Brécourt Manor Assault

The Brécourt Manor Assault (June 6, 1944) during the U.S. parachute assault of the Normandy Invasion of World War II is often cited as a classic example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a larger enemy force.

As a result of the crash of a C-47 killing its company commander, command of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division devolved to the company executive officer, 1st Lt. Richard Winters. After linking up with his parent unit at the hamlet of Le Grand Chemin on the morning of June 6, 1944, Winters was ordered up front away from his company. With minimal instructions of "There's fire along that hedgerow there. Take care of it," and no briefing, Winters found himself tasked to destroy a German artillery battery. The battery had initially been reported to be 88 mm guns firing onto causeway exit #2 leading off Utah Beach and disrupting landing forces of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division advancing inland on this route. Several other units had stumbled onto the German position earlier in the morning and had been repulsed.

After a reconnaissance by Winters at about 8:30 AM, Winters collected a team of thirteen men from his own and other companies. Knowing little more than a general location of the gun emplacements south of Le Grand Chemin and not even knowing what was on the other side of the hedgerow, Winters' team attacked Brecourt Manor, located three miles southwest of Utah Beach and north of the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. There he discovered No. 6 Battery of the 90th Artillery Regiment, consisting of four 105 mm howitzers connected by trenches and defended by a platoon of soldiers.

Winters held that the unit was part of the 6th Fallschirmjägerregiment (6th Parachute Regiment) with emplaced MG42 machine guns. The 1st Battalion of the 6th had been ordered to Sainte Marie-du-Mont from Carentan during the afternoon but arrived after dark. The 1st Company 919th Grenadier Regiment (709th Infantry Division) was posted at Sainte Marie-du-Mont and was responsible for the area. Elements of 1058th Grenadier Regiment (91st Luftlandedivision) were defending throughout the vicinity, and the artillery was part of this division also. The 795th Georgian Battalion, attached to the 709th ID, was to the northwest at Turqueville but is less likely to have been present because of terrain difficulties. Whichever unit defended the battery, the U.S. paratroopers were opposed by approximately sixty German soldiers.

The crew originally assigned to the four 105mm guns had apparently deserted during the night of the airborne landings. Oberstleutnant Frederich von der Heydte of the German 6th Parachute Regiment, upon discovering they had been abandoned while observing the landings at Utah Beach, travelled to Carentan where he ordered his 1st Battalion to find men and work on the artillery battery

About 0830, Winters gathered a team of thirteen men from his and other companies. Knowing little more than a general location of the gun emplacement, his team scouted the area north of a farm house called Brécourt Manor, located 3 miles west of Utah Beach, just south of a small village Le Grand-Chemin (near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont). There they spotted a battery of four 105 mm guns connected by a trench network and defended by nests of MG42 machine guns. In total, they were up against about sixty German soldiers