As the beachheads were secured, Allied forces poured into Normandy, reinforcing the divisions that had landed on D-Day. This tour visits the graves of five individuals who participated in the Normandy Campaign from the capture of St. Lo to the breakout at Caen, codenamed Operation Cobra.
Kenneth I. Hatcher
331st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division
Plot C, Row 16, Grave 33
Pvt. Kenneth Hatcher was a member of the 83rdInfantry “Thunderbolt” Division. As a young man from Pardeeville, Wis., Hatcher was 27 years old when he enlisted. He then had to say good-bye to his two young children, Kay and Donald, and his pregnant wife.
On July 4, 1944, the 83rdInfantry Division began an offensive along the Carentan-Periers road, with the entire division artillery in support. The assault against the German 17thSS Division and 6thParachute Regiment was costly; the Germans knew the routes the 83rdwould take, and fought from concealed positions dug beneath the hedgerows. The 83rdadvanced toward the Taute River in the pouring rain. On July 10, the 331stInfantry Regiment captured Sainteny, and on July 15, the 83rdregrouped along the Ays River. Their position put them on the front lines for what would be Operation Cobra.
Hatcher was a new replacement, arriving at the front lines on July 24. He was a strong, powerful man and carried a heavy Browning Automatic Rifle into combat. Operation Cobra began the next morning. Hatcher was killed on July 26 when the 331stInfantry Regiment was ordered to attack through a swampy area near Sainteny. He was hit by German machine-gun fire from a farmer’s field.
Awards: Purple Heart
Kenneth I. Hatcher is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot C, Row 16, Grave 33.
Dean A. Woods
315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
Plot C, Row 24, Grave 39
2ndLt. Dean Woods married his wife, Thelma, a second-generation Japanese woman, while on leave in the spring of 1944. The couple was unable to marry in their home state of Nebraska due to anti-miscegenation laws, so the ceremony took place in Iowa. Two weeks later, Woods was deployed with the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division for D-Day preparations.
On July 21, after leading a small reconnaissance patrol across the Aye River near LeSaye, Woods and his regiment came upon a minefield. As the regiment attempted to crawl through the field, Woods detonated a German anti-personnel mine, seriously injuring himself. To keep his men from suffering the same fate, Woods told them not to follow him. Due to the minefield, the men were unable to retrieve the body immediately and Woods was declared missing in action until the area was cleared and Woods’ body was found.
Awards: Purple Heart
Dean A. Woods is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot C, Row 24, Grave 39.
John Richard Garrabrant
8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division
Plot E, Row 17, Grave 8
Capt. John Richard “Dick” Garrabrant arrived in England in January 1944 with the rest of the 4thInfantry Division to begin D-Day preparations. At 28 years old, he had four years of ROTC at North Carolina State, and then four more years of training at various U.S. Army bases. On D-Day, he and 3,000 other members of the 8thInfantry Regiment landed on Utah Beach, one mile south of their target.
On June 10, the battalion commander assigned Garrabrant to take over Company ‘C’. Its officers had been killed or wounded as the American forces advanced deeper into the French countryside. He picked a four-man patrol to scout the area ahead of the company. He led three men into the woods, where the thick, shadowy growth provided limited visibility. Garrabrant was 25 feet ahead of the next man in his patrol when a machine gunner in the hedgerow opened fire and hit him in the gut.
Six weeks after the D-Day Invasion, Garrabrant’s family in Wilmington, N.C. received a telegram from the War Department that he had died in the invasion. Garrabrant was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in combat.
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart
John Richard Garrabrant is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot E, Row 17, Grave 8.
Thomas D. Howie
116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
Plot G, Row 14, Grave 12
Maj. Thomas D. Howie was born in Abbeville, S.C. and graduated in 1929 from The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, where he was president of his class and a star halfback on the football team. He taught English and coached at Staunton Military Academy before joining the Virginia National Guard.
Howie entered active duty with the 116thInfantry Regiment in 1941 and landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. On July 13, 1944, Howie was assigned to command the 3rdBattalion. Four days later, the battalion used hand grenades and bayonets to break through German lines and join the 2ndBattalion, which was isolated and nearly out of food and ammunition. Howie planned to use the 3rdBattalion alone to capture St. Lô. He phoned 29thDivision commander, Maj. Gen. Charles Gerhardt before the attack, and told him “See you in St. Lô,” and issued orders for the attack. Shortly afterward, Howie was killed by shrapnel during a mortar assault.
At Gerhardt’s request, Howie’s body was placed on the hood of the lead jeep so he would be the first American to enter the town. The photo of Howie’s flag-draped body in the rubble of St. Croix cathedral was widely circulated in the United States and became one of the most iconic images of the war. He is still known as the “The Major of St. Lô” and a monument to him is located in the center of the town.
Awards: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, French Croix de Guerre
Thomas D. Howie is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot G, Row 14, Grave 12.
41st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Armored Division
Plot D, Row 20, Grave 47
Pfc. Michael Macera was raised on his family farm in Johnston, R.I. where he worked until he entered the service in 1941 at the age of 21. Macera’s sister recalls that, prior to her brother’s departure, the family gathered together and he gave each of his family members a memento to remember him by. When he gave his sister his class ring, she told him that she would return it when he came home. In a letter she remembers, “He just looked away. It was as if he knew he would not be coming back.”
Macera trained as a machine-gunner and was assigned to Company ‘C’ of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division. Macera landed in Morocco on Christmas Day during Operation Torch but did not see combat. He first saw combat during the Sicilian Campaign, where he earned a Bronze Star for pulling a wounded soldier to safety. During the Normandy Campaign, Macera landed with the 2nd Armored Division on June 9, 1944. Fighting alongside the 101st Airborne, Macera and the 41st played a key role in capturing Carentan and St. Lo.
On September 1, 1944 Macera and the 41st Infantry had moved close to the Belgian border at LaChapelle, France. Members of the French resistance stumbled upon them, and confused by their uniform, opened fire. Macera was killed in a “friendly fire” incident. He was 24 years old.
Awards: Bronze Star, Purple Heart
Michael Macera is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot D, Row 20, Grave 47.