Carentan

×HISTORICAL FACTS

Von der Heydt withdraws to Carentan
Friedrich von der Heydt, commander of 6th German Parachute Regiment, and his men had been in continuous combat against 101st Airborne in the Carentan sector since 6th June. The “Lions of Carentan”, as the American paras called them, fought ferociously to hold this strategic point between the two American beaches Utah and Omaha. Since 6th June, elements of 6th Parachute Regiment, had held out a Houseville, resisting all the American assaults until, on 9th June, troops of 502nd Parachute Regiment finally dislodged them following two days of intense combat. Von der Heydt withdrew taking great care to retreat in an orderly fashion across the marshand to Carentan. Due to this withdrawal the task for the Americans attempting to liberate Carentan would prove much more difficult.

The Battle of the Carentan Causeway
During the liberation of Carentan which was held by von der Heydt’s parachutists, two particular events marked the combat in the town, the battles for the Carentan causeway and the cabbage patch. The combat took place during the advance of 502nd Parachute Regiment north of Carentan on 10th June. The mission, which was had been given to 3rd battalion of the regiment, was to advance from Saint-Côme-du-Mont, crossing the raised causeway above the marsh and four bridges to reach the Pommenauque farm. The battalion set out shortly after midnight, on the night of 9th-10th June, but its progression was halted, at 0530 hours, by the German defenses. The attack recommenced at midday and the River Douve was crossed using a makeshift bridge. During the crossing of the fourth and last bridge, heavy fighting broke out between 1600 hours and 2300 hours. The fighting continued until 11th June, the battle for Carentan was well under way.

The Combat at Pommenauque and the Cabbage Patch at Carentan
At 0400 hours on 11th June, the four bridges to the north west of Carentan were crossed by 502nd Regiment but, with heavy losses. However, the assault on the farm at Pommenauque could now be launched. Supported by artillery, Colonel Cole and Major Stopka led the assault with fixed bayonets but, of the 250 men who should have followed only 60 received the order to attack. Despite the confusion, the enemy troops, who had abandoned the site and moved to the west, were rapidly put out of action. The new German defensive positions were now on the far side of the railway line. However, the situation was only finally secured in the evening with the arrival of an additional American company which took up positions in the cabbage patch (garden allotments) along the highway.

Von der Heydt evacuates Carentan
Short of ammunition, menaced on his left flank and with heavy losses, Colonel von der Heytd, commander of 6th Parachute Regiment, gave the order for a withdrawal at 1700 hours. The retreat took place that night to positions prepared to the southwest of the town. Observing this movement, 506th Parachute Regiment set off in pursuit. The net closed in but, few prisoners were taken as, once again, von der Heytd had carried out a perfect manoeuver. The rapid German withdrawal enabled the various American bridgeheads to form into one, much to the regret of the commander of 17th SS Division, who had taken over the Carentan sector. For his action, Von der Heydt was put under arrest and threatened with a court martial which, however, was not carried out. He subsequently participated in the last battles of the Normandy Campaign and later in the Ardennes where he was taken prisoner.

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