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
By 2d Lt. Lindoerfer, Troop B, 42d Squadron
18-27 August 1944
We had a large number of the enemy trapped in the St. Nazaire (map I) area, about 20,000, and at our platoon position around le Temple (map 17) they seemed pretty aggressive. On August 18, Col. Reed sent Major James H. Pitman and myself as emissaries to the Chateau Kerlan (map 17), Headquarters of the Colonel commanding enemy forces opposite le Temple, with formal demand for the surrender of his command. The letter that we carried read as follows:
“With the Allied Army advancing north from Marseilles, with 20 of your best Divisions encircled in front of Paris (map II), the situation of the German forces in the St. Nazaire area is hopeless. They must either give up the unequal struggle or I must destroy them.
I will accept your surrender in person and will provide for your troops the protection accorded by the Geneva Convention, and the necessary food and medical care.
Should you wish to confer on these terms, I will furnish you safe conduct into my lines, or will meet you for conference.
I send herewith a letter to the CG St. Nazaire area offering him the same terms.
Should you not accept these terms, I shall be obliged to destroy your forces with air and ground attack.”
Major Pitman and I entered the German lines under a white flag at 1500 August 18. We were escorted, blindfolded, from the German outpost line through mine fields and barbed wire to a house located in the woods in the vicinity of Kerlan where we were met by Hauptmann Peterson, a staff officer to Oberst Melvis, commanding the enemy forces on our immediate front.
Upon the arrival of Oberst Melvis, Major Pitman delivered to him both the letters written in German, and personally explained the demands of Col. Reed and the consequences which would follow were the terms of surrender refused. Oberst Melvis replied that since he could not surrender without the consent of the CG, he would take the letter to St. Nazaire and would make a reply before the deadline set at 1930, August 18. Major Pitman and I were then blindfolded and returned to the German outpost by a staff car. The entire proceedings were carried out in a most formal manner, and the treatment accorded both of us was beyond reproach. The German forces at the headquarters were young and aggressive Paratroop Infantry and Luftwaffe field Division personnel.
The terms were finally rejected and eight allied aircraft flew a mission on the enemy Headquarters.
The 2d Squadron moved out at 0930 August 21, to join XII Corps at Cloyes (map II) for a new mission. By 0600 22 August, relief of the 42d Squadron by the 83rd Division was completed, the Group and the Squadron moved to the east by way of Laval (map I), le Mans (map I)(map II) to a bivouac near Fontaine (map II), a distance of 202 miles. 2d Squadron moved out to establish a screen on the Corps south flank, below Montargis (map III)(map 18). Troop A engaged the enemy at St. Genevieve (map 18) and captured the town.
The next day Group Headquarters and 42d Squadron moved east to the vicinity of Foissy, a distance of 160 miles. At 1800 orders were received from XII Corps directing the Group to continue on the mission assigned to the 2d Squadron and extend northeast to cover a line through Gien (map III) – Joigny (map III)(map 18) – St. Florentin (map III)(map 20) to Marcilly le Hayer (map III)(map 19). As the advance of XII Corps to the east was extremely rapid, Group received new orders daily, which extended the screen farther and farther to the east. By August 27 Group Headquarters was established at Ruvigny (map III) a few kilometers east of Troyes (map III). However, this rapid advance was not made without running into some enemy resistance here and there along the line.
The 2d Squadron destroyed a column of 60 horse drawn vehicles moving southeast from Montargis on the 23rd. The next day B Troop tangled with an enemy bivouac area at St. Maurice (map 18). S/Sgt. William S. Lyles was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in that fight.
“When three members of his unit were wounded, Sgt. Lyles voluntarily and at the risk of his own life crossed an open area under enemy machine gun and rifle fire to give first aid to his comrades. Seeing that the three men were in need of immediate medical attention, Sgt. Lyles brought each man individually across the open area and into the protection of the hedgerows from which they were evacuated. The gallant and courageous action of Sgt. Lyles, who placed the welfare of his comrades in arms above his personal safety, reflects the highest credit upon his character as a soldier and upon the military service.”
It was also in this action that the promising young Lt. Ratcliffe lost his life.
This was a busy day in other places along the front. Troop C destroyed a considerable number of the enemy at les Ormes (map 18), and Capt. Andrews misunderstood Col. Reed which caused quite a fight.