German Prisoners at Maisy – the facts

We are so often asked about the number of Germans at Maisy… here is some information which helps answer that question.

This is the OFFICIAL – US Army award for Sgt Urish’s DSC. (for the Maisy action).

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Joseph W. Urish (ASN: 33575265), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces on (or about) 10 June 1944, in France. Just before his company was about to launch an attack on an enemy shore battery [Maisy Battery], Sergeant Urish, who was leading a patrol, voluntarily, on a signal being given by the enemy, moved into the battery alone to persuade them to surrender. After about a quarter of an hour the first of the enemy marched out to surrender. As they did the remainder of Sergeant Urish’s patrol loaded their rifles. The enemy, thinking they were to be shot in cold blood, scattered and returned to their post. Sergeant Urish faced by a now definitely hostile garrison, instead of attempting to escape in the confusion, remained in the battery completely disregarding his own safety in an attempt to further persuade the battery to surrender. Finally after much pleading and promising the enemy, one by one, laid down their arms, surrendered, and marched out. A total of one hundred sixty-seven prisoners were captured from a position that might have held out for days. Sergeant Urish’s intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 28 (June 20, 1944) Action Date: 10-Jun-44
Service: Army            Rank: Sergeant

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So that is 167 German Prisoners documented in the US archives as having been captured at Maisy Battery No 2.

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Below is also the DSC award for Major Richard Sullivan who led the assault on another part of the Maisy 1 Battery half a mile from Sgt Urish (at the same time). You will notice that in his award it says he captured 86 prisoners.

Thus making the running total of German prisoners 253… so far.

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PRESS RELEASE US ARMY July 1944

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major Richard P. Sullivan (ASN: 0-399856), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, in action against enemy forces during the period 6 to 10 June 1944, in France. Completely disregarding his own safety, Major Sullivan personally directed a successful landing operation and lead his men across the beach covered with machine gun, artillery and rocket fire. After reorganizing his men he immediately resumed his duties as Battalion Executive Officer and was placed in command of two Ranger companies which fought their way inland against fierce opposition to join and relieve the Ranger detachment on *******. [ Pointe du Hoc ] After laying communications through the enemy lines under cover of darkness, Major Sullivan directed the Rangers’ progress across country to ******* [ Grandcamp ] and *******. [ Maisy ] In cooperation with United States Infantry an attack was begun on the ******* [ Maisy ] battery. When certain elements were temporarily halted by artillery fire Major Sullivan, who had been wounded at *******, [ Maisy ] calmly and courageously rallied his officers and men, ordered a renewal of the attack, and instead of bypassing the resistance, advanced over heavily mined terrain to capture the ******* battery [ Maisy ] with a loss of only fifteen men. Eighty-six prisoners and several large caliber artillery pieces in concrete bunkers were taken.   Attacks by Major Sullivan’s command contributed greatly to the success of the entire Corps operations. By his intrepid direction, heroic leadership and superior professional ability, Major Sullivan set an inspiring example to his command. His gallant leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 28 (June 20, 1944)

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We have interviewed a number of men over the years who were with or near Major Sullivan when he was wounded.

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Ranger veteran – Albert Nyland:

“We had gone through Grandcamp fast, bypassing the village. We were with the 116th Infantry at that time. We had a couple of halftracks and mortars. We had mortars in C Company. With a mortar you had a gunner and I was a loader carrying the ammunition. I was a big guy and it was my job to carry the ammunition and follow with the rest of the crew. What we did was to go and make a reconnaissance before the Maisy attack… the Germans had dug it all out and there was a big hill – we fired into the site from a distance, but we only had six rounds left for each weapon.

The units in the southerly position with Sullivan, including some of E Company, advanced onto the fields after the brief C Company mortar attack. Major Sullivan climbed off the halftrack and was working with his men, advancing on foot when he was caught by the blast from a triggered mine. It was set off by another Ranger and he was lightly wounded, nonetheless he continued to lead the attack, this time slightly to the left of his original start position.

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Below After Action Reports for the 743rd Tank Bttatlion. You will notice it makes specific mention of the number of prisoners the 743rd Tank Battalion captured at Maisy – including grid references for the centre of the Maisy complex – which confirm the exact location.

743rd Tank Battalion. After Action Reports for each Tank company. Extracts taken from the S-3 Inteligence Journals HQ Section July 1944 – US National Archives.

A COMPANY 8th June 1944.
Moved toward west in assault on Pointe du Hoc at 0600. Were not fired on until in vicinity of Pointe du Hoc where mortar fire started dropping. Were in support of 3rd Battalion 116th in assault. Took objective at 1200. Lt. Ondre injured by mortar fire and evacuated. Moved on towards Maisy and because of mines on bridge reversed column and moved to Grandcamp les Bains (5593) moved to Maisy via Cricqueville en Bessin. Entered Maisy under mortar fire and machine gun fire, passed south out of Maisy on Isigny road. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was falling on the town and only one platoon was taken through. Two enemy pill boxes in strong point at 532915 [Maisy] were knocked out. Company returned to (562924) to bivouac.  Were attached to 115th Infantry during this period.

9th June 1944.
Stayed in bivouac area all day for maintenance. Captured 40 prisoners that evening near strong point Maisy (532915). [grid reference - centre of Les Perruques Maisy 1 Battery].

….. Thus making the running total of LIVE prisoners taken to 293 from Maisy… thus far.

B COMPANY 7th June 1944 – “B” Company.
Moved out at 0530 in support of 116th Infantry towards Maisy. Machine gun and sniper fire was very heavy. At 0900 encountered heavy artillery fire (155mm probable). Two tanks hit but no injuries sustained. One 57mm AT gun destroyed, 4 prisoners taken, several MG nests destroyed. Withdrew due to added enemy heavy fire, returned to bivouac Vierville sur Mer for fuel and ammunition. Returned to bivouac with 116th Inf. 21/2 miles west of Vierville sur Mer.

9th June 1944.
Moved to Maisy (537923) where received orders to move South of Maisy. Encountered several pill boxes south of Maisy which were destroyed. 5th Rangers asked for support on these pill boxes, 125 prisoners taken. No casualties sustained by our unit. Ordered back to Maisy to bivouac at 1800.

…..This makes the running total of prisoners captured at the Maisy Batteries by various units as 378… thus far.

Below is part of an interview in 1954 with Colonel Werner von Kistowki and author Cornelius Ryan. (a full account of this interview is available from Ohio University – Cornelius Ryan Archives).
Kistowski was commander of Flak Assault Regiment No. 1 attached to the 3rd Flak Corps. It was fully motorised and it consisted of three artillery groups, the 497th, a mixed group, the 226th, also a mixed group, and the 90th, a light anti- aircraft group. The two mixed groups had five batteries in all, and the light group had three batteries. Each of the two mixed groups had three batteries apiece. These had in them four 88s, nine 37mm and twelve 20mm. The light battery had 37mm and 20mm guns.
The entire Flak Regiment had 2,500 men with approximately 600 men to each battery and 100 attached to headquarters. Flak Assault Regiment I arrived on 5 June in the morning at La Cambe, and it was to position at the mouth of the Vire at Grandcamp.

“The light group of batteries were placed at the mouth [of the Vire Estuary – at La Martiniere] and the mixed groups were placed at Maisy and stretched across to the outskirts of the town itself of Grandcamp.”

6th of June… The bunches of Christmas Trees hung all the way from Carentan to the mouth of the river at Grandcamp. They drove very slowly as they headed for his headquarters. Then he heard his guns firing and he could see the flashes in the distance.

At 0148hr he received a telephone call from the 90th Artillery group (at Maisy) that the first POWs – paratroopers – had been taken. There were four prisoners and, ‘This was immediately followed by another seventeen near Maisy … These paratroopers fell on a battery between Maisy and Gefosse Fontenay’.

There were more reports of paratroopers landing so Kistowski drove to Maisy to see for himself what was going on. He described the bombing as ‘absolutely hideous – it was just murder’.

All the time in his foxhole Kistowski was able to follow the path of the gliders as they were towed in over the mouth of the River Vire passing over Grandcamp. He thought to himself, ‘If only this foxhole was smaller’……. It was while Kistowski was at Grandcamp that he happened to look out to sea and there to his amazement he too saw the fleet on the horizon steadily steaming towards the coast. During this naval bombardment, he had one 88mm gun destroyed and four or five other smaller ones, and there were terrific casualties among his men. He forgot what the casualties were, but he said “it was more than a hundred”.

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You will note that Colonel Kistowski lost more than “100 men” at Maisy… thus putting the casualty / prisoner figures at 478.

We have re-buried the body of a German officer at La Cambe Cemetery. We also have photographs of a further 14 graves which are still on the site awaiting re-burial.

Ranger veteran Cecil Gray told me the following in a filmed interview.

“It had been captured. I do remember some German firing a gun after everyone had surrendered and someone took him out and shot him! (another German casualty that did not leave the site).

F Company Ranger veteran John Reville told me this in a filmed interview.

” There were buildings there – before we knew it a German popped up – he was well in advance of the rest of his people but he popped up and put his hands up and he was Polish. We got him to go up towards the next pillbox and Muscatello was shot in the throat. I shot the guy who shot him and then we still had the prisoner we caught first.

We were firing near his feet to get him to order the others to come out. We eventually took about 40 – 50 prisoners, but we just didn’t see A Company. It was my platoon that took that area – we ended up taking part of the site on our own.”

The F Company Morning Report below confirms that Muscatello was wounded at Maisy on the 9th.

Casualty/prisoner figures for the Germans… – provable numbers stand at 478 + 1 + 1 + 14 + 40 which equals = 524 – and does not include the Germans we do not know about who died on the 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th of June by other means such as shelling and bombing.

Also not included are those mentioned seen dead at La Martiniere by the A Company men, or those who might have deserted – or others captured by units of the 1st Inf. Div.

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The Rangers had a vast site to attack, across three gun batteries. They attacked through a swamp, through minefields in broad daylight and the Germans knew they were coming…. These were brave men.

Maisy Battery. D-day 1944, Omaha Beach – Pointe du Hoc