Nantes

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 A 42d Squadron

10-18 August 1944

On August 10, Troop A was assigned the mission of reconnoitering and probing into the outskirts of Nantes (map I).

The 3rd Platoon was about one mile from the suburbs when Scout Sgt. Lish, who was leading the platoon, received small arms fire from a roadblock about 500 yards in front of him. The jeep gunner returned fire as Lish pulled his vehicle back, so the lead armored car could engage the enemy with 37mm and machine gun fire. Our platoon leader, Lt. Shaw, ran dismounted riflemen out to cover the flanks. After a heavy engagement which lasted about a half hour, we were ordered to withdraw, leaving one armored car and a few riflemen to keep contact with the enemy.

On the right flank of the 3rd Platoon was the 1st Platoon, commanded by Lt. Botta. They had also made contact with the Germans and in addition had run into a mine field. Their orders were to hold the right flank and to observe any movement by the enemy.

Our CO, Capt. Embleton, the Squadron CO, Lt. Col. Hill, and our platoon leader Lt. Shaw, plus E and F Company’s Lt’s. Wessling and Ransom, went into a huddle to determine the best way to eliminate the roadblock. Finally it was decided that the 3rd Platoon with Headquarters Platoon, two assault guns and a platoon of light tanks were to make a frontal attack and clean out the roadblock.

On both sides of the road were the riflemen and leading the attack were the assault guns. As the attacking force moved out the assault guns blasted the roadblock open. We held up 300 yards in front of our objective and Lt. Shaw called for 10 volunteers to go on patrol to investigate the effectiveness of our fire. We again set out on each side of the road, walking in ditches to keep covered. As we reached the roadblock we started to receive sniper fire. When we advanced beyond the roadblock toward the city the firing became so intense that we were forced to withdraw. When we arrived back at the obstacle we checked it thoroughly and found several mines buried nearby.

While we were snooping around we suddenly received our first baptism of artillery fire. The first shell went over our heads, and because we knew very little about the artillery most of us didn’t hit the ditch immediately. Before we were prepared the next shell came screaming into our midst. Fragments hit Lt. Shaw in both legs, but the rest of us knew nothing of this until later. We were lying in the ditch while the Germans poured shells in thick and fast. We were all pretty well shocked and scared and our main thought was to get out of there in a hurry. When the shelling died down a little we ran back toward our own forces. There our tanks picked us up and we withdrew a short distance back up the road.

Then we discovered that Lt. Shaw was missing and Sgt. Archambault, T/5 Sudhoff and Pvt. Pannelli jumped into a jeep and beat it back down the road. They rescued Lt. Shaw from a ditch near the roadblock in spite of enemy attempts to stop them. They all received the Bronze Star for this act.

An hour later the 4th Armored came up and relieved us. We told them what we had discovered about the defenses of the city and their assault was eventually successful.

At 1700 the Second Cavalry was ordered to screen from Nantes, exclusive to Angers (map I)(map II)(map 16), and Col. Reed designated the 42d Squadron to send one Troop (Troop C) to screen the Loire from Carquefouy (map I) to Ancenis (map I)(map 16), exclusive, and the 2d to screen with one Troop (Troop B) as far as Angers. The remainder of the Group concentrated at Mesanger (map I)(map 16).

On the 14th the screen was extended west to include Nantes and Redon (map I).

The Troops moved smoothly into position with A Troop occupying Blain (map I)(map 17) and pushing Lt. Wolf’s platoon into Bouvron (map 17) with patrols reaching out to Redon, and Lt. Botta’s platoon into Fay de Bretagne (map I)(map 17). Lt. Hancock’s platoon was committed south of Fay where a German staff car was splashed with a 37mm. It was at this time that Troop A lost a great soldier, Sgt. Lish (map 17).

Farther south B Troop sent Lt. Kelly’s platoon and a platoon of tanks into Nantes to relieve Combat Command A. Major Likes with one IPW team set up an advance Group CP in Nantes. Lt. Lindoerfer’s platoon pushed west to St. Etiennele Temple (map 17) where enemy resistance stiffened. Enemy artillery fire temporarily forced our patrols from le Temple on the 17th but we soon re-occupied the town. Enemy patrols encountered in the vicinity of St. Etienne were driven off by our Troops. The enemy showed more aggression in the vicinity of Bouvran, St. Omer (map 17), and le Temple. 42d Squadron shelled the enemy headquarters at Chateau Kerlan (map 17).

Troop C soon relieved Troop A in the Blain sector and started to push down to the canal below St. Omer. Heavy, accurate fire by Lt. Theodore’s assault gun platoon knocked the Krauts out of the windmill (map 17) covering the canal crossing, but they blew up the bridge to delay our advance.

We went into position to keep an eye on them. T/4 Branaman was on a MG outpost a few hundred yards from the canal when two air corps officers drove up in a jeep. The sergeant warned them that Krauts had the road under fire and they couldn’t pass. The Captain driving said, “Aw no”, and they took off. We expected them to get blown out of the jeep any second but they got down to the bridge, looked around, and then started back. Just as they reached us an 88 blasted away, nearly parting the drivers hair. Both of the officers dove for the ditch and came up with pistols in their hands looking for the 88. We almost had to laugh.

Then Branaman said, “Get that damn jeep off the road; it draws fire.”

To our surprise they jumped in and drove off, saying they would be back with their planes and get that Kraut gun. Maybe they did.

On August 18, enemy artillery fell in Nantes, and enemy attempts to patrol in the vicinity of St. Omer and le Temple were driven off. The Group Commander decided to try to convince the enemy at Chateau Kerlan to surrender and sent two officers of the 42d Squadron to offer terms.

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