Purple Heart Lane
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Purple Heart Lane is a nickname for Highway N13 near Carentan, France, used by American soldiers and historians to denote a battlefield on which Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole and his troops of the 101st Airborne Division fought during the Battle of Normandy in World War II. The name arose because Cole's troops sustained many casualties in the advance on June 10, 1944, along the causeway of N13 supporting four bridges that spanned the Douve River between Carentan and Saint Come-du-Mont, and in the battle on the morning of June 11 that resulted in a skirmish known popularly as "Cole's Charge". The Purple Heart is an American military decoration awarded for sustaining wounds in combat.
Cole and his unit of 400 men – 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment- were part of D-Day mission Albany. They were called from reserve into action to attack four bridges on highway N13 to Carentan. On June 10 and 11, 1944, Cole and his battalion fought an intense battle on this causeway for nearly two days under intense German machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. In the morning of D+5, with the Germans resisting Cole's attempts to take the bridges, Cole ordered heavy artillery on the German strongholds.
The artillery failed to suppress the German fire, so Cole, faced with the destruction of his battalion, immediately decided to assault the Germans head-on. Cole ordered his men to affix bayonets to their rifles and ordered a smoke screen to conceal the attack. At 6:15 AM, Cole blew his whistle and led his surviving men across the ground towards the German positions. At first Cole fired his pistol at the Germans, and along the way he picked up a fallen soldier's M1 Garand and bayonet. His attack, while successful, resulted in the deaths of many of his men; only 132 of the initial 250 men in his battalion remained after the assault and later defense of the captured position. This assault became known as "Cole's Charge", and the following defense against the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment (supported by the 1st Battalion, 502nd PIR) as the "Cabbage Patch".
Cole was recommended for a Medal of Honor for his actions on June 11, 1944. However he would not live to receive it, as he was killed by a sniper during Operation Market Garden on September 18, 1944 in Best, Netherlands. His mother received his posthumous Medal of Honor. Lt. Colonel Robert G. Cole was buried at American Battlefields Monuments Cemetery in the Netherlands.