After the Third Armored Division spearheaded the First Army's Cobra St. LO breakout after the July 26 bombing of the German front lines by the US Airforce. The Spearhead Division had found it tough going in the hedgerows of Normandy, and welcomed the open country, where they could drive with their Shermans leading the way, they Spearheaded the way to St. Lo. During the initial battle at Villers Fossard the going was tough. We had not been trained for hedgerow warfare. Sometimes it was devastating even after we learned to put prongs on the front of the tanks. We never knew what was on the other side for sure, and a few times we shot up another taskforce that we were attached to. It was hard to reach our objective and we were slow at it. The allies had broken out through Avranches and opened a hole for the Third Army to come through. The Third Army took over from the V111 Corps August 1 and begin to mop up Brittany. Avranches had become the center hub for most our supplies.
On August 1, General Omar Bradley, the First Army Commander was promoted to the 12th. Army Group. General Courtney Hodges became Commandeer of the 1st. Army.
The 3 AD with the 1st., 4th., and 9th. Infantry Division was placed in the V11 Corps, commanded by LT. General Joe Lawton Collins.
The 3AD teamed up with the 1st. Infantry Division to take Mortain rather easily after changing from the hedgerow to the open country. Then they took Brecy and crossed the See River, and established a beachhead which they turned over to the 3rd. Army. Mortain was turned over to the 30th. Infantry Division on August 6.
Hitler though it was a good time for a counter attack and told von Kludge of his idea and begin with a plan to launch a counter attack right away to retake Avranges and not only split the American First and Third Armies, but drive them into the sea. von Kludge and Hitler were on two different frames of mind. Von Kludge wanted to retire back to the Seine but Hitler decided to counter attack right away, and forced Kludge to come up with a plan to counter attack go through Mortain and to Avranches. But Hitler was going for all the marbles and not only take Avranches but push the allies back to the beach and into the sea. This was wishful thinking as he could not put his armies together soon enough.
von Kluge did not get all his divisions in place before the counter attacked through Mortain. General Eberbach of the 5th Panzer Army was put in charge. He was supposed to have 5 Panzer and 2 Infantry Divisions and who knows what strength. On August 4, von Kluge began withdrawing troops from the British front and concentrating them east of Mortain Because of the advancing of the 3 AD and the 1st Infantry Division he started the counter attack on August 7.
On that date the 3 AD got a new Commander. Brigadier General Maurice Rose.
von Kluge 's purpose was to split the 1st. and 3rd. Armies but they attacked toward the center of the 1st Army when they started with Mortain. Mortain was held by the 30 Infantry Division. and took most of the brunt of the Germany force. They drove the 30 Division out of Mortain except for hill 317 where they were isolated until August 12. Even airdrops failed, but they hung on.They were aided by three Divisions that came to their rescue and prevented the Germans from breaking through Mortain with their assault forces. They were the 1st. and 4th. Infantry Divisions and the Third Armored Division. The German front in the attack reached for several miles.