30th Infantry Division “Old Hickory” stops the breakout of the German forces at the village of Mortain. One of the many US divisions in the ETO, however the 30th stands out as one of the best US divisions in the field. It was the hard fighting of the 30th ID that disrupted Hitler's plans to divide the US Army in Normandy. Stopping overwhelming forces of the German Army and SS.
During combat, the Division became know as the Workhorse of the Western Front. It was also known as "Roosevelt's SS Troops," so named by German high command because of the consistent vigor and pressure the Division brought to bear on Hitler's elite 1st SS Division. The 1st SS was the main force of resistance just before the breakthrough at St. Lo, and again at Mortain, which the 30th literally tore to shreds, thus allowing Gen. George Patton's armored forces to race forward through France, thereby shortening the war by many months.
August 7th 1944 the Germans kicked off the operation known as Lüttich. Participating was the German 1st SS Panzer Div, 116th Panzer Div, 2nd SS Panzer, 17th Panzergrenadier Division at Mortain.
This small French village became the focus of a German counterattack on the evening of August 6, 1944. Operation Lüttich, as it was called, was ordered by Hitler with the intention of splitting the American forces between Hodges' First Army and Patton's newly formed Third Army. The Germans needed control of the vital road network around Mortain to allow a drive to Avranches on the coast. the Germans would later state that their failure to complete the separation of the American forces was a "turning point" in the battle of the western front. This failure was caused by the determined resistance of Old Hickory at Mortain.
Hitler personally ordered this attack contrary to the advice of his generals. It was opposed to such a degree that the commander of the116th Panzer Division refused to follow the order, delaying the attack. Nonetheless, at approximately 0100 hours 7 August the lead elements of the 2nd SS Panzer Division made contact with members of the 9th U.S. Infantry Division. In addition to the 2nd SS "Panzer Lehr" division, the 1st SS Panzer "Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler", 116th Panzer, and17th SS Panzergrenadier divisions also participated.
The disposition of Old Hickory's troops around Mortain was as follows. On the eastern side of the town stood a tall hill, elevation 314. Hill 314 had been recognized by the Americans as a vital defensive position early on and was held by the 2nd battalion, 120th Infantry. The 1st of the 120th was on the west of Mortain holding hill 285. Two platoons of the 120th's company F, a platoon of the 120th's antitank company, along with 3rd platoon of Company A, 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion had established what would prove to be a crucial roadblock at L'Abbaye Blanche where they could cover the road junctions north of Mortain. Meanwhile, the 117th Infantry was in place at St. Barthelmy, approximately two miles north of Mortain. The 119th Infantry was to the northwest near Le Mesnil-Adelée.
The Germans made significant gains in the early hours of the attack, actually capturing the village of Mortain. However the Nazis failed to gain control of the crucial high ground around Mortain. Such was the disposition in the initial stages of the attack.
Although they held Mortain, they had not gained control of the roads they so desperately needed. The directed artillery fire from Hill 314 prevented this. The 120th held the hill and despite being completely cut off from resupply and relief these infantrymen withstood the repeated assaults of combined German artillery, armor and infantry assaults.
The following is very interesting document by the one of the US commanders that held hill 314.
Operations of the 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry
(30th Infantry Division) at Mortain, France
6 – 12 August 1944
(Northern France Campaign)
(Personal Experiences of a Company Commander)
An Isolated Infantry Battalion
Defending a Key Terrain Feature
This is a nice link interactive of the 30th ID in Europe.
http://www.normandiememoire.com/NM60Ang ... inf_us.php