NormandyNorthern FranceRhinelandArdennesCentral EuropeOfficial Site of the 35th Infantry Division Association
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

The 35th Division went into battle near the River Vire just North of the tiny village of La Meauffe about seven miles North of St. Lo and along a 5,000 yard front. The days that followed were among the most difficult of the entire war, with specially heavy losses to officers and non-coms, most of whom were highly trained and skilled. Units took huge losses of personnel who in many cases had been in the service since 1940. Replacements who came thereafter rarely had much more than thirteen weeks of infantry training. After St. Lo, units were never the same.

35th at La Meauffe on Vire River.

Let us follow the experience of the 137th Infantry Regiment, a good, typical National Guard based unit as it entered combat. 6 a.m., July 11th, H-hour. We begin a cautious approach attack following a heavy barrage and are immediately met with point blank surprise fire. Take cover and begin again a hazardous, laborious, slow forward movement of a few men at a time, a few yards, fire and movement – only you can’t see where the enemy is firing from, follow the hedgerow, use grenades, hand to hand combat. One area is defended by individual pillboxes and small nests of resistance. The G.I.s call it “Purple Heart Corner” for good reason. It is the solid stone chateau up ahead, formerly a Gestapo headquarters, now studded with machine guns. On beyond is St. Gilles and the church and another chateau, this one with eighteen inch sandstone walls and a 50 foot bell tower.

Disaster strikes quickly. A few minutes after the attack begins, Col. Grant Layng from Connecticut, Commanding Officer of the 137th Infantry lies severely wounded. The Assistant Division Commander, Gen. Edward Sebree, takes command, Lt. Col. John Wilson, C.O. of the 219th Field Artillery and Capt. John Kerr, Artillery Liaison Officer, are killed. Forward movement is slow. Casualties at the end of the first day, 126, of whom 12 are killed, 18 missing in action. Second day – intermittent rain but the attack inches forward with help from the 448th Anti-Aircraft Battalion and the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Casualties – 88, of whom 7 are KIA, 7 MIA’s. Third day – 500 yard advance at a cost of 125 more casualties – 21 KIA, 17 MIA. Prisoners taken include Polish, Russian and Czechoslovakian under German officers. Loud speakers brought in for psychological warfare. Leaflets spread over the enemy lines urging surrender. Not much luck there. Fourth day, attack continues. 737th Tank Battalion arrives and helps 137th overcome several fortified stone buildings. Cover some ground but lost 127 men including 17 KIA and 4 MIA. Fifth day – forward movement a little better. Casualties – 117, including 16 KIA, 1 MIA.

The 320th Infantry Regiment, led by Col. Bernard A. Byrne, also a West Point graduate, intelligent, well-liked, gentlemanly, eternally optimistic, commanded the regiment during its training and all through its combat, met stiff resistance each day with similar results and similar casualties. One day progress was limited to 300 yards total.

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Quick Facts

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

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