||I was in A Battery, 391st RO (recon) section,
which had a jeep and halftrack and seven to nine men. We like
everyone else were learning by our mistakes, and pride was overcoming
fear. We were in the first week of August and our big assignment
was helping a company of infantrymen from the 4th Infantry Division
take an objective. Lieutenant Patterson, Sergeant Marik, and
I packed our jeep radio and went on foot with them. We provided
artillery and reached our objective after getting pinned down
in a barn or horse stable.
Then we got a call to report back to go to the 1st Infantry Division.
When we arrived back, we learned our jeep driver, Robert Horton,
and Jean Parenteau had been killed by an artillery shell that
put our jeep out of action.
By 7 August, we were with Combat Command B again and the 30th
Infantry Division to halt a counterattack near Le Mesnil Tove
and Mortain. After reaching our objective on 9 August, we were
ordered to join Task Force 3, whose mission was to take the high
ground north of Mortain, to control the crossroads to Mortain.
We hit heavy resistance about 300 yards from our objective, and
the command made plans to go up a hedgerow lane, then out left
into a field, and then go through the next hedgerow.
Lieutenant Patterson told our driver, John Manual, to follow
the first tank when it made a hole with its blade. We tried to
do this twice, as the tanks were hit by anti-tank fire. Lieutenant
Cooper of I Company pulled up beside us in his tank and, while
waiting for another hole to be made, he jokingly said, "Wouldn't
it be nice to get a million dollar wound and get the hell out
of here?" His tank passed us by and was also hit trying
to break out of the hedgerow. I could feel the heat of the next
shell as we backed up. I saw two tankers get out of the tank
and pull Lieutenant Cooper out and carry him past us. He didn't
seem to be seriously wounded. I waved to him.
The other tanks had coiled in the field, and the German 88 that
had been waiting for us cut loose. Also mortar, artillery and
machine guns pounded our tanks and infantry. The tank next to
us went up in flames, and a tanker was having trouble getting
out. Another tanker jumped on the tank and tried to help but
was hit by a bullet. Then a shell beheaded the tanker. At this
point we bailed out of the halftrack. I was between two infantrymen
and a shell landed behind us and seriously wounded the two of
them, although I thought they were both dead. The rest of the
30th Infantry retreated. All or most of our tanks had been hit,
and what men could get out retreated back to the next hedgerow.
A piece of shrapnel hit our driver in the arm, and I helped him
All of our men were accounted for except Lieutenant Patterson,
who was kneeling over the two infantrymen near our halftrack.
I waved for him to come back, but he waved for me to come to
him. He had administered first-aid to them and was giving them
some morphine shots. We loaded and strapped one man on the left
fender, and I held the other man on the right fender as he drove
the halftrack to safety. We came out on the losing end and with
many dead and wounded and 15 of our 17 tanks knocked out. A corporal
was the highest ranking man left. It was one hell of a battle
witnessed by this 19-year-old kid.
We moved our halftrack in the field to the right of the small
lane, crawled under, and started digging, but it was rocky. A
message came in on our radio for Colonel Hogan, who had set up
in the field opposite us, and I started out when the shells were
coming in. Again I hit the ground and noticed Leo Zemitus walking
around. He told me, "If you are going to get hit, it has
your name on it." He was with our A Battery B.C. party with
Hogan. I made it to Colonel Hogan's halftrack as another barrage
came in. Hogan and crew had soft ground, or they must have dug
a hole and pulled the track on top. It was deep, as they were
all in the hole. I gave the message to Colonel Hogan and was
halfway back when I saw a medic with Zemitus. A piece of shrapnel
had passed through his arm. That night the Germans crept into
Hogan's field and tried to throw hand grenades under the vehicles,
but were shot.
On the morning of 10 August an attack was made down the lane
by the 30th Infantry with Lieutenant Patterson and Sergeant Marik,
but it failed and very few returned. I saw a medic leading a
man with his chin cut off and another with his arm hanging in
his sleeve, also a sergeant who, although not wounded, was in
terrible shape. Patterson and Marik were okay.
On the morning of the 11th, elements of Combat Command B broke
through to us, and another attack was made to the right of our
halftrack. The tank "Hot Hedy" appeared and an M5 Stuart
from headquarters of the 391st forward observer (section). Bill
Fullerton, Summers, Sergeant Ray Pierce and 1st Lieutenant John
Forston, had come to give artillery support for another company
of 30th Infantry Division. The Germans were waiting for them
as they got to the next hedgerow and let loose with artillery
and machine gun fire. I was in the hole under our halftrack as
a 2nd lieutenant knelt and waved his men forward. As they passed
our track they were mowed down. The men retreated and brought
in the dead and wounded.
An all-out attack was planned for the next morning. Lieutenant
Patterson and Sergeant Marik crawled down our hedgerow and crossed
over and picked out some targets on the crossroad for the next
morning. They saw one German run into a house and blew it up
with our artillery. Our tanks were getting ready to lead us in
the morning. That night while on guard duty something caused
me to freeze in my tracks and I couldn't move. It was an unfamiliar
sound that turned out to be a buzz bomb.
That evening and night the Germans pulled out, and we were able
to go 100 yards and reach our objective.
We turned around and headed back to help close the Falaise Gap.
It was good to be on the road again after spending three nights
the same hole under the halftrack. I was thinking of Lieutenant
Cooper and beginning to wish I was him.
Unknown to us at the time, the delay in the counterattack follow-up
scheduled for 9 August was caused by the Canadians of Montgomery's
Army Group pressing towards Falaise.
Also, during this period, we were holding the door open for Patton's
3rd Army to pass to our rear for a guided tour, guests of the
Free French of the Interior, of Brittany.
And all the while our army commander, Omar Bradley, was sitting
back there like a poker player with an ace in the hole, with
full knowledge of what the Germans were doing, and intending
to do, through decoding of German messages through their Enigma
machine cracked at Bletchley Park in England by Ultra Secret.