Attack on Luneville

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

WWIIC Troop, 42d Squadron

15-17 September 1944

The morning of September 15, the 1st and 2d Platoons were given the mission of taking Luneville (map IV)(map 25)(map NS). One Platoon was to go mounted, the other to attack dismounted. Before the men had even entered the town however, enemy artillery, 88’s, 40mm anti-tank guns and small arms threw out such a volume of well-directed fire that they were forced to withdraw.

T/4 Eugene Fehr, the radio operator in one of the armored cars, remembers it well. “Something gave the M-8 a helluva jolt and my driver looked at me and yelled that he couldn’t steer anymore. We climbed out, saw that an 88 had blown off our right front wheel, and immediately dived into the ditch alongside the road. We were no more than on the ground when a second 88 drilled the car right through the middle. After that we did just what the rest of the dismounted men were doing – ran! I mean those Heinies really laid it to us. It’s funny though, that wheel was knocked off as clean as a whistle, but none of us in the crew was even scratched. We lost two bantams too that morning, one of them equipped with a 510 radio. After hearing the enemy trying to operate the set we changed our channel, just in case.

Kyle Roots, the T/5 driver of the CO’s bantam, also had unpleasant memories of that days action. “Bug-Eyes Spence“, my machine gunner, got his hand smashed by an anti-tank shell ricocheting off his .30 caliber mount. He was real calm as he waited to be evacuated, and I remember him saying, ‘well, I guess I won’t be shaking hands with you fellows for awhile.’ That made us feel even worse than if he had made a fuss.”

The Troop moved constantly from one area and position to another, attempting to evade the enemy and their frequent and accurate artillery fire. The men had little opportunity to rest, and it seemed as though the Germans had positions around every bend in the road, and artillery in every patch of woods.

Troop A 42d, working on the right flank of C-2, penetrated through the Foret de Mondon (map 25) as far as Benamenil (map 25), and cleared the Krauts away from a great munitions dump in the south center of the forest. Captain Andrews requested engineer teams to blow the mess as there were too many separated stacks of ammunition for the few fuses that he had.

Troop B followed A into the Moncel (map 25) area and discovered another ammunition dump there. Since the 2d Squadron (-Troop C) was in the Toul (map IV) sector at this time, Troop B 42d was charged with maintaining liaison with the 121st Cavalry Squadron in the vicinity of Flin (map 25), where they had agreed to relieve us west of the Meurthe river. Captain Henry Ebrey of Troop B gave this mission to a section of Lt. Lindoerfer’s platoon commanded by Sgt. Roscoe. The sergeant set up his guns across the river from Flin below the town of Chenevieres (map 25), covering the road from Baccarat (map 25)(map NS).

It was at this position, about five miles from Baccarat, that a Frenchman reported to Lt. Lindoerfer that six Tiger tanks were in Baccarat. He didn’t place much credence in it as for the past month the French had been making similar frantic, unverified reports.

When a German officer PW claimed it was the concentration area for 160 Panther tanks unloading from rail transports at St. Die (map IV)(map NS) 15 miles further south, Group Headquarters felt some concern and notified XII Corps, requesting TD and artillery support as our lines were greatly extended.

On the 16th Lt. Kraatz‘ tank platoon, guarding the bridge over the RR at Marainviller (map 25), knocked out a Kraut armored car that poked it’s nose around the bend in the road to la Neuveville aux Bois (map 25), at a point 800 yards north of the Vezouse river. As far as could be determined at the time this was a lone vehicle and not the point of a strong reconnaissance element.

The afternoon of the same day the 42d Squadron launched a coordinated attack on Luneville from the south, southeast, southwest, and east at 1330. The French gave us a detailed report of the German preparations to receive us. They were shifting guns to meet our approach. Six tanks had moved in to reinforce the town, and anti-tank guns were set up and ready to be used against us. Troops B and C carried the brunt of the assault, supported by the assault guns and our tank troop. The enemy withdrew slowly in the face of heavy and accurate assault gun fire. They offered stubborn resistance to the west and southeast. But by 1610 a platoon of Troop B entering Luneville from the east had taken the RR bridge in the center of town. Troop C came in from the west and drove on in the face of determined resistance. Our persistent attack finally forced the enemy to withdraw to the woods on the north and the hills to the northeast of town.

On 17 September 42d Squadron outposted and secured the city. The 2d Squadron had rejoined the Group and was pushing north and east, with C-2 taking la Neuveville aux Bois and pounding the Krauts in Embermenil (map 25)(map NS). Meanwhile B-2 had taken Veho (map 25) from where they fought their way into Leintry (map 25) where the CP was established and patrols sent to the line Blamont (map 25)(map NS)Avricourt (map 25)(map NS). (Eds note: The Squadron at this point was just five miles from Legarde (map 29a), which the 42d was to capture more than two months later, and also just five miles from Cutting (map 29b) off the Foret de Parroy (map 25) which cost so much 79th Division blood before it was finally cleared.) In the scattered engagements during the day, Troops of the 2d Squadron killed 72 of the enemy, took 70 prisoners and destroyed 22 vehicles.

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