III. The Breakthrough

The beachhead was established and expanded. Cotentin Peninsula was cut, mopped up, and the valuable port of Cherbourg was in Allied hands. Meanwhile, innumerable troops and vast stores of supplies continued to flow over those same beaches that had been so bitterly contested a month earlier. We were marking time until enough troops and enough supplies could be amassed to warrant a breakout from our beachhead, the time when the Battle for Normandy would evolve into the Battle of France.

The 745th Tank Battalion was to play an important role in the "Breakthrough". On July 14 Maj. Gen. Clarence Huebner announced that the First Infantry Division would be relieved by the Fifth Infantry Division in the defensive position near Caumont, the 735th Tank Battalion assuming the positions occupied by the 745th.

The 745th Tank Battalion, along with the First Infantry Division, was relieved from its attachment to V Corps and was attached to VII Corps, effective upon relief by the new units.

Moving as a battalion, the 745th marched from the vicinity of Caumont and Sallen back toward the beach to the vicinity of Mestry, a march of 29 miles. There the entire battalion was assembled in one area for the first time in France.

Dozer blades had been attached to one tank each from A, B, and C Companies while near Caumont, and A and B Companies had the opportunity to employ them in combat when they were attached to the 741st Tank Battalion for 10 days in the 2nd Infantry Division area on our right flank. The tank dozers were found quite valuable for clearing an opening through hedgerows. It also was found that they provided a morale factor by burying the enemy in their foxholes. After seeing a few of their comrades buried alive, a great many Jerries were ready to toss in the towel.

At Mestry the Battalion's tanks were armed with a new "secret weapon" known as the rhinoseros or "hedgecutter". It consisted of seven steel prongs or teeth projecting from the front of the tank. These would "gnaw" out the top of the hedge bank and make it easier for succeeding vehicles to pass through.

Plans for the "Breakthrough", which was known as "Cobra" operation, were released. Company "C" was attached to the 26th Infantry Regiment, and Company "B" was attached to the 18th Infantry Regiment, with the rest of the Battalion operating with the 16th Infantry Regiment.

Here is the "big picture" of the proposed operation:

The VII U. S. Corps, reinforced, supported by elements of the Allied Air Force, and with supporting fires from the VIII and XIX U. S. Corps, attacks with the mission of breaking through the enemy defenses on the fronts held by the 9th and the 30th Infantry Divisions, exploiting the breakthrough to the west and the south with the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions and the 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions, and destroying or capturing the enemy north of the Coutances-St. Lo road.

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