D-Day through St. Lo Breakout Continued...

We were most of the time behind the main line of attack in enemy territory, and would have had a lot of problems if we were not clearly marked for our planes to plainly see that we were friendly troops. From 13 June 1944 until 1 July 1944 we remained same location, running patrols to contact friendly troops, and doing maintenance on all equipment, cleaning our weapons that we were to carry into combat. Our map information, read as follows-France 1/50.000 GSGS,#1,250, St. Lo sheet: #T672742. l July, 1944 we moved about 7 miles, location number GSGS, #4250 to set up a Division command post, it was rainy, morale excellent. On the 14 July 1944 the platoons assault gun crews were sent to the vicinity of Caumont, France to train in firing their assault guns as a battery.

Now location about two miles W. at St. Paul Du Vernay, France. using the new sheet map location of St. Lo. #T725703. On 17 July 1944 the assault guns returned to the company at 1530A. On 18 July 1944 the company moved to GSGS, #4250, #6 F/2, St. Lo map sheet: # T 627764 which was a distance of 12 miles, and was 3/4 of a mile NE of Tournieres, France Weather was clear, morale excellent. On the 20 July 1944, weather cloudy, did maintenance. On the 21 of July 1944 we were alerted to move out, weather rainy. Then on the 22 July 1944 we were alerted to to be ready for combat mission. That night laying awake in my bed roll looking up at the stars and listening to the distance artillery firing in the distance, I had these thoughts. Here I was a young recruit, and I was trained, but I had never heard a hostile gun until a few weeks ago. I wondered, why did I volunteer? There was only one way to go here and that was forward. A good many men when they hear of war from a distance claim to be anxious to get into the battle. When they say so they generally fail to convince the people listening that they are as anxious as they would make you believe, as they approach the actual danger they become more subdued. This is not a universal rule, but I have known men who were always ready to fight when there was not an enemy in sight, and then there were some as good as there word when the fighting began. But the amount of men that fulfill this prediction is very small. How would I react in combat, you do what you have to do, the days ahead would be tell. Weather cloudy and rainy, morale still excellent. We remained at this same status until the 26 July 1944 at 0700 we moved out to location GSGS, #4250,# 6 F 4, St. Lo. Sheet: #T496751 to 1/2 mile NW of Airel , France, arriving at 1045 a distance of 9 mile. Weather clear and warm, morale excellent. On the 25 July 1944 Lt. Col. Wheeler Merriam, our battalion commander, was called to division headquarters and told to lead the division through a gap in the in the line.

He was told that the breakthrough would be made by a infantry division and it would be an easy advance for the 82nd Recon battalion. There were two Combat Commands, CCA and CCB, we were still under division control and had the company of the 17th Engineers attached to us, complete with a medium tank with a dozer blade attached to use on the hedgerows.

27 July 1944 company "A" and the 82nd Recon moved out into combat from the following location Map: France 1/50,000, GSGS, 4250, 6 F/3, Coutances sheet: #T389507 1 1/2 miles NE of Notre Dame Le-Leniley at 0830. The weather was clear and we were moving on gravel roads the had hedge rows on either side, the roads were narrow, this was to be my first day in combat and I nor any of the new replacements knew what we could expect, it was wait an see. The roads had many craters in them and we had to go around them making side passages around them and I can remember going along this road and coming out at the top of a a hill, hedgerows on each side and overlooking slight valley ahead of us and down the hill into a bunch of trees and hearing small arms fire, an occasional artillery shell hit in around the trees to the far side of the valley, their was a lot of dust coming from down in those trees. I was riding on the back of the M-8 armored car, McCormick, Wagner, Shields, and O"Neil were in the armored car, O'Neil was driving. Looking down into this bunch of trees and hearing all the gunfire and commotion I was sitting on the back of this scout car in the wide open thinking what have I gotten myself into.

We were following our scout section which consisted of 4 what they called 4x4's or Peeps ( some called Jeeps or 1/4 tons)). As we went on down further into the bunch of trees it was turning out to be lots of shooting and light armored tanks running up the road each way, the road was gravel and was wide enough for two lane traffic, here it was flat on each side of the road and there was quite a bit of dust, the edge of a village to the front of us, but we were not quite in the village.

Our armored car was ordered to go down the road to where a small one lane road intersected and take a left, this was right at the edge of the village and reconnoiter up this little one lane road, so we moved down the road and turned to the left and started up this small one lane road alone, we were in radio contact with the other vehicles in our platoon and the company command post. We started up the one lane road and after about 300 feet we came to a small incline, of course that was as far as we could see until we would reach the top of the top of this incline we just came to the crown of the incline then directly in front of us was a PzKpfw-V-German Panther tank. (This tank was introduced before 1942, it weighed 44.8 tons, had a 5 man crew, and mounted a 7.5cm Kw K-42 gun. It had a 690 Horsepower Maybach engine which was an improvement over the former engine that was first used in this tank called the Man engine. It was beset by problems , as the transmission was not big enough for all the weight the tank carried. This tank was comparable to the Russian built T-34, maximum armor of the Panther was 120mm, it was a powerful opponent.) This Panther tank was sitting no more than a hundred feet directly in front of us.

With a German crew riding in a casual position hatches open and two of them sitting on the edge of the turret where the 7.5 was mounted. They were as surprised as we were and they immediately started getting inside to position their 7.5 and to fire on us at point blank range. In the meantime our crew was not wasting any time we were all yelling for O'Neill to reverse and he did, he was well practiced in reverse driving. O'Neill put it in reverse and moved rapidly, faster than I ever dreamed that anyone could drive one of these armored cars backwards, he was all over the one lane road but we got down to the end of the road in time to back out of the line of fire of the tank. and backed the M-8 armored car down where we had entered the one lane road before the German tank could get to the crown of the hill and fire on us.

After we backed out we met an assault tank with a B-6 Howitzer on it heading down the road and he was going to cross this intersection and we tried to stop the assault tank but to no avail, the German Panther tank put a shell through the side of the assault tank, we never knew if their were any survivors of this assault tank as we were on back then trying to get a Bazooka team or a flame thrower over to the side of the tank to try and knock him out. It was hard to knock out a German tank from the front because of the slant in the front and the amount of armor thickness. The bazooka man was wounded in the hand and could not continue, was brought back for medical attention. In the meantime flying cover for us were some P-47's and the Company Executive officer was in direct contact with the squadron , he immediately called them to go for the tank. They were armed with two 500 bombs on each of the 4 planes , also they had plenty of other firepower, they came in with the bombs at about 1000 feet it was to the back of us and it seemed like that we had to duck they came in so low. They started a second run and a German FW 190 go on their tail, our radio control warned the squadron leader of this, he did a hook and fired 50 caliber into the plane and the German plane went down. It was over in a matter of minutes. That day we had the following wounded men Lt. Robert S. Frost, Pvt. Alvoid W. Morris Jr., Pfc. Robert Burdine, Lt. Danford J. Bubolz, Walter R. Looney. The company had knocked out that day one Mark V German tank, three towed 88mm guns, 11 half tracks and numerous other smaller vehicles, also we had captured about 125 German soldiers.

This day 27 July 1944, I saw my first American dead soldier laying along the road and it was heartbreaking, my morale was low. Seeing dead American soldiers was the upsetting to all of us, it was certainly a sight that we did not like. We were to see many more that day laying in ditches along the road or at the side of a buildings, sniping was a fact of life here and the Germans were fairly good at it. We arrived at map GSGS, #4250, 6 F/3, Coutances, France-sheet: T 389507, 1 and 1/2 mile NE of Notre Dame Le-Leniloy, France at 0300 the distance traveled was about 45 miles.