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Welcome to the official site of the 35th Infantry Division in Europe during World War IIUnitsGeneral Paul BaadeAwards and DecorationsCasualties
Welcome to the official site of the 35th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II


It seems that Hitler, against the better judgment of his general in Normandy, had ordered a full scale attack on August 7th by four Panzer Divisions in the LX-VII Corps, to break through the American lines at Mortain and drive due West to Avranches on the coast 18 miles away with the intent of cutting off the 3rd Army from the first Army and driving the Americans into the sea. These were the best German divisions in the West and included the tough and hardened 1st SS and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions, the 2nd Armored Division and the 116th Panzer Division. These crack troops had driven six miles into the American lines and had the 30th Division on its heels in and West of Mortain.

American strategy was to attack a counter-offensive, so at 2030 hours on August 7th, the 35th Division moved into an approach march to find and hit the Germans in and South of Mortain. The 137th Infantry moved on the right eastward toward Barrington, a little village 7 miles South of Mortain. The 134th Regt. moved parallel to the 137th and about four miles from Mortain. Objectives: find the Germans and roll them back and try to circle to the northeast around the Panzer spearhead. Meanwhile, the 320th Regiment moved along the St. Hilaire-Mortain road, hitting the Germans head on. All three regiments quickly contacted the enemy and began to drive them back, but handicapped by nightfall and the melee and confusion of blind gladiators. It was then learned that the Second Battalion of te 30th Division’s 120th Infantry Regiment had been in a defensive position on Hill 317, a high rocky ridge on the East edge of Mortain, perhaps a mile in length which afforded excellent observation points to direct effective artillery fire on advancing German armored units. when the spearhead hit Mortain, the Second Battalion had held and continued to hold against steady attacks. Now the battalion, reduced from 700 men to half that strength; was running out of ammunition, water, supplies, particularly medical supplies, food, everything except determination. Aerial drops had been unsuccessful. Medical supplies sent in hollow shells fired on to the hill were insufficient and it was thought the battalion could not hold much longer.

The 320th Infantry was given the mission to rescue the “Lost Battalion” and the 1st Battalion, under command of Maj. William Gillis, a West Point football star, was assigned to break through the 2nd SS Panzer encirclement. The 737th Tank Battalion, 54 tanks strong, moved up to the lower reaches of the hill in column, stopped for G.I. riflemen from B and C Companies to mount up, and following a 10 minute artillery preparation, dashed toward the German lines. By nightfall, the battalion and tanks had advanced a mile. At daybreak, the attack resumed, met by everything the Jerries could throw until finally the tanks stopped and gave covering fire while the infantrymen spread out and went the last 500 yards on foot, in hand to hand fighting. First to reach the top was Lt. Homer Kurtz and an intelligence section from the Third Battalion. Two drivers from the 35th Quartermaster Company manned a 2½ ton truck and accompanied by three tanks dashed up the hill carrying supplies and munitions to men on top of the hill, returning shortly with 20 of the most severely wounded. Thirty of the 737th Tank Battalion tanks were lost out of the 54. Casualties to the 1st Battalion Infantrymen were heavy, but the lost battalion came out, one of many examples in the war where G.I.’s risked everything to help other G.I.’s in trouble, soldiers whom they didn’t know. Distinguished unit citations were given to the 30th Division Battalion and to the 1st Battalion of the 320th Regiment and to the 747th Tank Battalion for their heroic selflessness. It also proved that the 35th Division soldiers were a match to the elite troops of the German Army, a source of continuing pride for all divisionnaires thereafter.

The full 35th Division continued its attack on the 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions until relieved on August 14th by the 2nd Division and assigned again to the Third Army. This time, the division was placed in the XII Corps, along with the 4th Armored Division. The German counter offensive at Mortain had been halted and there began at last a full scale but controlled withdrawal of the entire German Seventh Army toward Paris, more specifically toward the open ends of a horseshoe like line at Falaise and Argentian, some 75 miles West of Paris. Gen. Patton was moving toward Argentain to cut off the Germans in the gap that was forming. The failure of the British and Canadians to close more rapidly from Falaise permitted a large part of the trapped German Army to escape, much to Gen. Patton’s ire who had asked to be permitted to close it with the Third Army and was denied.

On August 15, the 35th Division again mounted trucks and left the Mortain area, moving 70 miles to a new assembly area southwest near Le Mans. On the same day, the U.S. 7th Army began the invasion of Southern France.

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By Maj. Norman C. Carey, Company A-320th Inf. Regt.

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