749TH TANK BATTALION
From Avranches To Laval, Paris And Belgium
August 5, 1944 - September 5, 1944
The stay in Belgium was brief - a few days - and then the 749th turned south and east and headed for northeast France - Alsace and Lorraine.
Cities: Avranches, Fougeres, Vitre, Change, Laval, Avesse, Loue, LeMans, Bonnetable, Le Mele San-Sarthe, Mortagne, Nogent le Roi, Gassicourt, Mantes, Rouillon, Pruflle, Bonnetable, Mortain, Mars Le Briers, Marolles Les Broults, Le Mele Sur Sarthe, Laleu, Verigney, Le Tremblay, Rosny sur Seine, Guernes, La Roche Guyon, Villers en Arthies, Veteuil, Fontenay-St Pare, Limay, Guitrancourt, St. Cyr en Arthies, Drocourt, Meulan, Fremainville, Aincourt, Arthies, Sailly, Maudetot, Genainville, Banthelu, Wi-dit-Joli, Arthies, Berville, Meru, Beavais; (Belgium) Peronne, Rumegies, St Amand.
Distance: 150 miles, 31 days.
Allied Units: 3rd Army, 7th Armored Division, 5th Armored Division, 79th Division - 313th/314th/315th Regiments, 304 Engineering Battalion, 310th FA Battalion, 85th Recon, 2nd Cavalry Group, 106th Cavalry Group, 121st Cavalry Squad, 813th TD Battalion, 304th FA Battalion, 113th Cavalry Group.
German Units: 748th Infantry (708th Fusiler Bn), 708th Infantry Division, 18th GAF Division, 17th GAF Division, 200th Infantry Division.
2 Aug: Granville: No enemy opposition was encountered in movement of units from position at beginning of period to present position of advanced infantry elements. Battalion left in column from bivouac southeast of Granville. Order for assembly area changed en route. Originally planned to stop north of St James, new objective Fougeres. Bn given road priority to quell reported tank counter-attack. Left from bivouac southeast of Granville. Passed through Avranches. Air activity heavy during hours of darkness. Traveled 33.2 miles to advance CP Closed into area at 2400 hours. (Map 4)
3 Aug: Fougeres: Enemy contacted in Fougeres early in the period. 313th and 79th Recon entered Fougeres. (Map 5) . The town was lightly defended by AA personnel. 50 PW's and 4 88mm guns and some motor transport were captured. Cav forces patrolled south to vicinity of Vitre. "C" Company had mission to move into town of Fougeres at 1730 hours and sweep for possible area of resistance. One platoon of infantry rode on top of tanks. No resistance in the town. Two enemy guns of large caliber followed "C" Co outside of town, but were captured by infantry with material intact. Mortar fire encountered but no large guns. "C" Company reconnoitered for assault position and routes for further advance. "A" and "B" Companies selected assault positions on high ground on outskirts of city. "D" Company reconnoitered roads north and east of city.
4 Aug: South of Fougeres: Regiment A and R Platoons patrolled out from their sectors. Two enemy scout cars were reported in the Fougeres-Ernee Road at 1600 hours. Elements of the 2nd Cav Gp captured Vitre at 1500 hours after being opposed by a force estimated at 150 men, heavy mortars, and three 88mm guns. The 106th Cav Sq. patrolled from Fougeres to the outskirts of Ernee and found the town occupied by an enemy force of unknown size. At 2100 hours a patrol from the 85th Recon Bn was fired on by an AT gun near La Pellerine. The 106th Cav Sq patrolled to La Croixille and found a road block just north of town protected by enemy. Enemy aviation active during the period. 749th intact in bivouac in Foret de Fougeres. Air activity heavy at night, bombing and strafing.
5 Aug: Laval: (Route Map 1) (Map 6) 313th Combat team pre-1 platoon of 106th Cav and 79th Recon moved to western outskirts of Laval. Some resistance was met at La Croixille where prisoners were taken and three 20mm guns, one 37mm gun, and one 88mm gun were captured or destroyed. 106th Calvary Group cleared road from Vitre to Laval and patrolled on the division left flank. The 313th Combat Team drove enemy outposts into Laval. 749th Bn assigned to Combat Team 3 (Col Woods. 313th, commanding), left Fougeres at 0830 ( 313th Hdq field order Aug 5) driving to Laval. "A" Company and one platoon "D" Company in advance guard. One 88mm gun destroyed by "A" Company at La Croixille. "D" Company met resistance 3 miles north of Laval and east of road. "A" Company took up position approx 3 miles north of Laval in support of 313th and moved south by yardage. AT and S/A resistance encountered. Four tanks of "B" Co. out of action but all repairable - hits on bogie wheels and guns. Tk Comdr shot in head by sniper SWA (Sgt Disney, "A" Co.).
Laval: 313th and 314th cross Mayenne River at ... Laval and Change. The
106th Cav Gp also forced a crossing at 702525 and contacted the 313th GT in
Laval at 2100. Bombing mission on the road east of Laval.... 16 ammunition trucks and 8
Tiger tanks destroyed. "C" Co with 314th advanced to
Change, destroying AT guns and many infantry. "B" Co, had five casualties: WIA 2nd Lt Greenberg, INA 2nd
Lt Traweck, SWA S/Sgt Denenny, SWA Cpl Crawford, SWA Pvt Biancaniello....
749th Battalion assigned to 3rd US Army (Patton) as of today.
7 Aug: East of Laval. Adv 35 miles against light opposition at Bazougers, Brulon, Loue. "A" Company platoon of tanks sent to Avesse where civilians reported one tank and 100 enemy troops. 106th Cav Gp contacted enemy late in the afternoon. 79th Recon engaged 8 riflemen, 10 mortar, 1 AT gun at 2200 hours. Same troop knocked out 2 German recon vehicles and killed or captured 8 occupants. "C" Company ..... outskirts of Loue where enemy maintained good defensive positions. Lieut. Col. Donaldson, Bn Comdr of 749th, killed in action by sniper fire while with "C" Co. WIA, T/Sgt W. Venema. Traveled 40 miles.
8 Aug: LeMans: (Route Map 2) (Map 7) "A" Co attached to 2nd Bn 315th left Loue 0800 for LeMans, preceded by 121st Cal Gp and 79th Recon. 813th TD located 2 MK IV tanks but they moved before destroyers could reach them. Troops followed tanks, and mounted tanks outside LeMans. Reached town square 1700, captured about 50 PWs. "D" Co 20 PWs taken. No enemy resistance. "C" Co at Rouillon with 1st Bn 315th... blew up large ammunition dump. Encounter with 90th Civ troops who fired on our column by mistake.
9 Aug: LeMans: SP and AA guns knocked out by 813 TD Bn near Lemans. "D" Co mission ... taken care of by 5th Armd Div. [Editor: The 81st Tank Battalion of the 5th Armored Division was on the right flank of the 749th for some time between Avranches and Mantes-Gassicourt].
10 Aug: Div did not meet any organized resistance during its advance behind 5th Armd Div thru 13 Aug. Bonnetable, St Mars Le Briere, Marolles Les Broults, Le Mele Sur Sarthe. 106 Cav Gp patrolled east flank of the Div. Traveled 70 miles.
13 Aug: No contact with enemy. 106Cav Gp patrolled the E flank of the Div.
14 Aug: TD Bn had a sharp engagement at Laleu. All tanks need maintenance work badly. The enemy displayed his desperate plight today by trying to get through to the East during daylight.
15 Aug: Traveled 50 miles. Late in the period the 7th Armd Div mixed in with our column at Nogent Le Roi. Traveled 72 miles
16 Aug: Nogent Le Roi. Tank engines are fatigued, tracks in need of turning and some new tracks are needed. Many minor oil leaks in engines.... which we are unable to repair. No enemy contact. 106th Cav Gp met small groups of the enemy throughout the day.
17 Aug: Maintenon. "C" Co One casualty DVA (T/5 Bank) from flak and strafing. No contact with enemy. A large German ordnance establishment was located at Maintenon. 106 Cav Gp reported two more enemy aircraft were shot down.
18 Aug: Mantes-Gassicourt. (Route Map 2) (Map 8) Enemy could be seen withdrawing to the Seine River from La Beitte Verde. 106th Cav Gp fired on them. Tanks were brought up and directed fire ... . Traveled 33.7 miles ... to Mantes-Gassicourt, preceded by the 106th Cav Gp. "B" Co ... as leading element ... reaching south edge of Mantes. 2nd platoon "B" Co encountered enemy vehicles, fired direct fire ... knocked out two vehicles.
Mantes-Gassicourt. Patrol of 313th captured Rosny Sur Seine and reported
Bonniere Sur Seine clear. Civilians reported 6 enemy tanks had left the town
earlier in the day. 313th captured 32 vehicles, 1 Mk IV tank, 1 AA gun.
Machine gun fire across the Seine from Guernes and Limay. 40 German
fighter-planes were over Div sector. 314th
patrol reports Mantes clear. A patrol of the 304th Eng Bn crossed the dam north of Mantes. They
were the first Americans across the Seine River.
20 Aug: Mantes-Gassicourt:
Enemy front lines on high ground east of the Seine. 79th
Inf Div was the first American Div to cross the Seine when the 313th,
1st Bn 315th, and 310 FA Bn crossed during the period.
The 313th and 314th ran into organized resistance along the line
Veteuil-Fontaney-Limary. 749th Co.'s "A" and "B" crossed the (Seine)
river at approx 1715 hours, reverted to Ret. control.
Editor: People in France living in this area tell me that the 313th crossed the Seine via the dam near Mericourt, the 314th at Mantes-Gassicourt, and the 315th at Rosny Sur Seine. The first pontoon bridge used to cross the Seine on August 20th went from Rosny Sur Seine (west of the river, about 3 miles NW of Mantes) to Guernes (east of the river). On the 25th a second bridge was constructed at Mantes-Limay. Here is a picture given to me by Bruno Renoult and Genevieve Havelange showing the 749th crossing the bridge at Rosny sur Seine.
21 Aug: Limay. In the afternoon 314th captured Limay and with the 315th extended the bridgehead. Enemy aircraft active in trying to knock out pontoon bridge; 11 airplanes were shot down by AA fire. "B" Co with 314th encountered enemy Inf but when artillery concentrated ... enemy scattered. Enemy fire ... S. of Guitrancourt... came from a barn. "B" Co. tanks fired HE blowing the roof off the barn. Several PWs taken.
22 Aug: La Roche Guyon
and Villers: (Map-8) Enemy aircraft active over the
area, unsuccessfully attacking the pontoon bridge. 79th Recon Tr .... along the
Limay-Meulan road. 106 Cal Gp reports Germans have reoccupied Epone and Maule. At 900 hours 313th and .... 1 Plt "A" Co
... to clean strong point known to be Rommel's Hqs at La Roche Guyon. An
underground fortress, castle, motor parks, electricity, air conditioning,
1-5 mile depth was encountered. 20 enemy killed and 20 PWs. I tank hit by
bazooka. Two EM WIA (T/5 Coyne, Pvt Heindselman). One tank hit on turret by
mortar fire, breaking all periscopes - no casualties. Another platoon
"A" Co to Villers to root out reported 30-40 Germans. One tank
destroyed .... by Molotov cocktail; no injuries. Tank
caught fire, crew unable to extinguish flames due to exploding ammunition.
314th sent East toward Guitrancourt to clean out enemy who had penetrated our
lines; moved back to our lines at 1815. Two assault guns fired 120 rounds HE and
WP; light tank platoon fired 37mm HE and 30 MGs. Ammunition dump under haystack destroyed by "D"
Co. tank. Many Germans
killed. "B" and "C" companies not committed.
Editor: Bruno Renoult in France told me he has some of the glass from the broken periscopes mentioned above. Here is a picture from him of a 749th tank in the city of LaRoche Guyon:
23 Aug: Guitrancourt: The enemy attacked again at 0800 with elements of the 17th and 18th GAF supported by 4 tanks. The 3rd battalion of the 314th bore the brunt of the attack, and drove back the enemy with heavy losses.... Two of the German tanks were knocked out. 3rd Platoon "B" Co. set up on edge of light brush and fired at scattered enemy infantry. Due to error of communication ... one friendly TD knocked out by one 75mm HE at 1600 yards. It was not known that the 315th was swinging N and E from where the TD came. 2nd Plt "B" Co attacked from high ground, supporting 314th to retake ground near Guitrancourt. Killed 15, took 30 PWs, wounded 15, knocked out 2 German tanks. "A", "C", "D" companies not committed.
24 Aug: Guitrancourt: Motors were heard in Guitrancourt at 0100 and artillery fired on this target. At 1100 the 18th GAF attacked the positions of the 313th. The attack was repulsed and prisoners were taken. Mortar platoon from 749th HQ Co to support 313th with 3 81mm mortars.
25 Aug: Guitrancourt: (Map-8) Enemy artillery very active during the period. Small groups of enemy observed digging in all along our front lines. Our aircraft bombed La Roche Guyon. WIA Thorpe. The 749th mortar Plt, with 313th, moved into firing positions at 0800. Fired 100 rounds at 1400 yards into building and woods. WIA Christie, Melton
26 Aug: Guitrancourt. Enemy artillery was active during day and night and for the first time the enemy used a "Nabelwefer" in this sector. Enemy attacked twice during this period. At 1630 …Germans attacked 314th with 15 tanks and self-propelled weapons. Artillery and 313th TD broke up tank formation and destroyed 7 tanks. 313th attacked at 1930 but artillery defeated the attack. No action by 749th.
27 Aug: Fontenay
- St Cyr: Patrols of the 313th encountered enemy resistance in the morning. "A" Co supporting 313th,
attacked at 1600 preceded by artillery concentration lasting 15
minutes. One enemy AT gun destroyed. Two tanks
hit by artillery or bazookas, but repairable. One tank had 76mm
gun shot off. EM WIA Pvt Hess. 314th
supported by "B" Co tanks drove enemy from hill 192. 315th
overcame … resistance, captured hill 188. "B" Co one tank knocked out, EM
Pvt Ferranti, KIA and one EM Sgt. Keneipp, SWA. "C" Co supported
315th at Hill 188, overcame strong enemy resistance.
Editor: Bruno Renoult and Genevieve Havelange in France told me that the incident with Ferranti and Keneipp occurred near Fontenay Saint Pere and that "A" Company attacked at St. Cyr en Arthies. Also mentioned was that the 813th TD lost 2 TD's at Fontenay St.Pere and 4 TD's at St. Cyr.
A picture provided by them of one of the 749th tanks hit at St. Cyr en Arthies
(Route Map 2) (Map-8) Enemy
lines at Drocourt-Sailly. "A" Co Comdr, supporting 313th,
ordered "mass attack" on St Cyr En Arthies where AT gun was
located. 600 rounds of 75mm plus Mg [magnesium] fired into town. 313th
overcame strong resistance in its right sector; 28 PWs and 25 enemy killed. AT
gun silenced. One
casualty (Pvt Hess) from AT gun. "A" Company recovered knocked out
tank, using one platoon of tanks for covering fire. "B" Co. attached 314th 2nd and 3rd Bns...
objective Drucourt ... drove Germans from hill 192. Destroyed one AT gun, one horse-drawn
artillery piece. EM, Pvt Smith T.D., IWA from within the tank. In 315th sector,
with "C" Company, resistance was
marked by bitter fighting.
Editor: A picture from Bruno Renoult and Genevieve Havelange of the actual German AT gun destroyed at Drocourt.
29 Aug: Arties - Maudetour: "B" Co. 3rd Plt. supported 2nd Bn 314th. Attacked Maudetour. Enemy encountered. 14 killed, 50 captured... brief case containing many marked maps.... 4 German staff cars and one motorcycle captured. "C" Company attached 315th attacked between Amcourt and Arthies. The Rcn Trp patrolled to Wy Dit Joli. An OP of 315th reported an estimated Bn of enemy marching SW to Banthelu and another company heading NW.
Beauvais. Enemy NE of Meru. Div advanced 20 miles. 79th Ren Tr
captured 30 PWs, killed 30, destroyed Mark VI tank, 6 vehicles and several
horse-drawn carriages. (Map 9)
"A" Co and one plt "D" Co supported 313th on Route B,
vicinity Quonins. Pvt Mize, Headquarters Mortar unit in support of 313th, WIA at
Haravillers (SE of Quonins). "B" Co and one plt "D" Co had mission as
advance guard for CT4 on Route A (left flank of Division), objective Cresnes.
"C" Company and 2nd Plt "D" Co had mission as a guard for
CT5 on Route C (on right flank). Spotted 2 enemy columns retreating, shot them up, captured 25
PWs, 7 trucks,
killed 50. "C" Co Shelled town of Berville with 200 rounds of
75mm. Headquarters moved to vicinity southwest of Pereat.
749th Passes Through Chars, southwest of Meru.
Editor: Bruno Renoult and Genevieve Havelange in France gave me the following account of an event at Haraviller that was not recorded in the 749th Log Book:
On the 30th of August near 7:00 PM the 749th made its encampment near Haravilliers. It was rainy weather. The tankers from "D" Co were a little tired due to the travel as well from drinking some wine offered by local civilians. The men were asleep when at midnight they were awakened by a German intrusion. The bivouac was under attack. In the middle of the rain, about 40 German paratroopers of the 12th Company, Lehr Regiment 21, fell upon the Americans, firing with pistols, MG, and bazookas. The surprise was total. The shooting came from everywhere, and the Germans made their way into the middle of the bivouac. The 2nd mortar platoon repulsed the attack, but the Germans made a counterattack. I believe that one vehicle was burned or captured. WIA were Sergeant Kuhn, T-5 Scott, Pvt. Lucas, Mize, and Frankovich. German had 1 KIA and 3 WIA. The Americans captured a Germen medic, and negotiated the surrendering of 50 other Germans. But a Corporal Cox was captured and was forced to walk about 40 miles with the departing Germans. The next day he escaped and rejoined his unit, explaining the story to his buddies: the Germans mistreated him, kicked him, but after some adventures somewhat like Cowboys and Indians, he managed to escape. Of course, I do not know if Corporal Cox's story was true.
Another story that came to light was that of one of the German officers, Lieutenant Harald Luders, who could speak English, introduced himself to an American convoy, and traveled with them 20 miles before he was discovered.
1 Sep: One squadron of the 113th Cav Gp covered the adv of the Division. By 2200 314th and 315th had established bridgeheads across Somme River. 200 Germans and 4 88 mm guns reported at Perrone. Div advanced 60 miles. 749th Hq left old bivouac at Bruille.
2 Sep: Div adv 65 miles... crossed over into Belgium (Rumegies) (Route Map 2) (Map-10)
4 Sep: 200 German PWs taken in woods at bivouac area.
5 Sep: A large gp of Germans numbering 400-500 .... were serenaded by Corps Arty.
SIGN NEAR LAVAL
Kinchloe: I don't remember which direction we came from when we approached Laval, but I do remember when we went into the town there was a river there with a big bridge. My tank was sent down a side road to watch for any enemy coming across the bridge. We spotted a tank on the bridge, but before we could do anything a plane came by, dropped a bomb, and bridge and tank fell into the river. So much for guarding the bridge.
Col Donaldson and his driver were heading up a small road near Laval and they were both killed by a sniper.
I remember fighting in the town of Lemans, but I don't remember any particular details.
2nd Lt. Greenberg , head of my platoon, was wounded along with Pvt.
Biancaniello. S/Sgt. Denneny was injured, and later died; and Cpl. Crawford was
probably killed in the same burst. Several of them were out of their tanks
reconnoitering around the hedgerows. They stopped for a few minutes to discuss
what to do when the airburst hit. Sgt Denneny had a habit of always taking off
his helmet and sitting on it. He might have survived if he had his helmet on.
(Editor: 6 Aug above).
Baker: We approached Laval right on the heels of the Germans who had been
retreating for several days. We took up positions on several sides of the city.
Commander Donaldson and others were leaning over the front of a jeep looking at
a map. (Donaldson was a West Point graduate and we were lucky to have him as a
commander. But he was always spit-shined and polished, making him a natural
target. Lots of other officers would cover their insignia with dirt and mud.) A
sniper, from about 400 yards, hit him with a single shot right through the
heart. He died immediately. He was replaced by Lt. Colonel Fann.
Coney: At mid-afternoon on 7 August, 1944, C Company followed elements of the 79th Infantry Division Recon Unit and the 313th Infantry Regiment. The tank column proceeded through the town of Loue, crossed an overpass, and turned left onto a straight road about 300 yards; there the road turned right going up a fairly steep grade. A recon car was halted at the foot of the grade where a crew member had been wounded with a gunshot in the leg. The tank company continued up the hill and turned off the road into a wide field. As a tank unit commander, I contacted the deputy commander of the infantry, 313th regiment. Also present was my driver, Vince Cristafulli
Lt. Colonel Donaldson arrived on the scene with his driver, Jack Morris. We three commanders were soon making an estimate of the situation to prepare for the next coordinated action by tanks and infantry. During the conversation, a German stepped from behind a tree in a sparse grove of trees, slightly above our position, about 100 yards away. One shot was fired; it struck Col Donaldson high on the breast and went downwards through his aorta and lungs. As he was falling, his mouth filled with blood. He called me by name and lost consciousness. Jack Morris drove back through Loue to get medical evacuation support. The medics arrived promptly - Joe Gordon driving a half-track, accompanied by Charlie Harris and Bill Nash. Donaldson was pronounced dead when he arrived at the battalion assembly area.
Our tanks fired high explosives on the German position and moved forward. The sniper left the area.
Rozema: We were leading a convoy loaded with infantry when a General pulled alongside. He came to our tank and told Lt. Mc Rea to turn left at the next road and clean out the town of Loue. We pulled into the left side of the town. From nowhere a Frenchman stepped out wearing German boots, a beret, and was carrying a rifle. He started walking in front of our tank, pointing and hollering "Bouche" (Germans). He was an FF1 man. He went about 50 yards and got hit by a machine gun that fired from the bend in the road. Our gunner, Kenny Moore, let fly a round of HE and two Germans went flying through the air. A third got up and ran off.
We came to a sharp turn in the road when I spotted two Germans with an anti-tank gun. I slammed the tank in reverse, almost running over the infantry that was walking behind the tank. Lt. McRea let out a blast over the intercom (which is probably why I can't hear now) - "What the hell is the matter? Can you drive this damn thing? You just knocked all my front teeth loose!" I replied that I was sorry, but there is an anti-tank gun ahead.
A couple of infantry moved behind the hedgerow on the right side of the road and strafed the area where I saw the gun, running off two German soldiers. When we pulled up to the spot, Mc Rea said "Feel free to knock my teeth loose anytime."
We pushed on through the rest of the town without a problem. On the edge of town we pulled into an apple orchard on a hill above the main road. We hardly got there when all hell broke loose. The branches of the apple trees were flying all over the place, and all the power lines were dropping. It didn't last long, maybe half an hour.
Shortly after, Vince Crisafulli drove up in a jeep with Lt. Conley, parking not far from our tank. A short time later, Jack Morris arrived in a jeep with Col. Donaldson. During their discussion, the colonel was called to the radio. We were gathered around the two jeeps when out of nowhere we heard a splat, and the colonel slid to the ground. We opened his shirt and in the upper middle of his clean white T-shirt was a small spot of blood. We looked down the road and across a gully and saw a German run into some woods. By the time we jockeyed our tanks around, he was gone.
Kohler: I don't remember Donaldson getting killed. I think I was in the hospital.
Troutman: We were out in the open country. I think they threw everything but
the kitchen sink at us. They knocked our gun barrel off, split it. Knocked all
the machine guns off. Slipped a track. We got hit about 13 times with different
kinds of shells. We had the front of our tank sandbagged and something hit us -
something big, must have been at least 120mm - and knocked all our sandbags off.
Cracked the front so you could see daylight through it. We backed up - that's
all we could do - and got it back to ordnance. They asked us why we brought back that piece of junk; what do you expect us to do with that? We told them
we were instructed to bring a tank back if at all possible.
At The Falaise Gap
Editor: I think that the area between the Falaise Gap and the Paris suburbs is the scene of two of the stories my uncle Willie told me when I was a child. If I remember correctly, he said they occurred on two successive days. He started the first story by mentioning that they were moving fairly fast through the countryside and everybody was supposed to be alert for German troops trying to escape to the east (see Aug 14 daily log entry above). His mention of open country and German troops escaping to the east fits the situation of the Germans trying to escape the Falaise Gap. Anyway, late in the afternoon the tanks in his platoon had stopped for the day and were positioned about 100 feet apart about 300-400 yards from some woods. He discovered that they were out of coffee. He radioed the tank next to his tank and asked if they had some. When the answer came back yes, the driver volunteered to go get some. Since they had been pestered by snipers for several days, the driver went out the hatch on the bottom of the tank, and started running for the next tank (at this point my uncle said that the story was retold to him by someone who saw the event - the guys inside the tanks couldn't see what was happening). A sniper fired at the driver and he ducked for cover behind a boulder. When, after a few minutes, he started running again, the sniper fired again. With several repeats of this action, the driver finally got beneath the tank he was running for, got the coffee, and began the return. With several more repeats of sniper fire and ducking for cover, the driver finally made it safely back to my uncle's tank with the coffee. My uncle ended the story saying "this is why we won the war - a bunch of crazy young guys."
His second story started with his platoon stopping on a plateau overlooking a gently sloping valley with a small river at the bottom of the valley. The trees on both sides of the river presented a picture like a curling snake disappearing at the horizon. A road coming from the plateau crossed this river at the low point of the valley, about 800 yards from where the tanks were standing. After they had been there for an hour or so, they spotted a few Germans sneaking out of the woods surrounding the river; they ran out of the woods near the bridge, crossed the road, then disappeared into the woods on the other side of the bridge. As they watched, about three minutes passed before another group of 5 Germans made the same trip across the road. As the men in the tank watched, they realized that the groups of German soldiers were emerging at exactly three minute intervals. So they readied the tank's cannon, waited. Another German group appeared and crossed the road, and they fired. The shell fell about 50 feet beyond the road-river junction. No more Germans appeared at the bridge for about 30 minutes. Then it started again. After timing two groups of Germans, Willie's tank fired again and hit within a few feet of the Germans crossing the road. All five were killed, and no more appeared, at least during daytime. My uncle ended the story saying "Germans. That's one of their weaknesses. Everything has to be done in a precise manner. Three minutes exactly between groups, no matter what."
Rozema: Around the 20th of August, the 2nd Platoon,
C-Company came up to the Seine River near the town of Mantes. There was a newly
finished pontoon bridge. We were among the first to cross on it. [Editor:
see log book entry for August 20] After crossing, we climbed a road on a side
hill. After reaching the top, we came upon a large area of replanted pines about
20 feet tall. We pulled off the road on the edge of the replants, overlooking the
bluffs of the Seine.
We had some of the 315th Infantry with us. They dug in at the edge of the replants. We were in a holding position while more troops and equipment came across the bridge. After refueling we noticed a couple of 88's sticking up in the sky across the road by a rocky bluff that went straight down 200 feet or more. Eugene Fugate and I decided we should check them out. When arrived there, we found eight dead soldiers who were freshly killed in the last couple of days by strafing P-47's. By the 88's were boxes of ammo and racks of potato masher grenades. We each grabbed a couple of the grenades, unscrewed the caps, pulled the cords, and gave them a heave over the rocky cliff. They didn't quite make it to the bottom before going off, blasting loose some rocks and debris that fell to the bottom. We heard some yelling coming back from below. We looked over the edge and at the bottom there were people shaking their fists at us. It just so happened that at the bottom was a cave with people living in it. Needless to say, that was the end of our grenade-throwing episode.
We headed back to where our tank was and hardly had gotten there when a couple of ME-109's came up over the bluff after making a bombing run on the pontoon bridge. The planes missed the bridge and came over us so low that we could see the expressions on the pilots' faces. They flew over us many times in the next few days, and it was said that there were 32 batteries of anti-aircraft guns firing at those planes. [Editor: see log book entry for August 21, 22] We put 30 caliber machine guns in the crotches of some trees and shot at the planes as they went by. We started getting bursts in the trees. One explosion knocked off the two ammo clips on Joe Somora's webbed belt. After that we quit firing at the aircraft. We would just dive under the tank. One time Kenny Moore didn't quite make it. An exploding shell blew off a couple of his toes and some shrapnel lodged in his ankle and legs.
A couple of days later we jumped off and followed a tank track trail through the heavily wooded area. After about 1/2 mile we stopped a couple of hundred yards before we came to the end of the wooded area. Lt. McCrea and I crawled up to the edge of the woods. The first thing we saw were two German tanks with their cannons pointed at the point of the trail where we would have exited the woods. We went back to our tank, told a forward observer, and he called in artillery. The shelling didn't seem to bother the tanks. Then they called up a TD unit. The TD's weren't going to go past the edge of the woods into the open, so a call was made to bring in P-47's, which dropped their bombs so close that the German crews abandoned the two tanks. We barreled out of the woods and came upon the two tanks which had little noticeable damage. We continued on, heading through a hayfield. From behind one of the haycocks near the end of the field, a German soldier ran toward a wooded fence line. Bill Robinson (he had replaced Kenny Moore) let go a round of high explosive which flew into a tree above the soldier. The soldier went down.
Off to the right of the fence was a field of sugar beets. About one hundred Germans, after seeing a tank bearing down on them, stood up and surrendered. I talked to an older fellow who said he had lived in Pennsylvania for 30 years and came back to Germany and got pulled into the army. The war was over for him.
Editor: I want to mention the 21 August event at Guitrancourt listed in the log entries above. My Uncle Willie told me a story about a barn; I wonder if this incident records the source of that story.
Willie said that his platoon and the accompanying infantry had been involved in fighting for an hour when the enemy retreated. After chasing the enemy for several hours, they had come to a stop. About 10 minutes later machinegun fire "pinged" on their tanks. The terrain in front of them was fairly flat and an intersecting road was just about 200 yards ahead. Within a few minutes someone reported that he had spotted four Germans near a barn about 1/2 mile further down the intersecting road near a clump of trees. Some troops were sent to investigate. About 2 minutes later a tank on the intersecting road fired and a shell landed close to where the Germans were. A second shell blew off the top of the barn. A short while later the investigating troops gave the all-clear sign. The platoon started up again and moved toward the barn. What they saw when they got there was several killed and several wounded German soldiers and some pieces of a small wooden cart with some vegetables laying in the road. There was a small house hidden behind the clump of trees and next to it was a small garden. Apparently the Germans were just gathering food. He said the machinegun fire was probably coming from somewhere else.
Kinchloe: On the 23 of August my tank knocked out one of our own TD's with a round of 75mm HE from 1600 yards. We were sitting on a hill and were told if anything near the river moved, fire at it. So we did. I know the boy who was the gunner; he didn't eat for 2-3 days he was so sick.
On the 27th Aug, after we crossed the Seine, the 749th was part of a large
attack involving several divisions of infantry, several tank battalions, and all
the normal support attachments. We were on high ground, and the attack ran
across a large valley towards a woods on high ground on the opposite side
[Editor: probably Fontenay St. Pare]. When
the 1st platoon got near the woods, a German stood up and fired a bazooka at the
tank commanded by Sgt Keneipp who was wounded in the back of his head. When
they pulled Sgt Keneipp out of the tank, Pvt Ferranti got out of the tank by
himself, ran around the tank for a short time, then fell dead. No one suspected
he was wounded, but when they examined him, they found a single, tiny hole in
We got to within 15 miles of Paris, so they told us. We were one of the first outfits to get across the Seine; we crossed on a pontoon bridge the engineers had built. But they wanted the French 2nd Army to enter Paris.
Some of our guys did get to go into Paris for a few days when we stopped for a few days for tank repairs before we headed to Belgium.
Editor: My uncle also mentioned a small city in the
northern suburbs of Paris
that the 749th was ordered to decimate; he did not know the reason, although he
wondered if the command guys were honked off about not getting to take Paris. I
note on the 28th that 600 rounds of 75mm and Magnesium fire was directed upon
St. Cyr en Arthies. And on the 30th, Berville was hit with 200 rounds. Does
anybody remember this incident?
Bruno Renoult and Genevieve Havelange in France gave me this description:
"You ask if somebody remembers about the "Mass Attack" on Saint Cyr en Arthies ? The answer is yes! On the 28th about 100 people were in a cave; they had been living there for a week with the German soldiers around fighting ferociously. The men of the city has been evacuated but not the women and children - We don't know why. The Americans evidently did not suspect this was the case. So on the 28, after "A" Company of the 749 lost 2 tanks in the front of St. Cyr the previous day, the company commander ordered the bombing. One of the shells came right into the cave and ricocheted through the gallery in enfilade. Thanks to God, nobody was hurt! A miracle! Mrs Baudin was just cooking a duck; the shell hit the pan and destroyed the fire place. But the bloody magnesium was burning! Mayday! Everybody tried to escape through an air conduct - échelle in French, but the duct broke after some people escaped. At the surface the Germans were firing with MG like crazy. Other people got out by the entrance, went to the fountain to wash their eyes, and then ran away to hide in some other places. Germans were forbidden to go to American lines. Of 500 Germans in the village on 23 August, only ten remained! Their Officer was Hauptmann Riekert, 2nd Bn., regiment 35, 18th G.A.F."
Troutman: No, but I remember one afternoon we were lined up on a road in an open field, and here came a German reconnaissance plane. He was flying so low that you could have thrown a rock and hit him. We called him "bed check Charlie." He banked his plane and waved at us. You could see his moustache. We never fired a shot at him.
Baker: The roads leading to Paris were loaded with horse-drawn carts, bicycles, people walking, wagons - all leaving Paris. German planes would strafe the roads, looking for equipment which contained gasoline. It was difficult to convince the French people that being next to a gasoline truck or a tank was not a good idea. Soldiers are somewhat equipped for war, but civilians are not.
The German troops were not low on morale but they were disoriented by lack of supplies and reinforcements. And we had an almost unlimited supplies and men. I think they began to realize the inevitable was coming. Many prisoners were taken. The days of the strong African Corps were gone. Instead of strong looking soldiers, they had a lot of young looking, inexperienced soldiers.
In the middle of August we were the first armored group to cross the Seine. We thought we were going to see the famous places in Paris. Every man in the 749th was ready to dress out and hit the streets of Paris. But we abruptly turned north and headed toward Belgium. I think it was General Tisigny who led the French into Paris. Politicians direct wars, too, not just generals. I remember that as we were all sky-high about going into Paris, a Lieutenant Harbling from the Cleveland area received in the mail a small box which contained a shoeshine kit - a nice thought but not very useful when you spend all day standing in mud. He stood on top of his tank, whirled the package around his head, and flung it as far as he could.
There was little opposition on the way to Belgium. We had no time for taking care of the tanks and we were having lots of troubles. We camped in the woods for a few days and traded with some farmers there and made a pretty good meal for ourselves. I can see why people there wear the wooden shoes - very swampy. Leather shoes would go to pieces very readily. At one point we came to Dom Remy, a small town, and the rain stopped, a ray of sunlight broke through, and hit the "basilica" of Joan of Arc, which gleamed like a beacon in the sunlight. A most memorable sight.
Editor: Were you upset about not going into Paris?
Kohler: I was in Paris for 48 hours, at night. We had a good time, saw a couple of shows. There were five other guys that went with me; they were from other companies.
We found some cognac in some of the homes. Big ol' 30 gallon jugs with a basket around them. We filled up every jar we could find.
Myers: I got a pass off the front to go to Paris. I don't know how they selected my name, but I got it. When I came back - I really can't remember where we were then - Rosencrantz was the Platoon Leader. We had an H-Hour in the middle of the afternoon and I got the shakes. Shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. I said "Rosie, I got a problem. I don't want to be responsible for these guys. Every time I hear a shell go off, I jump." Before I went to Paris, nothing bothered me. I guess it was seeing how high everybody was living in Paris, and we were getting our butts shot off. Rosie said "I can't spare you, but I tell you what I'll do. I'll keep my eye on you and if I see you doing something wrong, I'll shoot you myself." I said he had a deal. After the first shot was fired, I was OK. Battle fatigue, I guess. I've never seen Rosencrantz since.
Editor: Everybody else said the Company bypassed Paris. Why did you get to go?
Kohler: I guess because I had five tanks shot out from under me.
After I was back with the unit for a few days I went back to the hospital with a stomach rupture. I didn't get back for maybe 2-3 months. They shipped me back to England where I ran into about 15 other guys from the 749th. We happened to see one of our CO's there. We all got together and told him we wanted to go back to the Company. He pulled some strings and we all got back to the Company. It was either Woods or Olson.
I didn't get to Belgium.
Troutman: We sat about 20 miles outside of Paris waiting for the Free French Army so they could take Paris. We went around it.
We were the first tank outfit to hit the Belgium border. We ran out of gas. Before too long here came General Patton. He asked why the tanks weren't moving. McFadden said "Well, General, tanks won't run without gas." Patton didn't say another word. He turned and left. In a couple of hours here he came with some tank trucks that filled us up with gas. What we heard was that he went back and hijacked a column of supply trucks. At that time word was that they weren't giving Patton much in the way of supplies in an attempt to slow him down. The story was that Patton would change the patches on his men's uniforms so they could go into a gas dump and get all they wanted.
Breakbill: Never did get into Paris. I got close enough to see the top of the Eiffel Tower, but that was it.
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