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~:,~ :’:;” ... . “Y”2 Operation on the Crozon Peninsula “. NIAJOR GENERAL D. A. STROH Commanding General. 106th Infantry Di\ISI<8!I I N my old student days at Leavenworth, while chewing the end of my pencil in the usual fog of perplexity on the upper floor of Grant Hall, I used to wonder why the faculty 8 ins” ted on presenting problems dealing with t independent division. I had come to lieve then that such an operation in future ‘war would be extremehr unlikely, and that divisions would habitually operate as parts of much larger masses. The war in Eur6pe disclosed the fallacy of such a belief, and the Wisdom of instruction in the operations of the independent division. On many occasions units of this size found themselves com- pletely on their own as far as tactical dis- positions were concerned. The operations of the %h Infantry Division on the Crozon Peninsula, Brittany, in September 1944, were an interesting example. This was one of the few campaigns in my experience for which ample time was afforded for plans, orders, and reconnaisanee; when the various troop units moved into position methodically and without interference; which was amply supported with the necessary means; and which worked out almost exactly as originally planned. The 8th Infantry Division, with normal attachments of medium tanks, tank destroy- ers, and antiaircraft artillery, arrived in the Brest area on 18 August 1944, relievin~ elements of the 6th Armored Division which had been containing a large German garrison in that fortress. Thereafter, as part of the VIII. Corps (2d, 8th, and 29th Infantry’ Divisions) the division advanced slowly from the north for the capture of Brest. By 10 Sentember the corms attack had m-o~ressed .. so successfully that the 8th. Inf antry Division was pinched out by the converging advances of the two divisions on its flanks. The Corps Commander directed that the d&ision make a move of some fifty miles and reduce the Gerxan defenses’ on the Crozon Peninsula commencing on 15 September. The Crozon Peninsula was estimated, to contain from 1,500 to 3,500 German defenders who had the advantage of formidable per- manent fortifications and large amounts of artillery. This force had been contained for some weeks by an improvised American unit known as Task Force “A,” consisting largely of mechanized cavalry, combat engineers, tank destroyers, light tanks, and armored light artillery. Task Force “A” with com- mendable aggressiveness had driven west along the peninsula until it held the line %’ 1 E3RESTE I 1. #--\ 1 o_ +j ._ —..- ~..---, --- I ~, 10 15 Km. J/-’-J’ .. . ....-. .. shown as AA in Figure 2. Beyond this point it had been unable to advance because of strong enemy resistance. The Crozon Peninsula completely dom- inates the water approaches to the port of Brest, as is evident from Figure 1. It bristled with seacoast defenses. ,~ntil these could be reduced, the use of th$ 3port would be completely denied to the Americans even after they were in possession. The peninsula itself is shaped like a forearm, wrist, and a hand of three fingers and a thumb. The principal town, Crozon, lies at the wrist. -The thumb is represented by Ile Longue; and the fingers by Pointe des Espagnols, the Camaret. Peninsula, and Cap de la Ch&vre. The forearm and wrist are bisected almost exactly by the Rau de Kerlbck, flowing from

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    Operation on the Crozon Peninsula. NIAJOR GENERAL D. A. STROH

    Commanding General. 106th Infantry Di\ISI

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    Peninsula, several thousand yards to thenorth.

    The division was also authorized to calldirect on Thunderbolts operated by theaggressive pilots of the 378th Fighter BomberSquadron, 362d Fighter Group, based atRennes.

    All elements of the reinforced divisionwere in position by 14 September except the13th Infantry (division reserve), \vhicharrived on the 15th. Ail plans had beenperfected, orders issued, an[l ground and airreconnaissance completed by dark on the14th. Task Force A had been relieved fromits covering position on the night of 13-1.1September by one battalion of each of theassault regiments, WI(1 assembled ~n reservein the vicinity of Arxol [approximately fourmiles east of St, Laurent~.

    The 28th Infantry, Coh,nel 31erritt E.Olmstead, attacking in thenorth zone, startedits assault at 0800, i5 September. It attackedwith the Ist and 3d Battalions, right toleft in assault, and the 2d Battalion inreserve. The regiment was reinforced byCompany C, 709th Tank 13attalion: CompanyB, 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion; andCompany D, 86th Chemical Battalion.

    The 121st Infantry, Colonel John R. Jeter,attacking in the south zone, also employedtwo battalions, the Ist and M, in assault.Its 3d Battalion occupied excellent tirinspositions on the high mound in the vicinityof Kersaniou, from which it supported by firethe attack of the remainder of the regiment.No attempt was made in this portion of thezone to advance because of the difficulty ofcrossing LAber Rau. The regimeht was rein-forced by Company B, 70fMh Tank Battalion;Company C. With T:mk Destroyer Battalion;and (after the lflth) Company A, 86thChemical Battalion.

    The first days fight was a typical hanlhler-and-tongs affair through hedgerow countrywith which the division had become thor-oughly acquainted during its operations inNormandy and the attack on Brest. By darkboth regiments had advanced on an averageof 800 yards against stiffening resistance

    and believed themselves in contact with theGerman main line of resistance.

    The 28th Infantry renewed the attack at0700 on 16 September and progressed slowlybut steadily throughout the day, registeringa w in of about 1,100 yards by dark. The

    k121s Infantry, renewing the attack at W+OOon t, e 16th, succeeded (lurin~ the day incupturin< an enemy strongpoint at St. Laur.ent, and in making an appreciable breachin the hostile main line of resistance in thes{]uthern portion of the re~rimental zone,The Germans ] eacted vigorously against theIst Battalion on the ri~ht du~ing the after-])non, i:lunching three successive counter-attacks, all of \vhich ~vere re]lulsed. Bothrcuiments were now abreast and in a positionto exploit the success the following day.

    Progress on 17 September in both regi-mental zones !ras rapid. On the right, the28th Infantry, still att:tckinu with the 1stan(i :1(I Battaliolu+ ai]m:lst, and aided by anearly -n;orninx ground to~, quickly overranthe airfield near I{erbt)lel. continued to sweepxlonp. the northern ricl~e, and by dark hadseized a position nearly 5,00 yards west ofits jun)p-oti in the early hours of the morn-in~. Its M Battalion moved forwar(i byhounds in rear of the assault battalionscleanin~ up bypassed pockets of resistance.The l?lst Infantry, like~vise \vithout change(If f{]l,llli{tion, Il]o(ie even lnol.t~ T:l])i(l pl,(~~l.ew011 this {late and by dark had seized itsregin]ent aIobjectives in an[l around Crmon,an advance of about 7,000 yal,ds during theday.

    Task Force A ~as havin~ difficulty keep-ing contact between the rapidly advancingassault regiments, due primarily to the lack[If suitable east and west roads through thevalley of the Rau (le Kerlock. ilfost of itsvehicles were forced to use the ridge roadsin the rear of the assault re.qinlents, sen[i i]]:patrols to the north and south therefromacross the valley. AS darkness (1900)approched it was evident that Task ForceCA? would be unable to advance beyond theroad running north from Crozon, althtwghan advance as far as Hill ~0 would havebeen desirable,

  • Operation. ON THE CROZON PENINSULA - 7

    At dark the division- was buttoned up withthe 121st Infantry disposed with one bat-talfon in the vicinity of the fort northwestof Crozon, one battalion on the high groundabout 1,000 yards southwest of the town,and one battalion on Hill 96. The 28th In-fantry had the 1st and 3d Battalions abreastalong line DD, with its 2d Battalion on Hill73. Task Force A was in contact with theinterior flanks of both regiments. The 13thInfantry, still in division reserve, had beenmoved forward by bounds during $he dayand was at dark disposed with its leadingbattalion on Hill 60. The 8th ReconnaissanceTroop was ordered from division reserveand attached to the 28th Infantry at 2015on the 17th, for the purpose of assistingthat regiment, in its operations of the 18th.

    The operations of 17 September had wit-nessed the complete collapse of the Germandefenses as far west as the wrist of thePeninsula. The withdrawal had assumed theproportions of a rout. Nearly 1,500 prison-ers were captured, inciuding thirty officers.One of these unfortunates had in his posses-sion the German field order for the occupationof new positions during the night 17-18 Sep-tember, complete with the location of conl -mand posts, assembly areas, and lines ofresistance. This order was promptly trans-mitted to the artillery of the division, whichproceeded to take full advantage of it duringthe succeeding hours of darkness. It was afield artillerymans dream. Guns of all cali-bers pounded the new German areas mer-cilessly throughout the night, doubtless add-ing to their already serious confusion anddisorder, and paving the way for a continu-ation of the American advance on 18 Sep-tember.

    The stage was now set for the beginninvof Phase 2 of the operation. Prior to day-light on 18 September one battalion of the13th Infantry was to advance and seize frill70 and protect the advance of the 28thInfantry to the west against interferencefrom the southwest. The 28th Infantry wasto continue its advance to the west, seizeHill 61 and continue its attack into theCamaret Peninsula. The 2d Ranger Battalion,


    attached to the division on 17 September,was to move in rear of the 28th Infantry,swing to the north as soon as uncovered,and reduce tbe defenses in Ile Longue. The121st Infantry was to hold its positions in

    , the vicinityof Crozon and to cover the de-bouchment of Task Rorce A into Cap dela Ch&re. i

    Operations on 18 September progressedntost satisfactorily: Hill 70 was occupied byone battalioh 13th Infantry prior to day-light. Under, its protection the 28th Infantryswept forward, captured Hill 61, and occupiedthe entire Camaret Peninsula before dark.

    As soon as the 28th Infantry had passedHill 61 on its way to the west, the 13thInfantry occupied this hill and advancedwith the patrols of one battalion as faras the wall across the neck of the Pointedes Espagnols.

    The 2d Ranger Battalion had no difficultyin occupying Ile Longue, where it releasedseveral hundred American prisoners of warpreviously captured during the Brest canl-paign.

    It had been planned previously that TaskForce A \vould use routes southeast ofCrozon in moving into the Cap de la Ch&re.This was found unnecessary due to the feeblehostile reaction and the stout defense main-tained by the 121st Infantry on the highground in the vicinity of the town. All daythe numerous mechanized and motorizedvehicles of Task Force A streamed throughCrozon on their way to the southwest. Givenelbow room, this highly mobile force rapidlyspread out over the entire cape. This provedto be a cavalrymans holiday. By dark, ad-vanced elements of the force had reachedthe tip of the cape, and gathered in severalhundred bewildered German prisoners, in-clgding Lieutenant General von Rauche,Commander~f the 353d German Division.

    This officer had had a busy three monthspreviously. H$is division had been cut to

    pieces by the advance of the 9th InfantryDivision, whence he had led the remnantsto Brest and thence to the Crozon Penin-sula, only to be finally hunted down andcaptured at last.

  • ,. With the forearm, wrist, thumb, and twoof the three fingers of the Peninsula inAmerican hands by dark on 18 [email protected],it remained only to raise the curtain on thelast act of the drama on the 19th. It wasestimated that reduction of the Pointe desEspagnols WOUIC1not be childs play. Theold but formidable French fort and the wallacross the neck, were so strong that tentativeplans were made to bypass them by a smallamphibious operation in which the 2d RangerBattalion and at least one battalion of the13th Infantry \vould participate. Navai land-ing craft were available but naval authoritieswould not authorize their use because of thelack of suitable landing beaches along theshore of the Pointe. Aumerous small Frenchfishing craft in the vicinity were eermarkedfor the ttisk if it proved necessary. Duringthe night 18-19 September the bulk of theartillery \vith the division was moved to thewest to be within easy support range of theattack on the following day. Brest hadalready fallen to the 2d zmd 29th InfantryDivisions. Arrangements were made withAmerican artillery based on the peninsulanorth of Crozon to add its weight to theother fires. The 378th Fighter-B&nber Squad-

    ron was to participate, with planes in theair at all ti~es. The 13fh Infantry, ColonelRobert A. Griffin, fresh and eager, was inposition ready for the jump-off in the vicinityof Hill 61. Company B, 709th Tank Battalion,and Company C, 644th Tank Destroyer Bat-talion, were

    eleved r attachment ()the 121st Infantry and a thched to the 13thInfantyy on the afternoon%f the 18th.

    All night, and until 1100 on 19 September,artillery of all calibers battered at the walland at the fort, but were unable to effecta breach. Accordingly, at that time the 3dand 2d Battalions, 13th Infantry, attackedabreast. These troops, with magnificent elan,scaled the wall, overran the fort, and cfm-


    tinued their advance to the north. The menadvanced with parade-ground precision fol.lowing closely behind successive concentra-tions put down by the overwhelming Ame&can artillery and closely supported by thedive-bombers of the Air Force, which strafedand dropped their bombs repeatedly onlya few, hundyed yards ahead of the advanc-ing infantry. Strongpoint after strongpointfell, and by dark the victorious troops hadreached the northern point. The intrepidyoung pilots of the 378th were still longingfor a fight and were disappointed when, atabout 1800, they were told that there wereno more targets and that the final objectivehad been reached.

    Near the tip of the point, in a dugout>eventy-tive feet deep, the men of CompanjI, 13th Infantry, captured Lieutenant GeneralRamke, surrounded by the last remnantsof his M Paratroop Division. Ramke hadled the German invasion of Crete in 1941,and \vas the commander of the fortres.q of13rest before he escaped therefrom by watelin the last days of the siege of that cityto make a last ditch, stand on Crozon.

    ~ozon Peninsula, consisting of approxi-n)ately fifty square miles of as heavily or-~anized an area as any that existed inFrance, had been cleared in five days of awhirlwind campaign. A total of 225 officers,including two Lieutenant generals, 895 non.u)nlmissioned officers, and 6,316 privates werecaptured. This number represented rqore thantwice the estimated maximum of Germandefenders. In addition, some hundreds werfkilled. Careful planning; time for ordersreconnaissance, and movement: the necessar~means to accomplish the job; maximum co- ,ordination between artillery and infantry,and between ground and air forces; andfinally, the irresistible aggressiveness of theAmerican soldier paid dividends.

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    jon gawne