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The hedgerow country of northwestern France the Bocage. presented a trying challenge to the U S Army in 1944 During. the Normandy invasion U S forces faced a stubborn German. Army defending from an extensive network of small fields sur. rounded by living banks of hedges bordered by sunken dirt. lanes German forces fighting from these ready made defensive. positions were at first able to curb most of the American. advances and make the attempts very costly For the U S. Army busting through the difficult Bocage country required tac. tical doctrinal and organizational ingenuity, Busting the Bocage American Combined Arms Operations. in France 6 June 31 July 1944 shows how the U S Army iden. tified and overcame the problems of fighting in difficult terrain. The adoption of new tactics combined with technical innova. tions and good small unit leadership enabled American forces. to defeat a well prepared and skillful enemy In the hedgerow. country the U S Army eventually brought the separate com. ponents of the combined arms team infantry armor and. artillery to bear on the enemy simultaneously The resulting. successes were costly but effective Combat in the Bocage. demonstrated the U S Army s capability to fight and win in a. new and hostile environment,November 1988 RICHARD M SWAIN. Colonel Field Artillery,Director Combat Studies Institute. CSI publications cover a variety of military history topics The views expressed. herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Department of. the Army or the Department of Defense,Busting the Bocage. American Combined,Arms Operations,6 June 31 July 1944.
Captain Michael D Doubler,U S Army Command and General Staff College. Fort Leavenworth Kansas 66027 6900, Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data. Doubler Michael D Michael Dale 1955,Busting the Bocage. Bibliography p, 1 World War 19391945 Campaigns France Bocage riormand. 2 Bocage normand France History,D756 5 N6D68 1988 940 54 21 88 23757.
Illustrations v,I Normandy The Context of the Battle 1. Introduction 1,U S Army Organization and Doctrine 2. Combat Experience Before D Day 9,The Operational Setting 11. 11 The Battle 21,Tactical Problems 21,The Solution 30. III Conclusions 61,Bibliography 73,Dit S Ccal,ILLUSTRATIONS.
1 Triangular infantry division 1943 5,2 German hedgerow defense 24. 3 The 29th Infantry Division s hedgerow tactics 41. 4 The 83d Infantry Division s hedgerow tactics 48,5 The 3d Armored Division s hedgerow tactics 52. 1 The advance inland 6 June 1 July 1944 12 13,2 The 29th Division s attack 11 July 1944 44. 3 The attack on Hill 192 11 July 1944 46,4 Breakthrough 25 27 July 1944 56 57. I NORMANDY THE CONTEXT,OF THE BATTLE,Introduction, Over forty years have passed since Allied armies landed in.
Normandy with the purpose of liberating western Europe and. destroying Hitler s Third Reich Despite this passage of time. and extensive writings on the landings in France officers and. historians are still intensely interested in D Day and the. Normandy campaign Indeed a great deal remains to be learned. about the U S Army s participation in the Normandy campaign. and a detailed examination of the fighting yields a fruitful case. study for America s professional officer corps concerning how. American soldiers performed in combat how squads and pla. toons closed with and destroyed the enemy and how the Army. adapted methods to overcome a whole host of problems that it. encountered in combat, The broad concept 1 framework for this study of the U S. Army s efforts in Fra e in 1944 originated with an idea bor. rowed from the emi nt British military historian Michael. Howard In a speech o the Royal United Services Institute in. October 1973 Howar examined the difficulties military estab. lishments encounte in creating doctrine for the employment of. their combat forc Unlike other professionals military leaders. have no sure hod of testing or verifying their doctrines and. practices s rt of combat Due to this drawback Howard. thought tl M peacetime military doctrine is usually faulty Such. weakne es in doctrine however are not irresoluble Once in. comb the military can recognize flaws in its doctrine and. co at techniques and remedy them as quickly as possible. Ui imately the advantage will go to the army that learns. ickly from its mistakes and adapts promptly to a new and. nfamiliar environment, This study attempts to identify the problems that hampered. the operations of the U S First Army during the weeks immedi. ately following the D Day landings In Normandy inex. perienced American combat units struggled with veteran. German defenders on terrain specially suited for the defense. The U S Army was faced with the problem of conducting offen. sive operations in the Normandy hedgerow country known as. the Bocage Shortcomings in preinvasion training and prepara. tion resulted initially in uncoordinated efforts whenever. American infantry tanks and artillery tried to combine forces. during attacks Technical deficiencies also hampered efforts. More important this study shows the processes by which. the Army identified and overcame its problems Through flexi. bility and determination in battle coupled with ingenuity and. innovativeness in the use of weaponry the U S Army was able. to push back a stubborn opponent and achieve victory At all. levels from squad leader to commanding general the U S First. Army sought to turn a bad situation to its advantage Locked. in combat with a formidable foe American leaders relied on. their previous training and experience common sense and. knowledge of the capabilities of their equipment to forge. together the uncoordinated separate elements of the Army s. combat arms into a unified combined arms team, The American experience in Normandy supports Michael. Howard s assertion that the ability of armies to adapt in combat. is a key ingredient in their success In the seven weeks between. D Day and 31 July 1944 despite shortcomings in combat. experience and the difficult Normandy terrain the U S First. Army defeated the Germans in a series of battles that placed a. premium on leadership and ingenuity at the small unit level. New tactics and technical innovations allowed First Army units. to close with and destroy a well prepared defender By early. August the Americans had restored mobility to the battlefield. and the Allies began to push the Germans back in operations. designed to carry the Allied armies to Paris and beyond. U S Army Organization and Doctrine, On 6 June 1944 Allied forces landed on the European con. tinent with the mission of occupying Nazi Germany and. destroying its armed forces By the end of June Allied com. manders rea ed that original estimates for their rate of. advance into the interior of France were overly optimistic In. the British sector units under the overall command of General. Sir Bernard L Montgomery were stalled in front of Caen which. had been a D Day objective Likewise the Americans of the U S. First Army commanded by Lieutenant General Omar N, Bradley found themselves behind schedule and engaged in a.
grueling war of attrition with the Germans on terrain specially. suited for the defense, Sallying forth from the D Day beachheads the American. Army had plunged into Normandy hoping to destroy the. German units that lay in its path First Army soon found itself. in very inhospitable terrain facing a determined and capable. enemy Slow progress and prohibitive losses made it clear that. normal methods of attacks were unworkable German positions. Si i i i isi, could not be outflanked or turned so the only recourse was to. plunge directly into the face of their defenses But before the. U S Army took the risk of shattering itself on the Germans. positions soldiers of all ranks speculated on how to best rupture. the enemy s defenses, The principal assets that American combat leaders in Nor. mandy had to rely on to defeat the Germans were the firepower. and capabilities of their equipment and their knowledge of tac. tical doctrine They also wielded the combat formations of the. U S Army that had been equipped and organized with the out. break of war A familiarity with the composition and capabilities. of these combat units is essential in understanding the small. unit actions that took place in Normandy A knowledge of Army. doctrine also facilitates a better comprehension of the operations. that commanders designed and expected their units to execute. In 1940 the Army adopted a new divisional organization. on the premise that infantry divisions should be simple mobile. and trimmed of all nonessential troops and equipment Called. the triangular division because of its use of three infantry. regiments as the basis of the division the new division became. the Army s workhorse during World War II The triangular divi. sion was meant to be lean agile and optimally suited for the. attack The new organization became the blueprint for Regular. Army infantry divisions and National Guard divisions adopted. the new structure after America s entry into the war. The basic composition of the triangular division was three. infantry regiments and a variety of combat and combat support. troops at the division level see figure 1 Taken together the. weaponry within a triangular division gave commanders at all. levels vast amounts of firepower The division artillery was fore. most in combat power among the assets found at division level. The division artillery had four battalions three 105 mm how. itzer battalions with twelve guns each and a 155 mm howitzer. battalion with twelve guns The standard infantry regiment the. next major command below division level consisted of three. infantry battalions an antitank company a cannon company. a headquarters company a service company and a medical. detachment The next lower organization was the infantry bat. talion Three rifle companies a heavy weapons company and. a headquarters company comprised an 871 man battalion The. rifle company consisted of 3 rifle platoons a weapons platoon. and a small headquarters section and had a total manpower. strength of 6 officers and 187 enlisted men The weapons pla. toon was armed with two 30 caliber and one 50 caliber machine. guns three 60 mm mortars and three 2 36 inch bazookas Three. infantry squads comprised a rifle platoon Each rifle squad con. sisted of twelve men armed with ten M1 Garand rifles one. Browning automatic rifle and one M1903 bolt action Springfield. rifle Despite the awesome aggregate firepower of the weapons. within a triangular division the lifeblood of the infantry divi. sion was the 5 211 officers and combat infantrymen who. manned its 27 rifle companies, Ironically in emphasizing the leanness and toughness of. the triangular division Army planners denied the division the. organic support of the weapon that would prove so important. in ground combat in World War II the tank Despite the. impressive array of weaponry within the triangular infantry. division the firepower and mobility of tanks was a necessary. augmentation to the infantry division s combat power The need. for effective combined arms operations was one of the principal. tactical lessons of World War I and had been reaffirmed by the. Wehrmacht s victories early in World War II For this reason. Army planners had not neglected tanks neither in their role. nor in their organizational composition, At the outbreak of World War II American armor had two.
combat roles infantry support and exploitation With the found. ing of the Armored Forces in July 1940 the groundwork was. laid for the creation of the American armored division The. intended primary role of the armored division was offensive. operations against hostile rear areas By 1943 the combat power. of the armored division was based on an equal number of tanks. infantry and artillery battalions within the division Thus the. armored division unlike its counterpart the triangular infantry. division was a true combined arns unit, The Army realized however that the triangular division. needed armored support Adamant in preserving the lightness. of the triangular division Army planners refused to incorporate. a tank battalion into the standard organization of the infantry. division Instead independent tank battalions were formed and. became known as general headquarters GHQ tank units The. theory ran that GHQ tank battalhons could be attached singly. or in groups to infantry divisions for specific operations or that. commanders at the highest levels could mass GHQ tank units. for exploitation missions in much the same way as an armored. division might be employed, Regardless of whether a tank battalion served in an armored. divisio or as a GHQ tank unit the organization was the same. A standard tank battalion consisted of a headquarters company. a service company three medium tank companies and a light. tank company Each tank platoon had five tanks two tanks. in a light section and three tanks in a heavy section Every. tank company had three platoons and a headquarters section. of two tanks The medium tank company had a total strength. of 5 officers and 116 enlisted men and was equipped with 17. M 4 Sherman tanks The light tank company had five officers. and ninety one enlisted men and was equipped with the M 5. Stuart light tank, Single GHQ tank battalions were normally assigned to. infantry divisions to provide support during operations In turn. the tank battalion was attached to one of the division s infantry. regime ts and then operated closely with the battalions of that. regiment In an infantry division the separate elements of the. combined arms team came together at the regimental level A. GHQ tank unit detachments from the division s engineer bat. talion fire support elements from the division artillery and. supporting combat aviation and the rifle battalions of the. infantry regiment were the active participants in the combined. arms team of World War II Supporting elements were often. not held at the regimental level but were passed on to the rifle. battalions A single rifle battalion in the attack might be. augmented by tanks combat engineers artillery support and. the firepower of fighter bombers, American military leaders in Normandy were familiar with. the body of knowledge that was the basis for the American. methods of waging war Field Manual FM 100 5 Field Service. Regulations Operations served as the conceptual foundation for. the Army s ideas on battle doctrine that were conceived and. implemented prior to and during World War II The manual. described the fundamental doctrines of combat operations the. basic concepts of battlefield leadership and the principles of. employment for the combat Arms Additionally FM 100 5 spread. its influence over the Army s school system and formed the. common link between all training and instruction carried out. at the various service schools, The military subject matter covered by the 1941 edition of.
FM 100 5 was broad and diverse However two root concepts. occur again and again thioughout the discussions on the roles. of the combat arms and the conduct of military operations The. first was the critical importance of dynamic competent leader. ship Commanding troops in combat was a complex task that. required leaders to possess will power self confidence initia. tive and disregard of self as well as superior knowledge about. technical and tactical matters In the introduction to FM 100 5. Army Chief of Staff General George C Marshall stressed that. it was a function of competent leadership to combine doctrinal. concepts with battlefield experience to produce plans that would. ensure success in battle, Ironically the coordination of the combat arms which was. deficient in the beginning phases of the Normandy battles was. the second theme that ran throughout FM 100 5 Officers of the. expanding modernizing U S Army of the early 1940s were. aware of the importance of coordinated concerted action by the. combat arms FM 100 5 stated that no one arm wins battles. The combined action of all arms and services was the key to. success Unit commanders were held responsible for coordinat. ing the tactics and techniques of the various arms and for. developing in their units the combined arms teamwork essential. to success 8, A better comprehension of the Army s offensive doctrine con. tained in FM 100 5 enhances an understanding of First Army s. struggle in Normandy According to FM 100 5 the sole purpose. of offensive operations was the destruction of hostile armed. forces To achieve this purpose a commander established a. clearly defined physical objective toward which all efforts could. be directed Attacks were grouped into two categories envelop. ments and penetrations Of these two forms of attack the. envelopment Aas the more preferable The design for an attack. consisted of a plan of maneuver and a plan of fire FM 100 5. stated that the best guarantee for success in an attack was the. effective cooperation between the troops in the attacking. echelon the supporting artillery and any supporting combat. aviation The superior commander was that battle leader who. could coordinate his fire support with his plan of maneuver 9. From the doctrinal framework provided by FM 100 5 the. Army s various combat arms working under the supervision of. the War Department generated more detailed offensive doctrines. for their respective arms The techniques and procedures. developed by the combat arms specifically described how each. arm woul I perform in battle and interact with other combat. arms dii j operations In turn these doctrines served as the. basis ombat training conducted in the Army s service. schook kind maneuver units, The Army s primary ground gaining arm was the infantry. Because of its ability to seize or retain major objectives the. infantry battalion was the most basic combat unit of the U S. Army Infantry doctrine prescribed that battalions usually. attacked in daylight to seize terrain objectives While envelop. ments were preferred over penetrations infantry doctrine. admitted that the battalion size attacks were usually nothing. more than frontal assaults against enemy defenses Battalions. attacked along a frontage of 500 1 000 yards in width depend. ing on terrain and enemy dispositions The rifle companies of. the infantry battalion performed the actual tasks of seizing objec. tives and closing with the enemy Normally a battalion attacked. with two companies abreast the third company acting as the. battalion reserve One of the attacking companies conducted the. main attack while the other supported the main effort with. secondary attacks A single rifle company s zone of attack was. usually 200 500 yards wide 10, Army doctrine recognized that the infantry was capable of. only limited independent action through the employment of. its organic weapons The other combat arms had to augment. the infantry to increase its offensive power to overcome strong. enemy defenses Recognizing the infantry s need each of the. Army s combat arms developed doctrine in support of the. infantry s attacks 1I, FM 17 36 outlined the techniques used by armored forces.
when operating in conjunction with the infantry Like FM. 100 5 this manual stressed the need for closer cooperation and. coordination between the ground forces FM 17 36 insisted that. since the role of tanks and infantry are linked so closely that. it was essential that the doctrine powers,and limitations of. both be understood by those involved, Tanks operating with infantry during offensive operations. assisted the infantry by destroying the enemy with firepower. and by keeping the attack moving using the tanks inherent. armored protection and mobility The combat capabilities of. tanks and infantry were complementary Prewar doctrine speci. fied that infantry armor attack formations consisted of two. separate echelons Armor led when the terrain was suitable and. when antitank weapons and obstacles were absent or neutral. ized Infantry led the attack over difficult terrain and when. strong enemy minefields and antitank defenses were present. When armor led the attack the first attacking echelon was. composed solely of tanks while the second echelon comprised. infantry and tanks Similarly if infantry led the attack the. first wave was composed solely of infantry formations while. the second wave comprised tank infantry teams Despite the fire. power produced by small arms machine guns and tank main. guns in tank infantry forces tactical doctrine acknowledged that. this firepower in no way minimized the need for close support. from the other combat arms 3, Foremost among the support provided by the other combat. arms was the firepower of the field artillery Commanders fully. integrated supporting fires into the attack so that they would. coincide with the time of attack and the scheme of maneuver. Artillery s role in the combined arms attack was to neutralize. enemy crew served weapons to destroy field fortifications and. to prevent enemy infantry from manning their defenses as the. U S assault approached its objective When the tank infantry. forces were prepared to conduct the final assault artillery fires. were lifted upon request and then shifted onto other enemy. targets beyond the objective 4, Combat engineers formed another important adjunct to the. tank infantry team Engineers had the overall mission of. increasing combat effectiveness through acts of construction or. demolition designed to facilitate friendly movement or to hinder. the enemy s mobility When operating with tank infantry forces. in offensive operations engineers usually had a mobility. enhancement mission which meant they were to remove or. breach obstacles such as antitank ditches wire entanglements. and minefields,Combat Experience Before D Day, Knowledge of Army doctrine and weaponry were not the.
only assets available to First Army leaders seeking to find new. ways to win in the Bocage Lessons learned during combat. operations prior to D Day helped provide some basis for develop. ing solutions to problems encountered in Normandy Combat. experience among American commanders and their troops in. France varied greatly Unblooded units whose only firsthand. knowledge of military operations was training maneuvers in. the United States and England joined divisions that had fought. in North Africa and Sicily While only some American troops. had actually been in combat most were aware of the major. combat lessons learned in the North African and Mediter. ranean theaters, Despite successes in Tunisia and Sicily the U S Army that. assaulted the Normandy beaches was still far from being a.

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