With the first phase of Operation Overlord completed after the arrival of the Second Armored Division, the next objective was to secure the Normandy peninsula, pushing the German forces out and leaving the allies with a firm toehold in the continent, where they could reinforce the invasion forces, as well as establish ports and temporary airstrips. This would prove to be a slow, costly process, as the region is covered in banks and hedgerows – ideal terrain for a defending enemy, not for an invading army. During this time, a number of the Norwich University alumni who participated in the invasion would die by enemy fire.
The 3rd Armored Division would arrive in Normandy by June 29th, and included Norwich alumni Major Nathan ‘Duffy’ Quinn, NU ’34, and Major Howard Gardner, NU ‘36. They arrived in time for the attack on St. Lo.
The last of the Norwich alumni to arrive during the invasion period of the war, by July 19th, and before the battles to capture the Cotentin Peninsula was Private Stephen Woynar, NU ‘45, of the 86th Cavalry Recon, Lieutenant John Hammell, NU ’47, Sergeant Jon Pimm, NU ’47, of the 1252nd Combat Engineers, Captain Arthur Pottle, NU ’47, of the 86th Cavalry Recon, and Captain Fredrick Wing, NU ’47 with the 15th Tank Battalion, all part of the 6th Armored Division. While Private Woynar is the only member of the unit confirmed to have been there through records, it seems likely that the remaining four soldiers were also present, given their unit and prior locations.
During this time, there were a number of meetings between Norwich men, in between combat stints. After thirty days of combat, Pvt. Richard Austin’s unit was pulled off the line, where he returned to England, and returned in September to Holland. Captain Sherman Crocker (‘44) would be promoted to become the commanding officer of the 507th Fighter Group in December.
The first casualty during the campaign was Major Jim Ballard, NU ‘39, of the 29th Infantry Division, on July 12th. The 29th Infantry was beginning a push towards the town of St. Lô, and exact details of Ballard’s injury are not known, although he does not appear to have been wounded seriously, and looked forward to returning to his unit in a letter to the Norwich Record.
The next day, Lieutenant Eugenio Bonafin, NU ‘43, of the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion died. While acting as a forward observer for the 83rd Infantry Division, 330th Regiment, launching mortars to cover the unit’s advance, the battalion broke through the lines into a trap, and was enveloped by four German tanks. During the attack, Lieutenant Bonafin was killed by one of the tank’s machine guns. For his actions in the unit, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
Colonel Harry ‘Paddy’ Flint, NU ’10, would die on the 24th of July. He was killed by a gunshot wound to the head while leading his men towards St. Lô on the main road. He told his executive officer: “From Paddy to Van: Strangely quiet here. Could take nap. Have spotted pillboxes; will start them cooking.” Up farther, at a farmhouse, Flint was shot by a sniper, while explaining to a sergeant “how he should take up positions to drive the Germans out from their hedgerow trenches.” His men quickly found the sniper and dispatched him, while their Colonel was given a cigarette and a dose of morphine before he passed away. Further casualties during this time included Lieutenant Edwyn Florcyk, NU ‘44, when his plane’s left wing was destroyed by anti-aircraft fire and crashed. Lieutenant Lawrence Elman, NU ‘42, with the 4th Cavalry, would be the next to die, on July 27th, while reconnoitering a road near Marginey, when an enemy shell killed him. Lieutenant George Briggs would die on August 8th near St. Lo, when members of his platoon would find him after being hit by shrapnel. Private Stephen Woynar, NU ’45, died on the 12th of August during a patrol in Northern France, a booby-trapped landmine would kill Lieutenant Thurber Raymond, NU ’41, on September 10th, and Private Richard Austin, NU ‘44 perished on September 22nd by a mortar shell during actions in Holland. Captain Sten Bergstedt, NU ’32, would be killed in Germany on September 24th, Major Wesley Goddard, NU ’33, was wounded at Aachen in December and while being returned home, he passed away on December 13th. Captain Sherman Crocker, NU ’44, would be killed over Germany when his fighter was hit by anti-aircraft fire – his body was never recovered.
The Norwich alumni who had been with the invasion forces continued to work to clear the region of German forces. Perhaps the biggest moment would come during the breakout at St. Lô, after weeks of movement and attacks, when the US forces broke the German lines, led by General Brook’s 2nd Armored Division, along with (Newly promoted) Brigadier General I.D. White, NU ‘22, Captain James Burt, NU ’39 and Lieutenant Colonel Briard Johnson, NU ’27 and Commandant (1950). During the massive assault, the entire city was ruined, and the Second Armored division is credited with the success of the attack and break out.