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Unravelling the mystery of Captain Schwartzwalder's troop size at the la Fiere bridge battle on June 6th.


FGM Colour Sergeant
Apr 19, 2021
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London Ontario Canada
The battle at La Fiere bridge lasted from 6th June through 9th June but the date limit in the title refers only to the question I am dealing with in the title above. The strength of the parachute element led by Captain Schwartzwalder of the 507th PIR is variously reported as either 40-45 men or 80 men at different points in time at different locations. In some instances the sources agree and in some they conflict. So in what instances do we have agreement? On June 6, 1944, after the capture of the Leroux manor and the bridge by the confused and at times unintentionally combined efforts of elements of the 505th, 507th and 508th (the former being the principal combatant), and his expeditious exit from Cauquigny during the German advance against the causeway, Schwartzwalder arrived at Lt. Col. Timmes' position in the orchard with 'around' 80 troopers. All sources agree on this point. Most sources also agree that Schwartzwalder assembled only about 45 troopers after touching down east of the railroad that was east of the Merderet river. He was supposed to have been put down west of the Merderet with Timmes. After moving SE he linked up with Lindquist. During the battle for the manor, print sources have Schwartzwalder approaching the manor first from the north, then from the 'Y' intersection and finally from the southernmost hedge next to the Merderet flood, supposedly all the while without the 505th being aware of his presence and vice versa. Contradictions occur when he crossed the causeway immediately after the battle to get to his assigned side of the river. Some 'imply' 45 and some 80 troopers at this point. The answer to the riddle lies in the strength of Lt. Levy's position at Cauquigny. Lt. Col. Timmes had left Levy with only about 10 men to hold the church. It appears that after Timmes left another 40 or so men of the 508th (who should have been with Lt. Col. Shanley further south) straggled into Levy's position and dug in there. Some sources mention the stragglers but do not assign to them any strength numbers. It was in "No Better Place to Die" that Levy's strength is reported as 50 men by one of the soldiers in the battle. This suggests that around 40 stragglers had joined Levy. Schwartzwalder is reported to have deprived Levy of the 508th men and taken them to Timmes with him. Aha! Riddle solved. Add the 40 to Schwartzwalder's 45 and you get the oft-reported number of 80 (I know, 85) troopers.

Levy's remaining 20 originals plus 3 men of the 508th who refused to go with Schwartzwalder did a remarkable amount of damage to the oncoming 1057. Grenadiere, knocking out one and disabling two Renault R35 tanks near the intersection by the church before also fleeing to join Timmes. Not bad. The following attack on the causeway cost the Germans at least two more Renault's plus one Hotchkiss and probably one PzKw III (depending on which sources you believe), and .... in the second attack on the causeway the Germans lost at least one more tank and the remainder thought the better of it.