68 Years Ago: The 362nd FG kicks open the door during Operation Cobra

July 25, 1944 was slated as the date of Operation Cobra, the breakout from the Normandy area. Although it was now 49 days after the landings, allied troops were only to where planners had envisioned they would be five days after D-Day. As a result, allied air power would be tasked with blasting a hole in German defenses to allow the allies to use their mobile forces to throw the Germans off balance. For the 362nd, that meant 34 planes were loaded with 250-pound fragmentation clusters and 100-pound white phosphorus bombs; these followed other group’s planes and dropped on a narrow strip of enemy defenses. More missions followed; the 377th bombed a German officers’ quarters with fair results, then the 378th bombed a road junction in an effort to disrupt communications wires there (they missed a small house being used as a communications center). The 379th bombed the reported location of an ammunition dump, with no observable results. The 378th returned to the communications center and pelted it with 500-pounders, one of which was seen to go through the house before exploding. The 379th went after a group of German holdouts west of St. Lo; the target was well marked and the bombing was accurate. The 378th finally was dispatched to attack a small town that contained the command post and ammunition dump of the German 14thFallschrimjager Regiment. They were rewarded with at least two good secondary explosions. All bombing was done at a very low level.

The next day, the German lines of resistance began to collapse, and attention turned to blocking the Wehrmacht’s escape routes. The 378th dive-bombed a railroad bridge with poor results after being forced to abandon its primary target, the railroad bridge at St. Hilles, because of bad visibility. The same weather kept the 379th from striking its assigned target, a troop concentration, so it bombed targets of opportunity, destroying 20 boxcars and a road junction. The 377thalso missed the troop concentration and destroyed a railroad bridge and a power house. In the afternoon, the group sent out several squadron-size missions to dive-bomb road junctions with six-hour delay fuses to disrupt German movements at night.

 

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