Affair at Benney

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

WWIITroop C, 2d Squadron

8 – 14 September 1944

On the 8th, C Troop arrived at a small town called Benney (map 24), southeast of Nancy (map IV)(map NS) and fairly close to the Moselle river. We relieved the 3rd Platoon of C of the 42nd and were duly grateful to move into this quiet spot while they went to shed their blood in the attack on Fort de Pont St. Vincent (map 24). The usual outposts were established as a precautionary measure, and the entire Troop spent a quiet night. We felt quite safe and not particularly worried over the possibilities of a counter-attack.

Everything remained quiet all the following morning and well into the middle of the afternoon. About 1500 the excitement started. A band of over a hundred paratroopers appeared on the crest of a hill in the direction of the river, over-ran one of our outposts, and made a futile attempt to re-occupy Benney.

Firing everything from pistols to automatic weapons, the Jerries made a do-or-die attack and were repulsed only after a platoon of tanks was rushed to our support. After that, of course, they did a lot more dying than they did doing. Sgt. Duszynski and Cpl. Whary, from the over-run outpost, were believed to have been captured until they returned to the Troop the following morning. The sergeant, asked to give his report on the enemy’s appearance, told us his story.

“We had an OP set up in the water tower at the other end of the town. Pvt. Marion A. Aldrich was on guard when he called down to me that there was a couple of Heinies watching us. I sent him out with most of the rest of the guys in our two bantams to try to capture them. That left Cpl. Whary, Pvt. Call, and myself on OP.”

“The bantams had no more than left when about a hundred Germans came over the hill and started shooting. I looked at Whary and said, ‘Mike, we’re trapped’. I don’t remember him saying anything, so I hollered upstairs and told Call we were getting the hell out. He came down and by that time lead was going through the tower like water through a sieve. Why we weren’t killed I’ll never know.”

Mike and I took off, waited a second for Call after we got outside, and when he didn’t come we started running towards town and the CP. I threw away a darned good Luger on that dash together with my trench knife, maps, and whatever else I thought was weighing me down. Mike did the same thing.”

“We ran through town, found the CP had moved, and just kept on running. I remember I’d ask, ‘Mike, where’ll we go?’, and he looked at me and said ‘I dunno Frank, where’ll we go?’, then we’d go right on running.”

“After what seemed an awful long time, we got to some woods where we sat down to rest. We looked back, and there was Pvt. Fred Dunlap and Jacques, one of the FFI guys we had with us, out in the middle of a forty acre wheat field. I don’t know how the hell they got there, but there they were with the Jerries shooting all around them. Dunlap would stick up a white flag, a burp gun would cut loose and the flag would come down. That happened three or four times, until, I guess, Dunlap got disgusted. Anyway the flag stayed down and the enemy probably thought they were dead.”

Whary and I decided it was time to try and find the boys so we started out and finally ran into a TD outfit about six in the evening. The next morning when Shanahan found us, Mike and I were still winded from the damn run.”

Call left the tower right after Duszynski and Whary, and was picked up by the men in the bantams. Dunlap and Jacques had remained in the fields until the enemy withdrew. It was discovered that a Frenchwoman had acted as a guide for the enemy and was killed during the fight. The Heinies made what nearly amounted to a bonzai charge on Benney and withdrew only after suffering over fifty percent losses.

On September 12, 42d Squadron and Group assembled two miles northeast of Haroue (map 24) preparatory to movement across the Moselle river. The next day the river was forded at Bayon (map IV)(map NS) and the screen extended to the Montagne river at Gerberviller (map IV)(map 25), where Troop B, 42d found the enemy defending the bridge. They made an attack, seized the bridge and secured several prisoners from the 115th Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion. As a result of the days operations two bridgeheads were secured over the Montagne river, the one at Gerbeviller and one at Vallois (map 25), a short distance south.

The following day, the 14th, the 42d Squadron found the bridge northeast of Fraimbois (map 25) blown. Troop C forded the river and met only slight resistance which it quickly overcame. Troop C of the 2d Squadron, then attached to the 42d, crossed the river at the same place and encountered the enemy at Marainviller (map 25). Here again the Germans were vanquished without too much trouble. A German ammunition dump was discovered at Moncel (map 25), and another in the Foret de Mondon (map 25). An officer PW taken in the vicinity of Fraimbois stated that 120 tanks were unloaded at St Die (map IV)(map NS), with assembly point at Baccarat (map 25)(map NS), and there mission was to attack Charmes (map IV). These tanks became of vital importance to the Second Cavalry a very few days later. Troop C 2d Squadron pushed their screen to MoncelMarainviller, and cut highway N4 out of Luneville (map IV)(map 25)(map NS). Troop B, 42d Squadron established a screen along the line ValloisFlin (map 25).

As the campaign of northern France came to its close, Group Headquarters crossed the Meurthe river just northeast of Fraimbois on the cooks’ bridge (map 25).

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