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
Pvt. Lester Fell, 2d Platoon, F Troop, 42d Squadron
3-6 Sept 1944
Although the town of Bainville, France never made the headlines of the newspapers in the U.S. it will never be forgotten by members of the 2d Platoon, F Troop, 42d Squadron. This was our first real baptism of heavy artillery. The whole affair started when we were called from the Company area and told to report to Bainville (map 24) to battle some German paratroopers. We started into the town in a column formation with Lt. Kraatz’s tank in the lead. We were expecting anything to happen as the civilians were all in there houses with the windows and shutters closed.
Immediately after we entered town it happened! Andy “Nose” Exposito was driving the first tank and out of nowhere there was a violent explosion direct to the front of him. We found out later that it was a German bazooka, but at that particular moment there were no enemy sighted, so we continued through the town to try to locate the paratroopers. It wasn’t until the last tank had turned around and started back that we drew small arms fire. We sighted the enemy as they started to move out of hiding and the battle was on.
We were firing from the road to the fields, and during a slight lull in firing, from my tank, we noticed a Frenchman put his hand from a window and motion toward a sewer pipe about 25 feet away from us. We spotted two men in the pipe and quickly removed them with a 37mm HE shell. We then realized that the Germans were hiding in the town, so the second section started to clean up the town, while the first three tanks under the Lieutenant took off across country to cut off those men escaping. It was getting very dark by then so as soon as the first section returned we began to set up our roadblocks to fortify the town against possible counter attacks in the night. We no sooner had our tanks in position than the Krauts started to whistle their barrage in on us. It lasted all night!
The particular Frenchman that was with us at the time, knowing that we were still a little green under artillery fire, took it upon himself to notify us when the shells were going to land close to us. We understood very little French, but we soon learned that when he told us “oui, oui, oui!” it meant the shells were right on us and “non, non, non!” meant they would land a safe distance away. He was doing very nicely the first fifteen minutes and we were gaining a little confidence in him until he reversed his decision from a “non, non, non”, to a very fast “oui, oui, oui!” I immediately made a fast dive under the tank, and although I was the closest to the tank I was more than surprised to find myself lying on top of the Frenchman, and he lying on top of the other three men. I thought I was fast but I was only a close fifth in that race!
The Frenchman, big hearted that he was, continued to notify us, as he did before, every time the artillery came in again, but from then on he didn’t have a very confident audience. In this fashion the platoon spent the whole night and half the next day, and it took only one Frenchman to make the party complete.
Bridges over the Madon were still intact, as determined by Bancroft’s platoon of C Troop, who crossed and reconnoitered to Benney (map 24). Some evidence of German defensive positions were encountered. The next day, the 4th, Troop B, 42d Squadron took possession of Mount Saxon Sion (map 24), an OP which provided excellent observation over the surrounding country side. From it’s OP Troop B reported an enemy column of approximately 1000 men moving north from Charmes (map IV) to Tantonville (map 24). Artillery fire was laid on the column while elements of B and F pursued the fleeing enemy as he retreated over the route from whence he had come.
On the 6th the enemy again became aggressive along the Madon river, and during the middle of the day an enemy column of 200 vehicles approached Tantonville from Diarville (map IV)(map 24). Artillery was laid on the column followed by a Squadron attack which drove the Germans back across the Madon at Mirecourt (map IV)(map NS).