134th Infantry Regiment Crest

134th Infantry Regiment

"All Hell Can't Stop Us"

35th Infantry Division emblem

Report of Action Against the Enemy

320th Infantry Regiment

July 1 to July 31, 1944

 

DECLASSIFIED

DOD DA. 5200.9, Sept 27, 1958

NMW by JB date 6/16/66

Auth: CG 35th Inf Div

Initials: R G C

Date: 8/14/44

HEADQUARTERS 320TH INFANTRY

APO 35 U S ARMY

4 August 1944

SUBJECT: Action Against Enemy, Report After.

TO : The Adjutant General, Washington, D. C. (Thru Channels)

  1. Following report covers the period 9 July 1944 to 31 July 1944, inclusive, which period includes the action of this unit for St. Lo, and Torigni Sur Vire, France.

I. St. Lo.

 

1. Movement Orders:

9 July: Regiment was ordered to move by marching and motor from its bivouac south of Treviers to an assembly area west of St. Clair Sur L’Elle. From this area, the relief of the 175th Infantry, 29th Division, began at dark and continued through the night. The 175th occupied a defensive line extending across the north slopes of Hill 108 and west across the road leading to Le Mesnil Rouxelin, then running north to the vicinity of La Riviere.

Field Order No. 1 was issued at the regimental Command Post, 1800, 10 July 1944 by the regimental Comdr., Col. B. A. Byrne.

 

2. Mission: The order directed the advance of the regiment to attack the enemy in the immediate front, and to advance to the north bank of the Vire River just west of St. Lo.

 

3. Information of Enemy: During the operations, the regiment was opposed by units of the 897th, 898th and 899th Infantry Regiments. These troops were extremely well dug in, and supported by both mobile and heavy artillery. Their machine gun protective lines were very effective and their mortar fire extremely accurate. Their morale was not good, however, and the presence in their ranks of a good proportion of Poles and Russians resulted in the surrender of many prisoners.

 

4. Decision on tactical maneuver: The initial line occupied by the 320th was L-shaped, and the plan of maneuver included bringing the right flank, which ran north-south, into a line with the left flank running east-west. The 1st Bn. which operated initially on the right was continually confronted with the problem of executing a turning movement while attacking a very tough salient. The 2nd Bn, later replaced by the 3rd, on the left flank, also met very stiff resistance, and any advance in its line created a threat of losing contact with the right battalion.

 

5. Units: All three battalions were committed in this action.

 

6. Weapons used: The bazooka and hand grenades, and the BAR were found to be very useful in the peculiar type of fighting required by the hedge-rows.

 

7. Artillery, tank and air support: In addition to excellent artillery support, M-10 Tank Destroyers were used with good effect in blasting out hedge-row corners. 4.2 chemical mortars gave excellent support during the closing days of the battle. Air support kept the sky clear of planes on a large scale, but cloudy weather and poor visibility prevented use of planes in direct support.

 

8. Weather: The weather was, for most of the battle, cool and fairly dry. One day of rain, however, left the battlefield and supply roads wet and slippery for several days.

 

9. Supply: Supply problems were not acute at any time during the action, because little actual forward movement was involved. Signal supply especially wire, presented the greatest problem, and this principally because a very complete telephone system was maintained during the early phase of the battle. A tendency among the men to leave their equipment behind during an advance or a withdrawal threatened to create a serious problem until the men learned to appreciate the need for the items they had been issued.

 

10. Communications: An unusually complete wire net, both telephone and telegraph, was employed. Communications by wire was maintained throughout the operation, except for about 3 hours when one battalion’s wire was out. Wire was frequently broken by shelling and by tanks, but double lines kept excellent communication. Radio was used very little, both because several SCR 300 sets were destroyed by shell bursts or bullets, and also because the wire net afforded a quicker means of transmittal in most cases.

 

11. Morale and troop efficiency: In this first action, the morale was excellent in the beginning. As familiar leaders were killed or wounded, and especially during the extremely heavy mortar and artillery fire of the 12th and 13th of July, the strain of battle was felt quite severely in some units. The men fought well, but had to take some losses and spend some time in learning the technique of hedge-row fighting.

 

12. Casualties for this action were:

Officers

Enlisted Men

Total

Killed in Action

6

46

52

Wounded in Action

29

355

384

Missing in Action

1

65

66

 

13. Decorations: The following decorations have been recommended for the St. Lo Action:

8 – Distinguished Service Cross

16 – Silver Star

5 – Bronze Star

4 – Soldiers Medal

 

14. Prisoners Taken: 120.

 

15. Summary: In this initial action, the regiment assaulted one of the most intricate and stubborn defense systems yet found in Normandy; advanced an average of 3,000 yards; took 120 prisoners, and recovered many enemy small arms and much ammunition. Possible mistakes: The common mistakes of troops in their first action were observed; the reliance on rumor and exaggerated reports, failure to support the moving element by fire, and later, failure to move during supporting fire; a tendency to withdraw under high explosive fire rather than to advance out of it. These errors are being corrected.

II. Torigni Sur Vire.

1. Movement Orders:

 

a. Following the capture of St. Lo, the regiment was ordered to move by foot and organic motors to an assembly area in the vicinity of La Fossardiere, 19 July 1944. Following a daylight reconnaissance by leaders, relief of units of the 134th Inf. and 115th Inf. began at dark, the 1st and 3rd Bns. going into position on right and left respectively. A defensive line was established along the Bayeux Highway East of St. Lo. The 2nd Bn moved into a reserve position near La Meniere the following day, 20 July.

 

b. The defense was maintained until 27 July, when indications of enemy withdrawal resulted in orders to move at 1500 from present positions and occupy the line of the stream running east to west from St. Pierre-le Semilly to a point just south of La Monterie. The 3rd Bn moved on time and reached the objective at 1915 without resistance. The 1st Bn received mortar fire and required artillery support to advance. Attack was stopped at dark.

 

c. Resuming attack at 1000, 28 July, the 3rd Bn advanced well with little opposition until late evening when about a company of the enemy were surrounded, about 30 of whom were taken prisoner. The right (1st) Bn still met delaying groups and could not keep pace with the 3rd, although it reached its initial objective.

 

d. The attack continued after daylight 29 July, with little opposition, and advanced about a mile prior to noon, to reach the Division objective (line from 546574 to 570584).

 

e. The attack was held up until 1700 to permit coordination, when the regiment advanced with the objective of Torigni Sur Vire. Little opposition was met until 1900 when the 3rd Bn. was severely shelled just South of La Chapelle Du Fest. The 3rd Bn was ordered to cross the stream below La Chapelle that night.

 

f. Attacking 30 July at 0900, the 3rd Bn was unable to advance in front of La Chapelle because of the excellent artillery observation above them, and the 1st (right) Bn also suffered from heavy mortar and M. G. fire. A coordinated attack at 1300 by the 1st Bn failed to gain much ground, and another coordinated attack by the regiment at 1800 also gained very little ground. A tank attack in this area was stopped during the afternoon by mined roads and swampy ground which proved effective barriers. Smoke and HE fire was delivered on a commanding church tower at St. Armand, but other observation points for the enemy were plentiful. Attacking Bns. were ordered to dig in at 2130.

 

g. 31 July, Co. C, 81st Chemical Co. was attached, as well as Co. C, 737th Tank Bn. A coordinated attack by the 35th Division was launched at 0800. No resistance was reported initially, but mines and booby traps caused some casualties. The regimental commander directed the greatest possible rapidity of advance, and ordered the unit into route column, with Bns. in order, 3, 2, 1, effective when horizontal grid 54 was crossed. Engineers attached were ordered forward to clear the routes to the south and west of Torigni, and the main route to the southeast. The town was bombarded by artillery and chemical mortars employing HE and white phosphorus, and many buildings were fired or wrecked. The fire served to create smoke which reduced observation from the heights south of the city. The 3rd Bn. flanked the town from the north and east, the 2nd approached from the north, and the 1st entered the town from the Northwest along the St. Lo road. The enemy shelled the town as American troops entered, causing some civilian casualties but very few among the troops.

 

h. After passing the town, the 3rd Bn, attempting to advance South and East, received very heavy fire from the vicinity of the road fork at Les Montagnes, and an attack employing tanks was planned for the following morning. The 1st Bn. secured the town for the night.

 

2. Weapons used: Increasing openness of the country, with higher hills and better observation, gave heavy weapons greater effectiveness.

 

3. Supporting arms: Tanks were available but suitable tank terrain was found to be mined in many places. High hedge-rows still limited their rapid advance. Artillery support was excellent, and the 4.2 inch chemical mortars proved extremely effective.

 

4. Weather: Weather was clear and warm, and had no adverse effect on the operation. A day of rain during the defensive phase had no effect on plans of the regiment.

 

5. Supply: Supply was adequate in all respects, although limitations on mortar and cannon ammunition were prescribed by higher authority. Lack of effective shelling and air reconnaissance by the enemy permitted the service train to move well forward. Complete absence of enemy air forces during daylight permitted extraordinary free movement of all types of supply.

 

6. Communication: Communications were largely by radio during the attack, although wire communications with higher and lower echelons were established each night. Less wire trouble was experienced during the pursuit than during the defensive phases, due to less enemy shelling and less vehicle traffic along communication routes.

 

7. Morale, Troop Efficiency:

 

a. Morale was found much improved over the initial action, not only because of added combat experience but also because replacements and especially men returning to duty from hospitals were very encouraging. The troops were very tired after 21 days of front line action, but fought well and patrolled aggressively.

 

b. The fact that the enemy was withdrawing each night and permitting a period of almost unhindered advance each day was most heartening to the men.

8. Casualties: (Period 20 July to 31 July 1944)

Officers

Enlisted Men

Killed in Action

2

31

Wounded in Action

7

185

Missing in Action

0

14

Total

9

230

  1. Prisoners taken: 35.

10. Accomplishments:

a. Total advance of approx. 6 miles.

b. Capture of road centers and railway line.

 

III. Summary for Period:

 

1. Zones of Action: St. Lo, Torigni Sur Vire.

 

2. Enemy forces opposing: Elements of the German 897th, 898th and 899th Infantry regiments, and of the 9th and 15th Parachute regiments.

 

3. Prisoners captured: 155

 

4. Casualties:

Officers

Enlisted Men

Total

Killed in Action

8

77

85

Wounded in Action

36

540

576

Missing in Action

1

66

67

Total

45

683

728

 

5. Results of Action:

Assigned objectives taken.

 

B. A. BYRNE

Col., 320th Inf.

Comdg.

 

319.1 1st Ind

(4 Aug 44)

HQ 35TH INF DIV, APO 35, U S Army, 14 Aug 44

 

TO: Commanding General, XIX Corps, APO 270, U S Army

 

Forwarded in compliance with provisions of paragraph 1, letter Headquarters FUSA, 13 July 1944, 319.1/401 (C), subject: “Action Against Enemy, Reports After/After Action Reports.

 

For the Commanding General:

 

RICHARD G. CHADWICK

Lt Col, A. G. D.

Adjutant General

 

 

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