Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Purple Heart Lane" - Honoring the Dead at Carentan

In the early days of Operation Overlord in Normandy, troops from the 101st Airborne Division were charged with securing the heavily defended Carentan Causeway. A bloody, four-day-long battle ensued between American forces and the town's dug-in German defenders, the 6th Parachute Regiment, two OST (Ostlegionen) battalions, and remnants of other German forces.

On June 10, Lt. Robert G. Cole and his unit (3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment) were called from reserve to attack four bridges on Highway N13. For nearly two days Cole's troops would bear the brunt of an intense German defense, suffering heavy casualties at the hands of German machine gun, mortar, and artillery emplacements. While the U.S. forces would eventually drive the Germans from Carentan, the cost to the 502nd PIR was staggering (nearly 50% casualty rate). Highway N13 was later referred to as "Purple Heart Lane" due to the extraordinary number of Americans killed or wounded in the advance.

The following poem by R.D. Cready and R.H. Bryant was written in memory of the brave souls of the 502 PIR who lost their lives at Carentan. (From 101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy by Mark Bando.)

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