STRATEGICAL ENGINEERING WORK
The Vernaison viaduct was one of the four civil engineerings works of the defense layout, 2 Sub Sector (HQ Bourg-de-Péage, colonel Clayette) and made up it’s left wing. Located west of the twinned communes of Bourg-de-Péage and Romans-sur-Isère, this railway viaduct linked Valence and Grenoble.
In the afternoon of 22 June a recce operated by a HS.126 of 3rd Air Reconnaissance Flight pointed out that the bridge was intact but crossing was not possible due to the presence on the bridge deck of a group of derailed wagons obstructing the passage to vehicles and tanks.
On the East side, the defense of the bridge from the left bank of Isère was easier given a dominating hill providing no cover to the attacking party and no protection against French machine guns and artillery. Position was held by elements of 14th Depot, 159 Alpine Infantry Regiment reinforced by a 65mm naval gun used in direct fire antitank role. The gun was manned by six naval gunners from 5th Fleet Crews Depot, Toulon.
On 23 June, elements of 12 Schützen Regiment and 36 Panzer Regiment came out of Romans and took up positions behind the viaduct. Despite an intense but ineffective artillery bombardment of the French positions on the evening and morning of the 24th, the German command decided not to cross the Isère via the Vernaison viaduct in order to avoid excessive casualties a few hours before the armistice.
4th PD: 4th Panzer Division (Armoured Division)
HS (Henschel) 126: German monoplane reconnaissance aircraft (crew of 2 men: a pilot, an observer/radio/rear gunner).
159th RIA: 159 Alpine Infantry Regiment
12th SR: 12 Schützen Regiment (Motorized Infantry Regiment)
36th PR: 36 Panzer Regiment (Tank Regiment)
CHAZALON, Thierry. Résistances ! Les prémices (juin 1940 – juillet 1941), la Résistance débute dès le 23 juin 1940 sur les rives de la basse-vallée de l’Isère. Montélimar : autoédition, 2011. 200 p.