From Richard Atkinson: The Guns at Last Light:
Montgomery’s battle plan required a great lunge by the U.S. First Army to deepen the bridgehead, and in this he was disappointed. With high hopes but little imagination, Bradley ordered three corps abreast to attack south down three macadam roads beginning July 3. On the western edge of the Allied line, VIII Corps—with three divisions on a fifteen-mile front—took ten thousand casualties in twelve days while advancing only seven miles through swamp and bocage. Bitten witless by mosquitoes, “everyone was more or less confused,” one unit reported. Beyond Omaha Beach, on the left flank of the American sector, XIX Corps managed to cross the steep-banked Vire River and an adjacent canal in rubber boats. But a push for the high ground west of St.-Lô was thwarted by congestion, fratricide, and panzers counterattacking with sirens screaming.
In the American center, VII Corps fared no better—“That is exactly what I don’t want,” Joe Collins said after one ill-fated action. Casualties included fourteen hundred men from the 83rd Division during its first day in combat. One regiment ripped through five colonels in a week, and more Norman fields were upholstered with what Hemingway called “the deads.” An officer describing war in Normandy wrote simply, “The sadness of it is always with me.”
Combat skills proved suspect across First Army, from map reading to armor-infantry collaboration. Senior leadership seemed especially thin: in the space of two months, Bradley would relieve nine generals, including two division commanders from the 90th Division alone. The hapless 90th was about to be assigned a new commander, although he did not know it yet. During the Sicilian campaign, Bradley had deemed Ted Roosevelt “too softhearted to take a division,” but now he reconsidered and so recommended to Eisenhower. Roosevelt had been frantically busy as the military governor of Cherbourg; he had also been helping the 4th Division manage the five thousand casualties it had suffered since D-Day. The rifle company with which he had landed on Utah Beach had lost more than 80 percent of its men, he wrote Eleanor, and five of the original six officers. “Our best young men are being killed,” he told her. “Let us hope the sacrifice will be to some purpose.”
With his fifty-seventh birthday approaching, he confessed to “a desperate weariness,” and in a July 10 letter home complained that it had been “raining for God knows how long. It still is, for that matter.” But, he added, “now I’ve got a little home in a truck. It was captured from the Germans … and I’ve got a desk and a bed in it. The inside is painted white.” As always, he drew solace from The Pilgrim’s Progress: “Maybe my feet hurt and the way is hard, but I must go on.… My soul’s peace depends on it.”