Behind the line of Carentan - St. Lo, there was a small town called La Haye du Puits. It was a focal point for supply lines and the 79th's next objective. On 3 July, the attack moved out with the 314th approaching on the left, the 315th on the right. 1st BN / 314th drove forward to Bolleville, the 3rd worked on securing "Hill 121" left of Bolleville and the 2nd remained in a defensive position north of the Douve River in support.
The Regiment's Battalions lost radio contact with Regimental HQ CP for several hours and mission specifications were relayed by an artillery liaison. The objectives of 1st and 3rd were reached at 0230, 3 July.
During the night, 2nd BN crossed the Douve to the north-northeast sector of "Hill 121." The approach exposed the troops to the most extreme fighting they had experienced to date, and fatigue ran high.
Click map to enlarge
At 1830, 4 July, 2nd BN moved through 1st BN's position to bypass La Haye du Puits to reach an assembly area about 800 yards northwest of Bolleville. 1st BN was holding the line to the right, and 3rd was in a defensive position northwest of Ste. Catherine. 5 July - After six hours of heavy fighting, 2nd BN managed to only advance one-half mile and was stopped cold until tank support arrived. 3rd BN's K/Co was sent to recon La Haye du Puits and, at 0900, secured the railroad station on the north end of town. The Germans bombarded the station heavily and orders for K/Co to pull out were issued that afternoon. Later in the day, the entire 3rd BN pulled back to regroup to the right flank (south of Bolleville) for the next day's assault.
1st BN moved in south from Bolleville. Late in the afternoon, 3rd BN ran into a battalion of Waffen SS in defensive positions of La Haye du Puits. The 315th, near Montgarden, was so far away that what resulted was a 500 yard gap in the 3rd's right flank. On the northern sector, a 1st BN recon unit ran into resistance and had to fall back to Bolleville.
On 7 July, 2nd and 3rd BN's tried to advance again with slight progress and at a high casualty cost. By nightfall, command of 2nd BN had changed three times due to heavy losses. 1st BN made another attempt to reconnoiter La Haye du Puits, but ran into heavy German defensive positions - mine-studded fields strung with checkerboard patterns of piano wire about one inch off the ground, mortar bursts, and machine gun batteries. Behind the 314th's position, the 8th Infantry Division was preparing it's 28th Regiment to relieve 2nd BN's position. The next day's orders were for the 1st BN to just contain the town, leaving the dirty work to the 8th Infantry Division.
But, as will become pattern, the orders changed sending 1st into town. The battalion broke up into smaller units to penetrate the German defensive positions. It was an awkward, almost Guerilla-like attack, but after a day of this tactic, on 8 July, the 1st BN secured La Haye du Puits.
To the south, 3rd BN was taking a beating from the SS in its attempt to secure a position noted as "Hill 84" and the 28th had no progress moving in for support. 2nd BN was called up to assist. By 9 July, F/Co had only one officer, and 94 enlisted men left. Between 8 and 9 July, F/Co lost 14 men, 34 wounded - almost half the Company. The 315th established contact with 314th's 3rd BN, and 2nd's remnants pulled back to the assembly area. 3rd BN moved forward to hold the slope of the hill area, and 1st BN - relieved by a unit of the 8th Division, turned over disposition La Haye du Puits, and moved north to regroup.
The Breakthrough at St-Lo
After three weeks of fighting, many of the men who'd trained together for over two years were gone and the whole face of the Regiment was changed. Replacements arrived, 50 to 60 per company, and about the time they signed in on the roster, it was time to move out again. Objective orders for 10 July were to take the ground about 1000 yards southeast of "Hill 84." The G2 reported that the "Der Fuehrer" Panzergrenadier Regiment of the "Das Reich" SS Panzer Division (the best Hitler had in the west) awaited them. The "Der Fuehrer" was very ruthless. They had just massacred the adult population of the villages of Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane. 3rd BN led off the Regiment in columns. By nightfall, 3rd reached the objective. The 314th Regiment was the only unit on the Corps front line to do so. 1st BN moved to 3rd's rear and held the forward slopes of "Hill 84." 11 July, 1st BN led off the southwestward push to the next objective, 1200 yards beyond the 10 July line. C/Co met a pocket of resistance that kept it held up for most of the day, and both sides exacted heavy losses.
On 12 July, late orders arrived for the 314th to take the east/west line about 500 yards north of La Picorie. On 13 July, at 0800, 1st BN led off, 2nd in the middle of the column, and 3rd bringing up the rear. They met heavy resistance, and gained no ground until tank support arrived. 2nd BN would see progress, but then would stall out west of Hierville. With the objective in sight, the advance went quickly the morning of 14 July, and by 1130 the new line was consolidated. The rest of the day was spent patrolling the Ay River.
15 July, the 314th was relieved by the 315th, and fell back to an area 500 yards south to rest. The location was called "Dirty Gertie's" after the dirty old woman seen rummaging about the garbage and rubble. One remarked that it appeared she hadn't washed since the fall of France. The 314th got a much needed rest, hot chow, showers, mail and church services.
A mission brief by the 314th's commander, Colonel Warren Robinson came on 17 July. The destination was a concealed bivouac area near Les Puits Rault. The move was to begin late 19 July undercover of darkness to be in position to relieve the 8th Division's 137th Infantry on 21 July. The 314th secured the line between le Bocage and la Uilaumerie. The Regiment closed in and regrouped at 0225, 20 July. They spent the next five days patrolling the Ay River. CP devised plans for the exchange of support fire between the 8th's positions and the 314th.
On 25 July, 3000 Allied Bombers laid the way to begin the breakthrough at St. Lo. Ground troops drove the Germans westward toward the coast with the 314th "maintaining pressure." 314th's 1st and 3rd BNs moved up on 26 July - 1st on the slopes beyond La Banserie, 2nd BN established a bridgehead across the Ay near Pissot. the 3rd BN piled into the rear of the 28th Infantry because they hadn't advanced as far as the reports indicated. 3rd went to an assembly area north of La Banserie for the night. 1st BN swung west, but all three battalions ran into heavily mined areas. A/Co lost 36 men.
Regimental CP, on the morning of 27 July, relayed to the battalion positions that the 28th never reached its objective. The 314th was dispatched around the stalled advance and reached the original objective, the la Bocage line, at 1840. This operation book marked the breakthrough which would reach all the way to the Seine.
The assault column made another eleven miles advance on 28 July, with the 314th reaching Coutances by nightfall. 29 July, they waited and watched as the 6th Armored Division raced through the position hot on the enemy's heels. A fifteen-mile gain towards Avrances took place on 30 July. Along the way, the destruction of the Allied Air Corps was everywhere.
This outline is compiled from research material provided by personal accounts, unit diaries, online sources, "The Complete History of World War Two" edited by Francis T. Miller (1948) and the 314th Infantry Association's "Through Combat." A special thanks to J.W. Campbell and Dwight Pruitt.
17 September 2003