July 1944 - St Lô

The new attack of First Army was delivered on a ten-mile front, with the main effort by the 29th Division aiming at the ridges along the St-Lô-Bayeux highway and then at St-Lô itself. On its right, the 35th Division was to exert pressure between the Vire and the Isigny-St-Lô highway; its objective was the right bank of the Vire, in the elbow made by that winding stream just northwest of St-Lô. Advance here would help the 30th Division on the other side of the Vire, by covering its flank along the river. On the 29th Division's left, an assault against Hill 192 would be made by the 2d Division of V Corps. Capture of this dominating observation point would be of prime importance in the attack on St-Lô.

The battle east of the Vire on 11 July opened early in the morning and, unexpectedly enough, with small but severe German attacks at two widely separated points. Within a few hours, it was apparent that these were limited local efforts to rectify defensive lines, and had no connection with Panzer Lehr's major attack beyond the Vire. But for those hours the situation was unclear, and higher command echelons had to figure on the possibility that the enemy was attempting to throw XIX Corps' new effort off balance.

The 1st Battalion of the 115th Regiment [29th Division]received one of the German attacks, described later by Major Glover S. Johns, battalion commander, as "beautifully executed and planned." After sending through a patrol to cut wires, the German paratroopers of the I Battalion 9th Parachute Regiment laid down a box barrage of mortar and artillery fire (88-mm and 105-mm); then followed the barrage at 50 yards' distance. The 115th's outposts were immediately overrun, and the enemy achieved almost complete surprise. The 1st Battalion was holding a broad front with all three companies in line, and the main enemy effort hit a gap between A and B Companies. The commander of Company A was stunned by a grenade, the CP was overrun, and two platoons were reported cut off and destroyed. Company B lost some positions, and both units were fighting desperately in small detached groups, with no coordination possible. Major Johns had no reserve, his communications were out, and Regiment (with all three battalions on a front so broad that a gap of 600 yards separated the 1st and 3rd Battalions) was equally impotent. For two hours, rear CP's were receiving alarming rumors, heightened as some Germans penetrated to the mortar positions and drove back their personnel. Colonel Goodwin Ordway, Jr., commanding the 115th [29th Division], organized some of the retreating weapons men as infantry to protect the rear areas. On his left, the 116th Regiment [29th Division] was alarmed by the possibility of a breakthrough in the gap between its units and the 115th and took steps to fill the hole with Company A. Enemy artillery fire ranged into the 116th's assembly areas, causing about 30 casualties.

But the attack did not spread beyond the sector of the 1st Battalion of the 115th [29th Division] and by dawn the 1st Battalion had weathered the storm. Cut off and apparently surrounded, the remnants of A and B Companies had held their positions; with coordination and direction impossible from higher headquarters, "NCO's and lieutenants, gunners and privates, fought in small groups and won that battle." By 0730 the enemy had given up and retired. The 1st Battalion lost over 100 men; the Germans (reported by a prisoner to be attacking in strength of four companies) lost about the same number. The 1st Battalion, scheduled to jump off at 0600 in the 29th Division's attack, was delayed several hours by the necessity for reorganizing.

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