(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Medals and Badges Pfc. Emel probably earned
George H. Emel was born on
November 14, 1925,
in Pennsylvania, the oldest of seven children. His parents were mr. Franklyn George Emel (1903) and
mrs. Barbera A. Bumbarger (1906).
George Emel had 5 brothers and 1 sister: Frank Charles Emel Jr. born October 15, 1927,
in Milroy, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania; Ira Leroy Emel born in 1930;
Donald Emel born in 1935; sister Sarah Jane Emel born on
May 23, 1937, in Bellefonte, Centre County, Pennsylvania; brother Luther Joseph "Luke" Emel and brother Kenneth H. Emel. George Emel completed grammar school (Bellefonte area school district) and started working on a farm. Before entering the service, he was employed for several months at the Olde-Tyme Bakery in Bellefonte. He enlisted at age 18 in Altoona, PA, on November 14, 1943. His address at the time of his enlistment was “Box 594, East Beaver St., Bellefonte, PA”. George H. Emel took preliminary training at Fort McClellan (Alabama). After further training at Fort Meade (Maryland) he spent a furlough at home at Easter time and left for overseas in April 1944.
Probably on arrival at his overseas destination (England), Pfc. Emel became part of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He probably went by train to South Brent, England, to join the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. A. S. Teague all in Devonshire. Training increased in tempo for the French Invasion. It had become increasingly obvious that the 4th Division was to participate in amphibious operations,
and consequently, training in that phase particularly was stressed. Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion underwent special instruction in amphibious assault techniques at Braunton, England.
Pfc. George H. Emel
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
On May 15, 1944, Pfc. Emel and the rest of the men from K Company went into a Marshalling area at Torquay, England and remained there until June 4, 1944. In those Marshalling areas no unauthorized person could enter and no one was allowed to go. At long last, orders were issued to all men and the entire plan was laid out to those in whose hands the success of the operation now rested. Invasion currency was issued, ammunition was checked, rations were distributed, and troops departed during the night for the various ports from which the operation would be mounted. On June 4, the men boarded their D-day ships and left England.
4th Infantry Division on D-day (June 6, 1944)
(Click on picture to enlarge)
On June 6, 1944, at 06.00 Hours K Company went “over the side” into their assault barges. At approximately 07.45 Hours (H + 75 minutes) the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment (initially attached to the 8th Infantry Regiment), touched down on Utah Beach near La Madeleine. Company K hit Utah Beach in the 2nd assault wave at about 08.00 Hours. Pfc. Emel's Company K, together with the rest of the 3rd Battalion, moved north along the coast to reduce beach strongpoints. The 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment landed in the same waves as the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment and moved inland across Exit 2. Four Infantry Battalions had thus landed by 08.00 Hours. Two more came in at about 10.00 Hours (the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, on the northern beach and the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, on the southern). According to plan these two battalions were to march inland through Exit 4. Since the eastern end of this exit was still covered by German fire and the causeways to the south were already congested, some of the 22nd Infantry Regiment's units were compelled to wade 2 miles through the inundations. Elements of the 12th Infantry Regiment, which landed shortly after noon, also waded through the flooded area. The water was generally only waist-deep, but the area was full of ditches and holes, and men frequently dropped into water over their heads. Since the 22nd Infantry Regiment's objective lay to the northwest in the direction of St. Germain-de-Varreville, it had to cross the Exit 3 road and wade through the swamps. In doing so it found itself crossing rear elements of the 8th Infantry Regiment moving west on the road.
Utah Beach near La Madeleine, with the actual landing beach in the background
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Landing beach with obstacles near La Madeleine
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
The other two regiments of the 4th Division (8th and 12th) did not reach their D-day objectives. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 22nd Infantry Regiment, which also had to wade inland through the swamps and spend about 7 hours in the marsh, reached dry land in the vicinity of St. Martin-de-Varreville and moved on to St. Germain-de-Varreville, where they bivouacked for the night. Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, was assigned the task of reducing German beach strongpoints. The Battalion moved north past les Dunes de Varreville and the Exit 4 road and reached the southern edge of Hamel de Cruttes by nightfall. Nothing much happened for Company K that day and they marshed about 4 miles northwards to Cherbourg. Pfc. Emel and the other K Company men spent their first night of the invasion in a German dug-out.
4th Infantry Division Soldier in D-Day Outfit
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
The 8th and 22nd Infantry Regiments, which landed before noon, suffered a total of 118 casualties on D-day, 12 of them fatalities. With the exception of one field artillery battalion (the 20th) the entire 4th Infantry Division had landed in the first 15 hours. In addition there came ashore one battalion of the 359th Infantry Regiment, the 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion, the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion (less two companies), the 70th and 746th Tank Battalions, components of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade which had begun organizing the beach for the build-up, seaborne elements of the airborne divisions, and many smaller units. A total of over 20.000 troops and 1.700 vehicles reached Utah Beach by the end of June 6, 1944.
Positions of the 4th Infantry Division on the evening of D-day
(Click on picture to enlarge)
On June 7, on the beach, the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, continued the methodical destruction of beach defenses. Company K started off with a German 88's barrage and started its advance at about 10.00 Hours. Probably the most difficult of the 4th Infantry Division's missions were those assigned to the 22nd Infantry Regiment on the Division's right flank. The Regiment had the task of reducing both the strongpoints along the beaches (Pfc. Emel's task) and the heavily fortified headland batteries 2 to 3 miles inland and west of the inundations (Azeville and Crisbecq). On D+1 the first attacks against the German inland positions were made by the 1st and 2nd Battalions, but failed.
22nd Infantry Regiment on June 7, 1944, with Pfc. Emel's K Company still at the beach
(Click on picture to enlarge)
On the extreme right flank of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, separated from the rest of the regiment by the inundations, Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion meanwhile proceeded against the string of beach fortifications which extended all the way up the coast. Those which posed an immediate danger to the Utah landings lay between les Dunes de Varreville and Quineville, on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the inundations, and could be approached only by movement along the sea wall. The strongpoints were reinforced concrete blockhouses, armed with artillery pieces and turreted machine guns. Most of them had the additional protection of wire, ditches, mines, and outlying infantry pillboxes and had communication with supporting inland batteries by underground telephone cable.
Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Arthur S. Teague, had been constituted as a task force with the mission of reducing these beach fortifications. The method of attack followed the pattern taught at the Assault Training Center in England. Naval gunfire adjusted by the Naval Shore Fire Control Party laid down a preparation. Then tanks and 57mm anti-tank guns approached within 75 to 100 yards of the fort to fire point-blank, while infantrymen moved, often through waist-deep water, to the rear of the strongpoint under the cover of mortar fire. The Germans, however, would allow the men to come near the fort before opening up with small arms fire, and in addition subjected the assaulting troops to artillery fire from inland batteries (Azeville and Crisbecq). The reduction of the forts thus turned out to be slow and costly.
On D-day the 3rd Battalion had advanced 2,000 yards beyond Exit 3 and destroyed one fort. On D+1 it advanced another 2,000 yards and captured two more fortifications. As it faced the fort at Hamel de Cruttes on the evening of June 7, it received orders to move inland as regimental reserve, since a counterattack was feared against the shattered 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 22nd Infantry Regiment. Colonel Teague left Pfc. Emel's Company K, supported by the chemical mortar company, a machine gun platoon, an antitank platoon, and one-half of the NSFCP, to contain the strongpoint, and moved the remainder of the battalion inland to the vicinity of Ravenoville. That same evening, in the one gain of the day for the 22nd Infantry Regiment, the battalion (less Company K) recrossed the inundation to capture the beach fort at Taret de Ravenoville. The fort had been shelled by the Navy, and a number of Germans had slipped out to surrender. One of them reported that many of the Germans still inside the fort wished to surrender but until this time had been prevented from doing so by their officers. On the strength of this information Colonel Teague obtained permission to move the bulk of his battalion from Ravenoville northeast across the inundated area and close in on the rear of the fort. A prisoner who was sent ahead returned with the entire garrison of 82 Germans. Colonel Teague and his men billeted themselves in the fort for the night. Between Taret de Ravenoville and Company K to the south 3 German strong points still held out. One of these surrendered the following day (June 8). Progress had been especially difficult in the 22nd Infantry Regiment sector. There, along the beach and at the headland fortifications, the Germans offered stubborn resistance.
At 10.00 Hours on June 8 the 1st and 2nd Battalions again attacked Azeville and Crisbecq. The battle then developed in the same way as it had on the previous day, and failed. On June 9 the Azeville mission was assigned to the 3rd Battalion (less Company K), which had again moved inland from Taret de Ravenoville. In the mid-afternoon the German commander of the Azeville Battery surrendered all 4 forts with their garrison of 169 men. Shortly after Azeville was captured in mid-afternoon, June 9, General Barton issued an order creating a task force which that same day was to bypass Crisbecq and the other German strongpoints along the coastal headlands and swing northeast to capture Quineville and the high ground west thereoff. Quineville was the eastern anchor of the German defenses. The task force was to have first priority on division fires. For 3 days (June 10-12) the task force struggled with little success to overcome the German resistance, its right flank exposed to the bypassed German strongpoints at Crisbecq, Dangueville, Chateau de Fontenay, and Fontenay-sur-Mer and its left flank to the German positions in the gap of about a mile and a half that separated the 22nd and 12th Infantry Regiments. The task force lacked sufficient strength to protect both of its flanks and at the same time push ahead. Unfavorable weather denied it air support. The 3rd Battalion, consisting of only 2 companies, was too weak to gain the objective of Quineville. Pfc. Emel's Company K was still on the beach and Company L had lost 159 men since D-day.
Drive to the Quineville Ridge, with Pfc. Emel's K Company still at the beach
(Click on picture to enlarge)
On June 11, General Barber ordered the 3rd Battalion (less Company K) to attack Ozeville alone, but again failed. The only real progress during these days was made on the beach by Pfc. Emel's Company K, which on June 11 captured 2 more German strongpoints. For two days (June 9-10) it had hammered at these positions. At last it learned from prisoners that the only effect of heavy American fire on the forts had been to force the garrison to shuttle through a tunnel from one part to the other. Company K therefore fired 50 rounds of 57mm on the first fort and then switched suddenly to put 80 rounds into the adjacent stronghold. Resistance ended in both forts, and 93 prisoners were taken.
Drive to the Quineville Ridge (second phase), 12-14 June 1944
(Click on picture to enlarge)
On 12 June, General Collins ordered the 39th Infantry, 9th Division, which had landed on June 11, to take over the reduction of the German strongpoints on the beaches and the coastal headlands. General Collins had two reasons for this move. He was determined to reduce the beach and headland fortifications from Taret de Ravenoville to Quineville, for they continued to shell Red Beach and threatened to slow down the unloading of supplies; and he wished to free the right flank of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, in order that it might move on to Quineville. The 22nd Infantry Regiment was now free to make a concerted attack on Ozeville. It was to jump off at noon of June 12. The air force was to bomb Ozeville at 11.00 Hours, and the artillery (44th and 20th Field Artillery Battalions) was to fire on known German positions south of Ozeville from 11.15 to 11.30 Hours, then lift to Ozeville until 12.00 Hours, after which fire was to be available on call. In addition to the organic weapons of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, the attack was to be supported by 2 platoons of 81mm mortars and the Cannon Company of the 12th Infantry Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment , on the left flank was to place mortar and antitank fire on the strongpoint from 11.15 until 12.00 Hours; and the 1st Battalion on the right flank was to support the attack with its tanks and cannon. Colonel Teague's 3rd Battalion in the center (among them Pfc. Emel), which was to lead the attack, was to be supported by one company of chemical mortars (87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), a platoon of tanks (Company C, 70th Tank Battalion), and an extra platoon of antitank guns.
A diorama of Red Beach in the Utah Beach Museum in Normandy
(Picture courtesy of Rick Demas)
At 10.05 Hours General Barber notified Colonel Teague that the air mission was canceled, but that heavy artillery fire would be substituted. The preparatory fires were delivered and the attack jumped off on time. With the 2nd Battalion covering the gap on the left flank and the 1st Battalion becoming heavily engaged in the vicinity of Fontenay-sur-Mer, the main assault was made by Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion alone toward the southwest corner of the strongpoint. The troops advanced behind overwhelming fire power. Even naval support was available, particularly on Quineville where German guns had opened up. Covered by Companies I and L on either side, two assault sections of Pfc. Emel's Company K closed in on the Ozeville defenses. After a short but violent fight a white flag appeared on one of the positions. But as Lt. Dewhurst, a platoon leader, climbed up on a pillbox to stop the firing, he was cut down by German fire. The men of Company I suddenly fought with greater fury; they rushed into the emplacements with bayonets and grenades and wiped out a large part of the garrison. Ozeville was captured and the last major barrier to an attack on Quineville was removed. On the same day, June 12, the 39th Infantry Regiment cleared resistance from the 22nd Infantry Regiment's right flank, while on its left flank the 12th Infantry Regiment retook the ground east of Montebourg which had been relinquished the day before.
German possession of Montebourg technically exposed the left flank of the 22nd Infantry Regiment's attack toward Quineville. But the danger was not too great and General Barton hoped to gain Quineville and the ridge to the west on June 13. However, neither the 39th Infantry Regiment nor the 22nd Infantry Regiment was able to make sufficient progress. The 22nd Infantry Regiment reached the ridge but was unable to secure it or attack eastward to Quineville. The 2nd Battalion made a wide swing through the 12th Infantry Regiment's area to the Montebourg-Quineville highway east of les Fieffes-Dancel. Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion moved north to the forward slope of the ridge and then was ordered to side-slip to the east in preparation for an attack in column down the ridge on Quineville. Colonel Teague extended one company to the right, passed the second across its rear farther to the right, and then passed the third behind the other two. This maneuver, made across ground dominated by the German positions on the ridge and harassed by heavy Nebelwerfer and artillery fire, resulted in a number of casualties.
In ordering the attack of June 14, Regiment directed all 3 battalions of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to secure the ridge and the two hills to the east as necessary preliminaries to the attack on Quineville. The 2nd Battalion, with one company of 4.2-inch mortars attached (Company C, 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), was to seize the crest of the ridge, on the left flank. The 1st Battalion , with the 70th Tank Battalion in direct support, was to seize the eastern nose of the ridge, which was fortified, and Hill 54A to the east. Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion, aided by a company of chemical mortars (Company A, 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion), was to capture Hill 54B, the easternmost hill, and was then to turn right and attack Quineville. Preparatory fires were to be delivered for 15 minutes on the fortified nose of the ridge, the two heights to the east, and a coastal battery farther east. South of the highway the 3rd Battalion of the 39th Infantry Regiment was also to attack and come into position for a later coordinated attack on Quineville with Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. The battalion was to be pinched out just south of the town. At 09.15 Hours on June 14 the 4th Infantry Division artillery began to fire concentrations on the 4 ridge targets. At 09.30 Hours a round of green smoke signaled the lifting of fires and the 3 battalions of the 22nd Infantry Regiment jumped off. The fight lasted for over 3 hours and by 13.00 Hours the nose of the ridge and the two hills were occupied. Meanwhile the 39th Infantry Regiment received permission from Division to send its 3rd Battalion independently against Quineville without the assistance of Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment. The fight for Quineville ended at 21.30 Hours. Thus, by the capture of Quineville by the 39th Infantry Regiment and the ridge by the 22nd Infantry Regiment on June 14, the German main line in the north was, broken, depriving them of their best natural defense against the advancing northern flank.
During the 4 days prior to the jump-off for Cherbourg on June 19 the Germans opposite the 4th Infantry Division had had time to prepare defenses, especially in the Montebourg area. After the capture of Quineville on June 14 the only American activity was patrolling and reorganization. The 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments improved their positions. The 22nd Infantry Regiment temporarily took over the Quineville area when the 39th Infantry Regiment was detached from the 4th Infantry Division. On the day following the consolidation of the Quineville ridge, for the first time since landing no attack was ordered. Personnel were directed to shave and bath themselves to the limit of existing opportunities. In the following days the 22nd Infantry Regiment was in turn relieved by the 24th Cavalry Squadron (part of the 4th Cavalry Group) and went into assembly at Fontenay-sur-Mer.
4th Infantry Division on June 19, 1944
(Click on picture to enlarge)
For the attack of June 19, General Barton planned to use the 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments abreast, one on either side of Montebourg. The railway running southwest and northeast from Montebourg was designated as the line of departure, although it was still in German hands. The attack was to begin at 03.00 Hours, without artillery, and bypass the town. Beginning at 10.00 Hours, Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, was to enter Montebourg from the west and capture it. The regiment's 2nd Battalion was to remain in reserve and the 1st Battalion, in the vicinity of le Mont de Lestre, was to screen the 12th Infantry Regiment as it prepared for the attack. Due to the prolonged delay of the 8th and 12th Regiments in pushing past Montebourg, Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, which was to have occupied the town at 10.00 Hours, did not move in until 18.00 Hours. Repeatedly shelled for a week, Montebourg was abandoned by the Germans. About 300 French civilians emerged from the cellars. Later in the evening the bulk of the 22nd Infantry Regiment was concentrated on the right flank of the division, intent on pushing the attack again early the next day.
On the evening of June 19, General Barton issued verbal orders for the 22nd Infantry Regiment, part of which was still in reserve at Fontenay-sur-Mer, to move northward into a new assembly area on the Quineville Ridge. This would bring the regiment into position to support the 12th Infantry Regiment and fill the gap which had developed between the 12th Infantry Regiment and the 24th Cavalry Squadron. The 22nd Infantry Regiment established itself on the northern slopes of the ridge, making contact with the cavalry at le Mont de Lestre and with the right rear of the 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2.000 yards to the west. Later in the evening General Barton decided to commit the 22nd Infantry Regiment for the resumption of the drive on the next day. The division plan for June 20 called for an attack by all 3 regiments. The 8th Infantry Regiment 's objective was still the Tamerville area. Valognes, which was within the regiment's zone, was to be bypassed and contained, and entered only if free of Germans. Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment was to take over the objective originally assigned to the 12th Infantry Regiment; the ground northeast of Tamerville. The 12th Infantry Regiment was given only a limited objective in the center and its attack was intended mainly as a demonstration. It was to be pinched out as soon as the 22nd Infantry Regiment came abreast and was then to support the latter with fire. The decision to commit the 22nd Infantry Regiment was possibly made with the view of permitting it to clear the area west of the Sinope River. Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment was to begin its movement at 03.30 Hours so that it might come abreast of the 12th Infantry Regiment by daylight. To facilitate this coordination, one reinforced company of the 22nd Infantry Regiment was to seize the tank ditch on the small tributary of the Sinope near Vaudreville by 24.00 Hours.
The 4th Infantry Division's experience on June 20 was similar to the 9th's on the preceding day. When the attacks began it was found that the Germans had broken contact and retired northward. The 22nd Infantry Regiment moved up during the night, as planned, came abreast of the 12th Infantry Regiment by daybreak, and kept on going. The 12th Infantry Regiment also reached its objective without incident early that morning. Unknown to the 4th Infantry Division, the German commander had decided to disengage and withdraw his entire force to Fortress Cherbourg. With the cutting of the peninsula General von Schlieben had lost physical contact with the main German forces outside the Cotentin and was now on his own. Execution of the delayed withdrawal to the Cherbourg defenses was completely in his hands. Threatened with outflanking by the rapid push of the 9th Division up the west side of the peninsula, and under heavy pressure in the Montebourg area, von Schlieben decided on June 19 to disengage. Withdrawals began during the night. The remnants of the 4 divisions which he commanded had been so hard-pressed and were so battle weary, by his own admission, that almost no delaying actions were fought.
Despite the absence of opposition, the 4th Infantry Division's progress during the morning was not rapid. The 8th Infantry Regiment was delayed by the necessity of investigating conditions at Valognes, which was abandoned. Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment moved cautiously, unwilling to believe that the Germans had withdrawn. At 09.15 Hours, Col. R. T. Foster, now commanding the 22nd Infantry Regiment, was told that his battalions were not moving fast enough. About noon Colonel Van Fleet (8th Infantry Regiment) ordered his battalions to get on the roads and move rapidly. The 22nd Infantry Regiment also took a route march formation and moved northward. In the afternoon General Collins directed General Barton to have the 8th Infantry Regiment seize Hill 178, west of Rufosses, the 12th Infantry Regiment take la Rogerie, and Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment advance still farther to Hameau Gallis and the road junction to the north, patrolling in the direction of the strongpoints near Maupertus. Except for Hill 178, these objectives were reached that night, although not without opposition. The 22nd Infantry Regiment stopped short of le Theil, part of the regiment going into position south of the Saire River. There it was under direct observation and heavy fire from the high ground to the north which caused considerable casualties in the 1st Battalion. Both the 8th and 22nd Infantry Regiments had tanks from the 70th Tank Battalion in support. The 24th Cavalry Squadron protected the division's right flank, reconnoitering as far as Quettehou. The 8th Infantry Regiment advanced more than 6 miles on June 20, and the 22nd Infantry Regiment more than 8 miles. Due to the rapid progress units were often without communications with higher headquarters. General Barton, while finding it difficult to locate the command posts, nevertheless was gratified with the division's progress.
22nd Infantry Regiment in the drive to Cherbourg
(Click on picture to enlarge)
Reconnaissance during the night of June 20-21 and the following morning yielded no German contact. During the rapid march northward on June 20 the 8th and 22nd Infantry Regiments had a few brushes with outposts and received some artillery fire. The German delaying action, though light, was just sufficient to prevent the 2 regiments from developing the main German defense line before dark. General Barton ordered attacks by all three regiments on June 21, the principal tasks being the capture of Hill 178, west of Rufosses, which the 8th Infantry had failed to take the day before (8th Infantry Regiment), the development of the German main line of resistance somewhere beyond the Bois du Coudray (12th Infantry Regiment), and the cutting of the St. Pierre-Eglise-Cherbourg highway west of Gonneville (22nd Infantry Regiment).
The 12th and 22nd Infantry Regiments to the east attacked late on June 21. The 12th Infantry Infantry Regiment's mission was to break through the German outpost line and determine their main line of resistance. Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment was ordered to advance straight north and seize Hill 158, a critical terrain point which dominated the surrounding countryside, including the heavily defended Maupertus airport to the east. The main east-west highway into Cherbourg ran across the hill, and the main purpose of the 22nd Infantry Regiment's mission was to cut this highway. Possession of Hill 158 was a vital factor in the plan of isolating Cherbourg from the east; both the division and Corps commanders therefore attached great importance to the winning of this objective. In the advance from le Theil, the 1st and 3rd Battalions, supported by Company B, 70th Tank Battalion, move out abreast at 16.00 Hours behind an artillery preparation. Four hours later they were ordered to dig in on favorable ground north of Pinabel. But since Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion began to receive fire from German antiaircraft guns, both battalions were ordered to keep moving. The 1st Battalion could not advance in the face of heavy artillery fire, but Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion pushed forward 500 yards to reach the objective. The battalions had hardly reached their new positions when large but apparently unorganized German forces began to infiltrate across their rear from defensive positions around Gonneville. For the next 4 days and nights the Germans interrupted communications and supply. All resupply convoys had to be escorted by tanks to get through. Even then it was touch and go.
The date June 21, 1944, marks the end of the first phase in the drive for Cherbourg. The 9th and 79th Infantry Divisions, after running into strong German resistance on June 20, further developed the German positions on June 21 to determine more accurately the main German line. The 4th Infantry Division, encountering its first heavy opposition in the upper peninsula, established the German main line of resistance, which ran generally from Hill 178 to the northwest edge of the Bois du Coudray and thence to Hill 158. The line took advantage of the commanding ground near the upper reaches of the Trotebec and Saire Rivers. Strong points were situated along the forward slopes. Pressed against this German line, the 4th Infantry Division, like the 9th and the 79th in their respective sectors, was now ready for the final phase of the assault on Fortress Cherbourg.
At 12.40 Hours the pre-H-Hour bombing and strafing attacks were initiated by 4 squadrons of rocket-firing Typhoons, followed by 6 squadrons of Mustangs, all from the 2nd Tactical Air Force (RAF). At approximately 13.00 Hours the attacks were taken over by 12 groups of fighter-bombers of the 9th Air Force. For 55 minutes P-47's, P-38's, and P-51's (562 planes) bombed and strafed front-line strongpoints at low level, one group coming over approximately every 5 minutes. Between 13.00 and 13.30 Hours, the 47th, 60th, and Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiments all called their headquarters to say that they were being bombed and strafed by friendly planes, and sought means of stopping the attacks. These units and others suffered several casualties from the air attacks. The errors were believed to have been caused at least in part by the drift of the marking smoke in the fairly strong northeast wind. As the mediums began to come over at 14.00 Hours to bomb the German lines in front of the 9th and 79th Divisions, the attacking units jumped off; at 14.30 Hours the 3 regiments of the 4th Infantry Division joined the attack. Between 14.00 and 14.55 Hours the 11 groups of light and medium bombers of the IX Bomber Command (387 planes) delivered their attacks on the 11 defended areas expected to give trouble in the drive on the city. Measured by sheer physical destruction the bombardment was none too effective, except on a few targets. Its greatest effect was in cutting German communications and depressing enemy morale, but in general the bombing was scattered. The primary objective of the 4th Infantry Division was the Tourlaville area, guarding the eastern approaches to Cherbourg. Attention was focused on the 12th Infantry Regiment, which had this mission as the center regiment. The 8th Infantry Regiment was to be pinched out when it had seized the high ground east of la Glacerie. It would then support the 12th Infantry Regiment with fire. Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment, also assigned a supporting mission, was to assist the 12th Regiment by protecting its right and rear.
Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion was to have led the attack on June 22 from its position on Hill 158, west of Gonneville, while the 1st Battalion held the hill and the 2nd Battalion, in position to the south, prepared to come up later on the 3rd Battalion's left. Before the attack could start, however, the Germans enveloped Hill 18 and the 2nd Battalion had to be committed in a mission to clear the Germans from the rear of Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion. It was late afternoon by the time this task was completed. All 3 battalions were dug in on the hill for the night. The attack westward in support of the 12th Infantry Regiment therefore failed to materialize on June 22. However, the 12th Infantry Regiment had itself failed to shake free from the Bois du Coudray for the planned attack northwestward.
The situation in Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment sector remained extremely fluid during June 23. It had been planned that the 22nd Infantry Regiment would assist the 12th Infantry Regiment in the advance on Tourlaville by clearing the fortified Digosville area on the latter's right flank. But Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment was so harassed from Maupertus and Gonneville that its combat strength was devoted mostly to dealing with German infiltrations and keeping its supply route open. In a situation that precluded bold plans, it was decided that on June 23 the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 22nd Infantry Regiment, should completely clear and consolidate the high ground before any further missions were undertaken. Beginning at about 09.00 Hours the 1st and Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalions began to carry out this task, while the 2nd Battalion sent a combat patrol south to clean up resistance north of Hameau Cauchon. To cover the mop-up operation, heavy artillery and mortar fire pounded the German line from Maupertus to Gonneville; part of the 24th Cavalry Squadron, together with Company B, 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and 4th Reconnaissance Troop, contained the Germans in the vicinity of the airfield; and tanks demonstrated toward Gonneville. Late in the day the consolidation of this ground had progressed far enough to free the 2nd Battalion for an attack westward. The attack began at 19.30 Hours, but before it reached the line of departure it was turned back by heavy fire from the German position southeast of Digosville. Once more the attack had to be postponed. Late that evening the battalion was attached to the 12th Infantry Regiment for the advance against Tourlaville.
On June 24 Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment, with the exception of the 2nd Battalion, protected the right flank of the Corps by containing the Germans cut off in the Maupertus-Gonneville area. Fragmentary German forces continued to infiltrate to the south of Hill 18 throughout this period. A complete mopping up of the airport region was indicated, but this was postponed for the present. General Barton limited the 22nd Infantry Regiment to "policing" its positions and whatever action was necessary to maintain the security of the main supply route south to le Theil. The main effort of the 4th Infantry Division on June 24 was made in the center, where the 12th Infantry Regiment paced the advance on the division's final objective, the fortified Tourlaville area.
While the 22nd Infantry Regiment held the right flank to prevent German forces from linking up with Cherbourg, the fortress was taken through hard fighting by the 9th and 79th Divisions, and German resistance ended on June 27. For the Americans, June 27 marked the achievement of the first major objective of Operation NEPTUNE. In the final drive on Cherbourg some of the German forces had withdrawn to strong positions both east and west of the port city. On June 26-27, while the final fighting was taking place in the city, Pfc. Emel's 22nd Infantry Regiment, supported by tanks, pushed eastward to capture the last German strongholds in Cap Levy. After two days of continuous assault of mutually supporting fortified positions the 22nd Infantry Regiment forced the German garrisons to surrender. Arrangements were speedily concluded, and by mid-afternoon the last of the more than 1.000 prisoners had been cleared from the area. The operation against Cherbourg was finished; the mission had been accomplished. Officers and men alike looked forward hopefully to a period of rest and retraining, for the operations against the fortifications and hedgerows of the Cherbourg Peninsula had cost dearly in men and material.
On June 28, the 22nd Infantry Regiment moved to an assembly area in the south of the Cherbourg Peninsula, where the troops relaxed to the luxuries of baths, shaves, and clean clothes, plus hot food. The Regiment had definitely been blooded in battle; "D-day in Normandy" was a phrase to remember, and for its assault on June 27, Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion had won the Distinguished Unit Citation.
On July 7, having been moved to an assembly area south and west of Carentan, the 22nd Infantry Regiment attacked, thereby beginning one of its bloodiest engagements of the entire war; the Carentan-Periers operation (otherwise known as "The Battle of the Hedgerows"). The objective of the operation was the seizure of Periers, a necessary preliminary to the forthcoming breakout from the peninsula. For 10 days, the 4th Infantry Division experienced hedgerow fighting at its worst. A hundred yard gain on a 300-yard front often meant a full day's work for a battalion. Germans lurked behind every hedgerow. German gunners were dug in every few yards. Forward movement brought certain fire. The attack moved with extreme slowness. Opposing forces were the 12th SS Panzer Division and 6th Parachute Regiment, which delivered stubborn resistance. And the ground was given up to the advance of 22nd Infantry Regiment yard by yard, and foot by foot. The nature of the terrain, hedgerows with some sections of dense woods, made the effective use of armor virtually impossible. Counterattacks were repeatedly launched; infiltration was incessant; the determination of the Germans was a fact.
Colonel C. T. Lanham assumed command of the 22nd Infantry Regiment on July 9, and, with the 1st and 2nd Battalions abreast, resumed the attack. Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion was committed in a flanking movement to the left, and the 1st Battalion advanced to the outskirts of La Maugerie. After continuous attack the 22nd Infantry Regiment was relieved by the 12th Infantry Regiment on the general line La Maugerie-La Roserie. The defense and delay by the Germans had been superbly executed, and as a consequence the advance which the inundated areas on both flanks restricted to a narrow front, was painful and laborious. The effectiveness of German fire coordination is reflected in the extreme number of casualties during what, according to later experiences, was a relatively short engagement. Names like Sainteny, La Maugerie, and Raids are all names of tiny French towns in the zone of advance that were taken at great cost. The 22nd Infantry Regiment slugged ahead against large numbers of Panther tanks, they knocked out 20 Panthers in 4 days.
Uniform and equipment of a 4th Infantry Division soldier
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
On July 19, 1944, the 22nd Infantry Regiment moved behind the lines to the vicinity of La Mine, where, attached to Brig. Gen. Maurice Rose's Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division, it began almost immediately to plan and train for the forthcoming breakthrough operations. The overall plan contemplated the use of heavy bomber aircraft for saturation type bombing and, hence, was dependent on weather suitable for flying. Infantry-tank teams were organized. Training was pursued in this type combat to the end that members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment and Combat Command A developed confidence one in the other, and became fast friends.
In a letter dated July 23, 1944 (received by his mother early August when her son was already Killed in Action), Pfc. Emel was concerned about the $30 he was sending monthly to his parents. In part it read: "I am well and gaining weight. I spent three days in a rest camp and am just going back into action. Tell dad and the boys to be good and to get ready for a big celebration on New Year's eve. Are you receiving the $30 I am sending every month from my pay check and the war bonds I sent?"
July 25 dawned clear, and the weather, which had heretofore been overcast with steady rains, was announced satisfactory. At 11.00 Hours the St. Lo Breakthrough commenced with bombardment by B-17 type aircraft. At the conclusion of the bombardment, elements of the 4th Infantry Division penetrated the German defense and rolled back the flanks to right and left. Combat Command A was to give an outstanding performance of infantry-tank coordination during the coming week. By noon of July 26, the Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored, with the 22nd Infantry Regiment attached, had knifed through initial defenses and several hours later was rolling southward on open roads, through St. Gillis and Canisy, reaching Mesnil Herman at dawn. Arrival of an American force at that tiny hamlet, July 27, spelled disaster for the Wehrmacht.
On July 28, 1944, Combat Command A (among them Pfc. Emel) moved in 3 columns and, while the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 22nd Infantry Regiment were held up along the stream south of Moyen, Pfc. Emel's 3rd Battalion seized the high ground northeast of Percy. The 1st Battalion and the 2nd Battalion disengaged from the Germans and, having moved west to the Le Mesnil Herman-Percy axis, attacked south toward Villebaudon. Near Villebaudon, Combat Command A was struck by German columns counterattacking from 3 directions,
and the situation became critical. Bold and decisive action by leaders in all echelons, and courage and determination on the part of the troops, stabilized the situation by nightfall. Running into strong German forces trying desperately to build a new defense line from Tessy-sur-Vire through Percy and Villedieu to Avranches, Combat Command A maneuvered and fought furious battles for 5 days. On July 30, 1944, Pfc. George H. Emel was Killed in Action at age 18, while fighting in the St. Lo Breakthrough operation.
Pfc. Emel's IDPF lists his Place of Death as St. Lo area (France) and lists shrapnel as the Cause of Death. At the time of his death Pfc. Emel had with him 1 pen, 1 pencil, wallet, photos, souvenir coin, $.25 US, 1 pound English and 510 Francs (later George's father also received a check of $14,57 US, also belonging to his son George).
On August 1, 1944, the 3rd Battalion, with accompanying armor, seized Tessy-sur-Vire,
and outposted the high ground beyond. At noon on August 2, the 22nd Infantry Regiment reverted to the control of the 4th Infantry Division, and the initial phase of the breakthrough operation was terminated. For its outstanding performance in this operation (in the Marigny - St. Gillis area) the 22nd Infantry Regiment was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. From July 26 to August 14, the 22nd Infantry Regiment had lost 6 officers killed, 30 wounded, 109 enlisted men killed and 561 wounded.
First, Pfc. Emel was in a Missing in Action status.
Pfc. Emel's Report of Death states: “The individual named in this report of death is held by the War Department to have been in a missing in action status from 30 July 44, until such absence was terminated on 5 September 44, when evidence considered sufficient to establish the fact of death was received by the Secretary of War from the Commanding General, European Area.” Pfc. Emel's Report of Burial states that George Emel was buried at the La Cambe Military Cemetery (La Cambe – Isigny, France, Plot BC, Row 9, Grave 174) on August 4, 1944, at 13.00 Hours. The beneficiaries of Pfc. Emel,
Mr. Frank (father) and Mrs. Barbara Emel (mother), were notified about their son beying Missing in Action on
August 15, 1944. A little later they received a letter saying that Pfc. Emel was Killed in Action on July 30, 1944.
Newspaper clipping regarding the death of Pfc. George H. Emel
Monument for the men of the 4th Infantry Division, that fought in Normandy in 1944
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)
On February 10, 1947, George Emel's parents were informed that their son was buried at the US Military Cemetery La Cambe – located 17 miles north of St. Lo (France).
On July 31, 1947, George Emel's father, Frank, decided that his son be interred in a permanent American Military Cemetery overseas (St. Laurent, France). On November 18, 1947, Pfc. George H. Emel was disinterred from his grave at the US Military Cemetery La Cambe. His remains were prepared and placed in a casket on November 28, 1947, to get transported by truck to Casketing Point B, St. Laurent, France. On January 24, 1949, Pfc. Emel was buried at the Normandy American Military Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, at Plot H, Row 11, Grave 29 ("Nature of Burial: fatigues"). George Emel's flag was sent to his parents on February 1, 1949.
The final letter sent to Pfc. Emel's parents dates from April 18, 1949, saying: “While interments are in progress, the cemetery will not be open to visitors. You may rest assured that this final interment was conducted with fitting dignity and solemnity and that the grave-site will be carefully and conscientiously maintained in perpetuity by the United States Government”.
Correspondence between George Emel's brother Donald and the US Grave Registration:
1st Airborne Battle Group, 327th Infantry
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
“ABOVE THE REST”
18 April 1959
Washington 25, D.C.
RE: George H. Emel
ASN 33 766 744
On the 30th of July 1944 my brother, PFC George H. Emel, ASN 33766744 was listed as “Missing in Action”. One year later he was dropped from the rolls as dead. I do not recall the organization that he was serving with because my knowledge was limited due to the fact I was only 9 years old.
At the earliest convience to you, I would appreciate it very much if you would locate his grave for me. The only information I have concerning the location is that he was buried somewhere in France.
The reason for this inquiry is that I am planning to visit his grave and pay homage to him for my relations.
Donald E. Emel, SFC
Reply to Donald E. Emel's letter:
22 May 1959
SFC Donald E. Emel
Company A, 1st Abn BG, 327th Infantry
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Dear Sergeant Emel:
Reference is made to your letter of recent date, requesting information regarding the place of interment of your brother, the late George H. Emel.
A search of the records on file in our Office indicates your brother was finally interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery, St. Laurent, France, Plot H, Row 11, Grave 29.
R. F. Beckman
Chief, Headstone Branch
Donald Emel married a German-born girl, living in Tennessee. During Sgt. Donald Emel's military career he was overseas in Germany twice and saw action in Vietnam, while serving with the 101st Airborne Division. In 1965 he was Wounded in Action and in a hospital in Vietnam, where he had undergone surgery on his leg.
Newspaper clipping about Sgt. Donald Emel
The Titusville Herald - Titusville, PA, Monday Morning, November 24, 1965
Grave of Pfc. George H. Emel
The adoptant, Rick Demas, next to Pfc. Emel's grave
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Pfc. George H. Emel's final resting place is, together with 9,387 brothers in arms, the Normandy American Military Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Plot H, Row 11, Grave 29. George Emel's mother, Barbera, died in 1952, at age 46,
and was buried at the Advent Cem., Boggs Twp., Centre County, Pennsylvania.
George's father, Franklyn, died in 1955, at age 52, and was buried next to his wife Barbera. George Emel's brother Ira died in 1978 (age 48) and brother Donald died in 1980 (age 45). George's sister Sarah Jane died on
January 29, 2010, at age 72, in State College, Centre County, Pennsylvania.
If anyone has information that may be of assistance to me concerning Pfc. George H. Emel, please contact me at email@example.com
22nd Infantry Regiment Yearbook, 1947
Famous Fourth: The Story of the 4th Infantry Division
Ed Warneld, 4th Infantry Division (Army 1960-1980)
Mr. Justin Hauser, Family of Pfc. George H. Emel
Mrs. Sharon Merritts
Mr. Ed Warneld