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Subject: Normandy Mission 4: Meat Cleaver Hill rss

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Lawrence Davis
United States
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This is from the journal I'm keeping describing the missions and exploits of my company as we progress through the Normandy countryside. CPT Davis, Able Company "the Book Readers".

July 11, 1944
Just as I had hoped, we received the order to clear the woods and orchards we had been patrolling the past few weeks and secure the small village cottage first platoon had checked out earlier. The German paratroopers were harden veterans and apparently had been reinforced with artillery and mortars, so simply sweeping them aside wasn’t going to happen.

Understanding the difficult task Able company would have to pull off, the battalion assigned us a 81mm mortar FO, the field artillery observer, and attached a HMG platoon to the company. I felt very confident that with the added attachments, we would achieve the objective on time.

Due to the amount of terrain the company would have to transverse, I again thought we could not afford a reserve platoon. The company would assume a standard wedge formation with 3rd platoon, along with the 1st Sgt and .50 cal, as the tip. 1st platoon was assigned the right flank and 2nd platoon would cover the left. Our XO, Lt Davis (no relation) had joined the company after Lt Lane had been wounded at Creisy a month ago. He was a good junior officer and would accompany first platoon. I joined second platoon to assist as needed.

First and third platoons moved off line first, sending small assault teams forward as scouts. Second platoon however was frozen in place when one of the soldiers discovered a mine in front of his foxhole. Unbelievably, the entire platoon had set up just a short distant from a minefield. The Germans had used the platoon’s quick withdrawal from the area a few days ago to place a few mines around the existing foxholes.

Lt Ray, the platoon leader, began crawling between the foxholes informing the soldiers to vacate the area as quickly and as carefully as possible. As he reached the last foxhole, a sniper’s bullet tore into his right shoulder knocking him into the foxhole head first. Another shot rang out a minute later hitting one of the .30 cal crewman, but by now the sniper fire had been spotted in some hedgerows off to the left. The hedges immediately came under mortar fire from the company’s mortar section. Not knowing if the sniper was hit or wounded or even still in the area, I ordered several of the soldiers to take up position in the orchards to our north.
SFC Tribue took over 2nd platoon and would rally it as soon as possible at the center of the orchards.

As second platoon was getting it together, the small teams of scouts from 1st and 3rd platoons were coming under mortar and artillery fire. The terrain was almost entirely composed of woods and orchards, which only added to the lethality of the enemy shells. Fortunately very few soldiers were injured and the squads advancing behind the scouts were able to detect the location of the enemy spotters and place them under fire.

I joined the second platoon leader in the orchard as soon as I could but was startled to see that only a few soldiers had assembled there. "Where the hell is everyone?" I asked the platoon leader.
"Sorry sir, but I guess every man took it upon himself to make sure no mines were set off." he said.
“Great, the war will be over before everyone assembles here!" I yelled.
I wanted to run back to the foxholes and personally motivate the remaining soldiers to move up, but figured it would probably get someone injured or killed, including myself. It wasn’t long before my RTO was reporting battalion needed us to move up on the left flank to stay pace with Easy company. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that could be done until the remaining soldiers moved up to the rally point.

Luckily, first and third platoons were finding great success against the enemy forward observers. The .50 cal machine gun either killed or injured or scared the spotters off and by 1400 the mission’s objectives lay only a kilometer and a half away.

The platoons continued to advanced easily over the next hour and secured the primary objective, the village cottage which first platoon had patrolled a few weeks ago. As members of third platoon was moving up to clear the woods next to the cottage, they came under 75mm fire. A German infantry gun was dug in a short distance away and began pounding the immediate vicinity around third platoon. While third platoon figured out a plan to deal with this new threat, first squad from 1st platoon stumbled upon a command bunker on the far right flank and took several casualties.

Lt. Meadows ordered the rest of first platoon to move forward and out flank the bunker. From the west they fired on the bunker with intense machine gun and rifle fire, but failed to dislodge the German soldiers..

By now, the majority of squads and weapon teams from 2nd platoon had amassed at the orchard rallying point. Platoon leader Tribue began ordering the soldiers up the hill on the left flank. Hopefully, they would be able to fire down onto the German 75mm infantry gun which was holding up the center advance for 3rd platoon. As the soldiers crested the hill, they came under automatic machine gun fire from some hedgerows just north of them. The soldiers went prone, but then were immediately hit by artillery shells exploding in their mist. Several soldiers were badly hurt or wounded and what was left of second platoon staggered off the hill and back to the orchard’s rallying point.
I had to admit that the German tactics were superb. Machine gun fire would force the men to the ground and then artillery would tear them apart as they lay frozen.

As second platoon suffered on the left flank, 3rd platoon found itself in a fight for the center. A couple of German squads had attempted to infiltrate their lines but the platoon was managing to hold them back. However, the half squad of soldiers that had secured the cottage had now been forced back toward third platoon. It was now obvious that the Germans were conducting a somewhat successful counterattack.

As nightfall began, what had seemed like a milk run to our objectives, had now turned into a late evening struggle to hold the line. The German counterattack had been planned perfectly. Second platoon was in shambles on the left. Third platoon‘s advance in the center had come to a halt. And first platoon had failed to clear the bunker on the right flank. Having assessed the situation, I ordered the company to hold in place for the night. We had not secured the objectives this round, but Able would regroup in the morning and begin again.
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