American Soldiers Proceed Cautiously through Hedgerows as American Casualties Lay in Foreground

June 1944Photograph

The hedgerows proved to be one of the most challenging obstacles faced by paratroopers and infantry forces as they made their way inland through the Norman countryside. The French hedgerows — known locally as bocage — were earthen mounds, 10 or more feet in height, topped with trees, shrubs, and brambles that had been growing for hundreds of years. Allied intelligence failed to recognize their defensive importance. German defenders emplaced snipers and machine guns to devastating effect at these natural choke points, slowing Allied forces and preventing them from easily penetrating inland without the aid of heavy guns and equipment.

Moving warily through a field, American paratroopers pass members of their own outfit who were victims of snipers at Carentan. Their faces lined with determination, the sky-fighters push ahead, seeking revenge.

Walter Ehlers and his squad take out a German machine gun nest