Life Of An Assault Gunner

From:
SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry

old-computer-ii-267December 1944 – January 1945

E Troop, 2d Squadron

The area was constantly bristling with patrol activity, friendly and enemy. Movement was curtailed to a minimum, and mostly in the hours of darkness. The gun positions were under enemy observation, and particular attention was paid to activity about the battery position. Trees and brush were transplanted to camouflage tanks. Ammunition stores were carried several hundred yards through the forests and prepared for readiness.

Guns were manned perpetually, 24 hours a day. Intensive training, received in England, paid off here. Every man, including drivers, was capable of manning guns, sights, instruments etc. In spite of snow and bitter cold weather, fires were unauthorized for fear of revealing positions to the enemy. Chow was delivered to gun crews through back trails to avoid detection.

The guns averaged many missions daily in supporting A, B and C Troops along the river. Missions were also received from area FDC (Fire Direction Center) to support other units. In many cases, fire was controlled by Piper-cub observation planes. During the night constant H&I (Harrassing and Interdiction) fire was delivered on various enemy strong points. Intensive fire was also laid to cover advancing friendly patrols. Targets were numerous and various. On one occasion Cpl. Eugene Fink scored 23 direct hits out of 24 rounds fired. Target was enemy observation post and machine gun nest. Both were destroyed although they were deeply embedded in reinforced emplacements. Later in the day, a building serving as a kitchen for the enemy was detected by A Troop.

Concentrated fire soon disrupted Jerry’s kitchen, and forced them to evacuate. This in some measure repaid us for our own shell damaged Christmas dinner. Fire adjustments were accurately computed by FDC, and in one case an enemy mortar emplacement was annihilated with a single round.

old computer II 275Not to be outdone by the recon Troops, our own patrols were organized daily to comb the surrounding forests for enemy. An enemy patrol, on one occasion, tripped warning flares 100 yards from the gun positions. A counter-patrol was immediately formed by Lt. Woodrow Hansen and the 2nd platoon. There was some shooting back and forth for a few minutes and then contact was lost. The heavy snowfall obliterated footprints and our men had to abandon the pursuit. During the following days enemy patrol action was intensified, and to avoid infiltrating patrols discovering the battery position, guards were doubled, booby-traps set in the surrounding areas and additional outposts organized.

Heavy snow settled in, along with bitter cold weather. Vehicles were whitewashed to avoid silhouetting against the background. Snow capes were issued, the Second Cavalry being the first unit in the XII Corps to use them. Weather was so cold that water froze on contact when the gun tubes were swabbed, so we had to use alcohol whenever the guns were cleaned.

Some of the incidents along the Moselle might be classed as amusing, depending of course, on the viewpoint and the sense of humor among the participants. Patrolling and screening activities, like war as a whole, really consist of a vast number of practical jokes, played by each side on the other. The greatest difference being that, in war, the man who isn’t quick to get the point soon gets the cross.

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