Monument in memory of the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 90th Infantry Division who fought to liberate Gourbesville.
Like many other villages in France during the German occupation Gourbesville had troops garrisoned in its homes at various times.The 191st hospital detachment of the German 91st Airborne Division had set up a first-aid post at the village school.
On June 6, 1944 at 02:20. Gourbesvile, saw its night sky filled by parachutists from the 82nd Airborne Division.
The tail of a group from Company I of the 508th PIR fell in the middle of the village. The first part of this group had landed westwards, in the St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte area.
Local histories have been well handed down through the generations, and they relate various bits of information about things that happened during this wartime period in Gourbesville.
In 2006, when deciding to build a memorial in honor of the soldiers who died here during the "Battle of Gourberville, these questions were raised concerning the plaque in the cemetery paying tribute particularly to one of them named James R Hattrick
No one knows who made this plaque and placed it here, or why Hattrick was singled out. Through recent research, upon receipt of documents from the U.S. Archives, and by the retelling of these old stories, what follows is what is believed to have happened
Private James R. Hattrick, a secretarial attendant with Company I of the 598th PIR, touched down on the dominion of Gourbesville Castle. (See illustrated map.) He hid in a woodpile and began firing accurately at the Germans from his position
The German commander got the impression that a local citizen was firing at his men. He summoned the Maire M. Delaune and told him that if this firing didn't stop, he would have to put the Maire M Delaune through the weapons.At that moment Hattrick killed the German Commandant with a rifle shot.
In a few minutes, the Germans located Hattrick's position and opened fire on the woodpile.
Hattrick received a fatal head wound and was taken to the German Aid Post where he died. Hattrick was buried in the churchyard on the site of grave no. 4 on the northeast side of the church. This information was reported by the German doctor (see Illustrated German Death Certificate). Hattrick's body was recovered on June 28, 1944, and reburied in the U.S. military cemetery. S. n°2 de Ste. Mère-Eglise by b 603e compagnie d'enregistrement des sépultures He was buried in Plot F, Row 4, Grave 67. In 1948. Hattrick's body was sent for final interment to his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As for the plaque.... The best we can assume is that it was Mayor M. Delaune who had it made and placed there!"
Private 1st Class R. B. Lewellen, a rifleman with Company I of the 508 PIR, jumped in right behind his friend, Private James R Hattrickrick. Lewellen landed in a field at the crossroads on the outskirts of the village and quickly assembled his rifle . (See illustrated map) He noticed three Germans walking in his direction and opened fire, wounding one of them. The Germans fired back, which shattered the barrel of his rifle, and resulted in severe damage to his left hand.
As he tried to escape across the field, he was wounded in the left leg, and eventually captured.
Lewellen was taken to the German aid station where the doctor told him he would have to amputate his left hand. When Lewellen woke up after surgery, his hand was missing and his leg had been treated. Lowellen had company now at the German aid station, a Major from the 82nd Airborne. They were transferred together, deeper inland in France. They were then separated.
Major Gordon K Smith, Quartermaster Officer (S-4) of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, landed northeast of Gourbesville on the east bank of the Merderet River at 02:40. The Major Smith was only able to pick up one man from his group, Sergeant Hannon Waters. They decided to cross the river to reach the village of Amfreville. They had overflown the T-jump zone by more than 3 kilometers. Smith and Wailers collected 8 more men as they headed north looking for a suitable passage across the river.
They found one at the train station, the railway station west of Fresville and 5 kilometers northwest of Ste. Mère-Egise. Major Smith's mission was to establish a regimental supply depot in the Amfreville area.
After crossing at the Gare, they abandoned the road and entered an apple orchard where they came under enemy fire. Smith was hit in his arm and right flank. Sergeant Harmon and the other paratroopers administered first aid, but were ordered by Major Smith to leave him behind
The Germans captured Smith shortly afterwards. He was transported to the German aid station at Gourbesville on a cart by a local farmer. After waking up from surgery, he found he was in the same room as a Corporal of the 508th PIR who had lost his hand. The German doctor spoke flawless English. He explained to Major Smith that he had operated on the corporal in such a way that it would later be easy to attach a prosthesis to his arm. The doctor told Smith that he had been a prisoner of war in Africa, and that the Americans had allowed him to treat German POWs. The German had since vowed to treat the American prisoners as he himself had been treated.
In the days that followed, the Americans bent their headlong movement northward. But they were stopped at the chaussée de la Fière by the 1057th Regiment of the 91st Luftlanding on the west bank. On June 9, the 82nd Airborne pushed through, breaking the German stranglehold on the western part of the chaussée de la Fière
This set the stage for the next morning's attack by the 357th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division. At 05:45 on June 10, the 357th attacked with the 3rd Battalion, followed by the 2nd Battalion, with the 1st Battalion following in reserve. The 357th suffered only minor casualties crossing the La Fière causeway as it passed through the 82nd Airbome sector. The 3rd Battalion was on the right flank of the attack line, and the 2nd Battalion on the left. The attack stalled in the vicinity of the hamlet of Les Landes at 12.40 p.m., when the 2nd Battalion came under heavy fire. At 3:30 pm, Company A of the 1st Battalion was brought up to support the 2nd Battalion. Later, the 1st Battalion was brought up to relieve the 2nd Battalion.
On June 11 at 08H00, the attack resumed with the 3rd Battalion gaining, then losing 720 meters. At 18H00, another attack was launched with Company C making a wide turning movement on the left flank. For this attack, companies E and G were attached to the 3rd Battalion and F to the 1st Battalion. Company C reached the road across the Landes, but was halted. At 09:00 on June 12, the attack resumed, but no ground was gained. At 13H45, a second attack was launched with two platoons of medium tanks in support But they failed to gain any ground while the 2nd Battalion was halted.
On June 13, Colonel John W. Sheehy assumed command of the 357th Infantry Regiment. At 07:00, the attack started again with the 1st Battalion on the left, the 2nd Battalion on the right, and the 3rd Battalion held in reserve. They reached the Amfreville-Gourbeville road and turned northwest, but the attack halted due to darkness.
Early on the morning of June 14. the first direct attack on Gourbesville was planned. An aerial bombardment mission was requested at 14:00, but was delayed, then subsequently cancelled at 17:00.
Company A of the 315th Engineers was attached to the 3rd Battalion during the afternoon. The attack finally began at 7:30pm,and reached the town of Gourbesville with the 3rd Battalion in the lead. The Germans counter-attacked and the 357th was driven back. At 07:00 on June 15, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 351st Infantry Regiment withdrew to the Amfreville area in a defensive position. At 21H15. the 3rd Battalion was ordered to recommence its attack At 23H15 the message was sent back to 90th Division headquarters that Gourbesville had fallen thanks to the 3rd Battalion of the 357th Infantry Regiment.
The village of Gourbesville had been liberated.
Merits awarded to Ms. Jean-Baptiste "Bobby" , Brion Siddall, Richard O'Donnel, R B. Lewellen, Gordon K Smith, Ms. Bernadette Dela une, Ellen Peters, the U. S Archives, the U. S. Normandie, M. le Maire Maurice Gidon and the people of Gourbervile.
Photo credit: Grasset Jacques