World Battlefronts: A Hell of a Nerve

Mortain was a critical spot (see above). There the Germans had thrown four armored divisions into desperate counterattack. The object: to pierce the narrow waist of the U.S. corridor from Normandy, thus split the Allied front. One U.S. division, new to combat when it landed in France, took the brunt of the Panzer blow, recoiled, then stood and slugged.

On an ear-shaped hill, bypassed in the Germans' thrust, was one of the division's battalions. It was in a fine position and in a bad way: it held a prized spot for directing artillery fire,...

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