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501st PIR- 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment

501st Parachute Infantry (PIR)
The Fight at the Locks
(501st PIR in Normandy)

Parachute Infantry - PIR - Parachute Infantry Regiment

[8-3.1 BB 2]



501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Normandy


Published by History Section, European Theater of Operations

[Note: This manuscript was prepared at the end of World War by the deployed combat historians assigned to the History Section, United States Army European Theater of Operations (ETO) in Paris. The original is on file in the Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC) under file number 8-3.1 BB 2, which should be cited in footnotes, along with the title. As the introduction clearly states, the author was and was complied using oral interview techniques invented during World War II by S.L.A. Marshall. It is reproduced here with only those limited modifications required to adapt to the World Wide Web; spelling, punctuation, and slang usage have not been altered from the original. Click on the smaller images to load and view the full size images. Where modern explanatory notes were required, they have been inserted as italicized text in square brackets. The study formed an important part of Marshall's subsequent book Night Drop.]

According to plan, the D Day objectives of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment were well concentrated. After dropping into NORMANDY a little to the north and east of the city of CARENTAN, the regiment was to press south and westward and establish the defensive position in this direction. In detail, it was to secure the line of the lower DOUVE RIVER, first by seizing the strategic lock on the CANAL DE VIRE ET TAUTE at LE BARQUETTE and then by blowing the river bridges. In that way, it would stand ready either to assist the advance of American forces from out of the UTAH BEACHHEAD and to the westward or to fend off any German counterattack from the eastward.

From the beginning, American attention was directed at the LE BARQUETTE lock. This unique objective and its possible military application appears to have fascinated the imaginations not only of those who planned OPERATION NEPTUNE but of the commanders who were to execute it. To get to the lock first and to make certain that the enemy would have no use of it became an overriding consideration with the planning and tactical forces. Whether that interest was out of proportion to the strategic significance of the lock was a question never fully answered in the doing. American apprehensions as to what might happen if the Germans gained control of the lock superinduced one of the boldest strokes of the NORMANDY campaign, a stroke boldly made and tactically productive. Yet whether the emphasis placed on the position by the Allied planners was justifiable was never confirmed by the attitude of the enemy.

501st PIR Airborne Drop on June 5th 1944 D-Day The lock at LE BARQUETTE is below CARENTAN as the RIVER DOUVE flows and near the confluence of the river and the largest of its canals. On 6 June 1944, this was the strategic importance of the lock that at high tide the low marshland around CARENTAN are below the level of the sea. The lock holds back the tide. If the lock is opened or demolished, the sea pours into the bottoms and the marshy water barrier to the east and north of CARENTAN become a salt lake. (1)

Periodically in the years when the RAF had this area under observation, the Germans had opened the lock. Thereby the flood plain had become inundated so that a long arm of the sea interposed between the ridges of high ground around ST COME DU MONT and the solid but somewhat lower ground skirting CARENTAN on the south and west. Air photographs had shown the extent of these inundations.

It seemed therefore that the device which the enemy had practiced might be turned against him. If the airborne could seize the lock intact and hold it against all counterattacks by the enemy, we could use it as we willed. In case the enemy forces to the eastward rebounded strongly against the BEACHHEAD, the marshes around CARENTAN could be turned into a lake, imposing an extra barrier between the Germans and ourselves. Or we could sit on the lock and keep the marsh draining until we were ready to go forward.

The blowing of the bridges along the causeway crossing the RIVER DOUVE and its canals east of CARENTAN was part of the same idea. The causeway provided the one convenient path across the flood plain. Even that path would be denied the enemy if the bridges were down.

Such were the main objectives of the regiment. Once these things were done and the line to the southwestward was made reasonably secure, the regiment was also to capture the town of ST COME DU MONT and blow the railroad bridge across the DOUVE to the west of it. For these tasks, only two battalions were to be present, Third Battalion having been designated as the Division Reserve. Yet due to the misfortunes and miscalculations of the air journey and drop into NORMANDY, even this force was gravely depleted before the combat opened.

First Battalion and the Regimental Headquarters were next serials 8 and 9 of the Division formation. By a fluke, a part of the leading serial, including the regimental coriander, dropped nearly on the right ground. The rest of the serial was scattered so badly that during the first stage of the operation First Battalion could not function as a tactical unit. A number of the sticks were unloaded south of CARENTAN, much deeper into enemy territory than was supposed to be encompassed by the initial Allied attack. Later the battalion commander was found dead in that area. The battalion executive became missing. All company commanders were missing though one regained the American lines five days later. Vanished also was the battalion staff though the S-1 and S-4 finally found their way back to the regiment. As a result of the drop, the battalion was wholly leaderless and its men far-scattered.

501st PIR Airborne Drop on June 5th 1944 D-Day


COL HOWARD R. JOHNSON rode in the leading plane of his regiment. All went smoothly as the formation crossed the Channel. In JOHNSON'S plane the men let out a yell as they saw the French coast and most of them stood up and made a final adjustment of their equipment as the planes flew on and crossed the coastline. Halfway across the COTENTIN PENINSULA the formation ran into a scattering flak; it did no damage and the men paid little heed. About two minutes out from the DROP ZONE, there was a strong build-up of enemy ground fire and the tracers arched up all around the formation. The troops got the first warning signal, then the green light. It flashed back through the astral dome from the lead plane to the others and the men jumped—all except the men in JOHNSON'S plane. At that critical moment a bundle became jammed in the doorway and for what seemed a much longer tine but was by JOHNSON'S later estimate about one-half minute, none could get out. They pushed frantically at the bundle. It dropped off into space and the men followed as swiftly as they could, feeling that they had overshot the mark. That 30-second delay was their salvation. For it enabled them to make a bullseye on DROP ZONE D. JOHNSON figured afterward that his men who had jumped at the signal probably landed in the vicinity of ST COME DU MONT and that many of the men who never rejoined the regiment must have come down in the marshes near CARENTAN and drowned before they could come free from their chutes.

Tracer fire was "spouting up like a Roman candle." Almost as he cleared the plane, JOHNSON realized that in some manner his reserve chute had opened. With the amount of fire that was breaking around him, he had become much too good a target. So he pulled out his knife and cut the reserve chute loose. He hit the ground and was immediately fired on by a riflemen covered by a hedgerow 25 yards away.

JOHNSON pulled his pistol and fired twice in the direction where he had seen the flash from the hedge. There was a loud scream but there were no more shots. JOHNSON lay quiet for a moment before cutting his way out of his harness. That done, he rolled over and over until he cane to within the shadow of a hedgerow which ran at right angles to the one from which he had received the fire. (2)

He found a gate in the hedge and crawled through it on his belly. Then he lay for a few minutes in a roadside ditch, considering. He was next a road intersection. Opposite him, on the far side of the road, was a large building which looked like a chateau. His first impulse was to go over, rouse someone and ask the location. But he thought better of it, and later he learned that it was a proper instinct. For the chateau contained the local German headquarters. JOHNSON had landed right on the top of a well-prepared position. There had been no warning other than the first rifle shots. JOHNSON had heard nothing else. But he felt that he had come down on something hot and that even then he was "fighting for life." He knew he was carrying too much weight for easy movement. Before leaving the ditch he stripped himself of everything he thought he could afford to drop. He then started working down the hedgerow, crawling on his hands and knees and sometimes wriggling along on his belly. He came to a small stream which flowed under the road right next the chateau and started to crawl through it. The water was over his head and he had to struggle to recover his balance as he floundered through to the other side. JOHNSON had no idea where to look for his men. He had already missed one trick. Ordinarily, upon hitting the ground, he would have glanced skyward to see where the rest of the serial was dropping. But the fire from the unseen rifleman had distracted him and he had not seen another chute in the air. So now he crawled along blindly for about 15 minutes; only, it was his guess that he was going in about the right direction and that something good would come of it. As a matter of fact, he had landed quite alone. The only other man who had landed anywhere close was the number 2 man in the lead plane. He had dropped behind the chateau. Later they found his chute and pack in a tree where he must have hung up for a few minutes before cutting loose. His body lay near the chateau. He had been shot to death. It was believed that he may have heard the exchange of fire between JOHNSON and the rifleman, come on the run to help and so met death. (3)

Col "Jumpy" Johnson in Normandy

There was a steady pickup in the ack-ack fire as JOHNSON crawled along though he heard no other sounds of combat until after another serial had passed overhead. Then mortar fire began falling on all four sides of him as if the Germans were pouring it into the fields broadcast on the chance that someone might be landing there. Above the tumult he heard a loud crash and then another like it somewhere behind him. He knew that two of our planes had come down and looking back, he saw a double glare in the sky. Out of the night came prolonged screaming which died in crescendo as if a man had been bayoneted. He did not know whether it had been friend or enemy but he felt the rising tide of sound and fire, as of many small encounters building up to a general engagement. He was moving down into swampy ground now and though he was still uncertain of his location, he thought that he was working toward a river. He had looked at his compass. He knew that he was crawling south and he figured that he must be coming to the DOUVE. The direction was taking him away from the sounds of the fighting. He kept on going for another 15 minutes, keeping to the ditches and the shadows around the hedges. (4) The moon was quite bright. JOHNSON decided to wait where he was and see whether any of the men would come to him. Another 15 minutes passed. Then he heard the chirp of a cricket right near him.

It was the "most joyful noise" of a lifetime. He felt for his own cricket; it was gone. He heard the other cricket again; the sound persisted. JOHNSON decided to take the chance. He called, "Flash!" Someone in the darkness called "Thunder!" JOHNSON replied, "Welcome." Then they joined. It was a party of 15 men, some of his own, and some from 506th Regiment. They had not yet oriented themselves. All had been moving about, trying to find something which would point the way to their objectives and in their aimless search, they had come gradually together. JOHNSON thought they had better keep moving south. So they went on along the ditches, and more men came to them from out of the shadows as they moved. A Good many of them were men from 506th's Third Battalion trying to keep their assignment at the DOUVE bridges near LE PORT. The cricket continued to be the chief means of drawing the man together.

By the dawn of D Day, JOHNSON had 150 men. They had worked their way to within 300 yards of the canal and their main objective—the LE BARQUETTE lock. Without knowing, they had been moving in the right direction all of the time and as the light grew, the men recognized the fall of the land. For two months prior, they had been doing this problem with maps and rubber relief models of the area and now the road and the hedgerow turnings began to seem familiar to them. JOHNSON had brought them along the hedgerows and ditches for safety, but the worst of their hazards came from the swampy ground. They floundered through streams, sometimes going in up to their waists. When a man slipped down, the others pulled him along. No one said anything and by common consent, they followed the leader and stayed clear of the roadways and fields. As they came down into the bottoms the Germans started pouring mortar fire into the marshes. But it was going high over the party and JOHNSON became confident that his approach was undetected. He had kept his men together regardless of their unit and mission. He felt it was better that way than to let small numbers of men try for separate objectives. He said to them, "Wait till you can be sure where you are. Wait until you have strength." When the country became recognizable with the increased light, a lieutenant with 25 or 30 men from the 506th asked for permission to take them on against the bridges at LE PORT. JOHNSON told him to go. The party split soon after 0400 and the lieutenant led his group on along the canal.


JOHNSON had already put his scouts out. They returned and reported that they had reconnoitered the road intersection which lay just ahead of the party. It was what they had been seeking—the road junction just north of the lock. It checked with what they remembered of the maps. They could see the banks of the canal on beyond the roadway. There was a group of buildings on beyond the road intersection; JOHNSON figured that the buildings must be clustered around the lock. The light was fulling now and the outline of the canal embankments had become distinct. JOHNSON decided to split his force and attack at once. This was his plan: About 50 of the men were to strike directly for the lock; the others would build up a defensive base on the ground between the main road and the canal.

The lock party made it in one dash. There was a scattering of rifle fire around then as they raced across the flat, open space beyond the road; no one was hit. (5) The lock and the ground immediately around it were unguarded, and it wasn't until the men got to the far bank, moving across the top of the lock, that they saw some fire pits and hutments about 50 yards beyond the lock. The enemy may have been asleep except for one or two sentries; at least the reaction of the defenders was extremely slow and uncertain. The Americans held in place on the far bank, digging as fast as they could into the soft clay. The foxholes were down deep and the men were well covered when at last the German position cane to life and began shelling the lock area with mortars, mingled with rifle and machine gun fire.

It did no special damage. The Germans seemed content to remain at a respectful distance and leave the Americans in possession of the lock. Our forces had arrived in time. The lock, which was a pretty simple affair, about 30 feet wide and hand-operated, was still in good working condition. The men on the south bank got low in their foxholes and waited. JOHNSON was about 300 yards distant from this detachment. He had watched the men charge the lock. After they went to earth, they were no longer visible to him, but he knew they were all right. The force which had remained north of the canal had already been disposed so as to round-out a perimeter defense of the lock area. When the organization of the ground was completed, patrols were sent to prowl all of the nearby houses; they were found to be unoccupied. Even so, JOHNSON'S position was none too good. He was in a hollow. From the high ground around CARENTAN and from the ridge north of the DOUVE around ST COME DU MONT, the Germans could put him under observation and fire quite easily. (6) But he figured that he would stay on for a while and see if any rave men would gravitate toward the position. With a little additional strength, he could push on and blow the bridges of the DOUVE.

Some time around 0600 he heard the rattle of a continuing small arms fire building up to the northward. It was the first sign to him that there were other friendly troops operating in the vicinity and he drew some comfort from the thought that they would probably be advancing toward him. The wait was profitless otherwise; no new men came into the position. His grip on the lock seemed secure enough for the time being. On the other hand the small (4-5 man) patrols which were sent to scout the DOUVE bridges and explore the flank toward LE PORT came back and reported that they could not move more than a few hundred yards either way without drawing fire. The causeway leading to CARENTAN appeared to be stoutly defended.

At 0630 a patrol arrived with information that MAJ R. J. ALIEN, the Regimental S-3, has at BSE ADDEVILLE on the high ground north of JOHNSON'S position, with a fair-sized force. The patrol did not know ALLEN'S exact situation or whether he was being engaged; all that they could tell JOHNSON was ALLEN'S location. Feeling that he was not strong enough to attack toward the CARENTAN bridges, JOHNSON decided to take all the maneuver force which remained to him—about 50 men—and march on ALLEN, leaving his defensive force in position around the locks. At 0730 the march started, moving back via the swampy ground and the ditches. The column reached BSE ADDEVILLE at about 0900, having been under enemy fire most of the way. In coming across one of the last fields, the paratrooper bringing up the rear of the column lagged far behind and was felled by a bullet. LT EDLEY CRAIGHILL of Company A (later killed by artillery fire at CARENTAN) dropped his weapon, crawled back across the wide and fire-swept space and dragged the man to safety.


There were about 100 men with ALLEN. Among them were several of the regiment's key personnel and LT FARRELL of the US Navy who had taken special drop training with the regiment for SFC support. The force was embattled within the houses of BSE ADDEVILLE and was receiving fire from enemy forces fighting from behind the hedgerows to north and west of the hamlet. While keeping them at arm's length, ALLEN was making the hamlet a rendezvous point in the hope of collecting enough men to go on against ST COME DU MONT. His was an oddly assorted group, and included men from practically every unit which had dropped between the MERDERET RIVER and the coast. ALLEN had rounded up a number of carts and draft animals from the farmhouses. Four patrols had then formed, including a driver and five or six riflemen to cover each party, and had moved out to the DROP ZONE to collect arms and ammunition. They returned at noontime. The carts were well-loaded but all four patrols had come under fire frequently during the mission. Meantime more men had come into the position. Jump casualties — men with sprains and breaks — had begun to find the rendezvous. Bullet and mortar fire was also costing ALLEN not a few men. A first-aid station was set up and was soon filled with the wounded. At the lock things were remaining fairly in balance. From the runners who kept moving back and forth between the two positions JOHNSON learned that there was no increase in enemy pressure against the lock but that the enemy fire was beginning to take toll of the men along the embankment.

That was all JOHNSON knew off the general situation. He had heard nothing from Division. Tie had no idea whether other American forces had succeeded in forming or whether we had succeeded at the Beaches. A few minutes before 1200 one of his medical men got a small radio into operation, just in time to catch the noon newscast from LONDON. It came over the air that the invasion was proceeding according to plan and that the operation of the American airborne divisions was going strongly.

JOHNSON turned to ALLEN. "I have decided," he said, "if things are going well elsewhere, the thing to do is make ourselves as strong as is necessary at the lock and then get to the bridges as quickly as we can." (7) ALLEN agreed.

They planned it this way, that JOHNSON would take most of the force and move back to LE BARQUETTE and from there would try to go on to the bridges, while ALLEN would be left with only enough men to cover his own withdrawal after darkness came. JOHNSON was to set up his CP at the PT DE LESSEAU road junction. LT FRED A. OWENS, the personnel adjutant, with four men went on ahead of the main body to reconnoiter the route and made a quick estimate of the situation at the lock.

The main body was about ready to move when LT GEORGE W. SEFTON, S-2 of Second Battalion, reported in with the information that only a short distance beyond BSE ADDEVILLE, in the vicinity of a large farming establishment called LES DROUERIES, LT COL ROBERT A. BALLARD and about 250 men were being heavily engaged by enemy forces. JOHNSON got BALLARD on the radio—it was his first distance contact with any part of his force—and asked him, "Can you join me at once?" BALLARD replied, "No, I can't. We're pinned by enemy fire and the people we're fighting are between you and me." JOHNSON then told him that he was leading his own force back to the river, that he would leave further instructions with SEFTON and that BALLARD should disengage and join him at the earliest possible moment. It was an order given without much attempt to inquire into BALLARD'S situation or to study whether compliance was possible. Out of the subsequent stresses put upon JOHNSON'S force and his natural anxiety that BALLARD comply there developed a rift between the two men which caused some bitterness and much misunderstanding. (8)

Most of the demolitions platoon had collected at BSE ADDEVILLE and a sufficient store of explosives had been retrieved from the DROP ZONE to accomplish the destruction of the DOUVE bridges. The platoon moved with the main body from BSE ADDEVILLE at 1330. ALLEN remained in the hamlet with 50 men. Once again the column moved along through the marshes and canals, often wading through waist-deep water. They continued in this manner until they had moved out of range of the enemy's small arms fire. Finally, they got back into the dirt lane leading into LE BARQUETTE, a lane well-screened on both sides by thick foliage. The march went along without opposition until the head of the column reached the road intersection west of PENEME. At that moment "all hell broke loose." (9)

The Germans had apparently observed the column's progress but had reserved their fire. Their weapons were zeroed-in on the point where the lane met the canal road. Machine gun, rifle, mortar and 88 mm fire all enveloped JOHNSON'S group in a twinkling. The men in the point went flat. The main body tried to find cover alongside the lane. JOHNSON worked his way forward, crawling up to the men in the point. He felt sudden alarm. The fire had broken around him so quickly and with such intensity that he was afraid he had led his men into a deadfall and that the whole force might be wiped out before he could extricate it. (10)


It had been the practice of Second Battalion to use a large bell and a green electric lantern for assembly following the drop. Coming into NORMANDY, these two markers were jumped with personnel. But both of the men were lost and so the assembly ground went unmarked. LT COL BALLARD came to earth right on the DROP ZONE which put him about 600 yards to the southeast of LES DROUERIES. His experience was unique among the battalion commanders of 101st Division in that he knew from the beginning that he was in the right spot. He wasn't quite sure why he knew except that the ground looked as he had expected to find it. Too, he had carefully noted the river courses and roads on the flight in, and when he had jumped, he had felt certain that the calculation had been about right.

Now, lying on the ground, he thought back over the drop and he figured he had probably drifted a little bit. But it was still only a question of being a few fields distant from the point he had been seeking. Mortar and machine gun fire was enlivening the neighborhood; the closest shells were dropping 50 to 75 yards away. BALLARD tad landed within 25 yards of a hedgerow but he didn't crawl to it immediately. He lay perfectly still for about three or four minutes except for getting a grenade ready while thinking out his next move. He had seen tracer fire follow him during the descent and he< strained to know whether he had been spotted. He freed himself at last and ran to a ditch. There he took out a map and a flashlight and from his reading he knew his location for certain within a few hundred yards; the map checked with what he had remembered of the land picture as he came to earth.

A machine gun began firing lengthwise on the hedgerow next to which he was standing. He moved back a little bit. BALLARD had jumped with a SCR 536 strapped to his leg; he now tried to raise someone on the radio but there was no response. He moved on a few yards more. A cricket sounded near him. It was SGT William H. Jackson of Company D. JACKSON had landed in a large swamp to the southward, oriented himself almost at once and within a few minutes of starting to walk to the objective, had found himself on solid ground. On coming to the last field just before meeting BALLARD, he had found MAJ RAYMOND V. BOTTOMLY, the Battalion Executive, lying beside a hedgerow. His ankle had been badly twisted in the jump. When BALLARD went over to him, BOTTOMLY said he couldn't walk but could "do a damn good job of crawling." They started along. The nettles in the ditches plagued these men—as they did all of the paratroopers—more than all else. They worked into their knees and wrists as they moved along the ditches on all fours. They decided to move down one more field and then split up, seeking other men. A sergeant from Company E joined them almost immediately and took a leading hand in the ingathering of the force. BALLARD continued moving east to the drop area, collecting a few men as he went along and sending them to the assembly point. All movement was by the ditches and along the hedges except for occasional dashes across an open field. By now the enemy mortar fire and small arms activity was incessant and flares were going up around ST COME DU MONT. The flares were short lasting but very bright. There came more and more of them until finally there were only brief seconds of darkness. The illumination worried BALLARD. A few of his men were being picked off by riflemen. He thought that he'd better conclude his roundup quickly and get set in a defensive position. He was also worried about where his bundles had gone; none of the men seemed to know. A few who had already joined his party had landed in the CARENTAN marshes, east of the town and north of the RIVER DOUVE. Some had swum their way to temporary security but had had to cut loose from all their equipment. They were wringing wet, but were otherwise, and for the most part, unhurt. These men thought that many of the bundles had been dropped in the marshes, also, and would not be retrieved.

BALLARD returned to the assembly area at 0330. By that time, BOTTOMLY had organized the men whom BALLARD and the two sergeants had shunted along, and had checked their weapons. There were four machine guns, 125 rifles, one bazooka and one 60 mm mortar present. All of the rifle company commanders were missing and the battalion had no radio other than the one strapped on BALLARD'S leg.

Dawn was cracking as the companies moved out of the fields and down the hedgerows toward ST COME DU MONT, which BALLARD proposed to assault immediately. The general fire had quieted somewhat and the column seemed to be moving away from the zone where snipers were active. At 0400 BALLARD sent LT SEFTON and four of his men to the southward. They were given the mission of moving through the swamp and attempting to contact either First Battalion or Regimental Headquarters somewhere around LE BARQUETTE to tell them that BALLARD was moving against ST COME DU MONT. The G-2 information had been that less than a platoon of the enemy would be holding that town. BALLARD and his men had already spotted the approximate locations of three machine guns between them and the town and BALLARD had reached the conclusion that there was a much larger force there than he had bargained on. One of his scouts had seen a German disappear into a large building at LES DROUERIES. They took this as a sign that some enemy strength lay along that flank. The attack order was issued at 0430 by CANT WILLIAM E. PELHAM, the S-3. The plan was that they would move against LES DROUERIES with two companies abreast. Company E on the right with 30 men was to go after the farm buildings and the road crossing on that side while Company F with 30 men was to attack toward the crossroads on the left. Company D was to follow Company F.

While they waited, BALLARD sent some of his men from the light machine gun platoon to search the DROP ZONE for weapons and ammunition. Since the platoons did not have enough guns to be in business, he also put four of the gunners into service as runners. He noted that many of his men appeared to be in a dazed condition. The men who had fallen in the swamp were still wet and shivering and they walked or crawled around for warmth. But those who had landed dry dropped in their tracks and were asleep any time that the movement stopped and some even slept standing. (11) Many were suffering from sprains or fractures. Only two members of the battalion medical unit (2 officers and 14 men) had assembled with the battalion. But these two were doing a superior job and had begun collecting the wounded and injured as soon as they landed.

The battalion moved out at 0530 in column formation, sticking to the hedgerows. As the light grew, BALLARD noticed an immediate lift in the spirits old energies of his men. They seemed to be filled with a sudden but false sense of well-being as if, now that daylight had found them, they had concluded that their major trials were over and victory was in their hands. They went about 200 yards before a break-out of enemy fire restored their sense of proportion.

Two light machine guns from Headquarters Company arrived just after the attack started and were put along the hedgerow in front of Company E. From this line, they could fire at the farmhouses and against the two lateral hedgerows between the company and its objective. Company E had already worked forward as far as the bend in the road when rifle and automatic fire, seeming to come from enemy positions grouped closely around the houses, broke all around it and stopped the advance. The bullet fire ranged down both sides of the road and was also picking away at the embankment of the forward hedgerows. A curtain of mortar fire dropped down on both roads and the field lying between them. The men of Company E went flat in the ditches almost instantly, and remained there, inert. The volume of the fire was such that after the first surprise shock, they remained pinned to earth and did not raise up even enough to answer fire with fire. Company F got no farther than Company E; in fact, the closest protecting hedgerow on the left flank was a little behind the hedgerow which gave partial protection to the men on the right. BALLARD, who had come along behind his reserve company, was hearing only the vaguest reports from his forward line as to the source of the mortars and machine guns which had stopped the movement. So he moved his Battalion OP up to the hedgerow corner on Co