16 November 2012

American Troops Stand Guard Behind German Soldiers Captured Near the Town of Le Gast During the Normandy Invasion

Image size: 1600 x 1081 pixel. 639 KB
Date: Saturday, 29 July 1944
Place: Le Gast, Basse-Normandie, France
Photographer: Frank Scherschel

American troops stand guard behind young German Heer (Army) soldiers captured near the town of Le Gast during the Normandy invasion, June 1944. Although the branch color seems to not match up (happened often), it's a high chance that these guys are from Panzergrenadier-Regiment 156, part of the 116. Panzer Division "Der Windhund". It is the fifth day of the Operation Cobra which, since the day before, seriously made progress the American troops which infiltrated with more than thirteen kilometers inside the German lines. On July 29, three principal axes of attack are distinguished: to the West, the 3rd Armoured division progresses in direction of the South of the town of Coutances, attacked the day before and liberated this day. In the center and the East of the opening, the 2nd Armoured division progresses towards Saint-Denis-le-Gest and Villebaudon. The Germans try to gather on the line more connecting the villages of Brehal and Cerences to the West and Percy in the East. This line is called the "Weisse Linie" (White Line). However, many soldiers belonging to the 84th Corps are encircled in the surroundings of Roncey by the 2nd and the 3rd American armoured divisions. Columns of vehicles try to escape from the surrounding and move towards Coutances but it is too late. Three American divisions attack the pocket and reduce it by violent bombardments. Nearly 1,500 German soldiers are put out of fight and 4,000 others are prisoners. The American forces wish to continue to attack the German troops and to destroy them. They also want to attack the "White Line" installed by the infantry and Panzer SS divisions. At the evening of July 29, the American forces reaches in the South the villages of Cerences, Cambry, Lengronne, Saint-Denis-le-Gast. The 2nd Armoured division attacks in direction of Percy.From D-Day until Christmas 1944, German prisoners of war were shipped off to American detention facilities at a rate of 30,000 per month! It’s no mystery why images of unremitting violence spring to mind when one hears the deceptively simple term, “D-Day.” We’ve all seen — in photos, movies, old news reels — what happened on the beaches of Normandy (codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword) as the Allies unleashed an historic assault against German defenses on June 6, 1944. But in color photos taken before and after the invasion, LIFE magazine’s Frank Scherschel captured countless other, lesser-known scenes from the run-up to the onslaught and the heady weeks after: American troops training in small English towns; the French countryside, implausibly lush after the spectral landscape of the beachheads; the reception GIs enjoyed en route to the capital; the jubilant liberation of Paris itself. As presented here, in masterfully restored color, Scherschel’s picture feel at-once profoundly familiar and somehow utterly, vividly new. A note on the photographer: Frank Scherschel (1907-1981) was an award-winning staff photographer for LIFE well into the 1950s. His younger brother Joe was a LIFE photographer, as well. In addition to the Normandy invasion, Frank Scherschel photographed the war in the Pacific, the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth, the 1956 Democratic National Convention, collective farming in Czechoslovakia, Sir Winston Churchill (many times), art collector Peggy Guggenheim, road racing at Le Mans, baseball, football, boxing, a beard-growing contest in Michigan and countless other people and events, both epic and forgotten.
LIFE magazine

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