It was time for a breakout. Gen. Bradley’s
plan, named “Cobra” called for a saturation
aerial bombing of a small strip of the front line
and an immediate offensive by massed infantry
and armor. A five mile strip, one mile deep immediately
West of St. Lo was selected, directly in front
of the30th Division and 9th Division. The pulverizing
attack was to land on three German units –
Panzer Lehr, 5th Parachute, and 353rd Division.
The 2nd and 3rd U.S. Armored Divisions and 4th
Infantry were poised behind the American lines
to exploit the attack by the 30th and 9th Divisions.
The 35th Division, with ringside seats, were to
give artillery support and prevent reinforcement
of the shattered German front.
Once again bad weather delayed Cobra, causing
one false start, and a thousand casualties on
the attacking divisions when bombs fell short
on American infantry who had withdrawn over 1,200
yards from the front lines to allow for just such
a happening. One casualty was Gen. Leslie McNair,
observing from a slit trench, who was blasted
60 feet out of his foxhole and identified later
only by the three stars on his lapel. On July
25th, 2,430 planes flying twelve to a formation
– B-17s, B-24s, and medium and fighter bombers
dropped 4,150 tons of bombs, 110 lb., 260 lb.,
fragmentation, and 500 pound – wiping out
whole units in a two mile corridor between St.
Giles and Marigny. 30th Division units shattered
by the bombs which had fallen on them, moved out
on time with the exception of one battalion which
was only a few minutes late. Over one thousand
Germans had perished, but the survivors, dazed
and disoriented, recovered and engaged and slowed
the American infantry. The next day the American
armor was released and against heavy resistance
finally penetrated the German lines on July 27th,
followed by the infantry on the 28th, slanting
toward the southwest.
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