The medals pfc. William J. Murdaugh probably earned

William Joseph Murdaugh was employed by the Cotton Belt tin shop department at Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas for several months prior to his induction. William Murdaugh’s uncles, Tandy and Turner Brewer worked for the Cotton Belt for many years. Murdaugh entered the U.S. Army in August 1941 at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and received his training at Camp Wolters, Texas. Private First Class William J. Murdaugh became part of the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division.

On October 8, 1943, the 9th Regiment sailed for Northern Ireland aboard the S.B. Anthony and arrived in Belfast, Ireland on October 19, 1943. Training became more intensive in preparation for the impending invasion of the European continent.

On June 7, 1944 (D-Day+1) the 9th Infantry Regiment set as first regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division foot on Omaha Beach near St. Laurent-sur-Mer. Over the next 2 days the 9th Infantry Regiment was followed by the other 2 regiments of the 2nd Infantry Division - the 38th and 23rd Infantry Regiments. The divisional artillery and transport, along with vital machine-guns and mortars, was slow in unloading and it would take some time for the infantrymen to receive their supportive weapons.


2nd Infantry Division coming ashore near St. Laurent-sur-Mer with WN 65 in the background

Although short of supplies and heavier weapons, the 2nd Division was ordered on June 8, to take its place in the frontline between the 29th and 1st Infantry Divisions for the crucial attack south. The Division’s main objective was the high ground at Cerisy Forest, five miles south of the coast. The heavily wooded slopes would make an ideal assembly point for a German counterattack. The 2nd Infantry Division’s immediate objective was the village of Trevieres, just south of the Aure River. The plan of attack called for the 38th Infantry Regiment to strike directly at Trevieres from the north and west, while Pfc. Murdaugh’s 9th Infantry Regiment worked their way towards Rubercy, southeast of Trevieres, thus isolating the German position.

On June 9, the 9th Regiment relieved units of the 1st Infantry Division around Egranville and Mandeville in preparation for the attack. The attack started badly as elements of the 9th Infantry Regiment didn’t receive the order to attack until late in the morning of June 9. Lacking transport and delayed by heavy German fire east of Trevieres, the 9th Infantry Regiment made only slow progress towards Rubercy. At the village of Haute Hameau heavy German fire halts Company L. US Tank, artillery and even naval gunfire support was required before the Germans were finally dislodged. It would be midnight before the 9th Infantry Regiment approached their assigned objective.

On June 10, the GIs renewed their attack in greater strength, as much of the missing equipment and transport arrived. With the village of Trevieres now outflanked on both sides, the German defenders were forced to withdraw. Trevieres was liberated by 0845 Hours and the 2nd Division pressed southwards in pursuit of the retreating Germans. Meeting little opposition the Americans were able to advance all the way to Cerisy Forest. Surprisingly the forest itself was practically undefended. The 9th Infantry Regiment brushed aside weak German resistance as they passed through the forest to Balleroy, on the eastern side.

The battle for possession of the Haute Litee crossroads continued on June 11. The Germans fought stubbornly, but by midday they had been driven into the fringes of the woods. From that position they fought on, blocking the American advance. Finally, the German mortars were silenced with artillery barrages from the US 38th and 12th Field Artillery Battalions and after an advance of the 38th Regiment the Litteau Ridge was captured – thus securing the precarious US beachhead and intercepted the main rail line between Cherbourg and Paris.


2nd Infantry Division Memorial near St. Laurent-sur-Mer and in front of WN 65
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

After momentary reserve activity, the 9th Infantry Regiment was called forward again and captured the town of St. Germaine d’Elle. A short time later it was spearheading a three-day drive south to enter Tinchebray. Then the drive continued towards St. Lo, where the battle of the hedgerows and the bitter fight for Hill 192 began, a German strongpoint on the road to St. Lo. Securing Hill 192 took another month and several attempts and succeeded on July 11, 1944. During the bitter fighting for Hill 192 Pfc. William J. Murdaugh Died of Wounds received on June 29, 1944. Pfc. Murdaugh’s Purple Heart was awarded posthumously, probably to his mother Mrs. Mary Earle Zoch which resides at Bryant, Arkansas.

The adoptant of Private First Class William J. Murdaugh’s grave, Manon Poquetlefloch, is searching for more information about Pfc. William J. Murdaugh. Every kind of information is more than welcome. You can contact Manon at: manon.poquetlefloch@laposte.net

For another story of a soldier adopted by Mrs. Manon Poquetlefloch:
Cpl. Preston V. Wells

Sources:
http://reocities.com/TheTropics/8199/veterans.html
http://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=763
The Advance to Cerisy Forest web article by Jason Moffat