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Subject: Normandy Mission 5: Late night patrols, no cake walks rss

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Lawrence Davis
United States
Indiana
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July 13, 1944.
Able Company’s prize for a mission well done was a goodnight’s rest on the ground we took 2 days taking from the Germans. Our new mission would be to perform more patrols just north of our temporary home. The terrain further north was mostly woods and hedge rows with an occasional farm house. We received new replacements who were brought up from the rear and filled the many slots we were under strength in. Battalion was determined to keep the Germans on the run.


First platoon started out from the cottage house we had taken yesterday. 1st squad lead the platoon and searched a very small village north of the cottage. Lt. Little brought up the rest of the platoon and secured the three houses in the village.

With the houses secure, first squad began moving north along a small road flanked on both sides by hedge rows. Due to the darkness, the platoon leader felt it would be quicker for the squad to move along the road than fight through the woods on their left. As the squad neared a small bend in the road, an explosion ripped through the point man and his slack. First squad had stumbled into a carefully laid minefield. Knowing that the Germans tended to cover their minefields with LMGs, the remaining soldiers of the squad immediately began crawling forward eventually reaching the hedge row line that was marked as the objective. As the squad began moving back from the hedge row into the woods next to the minefield, a German machine gun opened fire hitting several soldiers. Only two soldiers made it back to the safety of the village unhurt.

A night’s patrol from our new position proved the Germans were very much intent on staying in the area.


July 19, 1944
Several days later third platoon left the perimeter and took up a position at the combat outpost. Unlike our previous outpost, there was no solid structure to hold up in and the soldiers simply took up positions in a few surrounding foxholes. Lt. Slewder, the platoon leader ordered three soldiers from second squad to move up into the forest north of the outpost. A German spotter a few yards deep into the woods overheard the moving men and quickly called in a artillery barrage. The barrage pinned the soldiers in their tracks, but failed to cause any casualties.

As the three soldiers stayed frozen to the ground, Lt. Slewder moved up third squad and waited to see if another artillery barrage would begin, but the area remained calm. The enemy artillery spotter had apparently been ordered to call in only one barrage and then move back toward his lines using the cover of darkness to slip away. As he had done earlier, Lt. Slewder ordered three soldiers from third squad to move forward into the objective hedge row.

As the men crouched forward, a German MG42 opened fire. The soldiers dropped to the ground and immediately began crawling back toward the American lines. A few minutes later they had rejoined third squad and the rest of the platoon. Having achieved its nightly goal, Lt. Slewder ordered the platoon back to the main line.

Again, a night’s patrol had come under heavy enemy fire, but this time had managed to avoid any casualties.


July 24, 1944
Five nights later, second platoon was ordered to patrol the left flank. I set in on the patrol briefing and sensed that several of the platoon’s soldiers were uneasy. It was almost certain that the lead squad would come under enemy fire and no one wanted to endure that. The night’s objective was a small gully about a kilometer north of the Company’s defensive line. The map showed a small clumping of buildings on a hill to the far left, but it was decided that the platoon would avoid this area if at all possible. It offered such a great advantage point that I was certain the Germans would have a scout or two, if not an entire platoon, held up there.

Lt. Tribue formed an assault team from first squad and ordered it forward into the marshy terrain north of the platoon’s set up line. The three men crouched forward and had made good distance when they suddenly spotted a German squad moving slowly south toward the marshes. The assault team leader immediately sent a soldier back to the line to report what the team had found.
“Sir, there is a German squad moving toward our lines!" The panting soldier quickly said.
“There is a single row of hedges about 200 yards ahead, sir."
"They just appeared out of it and began walking toward us. They hadn’t yet spotted us and it was too many of them for us to open fire on alone sir."

Just as the soldier had finished speaking an illumination round shot over the marshes. The whine of a German machine gun could be heard as gun fire erupted in the marshes. It was now apparent the assault team had been found by the roving German squad.
I looked at the map and noticed that our outpost had good line of sight and firing lanes into the hedge row the soldier spoke of. I ordered the Browning LMG and the bazooka team to take up a position in the foxholes at the outpost.

A minute later, I could hear the Browning machine gun firing from the foxholes. Lt Tribue gathered up the soldiers from first and second squad and ordered them into the marshes where he also followed. Under intense fire, the German squad pulled back behind the hedges and out of sight. Feeling that he had the initiative, Lt Tribue ordered the unhurt assault team to scour the hedge line. As they had done before, the three soldiers crouched to the edge of the hedge row only to come under fire from a distance mortar. The soldiers hit the ground and waited. The mortar fire stopped almost as quickly as it began.

Undeterred, the assault team found a path through the hedge row and quickly moved into the gully. Just as soon as the men slid into the gully, German heavy and light machine guns opened fire on the gully. With bullets bouncing around them, the soldiers hurriedly crawled out of the gully and back through the hedge row. The assault squad made it back to the marshes and gave their report to Lt. Tribue. "Sir, the Germans are as thick as ticks back there." the assault leader stated. "There is a line of trenches and bunkers and machine gun nests beyond the gully. It’s going to be a hellva tough nut to crack sir."

I was not surprised to hear the report. The Germans had been very active during our patrols over the past week. It was just a sobering sign of what Able Company could expect.
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