|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Jean-Pierre Lhonneur|
|• Land1||15.66 km2 (6.05 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||400/km2 (1,000/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||50099 / 50500|
|Elevation||0–30 m (0–98 ft)
(avg. 6 m or 20 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Carentan (pronounced: [kaʁɛ̃tɑ̃]) is a small rural town near the north-eastern base of the French Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy in north-western France near the port city of Cherbourg-Octeville. Carentan has a population somewhat over 6,000 and is now administratively organized as a commune in the Manche department. The town was a strategic early goal of the World War II landings as capturing the town was necessary to link the lodgements at Utah and Omaha beaches which were divided by the Douve River estuary (Nearby fields were flooded by the Germans up to the town's outskirts). The town was also needed as an intermediate staging position for the capture of the cities of Cherbourg and Octeville, with the critically important port facilities in Cherbourg.
Carentan is close to the sites of the medieval Battle of Formigny of the Hundred Years' War. The town is also likely the site of the historical references to the ancient gallic port (documented by Roman sources) as Crociatonum a possession of the Unelli (or Veneli or also Venelli) tribe (Greek: Οὐένελοι) as it is situated on the Douve River slightly inland from the beaches at Normandy—geographically, such gentle terrain as is nearby down the river valley is excellent for boat building
World War II
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Divisions landed at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula. Although the landings were scattered, they nevertheless secured most of the routes by which the U.S. VII Corps would advance from Utah Beach, the rightmost flank of the allied forces separated from the landings at Omaha and the other beachheads by the Douve River valley. The U.S. 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach shortly after dawn with few casualties, and began staging for a move against the fortified port of Cherbourg, for a port was critical to allied operations.
In the immediate aftermath of the landings, the priority for the Allies at Utah Beach was to link up with the main Allied landings further east, and this job was tasked to the 101st division, who had landed in the area and had been conducting raids against inland targets—mainly artillery emplacements helping secure and cut off the landings from such threats as well as reinforcements. On June 9, the 101st Airborne Division had reorganized sufficiently from the haphazard scattering of its component units and managed to cross the flooded Douve River valley exploiting their superior training and utilizing the few causeways passing through the flooded fields, and they captured Carentan the next day after a dawn attack in the all-day hard fought house to house fighting in the Battle of Carentan, where the Nazi German troops fought from strong prepared positions amongst the stone houses of the town. The capture of the town gave the Allies a continuous front joining Omaha to Utah Beach and the other three lodgements to the east of Utah. Possession of the town was maintained despite a German armor reinforced counterattack just to the south-west of town on the 13th known as the Battle of Bloody Gulch.
On 15 June, engineers of the Ninth Air Force IX Engineering Command began construction of a combat Advanced Landing Ground for fighter aircraft south of the town. Declared operational on 25 June, the airfield was designated as "A-10". It was used by P-47 Thunderbolts of the 50th Fighter Group until mid-August, then as a support airfield for supplies and evacuation of wounded personnel until November when it was closed. Today, a small private airfield is located on part of the wartime facility.
Carentan has been featured in many World War II themed games and TV series, including the computer games Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 as a multiplayer map. It was also featured in Company of Heroes, R.U.S.E., Men of War, Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30, Brothers In Arms: Earned in Blood and Battlefield 1942 as the map "Bocage".
101st Airborne March
The "101st Airborne March" was composed by Daniel Bourdelès, a Norman composer, for the celebration of the liberation of Carentan, in June 1944. This march created in Carentan is extracted from the CD "Carentan, the sky memory" (1994), produced by the town. It is regularly used as a musical illustration for the Normandy liberation films on France3 regional TV.
The arms of Carentan are blazoned :
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- Richard Talbert, Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, (ISBN 0-691-03169-X), Map 7 & notes.
- Anthropological inference, the slight damming of the river created a succession of shallow flooded fields (ponds)—such flats are excellent for setting up wooden boats.
- Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
- Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.