Ancien site / Old Website
Presse Itineraire de mémoire Espace Hamilton Levaufre Version
   
Edward S. Hamilton
1 Bis Place du Général de Gaulle • 50190 Périers
ehl.normandy@gmail.com
Henri G. Levaufre
Inaugurated on July 27,2019, the Hamilton-Levaufre Space is a place of memory dedicated to these two exceptional men, but also to the 90th US Infantry Division, the bombing of Périers, the exodus, the hard fights at Hill 122 and Sèves Island prior to the liberation of Périers, the reconstruction, the PLUTO pipeline, etc.

Edward S. Hamilton Henri Levaufre
Landing at Utah-Beach on June 8, 1944, Major Hamilton commanded the 1st Battalion (about 800 men) of the 357th Regiment of the 90th US Infantry Division during the fighting for the liberation of Périers.
Ed was a leader of men. On August 7, a few kilometers from Le Mans, his regiment decimated a unit of German soldiers, making 30 dead, 80 wounded and 280 prisoners. The following September 8th, in Meurthe-et-Moselle, he launched a new raid on the German positions which resulted in the destruction of 4 enemy tanks and the capture of 17 prisoners. This new action earned him the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic behavior under enemy fire. Promoted Lieutenant-Colonel, he is seriously wounded on September 10th at Hayange, in Moselle.

He was 13 years old at the time of the landing in Normandy. His life is forever marked by it, and the summer of 1944 will never stop feeding the daily routine of a life that has become extraordinary. All his life, he never ceased to know and to make known the history of the 90th US Infantry Division, that liberated Périers on July 27, 1944. Appointed as early as 1972 as its official representative in Europe, he is still today an authority in the knowledge of this unit for which, in contact with the inhabitants or veterans of both camps, he has collected an impressive quantity of testimonies on the living conditions and the fights. His greatest pride is, on the occasion of a meeting in Heidelberg in 1979, to have brought a new friendship between yesterday's enemies, the soldiers of the 90th US Infantry Division and those of the 6th German Parachute Regiment.


The 90th US Infantry Division
The 2 bombardments
  The first elements of the 90th Infantry Division (2 battalions of the 359th Infantry Regiment attached to the 4th Infantry Division) landed on Utah-Beach in the morning of June 6, 1944. The rest of the division arrived there two days later. On July 22 and 23, 1944, after having successfully crossed the Sèves River and despite the Résultat de recherche d'images pour "tought ombres"efforts made to stay there, the men of the 358th Infantry Regiment were forced to surrender or to return to their starting line. The fighting was so violent that a truce was negotiated so that each side could recover its wounded abandoned on the battlefield. Of the approximately 35,000 men who had spent 308 days in combat, the 90th Infantry Division counted 2,963 killed, 14,009 wounded, 1,052 missing and 442 prisoners. Contrary to the information provided to the bomber crews, Périers does not house German Headquarters, it is only a crossroads of two major axes. In Périers the fear is there of course, but the hope of a close liberation helps to moderate it. We don't have to fear much here in such a small town... think the inhabitants. On this 8th of June, for the inhabitants of Périers, it is 8:11 am, the hour when their life will change... And for 127 of them, it will stop. The 41 planes dropped 213 bombs of 500 pounds, about 50 tons of explosives. In ruined Périers, the rescue services are organizing themselves as best as they can, looking for survivors, burying the dead and treating the wounded. The survival instinct prevailed. You have to flee, to seek for a safer shelter in the countryside. And on June 13, all hell breaks loose again...


The exodus
Hill 122
This word speaks to the people of Normandy that Allied bombing forced to leave their towns, their villages to seek shelter in the countryside. The center of the village of Périers is now in ruins. There are no doctors left to take care of the wounded. Fear is omnipresent. Most of the time the first goal is to try to reach another family home or a friendly farm. Then what seems to be essential for survival is loaded into a cart or a wheelbarrow. Once on the roads, the danger is not removed, quite the contrary. Up in the sky, the incessant ballet of allied fighters is on the lookout for the slightest movement. A vehicle on a road, even covered with a white sheet, is bound to be suspicious in the eyes of the young trigger-happy pilots.
The summit of Mount Castre has an elevation of 122 meters above sea level, hence the name of Cote 122, in English Hill 122. The view enjoyed by German artillery observers from the heights of the mount allows them to precisely and deadly adjust their guns. The Americans started their attack from July 3. The Germans held firm and prevented the Americans from advancing any further: 90% of their losses were due to German artillery. Disorganised, exhausted and permanently soaked for nearly a week, the American soldiers had a particularly low morale. The return of good weather on July 5 made air support possible. The vise will finally be loosened on July 10 at the cost of heavy losses and thanks to the intervention of four Sherman tanks of the 712th Tank Battalion led by Lieutenant Jim Flowers. Mount Castre and the surrounding area were completely liberated on the 12th.


Hospital lane
Reconstruction
On the evening of July 24,1944, the objective is the capture of Périers and of other villages further south. The 359th Regiment had to position itself a few kilometers north of Périers, in front of the Hospital lane, a dirt road on the edge of the marsh. Enclosed under tall trees between two thick hedges, the Germans transformed it into a fortification line. The first difficulty is to succeed in crossing the Sèves, the river that flows through the open meadows. The Germans had several tanks at their disposal, which took the American forces in enfilade. At the end of the day on the 26, unable to hold their positions because of a lack of support, the men had to resign themselves to rejoin the position they had left that morning. Out of a starting strength of 450 men, these 15 hours of uninterrupted fighting will have cost 72 killed and 176 wounded. After numerous attacks, Périers is finally liberated in the afternoon of July 27.
The bombardments on the mornings of June 8 and June 13, 1944 plus the artillery shelling during the days leading up to the liberation of July v, left the center of the town of Périers almost 80% destroyed. Although the American engineers cleared the two main roads with bulldozers to ease the crossing of the tanks of the 4th Armored Division, the clearing of houses had to be done mostly by hand with shovels, pickaxes and wheelbarrows. The Prisiais (name of the people of Périers) will be temporarily housed in wooden barracks, donated by international solidarity, which will cover all available spots, including places like the Fairage, the railway station and General Leclerc.


The pipeline
Video room
In 1944, an American armored division requires 228 tons of fuel per day on the road. A jeep consumes 15 liters of gas per 100 km, a Sherman tank more than 400 liters for the same distance (average numbers). Every day the men must be supplied with food, clothing and ammunition, but in a modern army it is necessary to ensure the supply of fuel for all vehicles. The answer: an underwater pipeline linking the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, which will carry about 3,000 tons of fuel every day. Its name: PLUTO = Pipe-Line Under The Ocean. From time to time there are leaks, more or less consequent, and the surrounding civilians hasten to go and recover the precious liquid using all the available containers, including the famous Jerrycan, famous in particular among the American troops.
A room is dedicated to the projection of films, most of them unpublished, with many pictures and videos coming from archives. About fifteen sound and color films are available, in French or English, with the possibility of subtitling in French, English or German. The choice is yours!

Practical information
The Hamilton-Levaufre Space is open to the public from the beginning of June to the end of August. Outside this period, contact 07 73 53 46 11, 06 88 04 27 41 or 06 62 12 29 09, whether for school groups, pensioner groups or others.
Admission is free.
Area fully accessible to people with reduced mobility.



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