US 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division advancing into the port city of Brest in Brittany. (location - the junction of Rue de la Duchesse Anne and Rue Albert de Mun in St.Marc, Brest.)
9th September 1944.
US forces began their final move on Brest on 7 August 1944 and encountered heavy resistance from a very well organised defence.
The commander of VIII Corps, General Middleton, reported that the defence network was the original French works that had been improved upon by the German defenders. The Allies encountered a complex series of fortifications that blocked all the approaches to the city. The German defenders also had a huge store of artillery ammunition for the costal batteries that had been modified so they could fire inland.
At the heart of the German defensive network was the 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision led by General Herman Ramcke. In support were the 266. and 343. Infantrie divisions with various other supporting elements mostly in the form of anti-aircraft batteries and Festung kompanies. This elite corps gave the Germans a solid backbone to ensure that every inch of ground was contested.
The main objectives to secure the path into the city were hills 105 and 90. These were the two dominant terrain features of the countryside. The assault on hill 105 took place on 1 September 1944 by the US 2nd Infantry Division. The hill was heavily fortified and held dual-purpose anti-aircraft guns that dominated the area yet the infantry were able to succeed on the first day with the help of their engineers. Hill 90 could not be assaulted until after the artillery stores were replenished so the 2nd Infantry Division had to wait until 7 September to begin this assault. Hill 90 was fortified in the same manner as Hill 105 and, although it was very difficult fighting, by the end of the day the position was taken. Once these two hills were taken the drive to the city out skirts became much easier.
The last phase of the encirclement of the fortress wall began on 14 September as the Allies attempted to assault Fort Montbarey. The assault was led by 15 Churchill “Crocodile” flame tanks. The first attack was repulsed, but on the following day the fort fell. With the capture of Fort Montbarey the German positions finally began to collapse. On the night of 15 September US forces began crossing the old fortress wall and by 17 September they were closing in on the last pockets of German resistance. General Ramcke surrendered on 19 September 1944 and 20,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner.
The important port city of Brest was liberated on the 18th of September 1944 after a 39 day battle.
(Colourised by Royston Leonard UK)