Exciting New Discoveries in Normandy

Posted: November 27, 2018 in Normandy 1944

Several days ago we received an email from an English expat named Michael who had found this blog: “I live next to the Forest de Cerisy in Normandy and have come across foxholes and relics left over from 1944. I did not know anything about the 111th Ordnance Company and assumed those things were from 23nd Infantry Regiment until I found your site.”

We wrote back right away and told him our story. Ed and I had visited the Cerisy Forest back in the fall of 2013, when we began this blog but it is a big place and we had no clue as to exactly where the men had camped for nearly two months. (https://wwiitracings.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/dads-base-in-normandy/)

The 111th had landed on Omaha Beach in two groups, on June 11 and 12, 1944, and the next day traveled 18 or so miles south to the village of La Platiere, near the Cerisy Forest, where they spent the night. The next day they moved to the forest and set up camp. U.S. forces had chased the Germans out of the area only a few days earlier.

On the map below, the 111th’s location, which Michael determined by plotting the coordinates given on the unit’s Morning Reports for that time, is shown by the red marker near the top. The Cerisy Forest is the large green area in the center; the village of La Platiere is marked with the right arrow near the bottom, and Michael’s home is marked by the red arrow, bottom center.

Cerisy location

The Cerisy Forest, and the town of Cerisy-la-Foret, is about 10 miles northeast of St. Lo, which was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing between July 7 and 14, 1944. Also nearby is Hill 192, which the Allies had to take before they could push the Germans out of St. Lo. The men of the 111th were supporting the 2nd Infantry Division forces during this horrific time. Below is one of my father’s photos; the caption is his:

img090 evidence of the price the 2nd div paid for Hill 192 in Normandy

Evidence of the price the 2nd Division paid for Hill 192, Normandy

Here is how Michael became interested in the 111th:

“The reason I have embarked on this journey of research is so this information does not get lost in time. Since moving to Normandy I have so longed for someone to do what you did at Cerisy and turn up out of the blue with a picture of a shot taken in 1944 and say ‘My father was here.’ The Germans occupied our current home, until the Americans pushed them out of the area field by field. It’s very rare to hear of German families doing what families such as yours have done, visiting places where their fathers stayed.

“When I started my research I found a man in the States whose father was with the 9th Infantry Regiment. After landing at Omaha on D+1 it came directly to the forest here at Cerisy. His company passed right by where I now live. His unit’s Morning Reports all mention ‘Herouville’—and my home is Manoir de Herouville. The next few weeks of Morning Reports show his company’s movements, and so far I have tracked each place.

“When the 111th arrived here on June 13, the front line in this area had just reached Litteau, where we live. This is where the Battle of the Hedgerows began. From Cerisy, the town of St George d’elle and Hill 192 were blocking the Allied advance for St. Lo. This area was where the fiercest fighting took place in Normandy. In three days of fighting there were approximately 1,200 casualties only a few miles from Cerisy.

“Because the troop movement records are not exact, I decided to use a metal detector. Right next to my house I started to find K rations (coffee), mortar boxes, lots of spent shells and one or two bullets. Also I found British and French coins. I believe this field is one of the locations listed as Litteau.

 “I have spent much time in the forest had have found many American foxholes. I have again discovered some other small items but on occasion some much larger items. I found a wheel that looks like it could be from 1944. Also I have found what looks to be an old compressor. If there was this type of work going on in the forest [that is, the 111th repairing vehicles and artillery] it may explain my finds. This has always baffled me, but maybe if the 111th was in this area they could be part of their tools or equipment.”

img234 Gus Welty satisfied with foxhole, France 1944

111th soldier Peter Patrick, satisfied with his foxhole, France 1944

20181018_161119

One of Michael’s “automotive?” finds in the Cerisy Forest

With all of this new information, Michael is planning to take his metal detector and go back into the forest where our men were camped and see what else he can find. Stay tuned!

By the way, if anyone reading this blog is planning a trip to Normandy—and keep in mind that next June marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day—you might want to hire Michael to take you around. He conducts private D-Day tours and with his wife runs a B&B and self-catering cottage in their gorgeous manoir:  http://www.manoirdeherouville.com/en/

 

Comments
  1. Pat Osborn, Jr says:

    Amazing information. Thank you Andrea.

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