The Brittany Campaign
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The battalion began its journey back into the war on September 14 when it left Lorris for a new assembly area 100 miles to the east, in the vicinity of Troyes. The combat command was to wait here for the rest of the division, expected in about a week. Two days later, however, a Third Army order moved the assembly area to a woods northeast of Neufchateau, another 60 miles to the east.
On the following day, September 18, the combat command was ordered into the newly made Moselle bridgehead east of Nancy to become a part of a special task force with the 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division, and a separate tank battalion; the objective was Amance, a high hill mass northeast of Nancy which was strongly held by the Germans. But this mission never materialized, because as soon as the combat command closed in its bivouac southeast of Nancy, it was ordered to move the following day farther to the southeast to the vicinity of Hudiviller, there to relieve elements of the Fourth Armored Division.
Accordingly the 212th left Nancy the morning of September 19 and occupied positions just south of Deuxville and about two miles northwest of Luneville. Reserve Command of the Fourth Armored had been engaged in a holding action at Luneville, and it was this mission that the Sixth now took over. The 212th was in direct support of a task force composed of the 44th Armored Infantry Battalion and a tank company of the 6~h Tank Battalion. Again the sector was reported as being comparatively quiet, but proved to be quite otherwise. Luneville itself was still partially held by Germans, and the scene of some lively action during all of the short 48-hour stay of Combat Command B. The battalion area came under enemy counter-battery fire each day, and one battery was forced to occupy its alternate position; an A Battery man, Pfc. William J. Nisbet, was wounded. The combat command gained some ground in the town, however, before it was relieved and sent on another mission September 21.
Late in the evening of the 2Oth, orders were received that the mission of the combat command for the following day was to march northwestward to the vicinity of Jallaucourt, northeast of Amance, and there to hold the enemy on the east while probing to the north and west to contact friendly elements. Accordingly movement was begun the morning of the 21st through Remereville and Moncel to an assembly area around Gremecy woods, just south of Jallaucourt. At noon information was received that the combat command was attached to the 35th Infantry Division, and would participate the next day in an attack by that division and the 80th Infantry Division. The 35th was to make a frontal attack on Amance from the south, while Combat Command B moved west from Gremecy and then south to hit Amance from the rear; the 8Oth was to complete the attack by advancing eastward from its Moselle bridgehead near Pont-a-Mousson to join the combat command on its west flank.
With the 212th in its south column, Combat Command B began a two column attack very early the morning of September 22. Two routes were to be followed for about half the distance, to an assembly area in the vicinity of Lanfroicourt, where a consolidated attack was to begin at noon. From the outset, however, the march was a fierce battle between American tanks and infantry and German infantry and antitank guns, and the assembly area was not reached until the end of the day. The battalion moved from its Gremecy positions early, but almost immediately had to reoccupy positions west of the woods to support the tanks and infantry.
At 1500 Battery C and half of Headquarters Battery moved forward along the north route with the battalion commander and his party, and finally reached Lanfroicourt at dusk, after a hectic march past Arraye-et-Han and through Armaucourt. To climax the day, the two batteries came under direct fire as soon as they moved into position. Battery C, however, quickly spotted the enemy guns at the foot of a hill to the west and returned fire that silenced them.
The following morning the remainder of the battalion reached Lanfroicourt and positions were occupied south and east of the town to support the attack which was to continue toward Amance. The battalion had just closed in position, however, when word was received that the 35th Division had taken the hill the night before, so no further attack was needed in that direction. But German forces north of Lanfroicourt were closing in on the command and presented a serious threat; and by noon the 212th, pointing south initially, had shifted its howitzers directly to the rear. The front line was now on some of the very ground that the north column had passed over the previous day. And it remained there-generally an east-west line passing north of Leyr, which the 44th Infantry took when it moved north from its Lanfroicourt assembly area, and just south of Arraye-et-Han, the northernmost point on the northern route-for the five day period of rain and -mud that Combat Command B was responsible for the sector.
But the front was by no means static. Almost daily the enemy counter-attacked in great numbers, and each time the attacks were repulsed. The first enemy strike came north of Leyr the first day, September 23, at 1700, and lasted almost two hours. Battalion ground and air observers conducted fire to break enemy troop and vehicle concentrations, and the German toll was high. A large number of casualties and prisoners resulted from the battalion fires, which totaled over 400 rounds during the two-hour period. Witnesses attested that the artillery fire alone was enough to stop the Germans.
Again on September 24 the Germans attacked on the east side of the sector, this time for approximately a half hour commencing at 1915. The battalion used about 300 rounds, and was assisted in this defense by XII Corps artillery units, the 35th Infantry Division Artillery, and the remaining two battalions of its own divisional artillery; the Sixth Armored Division was now completely closed in the Nancy area.
September 25 brought another enemy thirty-minute attack at 0610, and the battalion fired approximately 350 rounds. The first counter-battery fire received in the Lanfroicourt area also fell on this day, at about 1720. Only a few rounds fell, but Lt. Joseph R. Pavlik of Headquarters Battery received a leg wound which resulted later in its amputation; and Tec. 5 Kenneth S. Gross of the same battery was also injured. September 26 was active all day and the battalion fired 929 rounds, its busiest day thus far in France.
Three times during the morning of September 27 German counter-battery fire hit the battalion area. The third concentration, landing about noon, killed one man and wounded an officer and another man, all of Headquarters Battery. Sgt. Richard Howland was killed, Lt. Donald S. Johnston and Tec. 5 Stephen T. Rutkowski were wounded seriously. This third concentration also brought about Headquarters Battery's displacement; it moved to a position on the south edge of the battalion area. The combat command was ordered to displace a little later, and at 1700 the whole battalion began a displacement south through Brin-sur-Seille and then west to positions at the north base of Amance Hill.
Here it remained for the next ten days, first in direct support of the 44th Infantry Battalion north of Leyr, and when the 44th was relieved, in general support of XII Corps. The period was a static one, with little action and little firing. On October 3 billets in Nancy were selected, and the practice of sending the battalion there, a portion at a time, for recreation and rest was begun; the policy continued for a month. During the period also, Lt. Col. Phillip H. Pope, Battalion Commander, and Lt. Milton Wolfman and Tec. 4 Francis A. Travis, both of C Battery, were awarded Bronze Star Medals; Colonel Pope for aggressiveness in reconnaissance for positions and observation, and Wolfman and Travis for meritorious service in the face of the enemy at Lorient.
On October 7 the battalion displaced eastward and then a little north to positions just west of BrinsurSeille in preparation for the XII Corps attack scheduled for the next day. The corps objective was to clear the enemy south of the Seille River and establish a suitable line of departure for the giant Third Army drive in November. The Sixth Armored Division, operating as a division for the first time since Brest, was to attack north in the center of the corps zone; the 35th and 8Oth Infantry Divisions on its right and left respectively were also to advance to the Seille and then relieve the Sixth when the objective was attained. The 212th, still a part of Combat Command B, was assigned the mission of direct support of Task Force Forrest.
With Jeandelincourt, Moivron, and Arraye-et-Han, objectives for the day, taken by noon of October 8, the battalion displaced north to positions around Armaucourt at 1300. Despite the moving front, however, the Armaucourt area continued to be a favorite German artillery target and by 1600 B Battery had to move west to its alternate position. The day was a particularly busy one for the whole battalion; almost 1200 rounds were dispatched. On October 9 the attack continued, and the 212th supported the 44th Infantry, which was now in Combat Command A. The objective was Letricourt on the Seille, and it was reached by mid-afternoon. By nightfall the division had been relieved as planned, but its artillery was ordered to remain in position, and the 212th reverted to general support of XII Corps.
During the day, the battalion had displaced to positions in the open valley north of Leyr to support the attack, and it was this unfavorable spot that was home for the next six days. The valley was undesirable because almost every corner of it was under enemy observation from towering Delme Ridge to the northeast, and was subjected to constant artillery fire. On October 14, Pvt. Murray Fishman of Battery C was killed instantly when the battery position was shelled. Pfc. Raymond C. Boyce was injured in the same shelling. Later in the same day, Lt. Howard D. Anderson, also of C Battery, was injured in an auto accident on the way to the Nancy billets.
On October 15 more favorable positions were found to the west on top of a spruce-covered mountain north of Montenoy, and the battalion received permission from corps to occupy them. There it remained for two very quiet weeks; only 40 rounds were fired in the entire 14 days. Rain and mud increased, however, and the temperature began to drop; the weather was previewing November. During this period two more Bronze Star Medals were awarded to officers of the battalion: Major Joseph W. Menges was cited for meritorious action in operating his fire direction center under fire from September 24 to 27, and Lt. James J. Landy for heroic action in directing fire on the enemy north of Leyr, September 23.
XII Corps' preparation for the November drive began in earnest the final week in October with the shifting of artillery units to their pre-attack positions. The 212th moved under cover of darkness October 28 northwest some 15 miles to positions just east of Atton, a little southeast of Pont-a- Mousson. There it spent another week-and-a-half period of light activity, increasing in tempo and tension toward the end as "D" Day drew closer.
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