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Cherbourg owed its importance to having the capacity to receive the largest ships afloat, and directly from the United States. General Bradley commanded the First Army; his first mission, to capture the port.
On 21 June the town was surrounded, on 25 June the Americans were penetrating the town itself, and on 26 June, the Fort du Roule was finally taken. General Bradley, addressing the people of the undamaged town, declared: ‘It’s a pleasure to be able to say to the French people: “Here is the first large town that is returned to you.”‘
While the town was intact, the port facilities were thoroughly wrecked by the Germans. Unsung heroes laboured in their tens of thousands to rebuild the port. The first DUKW or floating truck, risked the harbour roads on 16 July; the first Liberty Ship direct from the United States, on 8 October.
IT’S A PLEASURE TO BE ABLE TO SAY TO THE FRENCH PEOPLE, ‘HERE IS THE FIRST LARGE TOWN THAT IS RETURNED TO YOU’