A serious problem developed when Nazi paratroops attempted to destroy the division gas dump near Poullaquen. Only a small portion of the supply was burned before band members, appropriately named the "Attackers" and led by "Music Maestro" Carroll W. Thompson, Enid, Okla., left to guard the dump, drove them off.
The 76th Medical Bn., under Lt. Col. James W. Branch, Hope, Ark., the 128th Ordnance Maintenance Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. Raymond B. Graeves, Jr., Silver Spring, Md, and the MP platoon all encountered evacuation troubles because of distances and German reoccupation. Wounded and prisoners had to be transported deep into the peninsula for lack of close-up support. Disabled vehicles were towed until they could be repaired or evacuated.
Prisoners were being delivered to division cages in in wholesale lots. On Aug. 10, 919 were bagged; next day, 828; another 439 on Aug. 12. Without a shot fired, 350 prisoners were taken from coastal artillery strongholds. Surrender arrangements were effected by Sgt. Alexander Balter, Pittsburgh, CC A interpreter, along with Capt. Alien Scullen, Boston, Recon CO, 603rd TD Bn.
On Aug 12, infantry troops of the 50th and the 1st Bn. of the 28th lnf., 8th Div., attached to the 6th, pushed within 200 yards of the Gouesnou-Guipavas highway, the closest point to Brest yet reached. This was the last day on which the division operated with all units intact for more than six weeks. While a task force was left to contain Brest, the remainder of the division whipped 100 miles east to the Lorient area, relieving elements of the 4th Armd. Div.
With a force of 4000, CC A bottled up 40,000 Germans in Fortress Brest. For this effectively carried-out mission, they were dubbed the "Brassiere Boys".
The month-long Lorient mission was used in giving personnel experience in patrolling, handling traps and forward observation. Veterans were born overnight. They had to learn fast. They were facing an experienced foe who knew all the tricks.
"I know of no other new division that has accomplished the things we have done in so short a period," Gen. Grow said in praise of his men and officers.
There were many heroes in every outfit. Pvt. Johnny Iolonardi, 50th Inf., Bronx, N.Y., exposed himself to enemy fire to throw a grenade into a machine gun nest and get 12 Germans. Pvt. Ray Williams, 69th Tanks, Collingswood N.J., returned a grenade the enemy had tossed into his tank, then continued the attack. Pvt. Arlie A. Moody, 231st FA, Bear Creek, N.C., grabbed a bazooka when ambushed and became a doughboy long enough to destroy an anti-tank gun.
Lt. Donald C. Peake, 128th FA, New Milford, N.J., beat off 100 Germans by firing his carbine, then calling for artillery fire on his own OP. Pfc C.F.B. Warner, 15th Tanks, Alliance, Ohio, destroyed an 88mm gun and crew with a grenade. Lt. Darwin D. Rounds, artillery liaison pilot, Robbins Dale, Minn., deliberately flew low to draw enemy fire so artillery could neutralize positions. Sgt. Max B. Hansen, 86th Cav., Portland, Ore. carried his wounded platoon leader to safety when time bombs exploded near them on a bridge.
So closed the division's campaign in Briteany, where the Super Sixth found gratitude of a newly-liberated people; where "des oeufs" became a pup tent word; where people outdid Hollywood versions of showering speeding columns with flowers, food, vin rouge.
While in the Lorris area, CC B performed a historically significant mission when reconnaissance patrols were sent out to represent Gen. Patton's Third Army in making contact with Gen. Patch's Seventh Army coming up from the south.
To a platoon from Troop B, 86th Cav., under 2nd Lt. Vernon Hill, Clinton, Okla., fell the honors. The link-up was established with the Second Dragoons, 2nd French Armd. Div., at Autun, near Dijon, Sept. 12, when Cpl. Carl Newman, Brooklyn M-8 radio operator shook hands with Jean Quignon of Montgeron, France.
Before the division assembled in the Seille River area, CC B, attached to the 35th Div., already had written the first chapter of that campaign with an effectively executed attack near Manhoue, Armaucourt and Lanfroicourt, Sept. 22. So outwitted were the Germans by Col. Read's skillful planning that they lost 250 dead and 413 prisoners in the one-day attack.
Most of the damage was inflicted on the 1000 Germans defending Armaucourt. The town was contested until Capt. Walter G. "Snuffy" Smith, Ada, Okla., with his 69th Light Tank Co., supported by TDs, delivered a "one-two" punch. TDs stood back and blasted away with delayed-fuse shells at buildings. When Germans sprang out to escape, Co. D mowed them down with machine gun fire from light tanks. They killed 182 and captured 310. The knockout plan was the brain child of Lt. Col. Ralph H. McKee, Shawnee, Okla., CC B executive officer.
A key man in the attack was S/Sgt. George D. Vinyard, 69th Tanker from Rock Island, Okla., whose bold action from his light tank's turret knocked out seven bazooka teams and accounted for 26 more Germans.
The remainder of the division closed near Nancy, Oct. 1, and went into action again as a concerted unit. CC A and Reserve Command coordinated an attack that ended a German counter-threat to cut off the XII Corps bridgehead across the Seille River near the Gremecey Forest.
CC A, commanded by Col. Hanson, attacked north of the forest through the 35th Inf. Div. at 0620. Despite heavy enemy resistance by artillery, infantry and mines, the high-ground objective belonged to the 6th three hours later.
Reserve Command, under Lt. Col. Harris, swung east, north of Chambrey in the face of severe artillery and small arms fire. After gaining its first objective, the task force continued mopping up to aid the 35th Div. establish a main line of resistance.
Putting the tank-infantry team across the goal in this action were veterans like 2nd Lt. Harry C. Linebaugh, Schenectady, N.Y.; S/Sgt. Malcom Helton, Natchez, Ala.; and Sgt. James W. Abbott, Eubank, Ky., who dismounted under heavy mortar and small arms fire to clear and mark a path through a minefield for tanks. After the platoon leader had been hit, T/Sgt. John A. Petrick, Chicago, organized his 9th Inf. platoon and led them in seizing an objective.
The next "Sunday-punch" was launched a week later in a two-day assault that straightened the line of the corps salient in the Letricourt area.
CC B jumped off in heavy fog at 0615 and swept through Moivron, Jeandelincourt, Arraye-Et-Han and Ajoncourt in a brilliantly executed attack that bewildered the Germans. Task Force Wall captured Moivran by 0800; Task Force LaGrew surrounded Jeandelincourt by 1100 and took the town several hours later following an action called the "Turkey Shoot;" Task Force under Lt. Col. Bedford H. Forrest, Saluda, S.C., swarmed into Ajoncourt at 1400, after taking control of Arraye-Et-Han. The 80th and 35th Inf. Divs., on both flanks, occupied these towns on the heels of the swift 6th.
CC A picked up the baton the next day with assault forces splitting three ways. Task Forces under Col. Davall, Lt. Col. Lewis E. McCorison, Marshfield Wis., and Lt. Col. Thomas B. Godfrey, Louisville, Ky., cleared woods and consolidated high ground positions south of Letricourt. The division's mission was complete. During the Seille River campaign from Sept. 17 to Nov. 7, the 6th killed an estimated 1500, destroyed 500 guns and vehicles.
From OPs, these unit operations looked like well-executed sand-table maneuvers taking place at Ft. Knox, Ky. which, on Feb. 15, 1942, had been the birthplace of the Super Sixth. But the "picture" was stern reality to fighters like T/Sgt. George Donald, 44th Inf., Philadelphia; T/Sgt. William Z. Fralish, 15th Tanker, Ariton, Ala., and Cpl. Myron H. Berger, 50th Inf., Springfield, Ill.
Although twice wounded in the same attack and his platoon leader killed, Donald rallied his platoon, led them forward, summoned TDs for cover while the men took new positions.
A maintenance sergeant, Fralish organized his crews and blasted Germans from foxholes with grenades so tanks could be evacuated from a stream crossing.
Critically wounded, Berger, still under enemy fire, warned his squad of snipers, located positions and continued firing until he died.
Super Sixth never was stronger than when it launched the Saar River campaign. It had lost valuable men in hard fighting, but experience had created battle-wise veterans.
These time-tested troops still had to rely on all the skill and cunning they had absorbed to crack stubborn German defenses. Mud, rain, knowledge of the Lorraine area and limited air support because of weather -- all were the enemy's aids.
The Saar was reached in 26 days after the 6th had captured 80 towns and villages spreading over 400 square miles. The push was bitterly contested. But now the enemy had his back to the wall. It meant the fight would be waged on the Fatherland. When the last square foot of France in the division zone was cleared Dec. 5, the count showed 1216 Nazis prisoners, 202 guns and 143 vehicles captured or destroyed, 73 of which were tanks or self-propelled assault guns.
Passing through the 80th Div., which had established bridgeheads at Nomeny and Port-sur-Seille, Nov. 10, CC A, now under Col. John L. Hines, Jr., White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., smacked the enemy first. Luppy and Secourt fell in quick dashes. CC B sliced through and took Buchy and Beux, despite determined enemy resistance, knee-deep mud and difficult terrain. Enemy dead offered mute testimony to the effectiveness of the corps and division artillery, the latter under Col. Lowell M. Riley, Jacksonville, Fla.
The toughest action in the division's combat history was crowded into the next four days when vital bridgeheads were established and enlarged over the French Nied River.
CC A successfully forced the bridgehead at Han-sur-Nied by capturing the bridge before Germans could destroy it. CC B duplicated the achievement on its sector to the north near Sanry.
Lt. Daniel L. Nutter, Waukesha, Wis., and T/5 Charles Cunningham, Columbus, O., both of the 25th Armd. Engr. Bn., raced across the Han-Sur-Nied bridge in the first tank and cut wires leading to demolitions. Lt. Nutter was killed after completing his task.
Tanks of the 68th rumbling across the span were commanded by 1st Lt. Vernon L. Edwards, Collinsville, Ill., who braved artillery fire, tank and flak guns to help save the bridge by neutralizing two rocket-launcher teams with his machine gun. He was killed by a sniper, leaving the responsibility of tank defense to S/Sgt. Everett H. Tourjee, Catskill, N.Y.
Germans used every conceivable weapon to rain hellish fire on the bridge, inflicting heavy casualties on the 80th Inf. Div. and 9th Inf. Bn. After smoke was laid to screen operations, Col. Hines, son of the former U.S Army Chief of Staff, went forward and organized Gls for the hazardous crossing.
Elements of CC B had two bridges blown almost in their faces before 1st Lt. Frederick E. Titterington, Glen Falls, N.Y., 25th Engr., discovered the span near Sanry intact. With Sgt. Ray McCrary, Ft. Smith, Ark.;T/5 Francis A. Bolton, Philadelphia and T/5 Paul K. Smith, Monroe, Tenn., protecting him as he drove a half-track to test the bridge's surface, Titterington rode halfway across, then dismounted. Reaching into the swollen river, he cut the lead wires. The bridge was saved.
Lt. Col. Donald G. Williams, Kansas City, Mo., Div. Engr., rushed tanks to exploit the bridgehead. By nightfall, elements were across and in one of the hottest artillery spots in the Metz area. For their action, Hines, Nutter, Titterington, Edwards and Cunningham were awarded the DSC.
Another DSC was won by Capt. Clarence E. Prenevost, Red Lake Falls, Minn., commander of Co. B, 15th Tank Bn., who was shot through the chest while leading his dismounted tankers clear a minefield. Knocked off his feet, he resumed leadership, ordered wounded evacuated and briefed platoon leaders before allowing himself to be evacuated.
Bridgeheads at Baudrecourt and Remilly were established later, and Herny, Vatimont and Arraincourt were taken in rough action. Forces under Col. Davall found out just how persistent Germans could be about losing a town, Nov. 14.
Tank-infantry forces had taken Landroff after much resistance. That night Nazis counter-attacked four times. The final attack, made in battalion strength, succeeded in getting Krauts into the town, and the ensuing hand-to-hand battle lasted until daylight.
Confusion in the darkness made effective use of weapons difficult. The defenders fought bare-handed, commanded by Maj. (then Capt.) Daniel E. Smith, Memphis, Tex., 68th Tanker, who received a DSC for this engagement. By morning the situation was under control.
This was the action anywhere along the Nied Riire. It meant men like Cpl. Robert R. Newman, 69th Tanker, Waterfall, Pa., who destroyed four bazooka teams with his tank machine gun, extinguished a turret fire, evacuated wounded, then pumped more lead into the enemy.
T/5 Roberto M. Martinez, 76th Medics, Brownsville, Tex., saved three seriously wounded men and five other casualties by evacuating them from a burning ammunition truck just before it exploded.
Second Lt. Edward B. Ledford, 212th FA, Lomax, Ill., when a fellow officer was mortally wounded, advanced to reach a radio, directed fire that silenced enemy guns.
S/Sgt. Waiter R. Fick, Vergas, Minn., and Pvt. Clarence M. Smith, Pasadena, Calif., of the 603rd TD, knocked out a mortar crew with carbines, captured 37 prisoners.
The division assisted in taking Bertring, Gros-Tenquin, Hellimer, Diffembach, Fremestroff, Hemering, Leyviller and St. Jean Rohrbach within the next eight days, but there was no letup in the Nazis' tenacity. The 9th Inf., under CoI. Britton, did a superior job in cleaning the woods of Krauts north of Leyviller.
The division outpost line extended through Puttalange and Henriville when Remering, Morsbronn, Hilsprich, Barst-Marienthal, Cappel, Hoste-Bas and Hoste-Haut fell. Capture of that area prepared the way for the final ten miles between Henriville and the Saar River.
CC A with task forces under Lt. Col. Charles E. Brown, Tacoma, Wash., 44th Inf., and Col. Wall, 50th Inf., advanced to positions overlooking the Saar, giving GIs their first view of Germany.
More heroic acts came to light. First Sgt. George P. Rimmer, 50th Inf., Cincinnati, ordered his platoon to lay low when artillery zeroed in, rescued four wounded men from drowning in the water where they were lying. Pvt. Thomas E. Clark, 15th Tanker medic, Silver City, N.C., braved withering fire in crossing a bridge five times to evacuate wounded. Driving to an aid station, his ambulance struck a mine. Clark was killed, the wounded were saved.
S/Sgt. Irvin C. Shoemaker, 86th Recon. Hyde Park, Pa., ran 75 yards under heavy shelling, evacuated a wounded GI, carried him 50 yards on his back to safety, then returned to lead his platoon in crushing a counter-attack.
T/Sgt. Frederick: L. Thek, 9th Inf., Greentown, Pa., and his eight-man squad held a shallow bridgehead across the Nied for 12 hours against overwhelming odds until reinforced.
The 128th FA was the first division unit to fire into Germany. The 86th Recon. commanded by Maj. Harry C. Brindle, Huntington, W. Va., not only was the first unit to move into the Vaterland but also had the unusual experience of patrolling in Germany to observe the enemy in France.
There was much more than appeared on the record. Never to be forgotten, for instance, was the day in the Han-Sur-Nied area when the 603rd TD Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. Clarence D. McCurry, Memphis, Tenn., ran into enemy tanks. The platoon of 1st Lt. Edward Snyder, Bentleville, Pa., kayoed ten and touched off a battalion spree that boosted the total to over 30 in two weeks.
Artillery enjoyed praise from its severest critics -- doughfeet and tankers. Col. Riley's battalions, the 128th of Lt. Col. Thomas R. Bruce, Mexico, Mo.; the 212th of Lt. Col. Phillip H. Pope, Washington, D.C.; and the 231st of Lt. Col. Thomas K. Crawford, Salisbury, N.C., who replaced Lt. Col. Robert S. Perkins, Maryville, Mo., injured on the Brest rein.
Playing a major role in the success of every attack was the 146th Armd. Signal Co., which strung an average of 350 miles of wire a month and maintained a high standard of communications in all signal channels under difficult tactical and climatic conditions.
To describe the division's operations adequately would necessitate telling the story of every man who participated in the powerful Super Sixth thrusts. It is the story of every team, from division to squads, fulfilling missions because of ability, fortitude and will.
The roll call of the gallant is long. It must be or the Super Sixth never could have carved out its remarkable record. When the division passed its third anniversary on Feb. 15, 1941 in its sixth month of combat, 141 men had received Silver Stars; 737, Bronze Stars; 15, direct battlefield commissions. Three had earned oak leaf cluster to their Silver Stars: Capt. George W. Fry, 44th Inf., Columbus, Ga.; T/Sgt. John A. LaQuinta, 44th Inf., McKees Rock, Pa.; Lt. Peake, 128th FA.
The road had been long with many obstacles. But in every case pitfalls like the meeting engagements of Brittany, battles around Nancy, mud of the Saar, and cold and snow of Bastogne were overcome.
During all this concentrated action, one common thread ran through the variety of missions: complete success. Success that helped open a liberation path from Brest to Bastogne on a road aimed for Berlin!
Unofficial home page of the 6th Armored Division Association.
Unofficial home page of the 6th Armored Division Association.