Ceintrey Ambush

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

WWII6 September 1944

Lt. Bancroft’s platoon of Troop C had secured a bridgehead over the Madon river at Ceintrey (map 24) which extended from Pulligny (map 24) to Benney (map 24) to Lemainville (map 24). Lt. Kraatz’s tank platoon was attached and held in reserve at Ceintrey (map 24). Here we went into position with three tanks covering the bridge from an excellent position on the high ground south of the town.

The tanks were hidden by piles of firewood and camouflaged. The road south from Ceintrey on the west bank of the Madon lay in our field of fire for a good half mile.

You can imagine our surprise when on 6 September, at about 1400, a Kraut column preceded by a motorcycle and armored car drove into sight.

It hurt to wait but we let them come. We even waited until the motorcycle crossed the bridge (the dismounted guards picked him off down the road apiece) then we cut loose on the column. The first 14 vehicles were in sight and we worked both ends towards the middle.The second round of 37 got the lead armored car in the fuel tank and it burned fiercely. We cut loose with machine guns when the rest of the Krauts started pouring out of their vehicles and that pinned them down.

Just then Capt. Watson and the reserve tank platoon came barreling around the hill from Autrey. Talk about timing!

All the German vehicles within sight were burning now, a tall pillar of black smoke marking each one for miles. That platoon of tanks just rammed down the road toward Tantonville (map 24), shooting Germans right and left and smashing those that didn’t scatter fast enough.

Recon men from C Troop splashed dismounted over the river as they appeared on our left, hitting the enemy in the flank. They cleared the Madon valley, while some other G.I.’s (we later learned they were from the 42d Hqs. Troop and A Troop) came boiling over the high ground to the west of the Kraut column. Then the Germans started surrendering in large numbers. But that wasn’t the whole show by a long shot. We learned that evening that the recon men under Capt. Ebrey and Lt. Lindoerfer cut the road at Tantonville (map 24) and the tanks drove a couple of hundred prisoners into their arms. Some of the prisoners we took were from the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division but most of them were from scattered units trying to concentrate in Nancy (map IV)(map NS).

The next day the German radio blared how the “Elite 42d Panzer Division massacred a column of our valiant defenders who were surprised and outnumbered south of Nancy”.

(Eds. note: The troopers “appearing” so luckily are a tribute to the mobility and communications of the Cavalry. The enemy column was first spotted at Diarville (map IV)(map 24) by the B Troop observation post on Mount Saxon Sion (map 24). Before this incident several columns had been cut up by the armored field artillery Battalion supporting the Second Cavalry. But Col. Reed decided to allow this column to enter a trap and annihilate it rather than just chase it away. The 42d Squadron was notified in it’s concentration area at Goviller woods (map 24) and Major Pitman quickly formed a task force from the tank platoon and headquarters men that were there. Even the CP halftrack and it’s 50 caliber MG went into action. At the same time Lt. Bancroft was alerted by radio, and Troop B notified to be ready to close the sack. The only German retaliation was the vigorous shelling of Autrey (map 24) by a Battalion of 105 How’s south of Nancy just after the last vehicle of Major Pitman’s task force cleared the town.)

In spite of this set back the enemy remained active and aggressive, sending many patrols to probe our positions along the Madon river. These were dispersed or driven back by our outposts. On 8 September, C Troop, reinforced with elements of E and F, assaulted and took Fort de Pont St. Vincent (map 24) from a strong defending detachment of German paratroopers.

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