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Operation Lüttich

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  • Operation Lüttich

    I recently watch a very good program on the military channel about old hickory defending hill 314 . National guardsmen Hallowed Ground: Hill 314, Mortain, France



    BY DAVID T. ZABECKI
    11/3/2017 • MILITARY HISTORY MAGAZINE

    The French village of Mortain sits halfway up the western slope of what during World War II the U.S. Army referred to as Hill 314. The promontory’s highest point, 314 meters above sea level (about 600 feet above the valley floor), overlooks a junction from which the area’s only main road runs straight for about eight miles, west by southwest, to the town of Saint-Hilairedu-Harcouët. From there it is another 15 miles to Avranches, on the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay estuary, the point where U.S. forces in July 1944 broke out of the Cotentin Peninsula to turn the flank of the German army in Normandy.

    Hill 314 (listed in some histories as Hill 317) is a perfect observation post. A forward observer with radio communications to enough artillery batteries could prevent an armored division from moving down the Mortain–Saint-Hilaire road. And that is exactly what happened when German forces launched an offensive meant to drive the Allies back into the sea.

    By the end of July senior German commanders knew they had lost the battle to contain the Allied invasion. Most believed they should fall back into the French interior to re-establish a consolidated defensive position. But Adolf Hitler, living increasingly in his own strategic dream world, ordered a massive armored counterattack to reverse the breakout and cut off those American units that had already passed through the breach. The lead echelon of the German attack comprised three panzer divisions abreast, from Chérencé-le-Roussel to Mortain, a five-mile front. Field Marshal Günther von Kluge tasked one panzer division in the second echelon with advancing to Avranches and capturing the critical bridge at Pontaubault, across which Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s newly activated Third Army was pouring as it advanced from Normandy into Brittany.

    When the German attack started early on August 7, the 2nd SS Panzer Division struck in two columns, north and south of Mortain, capturing the command post of the U.S. 30th Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, inside the town. The main body of the 2nd Battalion remained entrenched around the summit of Hill 314, which the Germans surrounded and sealed off. Two forward observers of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Lt. Charles A. Barts and 2nd Lt. Robert L. Weiss, sat within a few feet of Hill 314’s summit and could see and call in fire on everything that tried to move down the road below. Until the Germans eliminated the Americans on Hill 314, the southern arm of their counterattack wasn’t going anywhere.

    Part of the Battle of Normandy
    Battle of Mortain - Devastated German Tank.jpg
    German Armoured Column destroyed during Operation Lüttich, August 1944
    7–13 August 1944
    Mortain, Normandy, France
    Allied victory
    United States
    United Kingdom
    Germany
    Omar Bradley Günther von Kluge
    5 Infantry Divisions
    3 Armored combat commands
    USAAF Ninth Air Force
    RAF Second Tactical Air Force
    3 Panzer Divisions
    2 Infantry Divisions
    5 Panzer or Infantry battlegroups
    150 tanks and assault guns
    ~10,000 casualties
    2,000–3,000 killed
    unknown number of infantry
    120 tanks and assault guns destroyed or damaged
    Operation Lüttich was a codename given to a German counter-attack during the Battle of Normandy, which took place around the American positions near Mortain from 7 August to 13 August 1944. (Lüttich is the German name for the city of Liège in Belgium, where the Germans had won a victory in the early days of August 1914 during World War I.) The offensive is also referred to in American and British histories of the Battle of Normandy as the Mortain counterattack .

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