Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 007, folder 32: 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment after action reports

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After Action Reports

82nd Airborne Div--notes on 505 PIR

Box 7, #32

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-14These are extracts from the presumably after action reports of the 505th Parachute Infantry regiment which was attached to the 82nd Division. It was actually part of the 82nd Division. Every man of the regiment got this briefing: The S-2 gave the following briefing: "This is it - France - 42 million people. Here we have Normandy but which you will hear a lot about in the near future. The main city is Rouen. In all Normandy there are about two million inhabitants. Part of Normandy, here, is the Cherbourg Peninsula or Contentin Peninsula with about four hundred thousand people. The main city of this peninsula is Cherbourg with thirty seven thousand people. And here on this peninsula is Ste. Mere Eglise, our regiment's main objective area, a little town with about one thousand people in it. Our drop zone is between St. Mere Eglise and the Merderet River. As you know from previous experience, it can happen that you may get dropped way from the intended drop zone because of that the most important thing for paratroopers is assembly and we want you not only to remember the area of the drop zone but also an area at least 10 miles in each direction. The town of Ste. Mere Eglise, Ste. Sauveur le Vicomte, La Haye du Puits and Carentan - they form a square. North of Ste. Mere Eglise is Montebourg and Valognes. Two old roads run the length of the peninsula north and south. One is a single track railroad on the west part of the peninsula through La Haye du Puits, St. Sauveur le Vicomte, Valognes and up to Cherbourg. On the eastern side of the peninsula is a double track railroad through Carentan, Chef du Pont, Montebourg, Valognes and Cherbourg.

Through our area goes a main highway - coming from Carentan, through St. Mere Eglise to Montebourg, Valognes, and Cherbourg. This highway is very straight, 22 feet wide and made of asphalt. It is very important for you to remember... what the point is very important for you to remember is how the river Douve and Merederet run. The Douve is wider, about sixty fee, the Merederet about forty feet. The Douve is generally going west to east and is met by the Merederet here at Chef-du-Pont coming from the north. And watch how the rivers run in reference to the railroad.

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-15About 3000 yards north of our drop zone is a very big building which looks like a hangar. Its about 150 yards long and will be a good landmark. Note: This was the balloon hangar near the 3d battalion command post on the way to La Ham and Montebourg station. About 4000 yards northeast of our drop zone is the chateau with rows of large trees. These threes are the tallest in the vicinity. We want you to remember all these landmarks instead of all the small roads in and around the drop zone because when you land on the drop zone you will easily orient yourself anyway.

As you see on the maps the area is very flat and without any big woods but it has very thick hedges which are very good cover. Few fields will be over a hundred yards long. Now concern- ing the enemy: In all France he has about 55 divisions. Some of these are standing and stationed along the coastlines and occupy the big defenses called the west wall. This is a line of strong points, barbed wire, batteries, obstacles, etc. which is along the entire coast. We know the coast is heavily fortified but the Army and Navy and Air Force can break it. We will have the enemy outnumbered and out-equipped in the invasion area. Through the inland off France other divisions are stationed as mobile divisions in reserve positions. On the Cherbourg peninsula there is now a total of about 5 divisions or sixty thousand men. Of these we will be concerned with the following: The 709th Infantry Division is static and with Georgian troops, defends the coastline on the north and west. The 91st Infantry Division has recently moved up into the western half of the peninsula with a probable divisional headquarters at Briquebec. The 243rd Infantry Division now occupies the eastern half of the peninsula and our regimental area. Headquarters of this division is possible in Ste. Mere Eglise. The 91st Division has about 9,000 men and has one battalion of tanks and some motorized artillery attached. We know that you're very interested in tanks, and we can say that we have seen no kind of tanks in our area. We know that about one company of tanks debarked in Carentan where we've seen tanks on photos of St...which were taken out of St.Sauveur le

Last edit 6 months ago by GailF
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Vicomte.

The nearest large group of tanks to our areas is the regiment at Laval — from which it would take at least 14 hours to attack us. However, they will hesitate to commit large units until they know the exact invasion picture. Also, with our weapons and the terrain favoring our type of action we need have no undue fear of tanks.

I said before the coast was heavily defended. Therefore, if you feel that you’ve been dropped east of the big asphalt highway, don’t go east. If you do, you'll get into every type of defense of installation known. But if you start west and come to a town, don’t enter going in that direction; the towns are heavily defended on the east side towards the beaches from which side an attack is naturally expected.

We've shown you all the defenses we know about on the defense map. Some of those have been put in in the last few days so we know that they...that they are building more and more. You see that on some...machine gun points that these may be pillboxes. We want to stress to you that even when you don’t see any defenses be careful of crossroads and bridges because the enemy is as logical in its building of defenses at those spots as we are. Another thing is to be careful of is the hedges. As you see in the photos they are good for cover and concealment, therefore we don’t know what is in them but be careful when you as an individual soldier or part of a small group advance through the hedgerows.

We don’t think that in our immediate area are many enemy troops, we estimate about two companies. So if we assemble swiftly, seize our objective and the seaborne forces come in to contact us on the afternoon of D-Day as schedule it will be quite an easy job; and we will have time to taste the apple cider we know they are making a lot of on the Cherbourg peninsula.

For them the enemy will not have had time to move his troops from the north, from where can expect a counter attack as we are the northern most American First Army flank. we Once more we tell you to remember the landmarks because even if you are dropped far from the

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From the drop zone you can orient yourself as fast as possible, then move to the assembly area and we can accomplish our mission.

Concerning the Frenchmen on the peninsula, we think they are all reliable but as the Cherbourg peninsula is a farming country, the population is quite reactionary, so maybe they will not understand the necessity of the destruction of their homes which probably will often happen. Try to remember how in French to ask the civilian where you are. If you forget your French language in the excitement you can always let them point to your location on the map. No effort will be left out in order to make the best prepared troops in the Army and we are convinced that the job we have to do will be done.”

That ends the first extract.

That was the way Lt. Col. Ekman, commanding officer of the regiment wanted every man to be briefed.

We took advantage of all the time we'd available and briefed platoon after platoon both day and night over and over again. Knowing the situation of the ground, officers took their small units and went over the exact details of the G-s operational plans which had been prepared in detail based on the situation as explained above, At last on Monday, 5th of June, at 2100 hours, the troops moved in trucks out to the waiting planes. It was a light summer evening, the moon half hidden by wind driven clouds and you could see with what concentrated confidence the troops moved out.

At 2300 hours the engines of hundreds of C-47s started to drone in different airdrones of England and a few minutes thereafter we took off. Now and thenthe moon let us take a last farewell look for some the last forever, of the British isles we had begun to call home.

Continuing the extract from the after action report of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Division.

After about two hours flying, the regiment saw France for the first time. It was actually a piece of French soil - the island of Jersey. At about that time the planes came in to a

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