The last weeks is there an discussion going on about the 3rd Armored Division in St Jean de Daye on the 17th of July 1944.
It is all about a picture taken in the town of St Jean de Daye on the 26th of July 1944.
In this article I try to get close as possible with all kind of proof like reports, pictures and more to get the facts straight.
You may ask why are you doing this because your website is about the 3rd Armored Division, well at the end of this article you understand why.
Let’s go back to July 1944.
What does the reports of the XIX corps tell us:
With the 30th Division on the right flank attacks: 120 Infantry Regiment storms across Canal Vire et Taute and Captures St Jean de Daye.
117th crosses the Vire River under cover of darkness and establishes bridgehead but is unable to seize high ground east of St Jean de Daye.
And it leaves the 120th Infantry Regiment exposed on 3 sides to enemy fire, 119th Infantry Regiment crosses the Vire just north of Airel and Reaches point just south of Pont de St. Fromond.
Three strong counterattacks repulsed by 120th Infantry Regiment south of St. Jean de Daye but fourth counterattack forces some withdrawal. The rest of the 30th Infantry Division attacks west and seizes crossroads south of St Jean de Daye.
The CCB of the 3rd Armored Division passes through bridgehead and drives south to area just west of Cavigny.
In St Jean de Daye area, 120th and 117th Infantry Regiment encounter determined opposition; 119th Infantry Regiment moves south along Vire River through Cavigny.
CCB of the 3rd Armored Division attacks southwest towards Hauts Vents (south East of Esglandes) and reaches
objective but is ordered to withdraw. Counterattack of the 2nd Engineer Battalion is frustrated by Heavy Artillery concentration.
CCB 3rd Armored Division resumes attack toward Hauts Vents but terrain is difficult for Armor and opposition is very strong. Night of 10/11th July combat groups of Panzer Lehr Division Counterattack positions of 120th Infantry Regiment in attempt to break through St Jean de Daye, heavy fighting results.
The General Corlett Foundation states that the picture from above is made on June 26th 1944
What does the reports of the 3rd Armored Division tell us:
On June the 16th, both Combat commands reverted to division control and moved into assembly areas west of St. Jean de Daye.
Previously attached to XIX corps (See AAR XiX corps above) and for a very short period to V corps, the 3rd was now a part
of that crack assault force which it henceforth led in nearly every major drive of the First Army.
The VII Corp was at this time commanded by Major General J. Lawton Collins.
Om July 21st and 22nd the 3rd Armored Division participated at St. Jean de Daye and le Desert in those poison gas scares which
run up and down the Normandy Beachhead areas.
On July the 26th the clouds seemed higher than usual and broken. Presently a sweep of mustangs appeared over the front followed
wave after wave of gigantic Fortress and Liberator bombers. It was H-Hour for the greatest combined air-ground operation in the history of modern warfare.
Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division who were poised for the attack at St Jean de Daye and le Desert felt that emotion and wondered how any living thing could survive the rain of bombs.
When you just take these 2 reports then it is already clear that the 3rd Armored Division was on the 17th not in St Jean de daye but west of it. And prior the 17th was the 3rd Armored Division southwest of it and attacking Haus Vents.
But we go on with some proof about these days in July 1944.
What does the After Action report of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment tell us:
Cos B,C,D,E and which were holding objectives at Haute Vents were relieved by elements of the 30th Infantry
Division at 1500. The 36th AIR 9 (less then 2nd Battalion) was assigned to CCA and moved to vicinity of Le Desert at 2100.
The 2nd Battalion remained under CCB in Bois de Hommel and rest of Regiment remained under CCA near La Desert
Between the 17th and the 26th there is no change of locations!!!
* note of the webmaster, men talks about the town Le Dézert what you can find on the map instead of Le desert of La dessert or other combinations.
What does the report of the 32nd Armored Regiment tell us:
July 16th 1944
1 mile east of Le Desert France
Marched from 1900 to 1930
Relieved as support troops, Task Force Y
Reverted to Division
Between the 17th and the 26th there is no change of locations!!! and they stay in Le Dézert.
What does the 33rd Armored Regiment tell us:
Now I can go on with all kind of reports what state they where not in St Jean de Daye at that time.
But now you think who is on that picture?
Well for this question we use Youtube and you can use this url https://youtu.be/aWdwB2Df9Gs
Answer, 2nd Armored Division, Repairs & advance, St Jean de Daye Normandy France on July 26th 1944
In the movie you see a piece of paper and here is a screen caption well here it is:
Maybe you start to think, well was there no one of the 3rd Armored Division in St Jean de Daye while they shot the combat reel and made the picture?
Well one thing is for sure reel number INV 784 states :ROAD REPAIR OF TANKS AT ST JEAN DE DAYE France MSs, CUs, US soldiers wel hedge cutters on M-4 tanks.CU,completed hedge cutter on tank. CU, Maj Gen S H Watson, CG 3rd Armored Div inspects hedgerow cutter.
General Courtney H. Hodges writes in his book Normandy to Victory:
Monday July 17th 1944
Second Stop was made at the 3rd Armored Divison (CP mile east of St Jean de Daye) in time to hear the “briefing” by General Watson for the “big attack“. In his talk the General said that this was to be a tank show, conducted at tank speed, and that failure of the Division to reach the objectives demanded by the Army would seriously jeopardize the entire plan. And the plan was of course the attack on St.Lo.
Darren Neely (author of the Forgotten Archives books) writes to me:
Photos and cine film were all taken on July 26- of 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Leander Zwick took the stills and Motion Picture taken by Maloney. Morning reports for most 32nd companies show them 1 mile east or NE of Le Dézert.
July 17th morning reports for the 32nd show them around Le Dézert too.
On May 31st 1945 there was an Memorial service for the men for the men of the Maintenance Battalion who died during World War 2.
I hope with this article that it has been proved that the 3rd Armored Division was not in St Jean de Daye on the 17th of July, but that it was there on the 26th of July getting hedgerow cutters fitted when they shot the footage in the combat reel, in between other footage of the 2nd Armored Division!
The General Corlett Foundation
Spearhead in the West
After Action Report or Journal:
36th Armored Infantry Regiment
32nd Armored Regiment
33rd Armored Regiment
Special Thanks to:
Yuri Beckers, Donald Van den Bogert and Bob Konings
© 3d Armored Division Memorial Group (3ADMG)